2012 NBA Mock Draft: Genius Picks for Every NBA GM
There are few times in an NBA season where more focus is on a team's general manager than the draft.
Normally, the GM sits in the background, quietly pulling strings and making deals while most fans focus on the actual product on the court. However, with the season over and most players resting, rehabbing or simply getting away from basketball, all eyes turn to the men in the front office.
From a talent standpoint, the 2012 draft class is one of the best to come around in a long time. There are a slew of extremely gifted players available both in the lottery and in the later first round, but drafting is so often about more than just snagging the best player available. A quality GM will be considering how a player fits within their team's system, whether they have a high ceiling and can continue to grow and even if they simply fill a need on the roster.
Without further ado, let's take a look at how the first round of the draft might shake out if every general manager could get their ideal pick...
No. 30: Festus Ezeli, C (Golden State Warriors Via San Antonio Spurs)
The Golden State Warriors have been looking to add size to their roster for years now. It started with the team dealing Monta Ellis for injury-prone center Andrew Bogut, but the team needs to continue its quest to get bigger through the draft.
Vanderbilt's Festus Ezeli should be available at the tail end of the first round and would be a very logical choice for the team. He showed tremendous growth as a player during his four-year college career and averaged 10.1 points, 5.9 rebounds and two blocks per game in his senior season. The 6'11" Ezeli has excellent size and would make a solid piece in the Warriors' frontcourt rotation.
He is a strong, physical interior presence who can assert himself on the boards, score around the rim and be a very effective help defender when necessary. His athleticism would also allow him to run the floor with this young Golden State team, particularly Stephen Curry.
The last picks of the first round are meant to fill needs or try and snag a player who has fallen through the cracks, but by taking Ezeli with the 30th overall pick new GM Bob Myers and the Warriors would get a player who could be a quality reserve big man for a long time.
No. 29: Will Barton, SG/SF (Chicago Bulls)
Will Barton is a player whose stock has been very much on the rise lately. After a stellar sophomore campaign for the Memphis Tigers in which he averaged 18 points, eight rebounds and 2.9 assists while connecting on 50.9 percent of his field goal attempts and 34.6 percent from deep, Barton was initially considered a second round prospect before he began to shoot up draft boards over the last few weeks.
The Chicago Bulls are still looking for a long-term answer at the shooting guard position, and should Barton be available when they make their first round selection the team should absolutely pick the talented swingman. Barton's athleticism and ability to score in transition would make him a natural backcourt partner with Derrick Rose.
In addition, he is more than just a spot-up shooter. He can work with the ball in his hands, has a quick first step to get by defenders and can finish well at the rim. For a guard, he has shown a knack for rebounding the basketball and while he isn't a great defender, he is able to get his hands in passing lanes and his length should help him at the NBA level.
Though Barton certainly needs to bulk up before entering the league, he is one of the more gifted two-guard prospects around, and would make a great addition to the Bulls' roster. Veteran GM John Paxson has built a true contender, but the team is still one young two-guard away from a title.
No. 28: Draymond Green, SF/PF (Oklahoma City Thunder)
While the Oklahoma City Thunder probably have the least roster holes of any NBA team, the one spot they could look to shore up in the draft is the backup small forward position. The team doesn't really have anyone who can step in and contribute behind Kevin Durant, and with cap space being so precious it makes sense that they would look to the draft for this spot.
Draymond Green is coming off of a brilliant final season at Michigan State, where he averaged 16.1 points, 10.4 rebounds and 3.8 assists while being the Spartans' leader on the court and dazzling fans with his versatility. Green would be an excellent addition to the Thunder's bench as he can rebound well, has great passing instincts, can score the ball inside and even space the floor when necessary.
Oklahoma City needs a player who will not put himself above the team or the team culture, and Green has shown a commitment to winning and playing for his teammates. Green would be able to step right in and mesh with the established players on the Thunder roster.
Though his lack of upside has worried some fans and pundits, as well as his need to trim down a bit, Green is still one of the most talented basketball players available in the draft. He may not be a physical specimen, but he does a little bit of everything well on the court and could find an immediate role coming off the Thunder's bench.
Sam Presti and the Thunder have had one of the best draft runs in NBA history, and this kind of low-risk, sensible pick fits perfectly with what Presti has built in Oklahoma City.
No. 27: Doron Lamb, SG (Miami Heat)
Coming off of a championship season, it may seem that the Miami Heat don't need to make much change in their roster. However, it's easy to forget that Dwyane Wade is 30 years old and has dealt with several troubling injuries during the course of his career. The team does not have much depth at the two-guard spot behind Wade and would be wise to grab a young player at the position who could make an impact immediately while having the potential to be a key player down the road.
