Anthony Davis and as many of 4 as his Kentucky teamates could go in the 1st round this year.
The 2012 NBA draft is full of headlines. This draft is considered one of the best in years and may rival the historic 2003 and 2005 drafts in the coming years. It contains a nearly surefire first overall pick in Anthony Davis, a dynamic 6'10'' shot blocker who was a late bloomer and dominated college basketball. Well, on one side of the court at least.
Kentucky could produce four more additional first-round picks besides the consensus No. 1 pick. While the point guard crop is weak, there is an excess of quality 4s and high-upside shooting guards. The teams at the top have to be salivating over the quality of prospects that will be available throughout the lottery.
A player who considered leaving school early last year would have been a top-five pick in that draft. This year, Perry Jones III figures into the back end of the lottery, showcasing the depth of this draft.
This is a projection of who I believe is the best pick for each team. Without further ado...
The first overall pick is nearly all but decided.
Anthony Davis PF University of Kentucky
The New Orleans Hornets have had one of the craziest seasons of a non-playoff team in the history of the NBA. After being league owned for nearly 18 months, the Hornets received great news earlier this week when it was announced that Tom Benson had bought the team. It was surely needed after the Chris Paul debacle.
The new ownership news combined with winning the lottery has turned the franchise in the right direction. Anthony Davis gives the team a second extraordinarily talented player (Eric Gordon) to build this team into a playoff contender. Davis will dominate immediately on the defensive end but must continue to develop his postgame. The Hornets also have the 10th pick in the lottery.
Thomas Robinson emerged from the shadow of the Morris twins this year to compete for National POY honors.
Thomas Robinson PF Kansas
With the Bobcats needing help in so many different areas, it makes sense for GM Rich Cho to try and move back further in the lottery and add more talent to this depleted roster.
If the Bobcats do hold onto to this pick, I believe they should look to Thomas Robinson. Robinson might not have the upside of some of the other lottery picks, but he has the highest floor of any prospect in the lottery. The Bobcats need solid players and Thomas Robinson figures to be a 10-year starter in the NBA.
This team deserves to have at least one league-average starter on the team. Robinson needs to continue to work on his shooting range but should eventually become one of the better 4's in the league.
Kidd-Gilchrist needs to continue to work on his jumper to be an elite-level player in the NBA.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist SF University of Kentucky
The Wizards have young players scattered throughout the roster. However, the team still needs some dynamic wing players.
Enter Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Kidd-Gilchrist offers a package that any team could use. The Wizards were atrocious in many facets and defense was one of them. Kidd-Gilchrist should be an elite-level defender in the NBA in the mold of Ron Artest.
Kidd-Gilchrist's biggest weakness at this point is his shooting. He needs to continue to extend his range to play the 3 in the NBA, but his relentless inside game and driving ability should make him a good match with a stretch 4 in the future.
Beal will not slide past the Cavs at #4.
Bradley Beal SG University of Florida
The Cavs need a backcourt mate for 2011 No. 1 overall pick Kyrie Irving, and Beal is the perfect fit. Irving is one of the premier penetrators in the league and Beal offers a great complement in his outside shooting. Beal can shoot the ball as well as any player in this draft.
He struggled early in the year, but came on strong in the tournament emerging as Florida's No. 1 scoring option. Beal needs to continue to work on his defense and getting to the basket. If the Cavs land Beal, their backcourt immediately becomes the strength of their team.
Drummond is the biggest risk in the draft.
Andre Drummond PF University of Connecticut
The Kings have been stuck in lottery purgatory for six years now and it's about time they turn it around. This is a critical period in California's capital city as the team looks to move out of the lottery and into the playoffs.
The Maloof's fascination with moving the team to Anaheim cannot have helped over the last few years. Instead of moving Tyreke Evans, like it has been rumored according to the Sacramento Bee, I believe the Kings should go after a potential monster frontcourt mate for budding star DeMarcus Cousins.
