In the 2011 draft, we saw the Cleveland Cavaliers select Kyrie Irving, who went on to win the Rookie of the Year award. With the second selection, the Minnesota Timberwolves took Arizona forward, Derrick Williams, who is expected to be the future for the Wolves at small forward.
In my opinion, there are four other prospects who could go No. 1 overall, if Anthony Davis had not declared. Those prospects are Thomas Robinson, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Bradley Beal and Harrison Barnes.
Bottom line— we are looking at at least a half dozen prospects that could wind up being stars for their respective teams. This leaves fans with plenty to be excited about.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at how I believe the 2012 NBA draft will transpire.
1. New Orleans Hornets- Anthony Davis, Forward/Center, Kentucky
I thought about going with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist here, but Davis is just the better prospect. Okay, I’ll admit that I never once thought for a second about any other prospect besides Anthony Davis, for the Hornets.
This pick is basically set in stone at this point. New Orleans recently traded both Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor, essentially opening a starting spot for the talented big man from Kentucky.
Expect Davis to make a huge impact in his first season with New Orleans. Davis is a shot-blocking machine with great post moves. We could be looking at the next Tim Duncan.
2. Charlotte Bobcats- Thomas Robinson, Forward, Kansas
This pick will likely come down to Thomas Robinson or Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, but, frankly, Robinson is the better prospect and fit for the Bobcats. However, knowing Michael Jordan, he may be looking for the next Adam Morrison.
Charlotte has a pretty pathetic roster at this point, with Kemba Walker, Gerald Henderson and Bismack Biyombo being the three stars of the team. And yes, I used the term “stars” very lightly there.
Thomas Robinson had a tremendous Junior season, where he was named the 2012 Big 12 Player of the Year. That, in itself, is enough for Charlotte to take the 21 year old stud.
3. Washington Wizards- Bradley Beal, Guard, Florida
As a freshman, Bradley Beal was one of the best young college basketball players on the planet. Basically, he resurrected the Florida Gators’ basketball program.
Beal averaged nearly 15 points and 7 rebounds per game, which is awfully impressive for a guard who goes around 6’4″. While these numbers aren’t eye-popping, Beal was the spark plug for the Gators all year long.
With the Wizards set at nearly every spot but shooting guard, Beal is just about a guarantee here.
4. Cleveland Cavaliers- Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Small Forward, Kentucky
Despite not receiving the No.1 overall pick two years consecutive, the Cavaliers find themselves in a pretty good spot here. With LeBron James being in Miami for the last two seasons, Cleveland has failed to establish themselves as any sort of a serious contender in the Eastern Conference.
However, with Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompsom— two great, young talents— on board, Cleveland’s sky is truly the limit. If you add a great all-around player like Kidd-Gilchrist to the mix, and you have a potential playoff team.
Kidd-Gilchrist, who goes 6’7″, 225 pounds, doesn’t turn 19 for another three months. It’s safe to say that he should have a long, productive career in the NBA.
Harrison Barnes is another name that has been frequently linked to the Cavaliers. Barnes is the better scorer, while Kidd-Gilchrist provides a little of everything.
5. Sacramento Kings- Harrison Barnes, Small Forward, North Carolina
After the surprising success of Isaiah Thomas last season, the Kings were forced to move Tyreke Evans to small forward. This was also due to the fact that Marcus Thornton was thriving at shooting guard.
With Evans now on the trading block, the Kings are definitely in the market for a true small forward, capable of making clutch shots from the wing.
As a North Carolina fan, myself, I can assure you that Harrison Barnes is going to be a great pro basketball player. Sacramento could be looking at a potential playoff berth in 2013.
6. Portland Trail Blazers- Damian Lillard, Point Guard, Weber State
Not exactly a household name, but Damian Lillard is definitely a name to keep an eye on. As a Junior with the Wildcats, Lillard averaged 24.5 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 1.5 steals per game.
Despite Raymond Felton being on the roster, Portland does not feel he’s worthy of starting, at this point. In fact, it’s highly likely that Felton will be in a different uniform next year.
While Lillard may struggle to put up the numbers he did at Weber State, he is likely to be the floor general for the Blazers for many years to come.
7. Philadelphia 76′ers (from Golden State)- Andre Drummond, Center, Connecticut
- Golden State’s first-round pick
- Small Forward Dorell Wright
- Golden State’s first-round pick (2014)
Golden State acquires:
- Small Forward Andre Iguodala
It’s clear that Philadelphia is looking to unload Andre Iguodala, and the Warriors are in the market for a small forward. Therefore, this is a very ideal trade for both sides.