The Heat's offense thrives on using Wade and LeBron James to create open looks for their perimeter shooters, and Lamb, who shot 46.6 percent from three-point range last year, would be able to connect on the shots defenses are willing to give him as they key in on Miami's stars.
Lamb would make a nice addition to Miami's backcourt rotation, which already includes Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole. They could use the young, athletic guards to run a trap defense and even alternate who brings the ball up the court, thanks to Lamb's solid handle.
Lamb proved he can be a factor on a talent-laden team, notching 13.2 points per game for Kentucky last year. While it's unlikely he'll replicate that kind of production, his shooting will make him a factor when he's out on the court.
With his championship dreams achieved, Pat Riley must look to add youth and depth behind Miami's Big Three, and Lamb would be a great addition to the roster.
No. 26: Quincy Miller, SF (Indiana Pacers)
The Indiana Pacers, coming off of an impressive postseason run, are one of few teams in the league that can look to draft a player with enormous potential who they hope will grow into something special. Quincy Miller, coming off of a solid, but not spectacular, season at Baylor where he averaged 11.1 points and five boards per game, surprised a lot of the basketball world by declaring for the 2012 draft instead of spending another year at school.
Still, there are few prospects as unique and gifted as Miller. His mix of skills, size and pure athleticism are uncommon to say the least, and if Indiana decides to trade Danny Granger, a tandem of Paul George, and Miller would give them elite length and athletic ability on the perimeter. In his time as a Bear, Miller was showed that he could hit shots from the outside, as well as bring the ball up the court and run Baylor's offensive sets for some time.
He needs to add some weight, but Miller's length alone will be a nightmare on defense for opposing small forwards. He has the physical tools to be a great rebounding three, and if he can continue to develop the other facets of his game, could be a starter down the road.
Indiana can afford to take a flyer with this pick, and Larry Bird and the Pacers would be wise to use it on a player with as much upside as Quincy Miller.
No. 25: Marquis Teague, PG (Memphis Grizzlies)
Marquis Teague is considered by many to be one of the more boom-or-bust players in the draft. His athleticism, ability to attack the basket and his play in transition have many thinking he could be a starting point guard in a few years' time, while others look at his shaky outside shot and struggles in the halfcourt and question how successful he can be in the pros.
The Memphis Grizzlies desperately need to add a backup point guard behind Mike Conley. Last season the team used Jeremy Pargo and Gilbert Arenas, a duo that simply won't cut it if the team hopes to contend for a championship. The team should be looking to preserve cap room by finding a guard through the draft, and Teague should be available right around where they're picking.
Defensively, Teague's ability to hound the ball and pressure opposing point guards would make him a natural fit with Memphis. Renowned for their intense defense and ability to force turnovers, having someone who can come off the bench and wear down opponents would be huge for the team. He would form a formidable guard rotation with Conley, an excellent pickpocket, and Tony Allen, one of the league's best perimeter defenders.
Though Teague has much room for improvement, after averaging 10 points and 4.8 assists in his freshman campaign, he would be a great pickup for Memphis.
Chris Wallace and the Memphis front office know they do not have much to spend after extending Rudy Gay, Conley, Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, meaning that adding a draft pick who could make an impact would be the best possible option.
No. 24: Jeffery Taylor, SF (Cleveland Cavaliers Via Los Angeles Lakers)
The Cavaliers thought they might have found their small forward of the future after trading for Omri Casspi, but his underwhelming first season in Cleveland proved that the team needs to continue their search. Luckily, with their second first-round pick, courtesy of the Lakers, the team is in great position to snag Vanderbilt graduate Jeffery Taylor.
Taylor is an NBA-ready player who could come in immediately and play solid minutes for the Cavs. He would be an excellent option to space the floor and receive kick-out passes from Kyrie Irving; Taylor shot a blistering 42.3 percent from three-point range last season. In addition, he is one of the more athletic prospects available, can get out in transition and finish well at the rim.
The real asset that Taylor would bring to Cleveland, though, is his perimeter defense. The Cavaliers don't have any shut-down perimeter defenders, but Taylor could easily become that player. He is extremely relentless, quick on his feet and willing to be physical when necessary. As long as he continues to improve, Taylor could be placed on the opposing team's two-guard or small forward and be a major nuisance.
The Cavaliers are looking to build a youthful core, but since they will likely be taking another underclassman with their first pick, it would make sense for them to take a four-year player with the second. Taylor, who averaged 16.1 points and 5.6 rebounds per game, would make a great addition to their rotation and could be a starter down the road.
If Chris Grant and the Cavaliers are serious about turning this team into a contender, adding Jeffery Taylor at the end of the first round is a must.