Drummond was inconsistent as a freshman at UConn, but showed glimpses of what he could be if he reaches his upside. Drummond is one of the biggest risks in this draft but if he pans out, Cousins and Drummond would be the best frontcourt in the NBA. Drummond should be the third PF taken in the top five.
Lillard showed in pre draft workouts he has the ability to be a starting NBA PG.
Damian Lillard PG Weber St.
With two picks in the lottery, the Blazers have a chance to add high-upside guys to their already solid core. It all starts with the health of LaMarcus Aldridge and re-signing Nicolas Batum for next season, but the Blazers could have a quick turnaround and be positioned for a playoff run next year.
Ideally, the Blazers would package their two picks to get a Bradley Beal, but in this scenario they should trade down. PG and SG are the teams two biggest needs and Lillard is a bit of a reach. However, Lillard has gained steam as the draft process continues and wowed in a workout in Oakland last week (according to ESPN's Chad Ford).
The Blazers really need a PG, but in this mock draft, trades will not be considered. Lillard offers the best fit for the Blazers.
Barnes should be a very good starting option for years to come at the 3.
Harrison Barnes SF University of North Carolina
The Warriors' tanking efforts pay off in this scenario. Dorrell Wright really struggled this year after breaking out in 2010. Barnes is a great fit for the Warriors as he offers a solid package that would greatly aid the Warriors.
The Warriors are going to have a new look next year relying on the health of Andrew Bogut and Steph Curry. If they both prove healthy, Barnes will be allowed to break into the NBA at his own pace being no higher than the fourth scoring option on the team.
Barnes is a solid player who struggled at times in college. Overall, however, he proved to be a very effective reliable player throughout his collegiate career. Had he come out last year, he might have been the No. 1 overall pick; however, he goes into a much less pressure-packed situation and will flourish by the bay.
Barnes needs to continue to work on getting to the basket and his three-point shot, but should prove to be a very capable starting 3 in the NBA.
If Perry Jones III commits himself to being a star, he will be one.
Perry Jones III F Baylor University
The Raptors have struggled in recent years due to a lack of impact players. While many other players in this year's draft are safer bets, Jones offers just as much upside as No. 5 pick Andre Drummond.
While the Raptors could use someone with an elite postgame at this point in the draft, the run of elite post players is over. While Jones is not a great post player, he offers the potential of a superstar. For his size Jones can really shoot it.
The biggest knock on Jones has always been his commitment to the game. Dwayne Casey is changing the culture in Toronto and I believe it is a great fit for a project like Jones. If Perry commits to becoming as good as he can be, many teams will regret not taking him earlier.
Moultrie is gaining steam late in the process and in this scenario makes it into the top 10.
Arnett Moultrie PF Mississippi State University
Moultrie is a prospect who has shown he can step out to knock down a shot or be a power guy inside. He has continued to improve his stock ever since the end of the season.
6'11'' players with his skill set are hard to come by. Complemented with Monroe's adept touch around the basket and passing ability, the two would form a formidable post duo.
The Pistons have continued to build for the future and this is another critical pick. The Central is only getting stronger and the Pistons are in danger of being passed by Cleveland soon. The Pistons need to reclaim their defensive identity that lead them to such great success early in the 21st century.
Waiters offers a package that the Hornets could really use: a scorer off the bench.
Dion Waiters G Syracuse University
Waiters is another player who has had some helium as the draft moves closer. The reason why: Waiters offers a package that really no other player in this draft does.
As a combo guard who can really score, Waiters offers something a lot of teams are looking for. Many other mocks have indicated that the Hornets need a PG. Instead of reaching for a Kendall Marshall, why not take an explosive player who can play some point? Look for Waiters to be a sixth man right away and play 20 minutes a night.
Lamb offers upside at the 2, a spot Portland needs to improve at.
Jeremy Lamb SG University of Connecticut
UConn has a long history of producing elite 2-guards (see Ray Allen or Rip Hamilton) and Lamb figures to be the next of the bunch.
UConn disappointed all year after high expectations after last year's national championship, and Lamb is at the center of the blame. Lamb was very inconsistent all year, but has improved his game. Lamb can really shoot the ball from the outside and continues to improve driving to the basket. He also needs to continue to work on defense.
