In case if you’ve been living under a rock the past few weeks (and trust me, as a college student, I accept this as an actual possibility), the NBA regular season is over and the playoffs have begun. Only a few teams remain, which leaves most fans sitting at home, pining over what could have been, watching players that they could have had, do amazing things on one of the biggest stages in America.
While that may sound depressing, there’s always the NBA Draft!! For teams like the Wizards, Bobcats, and my beloved Cavaliers, it is our highlight of the year. From the moment of jubilant hope as a teenager walks across a stage to shake David Stern’s hand and is proclaimed the next savior of a franchise as the number one overall pick to the 60th overall, who likely will do nothing in the league, the draft is a time of hope. Even if you think the picks your team made are bad decisions (my reactions to Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters the last two years say hello), there is no definitive proof that they won’t pan out. As evidenced by Dion’s steady improvements in his solid rookie season and probably like my fourth TT reference throughout my columns already, you can never be sure of what happens.
So now that we they have a full season under their belt, and time for reflection, it’s time to make a more refined analysis on the 2012 NBA Draft.
2012 NBA Draft: Revisited
1. New Orleans Hornets- Anthony Davis, PF/C, Kentucky
Davis performed up to large expectations, despite the hairy circumstance he found himself in New Orleans. They have a star on their team who doesn’t want to be there (Eric Gordon), the lesser of the Lopez twins (Robin), two high potential guys who probably will always be known as that (Al-Farouq Aminu and Xavier Henry) and not to mention, Austin Rivers (shudders). But let’s not pluck apart all the negatives of the Hornets, here are some of Anthony’s awesome statistics from this year that will furrow your brow in astonishment. Per 36 Minutes, Davis averaged 16 and 10, while shooting an impressive 75% from the free throw line (for a big man!) and 52% from the field. He created 3 stocks a game (blocks + steals [just stole this from Simmons’ 3 part of his trade value column]), had a crazy rookie high 21.7 PER, and, despite playing in only 64 games (and N.O. only won 27), Davis still had 6.1 win shares. The only thing keeping this from an A+ is that he did play in just 64 games, which isn’t terrible, but a thin, young big man catching the injury bug is still slightly scary. But watch out. When he develops his jump shot and puts on a bit more weight, hello KG 2.0. It is always easier to find a perimeter scorer than a big man who can impact the game on offense and defense, making Davis an easy selection for number 1…again.
2. Charlotte Bobcats- Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, SF, Kentucky
I was in absolute love with MKG leading up to the draft, and was furious when Charlotte took him before he fell to Cleveland. He didn’t have a statistically impressive rookie year, but that’s not the kind of player Michael is. He is a sefless, fearless, never ending motor guy that plays great team basketball, is good in transition, and has a terrible jump shot. It’s like, really bad. All this being said, evaluating a player like MKG (a “winner”) is difficult to do when, you know, he’s on the BOBCATS. His grade will be incomplete until he gets a chance to be the 3rd best or 2B player on a 50 win team. That is when we will see how talented he is. Kidd-Gilchrist has the potential to end up being the Pippen to someone’s Jordan, but that won’t happen when your Jordan is Byron Mullens. One statistic does matter when referencing MKG- Win Shares. He finished 4th in WS on Charlotte with 2.1, behind Kemba Walker, Gerald Henderson, and Ramon Sessions. Maybe there is some guard-bias there, but when you’re the fourth most important player on the Charlotte Bobcats, I just can’t justify giving an A or B.