No. 23: Fab Melo, C (Atlanta Hawks)
The Atlanta Hawks have long been looking for an elite center who can protect the rim, attack the glass and provide them with some strong inside presence. Though the team has gotten away with using Al Horford as a center, he is naturally a power forward and the team still needs to address the five position. With a lack of cap space and few impact free agent centers available, Atlanta's best option is to turn to the draft for a dynamic big man.
Luckily, Syracuse's Fab Melo should be available right around their selection. Melo, a legitimate seven-footer who anchored the Orange's formidable zone defense, is the exact kind of high-upside player the Hawks should snag at the end of the first round. Melo is still incredibly raw offensively and is not the most fundamentally sound player, but the chance to grab an athletic big man who runs the floor extremely well and can block shots should not be passed up.
Melo averaged 7.8 points, primarily through dunks and easy looks at the basket, as well as 5.8 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game. He needs to work on his post scoring and being consistently aggressive on the glass, but he has all the physical tools to be a dominant center.
The Hawks could use him off the bench and be able to rotate him in at center, either going large and sliding Horford and Josh Smith down to the four and three, respectively, or taking one of them out. Because Atlanta has so many scoring options, he would not be asked to play beyond his ability and would be charged with simply helping on the boards and altering shots.
The Hawks, led by GM Rick Sund, have been a playoff team unable to become a title contender for years now, but if Fab Melo can live up to his potential for them they may be ready to take the leap. If not, he is a low-cost, low-risk option at the end of the first round.
No. 22: Royce White, SF/PF (Boston Celtics Via Los Angeles Clippers)
There's no doubt that the Boston Celtics roster is going to look very different next season. With the departure of Ray Allen likely and Kevin Garnett's status still up in the air, the Celtics are looking to add as much youth and talent as possible as they begin rebuilding around Rajon Rondo. With their pair of first round picks, Boston should look to take one of the draft's most intriguing, versatile prospects: Iowa State's Royce White.
After personal and legal issues caused him to transfer from Minnesota, White burst onto the national scene, showcasing an ability to do everything on the basketball court and lead his team to major success. White averaged 13.4 points, 9.3 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game, serving as both the Cyclones' primary inside presence thanks to his ability to score in the post, as well as their main playmaker because of his court vision and comfort in the point-forward role.
White has the skill set to be a huge success at the next level. He's strong and physical, but can also bring the ball up the court and initiate an offense in the halfcourt. He is not the most athletic prospect available, but Boston simply needs talent and White is as gifted as they come. He could come off the bench to provide scoring and keep the offense moving smoothly, but also play with the starters and move between both forward spots.
White would be another multi-tool forward in the vein of Paul Pierce and Garnett himself, capable of impacting the game in a myriad of ways. Danny Ainge is looking to build around the guard tandem of Rondo and Avery Bradley, so adding a dynamic forward would be a major coup.
No. 21: Andrew Nicholson, PF/C (Boston Celtics)
With Garnett a free agent and Brandon Bass opting out of the last year of his deal, size is a huge concern for Boston heading into this year's draft. Luckily, the 2012 class is full of quality size, including St. Bonaventure forward Andrew Nicholson, who emerged over the past two seasons as a pro prospect and one who could make some serious noise.
Nicholson's game is reminiscent in some ways of Kevin Garnett, offensively. He can take the ball inside and be aggressive in the post, but has also shown the ability to help space the floor, connecting on 43.4 percent of his three-point attempts. Nicholson averaged 20.8 points as a junior and 18.5 last season, providing Boston with some much-needed frontcourt scoring.
In addition, for Rajon Rondo to be effective he needs big men who can stretch out a defense and lure their men away from the paint, which Nicholson should be able to do. He is not just a scorer though. Nicholson notched 8.4 rebounds per contest to go with two blocks. He would help to make an impact on the boards and protect the rim for the C's.
Boston has a very established culture and would benefit from adding a hard-working, four-year player who could fit seamlessly with the rest of the team. Though Nicholson may never be a star power forward, he has a tremendous basketball IQ and understands how to make an impact on the game.
Danny Ainge has plenty of issues to address this offseason, but by grabbing Nicholson and White through the draft he will finally have some quality depth in the frontcourt.
No. 20: Terrence Jones, SF/PF (Denver Nuggets)
The Denver Nuggets have plenty of athletic, skilled perimeter players on their roster, but they could certainly use another bruiser. Terrence Jones, despite his three-point shooting ability, is not a forward in the vein of Danilo Gallinari. He is a banger, one who can go inside and attack the basket, hit the glass and even block shots and provide effective help defense.
Last season, Jones averaged 12.3 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game. Though his stats regressed slightly, that was due to the sheer amount of talent Kentucky had available, and not a reflection on Jones' own abilities.