At this point in the draft, Lamb is a very solid pick and offers enough upside to slide up boards as we move closer to the draft.
Sullinger offers the Bucks protection against the loss of Ersan Illyansova.
Jared Sullinger PF Ohio State University
After just missing out on the playoffs, the Bucks still have a lot of work to do. If they are unable to re-sign Ilyasova, then it leaves a glaring hole in the frontcourt.
Sullinger thought by staying in school he might improve his draft stock. However, he did not improve his conditioning enough for NBA teams to think he has star potential. Sullinger will probably settle in as a solid forward who can start on a playoff team. However, he will never be the number one or two option that many thought he could be when entering college.
He should be a poor man's Al Jefferson. Sullinger has continued to work on his shot, allowing him to stretch the floor more than in the past.
Ross offers Phoenix a potential elite scoring option that it will sorely need if it loses Steve Nash.
Terrence Ross SG University of Washington
Ross is another high upside off guard who seems to be one of the strengths of the draft. Ross offers Phoenix something it is really going to need next year: a big-time scorer.
With the expected loss of star PG Steve Nash, Phoenix's offense must run through somebody. The current roster is littered with role players and no real starters. Phoenix, at this point without Nash, will be a front-runner for the No. 1 pick next year.
Ross, however, offers the biggest upside of any prospect left available. Phoenix should be receiving a big-time scorer who can really shoot the three.
Henson offers Houston a shot blocker and a player who had not stopped improving since he arrived on a college campus.
John Henson PF University of North Carolina
The Houston Rockets nearly swung a trade to land them a superstar last year. Unfortunately, the NBA intervened.
Now the Rockets are stuck in middle ground. If they were in the East, they likely would be in the playoffs. However, they are stuck in the West and are a borderline playoff team with their current roster.
The Rockets do have plenty of big men, but they could buy out Samuel Dalembert and save a bunch of money next year. Insert John Henson instead and you receive a player who is a freak athletically. Henson needs to continue to add weight onto his slender frame if he ever wants to be more than a role player in the NBA; however, even as a role player, he has serious value. Henson has never stopped improving since he arrived at Chapel Hill and should continue to expand his offensive repertoire in the NBA.
Rivers fits right into the sixth man role vacated by Lou Williams.
Austin Rivers G Duke University
The 76ers got off to great start last year before falling off and barely squeezing into the playoffs. Interestingly enough, this seemed to coincide with the loss of Spencer Hawes.
This would suggest they need more help inside. However, with the emergence of Lavoy Allen in the playoffs, this might not be the case.
With the expected loss of sixth-man Lou Williams in free agency, Rivers offers a terrific fit. As a combo guard, Rivers still has work to do if he is going to play the point in the NBA. Rivers struggles to get his teammates involved, but is a great scorer. Rivers isn't afraid to shy away from a big shot, as evidenced by his jumper to beat UNC. Rivers needs to continue to work on his D but could do big things in the City of Brotherly Love.
Jones is a great value pick at this point. But what position will he play?
Terrence Jones F University of Kentucky
Earlier in this draft, the Rockets took John Henson. In this scenario, Jones is too good of a talent to pass up.
Jones, if he can play the 3, would be a potential long-term fit for the Rockets at the 3. Chandler Parsons had a great rookie year and exceeded everyone's expectations, but is better suited for a bench role. Jones had another solid season in Lexington but again was inconsistent. Jones has immense talent and should be a good fit under Rockets coach Kevin McHale.
Marshall is a coach on the floor.
Kendall Marshall PG University of North Carolina
The Mavericks struggled all season long and got swept out of the playoffs. Jason Kidd is 39 years old now, and a long-term answer at PG is necessary.
With no guarantee of Deron Williams coming to town, Kendall Marshall offers a pretty good alternative. Marshall does not have the typical attributes of a normal NBA PG; however, his skill set does have a chance to succeed. Marshall knows how to find the open man. He fits well in a wide open offense but should do well setting up a star.
