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NBA Draft Grades: Comparing Every 1st-Round Pick to Best in Team History

Bradlee RossCorrespondent IIJune 29, 2012

NBA Draft Grades: Comparing Every 1st-Round Pick to Best in Team History

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    The 2012 NBA draft has come and gone, and now it is time to analyze these young rookies to death. Each of them will be compared to the best their franchise has ever had, and for many it will be for good reason.

    In this slideshow, we'll be comparing each rookie drafted in the first round with the best draft pick ever to play for his franchise. It may seem like an unfair thing to do, but they can handle it.

    We'll identify the best draft pick of each team, give their current pick a grade and then compare the two. It's gonna be fun. Read on to find out how these players compare to the greats.

1. New Orleans Hornets: Anthony Davis, PF

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    Grade: A+

    Franchise's Best Pick Ever: PG Chris Paul, No. 4 overall in 2005

    Comparison: At first glance, it might seem that there is little to compare between the games of Chris Paul and Anthony Davis. However, both are players that can affect the game in various ways. Both are very good on offense and defense, and both have great leadership and intangibles. Davis was also a guard up until high school, so he has some of those same skills.

    It's tough to say whether or not Davis will be as good as Paul, but there certainly is a lot of potential in the young forward's game.

2. Charlotte Bobcats: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, SF

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    Grade: A

    Franchise's Best Pick Ever: PF Emeka Okafor, No. 2 overall in 2004

    Comparison: The Bobcats haven't been around long and haven't really had any great draft picks yet. I was honestly tempted to pick Michael Kidd-Gilchrist as the best, even though he's never played.

    Okafor and MKG don't really compare much. Okafor is a talented big man, while MKG is a wing player. Both play defense, though, but MKG has the potential to be a defensive star. Not much of a comparison here.

3. Washington Wizards: Bradley Beal, SG

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    Grade: A

    Franchise's Best Pick Ever: SG Richard Hamilton, No. 7 overall in 1999

    Comparison: There is actually a lot in common between these two. Beal isn't as big as Hamilton is, but he might actually be a better shooter. He has a great shooting stroke, one of the best in this draft. Hamilton also can't hold a candle to Beal in the rebounding department, despite being a few inches taller than he is.

    Beal could end up being better than Hamilton. It wouldn't be a shock.

4. Cleveland Cavaliers: Dion Waiters, G

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    Grade: B-

    Franchise's Best Pick Ever: SF LeBron James, No. 1 overall in 2003

    Comparison: Dion Waiters was a bit of a reach here with the No. 4 pick, and that's why the grade drops to a B-. Waiters isn't a bad player, but he isn't worthy of this pick. As far as any comparison to LeBron, he pales there as well. The one thing they both have in common is their strength, which allows both to get to the basket at will.

    No chance of Waiters surpassing James here.

5. Sacramento Kings: Thomas Robinson, PF

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    Grade: A

    Franchise's Best Pick Ever: PF LaSalle Thompson, No. 5 overall in 1982

    Comparison: This is the best comparison we've gotten so far. Just like Thompson was, Thomas Robinson is a hard-nosed, tough big man who excels at rebounding the basketball. I think Robinson will have a similar career to that of Thompson as well.

    He'll be a very good pro who, while never elite, is considered among the best of his time.

6. Portland Trail Blazers: Damian Lillard, PG

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    Grade: A-

    Franchise's Best Pick Ever: SG/SF Clyde Drexler, No. 14 overall in 1983

    Comparison: Damian Lillard is the best point guard in this class, but that isn't enough to put him anywhere near Clyde the Glide in terms of quality. However, both of these guys are scorers above all else, so that is something they have in common.

    Lillard has the ability to make or break an offense, and Drexler had that as well.

7. Golden State Warriors: Harrison Barnes, SF

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    Grade: B

    Franchise's Best Pick Ever: PG Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway, No. 3 overall in 1993

    Comparison: Although they play different positions, Harrison Barnes and Hardaway are about the same size. Barnes has the potential to be a better scorer than Hardaway, but not as good a playmaker. Ultimately, Barnes will score more but he won't be as good of an all-around player.

8. Toronto Raptors: Terrence Ross, SG

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    Grade: B-

    Franchise's Best Pick Ever: PF Chris Bosh, No. 4 overall in 2003

    Comparison: Terrence Ross was a reach for the Raptors here, who needed a wing scorer and, I think, were surprised that Dion Waiters was gone already. Ross and Bosh really don't compare. Bosh is much more talented and is a completely different type of player. The only comparison that can even be attempted would be that Ross brings to the table a length similar to that of Bosh.

9. Detroit Pistons: Andre Drummond, C

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    Grade: A-

    Franchise's Best Pick Ever: G Joe Dumars, No. 18 overall in 1985

    Comparison: There is very, very little to compare here. Andre Drummond is a good defensive player when he wants to be, and Dumars played good defense as part of the Bad Boy Pistons of the 1980s. Dumars was far more skilled than Drummond probably ever will be on offense.

