As the NBA Finals are underway, we are down to about two weeks before the 2012 NBA draft.
That leaves only individual workouts for certain prospects to attempt to improve their draft stock. With such a deep draft, several prospects drafted later in the first round will end up outperforming the position they are drafted in.
In my latest mock draft, I focus in on these guys who will be a bit of a surprise to the teams that end up drafting them.
1. New Orleans Hornets: Anthony Davis, Kentucky
Davis is a lock to be the No. 1 pick, and while there’s a ton of hype and expectations for him coming in, I think he meets those expectations from day one and makes a pretty significant impact as a rookie.
2. Charlotte Bobcats: Thomas Robinson, Kansas
How the top of the first round plays out all depends what the Bobcats do with this pick. If they end up keeping it, I like Robinson here.
He’s ready to contribute right away, and down the road, could turn himself into a pretty solid double-double machine after recording 27 of them on the season at Kansas.
3. Washington Wizards: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kentucky
MKG is a safe pick here for the Wizards.
He brings character and leadership to a team that desperately needs an injection of both. He may not be a top scoring option in the NBA, but his athleticism should make him a pretty productive NBA player.
4. Cleveland Cavaliers: Bradley Beal, Florida
The Cavs have liked Harrison Barnes for two years now, but with Beal still on the board, it’s difficult to pass on him.
The Florida product averaged 14.8 points per game on the season and could turn into the best pure scorer in the draft. Paired with Kyrie Irving, this Cleveland backcourt could be among the best in the NBA in a couple of years.
5. Sacramento Kings: Andre Drummond, Connecticut
The Kings need a big man to play with DeMarcus Cousins, and at No. 5, they can’t pass on the upside of Drummond.
It may take some time for him to reach his potential, but if he does, Drummond could be the most talented overall player in the draft.
6. Portland Trail Blazers (via New Jersey Nets): Damian Lillard, Weber State
Lillard was the talk of last week’s combine in Chicago and could be a perfect fit for Portland at No. 6.
They need a point guard, and Lillard is the top one on the board. He can shoot the ball, averaging 24.5 points per game while shooting 47 percent from the floor, 41 percent from behind the arc and 89 percent from the charity stripe.
He’s s a guy that I feel can put up No. 1 type pick numbers as a rookie and could be a serious Rookie of the Year candidate based on his scoring ability.
As far as playing the point guard position goes, he can do that as well. He’s was asked to score more at Weber State, but still tallied a 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
7. Golden State Warriors: Harrison Barnes, North Carolina
I’ve been up and down on Barnes all season, but he’s a good fit for the Warriors, who need some scoring production from the small forward spot.
That’s something Barnes can definitely provide after averaging 17.1 points per game on the season.
8. Toronto Raptors: Dion Waiters, Syracuse
Toronto general manager Bryan Colangelo said he’s not the one who made Waiters a lottery promise, but not too many other teams make sense enough for Waiters to cancel all his workouts.
Even if the Raptors aren’t the team who gave the Syracuse product a draft promise, there’s no rule against taking him here.
9. Detroit Pistons: Perry Jones III, Baylor
Jones helps the Pistons get more athletic and is a guy that can play the 3 or the 4, although I see him more as an NBA 3.
Considering the knocks on him and lack of consistent production in college (13.5 PPG, 7.6 RPG), Jones is going to be drafted on his potential.
But he’s a guy that I feel whose game is more suited for the NBA.
The guy runs like a deer and can jump through the gym. He’s also a guy that could be out to prove the doubters wrong, so I foresee a big rookie year for Jones.
10. New Orleans Hornets (via Minnesota Timberwolves): Austin Rivers, Duke
Duke is also a guy who The Sporting News reported may have a lottery promise and could make sense here for New Orleans, depending on what they decide to do with Eric Gordon, who is a restricted free agent.
I don’t think he will explode as a rookie, but Rivers has natural scoring ability (15.5 PPG) and has the potential to become an NBA star.
11. Portland Trail Blazers: Meyers Leonard, Illinois
Leonard also created a ton of buzz at the combine and has seen his stock shoot way up.
Portend needs a big man for the future, and coming out of this draft with Lillard and Leonard could give the Blazers two building blocks for the future.
12. Milwaukee Bucks: Jared Sullinger, Ohio State
I think Sullinger can be a decent NBA forward, but I have doubts how good he can be.
He’s not the greatest athlete in the world and could struggle against longer and more athletic defenders. But his post-game looks very good, and given the fact that Milwaukee needs low-post production, he may be worth a roll of the dice.
13. Phoenix Suns: Terrence Ross, Washington
If you’re looking for a guy that can come in and produce right away as a rookie, look no further than Washington’s Ross.
You name it and he does it well.
He’s got good size for a 2-guard at close to 6’7” and can score the ball from both the inside and outside, shooting 46 percent from the floor and 37 percent from behind the arc.
Ross is also one of the best rebounding guards in the draft, averaging 6.4 boards per game.
Some of the other shooting guards such as Rivers, Beal and Jeremy Lamb get all the attention, but Ross is as good, if not better than most of them.
14. Houston Rockets: Jeremy Lamb, Connecticut
Lamb is a nice fit for the Rockets at No. 14, as Houston needs quality backcourt depth.
Lamb has the ability to become a No. 1 scoring option after averaging 17.7 points per game at UConn. With Kevin Martin’s contract set to expire after the 2013 season, the Rockets could elect to move Martin if Lamb pans out early on.
