Anthony Davis: Breaking Down the Best Prospects to Pair with the Kentucky Star
The New Orleans Hornets' trade of Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza to the Washington Wizards for Rashard Lewis and the No. 46 pick in Thursday's draft was an act of brilliance by general manager Dell Demps.
After accounting for Lewis' $13.7 million buyout, the trade will save save the Hornets around $30 million. More importantly, it leaves the cupboard bare for any amount of draft possibilities for the Hornets to build around assumed No. 1 pick Anthony Davis and restricted free-agent guard Eric Gordon at No. 10 overall.
The team is in the enviable position of being able to draft the best player available without anyone batting an eye.
The question is, who are the best selections to fit around their No. 1 pick?.
5. Austin Rivers (SG, Duke)
Rivers is one of the most polarizing prospects in this draft.
His supporters point to his quick first step, ability to float between both guard positions, deep range and bloodlines.
Meanwhile, his detractors see a ball dominator with questionable shot selection, a mediocre-at-best defender and a guy who thinks he's destined for stardom without a star's skill set.
Unless the team has plans to work a trade, this doesn't seem like a perfect fit, since the Hornets already have one undersized shooting guard in Eric Gordon.
If Rivers develops into the superstar he supposedly thinks he is, the Hornets could come away with two of the five best players in the draft. However, if Rivers' high-school hype turns out to be empty bluster, he could turn out to be the first gigantic miss of the Hornets' rebuilding effort.
4. Moe Harkless (SF, St. John's)
A long, athletic swingman, Harkless has great potential on both ends. If he ever becomes a committed defender, Harkless and Davis could be the best defensive forward duo in the NBA by their second or third season together.
The biggest question with Harkless is work ethic. His shot is horribly inconsistent and he's thin for his frame. If Harkless is unwilling to put in the necessary gym time, the forward who spent just one season under Steve Lavin's tutelage could stay raw forever.
Having said that, if he's more committed to bettering his game at the NBA level than he was in college, there aren't many players in this draft with higher upside.
3. Kendall Marshall (PG, North Carolina)
A pass-first point guard with brilliant court vision and a high basketball IQ, Marshall has all the makings of a 20-year-old Andre Miller.
While he's not an elite athlete, Marshall makes up for it on both ends of the floor by knowing where to be at all times and keeping his motor going at all times.
Marshall is also a vastly improved scorer over his freshman season in isolation situations and knows when to pick his spots.
Picking two non-scorers in the first round isn't the perfect scenario for New Orleans, but the franchise has a history of doing nice things with distribute-first point guards and offensively raw, athletic big men.
2. Royce White (SF, Iowa State)
After starting the draft process at No. 23 on my draft board, White became the biggest mover of the 2012 class, finishing up at No. 13 after impressing teams with his strong workouts and interview candor.
A point-forward who can handle some of the ball-handling opportunities while the Hornets look for a permanent point guard, White could theoretically fit two needs for the team next season. He's also a skilled scorer who can bang in the paint and shoot out to 18 feet.
Having said that, he had some well-documented character issues at the University of Minnesota and doesn't commit defensively, so he would be a massive risk at No. 10.
Nevertheless, with Davis in the middle to help clean up some of his defensive shortcomings and those issues supposedly behind him, taking White could pay massive dividends.
1. Damian Lillard, PG, Weber State
As the draft approaches, it seems likely that the Portland Trail Blazers will pass on Connecticut center Andre Drummond to draft Lillard.
A four-year starter at Weber State, Lillard shot up team boards after impressing in the workout circuit.
Should new Blazers general manager Neil Olshey decide to draft potential over immediate contribution, Lillard could still fall to No. 10. Of course, at that point, David Stern would step to the podium and expose the NBA as a rigged sport.
I'm being facetious, but if the Hornets manage to land both two of the five best players in the draft while addressing their two biggest needs, this could go down as one of the great drafts in NBA history.
Lillard is a rare point-guard prospect who can score and distribute at NBA-ready levels. He strokes out to the three-point line at a 40 percent rate, a great number considering his collegiate usage rate. More importantly, his brilliance running the pick-and-roll makes him a perfect fit with Davis.
According to numbers compiled by Synergy Sports and reported by Grantland's Sebastian Pruiti, Lillard ranks in the 87th percentile in points per possession when passing out of the pick-and-roll.
He has the athleticism and physicality that could make up for some of his shortcomings on the defensive end.