Anthony Davis has solidified himself as the top player in this year’s draft. No matter who wins the lottery, it looks as though they’ll be picking Davis based on his intriguing length (7-4 wingspan) and incredible timing on blocks. He leads the nation with 4.9 blocks/game, and is very efficient on the offensive end, averaging 14 points while shooting 65% from the floor. I’ve heard announcers claim he has the best hands in the nation, which helps him get his 10 rebounds/game. I’ve been hesitant to jump on the Anthony Davis bandwagon because of his wiry frame but his continuous improvement as a freshman plus Kevin Durant’s success (some believed he was too skinny) leads me to believe Davis’s unique skill set will translate very well into the NBA, making him the top prospect in a loaded draft.
#2 Hornets – Andre Drummond 6-11 C Connecticut Fr.
Drummond is the most intriguing prospect in this year’s draft. He probably has more upside than anyone, but he’s definitely the least productive player in the entire lottery. He decided to enroll at UConn right before the season instead of going to prep school, so his slow start is justified because he hasn’t had much preparation for the college level. One thing that could scare off GM’s is that while Drummond has had some highlight reel dunks and 20 point games, he still often disappears and hasn’t shown much improvement over the course of the year. Still, he’s a freak athlete and potentially the best big man prospect since Dwight Howard. It would probably benefit him to stay in college for another year until he’s NBA ready, but if he leaves he’ll very likely be a top 5 pick. “We’ll draft him high based on what he could become,” one NBA scout said. “I think a lot of us learned our lesson on DeAndre Jordan that way. But he’s so far from being ready.” The Hornets will almost certainly lose Chris Kaman via trade or free agency, so they’ll likely be looking for a long-term answer at center.
#3 Wizards – Michael Kidd-Gilchrist 6-7 SF Kentucky Fr.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has seen his stock rise more than any other player over the past month. He is now in contention with Harrison Barnes for the top wing in the draft. While his scoring and 3-point shooting numbers don’t jump out at you, he does all the little things that coaches (and NBA GM’s) love. He has great size, a high motor, is an in-your-face defender and an excellent rebounder (7.7/game). While there is a good chance the Wizards draft Barnes or Thomas Robinson with this pick, it will be tough to pass up on a guy who has been rapidly improving and brings the kind of tenacity that the Wizards have been lacking all year.
The Nets will be in a great position with the fourth pick because they’ll still have at least 2 players available who are potential top 2 or 3 picks. They desperately need another scorer to compliment Deron Williams, (if he stays with the organization) and Harrison Barnes is the most polished player in this draft class. He’s got the size at 6-8 and has a smooth shooting stroke that’ll hit from anywhere on the court. He’s a hard worker with a good head on his shoulders so NBA scouts know he’ll be a productive NBA player with a mold similar to Danny Granger. Although he’s also a good defender, he’s been labeled as one-dimensional which is why I think he might slip behind Kidd-Gilchrist. He’s on a loaded North Carolina team that might not need him to do anything but score, but you could say the same thing about Kidd-Gilchrist at Kentucky. I think Harrison Barnes is the most sure thing in this year’s draft, so the Nets will be lucky if he drops to them at number 4.
#5 Pistons – Thomas Robinson 6-9 PF Kansas Jr.
Thomas Robinson spent his first two years at Kansas backing up the Morris twins. In his limited minutes, everyone could see he was a great rebounder and had NBA athleticism, but his offense was a question mark. He answered those questions this year while averaging 18 points and 12 rebounds and making himself a frontrunner for National POY. Robinson would be a perfect fit for the Pistons. While his height is still somewhat of a question mark (he’s anywhere between 6-7 and 6-9) his nasty streak on the boards reminds me a lot of a young Ben Wallace………. who can score. Pistons fans (or should I say ex-Pistons fans) would love if Dumars could bring back the defense and toughness from a few years ago. Perry Jones would be another option here, but the production of Thomas Robinson this year makes him the perfect compliment to Greg Monroe in the post in Detroit for many years to come.
#6 Toronto Raptors – Perry Jones 6-11 PF Baylor So.
