2012 NBA Mock Draft: First-Round Picks Primed for the D-League
Not every first-round pick pans out, and many do not last long at the NBA level.
Every rookie comes into the league with high hopes, but the rigors of the pro game are often too much for players.
Whether it is due to a lack of effort or a lack of skill, a handful of draftees will not make it all the way through their first season in the NBA.
Being sent to the D-League is not a death sentence for a player’s career by any means, as Jeremy Lin proved this past season. It only means that the prospect is not quite ready to compete at the pro level.
Here are my predictions for every first-round pick, highlighting the players that are not ready for the NBA game.
Note: these players are in italics
Note II: all measurements taken from CBSSports.com
What is Anthony Davis' ceiling in the NBA?
1. New Orleans Hornets (21-45): Antony Davis, PF, Kentucky
Davis is far and away the best player in this draft class. He was awarded every possible honor during his freshman year at Kentucky and led the Wildcats to a national championship.
His shot-blocking skills make him the type of prospect that only comes along once or twice every decade. There is absolutely no chance that the Hornets pass him up.
2. Charlotte Bobcats (7-59): Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, SF, Kentucky
While Davis is the best post defender in the draft, his teammate is the best perimeter defender in the draft.
Kidd-Gilchrist’s athleticism and seven-foot wingspan allow him to be a destructive force defensively. His offensive game is raw, but he is electric in transition and will be an excellent addition to the struggling Bobcats.
3. Washington Wizards (20-46): Bradley Beal, SG, Florida
The Wizards parted ways with Nick Young last season and while Jordan Crawford is not terrible, Beal would be a serious upgrade.
Beal has unlimited range and is an excellent rebounder for a guard. He impacts the game on both ends and will be an ideal backcourt mate for John Wall.
4. Cleveland Cavaliers (21-45): Thomas Robinson, PF, Kansas
Robinson is not the best player in this draft, as he claims to be, but he is the best rebounder available.
Robinson finished second in the nation with 11.8 rebounds and with a 7’3” wingspan, he will continue to dominate on the boards in the NBA. Even though the Cavaliers drafted Tristan Thompson with the No. 4 pick last year, Robinson is too good to pass up.
5. Sacramento Kings (22-44): Andre Drummond, PF/C, Connecticut
Drummond is one of the riskiest prospects at the top of the draft, as his talent does not match up with his production.
He is a long, athletic player with post moves and a decent midrange game. However, he put up just 10.0 points and 7.6 rebounds at UConn. But if he pans out, the Kings will have a scary frontcourt.
6. Portland Trail Blazers (via 22-44 New Jersey Nets): Damian Lillard, PG, Weber State
Lillard is the best point guard prospect in the draft. He may be used to playing against inferior competition at a small school, but he is a fiery competitor who has the skills to succeed in the NBA.
He has a fantastic jump shot and is already excellent in pick-and-roll situations. His familiarity with basketball’s most basic play will ensure early success for him.
7. Golden State Warriors (23-43): Harrison Barnes, SF, North Carolina
The Warriors need a player on the wing, and Barnes can do a little bit of everything from that position. He is solid on defense and has one of the best midrange games in the draft.
He was a leader at UNC and his maturity will be another attractive attribute for Golden State. Barnes may not be the most exciting player available, but he has few weaknesses in his game.
8. Toronto Raptors (23-43): Jared Sullinger, PF, Ohio State
Sullinger is a beast on the low block with a polished offensive game. At 268 pounds, he is nearly impossible to move and he can score with his back to the basket or by facing up his defender.
He is also a fantastic rebounder and pulled down 9.2 rebounds per game for the Buckeyes last season. He will give the Raptors a physical presence in the frontcourt.
9. Detroit Pistons (25-41): Dion Waiters, SG, Syracuse
Jeff Goodman of CBSSport.com reported that Waiters was pulled early from the combine because a lottery team ensured that he would be picked. Goodman believed it was the Suns, but the news is spreading and other teams will be taking a good look at Waiters.
