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Pick by pick analysis of the first round of the NBA Draft
by Sam Smith
Posted on Jun 28
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1. New Orleans: Anthony Davis, Kentucky. There’s been so little discussion about Davis because he’s the consensus No. 1, if not personally exciting. When Rose was top pick there still was debate about whether the pick would be Michael Beasley. When LeBron was No. 1, there was discussion about LeBron because many thought he was the king of England. Davis isn’t quite Bill Russell, and the Hornets won’t make the playoffs next season. But he’s a player you can build around and David Stern should get executive of the year for rejecting that awful initial Chris Paul trade.
2. Charlotte: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kentucky. It’s the first time in NBA history a player with a hyphen in his name was the second overall pick. There’s been all sorts of talk Michael Jordan would trade this pick, so it’s supposedly still possible. I think Kidd-Gilchrist gets to keep the Bobcats cap, anyway. But Kidd-Gilchrist makes sense as he’s something of a Jordan clone coming out with great athletic ability, a team player and defender. Shooting is the issue. Jordan’s reputation was he couldn’t shoot, and he ended up doing OK. But he mostly dunked for a year or so.
3. Washington: Bradley Beal, Florida. They obviously sweated it out as the Cavs at No. 4 supposedly were angling for Beal as well and trading ahead of Washington. He can shoot, though playing with John Wall you’re going to be guarded a lot since Wall cannot shoot. Many regard Beal as the next star level player in the draft after Davis. Going to Washington, you wonder his feeling on the Supreme Court decision Thursday on the Affordable Health Care Act.
4. Cleveland: Dion Waiters, Syracuse. That’s the first surprise of the draft. Harrison Barnes was supposed to be a lock here, especially with Antawn Jamison a free agent. He’s a strong guard who reminds some of Rodney Stuckey. You never know in the draft with that winners and losers stuff. But it’s a surprise to see him rise so high, especially as a guy who didn’t start. That hardly disqualifies someone. Everyone had been hearing that Waiters was being held in high regard. But he is more shooting guard and a bit small at 6-4. Of course, if he were on the Bobcats he’d be a backcourt giant. Overall, I’d question the pick. LeBron probably feels it’s a curious Decision.
5. Sacramento: Thomas Robinson, Kansas. Why’s everyone mad at Harrison Barnes? Robinson is considered a safe pick, a hard working power forward who has expanded his shooting range. He’s widely been regarded a top five pick, though without the so called high ceiling, more the what you see the first few years is what you get. He’s a bit undersized at 6-8 3/4, but is a stable guy in an often unstable environment. Which is hard to argue.
6. Portland: Damian Lillard, Weber State. They’re sort of in a rebuilding still without a new coach and coming off missing the playoffs. LaMarcus Aldridge doesn’t know what to make of it all. There’s been some question of just how good Lillard is and whether he can be a high level NBA point guard. He may fit well with Portland as he’s had injury issues. He’s not a classic point guard, more the scorer, which is relatively common these days. But if you had to have a point guard he’s probably the top in a weak point guard class. There’s some feeling he’s pushed up because the class is so light.
7. Golden State: Harrison Barnes, North Carolina. It’s a real break for them. They’ve been searching around in trade for a small forward believing someone like Barnes never would get to them. They have to be the first real team to actually mean, “We couldn’t believe he was available.” He’s a good shooter, but he wasn’t as aggressive in college as many expected (or hoped). He was one of those players picked over a lot in college because he came into college with such publicity. But many still regard him as a high level talent.
8. Toronto: Terrence Ross, Washington. There was some surprise of him at No. 8, but it’s hard to say now there are mistakes. It’s the eye of the beholder time of the draft. Ross is a talented guy who’s a good shooter and defender and nice all around talent. With DeMar DeRozan at shooting guard, he’ll have to be their three. Which means former Bull James Johnson’s NBA career may be coming close to an end. Johnson actually looked like a good defensive component, but apparently his Raptors’ audition didn’t go that well.
9. Detroit: Andre Drummond, Connecticut. He’s considered the big risk of the first round. But he’s also the biggest upside, as it’s said. I’ve had him described to me as a raw, amazing talent like Shawn Kemp was coming out of high school. You wonder about lackluster production in college, that if he’s so good how could he average just 10 points in college. Great players generally dominate. He’s going to need strong coaching and instruction. They obviously want to move Greg Monroe back to power forward, and this is a bit of a Chandler/Curry thing in that if it works with Drummond and Monroe the Pistons could have something. But they obviously have to be looking a few seasons down the road as he’s the least ready of the first round prospects.
