The lockout may have shifted the NBA Finals later into June, but the NBA draft is still happening at the same date it always does. Usually these weeks are devoted solely to workouts, interviews, combines, and speculation, but most of that has been abbreviated or skipped altogether in favor of watching the Thunder and Heat (with good reason. It's a hell of a Finals series)
Still, we Hoopustiers are nothing if not adaptable. If draft coverage won't come to us, then we will bring our own draft coverage to...ourselves....it's like mountains and Muhammad and Mississippi Burning. But with basketballs. Yeah.
So, included in this post are the following: a prediction of how the draft lottery will go, plus thoughts on Royce White and the Wolves' #18 pick. Good times.
The one qualifier I'll put here is that I'm not going to predict anyone trading their pick(s). It'll certainly happen, and there's already solid rumors to chase, but trying to guess who will actually make a deal and who that deal will be with is like opening Pandora's box. Inside Pandora's Box. So for the sake of all things server space, we'll just assume for the time being that everyone keeps their own picks.
Pick #1: New Orleans Hornets - Anthony Davis (PF, Kentucky)
Anthony Davis is the best basketball player in this draft, and if you disagree, you're wrong. 14.2 points, 10.4 rebounds, and 4.7 blocks per game. On 62% shooting. On a team being run by a terrible, terrible point guard. By comparison, Timmy Duncan averaged 10-10-3.8 on 54% shooting his freshman year at Wake Forest.
Davis, among other things, broke the freshman NCAA record for blocks in a single season, and got damn close to breaking the overall record period (held by one David Robinson) He will almost certainly have the kind of defensive impact in the NBA that Dwight Howard and KG have. Not right away, but he will. And if his offense rounds out, he could reach Tim Duncan levels. He's that good.
Oh, and did I mention that the Hornets currently start Jason Smith at power forward?
Pick #2: Charlotte Bobcats - Thomas Robinson (PF, Kansas)
I do legitimately feel bad for the Cats. They were an awful team last year, finishing last in the league without even trying to tank. They were just that awful. And the only thing that kept their North Carolina hearts warm was the prospect of pairing Anthony Davis with the Manther, Bismack Biyombo, and averaging 28 blocks a game for the next decade. Poof. Gone.
Bobcats GM Rich Cho is a smart man, which is a good thing because he has a very difficult decision to make now. What he does with this pick could very well define this franchise for the forseeable future, and he doesn't have the luxury of having a sure-fire guy on the board. There has been talk that this might be a pick that gets moved.
The Cats have problems everywhere, but none more pronounced than their lack of post scoring. Biyombo can prevent a lot of guys from getting buckets in the paint. Including, in a fairly realistic and ironic way, himself. Charlotte can make do with DJ Augustine, Gerald Henderson, and Kemba Walker on the perimeter for now. DJ White, Byron Mullens and DaSagana Diop in the post? Not so much. Thomas Robinson is the best power forward in the draft after Davis. He's skilled, athletic, and always moving. He's not a superstar and likely won't be a franchise player, but all things considered...well....
Pick #3: Washington Wizards - Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (SF, Kentucky)
Unlike the teams picking before them, the Wizards don't have a lack-of-talent problem, they have a lack-of-discipline problem. They're a team that's 90% whiners (Blatche, Andray) or nonchalant goofballs (Wall, John).
Kidd-Gilchrist is in a unique position, I think, of being overrated as an athlete but underrated as a player. He's not Gerald Wallace. He's not a guy who sprints out on the fastbreaks and drops from the sky when he dunks. But he's also, I strongly believe, far more productive than he was able to show at Kentucky. Why? For one, he had Anthony Davis as a teammate. And two, Coach Cal was never quite able to curb his guard-centric instincts. Pretty hard to really show anything when Marquis Teague and Doron Lamb are taking all the shots.
But while Washington does need productive help in a few areas, more than anything, they need a guy who will set an example by keeping his mouth closed and working hard every game. That's Kidd-Gilchrist to a 't'.
