NBA Draft 2012: 10 Teams That Can't Afford to Miss with 1st-Round Picks

Matt Fitzgerald@@MattFitz_geraldCorrespondent IIIJune 5, 2012

NBA Draft 2012: 10 Teams That Can't Afford to Miss with 1st-Round Picks

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    According to most analyses of the 2012 NBA draft, the New Orleans Hornets would be foolish to pass up Anthony Davis with the No. 1 overall selection.

    If the Hornets follow through and select Davis, it would also make pending free agent Chris Kaman available to walk, which will help with cap space thanks to the rookie wage scale.

    Judging from the team's website, the Hornets will likely have the can't-miss Davis, and they also possess the No. 10 overall pick. Already with one of the best defensive units in the NBA last season, Davis has the potential to turn the team into a truly elite defensive unit in the league if he lives up to his high expectations.

    While the No. 10 would be a luxury to hit on as well for the Hornets, it won't be as imperative.

    Here are 10 teams that can't afford to miss in this year's draft with their first-round selections.

10. Houston Rockets

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    The Rockets need to stand out in the congested Western Conference.

    Falling just short of the playoffs this season after going 3-7 in its last 10 games, the franchise has two picks in the middle of this draft's first round at No. 14 and 16.

    An aging Marcus Camby turned 38 this past March, and the Rockets have a lot of question marks in the frontcourt.

    At center, Samuel Dalembert is solid defensively but doesn't log big minutes. Greg Smith is still very raw and wasn't in the rotation last season.

    At power forward, Luis Scola is an All-Star-caliber player, and Patrick Peterson backs him up. However, last year's first-round investment Marcus Morris has been a disaster so far.

    In order to stand out in the West and match up with such physical tandems as Perkins-Ibaka, Gasol-Randolph, Jefferson-Millsap and Jordan-Griffin, among others, the Rockets must address their strength up front first.

    In particular, they need a prospect that will help their interior defense.

    Possible selections at No. 14: Meyers Leonard (Illinois), Fab Melo (Syracuse)

    With that need taken care of, there is solid depth at point guard in Kyle Lowry and Goran Dragic. Rookie Chandler Parsons showed he could hold his own starting at small forward and has Chase Budinger behind him.

    The shooting guard position is the next biggest need. Courtney Lee is a solid player, but with the current roster he shouldn't start if the team wants to compete for a championship.

    Kevin Martin has shown his ability to be a great NBA scorer, but has only managed to be on the court for two full seasons in his seven-year career, missing lots of time with injuries.

    If Martin again is injured, the Rockets don't have much of an answer behind him.

    Possible selections at No. 16: Austin Rivers (Duke), Dion Waiters (Syracuse)

9. Portland Trail Blazers

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    Here is another team with a lot of depth and exciting personnel on the roster, yet the Blazers cannot translate it into enough wins.

    Portland must hit on its first-round picks to make a jump into the playoffs next season. Although depth in the frontcourt might be a priority, the biggest need is point guard.

    Two high first-round picks split time at point guard for the Blazers: Raymond Felton (fifth overall in 2005) and Jonny Flynn (sixth overall in 2009). Both have been relatively disappointing as pros, especially Flynn.

    It appears as though the Blazers have many skilled, versatile players, but no one to run the show.

    Possible selections at No. 6: Damian Lillard (Weber State), Kendall Marshall (North Carolina)

    LaMarcus Aldridge has the size and versatility to play the 5, forming an extremely athletic front line alongside J.J. Hickson.

    The team hopes to bring out the potential in Hasheem Thabeet, who was selected No. 2 overall in 2009 but has bounced around in the Developmental League. Talk about a disappointment.

    Unable to count on Thabeet, along with questions looming about Hickson's consistency and only Craig Smith as a semi-viable backup option, this is clearly an area that needs to be addressed for Portland to have any chance at the postseason in 2012-13.

    Possible selections at No. 11: Perry Jones (Baylor), Jared Sullinger (Ohio State)

8. Cleveland Cavaliers

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    The Cavs struck gold with Kyrie Irving as the No. 1 overall pick of last year's draft. He ran away with NBA Rookie of the Year honors.

    Fourth overall pick Tristan Thompson also flashed potential and started 25 games as a rookie, gaining more minutes due to Anderson Varejao going down with an injury.

