Before I share my thoughts on the NBA lottery, let’s tackle the elephant in the room. Yes, it’s super-fishy that the Hornets, a team recently owned and sold by the NBA, won the first pick in a year when the first pick is intensely valuable. Then again, according to some, it would have been fishy for about half the teams in the lottery to win, with Sacramento angling for a new stadium and Brooklyn opening theirs, etc.
Let’s assume for a moment that the NBA did rig the lottery (which they probably did.) I’m perfectly fine with the results. For one, New Orleans now has the makings of a great young team, with Eric Gordon and Anthony Davis plus another lottery pick this year. We can also see that David Stern was right to sink the Paul-to-Lakers trade, as Gordon and that lottery pick are much better assets going forward than Lamar (emotionally can’t play away from the ocean) Odom, Kevin (no defense) Martin, Luis (over the hill) Scola, and Goran Dragic, and adding Davis to a young stud like Gordon plus another 1st rounder means the Hornets are already in better shape than they were with Chris Paul and David West.
On the other side of the equation, I’m also glad Davis didn’t end up with the other teams in the lottery. While the Bobcats would be dreadful even with Davis, I am most happy they missed out because they intentionally built the worst team in NBA history and I prefer not to reward tanking or Michael Jordan, about whom there is a new awful story every day. On the Wizards, Davis would be paired with me-first point guard John Wall, and I already saw that team when Kevin Garnett played with Stephon Marbury in Minnesota. No thanks. Sacramento is also full of me-first players (Cousins, Evans), trash-talking Cavs owner Dan Gilbert is another guy I’m happy to report didn’t win another lottery, and the final team with a good shot at Davis was the Brooklyn Nets, who have already proven themselves incompetent – because their pick wasn’t in the top 3, they gave away their first-rounder to rent Gerald Wallace – and I would hate to stash a talent like the Unibrow on a loser.
After watching a good amount of last year’s NCAA tournament, and checking out David Aldridge’s scouting reports, I feel fully qualified to offer a mock draft, combining both how I feel about each player’s abilities, and what a team is likely to do based on need.
Hornets Anthony Davis
A complete no-brainer. Davis was by far the best player in the tournament, he’s Garnett without the machismo.
Bobcats Thomas Robinson
Jordan could go for Michael Kidd-Gilchrist here (and probably will as he is terrible at drafting), but Robinson was the second-player in the Kentucky-Kansas game. Just because Jordan grabbed a PF while botching last year’s lottery (Bismack Biyombo over Kenneth Faried!) doesn’t mean he should double down on inferior players. Robinson has the better offensive game and is the better pick, even if the Bobcats already have a power forward from last year’s lottery.
Wizards Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
Looks like the 3rd best player, a good glue guy to go with Wall, MKG reminds me of Andre Iguodala.
Cavaliers Bradley Beal
Beal is the perfect complement to Kyrie Irving, he’s an unselfish player who can shoot, pass, and defend. As a freshman, he was the best player on the Gators’ elite-8 team. The Cavs would have a strong core with Beal, Irving, and Varejao. The problem is they might not be smart enough to make it happen – last year they took Tristan Thompson at 4 with Jonas Valanciunas, a potential Varejao upgrade, on the board. Valanciunas will be a rookie for the Raptors this year, he could have enabled the Cavs to move Varejao to a team desperate for size, like Golden State was. Could Cleveland have got Monta Ellis for Varejao, J.J. Hickson, and a (distant) future 1st? We’ll never know.
Kings Jared Sullinger
Sullinger might not be Kevin Love, but he would be a great glue guy for Cousins and Evans, who should be and basically is playing small forward at this point. With Marcus Thornton and Isaiah Thomas in the backcourt, this Kings team has cap space and would be on the way up.
Blazers John Henson
The Blazers need a replacement for Marcus Camby. Henson might not be a true center, but in today’s NBA he can get by against most teams. The guy can rebound and block shots, and the Blazers need that. Some people will see this and think it’s crazy to put Henson over Barnes, but the Blazers have Nicolas Batum at the 3 and Joel Pryzbilla at the 5. In other words, they need help in the middle. People will argue for Andre Drummond, but like Barnes, the guy doesn’t seem to have the will to succeed. Besides, Portland already has Hasheem Thabeet on their roster.
Warriors Harrison Barnes
With Bogut and David Lee, the Warriors biggest need is actually a swingman. Beyond allowing Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson to settle in at the 1 and 2 guard where they belong, Barnes seems like the best guy on the board at this point. I like Barnes as a complementary player, asking him to be the man is putting him in position to fail. With Curry setting up the offense and Lee and Thompson taking shots, this is the perfect place for him to thrive.
Raptors Jeremy Lamb
The Raptors need some scoring punch, and Lamb can really shoot. I don’t think he’s a better pick than Kendall Marshall, but the Raptors already have Jose Calderon, and Lamb would let DeRozan slide down to small forward, where he’s better suited.
Pistons Andre Drummond
This is the spot where I might gamble on Drummond. The Pistons don’t need Kendall Marshall either, and the risk (Terrence Jones, Meyers Leonard) could be worth the potential reward at this point. The bust potential on Drummond is super high, but the upside is a guy with Alonzo Mourning’s body. If Drummond develops, he and Greg Monroe make the Pistons a team to reckon with.
Hornets Kendall Marshall
I would love to see this. Marshall feeding Anthony Davis and Eric Gordon would make the Hornets a team to watch. Can you imagine when they play the Clippers? Marshall’s pinpoint passing and Gordon’s shooting against Paul’s, and Davis vs. Griffin? I hope the Hornets get this one right.
Blazers Terrence Jones
The Blazers could turn their weakness into strength with T. Jones. If they added him to Henson and Aldridge, suddenly you have a high energy frontcourt that can rebound, defend, and shoot.
Bucks Tyler Zeller
After trading Andrew Bogut, Milwaukee needs another center. They will probably take Zeller. He can shoot and pass, but he won’t remind anyone of Bogut’s rebounding and defense. If I were the GM, I would consider taking Meyers Leonard.
Suns Meyers Leonard
This guy is a beast. He is going to block shots and get offensive boards, while providing more offense and height than Kenneth Faried. Also, his name is Meyers Leonard. He could go much higher in the draft. Depending on how he does against the other top prospects in pre-draft workouts, he might be worth the Pistons pick at 8 or even the Blazers pick at 6.
Rockets Perry Jones
Another guy with a questionable motor, Perry Jones is too big to ignore at this point in the lottery, even if he is an Anthony Randolph doppelganger.
I only projected the lottery, but that doesn’t mean the rest of the picks aren’t important. The Spurs built a dynasty by sorting the gold from the silt in the late first-round. Here, in order, are the rest of the guys I think have a chance to help an NBA team.
Austin Rivers – A bad character guy who helped Duke get bounced in the first round to the Lehigh Mountain Hawks, Rivers can still shoot and will be a productive bench player.
Marquis Teague – Jeff Teague’s brother, plays just like him.
John Jenkins – The best player on a good Vanderbilt team, he might be a better shooter than Rivers.
Arnett Moultrie – Another big man who can run the floor, certainly worth a look after the lottery.
Middle First – I actually like some of these guys better than players I have rated higher, but like the NFL Draft, this is where they should be taken based on draft value.