Published on February 2nd, 2012 | by Bryant West, Columnist0
2012 NBA Draft Mock #1 – Insanely Early Edition
One of the few benefits of this pushed back NBA season is that NBA draft fans won’t have a break in their NBA action. The NBA Finals, should the basketball gods bless us and give us a seven games series, can last until June 26, 2012. The NBA Draft, meanwhile, is scheduled for just two days later, on June 28th.
There are pros and cons to this, of course. The cons are easy to point out—teams, especially those in the playoffs, will have less time to focus solely on the draft prospects. The coverage of what should be one of the best NBA drafts in recent history will be covered up by the Playoffs, and you have to feel bad for whatever teams are in the Finals—it’s not like they’ll have any time to figure out what their draft strategy will be.
The obvious pro—man, the Finals and the Draft in one week? It’s like Christmas in June.
So with the draft just 146 days away (or 3514 hours, give or take) it’s not THAT early to star taking a look at how the draft may go down in June.
Most of the players listed, of course, could return to school… but should a vast majority declare for the draft as expected, 2012 may go down as one of the deepest classes in NBA history.
Without further ado, let’s get to the first mock of the season—how would the lottery selections go if the standings stay the same?
Hit the jump for Bryant’s mock draft…
1. Charlotte Bobcats: PF Anthony Davis, Kentucky
The unquestioned top pick in this very deep draft, Davis currently averages 13.3 points, 10.3 boards and 4.6 blocks per game while shooting 64.2% on the best team in basketball. He reminds scouts a lot of Marcus Camby and Kevin Garnett defensively, with an incredible motor and determination to spot his opponents and the physical gifts needed to shut them down.
His offense will still need work, but there is not reason to suspect he can’t become a very good scorer. He has good instinct and fantastic length, and with a few years of training he should easily grab enough offensive skill moves to be a All-Star level player at worst. Charlotte should be drooling at the chance to add Davis.
2. Detroit Pistons: C Andre Drummond, Connecticut
While I believe Drummond should stay another year in college, I don’t believe it when he says he’ll stay for his sophomore season. Didn’t Kevin Durant say the same thing?
The bottom feeders of the league should be begging him to get into the draft. His physical attributes and skills all project him as a truly dominant player, but there are legitimate questions about his will to play the game.
He’s averaging 10 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.6 blocks a game for the Huskies, but with his size (6’11”, 250 lbs and a 7’5” wingspan) and his explosive athleticism he should be able to dominate night in and night out—if he actually wants to. He still lacks an assertiveness that other players in this draft have in abundance—Anthony Davis and Thomas Robinson chief among them.
He’d be a good fit in Detroit next to the very well-rounded Greg Monroe. Potential wise, Drummond has just as much as Davis or anyone in the class, but he lacks a determination and motor that you need in the NBA.
3. Washington Wizards: PF Thomas Robinson, Kansas
While most mocks will have Harrison Barnes locked at the #3 spot, I’ll knock him down and promote Robinson to the Wizards for two reasons—one, the Wizards already have Jan Vesley, and two, I think Robinson has just as much potential as Barnes.
Averaging 17.5 points and 11.8 rebounds for Kansas, Robinson’s speed and explosiveness look a lot like a young Amare Stoudemire. Here’s part of my extended breakdown of Robinson’s game—
There really isn’t anything to dislike in Robinson’s game. He has the full package of what you’d want in a NBA big man— he is tall, strong, physical and possesses great determination.
He’s an efficient scorer with a growing skill set around the basket. While he’s no Hakeem in the post, he’s gained a ton of confidence in the paint and there is no reason to believe he’s only scratched the surface of his potential… He’s arguably college basketball’s best rebounder, and while he is ever-so-slightly undersized, standing at just 6′ 9″, his athleticism and determination make him one heck of a rebounder and that should easy transfer over to the NBA game.
Another more sentimental reason why I’d hope Robinson will end up in Washington is this tear-jerking piece about the death of his mother and his determination to care for his sister, who still lives in Robinson’s hometown just outside of Washington D.C. Can’t think of a better reason than that.
4. New Orleans Hornets: SF Harrison Barnes, North Carolina
Barnes’ scoring abilities are unquestionable and he has an amazingly smooth jumpshot. To top it off, he’s great in the clutch and is able to rise his play in the biggest games (see last March). He’s averaging 17.5 points a contest, shooting 49.1% from the field and 45% from downtown, so unquestionably the shooting ability is there.
But on the negative side, he’s fairly inconsistent, not a dominating athlete and, worst of all, is pretty one-dimensional. He’s 6’9 and has a wingspan of 6’11, but only gets 4.6 rebounds a contest. He’s not a great passer, his handles are only average, and his defense really isn’t special either.
