Friday, June 29, 2012

NBA Draft: Lottery Recap

For whatever reason, I've decided to record my thoughts on many of the picks from Thursday night's draft. Let's get right to it.

1. New Orleans -- Anthony Davis, C, Kentucky
The only thing keeping this guy from being can't miss if the fact that he doesn't yet have a polished low post game. Consider, though, that he was like 6'3" until his junior year in high school, so he's not exactly used to playing in the post. His skills as a guard were good enough to garner interest from at least one Division I school (Cleveland State) before his growth spurt, and his ball skills should help his back-to-basket game. And since he was known as a shooter when he was playing in the backcourt, he has uncommon range for a guy at his position. Once that post game develops, he'll have the total package. Defensively, his shotblocking instincts are unbelievable, particularly given his relative inexperience at the craft. He'll need to put on a bunch of muscle to bang with the Dwight Howards and Andrew Bynums of the league, but remember that his body is basically two or three years old. There's plenty of reason to believe he can add weight to that lanky frame.

2. Charlotte -- Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, SF, Kentucky
I, like many, am a little surprised that the Bobcats couldn't work a trade. Cleveland was widely-thought to be coveting Bradley Beal, who seemed sure to go to Washington at 3, and so the Cavs were trying to move up from 4 to get him. The offer must have been fairly blah, though, because Charlotte didn't pull the trigger despite the fact that there was at least some change that MKG would be available at 4 and the consolation prize, Thomas Robinson, is no slouch himself. Still, Kidd-Gilchrist is the right pick, the guy I'd definitely take at #2 if I were running an NBA team.

3. Washington -- Bradley Beal, SG, Florida
Beal is something of an enigma for me. People keep mentioning his shot at a big plus, but he only made 34% from beyond the arc in his one college season, and of all the highlights ESPN showed of him immediately after his pick, only one was a jump shot. For me, I wasn't too impressed with Beal during the regular season at Florida -- which is probably due to the fact the he was playing alonside and behind Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton, a couple of shoot-first veterans whose games I really don't like. I do remember being impressed with him during the SEC and NCAA tournaments, and was a little surprised at that his postseason numbers weren't better (not that they're bad, I just expected more). But I remember him more as an off-the-dribble guy than a shooter. I'm probably wrong, since everyone thinks this guy can shoot, but I'll just say that before I read pre-draft stuff, my picture of Beal was not as a shooter. I think he's a good player, though, who does good thing with the ball in his hands in big moments.

4. Cleveland -- Dion Waiters, G/F, Syracuse
Kidd-Gilchrist was a bit of a surprise at #2, but he was at least arguably the second-best player in the draft. Waiters rising all the way up to 4, then, was the first really huge surprise of the draft. Most would have taken Robinson here, and it appears that the Cavs didn't because they felt he'd be duplicative of last year's lotto pick, Tristan Thompson. Waiters is self-confident almost to a fault, can get to the basket and finish, has decent range, and seems to love taking big shots. For these reasons -- and perhaps because he didn't start a game in his college career, though he finished plenty -- he reminds a bit of Oklahoma City sixth man James Harden.

5. Sacramento -- Thomas Robinson, PF, Kansas
Robinson is a big-time rebounder and a terrific athlete, with range out to, I don't know, the foul line, anyway, and maybe a few feet beyond. Robinson is a great pairing with DeMarcus Cousins, and likely means the Kings won't have to overpay to bring Jason Thompson back.

6. Portland -- Damien Lillard, PG, Weber State
Because Lillard played in relative obscurity in college, I never saw him play, and so my opinion is limited to what I've read, which is basically that Lillard is a shoot-first point guard who can really score. The Blazers, decimated by injuries in recent years, have holes all over the roster (it's basically LaMarcus Aldridge, Wes Mathews, and a lot of question marks), so their strategy had to be to just take the best player they could. I'd be a little nervous about choosing a small-college player in this spot, but I know a lot of people like Lillard and so I'm not going to argue with the pick.

7. Golden State -- Harrison Barnes, SF, North Carolina

I'm not really sure what the Warriors plan to do with all of these small forwards, but Barnes certainly fits in with what they've been trying to do there for years. Barnes is a tremendous offensive talent who didn't quite live up to his potential in college, and he was particularly disappointing when asked to shoulder a greater load after Kendall Marshall broke his wrist in the this past NCAA Tournament. This is a tricky part of the draft for me because I'm not crazy about any of the remaining possibilities, and so I can't argue with this pick. At some point, though, they need to start getting some guys who play different positions.