3. Washington Wizards- Bradley Beal, SG, Florida
After getting off to a sloth paced start (19.3% from 3 the first 25 games of the year), the 19 year old rookie from Florida took off in January and never looked back. Once the calendar flipped over to 2013, Beal shot a blistering 49% from downtown, living up to the “next Ray Allen” comps he often received prior to the draft. So which is the real deal Beal? He won’t shoot as crazy well as he did the second half of the year, but I fully expect him to average 40%+ his entire career. Pre-draft, his shooting stroke was being compared to Ray Allen and was rumored to be the center of deal from James Harden; this kid has a high ceiling. The first few months were just Bradley getting used to the lightning fast speed of the NBA, a difficult adjustment to make, especially with Jan Vesely’s girlfriend hanging around the Wizards locker room all the time, picking on everyone shorter than her (which would be half of Washington’s roster, probably). Once John Wall came back from injury however, Beals came improved dramatically and it would appear that the Wizards have a dynamic backcourt for the next several years. Beal isn’t a good defender, and he needs to refine the rest of his offensive game, but he is still a perfect fit to play next to the dynamically quick John Wall for years to come. If they can assemble a solid supporting cast of rebounders and more shooters, the Wizards could become a *gulp* contender.
Cleveland Cavaliers- Dion Waiters, SG, Syracuse
As it got closer and closer to the draft, it became more obvious that Dion would be the Cavaliers selection. For the second straight year Cleveland took a widely regarded mid-lottery selection with the fourth pick after the player’s stock rose in the final few days leading up to the draft. Dion has been a fascinating case study; from his beef with Boeheim at the ‘Cuse, to becoming the stud off the bench his sophomore season, to his up-and-down rookie year, the one thing we do know about Waiters is that we don’t really know much about him. He definitely had his moments of brilliance (33 points in 29 minutes on 18 shots vs the Kings Jan. 14th, 26 points in 31 minutes on 17 shots vs the Heat Feb. 24th, 28 points in 32 minutes on 17 shots vs the Clippers Nov. 5th). But for every great performance, there was a 3 for 14 night, with Dion driving with his head down and shooting deep range fadeaway two-pointers. This can be attributed to a rookie simply learning, but some player’s never change their style. I think Waiters turns into one of our fearless leader Davis’s favorite types of players in the world, a gunner. J.R. Smith, Monta Ellis, Jason Terry, Jordan Crawford, etc., except while most of those players make their money off of making absurd jumpers, I think Dion is a different breed of gunner. My best-case scenario for him leading up to last year’s draft was a poor man’s Dwyane Wade, but I think that’s incorrect- he’s a gunner version of Dwyane Wade. With roughly the same size, athleticism, and style of play, Dion will just do what Wade does, only less consistently and with less efficiently. Something that should give the Cavs fans hope is that Waiters has been hard at work at the offseason and is in the proverbial ‘best shape of his life’ and has been working on his jumper.
5. Sacramento Kings- Thomas Robinson, PF, Kansas
Robinson hasn’t had the opportunity to show much for the Kings yet, as Boogie Cousins and Jason Thom- WHAT?!?! THE KINGS TRADED THE 5TH OVERALL PICK IN THIS YEAR’S DRAFT FOR A ROTATIONAL BIG MAN?!?! THAT’S WHAT THEY HAD IN ROBINSON, AND THAT WAS HIS WORST CASE SCENARIO!!! My head hurts from the screaming and from trying to telepathically murder Geoff Petrie. Does anyone know him? Has his brain exploded yet?? I’ll keep trying.
Grade for Houston stealing a valuable asset even though he doesn’t fit their offense and hasn’t been terribly productive his rookie year: A+
6. Portland TrailBlazers- Damian Lillard, PG, Weber State
Damian seems like a perfect fit for a terribly tortured yet die-hard franchise. Not only he is exceptionally talented, he’s a relentless worker, and most importantly to Portland fans, he’s durable. Lillard did something no rookie has since Elvin Hayes did it in 1970; he led the league in minutes. What’s even more remarkable is that Lillard performed at such a high level for a sustained period of time while transitioning from playing in the Big Sky conference, against foes such as the Idaho State Bengals (alma mater of Jared Allen!!) and the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks. Anytime your Per 36 Minutes numbers are worse than your actual numbers, you’re doing something right. Damian averaged 19 points and 6.5 assists, which is great, but something to keep an eye on are his shooting percentages. If he wants to be a franchise caliber star point guard, he’s going to have to be more efficient than the True Shooting Percentage of 54% and Effective Field Goal of 50%. Both are below average for a player of his caliber. Not to take anything away from the well-deserved Rookie of the Year, but just something to make a note on and will hopefully improve.