10. New Orleans: Austin Rivers, Duke. Austin Rivers and Eric Gordon. Now, that’s an interesting backcourt with Anthony Davis at center, which is what I think Davis is. Both Gordon and Rivers can handle, so even though neither are true point guards I think they’ll work. It’s a very appealing young team and a year after losing Chris Paul and perhaps the franchise, it’s a huge turnaround for the Hornets. I’ve got Rivers as one of the top five talents in this draft. Great day for New Orleans, if not yet for Drew Brees. Roger Goodell apparently believes this is a good pick and not dangerous to any competitors, at least yet.
11. Portland: Myers Leonard, Illinois. Good health care passed Thursday as if you are a big man going to Portland you’ve got to have some pause. Leonard is one of the more intriguing players in that pro scouts seem to like him much more then fans of Illinois who watched the team all season. I’ve got my doubts he can handle the physical play and responsibility of being not only an NBA player but a building block with the Trailblazers also selecting a point guard with their No. 6 pick. It’s a tough team to read with LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicholas Batum and two rookies with Leonard something of a project. Leonard played the perimeter a lot at Illinois, but he’ll have to play strong inside in the NBA. I wonder if he can.
12. Houston: Dwight Howard. Oooops. Make it Jeremy Lamb, Connecticut. Well, Kevin Martin isn’t celebrating. Lamb is the Reggie Miller shooting guard of this draft, skinny, a good shooter who doesn’t defend that well and doesn’t put the ball on the floor all that much, except, of course, when he dribbles. I love the basketball jargon. It’s the mystery of the draft to figure out what the Rockets are up to. It’s supposedly been about trying to compile a package to trade for Howard, which seems unlikely.
13. Phoenix: Kendall Marshall, North Carolina. OK, Steve Nash is definitely gone. Well, we did know that. He’s more the pure point guard type, but good at running a team. Not much of a shooter, which is fairly different from Nash, who was, well, one of the best shooters in NBA history. The Suns have made a mess of point guard, trying for years to find a successor to Nash and trading Rajon Rondo and Goran Dragic, the latter whom they were trying to get back. I guess they gave up. It’s a long way back for the Suns. He will like the weather, though.
14. Milwaukee: John Henson, North Carolina. An interesting pick after trading for Samuel Dalembert, whom Henson has been likened to as a defensive player and shot blocker who doesn’t score. But Dalembert has just one season on his deal, so Henson should have time to develop and perhaps grow into that position. This is the pick the Bucks got from the Rockets in that Dalembert deal for swapping 12 and 14 and likely the player the Bucks would have gone after at 12. Maybe they do plan a dual big guy set to retrieve all the bad shots by Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis and be assured the big guys won’t shoot.
15. Philadelphia: Maurice (Mo) Harkless, St. John’s. He’s an athletic talent who impressed teams the more they saw him in workouts. Not really a great range shooter, but handles the ball well and gets to the basket. They want to make major changes on the roster and while Andre Iguodala has often been mentioned in trade it also opens up the possibility of a Thaddeus Young move. Look for a busy offseason for the 76ers.
16. Houston: Dwight Howard. Ooops. Royce White, Iowa State. He’s an unusual talent with his size at 6-8 and 260. He’s the guy who doesn’t like to fly, which may be why Houston took him as he won’t come and they can trade him for Howard. You have to assume by now the Rockets have given up on the Howard package with these picks. He’s a matchup kind of guy with a big body and ball handling skills who can play point forward. He’s generally been regarded low because teams don’t know what to make of his development, but he’s a good risk pick.
17. Dallas: Tyler Zeller, North Carolina. He’s sort of a falloff here as many had him picked in the top 10 and almost everyone in the lottery. But, again, this is the sort of draft with not that much difference between 10 and 20. His brother at Indiana is said to be a higher level prospect. Tyler is a competent offensive player who can make shots and run the floor well. Not particularly strong, but a guy who should be a solid NBA player for 10 years. But the Mavs are in rebuilding and it all seems to stem on whether they can get Deron Williams. They remain second chance behind the Nets.
18. Houston: Dwight Howard. Ooops. Terrence Jones, Kentucky. So, is he better than Chase Budinger? That’s who they traded to get this pick. He’s more the interior player with a face up game, a guy who’ll play power forward with his size at almost 6-10 and 250. He’s a nice prospect who’ll make plays, though it remains curious of whether they’ll keep all three picks. By the way, on the reported Dallas trade of Zeller. That’s a nice pickup for the Cavs. It’s hard to see Mark Cuban being patient with so many low draft picks he’s getting from the Cavs.