8. Toronto -- Terrence Ross, G/F, Washington
A lot of the pundits consider this a bit of a reach. Toronto got a bit unlucky with the way things played out. Their biggest need is on the wing, and with Waiters going early and Barnes getting snatched up right before their pick, they were out of the best options. Andre Drummond was the highest-ranked guy left on a lot of draft boards (I don't like him, but more on that in a moment), but Drummond made absolutely no sense for an organization that appears committed to Andrea Bargnani and who is already bringing in Jonas Valunciunas into its post mix next year. Under this scenario, there's no way to develop two raw big men at once without stunting the growth of at least one of them. So they went with Ross, a good wing defender, something they've been sorely lacking. Ross' offense is limited to spotting up, mostly, but that's not a bad thing in Toronto -- and it'll be even more valuable if they land Steve Nash in free agency.

9. Detroit -- Andre Drummond, C, Connecticut
Everybody's mouths seem to be watering over this guy, because of his frame and jaw-dropping athleticism. My expectations are tempered considerably, because all he seems to be is a great athlete with little basketball-specific ability or intelligence. Sure, it's possible that after a lifetime of playing basketball, he'll suddenly learn a post move or how to shoot a little jumper, but I wouldn't want to gamble much on it. On the other hand, if he does pan out, he's a nice complement to Greg Monroe's more finesse-based game.

10. New Orleans -- Austin Rivers, G, Duke
Rivers is one of the most polarizing players in the draft. Like man, I like his willingness to take big shots, his confidence, and his handle -- he's got the best crossover I can remember seeing from a kid his age in quite some time -- maybe since Marbury. Like many, I don't like that he's not a great shooter and that he doesn't get his teammates involved. Like many, I don't think he's a point guard and wonder how he'll fare alongside Eric Gordon; it seems to me like there's the potential for a Monta Ellis/Steph Curry dynamic there. Still, something tells me he's going to be a decent NBA player, and that something is the fact that his dad is Celtics coach Doc Rivers. Doc is level-headed and knows the NBA better than any parent out there, and he makes plenty of money. There's absolutely no reason for Rivers to leave school early unless they think he's ready. So I'm giving the family -- and the Hornets -- the benefit of the doubt.

11. Portland -- Meyers Leonard, C, Illinois
I only saw Leonard a little bit, but he seems to be an athlete with attitude problems who plays too far away from the basket for a center of his size. His jumper has a bit of a fade to it, and not the graceful fade that Blake Griffin has, but the alarming, violent fade of Luke Harangody, who appears to jump backwards when he takes a shot. Portland needs a center, and a guy like John Henson doesn't fit as well with Aldridge because of his size. But Leonard is a project.

12. Houston -- Jeremy Lamb, SF, Connecticut
Lamb's big question mark is his attitude; he was passive in college and he just doesn't seem to care very much. He's very talented, a good shooter with the handle to create his own midrange jumper or get to the rim, but none of that matters if he isn't willing to assert himself and actually get those shots. He looked much better as a freshman, when it was Kemba Walker's show to run, than he did as a sophomore, when he was asked to play a bigger role. Defensively, he's got the length to cause some problems on the perimeter, but again, he has to engage himself. He could be a steal, but there isn't a lot of precedent for guys to suddenly start caring once they reach the NBA, and so he could just as easily be a bust.

13. Phoenix -- Kendall Marshall, PG, North Carolina
The Suns, it seems, are expecting Steve Nash to leave in free agency, and they're hoping Marshall can be their next point guard. I'm torn on Marshall: I love him as a college player, and his passing -- particularly his ability to pass ahead for early offenise, fits in with what Phoenix likes to do. But he's not a great shooter and he's not quick, which causes problems on both ends of the floor. Phoenix needed/wanted a point, though, and it was probably too early to take Tony Wroten (another big PG who can't shoot, but who is quick, at least). In other words, I'm not sure what Phoenix should have done, and I'm not sure whether Marshall's leadership qualities will make up for his physical deficiencies.
14. Milwaukee -- John Henson, C, North Carolina
Henson is a great shotblocker who early in the year showed me more offensive game than I remember him having in previous seasons. The numbers say he didn't keep it up, though, and his lack of strength could be a problem. I like Henson, but with Larry Sanders and Ekpe Udoh on the roster, I'm not entirely sure where he fits.

That's the end of the lottery. I'm going to try to tackle the rest of the first round and the second in separate posts, but no promises.

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