2012 NBA Draft: Which Teams Are Poised to Make the Biggest Impact?
The NBA draft is a time for teams to reflect on how they performed during the last season, where they're headed, and what they need to do to either move into playoff contention or finally reach championship status.
While every team has the opportunity to make noise with their selections in the draft, it seems each year there are a few teams who seem poised to decide the direction of their franchise with a few key choices.
This year is no exception, as several teams will be looking to add players who will be staples of their ball club for a long time to come. Whether they're hunting for a franchise point guard, dominant big man or simply some youth to replace aging veterans, these teams are the ones who will be making noise come draft night.
This draft class, in particular, has the kind of talent that make GMs and head coaches look to do anything possible to grab that one impact player that can change their fortunes and set them up for the future.
Without further ado, lets take a look at a few NBA teams who will be making some major moves in the 2012 draft.
Portland Trail Blazers
Draft Picks: No. 6 (from Brooklyn Nets), No. 11, No. 40, No. 41
Team Needs: Point guard, Center
The Portland Trail Blazers were one of the more promising teams in the Western Conference when last season began, racing to a 7-2 start and looking like a team that could not only make the playoffs, but make some noise once they got there.
However, the Blazers woefully underachieved, ending the year at 28-38, dealing several veteran players and hoping to quickly rebuild the team around All-Star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge.
The Blazers received Brooklyn's first-round pick in a deal for Gerald Wallace, and also have their own selection at the end of the lottery. The team has a glaring need at point guard, they traded for Raymond Felton on draft night 2011 but he showed little chemistry with Aldridge and never really gained any traction.
It is likely Portland will take North Carolina's Kendall Marshall, a dynamic playmaker who averaged 9.8 assists last season. Marshall has phenomenal court vision, is truly unselfish and is easily the best pure point guard available this season.
He is by no means a great scorer or defender, but both those elements of his game have improved and the team really needs someone who can run the offense and make the right pass in the halfcourt or on the break.
The team could also opt for Weber State's Damian Lillard, a scoring guard who averaged 24.5 points last season and connected on 40.9 percent of his three-point attempts. Lillard also has a solid handle and great athleticism for a point guard, something that Marshall lacks. However, he is not nearly the facilitator Marshall is and I believe Portland will opt for the UNC product with the 11th pick.
With their first selection the team could target UConn center Andre Drummond. After finally parting ways with Greg Oden, the team definitely needs a new man in the middle and despite his lack of polish Drummond's defensive intensity, athleticism and motor make him a very attractive pick.
Drummond has a very high ceiling but will need significant work before he is a starting caliber NBA center.
Despite their poor record in 2012 Portland has its young core of Aldridge, Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews and are far closer to championship contention than they seem. The team is poised for a few big moves and if they get them right, they should be back in the playoffs next season.
New Orleans Hornets
Draft Picks: No. 1, No. 10 (from Minnesota Timberwolves via Los Angeles Clippers)
Team Needs: Power forward, Guard depth
I think it's safe to say in any draft that the team with the first overall pick is poised to make a significant impact, but in a class where the prize is Anthony Davis, that statement becomes even more true.
With a need at power forward due to the likely departures of Carl Landry and Chris Kaman, New Orleans will almost certainly use that pick to select Davis, the former Kentucky superstar who averaged 4.7 blocks per game last season and appears poised to be the next elite big man to come into the NBA.
While his offensive game could still use work, particularly developing his jump shot and consistency in the post, he has shown tremendous skill on the defensive end of the court. He's also a hard working player and I believe he will become a true two-way threat in due time.
The team has Jarrett Jack and Greivis Vasquez at point guard, both coming off solid years, but undoubtedly they will be looking to find a franchise lead guard in the draft just like the Trail Blazers. The team has Eric Gordon at shooting guard, who is a restricted free agent, and while the team would be foolish not to match any offer he is made unless it is absolutely ridiculous, they could certainly look to add an impact player behind him.
New Orleans could go for either Lillard or Marshall as well as UConn's Jeremy Lamb, a 6'5" swingman with a silky smooth jump shot who could either back up Gordon or play alongside him and be a consistent source of offense, or even reach for Duke's Austin Rivers.
Rivers averaged 15.5 points per game for the Blue Devils last year, he has fantastic range on his jump shot as well as a great handle and the ability to attack the basket and finish at the rim. He needs to become stronger and continue working on the defensive end and his passing game, but he would be a nice young player to have mature under Gordon.
A roster of Davis, Gordon, Jack, Trevor Ariza, Emeka Okafor and the team's second lottery pick could have the team contending for a playoff spot a lot sooner than anticipated, as long as they choose wisely with that second pick.
After a very bleak season, there appears to be a bright future for Hornets basketball and one that will start when they make their selections on draft night.
Draft Picks: No. 21, No. 22, (from Los Angeles Clippers), No. 51.
Team Needs: Center, Shooting guard, Youth
Despite the Boston Celtics still being alive in the playoffs and fighting for another shot at a championship, few teams have as many question marks to deal with when the offseason finally rolls around.
Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett have both been productive on the court, Garnett, in particular, is on quite the tear, but the two are in the twilight of their careers and replacements must be found soon.
Although Garnett could very well return, it is unlikely Allen will be back in a Boston jersey and the team should look to find a quality shooting guard in this draft.
