Yes, the NBA Finals finished less than a week ago, but the NBA offseason is about to get into full swing with the Draft on Thursday night. For anyone living outside of Miami, this is the perfect opportunity to forget about the oh-so-hateable champs and focus on their teams’ and the league’s future talent. Disregarding any trades that may happen on draft night, here is how Original NBA sees the draft playing out:
1) New Orleans: Anthony Davis
On Thursday New Orleans Hornets General Manager Dell Demps is going to have a tougher time deciding what he will have for breakfast than he will making this pick. This one is obvious and has been for months. Davis is a shot-blocking machine with a decent low-post game, good mid range shot, tremendous athleticism and loads of potential. From his demeanor all the way to his eyebrows, there is nothing not to like about this guy. The Hornets will be getting a player they can build around for years to come. The intrigue for this team begins at pick No. 10 when Mr. Demps will have to decide how he best wants to complement Davis. Will they find another big to put up front with him or a backcourt player with a completely different skill set? We will just have to wait and see…
2) Charlotte: Thomas Robinson
When you’re the Charlotte Bobcats, you do not, I repeat DO NOT, draft based on need; you take the best player available no questions asked. With Davis off the board, there is a swell of candidates for who is the second best player available. There is almost no way of knowing who out of the next several picks will be the best, but Robinson represents everything you would want from a high draft pick. He’s got a great build (6’9”, 240 pounds), a high motor, and a wide range of skills. While at Kansas the guy got better every year and there is no indication that he has hit his ceiling. Although there will be questions about his potential, the guy is going to give it his all and already has the talent to contribute to this team.
3) Washington: Bradley Beal
The way that GM Ernie Grunfeld is operating this team, he is trying to build a team that will win now while throwing caution and any thoughts of future roster flexibility out the window. Along the same line, he is going to focus on what player fits this roster best now. Beal certainly has the talent to start right away for this team and fill a need at the 2 spot. Beal will give John Wall a great running mate for years to come and, possibly more importantly for Grunfeld, he fills an immediate need.
4) Cleveland: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
Cleveland would have to be ecstatic if Kidd-Gilchrist was still on the board for a litany of reasons. First off, Kidd-Gilchrist has become borderline legendary as a player with a rare combination of athleticism, skills, and athletic ability. He is the kind of guy that any player in the league would want on their team because of what he brings to the table night in and night out. With Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, Anderson Varejao, and Kidd-Gilchrist, Cleveland would have a solid foundation to build a contender.
5) Sacramento: Andre Drummond
Athletic big men with loads of potential should scare executives all over the league, but I cannot help but think that Sacramento is going to pull the trigger with Drummond. DeMarcus Cousins started to develop into a force during the latter stages of this season, but pairing him with a more athletic shot-blocker and defensive presence would free him up defensively, where he certainly is a liability. At this point in the draft, Sacramento would be lucky to fill a need like this one
6) Portland: Harrison Barnes
I know the Blazers has Nic Batum and are adamant that they plan on re-signing him, but if Barnes drops this far, I have a hard time imagining that new GM Neil Olshey would pass on him. Portland had a middling offense finishing 16th and 17th in scoring and field goal percentage, respectively. Barnes can obviously fill it up, as shown by his 17.3 points a game on 45% shooting from the field, and Portland cannot afford to pass up a player of his caliber. There’s such a drop off after the top 6 that Portland may have no choice whom to select no matter who is still available.
7) Golden State: Perry Jones III
There is no questioning Jones’ athleticism or potential, but he has consistently been criticized for his effort and willingness to take over games. However, Jones gets knocked for all the things he does not do to the point that critics overlook the things that he does well. People are quick to forget that he averaged 13.9 and 13.5 points a game in his freshman and sophomore campaigns while shooting 54.9% and 50.0%, respectively, from the field. Jones has said that his confidence, which held him back at Baylor, is at an all time high, but that’s all talk for now. Realistically he may not be what people want him to be, but in Jones, the Warriors would be taking the best guy still on the board and a player who may have the most potential out of anyone in this draft at a position they covet.
8) Toronto: Jeremy Lamb
Putting up a third worst mark in the NBA of 90.7 points per game, the Raptors need offense and they need it now. Lamb represents possibly the most offensively gifted player still on the board and the Raptors certainly will have him on their radar. This past season, Lamb posted 17.7 points a contest with the ability to both score from the outside and get to the free throw line. Although Toronto may be set at the SG position for now with DeMar DeRozan, they cannot afford to pass up on an offensive talent like Lamb.
9) Detroit: John Henson
The Pistons have been assembling a roster of misfits for quite some time, but picking up Henson here actually makes perfect sense. Joe Dumars has repeatedly expressed how pleased he is with Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight on the offensive end, but Henson would be an obvious upgrade defensively at a position of need for these Pistons. They ranked No. 27 in the NBA in rebounding and certainly need an athletic rebounder and defender like Henson to pair with Greg Monroe up front.