7. Golden State Warriors- Harrison Barnes, SG/F, North Carolina
This pick is the epitome of why I chose to do this column. When this pick was first announced, I hated it. Golden State was drafting an overvalued underachiever who could only score, and yet, didn’t have the ability to take a game over, and the Warriors already had two excellent scorers. But now, with the help of a little hindsight, I love the pick. Despite having many of the tools, Barnes just simply will never be the number one option for a team; he doesn’t have that sort of mindset. But when he is the third or fourth option on offense, a guy you don’t expect a ton out of and then you blink and he has 20 points? That’s Harrison Barnes. I think a lot of that is attributed to the way high school athletes are raised (we’ll get to that in a later column for the draft), but it’s great to see Harrison finding his fit. As a part of a fast moving machine in California, playing in front of a freaking crazy crowd, and playing high energy minutes as the 3rd or 4th most important player on the court at any time. Perhaps the most important thing he gives them is a non ball dominant player that they can put into the paint at the 4 if they chose to go away from David Lee (which they absolutely should).
8. Toronto Raptors- Terrence Ross, SG, Washington
Apologies to Mr. Ross, but if he hadn’t of won the Slam Dunk Title at the All-Star break this year, I would have forgotten he existed. Terrence averaged just 17 minutes a night, scored in double digits only 22 times (despite playing in 73 games), and hit the 20 point mark once. This isn’t entirely Ross’s fault, he does play for Toronto, which already has Demar Derozan, Rudy Gay, and Landry Fields playing at the wing (Colangelo incompetence). When he has played, his production (or lack thereof) has justified his lack of playing time; he shot just 40% from the field and 33% from 3, with a True Shooting Percent under 50% (warning flag low!!) and a PER of 10. It’s unwise to write off a player after just one season, but Ross’s career highlight was likely winning that Dunk Championship. If the Raptors felt confident in his development, do they still trade for Gay? I think not…but then again, it’s the Raptors.
9. Detroit Pistons- Andre Drummond, C, Connecticut
I was among the many skeptics of Andre Drummond after he left following his freshman year of college. But drafted at 9th overall to Detroit, where he could hide his offensive ineptitude next to rising stud Greg Monroe? Loved it. If he had been drafted 5 or 6 spots higher, there would have been greater pressure on him to perform and in more minutes, so it’s tough to know if his production would have been the same.The consensus about Andre was that he would play sparingly and be a project player, who the Pistons could hopefully morph into the next great NBA center. No one expected for him to pop off 22 points and 8 rebounds in just 20 minutes in the 6th game of his career at the Oklahoma City Thunder. His Per 36 Minutes numbers do not reflect that of a “project player”, but a franchise anchor (14 points, 13 rebounds, 3 blocks, 2 steals). He is also a rare case in that his True Shooting Percentage (58%) is lower than his Effective Field Goal Percentage (61%). The reason being is that TS% accounts for Drummond’s greatest weakness- free throws. He has to get better. There is no excuse for shooting 37% from the charity stripe for any professional basketball player. I’m positive that this guy is a better foul shooter than Drummond right now.
If Andre truly wants to become the franchise center he has the potential to be, he needs to be shooting at least 50% (we aren’t asking for much, man!!!) otherwise teams will just resort to fouling him every time he touches the ball. If Drummond can just knock that number up 20 points, Detroit will have a formidable frontcourt for years to come.