He would be able to fill the role of Al Harrington in terms of creating mismatches with his shooting, but is capable of impacting the game in more ways. Defensively, he would provide the team with another fearsome shot blocker to go with Kenneth Faried and JaVale McGee, should he return. A player with Jones' strength and athleticism could very well be a dynamic defender with some work.
His ability to score in transition and get up and down the court meshes well with the youthful, athletic Nuggets, but he also provides them with another defensive presence.
Masai Ujiri and the Nuggets have done an excellent job retooling their roster with young, talented players, and drafting Terrence Jones would be another step towards contending for a title with this core.
No. 19: Arnett Moultrie, PF/C (Orlando Magic)
No team has had to deal with more controversy over this past season than the Orlando Magic. Between injuries, the never-ending Dwight Howard saga and front office turnover, the Magic are looking at this draft as a major part of their effort to retool their team around Howard. With that in mind, Mississippi State's Arnett Moultrie would be an excellent addition to Orlando's squad.
With Earl Clark likely opting out of his contract's last year, the need to get some depth behind Howard is even greater. In his first season for the Bulldogs Moultrie averaged 16.4 points and 10.5 rebounds, proving to be a difference maker on the court.
He plays well in the post, and showed some decent range on his jump shot. The combination of Moultrie's face-up game with Ryan Anderson's three-point bombing would help Orlando space the floor effectively. However, Moultrie is hardly a finesse guy. He has incredible length and strength, allowing him to snag tough rebounds in traffic.
Moultrie is very quick on his feet for a big man, and can guard stretch-fours and be effective on the perimeter when necessary. He is not an elite defender, but he does have the size to disrupt his man's offensive game.
Orlando needs a hit in this draft, and new GM Rob Hennigan should look to grab the potential-laden, but still proven, Moultire 19th overall.
No. 18: Moe Harkless, SF (Houston Rockets Via Minnesota Timberwolves)
The Houston Rockets dealt sharpshooting swingman Chase Budinger for Minnesota' 18th overall pick, leaving them with a hole to address at the three spot. Fortunately for Houston, Moe Harkless will likely be available when they are making their third pick of the night.
In one season for St. John's, Harkless averaged 15.3 points, 8.6 rebounds, in addition to 1.4 blocks and 1.6 steals per game. Billed initially as just a scorer, Harkless proved to be capable of more than just putting the ball in the basket. He has a solid midrange jump shot, but also was able to slash to the basket, move without the ball and finish consistently at the rim.
Houston has plenty of young, athletic players and Harkless should be able to fit in perfectly with the team's core. He can transition well from offense to defense and is great at pushing the ball and scoring in transition.
Defensively, he is oozing with potential. He is able to read passing lanes and rotate as a help defender, although his man-to-man could use some work. Still, Harkless has shown consistent effort on both ends of the court and is not done learning the game.
Harkless plays with an incredible flow and rhythm that is rare in such a young player. He could potentially become the lead scorer for the Rockets if the team moves Kevin Martin. Houston hasn't had a star wing player since Tracy McGrady, but Moe Harkless has the potential to be one of the league's elite wings.
No. 17: Terrence Ross, SG (Dallas Mavericks)
While it seems the only thing the Dallas Mavericks are concerned with is signing Deron Williams, the team has plenty of positional needs they must address. Jason Terry, whose contract expires this summer, is likely gone as the team attempts to preserve cap space, meaning that a new shooting guard must be brought in. Fortunately, Terrence Ross, the dynamic shooting guard out of Washington, should be available when Dallas is picking.
Ross is, in many ways, the prototypical NBA shooting guard. He is a phenomenal athlete, has good size at 6'6" and can both space the floor with his shooting and attack the basket. Ross averaged 16.4 points and 6.4 boards per game last season, while also hitting 37.1 percent of his attempts from deep. He showed that he could work without the ball, coming off picks to create open shots, and also use his quickness to drive and finish at the rim.
Ross needs to work on his handle and shot selection before he can be a huge NBA success, but his scoring and athletic ability should translate well to the pros. If he continues to improve his defensive discipline there's no reason to think he won't be a quality defender at the next level.
The Mavs have plenty of uncertainty in their future, but Donnie Nelson knows that a player like Terrence Ross would help fix a major roster hole and provide a much-needed injection of youth.
No. 16: Jared Sullinger, PF (Houston Rockets Via New York Knicks)
The Houston Rockets, having two mid-first round picks, should be looking to add the best talent available, and few players in the draft are as skilled as Ohio State's Jared Sullinger. Though he's struggled with back issues and questions about his conditioning and ceiling, there is still plenty to like about Sullinger as a player and a first round selection.