With Spencer Hawes likely to depart in free agency, and Elton Brand likely to be given the amnesty clause, Philadelphia is clearly on the market for a big man.
There are reports from several sources that Andre Drummond’s stock is slipping, but at 7″, 280 pounds, it will be tough to pass on somebody who could be the next Andrew Bynum.
8. Toronto Raptors- Jeremy Lamb, Shooting Guard, Connecticut
While many believe that DeMar DeRozan’s natural position is shooting guard, the Toronto Raptors’ organization feels the complete opposite, and I agree. DeRozan belongs at small forward, which leaves a hole at shooting guard.
Jeremy Lamb, in my opinion, is one of the most underrated prospects in the entire 2012 draft. If he finds himself in the right system, he will flourish with ease.
A lineup of Jose Calderon, Jeremy Lamb, DeMar DeRozan, Ed Davis and Andrea Bargnani will result in plenty of wins for the Raptors.
9. Detroit Pistons- John Henson, Forward, North Carolina
Like many expected, Charlie Villanueva has been a complete free agent flop for the Pistons. He’s a serious candidate for the amnesty clause this offseason.
Detroit has several young studs in Brandon Knight, Rodney Stuckey, Jonas Jerebko, Austin Daye and Greg Monroe, but they just can’t seem to result in wins for the team.
With a serious gaping hole at power forward, Detroit needs to find somebody who can fill the void. Although he only weighs 220 pounds, Henson vows to add both weight and muscle to his frame.
10. New Orleans (from Minnesota)- Dion Waiters, Guard, Syracuse
Despite the fact that Eric Gordon is still technically on the roster, New Orleans needs to prepare for the possibility that he decides to move on in free agency.
After selecting Anthony Davis with their first pick, the Hornets’ front-court is essentially set, at this point. Grabbing a great offensive talent like Dion Waiters is the perfect situation for New Orleans.
He may struggle for significant minutes behind Gordon, but there’s a chance that the Hornets consider moving Gordon to point guard, permanently.
11. Portland Trail Blazers- Tyler Zeller, Center, North Carolina
With the sixth pick in the 2012 draft, the Blazers took Damian Lillard, essentially removing their need for another guard. With the 11th pick, Portland must focus on addressing their front-court.
While LaMarcus Aldridge can play center, it’s not something that is advised. He’s best suited for the 4 spot, which is where he’ll find most of his time in 2013.
Tyler Zeller has several question marks around him, but he is a true 7-footer with a solid jump shot and tremendous post moves. While he will likely never be an All Star, Zeller should be one of the better centers in the NBA.
12. Los Angeles Lakers (from Houston)- Terrence Ross, Shooting Guard/Small Forward, Washington
Los Angeles acquires:
- Houston’s first-round pick (12th overall)
- Houston’s first-round pick, thru New York (16th overall)
- Kyle Lowry, Point Guard
- Luis Scola, Power Forward
- Pau Gasol, Power Forward
- Metta World Peace, Small Forward
This trade is purely a shot in the dark, but it’s something that could very well happen. Houston’s interest in Pau Gasol has been evident for nearly a year now, and I finally believe they’ll get a deal done.
While the Lakers will lose a great power forward in Gasol, they will receive Luis Scola in return. Scola is a very underrated talent, who could flourish in Los Angeles’ system.
The reason I think the Lakers will take Ross here is because he’s an athletic wing-man that will make L.A. fans forget all about Metta ‘World Peace”.
13. Phoenix Suns- Austin Rivers, Shooting Guard, Duke
It’s very likely that Austin Rivers would have been a top five pick in the 2011 draft, but this year’s class is stacked with perimeter players, and Rivers simply isn’t a better prospect than the likes of Harrison Barnes, Jeremy Lamb and Terrence Ross.
Phoenix is likely to be without Michael Redd, Josh Childress and Ronnie Price next season, so finding a talent like Rivers is a must. However, this pick will likely be Kendall Marshall if Steve Nash gives any indication that he’s leaving, sometime between now and draft day.
Austin Rivers is a great shooter, but has plenty of work to do on defense. Nevertheless, Doc’s son should see plenty of minutes on the court, right from the get-go.
14. Orlando Magic (from Milwaukee)- Meyers Leonard, Center, Illinois
- Milwaukee’s first-round pick, from Houston (14th overall)
- Orlando’s first-round pick (19th overall)
- Chris Duhon, Point Guard
- 2013 second-round pick
Orlando needs to start preparing for the eventual departure of Dwight Howard. While Meyers Leonard is far from the talent that Howard is, he’s a true seven-footer. He will also add size to a relatively small roster.
