2012 NBA Mock Draft: Highlighting Riskiest First-Round Prospects

Brian Mazique@@UniqueMaziqueCorrespondent IIIJune 17, 2012

NEW ORLEANS, LA - MARCH 31:  Jared Sullinger #0 of the Ohio State Buckeyes reacts after the Buckeyes lose to the Kansas Jayhawks 64-62 during the National Semifinal game of the 2012 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on March 31, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Jared Sullinger scares me more than any other player in the NBA draft. Generally, a player with a high risk has a high reward on the flip-side.

While I acknowledge there is some possible reward for Sullinger, I wouldn't describe it as high.

Athletically, he is what he is. He isn't going to become Shawn Kemp as far as pure run-and-jump athleticism—that fact creates a lower ceiling to begin with.

Sullinger measured at 6'9" in shoes, which isn't a death wish, but coupled with his below-standard athleticism and poor conditioning (he had the highest percentage of body fat of any player at the combine), it's a concern.

Sullinger has a nice touch and good footwork, but his work ethic and lack of athleticism could very well kill any chance he has of being above average. He is the riskiest player in the draft, in my opinion, but he isn't the only risk, of course.

Here is a full mock draft with a concentration on the players who carry the most risk. (Spotlighted players and teams will be Italicized.)

Combine numbers from Draft Express.

1. New Orleans Hornets: Anthony Davis, PF (Kentucky; scouting report here)

The unibrow will be welcomed in New Orleans with open arms. Take a look at this fan-created image in his honor:

This is an NBA2K-centric look at what the Hornets could be in the 2012-2013 season

image from posterizes.com
image from posterizes.com


2. Charlotte Bobcats: Thomas Robinson, PF (Kansas; scouting report here)

The Cats have discussed trading this pick, per Sporting News, and that is the smart move. They have lost out on Jerry Sloan per ESPN, so that already is the second loss of the offseason for the Bobcats.

If they keep the pick, then I think they will select Robinson. He's the most NBA-ready.


3. Washington Wizards: Bradley Beal, SG (Florida; scouting report here)

The Wizards would be pairing a shooter with John Wall, which gives him a viable option off his dribble penetration. Beal is a bit small-ish, in my opinion, but conceptually, it makes sense.


4. Cleveland Cavaliers: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, SF (Kentucky; scouting report here)

The Cavs would have liked a shooter, but MKG is far from a letdown. He will immediately upgrade the Cavs defense, toughness and character.


5. Sacramento Kings: Harrison Barnes, SF (North Carolina; scouting report here)

Barnes helped himself at the combine. He showed elite athleticism and reminded people how productive he was at North Carolina.

I believe the Kings will move Tyreke Evans on draft day or during the offseason. That would create a clear opening for Barnes at the small forward position.


6. Portland Trail Blazers (from Brooklyn Nets): Andre Drummond, C (UConn; scouting report here) 

Drummond has the most risk/reward of any player in the draft.

Physically, he is the most impressive prospect. He is 6'11", 280 pounds and has a 39" vertical. He is a man-child, pure and simple.

However, there are concerns about his motor and desire.

The Blazers have had terrible luck drafting big men in the past—remember they didn't actually draft LaMarcus Aldridge; it was a draft-day trade with Chicago for Tyrus Thomas. (The Blazers clearly got the best of that deal.)

If Drummond pans out, he and Aldridge could be a nasty combination. This tweet and included picture make me think Drummond has impressed Portland in his workout.


. @DRE_DRUMMOND_ throws it down with authority during today's pre-draft workout #ripcitydraft #uconn twitter.com/pdxtrailblazer…

— Trail Blazers (@pdxtrailblazers) June 17, 2012


It's just a tweet, but it isn't as if it doesn't make sense.


7. Golden State Warriors: Perry Jones III, SF (Baylor; scouting report here

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 06:  Andre Drummond #12 of the Connecticut Huskies lays up a basket against the DePaul Blue Demons during their first round game of the 2012 Big East Men's Basketball Tournament at Madison Square Garden on March 6, 2012 in New York Ci
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

PJ3 is an awesome talent, but he also has questions about his motor. In addition to those concerns, many don't know what position fits him best in the NBA.