He lacks an outside game, but he is physical and fearless. His ability to penetrate gives him a huge upside and the Pistons will keep him from sliding out of the top 10.
10. New Orleans Hornets (via 26-40 Minnesota Timberwolves): Kendall Marshall, PG, North Carolina
The Hornets will have officially added Anthony Davis by this point and they would be smart to pair him with the best passer in the draft. Marshall finished second in the country in assists with 9.7 per game.
Marshall is always looking to set up his teammates and while he struggles to score at times, Davis and Eric Gordon will appreciate his unselfishness.
11. Portland Trail Blazers (28-38): Meyers Leonard, C, Illinois
The Blazers need to pair LaMarcus Aldridge with a physical frontcourt player, and Meyers Leonard has been rocketing up draft boards after being measured at 7’1" at the combine.
The Blazers have never had the best luck in the draft, and unfortunately, they are destined to pick another bust.
Leonard is solid defensively, but is raw on offense. He is also not strong enough to be effective defensively right away.
He has not shown great instincts and he will need to spend time in the D-League in order to add strength and learn how to work within a defensive system.
12. Milwaukee Bucks (31-35): Tyler Zeller, C, North Carolina
The Bucks need a big as well after trading away Andrew Bogut, and they will be pleased that Tyler Zeller is still available.
Zeller shows great hustle on defense and a soft touch on offense. He scored 16.3 points per game last season and he runs the floor well. That will be a huge help when playing with Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis.
13. Phoenix Suns (33-33): Jeremy Lamb, SG, Connecticut
The Suns were hoping to take Dion Waiters with this pick, but they will settle for Lamb, who is the next best two-guard prospect.
He has excellent length and is a productive scorer. His 17.7 points per game last year show his offensive capabilities, and his 6’11” wingspan makes him a defensive nightmare.
14. Houston Rockets (34-32): Perry Jones III, PF, Baylor
Jones is one of the most intriguing prospects in the draft due to his size and athleticism. At 6’11,” he could play either forward position.
The Rockets have the depth to use him at either spot, and they will be thrilled to land a player with a big upside.
15. Philadelphia 76ers (35-31): Terrence Jones, PF, Kentucky
Jones is exactly the type of versatile, athletic player that the Sixers have had success with.
His size and ball-handling skills make him capable of playing multiple positions, and Doug Collins can move him around to create favorable defensive matchups.
16. Houston Rockets (via 36-20 New York Knicks): John Henson, PF, North Carolina
The Rockets will get a chance to add two extremely athletic forwards to their roster.
Henson has to work on getting stronger and more consistent on the offensive end, but his leaping abilities will ensure he gets a shot in the NBA. He averaged 2.9 blocks per game this past season and he will get his fair share of swats in Houston.
17. Dallas Mavericks (36-30): Terrence Ross, SG, Washington
Ross is a streaky shooter who could one day play the same role as Jason Terry. Ross does not have Terry’s midrange game, but he is an excellent athlete in addition to being dangerous from deep range.
The Washington guard will need work on becoming a more versatile scorer, but he has the potential to be an exciting scorer off the bench for Dallas right away.
18. Minnesota Timberwolves (via 36-30 Utah Jazz): Austin Rivers, SG, Duke
Rivers will have a chip on his shoulder after being taken this low in the draft, and that is great news for the Timberwolves.
The Duke guard will have to get used to playing off the ball, but Ricky Rubio’s pin-point passing will help him make that transition.
19. Orlando Magic (37-29): Fab Melo, C, Syracuse
Melo certainly has great size and athleticism, but the Syracuse center does not have much else that will help him be effective in the NBA.
The Magic will either be searching for an insurance policy or a replacement for Dwight Howard with this pick and will be desperate for a big man.
They will go for Melo, hoping he can develop, but this will not be the case. His size advantage won’t mean as much in the pros, and he does not have not any other skills to fall back on.