19. Orlando: Andrew Nicholson, St. Bonaventure. I’m not sure if Dwight Howard likes this guy, but I do. He’s not a great defender at four and might have to guard fives. But he’s a high level talent this low in the draft, a stretch four who also can play in the post. He’s famously a physics major and Canadian, which are equally confusing to most Americans. Howard still figures to be traded, but you never know with Howard and the new management.
20. Denver: Evan Fournier, France. Is he a guy who’ll stay in Europe. I’m a little confused by the pick. He’s a kid at 19, but the Nuggets have Arron Afflalo, Wilson Chandler, Corey Brewer and maybe Rudy Fernandez. Seems they have a lot of perimeter guys with also Danilo Gallinari. Fournier is a guy who’s supposed to be good creating his own shot, but was said to suffer against physical play in NBA workouts.
21. Boston. Jared Sullinger, Ohio State. I like the pick. There’s this supposed red flag on him about a back issue. I heard more than a dozen first rounders received some level of red flag in physicals, but the NBA rejected most of the diagnoses because there then wouldn’t be a draft. He was falling out of the top five after a lot of pre season publicity because of being a player who is not athletic and so called plays below the rim. But I see him as a so called moneyball type guy who makes plays. It’s a worthwhile gamble.
22. Boston: Fab Melo, Syracuse. He looks fabuuuulllloooouuuuussss. Another nice pick for the Celtics. They obviously need size and he’s a shot blocker. A bit raw and not going to able to score in the proverbial empty gym. But he’s big and long and he looks fabbbuuuuullllloooouuussss.
23. Atlanta: John Jenkins, Vanderbilt. Maybe the best shooter in the draft. A bit small at the position, but not that much. And such a pure shot he drew comparisons to Dell Curry, who shooters over history point to as having maybe the best pure stroke ever. Strong, but not much of a driving/slashing threat yet. There was speculation the last few months on most of the mock drafts he’d be the Bulls choice.
24. Dallas (from Cleveland in apparent Tyler Zeller deal): Jared Cunningham. Another shooting guard the Bulls supposedly were looking at. More a driver and explosive player than the traditional shooter. Also a bit on the thin side, but not a bad futures prospect. What the Mavs might be up to is somewhat unclear, which would assure Mark Cuban calls me an idiot.
25. Memphis: Tony Wroten, Washington. A big point guard who gets to the basket, but he’s such a bad shooter you’d think he needs glasses. Considered a pressuring defensive player to give them a guy who can defend the bigger point guards when Mike Conley is overmatched.
26. Indiana: Miles Plumlee, Duke. A backup big man type whom I didn’t think would be a first rounder, and not only because he’s named Miles. With Roy Hibbert that’s a pair of relatively awkward offensive big men. Of course, guys like him usually are around the NBA for 10 years. I say he dominates Aaron Gray.
27. Miami: Arnett Moultrie, Mississippi State. Interesting big man , almost 6-11 and 232. He was a lot of skills for a big man and is an interesting pick for the Hat given their lack of skilled big men. Ok, none, other than Bosh, of course. He should eventually give them a nice option off the bench with offense as many teams had him rated much higher.
28. Oklahoma City: Perry Jones, Baylor. Had the biggest slide, but also a major upside, as the scouts like to say. Supposedly an injury issue dropped him, but he’s an incredible athlete who is long, athletic and puts the ball on the floor like a point forward. One knock is the so called energy issue, but I’ve had a top veteran talent scout compare him with a young Scottie Pippen given skills and ability and a kid whose future may be determined on the quality of team he’s with.
29. Bulls: Marquis Teague, Kentucky. The best point guard the Bulls have selected since Derrick Rose. Actually, a nice pick and a good break that someone like Teague would fall. He’d generally been regarded as someone who’d go perhaps eight or 10 picks ahead of where he did. His brother Jeff plays for the Atlanta Hawks Teague’s a bit thin at 6-2 and 180. He’s a good playmaker and attacks the basket in the mode of his brother and Darren Collison of the Indiana Pacers. It’s not likely he can come in and start for Rose to open next season, but he’ll be a very good backup guard for when Rose returns.
Teams always say they cannot believe such a player slipped to them and that they are thrilled he did. We haven’t heard from the Bulls management yet, and I expect them to be serious about that as the Bulls worked out several dozen players. I don’t believe Teague was among them, but he’s a good value pick at that point in the draft.
30. Golden State: Festus Ezeli, Golden State. A big guy, the so called space eater, which in pro terms means he doesn’t score or make much impact. But as they say you can’t teach size and he’s 6-11 1/2 and 265. As for the apparent trade, the 76ers get the big man they also wanted in the first round with Moultrie from Miami for a future pick. It may lead to an amnesty for Elton Brand.