No one available is more polished in the post than Sullinger. He is easily the class' best back to the basket scorer, one with a bevy of moves and a soft touch around the rim. He averaged 17.5 points per game last season, and while his jump shot has certainly improved, most of those points came from scoring the ball inside.
In addition, Sullinger's physicality makes him an attractive pick. Far from a finesse forward, Sullinger averaged 9.2 rebounds per game last year not because of his hops, but because he was able to absorb contact in the paint and snatch boards in traffic. He would provide the Rockets with a gritty presence on the glass despite his lack of athleticism.
Houston has some talent at the power forward position, but the team is still looking to acquire size, and Sullinger's skill set would allow him to make an immediate impact. Stuck for another season in NBA mediocrity, Daryl Morey and the Rockets must look to add the best talent they can, which in this case means Jared Sullinger.
No. 15: Austin Rivers, SG (Philadelphia 76ers)
With the emergence of Evan Turner, the Philadelphia 76ers have found a young, athletic swingman who can potentially replace Andre Iguodala and save the team plenty of money to boot. However, with Jodie Meeks likely departing through free agency, the team must find a new shooting guard to provide them with some backcourt depth.
Duke's Austin Rivers is coming off of an up-and-down, but largely impressive season where he averaged 15.4 points per game, 3.4 rebounds and 2.1 assists, while connecting on 36.5 percent of his three-pointers. Rivers was the Blue Devils' main scoring option, thanks to his ability to create his own shot and attack the basket.
The 76ers need more players who can make their own offense, and Rivers would be perfect coming off the bench and keeping the team's offense running. He is a decent passer and could be used as a primary ballhandler if necessary, but excels at finding his own shots. He could also fill Jodie Meeks' role as a catch-and-shoot player, camping out at the three-point line and waiting for a pass off of penetration.
He is extremely athletic and can score well in transition, which makes him a natural fit with the very young and athletic Sixers. The combination of Jrue Holiday and Rivers would be an absolute nightmare on the break, as both of them can get their hands in passing lanes and come up with steals.
Rivers needs to work on his shot selection and overall defense, but he is a gifted offensive player and would be a great addition by Rod Thorn, as Philadelphia looks to cement itself as a playoff team.
No. 14: Tyler Zeller, PF/C (Milwaukee Bucks Via Houston Rockets)
The Milwaukee Bucks dropped back two spots in the draft by sending their 12th overall pick to Houston, and though the team added size in Samuel Dalembert they will be looking to add a rookie big man who has an NBA ready game.
A four-year player for the Tar Heels, Zeller averaged 16.3 points, 9.6 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game in his senior season. He has excellent hands around the rim and can score with his back to the basket, as proven by his 55.3 percent shooting from the field. The Bucks need some more inside scoring on their roster, and Zeller could easily provide that, along with a decent midrange jump shot.
He is not the strongest, most physical center available but he does have excellent size and length, allowing him to rebound in traffic and also block shots effectively. He would instantly be able to fill a hole for Houston and make an impact on the boards.
The Bucks are not too far from being a playoff team, meaning that they are looking for players who can make an immediate impact instead of projects they can develop for down the road. Zeller may not be a star center in the future, but for John Hammond he represents a quality five that will be a solid part of the team's rotation.
No. 13: Dion Waiters, SG (Phoenix Suns)
With Steve Nash's potential departure, the Phoenix Suns desperately need to add a dynamic guard who can be a major offensive factor. Though they will likely miss out on either of the draft's elite point guards, they will have the chance to grab Syracuse's Dion Waiters, the nation's top sixth man and an excellent scoring two-guard.
Last season, he averaged 12.6 points, 2.3 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game along with nearly two steals. Although he came off the bench for the Orange, he was a huge part of their offense thanks to his ability to drive the basketball and finish at the rim, as well as his outside shooting. Waiters connected on a solid 36.3 percent of his three-point attempts and proved that he could move without the ball in order to create looks at the basket.
Waiters is a tremendous athlete and his ability to run the court would mesh well with Alvin Gentry's run-and-gun Suns offense. He could even be the primary ballhandler, thanks to his solid handle and ability to get to his spots on the court.
Dion Waiters is one of the more enigmatic players in this year's draft, having reportedly received a promise from a lottery team that they will draft him. If that team is the Phoenix Suns, Lon Babby has done an excellent job securing a guard who could be a starter from day one and help usher in the post-Nash era in Phoenix.
No. 12: Meyers Leonard, C (Houston Rockets Via Milwaukee Bucks)
The Rockets acquired their second late lottery pick of the draft by dealing veteran center Samuel Dalembert, meaning that the team is obviously looking for size with this selection. Though the chances are high that the team moves the selection in an effort to gain a top 10 pick or acquire Dwight Howard, Meyers Leonard has the potential to be a quality big man.