If the draft was based on potential, Andre Drummond and Perry Jones would be the first two picks in the draft. But it’s not, so the Raptors won’t be too upset when Jones falls to them at number 6. Jones has a ridiculous combination of size, athleticism, and a smooth game. What is turning scouts away is that he refuses to assert himself on the basketball court. He’s been compared to both Tracy McGrady and Kevin Garnett and I think both comparisons are justified given his skill set. With that being said, the preseason Big 12 POY is only averaging 13 points/game, the same as last year. He’s also only grabbing 7 boards/game which is a little low in my opinion for someone who stands at 6-11 with a 40” vertical. The Raptors lack a crucial thing called “talent” and Perry Jones has the potential to put it all together and eventually become an NBA All-Star.
Jared Sullinger is one of, if not the best big man in the country thanks to his high basketball IQ, his wide body, and his skills in the post. He is a bit undersized at 6-9 but is still strong enough to bang in the NBA. His durability is also a question since he’s had a few nagging injuries during his sophomore campaign. Sullinger reminds me of Kevin Love because he’s smart, a strong rebounder, not very athletic and also has a nice shooting touch on the perimeter. The Kings would have about 800 lbs. in the paint if they paired Sullinger with DeMarcus Cousins down low and I think it would create matchup problems with a lot of teams.
Bradley Beal is a dead-eye shooter who came to Florida with a rep as the next Eric Gordon. I’ve also heard many Ray Allen comparisons. The Cavs would be happy if he falls anywhere in between these two players when it’s all said and done. The Cavs lack talent, and they will be drafting in the lottery for the next few years to try to add compliments to last year’s #1 pick, Kyrie Irving. Beal is averaging 14.4 points/game while playing in a loaded backcourt at Florida. At 6-5, some would say he’s a little undersized but he’s still managing to average 6.2 rebounds/game.
#9 Utah Jazz – Jeremy Lamb 6-5 SG Connecticut So.
Jeremy Lamb came on strong during UConn’s tournament run last year, which helped him earn preseason All-American honors. There’s no question he can put the ball in the basket (17 ppg). It’s reasonable to question his leadership, being the best player on an underachieving Connecticut team that might barely make the NCAA tournament. I’ve heard that he doesn’t say a word at practice and you can never build a team around this type of player. With that being said, Lamb is an elite talent in the Rudy Gay mold, he just needs to add muscle. The Jazz could definitely use a scoring shooting guard, and if the Cavs pick Beal at number 8, then the Jazz would have no choice but to jump on Lamb.
#10 Milwaukee Bucks – John Henson 6-10 PF North Carolina Jr.
John Henson is a super athletic, lengthy forward with a wiry frame and a developing offensive game. His offensive game is improved, however, as he is averaging 14 points/game this season. He’s one of those players who needs to add A LOT of muscle, which usually never happens. He is still a talented shot blocker (3.2/game), good rebounder (10.3/game) and has an improving jumpshot, so the Bucks will look for him to be a compliment down low to Andrew Bogut.
#11 Phoenix Suns – Meyers Leonard 7-0 C Illinois So.
Meyers Leonard and Cody Zeller are two Big 10 centers ranked 11 and 10 on Chad Ford’s Top 100, respectively. I’m giving Leonard the edge because he has extra size and athleticism. He may still be raw, but he’s a hard worker who does a good job of getting position in the post. The Suns already have a solid center in Marcin Gortat, so they could give Leonard a year or so to develop his game before he needs to become a full-time starter.
#12 New Orleans Hornets – Quincy Miller 6-9 PF Baylor Fr.
Quincy Miller is a very versatile athletic forward who can play either the 3 or the 4. He’s got a nice stroke from 3 (43%) and can attack the rim. He’s also a very good shot blocker for Baylor. He’s been inconsistent as a freshman, which is understandable, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he pulled a Perry Jones and came back for his sophomore year to hopefully raise his draft stock. If he does go, he’ll be a lottery pick that the Hornets would love to have to team up with Andre Drummond and Eric Gordon.
Cody Zeller burst onto the scene this year and has helped bring Indiana back to national relevance. He’s skilled in the post and runs the floor well. He definitely needs to add strength but there’s no question that in 3 years he’ll be further along than his brother, Tyler, who is also considered a first round pick. The Rockets lack size inside (Hasheem Thabeet is a bust) so they’ll likely look to add Zeller because of his high basketball IQ and potential. Another year in college to get bigger would benefit Zeller, but the chance at being a lottery pick might be too tempting to pass up.
#14 Memphis Grizzlies – Tyler Zeller 7-0 C North Carolina Sr.
