Did any contenders get remarkably better?
The NBA draft isn’t an exact science. It’s hard to know the true results of these drafts until the prospects have fully developed. However, several teams filled needs and added quality players in this year’s edition.
New Orleans Hornets
The Hornets added the best big man in the draft after winning the lottery rights to him. Davis will come in immediately and add a solid presence in the paint that the Hornets have lacked for a long time. They’ve missed a big man as capable as Davis since David West departed to the Indiana Pacers two seasons ago.
Next, the Hornets made somewhat of a surprising pick at the No. 10 spot. With Eric Gordon already on the roster, they selected Duke freshman Austin Rivers. Rivers will fit in nicely into a rotation with Gordon and can even be utilized alongside the excellent young two-guard.
Rivers and Gordon’s scoring ability coupled with Anthony Davis down-low cleaning and opening up shots for the two will dramatically improve the Hornets' 29th overall league ranking from a season ago.
Don’t count out Darius Miller’s chances of making and contributing to the team eventually, either. His excellent shooting range will make it tough for the Hornets to part with him. Even if he starts out in the D-League, you’ll be seeing him knock down three-pointers in the Bayou in no time.
There is no doubt the Cleveland Cavaliers left a couple people scratching their head after their selection of Dion Waiters with the fourth overall pick. Waiters is close to, if not the most, underrated player in the 2012 NBA Draft.
This pick compares to the then Seattle Supersonics selection of Russell Westbrook in the 2008 NBA Draft. Dick Vitale, the authority on college basketball, had this to say about the Sonics selection of Westbrook:
"It doesn't make sense," said college basketball analyst Dick Vitale (via The Seattle Times). "Seattle will look back on this and realize they made a big, big mistake. Love would have been fantastic for them."
Who is looking back now, Dicky V?
It is best to look at the potential in Waiters rather than dwell on the minute details.
“Oh, he was a sixth man at Syracuse he is not worth a top 5 draft pick!”
That statement is completely and utterly false on its face. Waiters’ production in college should not and isn’t the measuring stick for his success in the NBA. His ability to create and get to the basket best fits today’s NBA game. The added time at the foul-line will benefit and give the youngster confidence in his rookie season. As he plays and develops, his jumper will shine more and more.
Then, the Cavs went and traded the No. 24, No. 33 and No. 34 picks in exchange for the draft rights of the Dallas Mavericks No. 17 pick—Tyler Zeller. The truth is the Cavs weren’t looking to add more picks at Nos. 33 and 34. They wanted Zeller and they went out and got him, a steal at No. 17 overall.
Zeller will bring some much needed depth to the low post combination of Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao. Varejao has also suffered from serious injuries recently and the Cavs were smart to snag a similar player as an insurance policy in the event he goes down again this season.
Believe it or not but the Cavs have built themselves an excellent young nucleus in Kyrie Irving, Waiters, Alonzo Gee, Tristan Thompson and Tyler Zeller. Their ability to get up and down the court and constantly run will allow Byron Scott’s high-tempo offense to really shine.
“Everybody knows that I wasn't supposed to slide as far as I did but, to be honest, I'm happy I did. This is a great organization. I mean, it's the perfect spot,” Jones III said.
Jones III joins an already incredible young core nucleus in Oklahoma City that is primed to continue its playoff runs until it attains a championship. Is he the missing link that can push the Thunder over the top and into its first championship in franchise history?
That is a very real possibility.
After sliding due to unfounded injury and character concerns, the Thunder have added what could be the missing power forward or rotational center they need off the bench to give Serge Ibaka a breather. A lineup consisting of Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Kevin Durant, Perry Jones III and Serge Ibaka is one of the most impressive in all of the NBA.
With Jones III, the Thunder now has an imposing big man who can also play on the wing due to his perimeter game and ability to handle the ball. He also is a true and superior athlete on the court, not just for a big man but overall. If he plays to his ceiling, the Thunder has become the team to beat in the NBA for the next five years.
General manager Sam Presti has drafted remarkably over the past four years. There is no doubt he nailed another one with Perry Jones III.
Follow Mike on Twitter @BigHoagowski