Drafting Marshall would allow the Mavs to have him learn under one of the best before inserting him in the starting lineup. Marshall should rack up plenty of assists but needs to work on his shot to be a viable NBA starting 1.
The T-Wolves need some wings and Harkless offers a complete package.
Moe Harkless SF St. John's University
The Timberwolves surprised everyone this year by just missing the playoffs. With the emergence of Ricky Rubio into the staring PG spot and Kevin Love to superstardom, the pieces are taking shape up in Minnesota.
Kevin Love had to handle too much of the scoring burden last year and needs some reliable players on the wings. SF Wes Johnson has struggled during his entire NBA career so far and needs some competition to push him.
As a freshman, Moe Harkless kept St. John's competitive in the Big East this year by himself. Harkless is still very young and has a very good all-around game. Harkless should fit into the T-Wolves rotation as a role player at first but has the upside to start soon.
Leonard offers a package no other seven-footer in this draft can but its all a long way off.
Meyers Leonard C University of Illinois
The Magic's front office's lives are filled with constant question about the team's future. Superstar Dwight Howard has proven to be too unpredictable. Orlando needs to start planning a future without him.
In this scenario, even with Tyler Zeller still on the board, the Magic should go with Leonard. Leonard has the potential to eventually have an offense run through him. His game would fit well with the team that is currently in Orlando. Leonard will contribute immediately as Orlando's backup center and in a few years could become a quality starting big man.
The Nuggets have the luxury of taking the player with the highest upside, Miller.
Quincy Miller SF Baylor University
Denver is the deepest team in the league. They have at least two solid players at every position and only backup PG Andre Miller might depart. That leaves Denver to take a high upside prospect. Miller got hurt his senior year of HS and still came to Baylor with huge expectations. Still not at 100 percent, Miller struggled early in the year and played better towards the end.
Miller's decision to enter the draft is a puzzling one, as he really could have benefited from playing another year of college basketball. Regardless, Miller should find a good home under the tutelage of George Karl. Just don't expect much playing time from him in his first couple of years.
Zeller should be a hustle player and has a floor of a fringe NBA starter.
Tyler Zeller C University of North Carolina
It's not a secret—the Celtics have gotten old. They desperately need young players for their future. Their lack of depth is showing in the playoffs right now.
Zeller would offer the Celtics a skill set not currently on the roster. Zeller is a big who can rebound and get up and down the court. The Celtics were the worst rebounding team in the NBA this past season, and other than JaJuan Johnson, do not have a player who looks the part of a starting big man in the NBA someday.
Zeller was an excellent college player and will need to continue to work on his post moves to be an upper-echelon center, which is possible but unlikely. Zeller might not fall this far but would be a great get for the C's.
Royce White could be the steal of the draft.
Royce White F Iowa St.
The Celtics have back-to-back picks in the first round.
With their second pick, they should go with upside.While there is a great risk in taking a player like Royce White, much like Perry Jones III or Andre Drummond, if everything works out it will be completely worth it.
White's off-the-court problems have been well documented. He has addressed them and seems to have matured as a person under Fred Hoiberg, although he continues to deal with an anxiety disorder.
White, as a player, is very versatile. White could play any position on the court in college and should continue that into the NBA. White excels at all aspects of the game and will be a day-one factor in the NBA. While he might not start right away, White has Paul Pierce-type potential as point forward who controls the pace of the game.
Wroten would be a top-10 pick if he could shoot.
Tony Wroten Jr. PG University of Washington
The Hawks managed to play pretty well even without Al Horford this season. After another early playoff exit, the Hawks need to continue to raise their talent level. Jeff Teague did a good job at the point this year but is going to need to be pushed to continue to improve.
Tony Wroten is a big time-talent, but he needs to learn how to involve his teammates if he is going to be a PG in the NBA. Wroten dominated the ball at Washington and was pretty successful. However, he needs to improve his shot, as he won't be able to drive past NBA defenders as easily as he did in college.
If Wroten can continue to develop his shot, he can become an elite point guard in this league in the Russell Westbrook mold.