10. New Orleans Hornets- Austin Rivers, G, Duke
Where to begin on Austin Rivers? Objectively, I strongly dislike him. His entire career I’ve viewed him as cocky and arrogant, and I didn’t buy the whole “he was just a misunderstood kid who matured at Duke and his dad has set him straight” that led up to the draft. His teammates at Duke appear to be better off without him, too. Then there are the numbers the awful, awful, “how the hell was this guy drafted in the lottery” numbers. He shot 37% from the field and 32% from 3, a stunning 55% from the free throw line (!!!), for totals of 6 points, two assists, and barely two rebounds in 23 pathetic minutes a night. He had negative 1.1 win shares this season. The Hornets would have quite literally benefited from not having Rivers on their team. Out of all the players on New Orleans who received significant minutes, Austin had the lowest offensive rating and the highest defensive rating. That means his team was at its weakest both offensively and defensively when he was on the court. Oh, and just for fun. He had a PER of 5.9. Rare to see one that low for a guy who averaged 20+ minutes in 60ish games. I’m not trying to be harsh, or mean, I just think the guy has been protected his entire life by his high school superstar status and his dad (Doc). Austin, you’ve got talent. You could find a niche in this league. But if you continue on the path you are on, you’ll be out of the NBA in a few short years. I don’t believe in giving F’s until they have actually completely failed, and Rivers could theoretically turn it around. Good luck, man.
11. Portland TrailBlazers- Meyers Leonard, C, Illinois
Meyers is an intriguing guy. After a pretty good sophomore year at Illinois, he declared for the draft, and the Blazers saw something they liked in him. Leonard is a good athlete for his size (7’1”, 245 lbs), and has shown a decent offensive game. He shot 59% this year from the field this year, and NBA.com’s advanced stats page shows that he was 20-45 from midrange for a promising 44%. Meyers played in most games this year, at about 18 minutes a game, and came up with only a 12.5 PER. So despite his efficiency shooting, he struggled in many other aspects of his game. I think his ceiling is pretty accurately described by his Per 36 Minutes statline, a respectable 11 points and 8 rebounds a game. Nothing spectacular, but solid production. He’ll be able to make some splash plays, but unless he learns how to play great defense or develops actual post moves, Leonard is likely a 3rd or 4th rotational big man for his career, a la Nazr Mohammed. Which isn’t a terrible thing! It just isn’t what you want from a lottery pick.
12. Houston Rockets(traded to Oklahoma City Thunder in James Harden deal)- Jeremy Lamb, SG, Connecticut
For whatever reason, Scott Brooks has decided to give almost no playing time to the 20 year old rookie from UConn. He player just 147 minutes across 23 games, so any statistics collected on him have nowhere near enough data to provide us an accurate portrayal of what Lamb might do in the NBA. However, in 21 games in the D-League, Jeremy looked pretty good. He averaged 21 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assits, on 49/35/88 splits, and a highly efficient 23.5 PER. Obviously those numbers won’t immediately translate, they are promising. If the Thunder let Martin go, Lamb could end up playing 30 minutes a game and assuming Harden’s previous role.
13. Phoenix Suns- Kendall Marshall, PG, North Carolina
So, the Suns lets Goran Dragic go, only to trade for him again, and then they drafted another point guard? Ok… makes sense that Lance Blanks was fired. His interesting decisions are definitely worth a “KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN!!!!!!” Outside of the fact that the Suns drafted a guy who can only play point guard to back up their best player when they have tons of other glaring needs, nearly every fear teams had about Marshall came true. He can’t score (37% from field, 7.8 PER), he can’t defend, and he’s stuck playing only point guard. Kendall was drafted for his passing ability, which was his one positive. He posted a 29% assist percentage despite a poor supporting cast, which put him just out of the top 20 in the entire league. If Marshall can up his shooting percentage to not terrible, and figure out ways to defend, he could still be a serviceable point guard in the NBA… or he’ll be Johnny Flynn.