After a disappointing freshman season in which he barely played, Leonard emerged as a dominant force for Illinois, averaging 13.6 points, 8.2 rebounds and two blocks per game. He was able to score in the post effectively, and also made tremendous strides on defense.
He was the key to the Illini defense, as he helped teammates when they got beat, contested shots in the paint and hit the boards once a shot went up. He is a true seven-footer, and that kind of size simply cannot be ignored.
In addition, he is one of the most athletic big men available, and would be perfect running the floor with speedy guards like Kevin Martin and Goran Dragic. His face-up game has improved too, and he could eventually become a solid pick-and-pop threat.
The Rockets are another team that is right in the middle of the pack. Adding a player like Meyers Leonard with a ton of potential could push them into postseason contention if he can add some strength and play very physical basketball. Daryl Morey has built a roster with plenty of young talent, and if Leonard can live up to his potential he could be the piece that puts them back into playoff contention.
No. 11: Kendall Marshall, PG (Portland Trail Blazers)
The Portland Trail Blazers desperately need a new point guard after Raymond Felton failed to impress anyone during his stay in Rip City. Portland has plenty of scoring options, but they need a truly unselfish facilitator who can set up his teammates and execute both on the break and in the halfcourt.
With that in mind, no player makes more sense here than UNC point guard Kendall Marshall. Marshall averaged 8.1 points and 9.8 assists last season, keeping all his teammates involved, managing the game and always making the right pass.
He is not an athletic specimen, but he can run a fast break effectively and is as gifted a playmaker as they come. He would form a great point guard-forward duo with LaMarcus Aldridge, knowing what spots on the court to get him the ball and how to maximize his effectiveness.
Marshall is not much of an offensive threat himself, and although he showed more confidence in his jumper towards the end of the season, he must continue working on scoring the ball consistently. Still, he is such a gifted passer that he must be guarded closely anywhere on the court, and he has the size to potentially back down smaller defenders.
Adding a point guard with such a high basketball IQ would be a great move for Neil Olshey and the Blazers' management, while preserving cap room to target some key free agents this summer.
No. 10: Damian Lillard, PG (New Orleans Hornets Via Minnesota Timberwolves)
Though Jarrett Jack played well as New Orleans' starter last season, this team is looking to build for the future, and the chance to add a potential star point guard with their second lottery pick is simply too good to pass up. Damian Lillard burst onto the scene last season as he averaged 24.5 points, five rebounds and four assists for Weber State, and along with Kendall Marshall is one of this draft's elite point guard prospects.
Lillard is not a facilitator first, he is a scorer. He has the ability to get to the rim consistently, often absorbing contact on his drives and still being able to finish. He averaged seven free throws per game last year, proving he can find ways to put points on the board when his shot isn't falling.
He is a decent outside shooter, and with Marco Belinelli likely leaving New Orleans, the team could use another threat from the perimeter. The tandem of Lillard and Eric Gordon, who the team will look to retain at all costs, will give New Orleans its backcourt of the future.
Lillard has the ability to push the ball and dictate the tempo of a game well, although he does need to improve his shot selection and deciding when to shoot or dish. Still, he is a mature player who would fit well with the Hornets' youth movement of Gordon and (likely) Anthony Davis.
No. 9: John Henson, PF (Detroit Pistons)
With the emergence of Greg Monroe, Detroit has found a franchise center to replace Ben Wallace, but the team still needs to add a quality power forward to play alongside him. While Detroit is stuck again in the mid-lottery, they still have the opportunity to land a quality player in North Carolina's John Henson.
Last year's ACC Defensive Player of the Year, Henson averaged 13.7 points, 9.9 boards and 2.9 blocks per game, while being the Tar Heels' primary rim protector and interior defensive presence. His mix of quickness and length allows him to be an effective help defender and anchor the paint for his team.
In Detroit, he would be able to run the floor and score in transition with impressive sophomore point guard Brandon Knight. Henson's ability to finish at the rim would help a Detroit team that needs scoring, but his main asset would be on the glass and the defensive end.
The Pistons have toiled in mediocrity for years now, but it seems that they are not too far from pulling themselves out of it. Joe Dumars has shown that he can build a winner in the past, and creating a nucleus of Monroe, Knight and Henson would be a great start for this new era of Detroit basketball.
No. 8: Jeremy Lamb, SG (Toronto Raptors)
The Toronto Raptors made significant defensive strides last season under new coach Dwane Casey, but often would struggle to consistently score the basketball. Because of this, the team should look to add a player who can provide instant offense, and few prospects available are better than UConn guard Jeremy Lamb.