15. Philadelphia 76ers: John Henson, North Carolina
He’s raw offensively, but he can help a team’s interior defense right away.
Henson is an outstanding athlete who can help the Sixers by rebounding (10.1 RPG) and blocking shots (2.9 BPG).
He’s a great athlete that runs the floor very well, so he will find a way to be productive as his post-game develops.
16. Houston Rockets (via New York Knicks): Tyler Zeller, North Carolina
I don’t think Zeller will be an All-Star, but I think he can be more productive than most people would give him credit for.
He’s athletic and can run the floor well and also has very good leaping skills.
Zeller is very good fundamentally and has a soft touch around the rim, shooting 55 percent from the floor during his senior season.
His numbers improved in each of his four seasons at North Carolina, and while he won’t average the 16.6 points and 9.6 rebounds he did during his senior season, he fills a need in Houston and will be surprisingly productive.
17. Dallas Mavericks: Kendall Marshall, North Carolina
Should the Mavs select Marshall, they get a point guard similar to the one they had in Jason Kidd, a guy that is an effortless passer and outstanding decision maker (9.8 APG).
He may have to work on some things offensively, but he sees the floor great, and as a facilitator, there’s none better in the draft than Marshall. He takes care of the ball, evident by a 3.48 assist-to-turnover ratio and is the rare type of player that makes everyone on the floor better.
18. Minnesota Timberwolves (via Utah Jazz): Arnett Moultrie, Mississippi State
Moultrie’s decision not to work out during the combine was stunning, but he’s a good fit here for Minnesota.
With the top shooting guards already off the board, instead of reaching for one, adding frontcourt depth here is a plus. While I see him as a 4 in the NBA, Moultrie can play the 4 or the 5.
While he has the strength to play either spot, he has the athleticism of a guard. He’s a guy with a very bright future.
19. Orlando Magic: Moe Harkless, St. Johns
Harkless is another guy who impressed at the combine with his shooting and athleticism.
It’s about time the Magic prepare to start over and adding the high upside of Harkless is a good way to start.
20. Denver Nuggets: Terrence Jones, Kentucky
Jones would be an ideal candidate for a guy to get drafted late and come in and offer production, but while I like him here for Denver, there might not be an opportunity for a ton of minutes right off the bat.
Denver doesn’t have any immediate holes, so they can take the best player on the board. Right now, I have that as Jones.
21. Boston Celtics: Andrew Nicholson, St. Bonaventure
He knows how to play the game and produces across the board, averaging 18.5 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game.
In addition, Nicholson shot 57 percent from the floor and 43 percent from behind the arc.
I love him for Boston here and think he can come in and be very productive
22. Boston Celtics (via Los Angeles Clippers): Fab Melo, Syracuse
Boston needs size, and drafting Melo makes sense, as he’s a solid 7’0” and can block shots (2.9 BPG).
He’s raw offensively and may take some time to develop, but the skills are there, as Melo shot 57.6 percent from the floor during his two years at Syracuse.
23. Atlanta Hawks: Royce White, Iowa State
White is another guy I like to produce as a rookie.
He’s got good size at 6’9”, but shows the ability of a guard.
White averaged 13.4 points and 9.3 rebounds on the year, but also led the Iowa State team and ranked fifth in the Big 12 Conference in assists (5.0 APG).
He had some off-the-court issues in the past, but interviewed great at the combine. He’s a guy that can help the Hawks immediately.
24. Cleveland Cavaliers (via Los Angeles Lakers): Jeff Taylor, Vanderbilt
Cleveland needs to get more athletic, and Taylor is a guy that can do a lot of things. He’s a very good perimeter defender, can get to the rim and finally developed a perimeter shot (42 percent).
25. Memphis Grizzlies: Doron Lamb, Kentucky
Memphis needs someone that can hit the perimeter shot, and Lamb could be a steal here, as he’s a lethal shooter, knocking down 47 percent of his three-point attempts.
26. Indiana Pacers: Marquis Teague, Kentucky
The Pacers could look at Teague as their point guard of the future here.
He will need time to develop, but was impressive in March, as he really came on strong in helping lead Kentucky to the national championship.
27. Miami Heat: Quincy Miller, Baylor
After disappointing big-time at the combine, Miller may have played his way out of the first round, but makes sense here for Miami.
He’s got a ton of upside, and the Heat can afford to take their time with him.
28. Oklahoma City Thunder: Draymond Green, Michigan State
Green looked great physically at the combine and may sneak into the first round because of it.
He doesn’t do anything great, but does a lot of things very well. The Thunder just need depth here, and Green is a guy that can come off the bench and produce.
29. Chicago Bulls: John Jenkins, Vanderbilt
Jenkins could be the best shooter in the draft, connecting on 44 percent of his shots from behind the arc. The Bulls need other scoring options, and Jenkins is a guy who, down the road, could turn into a replacement for Richard Hamilton.
30. Golden State Warriors (via San Antonio Spurs): Festus Ezeli, Vanderbilt
Ezeli is a big body that can help the Warriors rebound (5.9 RPG) the ball and block shots (2.0 BPG).
Adding more size is a plus here for Golden State if they keep the pick, and while Ezeli is raw offensively, he has some talent, averaging 10.0 points per game and shooting 60 percent from the floor.
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