NBA Mock Draft

Thursday May 31st, 2012

2012 NBA Mock Draft 1.0
The Hornets hit it big Wednesday when they cashed in their 13.7 percent chance of winning the draft lottery, giving them the opportunity to select consensus No. 1 pick Anthony Davis. Beyond that one no-brainer, a lot will depend on next week's draft combine in Chicago and other workouts leading up to the June 28 draft. But with the draft order now set, here's our initial look at how the first round could unfold. (Note: Heights and weights are those listed by players' schools or club teams. Official measurements will come at the combine.)
Anthony Davis
The Hornets needed serious help, and boy did they get it (no, not from the NBA, for you conspiracy theorists). Davis has all the ability and size to be a transcendent player with a Kevin Garnett-like impact on the defensive end, not to mention a free-agent magnet for an organization that will have loads of salary-cap room this summer. New Orleans expects to re-sign restricted free agent shooting guard Eric Gordon, and the core will get yet another boost with the No. 10 pick.
Photo Gallery: Top picks in the lottery era
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
The early read is that it will come down to Kidd-Gilchrist or Kansas forward Thomas Robinson, and the truth is that the Bobcats would likely still be a lottery team even if they somehow nabbed both -- they need that much help. But those who know general manager Rich Cho say it's very possible he'll attempt to trade the pick and move back, perhaps hoping to land skilled perimeter help deeper in the draft while adding another young asset. If the Bobcats keep the pick, Kidd-Gilchrist can guard multiple positions and help tremendously with perimeter defense. He's also an effective scorer driving to the basket and was a respected leader as a freshman at Kentucky.
VIDEO: Behind the scenes with Kidd-Gilchrist as he trains for the draft
Thomas Robinson
The Wizards might be tempted to reach for the poster boy of my "high-risk, high-reward" category, Connecticut big man Andre Drummond, and let him develop behind veteran center Nene. But the JaVale McGee experiment never paid off like they hoped in the three-plus years leading to his trade with Denver for Nene, so don't be surprised if they pass on him. I'm told the Wizards are big fans of Robinson, who could make an immediate impact in the frontcourt.
Bradley Beal
Things can always change in the weeks leading up to the draft, but Beal has clearly separated himself as the top shooting guard in what is a deep draft for his position. He is seen as a natural scorer and shooter with deep range who would fit beautifully with reigning Rookie of the Year Kyrie Irving and help boost Cleveland's offense, which finished 24th in points per possession and is set to lose its second-leading scorer, Antawn Jamison, in free agency.
Harrison Barnes
North Carolina
As potentially potent as a Drummond-DeMarcus Cousins pairing might be, I'm told the Kings are more likely to take a more proven player like Barnes. Free-agent small forward Donte Greene has never panned out like the Kings hoped, and the trade for veteran swingman John Salmons last summer didn't work either. Ditto for small forward Omri Casspi, the 23rd pick in 2009, who was traded to Cleveland last summer. Sacramento moved Tyreke Evans from point guard to small forward this season, but his long-term future with the team is uncertain (he has one season left on his rookie contract and could be a restricted free agent next summer). Barnes may not become an All-Star, but the consensus from personnel men I've spoken with is that he'll be a productive scorer and shore up a team's small forward spot.
Andre Drummond
Portland -- which acquired this pick from the Nets in the Gerald Wallace trade and has its own pick at No. 11 -- is a tough team to read. For starters, the Blazers are finalizing a general manager search that could change the decision-making process here (unless interim GM Chad Buchanan is able to win the job, which isn't outside the realm of possibility). Then there's the notion that the Blazers would take a gamble of any kind on a big man after suffering through the Greg Oden experience in 2007, when he was the first pick. But Portland, like most teams, has a wide-open view right now and Drummond has to be intriguing if he gets this far as a frontcourt partner to the franchise centerpiece, power forward LaMarcus Aldridge.
Jared Sullinger
Ohio State
While the Warriors are thrilled that a top-seven slot means they don't have to send the pick to Utah, I'm sensing a collective apathy regarding the depth of the talent pool at this point. As such, it is entirely possible that they trade the pick and possibly move back. Still, Sullinger would help the Warriors with their longs-tanding rebounding problem while adding another capable scorer behind David Lee and Andrew Bogut down low. Sullinger improved his physique last offseason but conditioning remains a concern. He averaged 17.5 points and 10.2 rebounds as a sophomore, nearly identical numbers to his freshman season. Kentucky forward Terrence Jones is considered a candidate here as well.
Damian Lillard
Weber State
Having seen one of Lillard's workouts in Oakland, Calif., recently, I can almost guarantee that he'll be impressing a lot of people as he continues to make the rounds before the draft. He'll have to work his way up draft boards to overcome the doubts about coming from the mid-major Big Sky Conference. He has a great motor and underrated athleticism, he is a creative and reliable scorer, and he would give Toronto's offense some punch as part of the team's possible post-Jose Calderon plan (the veteran point guard has one year left on his contract, worth $10.6 million). The Raptors are looking to upgrade that offense, which ranked 29th in points per possession, so Syracuse's Dion Waiters or one of the many other top-notch shooting guards will be worth considering. If the Raptors wind up going that direction, it wouldn't speak well of their view of third-year shooting guard DeMar DeRozan after his production slipped this season.
