The New Orleans Hornets were the lucky winners of Wednesday’s NBA draft lottery, giving them the right to draft the player of their choice. Kentucky freshman Anthony Davis is almost certain to be their pick. But how will the rest of the first round unfold on June 28?
Here’s our forecast. (Slots 1-14 were determined by Wednesday’s lottery. Slots 15-30 were already determined by the teams’ finish in the regular season. A few teams don’t have first-round picks because of trades.)
Conspiracy theorists are coming out of the woodwork on this one. The Hornets, who are in the process of being sold by the league, naturally win the lottery. Davis oozes upside, and while he may not be an immediate star at the NBA level, most talent evaluators see a superstar in the making. His jaw-dropping physical attributes, combined with a competitive drive, should allow him to overcome a lack of physical strength. If there is a "savior" in this draft, odds are it’s Davis.
Whomever the Bobcats select will have his work cut out for him: Living up to the second overall pick plus being asked to do the impossible and be the Bobcats’ savior. The Michael Jordan/UNC connection could very well come into play here. Barnes’ tourney meltdown has his stock down, but he’s our top small forward available for this year’s draft. After Davis, Barnes might be the surest bet in the entire draft class. If Andre Drummond, our second-rated prospect, joins Charlotte, it will almost ensure that he ends up a bust.
Drummond is the one prospect from this year’s draft who has a chance to be even better than Anthony Davis. An absolute physical specimen, there isn’t a prospect on the high school/college level even close to matching his physical attributes (strength/athleticism). The risk potential is high, as he could turn into a bust, as his passion for the game has been questioned and he didn’t put up monster stats as a freshman. A John Wall and Drummond duo would be a fast and exciting one.
This pick could come down to a decision between Kidd-Gilchrist and Bradley Beal. Kidd-Gilchrist was as good as any college player in the nation last year (including Davis). But he may get drafted too high, and the expectations will be difficult for him to fulfill. He lacks upside due to his offensive shortcomings with mechanical kinks in his jumpshot. He shot below 20 percent from the field on jumpshots. Cleveland will have a difficult time selecting Thomas Robinson (if available) after taking power forward Tristan Thompson with the fourth pick last year.
The Kings could take Robinson and play him at power forward alongside DeMarcus Cousins. How tall Robinson measures will be a big factor in how high he gets selected. If he measures a legit 6-foot-9 in shoes, look for him to get looks from 2 on down. If he measures in the 6-8 (in shoes) range, look for him to slide to the 5-8 range.
While his point-guard abilities are debatable, Lillard is a tremendous athlete with a wet jumpshot. He’s a late bloomer who has a work ethic that many high-profile prospects are lacking. Portland is said to be high on Lillard, and could shore up its PG position for years to come with Lillard.
The Warriors already have Klay Thompson, but could move him to the small forward posiiton and put Beal at shooting guard. Beal had nearly identical shooting numbers as Eric Gordon in his freshman season. While he lacks the same freakish athleticism as Gordon, he is smoother and would form a formidable backcourt playing alongside Stephen Curry and Thompson.
Like the Warriors, the Raptors already have a shooting guard, but would be able to move Demar DeRozan over to his more natural small-forward position. The Raptors are said to be high on Lamb and will consider him here if he’s available. Lamb gives them another talented prospect who could potentially play either wing position.
Joe Dumars loves length, and Henson is sort of an Anthony Davis Lite in the length category. Pairing Henson with Greg Monroe would be interesting, as their skills likely would mesh well. Whether Henson will add the necessary strength to fulfill a top-10 selection is debatable.
The Hornets already have Eric Gordon, but after adding Davis at No. 1, Ross gives them insurance in case Gordon’s injury problems continue. Ross is a talent with a legitimate chance to be the top SG prospect from this year’s draft class.
Jones is one of the draft’s real wild cards. A team could decide his lack of production and improvement was more a product of Baylor and that he’s worth a mid-lottery pick. But the concerns about his motor could cause him to slide right out of the lottery. He would be an upside pick after taking Lillard at No. 6.