One likely choice is Dion Waiters, who should still be available when the Celtics are choosing in the mid-first round. Waiters averaged 12.6 points per game as Syracuse's sixth man, but showed he had a complete offensive game and could not only pull up for jump shots but also drive hard to the basket and wreak havoc by getting into the paint. Though he is not a great defender, he averaged 1.8 steals last season and could benefit from playing in a strong defensive system like Doc Rivers'.
The team could also look at St. John's forward Moe Harkless, a gifted scorer who showed last season he has the versatility to impact the game in other ways too, or even Austin Rivers, should he fall that far.
To fill their need in the middle, Boston could look at Mississippi State's Arnett Moultrie, a versatile big man who can play the four and the five who showed a nice mix of skill and physicality in his one season as a Bulldog, or someone like Syracuse's Fab Melo who, though still very raw, showed flashes of being a dominant defensive center thanks to his athleticism and shot-blocking prowess.
The team could also package their two picks in the hopes of moving up into the later selections of the lottery and nabbing someone like UNC's Tyler Zeller or John Henson, or even Jeremy Lamb.
Any of these players will likely not be available when Boston would be picking, but the combination of two selections in a deep draft as well as maybe a young asset like forward JaJuan Johnson may be enough to make a deal happen.
Boston will likely be a very different team in the Fall of 2012 than they were in the Summer, but they can still be a factor in the Eastern Conference if they have a successful draft.
Draft Picks: No. 14, No. 16 (from New York Knicks)
Team Needs: Center, Best player available.
Once again, the Houston Rockets were able to win enough games to be competitive in the Western Conference, but simply couldn't take the leap necessary to secure a postseason bid.
The Rockets finished 34-32, but wilted down the stretch and ended up as the ninth seed for the third consecutive year.
Houston holds the Knicks' pick as well as their own.
The team should be looking to add size, despite trading for Marcus Camby and having Samuel Dalembert on the roster for another year. Meyers Leonard, the athletic center from Illinois, is a player the team has been linked to.
He's an intriguing prospect because of his combination of size, length and athleticism. Leonard can run the floor better than almost any other big man available and while he needs to improve his scoring on the block, he is still a difficult match-up.
Leonard averaged 13.6 points and 8.2 rebounds per game for the Illini last year, along with two blocks. Though his overall game needs to improve and he must work on staying focused through a full 48 minutes, Leonard has tremendous upside for a center.
The team could also opt for North Carolina's Tyler Zeller, another seven-footer who will be able to help them down low. Zeller doesn't have the potential Leonard has, but after four years of college he's proven to be a good rebounder, solid defender and versatile scorer who can play with his back to the basket and even do some pick-and-pop work.
Another possibility is that the Rockets, with their two picks and slew of young assets, could attempt to move up in the order and grab an impact player. Perhaps they could move up a few spots in the order and grab someone like Perry Jones, a unique forward prospect who has the size and length of a center but the speed and handling ability of a small forward. They could also go for defensive big man John Henson or athletic scorer Terrence Ross with the pick.
The Rockets have seemingly been one player away from contending for a long time now, but if they play their cards right this could be the draft where that player arrives.
Draft Picks: No. 4, No. 24 (from Los Angeles Lakers), No. 33 (from New Orleans Hornets, via Miami Heat), No. 34
Team Needs: Small forward, Shooting guard.
The Cleveland Cavaliers have a bright future ahead of them thanks to the stellar play from Rookie of the Year Kyrie Irving, who showed he could be a franchise-changing talent in his first season with the Cavs.
Though fellow lottery pick Tristan Thompson struggled a bit to get acclimated to the NBA, the team still has plenty of promise and looks to build on that with a pair of first round picks in this draft.
The Cavaliers desperately need help on the perimeter and should look to find a long-term backcourt partner for Irving. Though the team was hoping to pick earlier than fourth, they should still have a chance at Florida freshman Bradley Beal.
Beal has the kind of effortless game teams love to get from their two-guards, he averaged 14.8 points, 2.2 assists and a very impressive 6.7 rebounds for the Gators last season. While he is a natural scorer, thanks to a solid jump shot and the ability to finish at the rim, Beal proved he could effect the game in other ways.
He had some nice moments as a playmaker as well as on the defensive end of the court and should Cleveland be able to get him, they would have their guard tandem solidified for years to come. If Beal is not available, the team could take UNC's Harrison Barnes, a scoring small forward who could replace Omri Casspi at the three spot.
Though there are some questions about Barnes due to his lack of noticeable improvement from freshman to sophomore year, he is still one of the best scorers in the class and would be a nice addition to the Cavs' roster.
With their second pick the team could look at a high upside player like Fab Melo, who could eventually replace Anderson Varejao at center. Melo needs time to develop once in the league, but under Varejao, he wouldn't have to play extended minutes and the team could work on his offensive moves and defensive discipline while he doesn't have to shoulder too much early in his career.
Other possibilities include someone like Vanderbilt's Jeffery Taylor, a fierce athlete and defender who averaged 16.1 points per game last year and shot 42.3 percent from three. He could be groomed to be their go-to perimeter defender and also help stretch the floor.
There is a possibility Cleveland could use these picks to move up to third or even trade down with a team like Portland, but it seems more likely they will look to add as much youth as they can to the roster.
The Cavaliers are headed in the right direction after a pair of dismal seasons, and this draft will go a long way in determining how much success they will have.