Tyler Zeller
North Carolina
The Pistons need a defensive-minded big man to pair with emerging center Greg Monroe, and the top prospect for that position is North Carolina forward John Henson. But he's also very thin, with no guarantees that he'll put on the kind of weight necessary to avoid being pushed around in the NBA. Zeller, meanwhile, is a safer bet whom most talent evaluators expect to be a solid player on both ends. He averaged 16.3 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1.5 blocks as a senior while earning the ACC Player of the Year award. Terrence Jones will also likely be considered, or Detroit could reach for 7-foot defensive specialist Fab Melo of Syracuse.
Perry Jones
If the draft were this week, the Hornets would be expected to grab Lillard if available. But in the absence of a possibility for a Lillard-Eric Gordon backcourt, the chance to pair a seemingly sure thing like Davis with a wild card like Jones might be too much to pass up for general manager Dell Demps. Jones' inconsistent intensity has teams questioning his passion, but he's also a physical specimen and superb athlete with top-five talent. And if the reward wound up winning out over the risk, the Hornets could have one of the league's best young cores.
Dion Waiters
Once you get past Beal, opinions differ greatly on who's next at shooting guard. But Waiters' efficiency and ability to get to the rim and create his own shot are seen as major positives for his projection, and could give him the nod over the likes of Connecticut's Jeremy Lamb, Duke's Austin Rivers or Washington's Terrence Ross. Veteran combo guard Jamal Crawford, Portland's second-leading scorer, has made it clear that he will opt out of his contract and become a free agent this summer. Raymond Felton will also be a free agent after his disappointing season, leaving an opening at point guard. Waiters doesn't fill that void, but the Blazers are expected to go for the best available player and he just might be it. Pass-first North Carolina point guard Kendall Marshall or athletic, up-tempo Washington point guard Tony Wroten will likely get a look here too.
Meyers Leonard
The Bucks dealt center Andrew Bogut to Golden State in mid-March, and Leonard could provide a younger, more athletic version of the Australian big man. He averaged 13.6 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.9 blocks for Illinois after a freshman season in which he barely played. Zeller and Melo will likely be considered.
Terrence Ross
There are rumblings that Ross is moving up the shooting guard ranks, and he could eventually be dynamic enough to qualify as the Suns' star for the post-Steve Nash era (whether that starts this summer or not). Ross, who averaged 16.4 points and shot 45.7 percent from the field and 37.1 percent from three-point range last season, is very athletic and more than capable of becoming a good NBA defender.
Jeremy Lamb
Rockets shooting guard and leading scorer Kevin Martin has one more year left on his deal, and the fact that he was all but traded to New Orleans in December could have an effect on whether he wants to return (if he's not traded, officially, by then). Martin, who was part of the deal that would have sent Chris Paul to the Lakers and Pau Gasol to the Rockets, might have competition if Houston grabs one of the many top-tier shooting guards remaining. (Reserve shooting guard Courtney Lee, by the way, will be a restricted free agent.) Lamb could wind up being a top 10 pick, but the smooth scorer would be phenomenal value here.
Terrence Jones
Power forward Elton Brand, 33, is on the downside of his career and entering the final year of his contract, while free-agent center Spencer Hawes' future in Philadelphia is uncertain. In other words, it's time to get some help in the frontcourt. While Jones may wind up being a small forward in the NBA, he is a skilled, if inconsistent, big man who can stretch the floor. Jones could go much higher than here, too.
John Henson
North Carolina
There's a bit of a logjam here, as the Rockets have a high-level power forward in Luis Scola and power forward Patrick Patterson showed some progress in his second season. But defensive difference makers are tough to come by, and Henson, who averaged 9.9 rebounds and 2.9 blocks last season, would be a great get in this post. Shot-blocking Rockets center Marcus Camby will be a free agent this summer, and fellow big man Samuel Dalembert is owed $6.7 million for next season but can be bought out for $1.5 million.
Kendall Marshall
North Carolina
He's no Deron Williams, but he might have to do for the Mavs. With Jason Kidd becoming a free agent and so much uncertainty at the position, Dallas could use the point guard who is considered the best passer in the bunch by far.
Austin Rivers
His swagger is seen as a positive by some and a turnoff by others, but it's undeniable that Rivers is the sort of scorer whose skills should translate at the next level. The Wolves, who saw Wes Johnson continue to struggle at shooting guard/small forward this season, would make their compelling roster even more interesting with this addition.