After moving Andrew Bogut in the trade that brought them Monta Ellis, Milwaukee would likely pounce on Zeller if he’s available here. Though Zeller has had injury concerns in his own right, he is younger and runs the floor exceptionally well, which would fit their jet-quick backcourt.
Marshall would be an excellent addition to an aging backcourt in Phoenix. Marshall’s ability to create shots for others gives him a great deal of potential. He’s the best passer that the college game has seen in years.
The Rockets could look to deal Rivers if there were a team looking to trade for him (Boston?). They usually look for value with their picks, and while there are a number of other options here and at 16, Rivers would be a solid addition.
The Sixers are sitting in a great spot with the first non-lottery pick after making a deep run in the playoffs. They are in a position to add a quality player with solid depth. They went big with Nikola Vucevic last year and could look to bolster their frontcourt once again with a player like Moultrie.
Leonard lacks the NBA readiness and polish of someone like Tyler Zeller, but scouts think he has more upside. A team will need to be patient with him, and the Rockets have two picks and a diversified roster.
Sullinger began the year as a projected top-five pick, but failed to show much progress in his sophomore season despite leading the Buckeyes to the Final Four. Doubts began to creep in scouts’ minds about his upside and dedication to staying in shape. He could be a steal at 17 for a team like Dallas, and a great fit with Dirk Nowtizki, as he has an extremely polished post game.
Waiters is getting some lottery buzz and could end up going higher, but scouts are split on his upside and ability to fit an NBA position. He was the nation’s top sixth man and could be used in a similar role with the T-Wolves as an instant-offense shooting guard off the bench.
The Magic currently have the services of Dwight Howard, but how much longer that will be is unknown. They no longer appear to be legitimate contenders, so drafting for upside and the future could be their best option. Harkless is not expected to have an immediate impact, but could ultimately end up one of the top 10 players from this draft class.
The Nuggets have a balanced roster and can look to add a best player available. Jones’ skills would make him a nice contrast to Danilo Gallinari, since he is a better athlete with the ability to handle the ball and rebound.
White has top-10 talent in this class, but the concerns about his anxiety disorder will need to be addressed. He has the potential to play either forward position, giving the Celtics added versatility.
Nicholson is a late bloomer with a lot of upside despite being a senior. He came on late in the season, leading the Bonnies to a surprise NCAA bid. He would give the Celtics a young big man with offensive potential. The Celtics, with back-to-back picks, may be thinking long-term with a team that likely will be shaken up, if not dismantled.
Taylor showed steady improvement throughout his college career. His defensive ability is what teams are most intrigued with. Taylor would be a nice backup to Josh Smith, whose long-term future with the team always seems to be in question.
The Grizzlies could use a backup for Mike Conley and while Teague struggled as a floor general at times at UK, he came through when it mattered with a solid tourney showing. He’s got elite-level speed and athleticism for a PG, similar to his brother Jeff who’s finding success with the Atlanta Hawks.
The surprise team of the league this season, the Indiana Pacers, has been making some excellent moves in the draft over the past few years. Melo could be a yin to Roy Hibbert’s yang, offering defense and athleticism when Hibbert leaves the game.
Miller once was considered a top-five player in a very strong high-school class before tearing his ACL. He then looked like a shadow of his former self athletically as a freshman at Baylor. According to contacts, Miller has looked improved in workouts, showing mobility and quickness that was lacking during the season. While he plays the same position as LeBron James and Shane Battier, another wing with offensive ability would be a welcome addition for Miami.
Fournier might not be one of the top 30 prospects available in this year’s draft, but he’s got one key thing going for him: as an international player he can be stashed for a few seasons, and brought over when/if he can bring value to the team. Thunder GM Sam Presti knows all too well the value of stashing picks, having come up with the Spurs, the team that wrote the book on stashing players in Europe.
The Bulls have one of the league’s top sharpshooters in Kyle Korver. Imagine how difficult it would be for teams to account for both Korver and Jenkins, the nation’s top college shooter, playing alongside Derrick Rose on the perimeter.
The Warriors would love to see a big man like Ezeli available here at 30. They could use the toughness and blue-collar approach that Festus brings to the table. While not an upside pick, Ezeli is a big body with a solid understanding of his role.