In my opinion, it's clearly the small forward spot. You can look at a kid all day and say, "Power forward, power forward," but if that kid doesn't see himself as that, it'll be a struggle.

The Warriors would be a great landing spot for Jones. Along with David Lee and Andrew Bogut, Golden State would have a long and versatile frontcourt.

Playing PJ3 at the right position is the difference between him becoming Brad Sellers or Lamar Odom.


8. Toronto Raptors: Damian Lillard, PG (Weber State; scouting report here)

I placed Lillard here not because of anything he did, but because size tends to win out. The other prospects bumped him because they are bigger, and that is especially the case with Portland at No. 6.

The Raptors need a young point guard, but there could be concerns that Lillard is too similar to Jerryd Bayless.


9. Detroit Pistons: John Henson, PF/C (North Carolina)

The Pistons would be adding a defensive game-changer with Henson. He would be a nice fit alongside Greg Monroe.


10. New Orleans Hornets (from Minnesota): Austin Rivers, SG (Duke; scouting report here)

ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 25:  Anthony Davis #23 of the Kentucky Wildcats and Perry Jones III #1 of the Baylor Bears vie for posession during the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball South Regional Final at the Georgia Dome on March 25, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

There is some risk involved with selecting Rivers, but I am as confident in his scoring ability as I am in any prospect.

Rivers will be a high-volume scorer in the NBA. When he measured at 6'5" at the combine, that eliminated the final concern I had about him. In my opinion, he is the best shooting guard prospect available and a steal for the Hornets here.

Check out this interview—he is mentally prepared for the NBA challenge:

ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 10:  Austin Rivers #30 of the Duke Blue Devils during the semifinals of the 2012 ACC Men's Basketball Conferene Tournament at Philips Arena on March 10, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images


11. Portland Trail Blazers: Kendall Marshall, PG (North Carolina; scouting report here)

The Blazers can still acquire their point guard, even though they passed on the more dynamic Lillard at No. 6. Marshall is a better pure point and a solid fit with the Blazers.


12. Milwaukee Bucks: Meyers Leonard, C (Illinois; scouting report here)

Leonard has some risk, but he is working very hard to eliminate the critics' concerns. He shined at the NBA Combine, measuring a legit 7'1" and some change in shoes, and showing impressive strength and athleticism.

I have changed my tune about him. Leonard isn't the most NBA-ready player, but he has the heart and desire to get what he doesn't have.

This kid wants it; he isn't a superstar, but with his size, he is well worth the No. 12 pick.


13. Phoenix Suns: Dion Waiters, SG (Syracuse; scouting report here)

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 17: Meyers Leonard #12 of the Illinois Fighting Illini grabs a rebound against the UNLV Rebels at United Center on December 17, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. UNLV defeated Illinois 64-48. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Waiters has apparently received a lottery promise from an NBA team, according to this report from Gery Woelfel of the Racine Sports Zone, and that team is the Phoenix Suns.

The Suns need just about everything. I expect both of the top point guards to be gone at this time, so they may as well take the player they believe to be the best available.

Waiters has some scoring ability, but he didn't even start for Syracuse last year. He may be a player whose game is better-suited for the NBA, much like Rivers.


14. Houston Rockets: Arnett Moultrie, PF/C (Mississippi State; scouting report here)

Moultrie didn't work out at the NBA Combine, but I think he'll still be a lottery pick. The Rockets need size, and the fact that Moultrie can score is big.

15. Philadelphia 76ers: Terrence Ross, SG (Washington; scouting report here)

Ross is one of my favorite shooting guards in the draft. I love his athleticism and the strides he made from freshman to sophomore year at Washington.


16. Houston Rockets (from N.Y. Knicks): Jeremy Lamb, SG (UConn; scouting report here)

Lamb has talent, but he has a very lazy demeanor about him. It's a bit of a turnoff for some teams, but there is no denying his athleticism and ability to shoot the ball.

