I’ve never been one for speculation. Spending hours wondering who will go where in drafts is only interesting to me if I personally know someone who is trying to get drafted. Draft night itself, however, is one of my favorite nights in sports. And I will defiantly spend hours of my time afterwards analyzing each team’s picks once they’ve been made.
Here are the teams that I feel did the best in this year’s NBA draft:
1. New Orleans Hornets — duh.
The Hornets could have taken Anthony Davis, then selected my two uncles, and still would have had the best draft of 2012.
Davis is the kind of player that only comes around once or twice a decade. If you are reading this column, I am assuming that you already know how incredibly talented Davis is at the game of basketball. He’s got the agility of a 6’3” guard in a 6’11” body. And unlike most centers in the NBA, he tries 100% of the time, listens to coaches, and doesn’t throw a fit when things don’t go his way. He’s a defensive nightmare and he’s still getting noticeably better.
But the Hornets won huge with Davis for another reason too: he’s the most marketable first round draft pick since LeBron.
Sports marketing professionals will tell us that big men don’t sell. Kids on playgrounds imagine themselves being Kobe Bryant or Derrick Rose, breaking ankles with their crossover and making that game-winning three. Kids don’t imagine themselves being 6’10” and grabbing rebounds. It just isn’t relatable.
But Davis has something better than relate-ability. He’s got character.
That eyebrow is going to be worth more money than Heidi Klum’s legs. The t-shirts, the jerseys, the endorsements, the fake brows – the ensemble is going to sell out merchandise faster than most teams can sell tickets. The Hornets will be raking in cash from this kid and his unibrow all around.
New Orleans had other picks as well, and they used them on shooting guard (whoops, I mean point guard) Austin Rivers at number 10, and Kentucky sixth man Darius Miller at 46.
Although I’m not a Rivers hater like some that are out there – I actually like his confidence on the court, and I think that he will be a better pro than college player if he continues to be coachable – this pick puzzles me a little.
If the Hornets are serious about keeping Eric Gordon, why draft a player who basically plays the same position? Gordon and Davis both need the ball in their hands, and Rivers is not the guy to get it to them.
Gordon has been checking out his options as a restricted free agent, so maybe the Hornets feel as though there is nothing they can really do to keep him past next year, and are thus grooming a successor.
But he’s said recently that being so young, trying to sign with an immediate title contender is not his number one priority, and I feel that if New Orleans had drafted the pass-first, Steve Nash 2.0 point guard Kendall Marshall, they could have really formed a young powerhouse team that the quiet and fame-shy Gordon would want to play for.
2. Portland Trail Blazers
The Blazers get the number two spot mainly because they were drafting for a specific purpose and they got the players they needed to make their team better.
I’m liking this team better the more I get familiar with them. LaMarcus Aldridge is a beast, and you can tell their current group of players really mesh well together.
Anti-diva point guard Damian Lillard (6th overall pick) should fit in well with the rest of the group. Everyone who’s ever played with or coached him always mentions his intangibles first, and as he was projected as the top point guard in this year’s draft, he was a great get at number six.
Portland’s last two point guards haven’t been much on shooting, and by adding Lillard, who can definitely shoot, the Blazers will be better able to spread the court for Aldridge.
Portland had another pick just a few spots later and snagged Illinois center Meyers Leonard. I like Zeller better than Leonard, but if Meyers can stay 100% for even one season he’ll be an instant upgrade over Greg Oden and Hasheem Thabeet. He can get up and down the floor well and is physically very strong.
The Blazers also picked up Memphis guard Will Barton at number 40.
3. Washington Wizards
As the third overall pick, Bradley Beal is the shooter to John Wall’s thrasher.
Even though he turned 19 the day of the draft, Beal is one of the most “complete” players on the board. Several analysts have compared his jump shot to that of Ray Allen’s.
A lot of people who watched him this year at Florida question the comparisons and whether or not he is worth the third overall pick, but Beal was not the reason the Gators were such a mess this past year.
Beal is a ball-handling guard who likes to create off the dribble, but for some reason Florida had him playing small forward for most of this season. He finally found his rhythm when they started letting him create for himself during the SEC and NCAA tournament.
Beal has been called Eric Gordon 2.0 as well, and will be perfect for the Wizards, who have neither a shooter nor a legit two guard.
Too bad DC only has one other decent player on their roster.
4. Sacramento Kings
The Kings selected Thomas Robinson with the fifth pick in the 2012 draft and immediately sent fear into weak rebounding teams across the country. Pairing Robinson with DeMarcus Cousins and Sacramento should at the very least cause opponents’ bigs to leave every game extremely frustrated.
Robinson is big, athletic, and gives 100% all game, every game. He went from limited minutes coming off the bench, to one of the most dominant players in college basketball a year later, and the first unanimous AP All-American since Blake Griffin. He cares about the game and he cares about getting better.
And with what he’s had to overcome in his lifetime, it’s almost impossible not to root for him.
(Side note that Bill Simmons already mentioned in one of his columns, but I felt was important to mention again…
Did anyone else listen to Heather Cox interview Robinson’s little sister, where Cox told her, “Disneyland is close by?” Um, no, it isn’t. It’s like 400 miles away. Does this mean the Kings really are moving to Anaheim??)
5. Oklahoma City Thunder
ESPN had Perry Jones III listed as the 9th most talented player in this year’s loaded draft. The Thunder got him at 28. The rich just got richer.
At this point though, whatever Sam Presti and Scoot Brooks decide is a good idea, I won’t dare disagree with. This is an organization that was three games away from building a championship winner entirely from the draft. I’d say they know what they’re doing.
Perry Jones can be nasty on the offensive end and is a persistent rebounder, you know, when he wants to be. With his natural athleticism, Jones’ ceiling is crazy high.
And there is no better fit for him than the Thunder. You don’t not play hard when you’re around Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden. They won’t let you.
The Thunder will benefit from Jones’ talents because he is exactly what they need, an athletic scorer in the frontcourt. Yet OKC is deep enough that if Jones takes a night or two off, they won’t be hurt by his ability to disappear.
This was a serious steal.