If he can correct those errors, he certainly deserves mention amongst the top of this years class. He reminds scouts a lot of Loul Deng or Danny Granger, and there will always been a spot in the NBA for excellent wing scorers. But can he become more than a scorer?
New Orleans wouldn’t even have to consider it, though. If you can get a top three talent at number four, especially considering the Hornets lack of overall talent, they’d do it in a heartbeat.
5. Sacramento Kings: SF Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kentucky
While Barnes has the better scoring potential between him and Kidd-Gilchrist, the Kentucky product would be a lot better fit for Sacramento, mainly because he doesn’t need the ball to be effective.
Sacramento needs an athletic wing, someone who can play off the ball and can score when needed but won’t demand the rock. They also need some serious consistent wing defense, and some more locker-room leadership.
Everything in that last paragraph describes Kidd-Gilchrist perfectly. He’s currently averaging 12.7 points and 7.6 rebounds on 48.2% shooting. Here is a clip of my extended breakdown on Kidd-Gilchrist—
…while his individual stats may not leap out at you, his play should, considering the talent playing around him. He is one of the sports most explosive players, with a vertical leap and athletic ability that elude nearly all prospects.
Scouts worried about his ability to become a truly dominant scorer, he’s shown an excellent scoring touch so far in his collegiate career… But what makes Kidd-Gilchrist such an exciting prospect is his motor. He has a determination on the court that any fan can see just after a few minutes. He owns a dedication to improve and a team-collective spirit that top the draft board.
If there is a better fit for the Kings in this draft, I (a hardcore Kings fan) don’t see it.
6. Toronto Raptors: PF Jared Sullinger, Ohio State
Not a huge need selection, considering the Raptors already have Andrea Bargnani and are expecting Jonas Valanciunas. Still, the talent is there for Sullinger, who currently averages 17.1 points and 9.6 rebounds a contest at a very smooth 58.8% shooting percentage.
He’s the best low post scorer in the draft and has excellent bulk—he’s 6’9”, a little shorter than you’d like but he’s very muscular at 280 pounds and knows how to use his size in the paint.
He isn’t a great athlete and that will bog him down in the NBA, but he’s a lot like Utah Jazz big man Paul Milsap. His size and low post abilities would make him a very solid fit next to Bargnani and hopefully Valaniunas.
7. New Jersey Nets: PF Perry Jones, Baylor
I half expect this pick to be in Orlando come June, but as it stands Jones would be a good fit for New Jersey. Not a great one, since both he and current Nets big man Brook Lopex have serious deficiencies in rebounding, but thanks to his otherwise incredibly well-rounded game, he’ll be a very nice player in the NBA.
With his solid range, good post moves, crazy athleticism and unselfish play, he reminds scouts a lot of Lamar Odom. He’s a bit skinny to play in the post (he’s 6’11 but only 220 pounds) but he makes up for it with range out to the three-point line. He currently averages 14.7 points, 7.9 rebounds on 55.4% shooting for Baylor.
8. Utah Jazz (From Golden State Warriors): SG Jeremy Lamb, Connecticut
It’s not a seamless fit by any means, but Lamb at this point is the best player available. The Jazz could take a big man—lord knows this draft has plenty of them—but with Enes Kanter, Derrick Favors, Paul Milsap and Al Jefferson that just doesn’t make sense.
Lamb is an excellent shooter, averaging 17.9 points on 50.2% shooting and 39% from downtown. He adds 4.4 rebounds and 1.5 steals per contest, but his shot selection definitely needs work. The Jazz have guards already with Alec Burks and Gordon Hayward, and they really need a point guard, but this class is horrible in terms of passers.
The pick only comes over from Golden State if it’s above #7, so if the Warriors get to keep their selection, I expect them to eagerly swipe up Jones or another big man like Cody Zeller, Meyers Leonard or John Henson.
9. Houston Rockets (From New York Knicks): C Meyers Leonard, Illinois
Leonard is having a breakout year for Illinois, averaging 13.4 points, 8.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks a contest. He has everything you’d look for in an NBA center—he’s tall (7’0″), strong (240 pounds) with good speed and athleticism. He has an increasing array of offensive weapons, is a very solid rebounder and a dominant defender.
There are some concerns about his play, mostly stemming from a truly disappointing freshman season where he averaged just two points and one rebound a contest. Some scouts worry about his dedication to the game, but with his performance over the past few weeks his draft stock is skyrocketing.