Watch Lamb in this interview:


17. Dallas Mavericks:  Jared Sullinger, PF (Ohio State; scouting report here)

This may seem like a long drop, and someone may very well take a chance on him before this pick, but as I said, Sullinger is the scariest prospect in the draft.

He could give the Mavs a nice look playing the power forward position with Dirk Nowitzki at center, if the Mavs go small for stretches.

18. Minnesota Timberwolves (from Utah): Terrence Jones, SF (Kentucky; scouting report here)

I still like Jones' versatility with Minnesota. He can play small forward and knock down the open three. However, his size creates mismatches, and that would be the allure here.


19. Orlando Magic: Tyler Zeller, C (North Carolina; scouting report here)

Zeller is a solid, young big man. He plays hard, has legitimate size at 6'11" and a high basketball IQ. Zeller isn't a surefire replacement if the Magic lose Dwight Howard, but he's no slouch.


20. Denver Nuggets: Moe Harkless, SF (St. John's)

I love Harkless' upside. He has a tremendous wingspan and great overall length. He could be a lockdown defender in the NBA sooner than later.

21. Boston Celtics: Royce White, PF (Iowa State; scouting report here)

I called Jared Sullinger the riskiest player in the draft, but many would argue that that title belongs to White.

I couldn't argue too vehemently against that point. He is obviously talented, but White suffers from an anxiety disorder, and he has had some issues with the law in the past.

To his credit, he has been upfront and honest about his issues. He is a sharp kid, and I'm pulling for him. Check him out in this interview:

If White can handle himself and his disorder, he is a top 10 talent and a steal for a team at this point in the draft.

22. Boston Celtics: Jeffery Taylor, SF (Vanderbilt)

Taylor's athleticism and defensive prowess could shine with the Celtics. He runs the floor, and alongside Rajon Rondo, he could be the recipient of some beautiful passes.

23. Atlanta Hawks: Tony Wroten Jr., PG (Washington)

Wroten has the most upside of any point guard prospect. He's 6'5", 200 pounds and a solid athlete.

That said, Wroten is a terrible shooter, and his decision-making is shaky.

When he's good, he shows the flashes of a brilliant point guard, but as an ill-advised, one-and-done player, he is far from a finished product.

Wroten could be one of the year's biggest surprises, or he could be in the D-League in three months.


24. Cleveland Cavaliers (from L.A. Lakers): Fab Melo, C (Syracuse)

The Cavs could look to add depth at center. Melo protects the rim, runs the floor and has good athleticism. He could turn into a valuable reserve.


25. Memphis Grizzlies: Evan Fournier, SG (France)

Fournier is a talented, young French scorer, but he isn't quite ready for the NBA, in my opinion. He'd be better off being stashed overseas for two years and coming over after he's matured.


26. Indiana Pacers: Marquis Teague, PG (Kentucky)

I don't believe the Pacers are in love with Darren Collison at the point. George Hill could leave via free agency, and that would leave the Pacers hurting. 

Teague is a tremendous athlete, and he has good upside as a point guard prospect.


27. Miami Heat: Festus Ezeli, C (Vanderbilt)

Miami badly needs an inside presence. If the Heat have a shot-blocker, they are going to be very difficult to defeat.

Ezeli has that potential, and the Heat would be crazy not to select him here.


28. Oklahoma City Thunder: Draymond Green, SF (Michigan State)

Kevin Durant needs a backup, and Green has great versatility and intangibles. He'd be an asset to the Thunder locker room.


29. Chicago Bulls: John Jenkins, SG (Vanderbilt)

With the Bulls still in need of a shooting guard, Jenkins fits the bill as much as any player at this point in the draft. It may be time for the Bulls to think about trading up.


30. Golden State Warriors (from San Antonio): Andrew Nicholson, PF (St. Bonaventure)

Nicholson could be a valuable bench player. He can score and has a solid shooting touch.

He also is a high character kid and a decent fit for the Warriors at the end of the first round.

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