    With the need for more size up front as well as unquestionable starters at the 2 and the 3, the Cavs could go a number of different ways with the fourth pick in this year's draft.

    However, this high pick needs to be a hit if this team wants to keep moving in the right direction. With help necessary at every position besides point guard on offense and defense, a well-rounded player on both ends of the floor would be ideal.

    Possible selections at No. 4: Thomas Robinson (Kansas), Bradley Beal (Florida), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Kentucky)

    The Cavs also possess the 24th overall pick. Depending on what is done with the 4th pick, the Cavs will go after whatever need must be addressed at that time. It will likely come at the 2, 3, or 4.

    Possible selections at No. 24: Royce White (Iowa State)/Terrence Jones (Kentucky)/Doron Lamb (Kentucky)

7. Toronto Raptors

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    The Raptors have been floundering since losing Chris Bosh to the Miami Heat with a 45-103 record over the past two seasons.

    Defensively the team is solid. It ranked ninth in the league last season giving up just 94 points per game.

    There is a viable foundation up front with Andrea Bargnani, Ed Davis and Aaron Gray.

    DeMar DeRozan's continuing development at shooting guard will be a story to watch, as will James Johnson's play at small forward. If these players continue improving, they could be long-term cornerstones for the franchise.

    In order to become a playoff-worthy team, the Raptors simply need more offensive firepower, and the eighth pick in this draft must address that dire need.

    Possible selections at No. 8: Jeremy Lamb (Connecticut), Bradley Beal (Florida), Terrence Ross (Washington)

6. Golden State Warriors

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    With David Lee, Stephen Curry and three-point marksman Dorell Wright, the Warriors can run a team out of the gym on any given night when they come to play.

    Curry will settle back into his position at point guard with the departure of Monta Ellis, and the team has guards aplenty.

    The Warriors can score pretty well and were hurt last year with Curry injured for a long stretch, but they cannot defend anyone. That needs to be the focus with the No. 7 overall pick.

    Center Andris Biedrins has a nightmare contract and a salary of $9 million that have reportedly been trying to shop for a while, so the team must invest in the position if it expects to contend at all in the West in the next few years.

    Interior defense and another decently skilled big man is without question the top priority for this team, although the arrival of Andrew Bogut in the Ellis trade late last season will help the team in that area immensely.

    Possible selections at No. 7: John Henson (North Carolina), Perry Jones (Baylor)

    Thankfully for Golden State, it has another first-round selection, albeit the very last one. While adding more size would still appear to be a priority, the team would still lack a solid small forward.

    One way to address this issue would be to add depth with another big man and develop him. Or, the team may just grab the best player available at the time.

    The Warriors should see its frontcourt improve dramatically through the draft.

    Possible selections at No. 30: Draymond Green (Michigan State), Festus Ezeli (Vanderbilt)

5. Detroit Pistons

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    When examining the Pistons roster, it's hard to understand why they aren't a better team.

    For whatever reason, the chemistry between prominent players such as Ben Gordon, Tayshaun Prince and Greg Monroe wasn't there last season, and former first-round investments Rodney Stuckey and Austin Daye haven't lived up to their projected value.

    The Pistons shot just under 44 percent from the floor this past season, so offense is a definite need. With lots of frontcourt personnel to work with and a solid backcourt rotation of Will Bynum, Brandon Knight and Gordon, it's the small forward position that needs to be plugged first.

    Prince is 32 years old and his play has been declining for a number of seasons. It is also possible, though, that the Pistons go for a power forward for a more interior-oriented offense since Charlie Villanueva does more to stretch the floor on offense than pound inside for higher-percentage looks.

    Possible selections at No. 9: Harrison Barnes (North Carolina), Perry Jones (Baylor), John Henson (North Carolina)

4. Washington Wizards

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    The John Wall show can only carry the team so far.

    While Nene was a valuable piece to add at the trading deadline this past season, the Wizards are far off from being a playoff team.

    As long as the team goes any direction besides point guard and hits, it will be considered a success.

    However, it will take a player with a special type of personality and an already well-developed player to succeed amidst a turbulent team with lots of raw talent.

    University of Connecticut center Andre Drummond might be tantalizing here to stick beside Nene, but I don't think it would be in the interest of his or the team's long-term development.

