In the draft that draftniks had dubbed the deepest in recent memory, the mood had grown increasingly skeptical and pessimistic among decision-makers around the league. Aside from Anthony Davis, there was no consensus No. 2 player and sunny-side up mock drafts started to resemble scrambled eggs. Teams with an idea of who they liked started to make the calls to trade up, but question marks at the top of the lottery put GMs on alert and made most of them sellers.
The Rockets were the only real buyers on Thursday, and even they couldn’t buy their way into a top draft pick and, by extension, a chance to rent Dwight Howard for a year.
So instead of a deluge of trading activity to accommodate those GMs seeking to trade down, the draft was relatively quiet with just one veteran being traded (Kelenna Azubuike). There were a few surprises, but nothing more than a garden-variety reach here and a tumbling stock there.
Despite the quiet night, the table is now officially set for fantasy leagues. The draft culminates months of speculation and guessing about the future, and when free agency starts on Sunday at midnight, the shape of next season will begin to take form much, much earlier than it did in last year’s locked out mess.
So let’s get right to it with a look at the lottery picks, winners and losers, and the best of the rest from the 2012 NBA Draft.
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1. New Orleans Hornets – PF/C Anthony Davis, Kentucky
Davis was the consensus No. 1 pick and has All-Star caliber talent from the get-go. Here is what we know. He’ll block the ball (4.7), he’ll rebound (10.4), and he’ll steal the ball (1.4). We know he’ll get as many minutes as he can handle. We know the Hornets don’t have anybody to steal his playing time. Can he get enough easy offense to score 10 ppg? Probably. With elite capabilities for blocks and no danger areas, he’s worth a look in the early half of the middle rounds.
Losers: Chris Kaman, Jason Smith, Gustavo Ayon, Carl Landry
2. Charlotte Bobcats – SF/PF Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kentucky
MKG’s college numbers don’t jump off the page (12 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.9 blocks, 49.1 FG%, 25.5 3PT%, 74.5 FT%), but they’re good enough to provide solid value in 8- and 9-cat formats. Factor in an overloaded Kentucky team that limited guys’ numbers, and an anemic Bobcats squad that had the worst winning percentage in NBA history, and Kidd-Gilchrist will be among the safest rookies to select in fantasy drafts. We can’t guarantee that he will have a neon green light from 3-point distance and he’s raw enough on offense that a breakout fantasy performance is unlikely. But if you’re looking for a safer play toward the end of your draft with some solid upside, he’s your guy.
Losers: Derrick Brown, Reggie Williams, Tyrus Thomas
3. Washington Wizards – SG Bradley Beal, Florida
There was mild controversy over whether a high pick should be used on the sharp-shooting Beal (1.7 3PG, 34%), but the Wizards telegraphed their intentions after adding Emeka Okafor and Beal was the pick all along. While draftniks weren’t sold on his length, ball-handling and his ability to create his own shot, fantasy owners should know that Beal isn’t just a one trick pony. He grabbed 6.7 rebounds, 1.4 steals, and had 0.8 blocks per game at Florida, and his 3-point shooting percentage was abnormally low by most reports, too. He also plays defense and has good intangibles, and that’s going to profile well next to incumbent starter Jordan Crawford, who has never met a shot that he didn’t take. It will be tempting for the Wizards to bring the 19-year old along slowly, but basketball-wise it makes sense to eventually start Beal and allow Crawford to gun with the second unit. In terms of a draft day decision, unless the Wizards aggressively announce their intentions to run Beal for heavy minutes early in the year -- he's a late round target with upside, at best.
Losers: Jordan Crawford
4. Cleveland Cavaliers – SG Dion Waiters, Syracuse
Waiters, a sophomore, didn’t even start for his college team and surged up draft boards as teams started to fall in love with his upside. A physical specimen at 6’4/210, he’s built in the mold of guys like Rodney Stuckey and Dwyane Wade with the ability to take a lick and keep on tickin’. He has issues with shot selection and there are question marks about his attitude, which unfortunately begs the question of how he’ll do playing for rookie drill sergeant Byron Scott. Fortunately for Waiters and his owners, the Cavs don’t have anybody that can truly compete with him for playing time. He can score, hit the three (1.1 3PM, 36.3%), and has elite steals capability with 1.8 per game in just 24 minutes per night. And if he can stay focused, the Eastern Conference will have their hands full with the Waiters/Kyrie Irving backcourt early on in the year. Draft him in the late rounds with confidence, and if preseason reports are favorable he could crack the late middle-rounds.
Losers: Manny Harris
5. Sacramento Kings – PF Thomas Robinson, Kansas
The Kings were winners by default on Thursday, as Robinson fell to them and kept them from having to ponder yet another ball-handler. His problem area in fantasy leagues is his foul shooting, which was 69.2 percent last season, and the silver lining is that he improved from 39.5 percent in 09-10 and 51 percent in 10-11. He’s a freak physically and has a fairly versatile offensive game, though he’s not nearly as good a shooter as his shot selection might show. Assuming the Kings can afford to keep restricted free agent Jason Thompson, Robinson will start the season competing for big man minutes off the bench. Unless Hassan Whiteside makes an unlikely surge past the 12-15 mpg mark, there should be enough minutes to feed both power forwards and DeMarcus Cousins in what will be one of the league’s up-and-coming front lines. Look at Robinson in the late rounds if you’re in need of rebounds (11.9), steals (1.1), and blocks (0.9).
Losers: Jason Thompson, Chuck Hayes
6. Portland Trail Blazers – PG Damian Lillard, Weber State
After Raymond Felton was nearly run out of town by local media and fans, the search for a new PG was on before last season ended. Ultimately, rather than chasing down a free agent PG or trying to trade for a veteran, the Blazers set their eyes on Lillard, who comes with plenty of potential and a handful of question marks. Namely, he beat up on lesser competition playing in the Big Sky conference, and because he was asked to shoulder the scoring load (24.5 ppg) his assist numbers were down (4.0 apg). That said, he developed some bad habits along the way not hitting the open man and taking plays off on defense. Lillard is otherwise a solid PG prospect, boasting great handles and efficiency (46.7/40.9/88.7, 2.3 TOs). He would have to face-plant to not be the starter on opening day, unless the Blazers bring in a veteran to ease the burden early on. With a strong shot at solid shooting numbers, owners can afford to take a chance in the later middle rounds that he’ll be a poor man’s Kyrie Irving.
Losers: Nolan Smith, Jonny Flynn
7. Golden State Warriors – SF Harrison Barnes, North Carolina
The Warriors were staring down the barrel of a gun that appeared to be a decision on risky big man Andre Drummond, but the late surge by Dion Waiters allowed Barnes to fall in their lap. While the scoring wing fulfills a need for the Warriors at the SF slot, and scoring is his calling card (17.1 ppg, 1.3 3PT, 35.8 3PT%, 5.1 FTA, 72.3 FT%), he’s going to have a hard time breaking out without some attrition amongst his teammates. Assuming the Warriors can get rid of Dorell Wright (probable) and Richard Jefferson (improbable), Barnes will still have to compete with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, David Lee, and Andrew Bogut for touches. I can see taking a late round flier on him with the hopes that Mark Jackson decides to run with his team that is built to run, but anything beyond that is extremely optimistic even if he’s guaranteed starter’s minutes.
Losers: Dorell Wright, Brandon Rush, Richard Jefferson, Klay Thompson