He may be a defensive force one day, but not before spending a few seasons in the D-League.
20. Denver Nuggets (38-28): Arnett Moultrie, PF, Mississippi
Moultrie is an athletic big man with great range on his jump shot. This makes him a threat to score both in the post and with his midrange game, although he must focus on asserting himself on the block.
Denver is a deep team, but George Karl is always able to find minutes for a talented player. Moutlrie will be an excellent fit with the Nuggets.
21. Boston Celtics (39-27): Moe Harkless, SF, St. Johns
Harkless has created buzz with his athleticism, but he is too raw of a player to be successful early in his career.
Boston will be hoping to add an explosive player to an aging roster, but Harkless will struggle to fit in with the veterans.
He does not shoot the ball well and is not always the most focused defender. Slacking on defense is the quickest way possible for Harkless to convince the Boston coaching staff that he is not ready for the pro game.
This will be a failed experiment and Harkless will have to spend time away from the NBA in order to hone his skills.
22. Boston Celtics (via 40-26 Los Angeles Clippers): John Jenkins, SG, Vanderbilt
Jenkins is a knock-down shooter who is deadly from behind the three-point line. Ray Allen’s future in Boston is in no way certain, and Jenkins is a good option here.
He is a mature player with a smooth shot, and he will fit nicely with the Celtics.
23. Atlanta Hawks (40-26): Tony Wroten Jr., PG, Washington
Wroten Jr. is extremely talented, but does not always use his skills in the wisest way.
He is 6’6” with incredible ball-handling skills and a flare for spectacular passes. However, he struggles to shoot the ball and often makes questionable decisions.
He doesn’t shoot well enough to play two-guard and few coaches will trust his game management skills enough to let him play the point.
He doesn’t have a true position and has a reputation for being difficult to coach. It will not be long before the Hawks send him to the D-Leage.
24. Cleveland Cavaliers (via 41-25 Los Angeles Lakers): Quincy Miller, SF, Baylor
Miller is almost identical to his teammate Perry Jones III, but the forward struggled to assert himself at Baylor.
He will have no competition at all on the wing in Cleveland, and he will have a chance to stand out.
25. Memphis Grizzlies (41-25): Evan Fournier, SG, France
Fournier is a smooth scorer at the two-guard position and if Memphis can get him to produce quickly, the team will have no reservations about shopping O.J. Mayo.
The Frenchman has great size for the position and solid midrange game. He will be a good rotation player in the NBA.
26. Indiana Pacers (42-24): Andrew Nicholson, PF, St. Bonaventure
Nicholson could be the biggest steal of the draft, and few would be surprised if Larry Bird is the executive to take a chance on him.
He is a small-school prospect, but he is big, athletic and has great range on his shot.
27. Miami Heat (46-20): Festus Ezeli, C, Vanderbilt
Few teams in the NBA need a big man as badly as Miami, and Ezeli will be their only option with this pick.
He has great size and is athletic, but very raw on offense. Still, he can contribute on defense and on the glass, and that is what the Heat need.
28. Oklahoma City Thunder (47-19): Royce White, Small Forward, Iowa State
A severe anxiety disorder is scaring a lot of teams off, but White is extremely talented.
The Thunder have the luxury of being able to take a risk on him, and if White falls this far, OKC will jump at the opportunity to take him.
29. Chicago Bulls (50-16): Marquis Teague, PG, Kentucky
Derrick Rose will welcome the opportunity to help out a fellow John Calipari-recruit. Teague is talented and can develop into a productive backup for the former MVP.
He has size and speed and will be a good fit for the Bulls' defense-first system.
30. Golden State Warriors (via 50-16 San Antonio Spurs): Draymond Green, SF, Michigan State
Green does not have the size or athleticism to play in the NBA, but he is one of the smartest players in the draft.
He rarely makes a bad decision with the ball and can impact the game in many ways.
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