14. Milwaukee Bucks- John Henson, PF, North Carolina
Lost in LARRY SANDERS!!! mania was the solid play of the 2012 ACC Defensive Player of the Year, Henson. He only shot 48% from the field, which isn’t very good for a big man, but his offense is still very raw. His Per 36 Minutes numbers are still very impressive! 17 points, 13 rebounds (5 offensive!!) and 2 blocks would make any team squeal in delight. The question is if John can sustain these numbers over longer stretches of time, as he only averaged 13 minutes in the 63 games he played in this year. When SANDERS! got hurt towards the end of the year, Henson got inserted into the starting lineup and played REALLY well. If he builds on this next year, the Bucks will have an incredibly intimidating (yet skinny) frontcourt.
15. Philadelphia 76ers (traded to Orlando in Bynum deal)- Maurice Harkless, SF, St. John’s
Harkless probably could have benefited from an extra year in school, but came on later in the year to play pretty well for the Magic. He’s shown potential as a long, athletic defender at the 3-spot, and most importantly, someone who plays well with Vucevic and Tobias Harris. Think Trevor Ariza from the Lakers years.
16. Houston Rockets- Royce White, PF, Iowa State
Such a compelling and intriguing character and story behind Royce White. But what’s not fun is that he has yet to play a single game in his NBA career, and likely never will for the Rockets. It’s not fair to call this one a failure, as it isn’t really the Rockets fault, and you can’t say that White played poorly- he just never played.
17. Cleveland Cavaliers- Tyler Zeller, C, North Carolina
Tyler made 2nd Team All-NBA Rookie mainly because of all the minutes he played, averaging 26 in 77 games (and 55 starts) for Cleveland. He’s shown some signs of promise, but a PER of 11 and shooting percentages of 43% really drag them down.
18. Houston Rockets- Terrence Jones, F, Kentucky
Jones played in just 19 games for Houston this year, but looked great for their D-League Affiliate, averaging 19 points, 9 boards, and posting a PER of 24.1. Can he do the same thing against athletes of his caliber? Time will tell, as the Rockets have little plan for their forward slots outside of Thomas Robinson.
19. Orlando Magic- Andrew Nicholson, PF/C, St. Bonaventure
The four year starter from St. Bonaventure (which is in New York if you didn’t know) looked pretty good when given the opportunity for some minutes. He shot 53% from the field and 78% from the free throw line, had a PER of 15, and his Per 36 Minutes numbers show a 17 points per game average. However, his rebounding percentage (11%) is not what you want from a big.
20. Denver Nuggets- Evan Fournier, SG, France
Fourier was the first foreign prospect off the board this year, and didn’t play much for a very deep Denver team. Then the end of the year happened, where George Karl recognized how his shooting (49/41/77 splits) and play in transition fit perfectly with the Nuggets’ style of play, and he actually started a playoff game. Fournier looks like a late-round steal for Denver, as a great shooting two guard with slashing ability. Similar to Rip Hamilton in the glory days of the mid 2000’s Pistons.
21. Boston Celtics- Jared Sullinger, PF, Ohio State
I loved this pick, solely based on the image of thousands of drunk Boston fans yelling “SULLLLYYYYYYYYYYY” in their accents. Jared also had a solid rookie campaign, per 36 minutes he averaged 11 points and 11 boards on 49% shooting. Due to the famed back troubles, he did play in only 45 games. If he’s able to stay injury-free, he should be a productive rotational power forward in the league for years to come, and will most likely end up starting for Kevin Garnett once the big guy leaves forever.
22. Boston Celtics- Fab Melo, C, Syracuse
Fabricio Paulino de Melo played in just 6 games for Boston this season (I spelled out his full name to add some length to his little bio here, also hence my explanation). In 26 minutes a night across 33 D-League games, Fab averaged 10 points, 6 rebounds, and an impressive 3 blocks. With Boston’s aging frontcourt it is likely he could see more playing time next year, which should be frightening for Celtics fans.