10) New Orleans: Tyler Zeller
There are plenty of options here for the Hornets, but this pick once again is all about Anthony Davis. He is their building block for the future and they should be thinking about how they can best help his transition into the NBA. A good place to start is to take an experienced player like Zeller to take a lot of the frontcourt pressure off of Davis. Davis will be at his best on the defensive end of the court as a help side defender so getting another guy on the team who can occupy the other team’s best big man is a must for New Orleans. Zeller is a tough player with a solid offensive game, but he and Davis both need to hit the weights. This would make for a scary frontcourt in New Orleans for years to come.
11) Portland: Damian Lillard
To me, this is one of the most obvious picks in the entire draft if Lillard is still available. Portland was clearly dissatisfied with the play of Raymond Felton last year and desperately needs to upgrade at point guard. Lillard was a big time scorer in college (24.5 points a game his senior year) and will fit in nicely with a unit looking for more production out of their backcourt.
12) Milwaukee: Meyers Leonard
With a backcourt of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis that is likely to give up their fair share of drive-bys, the Bucks would love to add a shot-blocker as a second line of defense. Leonard’s game is far from polished, but he would serve as an effective post defender, shot blocker, and finisher in transition for a team desperate for some size after the departure of Andrew Bogut.
13) Phoenix: Austin Rivers
Rivers is one of the most intriguing prospects in this draft as he is so talented, but did not show the promise that was originally anticipated when he committed to Duke. I believe that where he is drafted will largely determine whether he plays the point or on the wing in the NBA. Phoenix would serve well to pick Rivers, giving them a possible replacement for Steve Nash if he leaves during free agency. If Nash sticks around or they determine Rivers’ skills are better suited on the wing, Phoenix has one of the best shooters in the draft and an effective penetrator.
14) Houston: Dion Waiters
We have absolutely no idea what will end up happening with Houston and their abundance of mid first-round picks, but until they are traded, we will operate under the assumption that Houston is drafting for themselves and not somebody else. Waiters has loads of potential and only in a year with this much talent would you see a player of his caliber drop to the bottom of the lottery. His stock has been going up since pre-draft workouts were held in Chicago so it would not be a surprise to see him go sooner. However, Houston loves to stockpile talent and it would be no surprise if they snatched this athletic slashing combo guard.
15) Philadelphia: Terrence Ross
What does Philadelphia need? Wing scoring and perimeter shooting? Check and check. Terrence Ross can shoot from deep (37.1% on three-pointers) and puts the ball in the hoop at a good clip overall (45.7%). Add in his great size (6’7”, 197 pounds) and he looks like a great pick for Philly. The 76ers could certainly draft an athletic big here, but seeing as they would certainly have to reach for a player like Festus Ezeli, Ross makes a lot of sense.
16) Houston: Kendall Marshall
With Houston likely to be forced into choosing between Goran Dragic and Kyle Lowry, there is suddenly a need a backup point guard. Marshall is a steal here as a fantastic distributor and floor general. The assumption here is obviously that either Lowry is dealt or Dragic leaves in free agency, but either way, Marshall would be a capable understudy and a valuable asset for Daryl Morey.
17) Dallas: Terrence Jones
Jones seems like a great fit at a spot in the draft where there is an excess of players who are very similar in overall talent. Deciphering one player’s overall talent from the next becomes harder and harder as the draft goes on, but Jones is a matchup nightmare who is able to score both inside and out. His athleticism would be a tremendous asset on an aging Mavericks’ team and with Shawn Marion possibly on his way out, Jones would fill a need as a versatile and physical defender and slasher.
18) Houston: Jared Sullinger
I know that Sullinger has been red flagged because of his back issues, but I just cannot see him slipping past Houston here at No. 18, assuming they still hold the pick. Sullinger, who likely would have been a top five pick in last year’s draft, is just too good to let go. GM Daryl Morey would love to add a player of Sullinger’s talent level, even if Luis Scola and Patrick Patterson are ahead of him on the depth chart.
19) Orlando: Arnett Moultrie
New Magic GM Rob Hennigan is in an incredibly unenviable position with this pick. He can choose a player who can help Orlando win now or go for someone who will develop into a contributor down the road. The question is essentially this: should the Magic draft a player who will help the team win with Dwight Howard or begin the rebuilding process now? Hennigan needs to know Howard’s fate in order to effectively implement an effective offseason strategy and that all begins Thursday night. Don’t be surprised if Orlando is involved in a draft night trade or two, but if they keep this pick, Moultrie would be a good selection as he would provide the Magic with a versatile big who can score inside, outside, and in transition.