Pick #4: Cleveland Cavaliers - Bradley Beal (SG, Florida)
Assuming Anderson Verajao returns to health, the Cavaliers are reasonably locked down at point guard (obviously) and in the post. Antawn Jamison keeps on keeping on, and Tristan Thompson showed enough last year to warrant time for development. That leaves the wings as the positions of need for the Cavs, and in a big big way (unless anyone likes the rotation of Daniel Gibson, Anthony Parker and Alonzo Gee. No? Ok then)
Cleveland wisely didn't pull any punches on their draft prospects. They not only scheduled Beal and Harrison Barnes to work out the same day, but directly against each other. Reportedly, both performed very well, although Beal seems to have the edge. He has a defined position and the team was impressed by how he was able to get his shots off against the much bigger Barnes. Statistically Barnes was not very good at UNC, and his combine numbers show more athleticism than he ever displayed in-game. Beal was dynamite at Florida, but is a little small for and NBA shooting guard and....in a more personal opinion....reminds me of Rashad McCants, and not always in a good way. But the Cavs have Irving. Locking down a starting backcourt will probably be the winning mindset here.
Pick #5: Sacramento Kings - Andre Drummond (C, UCONN)
Hoo boy. This is a hard one to call. Realistically speaking, the Kings already have plenty of bigs, with DeMarcus Cousins, Jason Thompson, Hassan Whiteside, and Chuck Hayes on the roster. They also, if rumors are to be believed, are going to be in the market for wing players again, pending a seemingly imminent departure of Tyreke Evans.
The Kings should also know better than to gamble on head cases with skill limitations and reputations of poor work ethics. Tyreke has no regressed for the second season in a row as he continues to not figure out how to shoot beyond 10 feet from the hoop. Cousins had a loud, childish feud with former head coach Paul Westphal (let's not pretend Westphal didn't act like a spoiled brat himself, though) that resulted in the Kings siding with Cousins, which he responded to with even louder complaints and more inconsistent play than ever.
Add to that a complete lack of a gameplan (both on and off the court), and the fact that the league is going smaller and faster these days (meaning a Cousins/Drummond duo is a lot less awesome than probably is being imagined), and it would seem like the last thing the Kings should be thinking about is another gamble on a guy with a basketball complex.
But we know a couple things about the Kings. One, drafting by need means nothing to them. Two, they're a team infatuated with potential. And three, they seem to know that their west coast rivals, the Portland Trailblazers, are obsessed with Drummond (or at least, their local media is) and may be willing to pay a premium to trade up for him.
Pick #6: Portland Trailblazers - Harrison Barnes (SF, UNC)
The Blazers essentially need two things: a point guard and a center. But a point guard they likely can get at #10, and the only center they want is Drummond. So my guess is, they take the player they think is most likely to be coveted by the Kings in a trade (ahhh, shades of Roy/Foye.
Good times) And that's if they don't just trade for the #5 pick before the draft even begins.
Portland is pretty much guaranteed to be able to fill their point guard need later in the lottery, so I can see them taking a risk here for the possible home run. It seems more likely to me they make a play for Drummond than play safe with a John Henson or Jeremy Lamb.
Pick #7: Golden State Warriors - Jeremy Lamb (SG, UCONN)
I had a rather lively debate with myself over this one. What will the Warriors be after? A wing player to compliment Klay Thompson? A center to hedge against Andrew Bogut's health?
A lot of mocks seem to think the Warriors will go for toughness and balance out the roster by taking Jared Sullinger, who was the NCAA's best post scorer last season. I see the reasoning, but I disagree with the selection, for one reason. The Warriors are coached by Mark Jackson, and he's going to take a look at Lamb and see shades of Reggie Miller.
Lamb has a lot going for him as a prospect....he's long and lanky, athletic, a good defender, and showed definitive improvement from his freshman season to his sophomore season. I think he's being perpetually underrated in this draft. Ideal size, ideal skillset....he's got that balance that guys like Beal and Barnes lack.