10. New Orleans Hornets: Austin Rivers, SG

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    Grade: B-

    Franchise's Best Pick Ever: PG Chris Paul, No. 4 overall in 2005

    Comparison: This is an interesting comparison to say the least. If Rivers is asked to play the point, this comparison will most definitely be made all the time. Both are talented, but Paul is a true point guard. Rivers isn't. It isn't a knock against him really, he is just much better as a 2-guard. He's an isolation scorer that can get to the rim and knock down perimeter jumpers. He cannot get his teammates involved like Paul can.

11. Portland Trail Blazers: Meyers Leonard, C

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    Grade: B-

    Franchise's Best Pick Ever: SG/SF Clyde Drexler, No. 14 overall in 1983

    Comparison: Meyers Leonard is a fairly skilled seven-footer who has some potential. Unfortunately for our purposes, he really has nothing in common with Drexler. He does have the potential to be a very good player, but probably not as good as Drexler and certainly a different type of one anyway.

12. Houston Rockets: Jeremy Lamb, SG

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    Grade: B

    Franchise's Best Pick Ever: PF/C Elvin Hayes, No. 1 overall in 1968

    Comparison: Jeremy Lamb is a decent shooter and incredibly athletic shooting guard. However, he doesn't really compare at all to Hayes, who was one of the best big men of all time. Lamb is a very good pickup for the Rockets, though, as an athletic wing who knows how to play the game at a high level. His motor could be better, though.

13. Phoenix Suns: Kendall Marshall, PG

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    Grade: A

    Franchise's Best Pick Ever: PG Steve Nash, No. 15 overall in 1995

    Comparison: Ironically, Kendall Marshall is probably replacing the best draft pick in the Suns' history. Nash is a Hall of Famer, but Marshall actually does compare pretty well to him. He's bigger and not as good of a scorer, but he can run the offense Nash does. He's a great passer and is the perfect choice to replace Nash.

14. Milwaukee Bucks: John Henson, PF

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    Grade: B-

    Franchise's Best Pick Ever: PF Dirk Nowitzki, No. 9 overall in 1998

    Comparison: Both John Henson and Nowitzki play the same position, but stylistically they are completely different. Henson is a long shot-blocker who also can rebound fairly well. Nowitzki is a seven-footer who can hit outside shots and relies on his fadeaway jumper. They play the same position. That's where the similarities end.

15. Philadelphia 76ers: Maurice Harkless, SF

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    Grade: B-

    Franchise's Best Pick Ever: PF Charles Barkley, No. 5 overall in 1984

    Comparison: There are some similarities between Harkless and Barkley. Although Harkless is a perimeter player, he is actually bigger than Barkley was. However, he can rebound pretty well and score around the hoop. He isn't as good as the "Round Mound of Rebound," but he can do some of the same things well.

16. Houston Rockets: Royce White, F

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    Grade: A

    Franchise's Best Pick Ever: PF/C Elvin Hayes, No. 1 overall in 1968

    Comparison: No real comparison to be made here, but White is a great pick at this level. Some believe he has lottery-type talent and could be a major sleeper in this draft. He does a little of everything, which makes him even more valuable.

    Hayes was a great big man, but he and White have nothing in common other than rebounding.

17. Dallas Mavericks: Tyler Zeller, C (Traded to Cleveland)

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    Grade: B

    Franchise's Best Pick Ever: PG Jason Kidd, No. 2 overall in 1994

    Comparison: Tyler Zeller and Kidd have nothing in common. Zeller is a good player who will probably be a decent NBA player, but never great. Kidd is a Hall of Fame point guard and one of the best of all time at his position. Their skill sets aren't the same at all.

    Zeller will be good for Cleveland, though, and provide the post presence they need.

18. Houston Rockets: Terrence Jones, F

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    Grade: A+

    Franchise's Best Pick Ever: PF/C Elvin Hayes, No. 1 overall in 1968

    Comparison: Terrence Jones is a fantastic pick for the Rockets at this point in the draft. His comparisons with Hayes are a bit limited since they don't play the same position. However, both are athletic and can rebound. That's about all they have in common.

    Jones is a talent and a steal.

19. Orlando Magic: Andrew Nicholson, PF

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    Grade: A

    Franchise's Best Pick Ever: C Shaquille O'Neal, No. 1 overall in 1992

    Comparison: Nicholson is smaller than Shaq, and, while both are offensively gifted, Nicholson scores in a different way. O'Neal powered his way to the rim and dominated the paint, while Nicholson stretches the floor with his jumper and uses his skill inside to put the ball in the bucket.

    Nicholson might actually be a better pure rebounder than O'Neal was.