Milwaukee will look to take on Chris Duhon and his contract, but a buyout is nearly a guarantee. Orlando simply doesn’t have any need for him on the roster any longer.
Leonard could wind up in a starting role for the Magic in the upcoming season, which is probably not something they’re looking forward to.
15. Philadelphia 76′ers- Jared Sullinger, Power Forward, Ohio State
Despite concerns about his ability to stay healthy, Philadelphia has serious interest in Sullinger with the 15th overall pick. While Sullinger was often dominant in college, his style of play might not transfer well to the NBA.
If there’s one thing the 76′ers need, it’s size. Elton Brand is far past his prime, while Spencer Hawes is very likely to leave in free agency. I have Philadelphia trading up to take Andre Drummond with the seventh pick, but that doesn’t mean they won’t continue to add strength and size.
Sullinger is the epitome of a boom-or-bust player. There’s virtually no chance that he cracks the starting roster for Philadelphia, next season.
16. Los Angeles (from Houston)- Perry Jones III, Forward, Baylor
There’s been several reports that the Hawks are actively trying to trade Josh Smith to the Lakers for Pau Gasol. However, I already have Gasol being sent to Houston, who likely covets his more.
The Lakers need to continue to add young talent to their roster. Thus far, with the additions of Kyle Lowry, Luis Scola, Terrence Ross and Perry Jones, Los Angeles seems to have won their trade with Houston. Keep in mind that they rid themselves of the expensive contracts of both Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace.
Currently, Los Angeles is looking at a starting lineup of Kyle Lowry, Kobe Bryant, Terrence Ross, Luis Scola and Andrew Bynum. That, combined with a solid bench, is a definite playoff team.
17. Dallas Mavericks- Kendall Marshall, Point Guard, North Carolina
With Jason Kidd likely to depart in free agency, Dallas needs to start looking for their point guard of the future. Also, with Jason Terry, Deltone West and Vince Carter set to be free agents, the Mavericks need guards more than ever.
Kendall Marshall was tremendous at North Carolina, when healthy. Had it not been for his unfortunate wrist injury last year, Marshall would likely be a top-ten selection.
Like Ty Lawson, I believe Marshall will be an underrated, under-drafted point guard that will go on to great success. This could be a great steal for Dallas.
18. Houston Rockets (from Minnesota)- Fab Melo, Center, Syracuse
While it might be a slight reach for the Rockets, Fab Melo could end up being one of the better steals of the draft. He has great size, strength and will easily fill in the void that Samuel Dalembert left.
Houston acquired Pau Gasol in a trade from Los Angeles, and will immediately implement him at power forward. This will leave the door open for Melo at center.
19. Milwaukee Bucks (from Orland0)- Arnett Moultrie, Power Forward, Mississippi State
While the Bucks seem loaded in their front-court, they don’t have a true dominant post-player. If you combine the fact that Ersan Ilyasova is a free agent, Milwaukee needs a power forward.
Samuel Dalembert is penciled in at center, but unless the Bucks can manage to meet Ilyasova’s demands, they have a gaping hole at the four spot.
Arnett Moultrie is a very athletic big man, who is capable of playing at either power forward or center.
20. Denver Nuggets- Moe Harkless, Small Forward, St. John’s
While I debated going with Tony Wroten here, I feel as though he may be too much of a risk. Also, I highly doubt the Nuggets view a back-up point guard that highly.
It seems the Nuggets are loaded with players who can play on the wing, but this could lead to a potential trade of Wilson Chandler or Danillo Galinari.
Moe Harkless is a potential top-15 pick due to his potential, but I feel comfortable in a team taking him at 20. He will be a very solid contributor in the NBA.
21. Boston Celtics- Terrence Jones, Forward, Kentucky
The Celtics could be without Kevin Garnett, Jeff Green and Ray Allen next year, which leaves three open roster spots in need of filling. Taking a great, underrated talent like Jones in the early 20′s is a great start.
Due to Paul Pierce’s age, he will very likely be unable to play more than 30-33 minutes a night, which will leave plenty left over for Jones.
With back-to-back first-rounders, Boston must focus on adding players who can play on the wing and are capable of putting on a show in the paint.