Tyler Zeller has been very productive the past two seasons while starting for the talented UNC teams. He’s averaging 16 points and 9.6 rebounds this year. He has legit size, runs the floor well, and has a soft touch which has earned him the comparisons as a poor man’s Pau Gasol. The fact that he’s a senior definitely hurts his stock a bit but I think he’s the best big man on the board at this point. The Grizzlies could look to draft a shooting guard if they move Mayo at some point, but I think adding depth in the post behind Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph would be their best option.
#15 Minnesota Timberwolves – Terrance Ross 6-6 SG Washington So.
Terrance Ross is an excellent shooter with impressive range. He’s tall and athletic but still a little too skinny to be an NBA starter. He’s averaging 15 points/game this year and has definitely shown improvement since he arrived on campus last year. If the Grizzlies don’t want another shooter and pass on Ross, then the Timberwolves would jump on him since they lack a true shooting guard.
#16 Portland Trailblazers – Terrance Jones 6-8 PF Kentucky So.
Terrance Jones exploded onto the scene his freshman year with impressive performances in the Maui Invitational. Since then, he’s cooled off a little and hasn’t really shown the improvement from freshman to sophomore year that scouts were hoping for. He’s still the leader on the best team in college basketball. He’s definitely a “tweener”, but that also means he’s versatile and the Blazers have had success with these types of players (Gerald Wallace, Nicolas Batun, Jamal Crawford). He reminds me a lot of Atlanta’s Marvin Williams. He’s a good rebounder, can handle the ball and shoot the 3, he just tends to disappear in games which is why he’s falling out of the lottery.
There has never once been an NBA player coached by his father. Doc Rivers and the Celtics might have no choice but to draft Rivers with the 17th pick if he’s still on the board. Rivers had more expectations going into this season than any other freshman and for the most part he’s lived up to it. He doesn’t have elite athleticism for an NBA guard and he’s definitely undersized. He also needs to improve his basketball IQ, which is surprising considering his lineage. Even so, the guy can put the ball in the basket in many different ways. He’s a dead-eye shooter, has an amazing floater and is an excellent ball-handler. His impressive performance and game-winning 3 against North Carolina might have put all the haters to rest. I’d be surprised if the Celtics passed on Rivers with this pick because they could definitely use a young scorer, since Ray Allen and Paul Pierce are nearing the end of their careers in Boston.
#18 Los Angeles Lakers – Tony Wroten Jr. 6-5 PG Washington Fr.
One NBA GM called Tony Wroten Jr. “The second coming of Gary Payton.” If this is the case, I have him at about 15 picks lower than he should be. Wroten is a big, powerful point guard who can get to the basket at will. He also has excellent court vision, so scouts view him as the top point guard prospect in the class. He definitely needs to work on his jumpshot, but the Lakers are in desperate need of another scorer in their backcourt. Last year, the Lakers might have gotten a steal by drafting Darius Morris in the second round, but Wroten is definitely an upgrade and I could see Morris being trade bait at the trade deadline this season.
#19 Denver Nuggets – Patrick Young PF/C 6-9 Florida So.
Patrick Young is a beast. He’s only 6-9 so he might not be tall enough to play center in this league, but he’s got the athleticism, the motor, and the body. He’s still raw offensively, but he’s definitely improved in the past year. He’s a great post defender and would be a good replacement for Kenyon Martin, whom the Nuggets lost in free agency this past year. Denver could also look to add a point guard if Andre Miller leaves for free agency, but they’ll probably draft the best available in Patrick Young.
Arnett Moultrie has the size and athleticism to be a force in the NBA. His stock has skyrocketed this past year, and the Nets will be very fortunate if he falls this low in the first round. He’s averaging a double-double with 17 points and 11 boards and is an All-America candidate. Already having drafted Harrison Barnes, the Nets would love to find a quality big man at this spot in the first round and Moultrie fits the bill.
#21 Orlando Magic – Marquis Teague PG 6-2 Kentucky Fr.
Marquis Teague has been an NBA target as soon as he signed with Kentucky. The brother of successful NBA player Jeff Teague followed in the footsteps of former Calipari point guards Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans, John Wall, and Brandon Knight. Teague might not be as elite as those 4, but he’s pretty damn good. I think he’ll get picked ahead of Kabongo because he’s an inch taller and he’s a proven winner playing for the best team in the nation. He has an electrifying first step, pushes the ball, has solid court vision, and is great at attacking the basket. He could definitely replace Jameer Nelson in the future as the Magic point guard, he just needs to continue to work on his outside shot.