    On paper, Drummond looks like a great fit, but a 19-year-old kid coming into one of the most undisciplined teams in the league wouldn't bode well for either side.

    The Wizards must select the best player available at No. 3, likely a small forward or shooting guard with the enormously disappointing Rashard Lewis and the trigger-happy but ineffective Jordan Crawford in the fold, respectively.

    Even if Lewis is bought out with two years remaining on his deal, the team still owes him $13.1 million. There is recent increased movement in the front office to try to make this happen. Trade talk is also buzzing.

    Regardless of what happens to Lewis, he likely won't be in DC much longer, and small forward should be the position the Wizards look to grab an elite prospect in this draft.

    Possible selections at No. 3: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Kentucky), Bradley Beal (Florida)

3. Phoenix Suns

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    The Suns have missed the playoffs in the past two seasons and will need some added toughness to contend in the conference moving forward.

    Grant Hill can't be counted on much longer at small forward, as he turns 40 in October. However, Jared Dudley plays his position and can hold his own as a starter in the NBA.

    If the Suns don't make serious moves this offseason, Steve Nash is going to leave town to go to a contender, which makes the No. 13 selection in this draft all the more important.

    It is unclear whether the draft will factor much into Nash's decision, as there typically aren't unanimous can't-miss prospects at such a stage in the draft.

    Regardless, the Suns have plenty of shooters to spread the floor, but what they really lack is a dominant defensive presence.

    Whiffing on this pick will be detrimental to the team's immediate future and probably Tyson Gentry's status as head coach.

    Possible selections at No. 13: Meyers Leonard (Illinois), Jared Sullinger (Ohio State)

2. Sacramento Kings

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    Long gone are the days of Chris Webber and the sold-out, clamoring crowds of ARCO Arena in Sacramento.

    With six consecutive losing seasons, the Kings need to generate some excitement. There has been loud talk of the team moving to Anaheim, although it is unclear as to exactly when, or if, that will happen.

    The frontcourt is raw but talented, consisting of DeMarcus Cousins, Jason Thompson and the underrated Chuck Hayes.

    The team has plenty of young combo guards in Tyreke Evans, Marcus Thornton, Jimmer Fredette and Francisco Garcia. Isaiah Thomas was a pleasant surprise last season, proving his worth as a solid pure point guard.

    As is the case with many bad teams in the NBA, the Kings are abysmal on defense. They gave up a league-worst 104.4 points per game last season.

    With Donte Greene and Travis Outlaw the only true small forwards on the roster, there must be a significant upgrade in this draft.

    Unfortunately, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will likely be gone once this pick rolls around, even though he's probably the best fit for this team's needs from both a character and talent standpoint.

    Whether a solid small forward prospect is available or not, if the club can improve its defense in any way, it should jump at the chance.

    Possible selections at No. 5: Harrison Barnes (North Carolina), John Henson (North Carolina)

1. Charlotte Bobcats

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    Many onlookers cried "Conspiracy!" as the NBA draft lottery unfolded last week.

    The NBA-owned New Orleans Hornets secured the No. 1 pick in this year's draft, leaving Michael Jordan's Bobcats out in the cold on the Anthony Davis sweepstakes.

    Missing out on Davis certainly stings this franchise's prospects moving forward, coming off the worst season in NBA history.

    With the second pick, the Bobcats have holes everywhere and simply have to evaluate the prospects and take the best player available.

    The Bobcats have arguably the worst frontcourt depth in basketball: DeSagana Diop, Bismack Biyombo, Byron Mullens, Eduardo Najera, Tyrus Thoma, and D.J. White.

    Davis certainly would have helped and would have made many of those players expendable, but there are other prospects that can fill those holes.

    Then again, a team that finishes 7-59 and on a 23-game losing streak probably needs an upgrade anywhere it can find one.

    Landing a successful coach such as Jerry Sloan, who interviewed with the team Friday, could aid the process of improving the team, especially in luring free agents to play in Charlotte.

    This No. 2 pick is something the Bobcats have complete control over, though.

    Above all the other teams with a pick in the 2012 NBA draft, they can't afford to blow it.

    Possible selections at No. 2: Thomas Robinson (Kansas), Andre Drummond (Connecticut), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Kentucky)