Pick #8: Toronto Raptors - Jared Sullinger (PF, Ohio St)
As far as I'm concerned, Sullinger would be a godsend to the Raptors. He would add much needed toughness and low post scoring (he was the best post scorer in college ball last year), plays a position of need, and compliments Andrea Bargnani perfectly.
Toronto could also take a point guard in hopes of replacing Calderon and his non-existent defense, or a wing to compliment DeMar DeRozan and his non-existent three point shot. But the Raptors have needed what Sullinger offers for a very long time....not even Bosh could provide them with that pure post threat....and I think that's what will win out in the end.
Pick #9: Detroit Pistons - John Henson (PF, UNC)
This one seems pretty obvious to me. The Pistons have pretty much no one to start at power forward. Charlie Villanueva has been a big disappointment, and Jason Maxiell can't seem to move beyond a limited role player. Detroit is genuinely a team adrift, with more questions than answers basically everywhere but center. Their coaching situation is a circus and they seem eternally stuck on waiting for Rodney Stuckey to be the player they think he is.
But for all that, the Pistons do have some definable needs: athleticism and defense. Greg Monroe is a big, versatile, efficient low post scoring machine, but he's definitely not a sprinter or a goalie. Pairing him with Marcus Camby 2.0 would seem to be the start of a pretty formidable frontcourt.
Pick #10: New Orleans Hornets - Damien Lillard (PG, Weber State)
I had another debate with myself over this one, and here's why: I strongly believe that Kendall Marshall is the better player. Lillard is Raymond Felton. Marshall is Andre Miller. I will take Andre Miller over Raymond Felton 100 times out of 100 and never second guess it. That said...
What's propelling his rise is Lillard is the prototypical modern NBA point guard. Fast, athletic, and can score. He impressed at the combine. He plays like Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook. NBA execs like Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook. Lillard isn't likely to be nearly as good as Derrick Rose or Russell Westbrook, but ok. You see the appeal.
All things considered, a scoring point guard wouldn't be the worst thing in the world for New Orleans. Lillard's an excellent pick-and-roll point guard, which should mesh well with Anthony Davis on the inside, and for a young team that needs to be able to put points on the board (the Bugs were 29th in points scored this year), a guard who can efficiently score through his own power is a quick (if somewhat shortsighted) fix.
At any rate, the Hornets are poised to walk out of this draft with Davis and a high-end point guard. They win.
Pick #11: Portland Trailbalzers - Kendall Marshall (PG, UNC)
This is the second easiest selection, in my opinion, behind taking Davis #1 overall. Write down Damien Lillard and Kendall Marshall, then take whichever one is still on the board (If they're both gone, then I'd say someone in the 2-9 range has made a horrible, horrible mistake)
The things to love about Marshall is he's basically the best college ball distributor in the history of ever (maybe literally, if DraftExpress is to be believed) Rubio. Rondo. Miller. Kidd. Stockton. Yeah. That's the kind of player you're looking at here.
Pick #12: Milwaukee Bucks - Meyers Leonard (C, Illinois)
With Andrew Bogut gone (well, offically gone, since he's technically been gone the better part of the last 4 years...) the Bucks are in the hunt for a new center. Unless someone really likes the idea of starting Kwame Brown. No? Didn't think so.
So at this point, that board would basically be down to Meyers Leonard or Tyler Zeller. I give Leonard the edge. Why? Well, for one, he's two years younger. And two, compared to Leonard, Zeller has T-Rex arms. I know I know, it's not everything, but reach does matter.
Pick #13: Phoenix Suns - Austin Rivers (SG, Duke)
Austin Rivers has a well-deserved (although unintentional) reputation as a ball hog. He dominates the possession. He just doesn't realize it because he's never been asked to play any differently.
Fortunately for him, the Suns are going to need a ball hog. One has to believe Steve Nash is done with the setting Suns. He may have said and done all the right things, but that doesn't mean he's going to tolerate missing the playoffs because Sarver cares more about his wallet than winning.
All things considered, a shooting guard who's going to put point on the board wouldn't be the worst thing in the world for a team that basically will have no one else to give usage% to. It'll create all sorts of problems later when there's other real talent on the roster, but hey....that's later, right?