23. Atlanta Hawks- John Jenkins, SG, Vanderbilt
Jenkins was drafted because of his elite 3 point shooting in college (44% in his career at Vanderbilt), and while he didn’t light it up the NBA like he did the SEC, he shot a respectable 38%. If John wants to stick around in the league, however, he needs to become the elite shooter Atlanta drafted him to be…so basically Kyle Korver. (Some NBA GM’s are just clueless, yeah?)
24. Dallas Mavericks- Jared Cunningham, SG, Oregon State
Jared is an interesting combo guard who played in just 8 games for Dallas, and only 15 for their D-League Affiliate, where he only shot 33% from the field. He’s more of a defender, but Cunningham’s offensive shortcomings will likely have him as a career D-Leaguer/Overseas guy.
25. Memphis Grizzlies- Tony Wroten, PG/SG, Washington
When Memphis drafted Tony Wroten, they knew he wouldn’t be an offensive firecracker, and his 38% mark supports that. But the reason the Griz drafted him is because they’re hoping to groom him into the next Tony Allen. If it pans out, it’s brilliant. That would require playing him, something Lionel Hollins has not been willing to do, much to Zach Harper of CBS Sports’ chagrin.
26. Indiana Pacers- Miles Plumlee, PF/C, Duke
This pick surprised most people (and enraged Pacers fans), as most people had a 2nd round grade on Miles at best. He played 55 minutes for Indiana and 457 for their D-League Affiliate across 15 games, where he averaged 11 points and 10 rebounds. At best, he’s the next Jeff Foster. If you know who Foster is then you understand, and if you don’t, well, then, exactly.
27. Philadelphia 76ers- Arnett Moultrie, PF, Mississippi State
Some mocks had the Mississippi State big man rising into the lottery, but he barely made it into the first round. Moultrie still looked pretty good in the 12 minutes he averaged over 47 games for the Sixers, averaging a 12 and 10 per 36 minutes, as well as a promising 16.7 PER. Arnett deserves more playing time next year to see if there might be something to him and a coach who isn’t the insane Doug Collins might actually play him.
28. Oklahoma City Thunder- Perry Jones III, F, Baylor
This pick made a ton of sense for the Thunder, as Jones has a ton of potential. He also has an identity crisis, as Perry thinks he’s a small forward/Kevin Durant type when he’s really a rotational high-energy power forward. Think Anthony Randolph on the Nuggets. Hard to believe this guy was once in consideration as a number one overall pick.
29. Chicago Bulls- Marquis Teague, PG, Kentucky
He still has a lot to learn, and needs to become more efficient shooting the ball, but Marquis Teague showed lots of promise as a high-energy, great leadership backup point guard for Chicago this year, which is exactly what he will be with Nate Rob gone. Could one day become a thinner Jarrett Jack type.
30. Golden State Warriors- Festus Ezeli, C, Vanderbilt
Festus not only has one of the coolest names the NBAs ever seen, he also had a productive rookie season despite being the 30th overall selection. He play 15 minutes a night for the Warriors (even starting 41 games when Bogut was out) where he played good, hard defense, threw his body around, and grabbed rebounds. Not much to his offensive game (only 6 points per 36 minutes) but that’s not what Golden State needs from him. Ezeli will be a solid spot-starter/rotational big man in the NBA for years. He already knows and has bought into his career role, which is one of the most important things for these last-pick players.
Notable 2nd Rounders-
Most of the 2nd round picks barely saw the court, which isn’t completely out of the ordinary, but for only 3 of the 30 to make any sort of impact is rare. The following three players are the 2 round picks who appear to have decent NBA careers ahead of them.
34th, Dallas, Jae Crowder- High energy and good defense from another Marquette Golden Eagle in the NBA.
35th, Golden State- Draymond Green- He likely won’t sustain his magical shooting transformation that we saw in the playoffs, but expect a long NBA career for the hard-nosed Green.
49th, Magic, Kyle O’Quinn- Another big man from a small-ball college, looked efficient on the offensive end and has good per 36 minutes numbers.