20) Denver: Moe Harkless
What do you get for the team with the most top to bottom talent in the league? Seriously, in which area should Denver focus its draft efforts? You guessed it: the Nuggets are going to take the best player available because they have good young talent at every single position. The addition of Harkless would certainly create a logjam on the perimeter, but with his length and athleticism, he represents the best player available at this point. Seeing as they do not have many glaring needs, I would not be shocked to see Denver package this pick with some of their young talent for a more experienced player.
21) Boston: Royce White
There were recent rumors that White canceled his scheduled workouts because he had received a promise from Boston that if he were still available, they would take him. Even without that piece of gossip, I think that White is an ideal fit for a Celtics team that will likely be trying to pull off a quick rebuild. To me, White is a more powerful Lamar Odom with the ability to develop into a more consistent scorer. That is an absolutely terrifying thought for teams not selecting the Iowa State product.
22) Boston: Fab Melo
Boston has needed size since the day GM Danny Ainge traded Kendrick Perkins for Jeff Green. As exceptionally as Kevin Garnett performed in the playoffs filling in at center, he may not be back next year and even if he is, KG is not the long-term solution. Melo has all the physical tools to be a tough, physical, defensive center in the NBA. He will certainly have to overcome questions about his basketball IQ and character issues, but he could be the answer to whatever question the Celtics were trying (and failing) to answer with Jermaine O’Neal.
23) Atlanta: Quincy Miller
It is fair to say that the Marvin Williams experiment in Atlanta has not turned out as planned. Although Williams may not be on his way out just yet, bringing in another wing forward to compete with him would be a smart play for the Hawks. Miller is a skilled and versatile forward, much like Williams was when he came into the league. Miller likely could have benefited from staying in school, but he could ultimately be Williams’ replacement if the Hawks are able to deal the six year veteran down the road.
24) Cleveland: Andrew Nicholson
Nicholson’s numbers at St. Bonaventure are simply jaw-dropping. His junior year he scored 20.8 points a game while shooting 57.1% from the field and only 26.1% from three. In his senior campaign, his overall scoring dropped to 18.5 points a game, yet he still shot 57.1% from the floor and a breathtaking 43.4% from distance. It is astounding that a player like Nicholson put up such impressive and consistent numbers in back to back seasons while at the same increasing his three-point attempts a game from 0.7 to 1.7. For a team that is simply in need of young talent, Nicholson would be a fantastic pick here for the Cavs.
25) Memphis: John Jenkins
OJ Mayo is a restricted free agent this offseason, but with the more restrictive penalties against teams who are over the salary cap impending, Memphis may be forced to let Mayo walk and replace him through the draft. With Mayo gone, Memphis would have an overwhelming need for a perimeter shooter and Jenkins would be an ideal fit. Jenkins led the SEC in scoring the past two seasons while shooting 43.9% from behind the arc in 2011-2012. Although he may be a reach at this point in the draft, the best three point shooter in this class would be a smart selection.
26) Indiana: Jeffrey Taylor
As impressive as Indiana looked on the wing with fixture Danny Granger and budding star Paul George, their second unit could surely use some offensive help. Taylor is physically gifted with a tremendous build and impressive athleticism. He will take time to develop into a consistent contributor on a good team, but Indiana has been patient in their development into a contender and can afford to continue waiting on a player like Taylor.
27) Miami: Festus Ezeli
Miami’s need to a big man who can defend has been well chronicled so please allow us to beat a dead horse. The Heat won a championship by going small with Chris Bosh at center and LeBron James at power forward, but James has already stated that him playing in the post is not sustainable. Ezeli represents the best big available at this point in the draft; Miami would be smart to not overthink this one and select this shot-blocking fiend who averaged 2.6 blocks a game his junior year.
28) Oklahoma City: Draymond Green
Green seems to be a perfect fit with the Thunder because of his demeanor, if for no other reason. He is willing to do anything and everything to help his team win, as demonstrated by his leading Michigan State in scoring, rebounding, and steals while finishing second on the team in assists. For a team that has its talent as evenly distributed as any in the league, Green would be a perfect addition for the Thunder because of his ability to step up in multiple capacities depending on what the circumstances call for.
29) Chicago: Will Barton
Barton’s stock has sky-rocketed enough to launch him into the first round, which could land him squarely on a contender’s bench. Players like Barton might prefer being drafted in the second round and being given a chance to play more minutes on a lesser team, but I doubt Barton will scoff at a guaranteed contract. If Rip Hamilton continues to struggle with injuries, Barton may have a shot to step in and contribute immediately as the wing scoring threat the Bulls have been looking for.
30) Golden State: Evan Fournier
I badly want to put Bernard James in this slot as he would bring some serious toughness down low to a team who has been perennially soft in the paint. However, the Warriors don’t seem to think like I do and have not been shy about drafting wing players with upside. He has good size for a perimeter player and has the ability to score in several different ways, something that Golden State has valued for years. With a late pick like this one, I would expect the Warriors to take a project like Fournier.