Arnett Moultrie
Mississippi State
The forecast is cloudy for the Magic's frontcourt, with the possibility that Dwight Howard could be traded back in play. And while Ryan Anderson and Glen Davis bring very different skills to the table, Moultrie's athleticism and ability to have a consistent impact on both ends would be worth investing.
Tony Wroten
As good as the point guard combo of Ty Lawson and Andre Miller was for the Nuggets, Miller is a free agent and may not be back. Wroten has been criticized for his decision-making and ability to play under control, and he shot only 16.1 percent from three-point range last season. But he's also a potent player who has drawn comparisons to Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook for his aggressive style.
Fab Melo
Big men tend to crawl up teams' boards as draft day nears, and Melo could be a prime candidate. His size and defensive instincts are legitimate, even if his offensive game is nearly nonexistent. The Celtics aren't nearly as formidable in the frontcourt as they used to be and could use a player like Melo.
Royce White
Iowa State
The well-chronicled anxiety disorder that has hurt White's stock is a real factor, but it will be interesting to see if he can dispel some of those concerns during workouts and interviews with teams at the draft combine. There aren't many players with his all-around skill set.
Moe Harkless
St. John's
The athletic, versatile Harkless would give Atlanta another option at small forward, where shooting guard Joe Johnson started down the stretch this season while longtime starter Marvin Williams moved to the bench. The Big East Rookie of the Year averaged 15.3 points last season, but shot just 44.5 percent overall and 20.2 percent from three-point range. His impact elsewhere entices front-office types who watched him average 8.6 rebounds, 1.4 blocks and 1.6 steals.
Andrew Nicholson
St. Bonaventure
Cleveland will lose a big chunk of its frontcourt scoring with Jamison's departure. Nicholson could provide some of that and help in other areas, too, after averaging 18.5 points (while adding a three-point shot) 8.4 rebounds and 2.0 blocks in leading St. Bonaventure to the Atlantic 10 championship and its first NCAA tournament appearance in 12 years.
Marquis Teague
The Gilbert Arenas experiment never paid off for the Grizzlies, but it did manage to expose their need for a reliable backup to point guard Michael Conley. Teague is an aggressive floor leader on the offensive end and a strong defender, meaning team leader and defensive specialist Tony Allen would approve. While his overall numbers weren't spectacular (10 points on 41.2 percent shooting, 4.8 assists and 2.7 turnovers), he produced better when it counted most (13.3 points on 45.9 percent shooting, 4.8 assists and 2.5 turnovers in six NCAA tournament games).
Jeff Taylor
The Pacers could use depth on the wing behind Danny Granger, especially considering dogged defender Dahntay Jones is a free agent. Taylor could be a perfect fit, not only because he's viewed as a tough and talented defender who can guard multiple positions but also because he could become part of the Pacers' balanced scoring effort. Most of Taylor's scoring came from attacking the rim in his first three seasons at Vanderbilt, but he started developing three-point range as a junior and made it a weapon as a senior when he shot 42.3 percent from beyond the arc while averaging 16.1 points.
Will Barton
With Mike Miller and Shane Battier falling short of expectations on offense, the Heat could stand to get lucky with a high-octane scorer this late in the draft. They might get that in Barton, who averaged 18 points (on 50.9 percent shooting and 34.6 percent from three-point range), 8.0 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.4 steals last season. His accuracy improved greatly from his freshman season, when he shot 42.8 percent overall and 26.5 percent from beyond the arc.
Draymond Green
Michigan State
Anyone who watched the first two games of the Western Conference finals knows that the Thunder need additional skilled big men who boast more than one specialty (see Kendrick Perkins, Serge Ibaka). Green is that guy. He averaged 16.2 points, 10.6 rebounds and 3.8 assists as a senior, including 17.7 points, 13.7 rebounds and 6.0 assists in three NCAA tournament games.
Evan Fournier
Poitiers (France)
With point guard and 2010-11 MVP Derrick Rose sidelined 8-to-12 months after tearing his ACL in the playoffs, and with shooting guard Richard Hamilton showing his age (34) during an injury-filled season, the Bulls could use another scorer in their backcourt. There's no way of telling just yet whether Fournier can be the penetrating, playmaking perimeter threat in the NBA that he has been while playing for France, but he's worth gambling on here.
Kyle O'Quinn
Norfolk State
O'Quinn, who worked out for the Warriors last week, may not make the first-round cut. But he has improved his stock significantly in recent months, and Golden State is seeking depth down low (though the team may go in a different direction with this pick if Sullinger is, in fact, its choice at No. 7). O'Quinn first made headlines as the classic March Madness darling, getting 26 points and 14 rebounds to lead No. 15 Norfolk State past No. 2 Missouri in the first round. O'Quinn kept it going in April at a heavily scouted tournament for college seniors, the Portsmouth Invitational, where he was named MVP and showed off the skills that helped him average 15.9 points and 10.3 rebounds as a senior. Not bad for a player who received a scholarship offer only from Norfolk State and didn't play until his junior year in high school.

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