20. Denver Nuggets: Evan Fournier, SG

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    Grade: B-

    Franchise's Best Pick Ever: SF Carmelo Anthony, No. 3 overall in 2003

    Comparison: Both Fournier and Anthony are wing scorers. However, Anthony is better in just about every way. I can't blame Fournier for not being that talented, but he isn't. He does seem like a good foreign prospect, though, especially if he stays overseas awhile and gets better.

21. Boston Celtics: Jared Sullinger, PF

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    Grade: B

    Franchise's Best Pick Ever: F Larry Bird, No. 6 overall in 1978

    Comparison: Jared Sullinger is a low post player and isn't nearly as well-rounded as Bird was. They are comparable in one important way, though. Both of them have worked their way to where they are. Neither was the most athletic guy, but both were/are incredibly skilled because of the hard work they've put into their games.

22. Boston Celtics: Fab Melo, C

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    Grade: B-

    Franchise's Best Pick Ever: F Larry Bird, No. 6 overall in 1978

    Comparison: Unlike Sullinger, Melo compares to Bird in absolutely no way other than the fact that they both played basketball and were drafted by the Celtics. Melo is a raw beast with huge athletic upside but very little skill. Bird was the opposite.

    Despite all that, Melo has a shot at being very good for Boston.

23. Atlanta Hawks: John Jenkins, G

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    Grade: C-

    Franchise's Best Pick Ever: G Pete Maravich, No. 3 overall in 1970

    Comparison: John Jenkins is a bit of a reach at this pick, but he is the best pure shooter in the draft. The Hawks needed shooting. Pistol Pete Maravich was a shooter as well, but he could also score in just about every other way possible. Jenkins can't do that, but he is pretty good.

24. Cleveland Cavaliers: Jared Cunningham, G (Traded to Dallas)

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    Grade: C

    Franchise's Best Pick Ever: SF LeBron James, No. 1 overall in 2003

    Comparison: Jared Cunningham won't be playing for Cleveland, but they drafted him so he gets the honor of being compared to King James. Cunningham is an athletic guard who can score, but he will struggle playing the point. His athleticism is reminiscent of James, but that's as far as the comparison can go.

25. Memphis Grizzlies: Tony Wroten Jr., PG

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    Grade: B

    Franchise's Best Pick Ever: PF Kevin Love, No. 5 overall in 2008

    Comparison: Tony Wroten and Love are totally different players. So let's just throw the comparison away. However, Wroten is very talented, and he is big and athletic for his position. Don't be surprised if Wroten is playing the point full time for this team in a few years. He's got that much upside.

26. Indiana Pacers: Miles Plumlee, PF

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    Grade: C-

    Franchise's Best Pick Ever: SG Reggie Miller, No. 11 overall in 1987

    Comparison: Miles Plumlee is a reach here at this pick because the Pacers probably could have had him at least 10 picks later. I seriously doubt he was in high demand. He is pretty athletic, though, and will be physical for them around the hoop. He's a player who will make a career out of doing the dirty work.

    As for a comparison between him and Miller, there just isn't one.

27. Miami Heat: Arnett Moultrie, PF (traded to Philadelphia)

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    Grade: B

    Franchise's Best Pick Ever: SG Dwyane Wade, No. 5 overall in 2003

    Comparison: Moultrie will flourish with the Sixers, whose offensive system fits him very, very well. Obviously, there really isn't a comparison between him and Wade, a guard who is a terror at getting to the rim. However, Moultrie will score and hit jump shots. Plus, he is a great rebounder.

28. Oklahoma City Thunder: Perry Jones III

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    Grade: A

    Franchise's Best Pick Ever: SF Kevin Durant, No. 2 overall in 2007 (as a Seattle Supersonic)

    Comparison: Jones is incredibly talented and is a great value at this pick. He and Durant are around the same height, but Jones has a better NBA body than Durant as far as strength. Both are good scorers from all over the floor. Durant is a better long-range shooter, rebounder and has more of the "It factor," but Jones is very good.

29. Chicago Bulls: Marquis Teague, PG

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    Grade: C

    Franchise's Best Pick Ever: SG Michael Jordan, No. 3 overall in 1984

    Comparison: Marquis Teague's biggest plus is his quickness. He has a great motor and plays extremely fast. However, he doesn't compare to Jordan. They play very different positions, are different sizes and have different skills sets.

    Teague is probably no more than a backup in the league.

30. Golden State Warriors: Festus Ezeli, C

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    Grade: C

    Franchise's Best Pick Ever: PG Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway, No. 3 overall in 1993

    Comparison: No comparison between Ezeli and Hardaway. However, Ezeli does have some potential. He is a big body who can play defense. That's about all he can add to the game, and I'm not sure how much he'll even develop past that.

    He's a bit of a question mark at this point.

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