Pick #14: Houston Rockets - Dion Waiters (SG, Syracuse)
The Rockets have a few problems at other positions, and not really much of a problem at this one. They have one center who's old, expensive and highly productive. They have another who's younger, cheaper, and not nearly as productive. They'll also need a point guard or two, because Goran Dragic is an unrestricted free agent, and Kyle Lowry hates Kevin McHale.
That said, there's no real viable solution for either of those problems here. What there is, is a solid, multidimensional shooting guard who plays old school like Kevin McHale is old school, and who can provide depth and upside over Courtney Lee and officially make doghouse resident Kevin Martin expendable. For better or worse, I see this as a pick where McHale leverages management to put his first real stamp on the team's identity.
Pick #15: Philadelphia 76ers - Terrence Ross (G/F, Washington)
The Sixers will be tempted by the size of Tyler Zeller and the potential of Quincey Miller and Perry Jones, but I think their one weakness....no consistent perimeter shooting....is so glaring that they won't have a choice.
Yes, they have a ton of wings. But no shooters among them. And the trip to the semifinals....albeit deceptive since the Bulls were playing at less than half strength....will put pressure on them to match or exceed that accomplishment. They won't be given leeway to wait around on the potential of a Perry Jones. Ross is solid all around and ready to play now.
As for the Timberwolves....
Earlier this year, I predicted the 18th pick would come down to a safe vs potential debate between Dion Waiters and Quincey Miller. I was half right. Waiters has apparently combined/interviewed/whatevered himself into the lottery. So the debate now is between Miller (represented by Tim Allen) and Jae Crowder (represented by S-n-P).
Well...I guess with Miller still there is was 3/4 right...
Anyways, to that, I say two things:
First, if you want to play the 'ideally' game and try to get the best of both worlds, you really should be lobbying for Royce White.
Yes, he has anxiety issues. Yes, he has something of a record from the fallout with the UofM. No, it's not clear if Minnesotans would even welcome him back (Kris Humphries still gets booed at the TC, and it's not because of the Kardashians. Well....not just because of the Kardashians....)
He also has a fair amount of conditioning work to do. He's not in great shape. Not a huge deal, but still...and of course, we already have a glut of big men on the roster.
That said, we are talking about a guy with an absurd about of talent, particularly on the offensive end. Like, Kevin Garnett/Lamar Odom/healthy Chris Webber kind of talent. 13.4 points on 54% shooting (I'd say he's very definitely a 20ppg scorer in the NBA if someone fixes his FT shooting). 9.3 rebounds. 5 assists. Yes, a 6'8", 270 lbs college dude averaged 5 assists....enough for DraftExpress to make the case that he's the best passing college big man in the history of ever. Big men who can move the ball are invaluable in the NBA. Were it not for his baggage, he'd have played for the U or Kentucky and probably been the #2 or #3 pick in the draft.
All things considered, I do think he's worth at least taking a look at.
Beyond that, if we want to stick with the either/or debate, my 2 cents is why does it have to be either/or?
Look, I get this place is a statistics place. There's a reason for that, and a damn good one. But realize that NBA execs still make their selections with their eyes, not their spreadsheets. What we see are two players who are highly, highly productive. What they see are two players with little accomplishment at little schools, whom none of their peers care about (so why should they?) Argue against it all you want; that's just how it works. Jae Crowder is not projected to be a first round pick. Will Barton is not projected to be a first round pick. You can take Miller at #18 and still get Crowder and/or Barton in the second round. If Kahn has proven nothing else, it's that he has an unparalleled ability to trade for second round picks.
I think we overreact with this idea that we value them so much that some other team will figure it out and take them first. They are not both going to be gone by #18. They're highly unlikely to both be gone even by #31. When I look at what the Wolves could get from Miller and what the Wolves could get from Crowder, by first and lasting reaction is just to take them both. Because it's not like it'd be that hard to engineer.
What say you? What do your lottery predictions look like? Would Royce White be a welcome addition to the team? One the court? Off it? The draft is less than two weeks away, believe it or not.