Though the Raptors have DeMar DeRozan playing the two already, he is 6'7" and could move to small forward if necessary. Lamb can also spend a little time at the three, or come off the bench as a sixth man and keep the team's offense running with the starters out.
Lamb averaged 17.7 points and 4.9 rebounds per game, carrying Connecticut's offense when he was on the court. He hit his outside shots, but was also able to take the ball to the basket and move around screens to free himself up. The ball did not simply stop in his hands, and he was not heavily reliant on isolation scoring plays.
Lamb is not considered by many an elite athlete, but he is quick and would work well sprinting down the court to receive passes from Jose Calderon and Jerryd Bayless.
With Jonas Valanciunas coming to Toronto next season, Bryan Colangelo and the Raptors are looking to take the leap from lottery team to playoff contender, and adding Jeremy Lamb for some offensive firepower would be an excellent move for the team.
No. 7: Perry Jones III, SF/PF (Golden State Warriors)
Perry Jones III, like Jared Sullinger, is a player whose draft stock fell because he returned to college and did not show significant growth. However, with the Warriors seeking an upgrade at small forward and looking to build an athletic, young identity with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, it makes sense that the team grabs Jones with the seventh pick.
Like his Baylor teammate Quincy Miller, Jones has a very rare mix of size and skill. He averaged 13.5 points and 7.6 rebounds per game last season, while also handling the ball at times for the Bears and bringing the ball up the court.
At 6'11", his length makes him a nightmare when guarding opposing small forwards and his size makes him difficult to contain in the post. He needs to add some muscle and bulk to his frame, but he could become a three-position defender in the NBA with time.
He needs to add some range on his jump shot and stay focused on the court, because someone with his talents should never drift through stretches of games. Still, there is so much potential in Jones that if he can put it together for Golden State, they would have one of the best young cores in the NBA.
The Warriors hired a new GM this year, Bob Myers, proving that they are serious about changing their team and becoming competitive. Grabbing a high-risk, high-reward piece like Perry Jones would be an excellent way to kick off Myers' tenure.
No. 6: Andre Drummond, C (Portland Trail Blazers Via Brooklyn Nets)
Despite all the question marks surrounding Drummond, his extremely raw offensive game, tendency to drift through stretches of time on the court and whether he can use his significant physical advantage to dominate a game, he is the best option for the Trail Blazers. The team desperately needs a franchise center, and Drummond's by far the best one available. At the very least he will be able to run the floor hard and hit the glass.
Last season, Drummond averaged 10 points, 7.6 rebounds and 2.7 blocks. His athleticism and tremendous motor allowed him to overpower defenses on the interior, rotate to block shots and run the floor hard. His strength and tendency to play inside would work well with LaMarcus Aldridge, who will often play in the high post or out on the perimeter offensively.
Though he obviously needs to improve his anemic free-throw shooting and develop at least a couple go-to post moves, he has all the physical tools to be a starting NBA center in a season or two. Obviously, bust potential is there if he does not work hard in practice and accept his role early on, but when a player with as high a ceiling as Andre Drummond comes along at a position of need, it is too hard to pass up.
This draft is crucial to Neil Olshey, Portland's new GM, and while this move might be criticized by fans due to the Greg Oden/Sam Bowie parable, the upside is too high to say no.
No. 5: Harrison Barnes, SF (Sacramento Kings)
Tyreke Evans had some decent moments as a small forward, but it is a stretch to play him at the three long-term. If the Kings have the chance to grab Harrison Barnes, they should jump on it. Though it doesn't seem he can be the franchise-changing talent many believed at the end of the 2011 season, he is still a quality wing player and would be a nice pickup for Sacramento.
Barnes would give them a pure scorer, one who averaged 17.4 points per game thanks to his smooth jump shot, elite athleticism and ability to get the rim when necessary. Running the court with Isaiah Thomas and Marcus Thornton, Barnes would fit in well spotting up at the three-point line or finishing at the rim.
Barnes is not a great defensive player, though his 5.2 rebounds per game were solid. He would really be on the floor to score for the Kings, and anything else he does is a bonus. At 6'8" he has the physical tools to be a quality rebounding small forward and also a decent defensive player, as long as he is willing to learn and work once he enters the league.
Adding Barnes would give Sacramento flexibility in their lineups and another high-character player as they try to change their team culture. While they could take a risk on someone like Andre Drummond, Geoff Petrie and the Kings should go for a proven player in Harrison Barnes.
No. 4: Thomas Robinson, PF (Cleveland Cavaliers)
Though it might be wise to trade up and grab Bradley Beal, should the Cavaliers be stuck in the fourth spot on draft night, grabbing Robinson, the best available player, makes plenty of sense. The impending departure of Antawn Jamison makes it necessary to grab another frontcourt player and a tandem of Tristan Thompson and Robinson would give Cleveland a formidable frontline.