Nicholson could start right away for the Cavs.
Andrew Nicholson PF St Bonaventure University
The Cavs need to continue to accumulate talent, and with the potential loss of Antwan Jamison, Nicholson would be a good fit.
Nicholson single-handedly took a very average Bonnies team to the NCAA tournament. The first thing that stands out about Nicholson is how he runs. He has an extremely awkward gait but it doesn't affect his play. Nicholson was double and sometimes even triple-teamed near the end of his season, but it didn't effect his play; he got BETTER.
Nicholson also has an array of post moves and can shoot the midrange as well as Brandon Bass. For a player this late in the draft, Nicholson could very easily be a very good player. He needs to continue to work on his defense, but his offensive potential is enormous.
Teague will replace Gilbert Arenas as the Grizzlies backup PG immediately.
Marquis Teague PG University of Kentucky
Teague showed in the NCAA tournament that he is a difference-maker. For most of the season, Teague was content to set his teammates up, but when needed it, he took on some of the scoring burden.
While Teague does not compare to some of John Calipari's recent PG prospects (Derrick Rose, John Wall, etc.) he should be able to carve out a successful role as a backup and eventually should get a look as a starter.
Taylor really improved his game last year, resulting in a higher draft position.
Jeff Taylor SF Vanderbilt University
First, the Pacers must re-sign Roy Hibbert this offseason. Second, the Pacers need a suitable backup for their star wings Danny Granger and Paul George.
Taylor is a very good defensive player who is well-built to bang in the post if he needs to. Taylor's biggest improvement this season from past ones was his shooting. Taylor gained a very good three-point shot and should fit right in with the Pacers' excellent three-point shooting.
Melo would be the perfect fit for the Heat.
Fab Melo C Syracuse University
The Miami Heat have a gigantic hole in the middle of the floor every night. The Heat have been able to secure viable role players at nearly every position except center, and the run ends here.
Melo is a true seven-footer who really knows how to play defense. Melo is a very good shot-blocker and he proved it by operating as a center in a 2-3 zone.
Melo does have some significant weaknesses, however. First, Melo has difficulty rebounding for a player his size. Whether that is a product of the zone defense at Syracuse or part of him as a player will need to be determined. Melo also has a weak post game at this point, but with the Heat he will be given time to develop, as the scoring burden mostly falls on the Big Three.
Evan Fournier SG France
The Thunder need to continue to improve their team bit by bit as any huge moves are unlikely at this point. While the Thunder could possibly use another shooter (aka John Jenkins), the Thunder have a logjam at the off guard.
Sam Presti, GM of the Thunder, has been known to take overseas players ever since his tenure with the Spurs. Fournier has very good size and has been very successful in Europe for his age. Fournier needs to continue to work on his outside shot, but in a few years he could be a viable NBA player.
Jenkins will allow even more room for Derrick Rose to operate in the lane.
John Jenkins SG Vanderbilt University
The Bulls will move on and continue to build around the Chicago native. To give him more room to operate, the Bulls should go after John Jenkins.
Jenkins is a three-point bomber and has been the one of the best shooters in college basketball during the last few years. He continues to develop the rest of the game. Kyle Korver and Jenkins on the same court should be scary for opponents.
Barton should be a solid piece on any team.
Will Barton SG University of Memphis
Barton was one of the top recruits in the country coming into college and started to show it this year. Barton is a very good scorer who can really shoot it. He is very aggressive to the hoop and knows how to make shots when it counts. He does on occasion take some bad shots, but ultimately he should be able to straighten that out. He still has a lot of upside moving forward and is a great get at pick No. 30.
Green will be a very good role player, but dont expect any more.
Draymond Green SF Michigan State: Green should be a very solid role player, but I do not see a starter here.
Scott Machado PG Iona: Machado will be a project, but if everything comes together he could start with a good surrounding cast.
Jared Cunningham SG Oregon State: He's a super-athletic wing who will have no problems matching up athletically in the NBA, but he needs to continue to work on his shot.