The selection of Leonard makes sense for Houston who needs to bulk up a bit in size. They have Louis Scola, but Patrick Patterson is struggling this season.
10. Phoenix Suns: C Cody Zeller, Indiana
Of all the players who are potentially in this class, Cody Zeller is the one I most hope returns to college. He really needs to bulk up before he’ll be effective. His size and effectiveness in the paint is unquestionable, but he’ll have to adjust to bigger body and his current size of just 210 lbs isn’t going to cut it.
His rebounding is also a bit questionable. He gets 6.1 a game in 28 minutes, but per 40 minutes he’s still only gets 8.9 a contest. His scoring instincts and basketball IQ are high, but I’m not as sold as most of the scouts are on him. I think some more time in Indiana would be best for him.
If he’s in the draft, whoever takes him will have a very good project, and the Suns could certainly stand to get some more talent in the paint to go along side Markieff Morris. Zeller is currently averaging 15.2 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.5 blocks while shooting 66.1% from the field for Indiana.
11. Cleveland Cavaliers: SG Bradley Beal, Florida
Beal is a lot like New Orleans guard Eric Gordon, although scouts aren’t sure he’ll reach the ceiling that Gordon has. He’s a very good shooter, very athletic and a smart player, currently averaging 14.1 points and 5.8 boards a contest. His shooting percentage sits at just 43%, which needs some improvement, but he is improving and there isn’t any doubt that he could become a very solid shooter in the NBA.
He has good ball handling skills and he’s a willing passer, although you wouldn’t know that from his 1.8 assists per contest. He can play the point, but he’d benefit from playing next to a real point guard like Kyrie Irving.
Cleveland could stand to add some more bulk in the paint, especially if they trade Anderson Verajeo, but Beal is the best player left on the board without a doubt.
12. New Orleans Hornets (from Minnesota Timberwolves): PF John Henson, North Carolina
The Hornets passed on one Tar Heel, but if Henson is available they shouldn’t hesitate to add him. Below is part of my breakdown of Henson -
Henson came into North Carolina at 6’10” but weighed just 186 lbs. In three years of weight training, he’s just up to 228 pounds. That isn’t going to cut it against NBA bigs.
What is going to cut it against NBA bigs is his skill set, which has improved every season. Skill-set wise, he’s like a smaller Tyson Chandler, with the defensive skills, rebounding abilities and the love for the pick-and-roll offense. He thrives on setting the pick and getting to the basket, where his explosiveness makes him incredibly hard to stop.
His low post defense and rebound skills are even more impressive when you consider that he played guard in high school until his senior season, when he had a growth spurt that added six inches… He’s made improvements on his low post game, but it still needs to continue his progression before he can be a fearsome NBA threat.
The Hornets need as much talent as they can get, and while Henson’s game does have serious flaws, his defense and motor make him really worth it.
13. Milwaukee Bucks: C Patric Young, Florida
Young, like most of the big men in this draft, can jump out of the building and has a very good motor when he’s on the court. His 6’9” height limits him to playing power forward, although he plays more like a center. His stats won’t jump out at you—11.4 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1 block per game, but he’s a solid rebounder, a very good defender and would fit well in Milwaukee, especially with Andrew Bogut’s constant injuries.
His offense game needs to continue to improve, as he’s pretty raw on the offensive end, but he’s made some good strides. ESPN’s Chad Ford says Young is like a young Ben Wallace, but that’s exceptionally generous, especially considering Young is getting just a block per contest.
14. Memphis Grizzlies: PF Terrence Jones, Kentucky
Jones’ well rounded talent is never in question, but he’s furiously inconsistent. Skill wise, he doesn’t really have a weakness, with good post moves, solid range and great athleticism. He’s got the size to play power forward and the speed to play small forward.
But he’s so increasingly erratic that one game he’ll be a star player and the next he’ll have vanished completely. He’s also not the smartest when it comes to his shooting selection, and will often shoot threes rather than drive the ball, which infuriates his Head Coach John Calipari. Talent wise, he’s a lottery selection for sure, but with all the big men in this draft who seriously want to become stars, Jones may fall down the picks a bit.
He makes sense for Memphis, who have consistency in their size when healthy (with Zack Randolph, Darrell Arthur and Marc Gasol) and could afford a project player. Jones currently averages 12.4 points 6.5 points and 2.1 blocks a contest on 49% shooting.
Others who should be battling for a lottery selection: SF Quincy Miller (Baylor), Arnett Moultrie (Mississippi State), Tyler Zeller (North Carolina), Austin Rivers (Duke).
Photo Credit: Jeff Moreland/Icon SMI