Robinson does not have the most upside of the high lottery picks, but he is a mature, proven talent who has shown that he can lead a team and be a major threat in the paint. Robinson averaged 17.9 points and 11.8 rebounds last year while taking Kansas to the NCAA championship game in what many thought would be a rebuilding year for the Jayhawks' program.
Robinson is extremely athletic, he runs the floor very well and could get out on the break with Kyrie Irving and finish at the rim. He is able to get great post position thanks to his strength, and has shown the ability to overpower other big men and score consistently inside.
Not a great defender, Robinson makes up for it with the impact he makes on the glass. He would frequently soar above competition to grab the ball and make multiple efforts on the offensive glass. He is not a shot-blocking threat, but that would not be a huge issue when paired with Thompson, and his individual defense is not too bad.
Robinson would provide the Cavaliers with another leader on the court, one who knows what it takes to succeed at a high level. As long as he can fit in with Thompson, Chris Grant and the Cleveland Cavaliers should seriously consider taking Thomas Robinson fourth overall.
No. 3: Bradley Beal, SG (Washington Wizards)
After trading for Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza, the Washington Wizards appear to be set in the frontcourt for the time being and should focus on finding a shooting guard to pair with John Wall for the future. Bradley Beal, coming off a stellar freshman season with the Florida Gators, is a perfect candidate and the best choice for Ernie Grunfeld and the Wizards' front office.
Last season, Beal averaged 14.6 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game. He was Florida's main offensive option and was more than just a three-point threat, attacking the basket consistently and also handling the ball often for the Gators. He can work well without the ball though, too, coming off of screens and creating open looks for himself.
Beal would be an excellent teammate for Wall. They can get out in transition consistently, but also Beal could capitalize off of drive-and-kick passes from Wall that result in open shots on the perimeter. In addition, his high rebounding average proves that Beal is willing to play physically and is not just content to stay 20 feet from the basket.
He is not a great defender, but is far from a liability and has room to improve. A backcourt of Wall and Beal may be somewhat undersized, but the chance to pair these two extremely talented, passionate guards together is simply too good to pass up.
No. 2: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, SF/PF (Charlotte Bobcats)
There are some fans who believe the Charlotte Bobcats, having lost out on the top overall pick, should draft someone like Thomas Robinson or Bradley Beal, more NBA-ready players than Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. But with the team nowhere close to playoff contention picking, Kidd-Gilchrist, who is oozing with potential and could become a perennial All-Star if he continues to improve, is the team's best option.
Playing second fiddle to Anthony Davis, MKG still managed to have an excellent freshman season at Kentucky. He averaged 11.8 points and 7.4 rebounds per game, primarily off of grit and hustle plays. He was the heart and soul of the Wildcats, always willing to scrap for loose balls or bang in the paint for a rebound in traffic.
He was an absolute nightmare in transition, scoring well on the fast break and finishing with authority at the rim. The Bobcats have Kemba Walker and Bismack Biyombo, both strong athletes, and could use another young player capable of pushing the pace and scoring easy buckets when available.
Defensively, he proved to be a real difference maker thanks to his quickness and strength. He could easily become a three-position defender once he joins the NBA.
Kidd-Gilchrist does not have the most developed skill set, but his passion, dedication and will to succeed cannot be overlooked. Charlotte needs winning players in order to change their team's culture, and there is no one quite like MKG when it comes to effort and hustle.
No. 1: Anthony Davis, PF/C (New Orleans Hornets)
With the first overall pick, the best decision Dell Demps and the New Orleans Hornets can make is to simply take the best player possible. Without a doubt, that player is Kentucky's Anthony Davis.
Davis was a monster on the defensive end of the court last season, averaging a staggering 4.7 blocks per game and being the anchor of Kentucky's stifling defense. His instincts and patience, as well as his length and size ensure that Davis' defensive abilities will translate well to the professional level.
He was not just a shot-blocker though, as Davis averaged 14.3 points and 10 rebounds per game. He needs to continue working on his offense, polish up his post game and be able to hit an 18-foot jumper, but that's not too far away for the hard-working young man.
The Hornets, who will likely lose both Carl Landry and Chris Kaman, desperately need help at the forward and center spots, making the addition of Davis all the more perfect. He will likely be a starter from day one, be the key to their defense and form a formidable duo with shooting guard Eric Gordon.
New Orleans has a bright future ahead of them with Davis in the fold. He is capable of becoming a truly transcendent player in a few seasons, and also fills an immediate need on the Hornets' roster. There is no possible move for the team that trumps drafting Anthony Davis first overall.