#22 Los Angeles Lakers – Doron Lamb SG 6-4 Kentucky So.
I’ve watched a lot of Kentucky this year and Lamb is probably my favorite player to watch. He’s smooth on the court with a lights-out jumper. Lamb is undersized at 6-4, but he has a long wingspan that makes up for his lack of height. Drafting Doran Lamb would ensure the Lakers no longer have to put Jason Kapono on the floor, bringing them back to the NBA elite.
#23 Indiana Pacers – Tony Mitchell SF 6-8 North Texas Fr.
Tony Mitchell might be the biggest steal in this year’s draft. He plays for North Texas because he was ruled ineligible at Missouri, where he originally signed. As a freshman, Mitchell is tearing up the Sun Belt conference. He’s got an excellent motor and loves to get out in the open court. He’s very versatile as he can guard multiple positions. The Pacers would see Tony Mitchell as either an immediate or long-term replacement for Danny Granger.
Kabongo is a lightning fast point guard who apparently has very few weaknesses. While Chad Ford thinks Kabongo makes very few mistakes, he is averaging over 3 turnovers/game which is way too much for a reliable starting point guard. He’s surrounded by a weak supporting class at Texas, but given his high expectations I thought he would be having a better year. Still, it’s a weak class for point guards and Kabongo has a lot of potential. He’s undersized, but would be a good fit for the Hawks if Jeff’s brother, Marquis, isn’t available.
#25 Philadelphia 76ers – Mason Plumlee 6-10 PF Duke Jr.
Chad Ford has Plumlee ranked #20 on his Big Board, but I’m not so high on him. I think he’s a product of Duke’s system and all he has to do is rebound and get open dunks. With that being said, the 76ers could use a big man to replace Elton Brand, and Plumlee is the most complete and proven of all available. I don’t think he has a high ceiling, but he is athletic for a white guy and reminds me a lot of Josh McRoberts.
#26 San Antonio Spurs – Damian Lillard 6-2 PG Weber State Jr.
Damian Lillard is the nation’s leading scorer. He’s an excellent penetrator and also has deep range on his shot. He needs to improve his floor vision to be a point guard in the NBA, but the Spurs would love a scoring point guard to take over when Tony Parker is no longer on the team.
#27 Boston Celtics – Fab Melo 7-0 C Syracuse So.
Aside from having the coolest name in the draft, Fab Melo might also have the most size of anybody in the first round. At 7-0, 275 Melo is a beast down low on the defensive end. His impact on the game was noticed when Syracuse lost their only game of the season during his suspension. He’s improving offensively, going from 2 to 8 points/game from freshman to sophomore year. It might not hurt to stay in school another year, but if he leaves he’ll likely be grabbed in the first round by the Celtics who probably still lose sleep over the Jeff Green trade that sent their starting center, Kendrick Perkins, to OKC.
#28 Miami Heat – Will Barton 6-5 SG Memphis So.
While the Heat continue to look for the perfect pieces to compliment the Big Two, they could definitely use somebody who can come in off the bench and score. Barton is averaging 18 points/game in a sophomore season at Memphis, and has the speed and quickness to fit in perfectly on Miami’s fast break.
#29 Oklahoma City Thunder – Kendall Marshall 6-4 PG North Carolina So.
Kendall Marshall is one of, if not the best passer in college basketball. He has excellent court vision and is always looking to get it up the floor. He’s also the tallest point guard in the class aside from Tony Wroten Jr. One knock on Marshall is that he’s not a great athlete, but his high basketball IQ is enough to get him drafted in the first round. The Thunder don’t have many weaknesses, but another point guard to challenge Eric Maynard could really benefit the team.
I’ve been high on Buford these last few years. He could have been drafted last year or even the year before that, but he likely would have fallen to the second round so he decided to stay in school. He’s a sweet shooter who’s been scoring in double digits all 4 years at Ohio State. I see him shoot over a lot of defenders so I was surprised to see him listed at 6-5. The Bulls don’t really have any holes they need to fill, so they could draft a European and stash him overseas for a few years. I think Buford is a proven prospect that is too good to pass up, and the Bulls could use some backcourt depth.