22. Boston Celtics (from Clippers)- Royce White, Power Forward, Iowa State
As I mentioned before, Kevin Garnett is not a lock to come back to the Celtics next season. If they are unable to retain him, Boston will be desperate for big men.
With only four players under contract for next season, Boston needs to address nearly every spot. Unfortunately, the best talent available at this point, are primarily big men. Therefore, the Celtics will be unable to address their backcourt.
Royce White, despite being just 6’8″, is able to hold his own against any power forward in the country. He will be a similar prospect to what Kenneth Faried was last year.
23. Atlanta Hawks- Andrew Nicholson, Power Forward, St. Bonaventure
It appears as though Josh Smith is on his way out of Atlanta, and if so, Atlanta will need depth at the forward spot. Andrew Nicholson, at this juncture, is the best big man available.
The Hawks dealt with numerous injuries in their front-court last year, and their lack of depth truly shined. When Jason Collins is getting minutes, you know you’re in trouble.
Andrew Nicholson will be lucky to see serious minutes right away, but will find a role somewhere down the line.
24. Cleveland Cavaliers (from Lakers)- Evan Fournier, Shooting Guard, France
While he may have to stay in France for another year, Evan Fournier is worth taking at this juncture. Cleveland took Michael Kidd-Gilchrist with their first pick, who is slated for either shooting guard or small forward.
The Cavaliers know they have virtually no shot at a title next year, so this pick isn’t a waste by any means. Fournier has yet to even turn 20, so age is not remotely a concern.
25. Minnesota Timberwolves (from Memphis)- Tony Wroten, Point Guard, Washington
- Memphis’ first-round pick (25th overall)
- Wesley Johnson, Shooting Guard/Small Forward
There have been rumors floating that the Grizzlies intend to trade their first-rounder for a young player that can come in and contribute right away.
While Wes Johnson was a disaster in his second season with the Wolves, he still has a tremendous amount of potential. However, with Minnesota’s crowded wing situation, Johnson simply doesn’t fit in any longer.
Johnson will provide insurance in case the Grizzlies do decide to trade Rudy Gay or let O.J. Mayo go in free agency.
26. Indiana Pacers- Draymond Green, Small Forward, Michigan State
Indiana may very well trade this pick, but if they don’t, the Pacers would be wise to find some depth behind Danny Granger. Draymond Green has all the keys to be a great bench player from the get-go.
There have been mock drafts that have Green going in the 20′s and some believe he will slip entirely to the second round. While he was a great college player, he’s unlikely to achieve success even close to that.
27. Miami Heat- John Jenkins, Shooting Guard, Vanderbilt
If Mike Miller retires (which he should), the Miami Heat need to prepare a back-up plan. There have already been talks that Ray Allen is set to join the Heat when free agency begins, but those plans could fizzle at any point.
If there’s one area that the Heat lack depth at, it’s the shooting guard position. Often times, Norris Cole would have to play the under-sized two-guard spot.
John Jenkins is a tremendous shooter, who is able to nail three’s on a frequent basis. Basically, he is the perfect fit for Miami’s scheme.
28. Oklahoma City Thunder- Jeffery Taylor, Small Forward, Vanderbilt
It’s not often that you see back-to-back picks from Vanderbilt, but it appears as though their truly is a first time for everything.
The Thunder, who are fresh off a disappointing NBA Finals series to the Heat, are looking to add depth and further their reputation for having the best bench in the league.
Jeffery Taylor could very well go in the late teens or early 20′s, but there is a serious load of small forwards in this draft. Fortunately for Taylor, he will begin his career with a contender.
29. Chicago Bulls- Marquis Teague, Guard, Kentucky
With Derrick Rose unlikely to return before December, the Bulls need serious help at point guard. C.J. Watson is very likely to resign with Chicago, but he’s not exactly the greatest back-up plan there is.
Essentially this pick will come down to the fact that the Bulls basically only have one area of need. Marquis Teague is also a very underrated talent, who could wind up un-seating Watson for the starting gig, if he under-performs.
30. Golden State Warriors (from San Antonio)- Festus Ezeli, Center, Vanderbilt
While they have Andrew Bogut and Andris Biedrins on the roster, the Warriors have to feel relatively worried about their center position.
Andrew Bogut is an injury waiting to happen, while Biedrins is one of the biggest wastes of a roster spot in the NBA today. Neither one is exactly reliable.
Ezeli goes 6’11″, but has the ability to play at power forward, also. He shouldn’t see a ton of time in his rookie year, as he may go overseas for a year or two.
Follow Tanner Thoms on Twitter @TannerThoms