30 June 2012

2012 NBA Draft Grades

As expected, the first pick in last night's NBA Draft was Kentucky big man Anthony Davis, who the Hornets selected almost immediately when they were on the clock. Here are my grades for every first round selection.

1. New Orleans Hornets - Anthony Davis, PF/C, Kentucky
The Hornets certainly did not over-think the first selection as they made the obvious selection in taking Davis. New Orleans had a hole in their frontcourt, particularly at power forward, and Davis will have an opportunity to contribute right away. There is a reason why Davis has been compared to Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan thanks to his incredible defensive skills and his unselfishness as he will put the team first ahead of his own stats, like he did at Kentucky.
Grade: A


2. Charlotte Bobcats - Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, SF, Kentucky
I was one of the few early on that was mocking the New Jersey native to Charlotte before jumping on the Thomas Robinson bandwagon. And then, naturally, the Bobcats selected Kidd-Gilchrist. Charlotte was so desperate for talent that almost any pick would have been a good pick but I really think Kidd-Gilchrist is one of the safest players in this class. His defensive skills are great, he is really good at getting to the basket and he is a natural leader with great character. The Bobcats were also terrible on the wing last season so he also fills a need.
Grade: A-


3. Washington Wizards - Bradley Beal, SG, Florida
The Wizards were fearing that someone may move in front of them to take Beal but fortunately for them, they got their man. Many feel that Beal is one of the two players with star ceilings, the other being Davis. He was not as great as some hoped during his freshman year but the talent is clearly there. Washington needed shooting, which Beal is great at, as well as a shooting guard and considering Beal is also a solid defender and rebounder, it's a win all around.
Grade: A


4. Cleveland Cavaliers - Dion Waiters, SG, Syracuse
With the second straight year with the fourth selection, Cleveland reaches. But it reached for the right player right here in Waiters. Cleveland could have traded down to take Waiters but sometimes when you love a player, it doesn't matter where you take him. The Cavs had a real shortage of talent on the wings and their shooting guards certainly left something to be desired last season. Waiters compared to be a poor man's Dwayne Wade thanks to his tremendous ability to get to the hoop. He will fit well with Kyrie Irving also.
Grade: B+


5. Sacramento Kings - Thomas Robinson, PF, Kansas
In the recent weeks, seemingly everybody thought that Robinson was going two to Charlotte but he is a great value here with the fifth selection so the Kings got lucky. Robinson has all the tools that you want out of a quality power forward with great skills on the boards as well as a solid offensive game. He should fit very well with DeMarcus Cousins, who will make one exciting and feisty frontcourt in the California capital, even if they will be an undersized frontcourt.
Grade: A


6. Portland Trail Blazers - Damian Lillard, PG, Weber State
The Blazers really needed to come out of the draft with a point guard with one of their two first round selections and even as I'm not completely sold on Lillard as a top six selection, this pick does make sense as Lillard is the best point guard in this draft. Lillard impressed scouts in Chicago with his tremendous shooting ability and his range from way down town. Lillard will be able to score but I'm not sold on his distribution abilities.
Grade: B


7. Golden State Warriors - Harrison Barnes, SF, North Carolina
The Warriors were enamored with Waiters and really wanted him but they got lucky when Barnes fell to them at seven, as he helps fill their biggest need at small forward while also being the best player on the board. One thing the Warriors will always love is to score points and Barnes is the complete package on offense. The concerns are that nobody is really sure if Barnes can create his own shot and nobody can deny that Barnes was disappointing in Chapel Hill. Still a really good pick.
Grade: A-


8. Toronto Raptors - Terrence Ross, SG, Washington
Now I like Ross a lot as a prospect and I think he will be a solid pro. He does also fill a need as the Raptors wanted to add some more scoring on the wing, and Ross's athleticism, ability to get to the basket and outside shot helps fill that need. But Ross was also a clear reach with the eighth overall selection and he was more of a mid-first round selection. Jeremy Lamb would have been a better selection as he is a better prospect, in my opinion.
Grade: C+


9. Detroit Pistons - Andre Drummond, C, Connecticut
Everybody knew the risk with Drummond in that there are real questions about his desire and drive and he has real bust potential. He also, however, has tantalizing, star potential if he harnesses all the talent that he has. As this juncture of the draft, the reward is totally worth the risk, particularly for what the Pistons need which is a defensive enforcer for Greg Monroe so the latter can move to power forward. Drummond should have an immediate impact on defense and if he works on his offensive game, look out.
Grade: A-


10. New Orleans Hornets - Austin Rivers, G, Duke
Rivers came out a year too early and needs to get bigger and stronger. He also is not really a pure point guard. But one thing Rivers can absolutely do is score the basketball. His outside shot needs some more consistency but he is a guy that late in the game wants the ball in his hands. Rivers is great at getting to the basket as well plus, being the son of Doc Rivers, has a great basketball IQ. He should fit well with Monty Williams and if Eric Gordon stays in town, New Orleans' backcourt could average 40 points a game. And I like what Bill Simmons said in that Rivers is too confidant to be a bust.
Grade: B+


11. Portland Trail Blazers - Meyers Leonard, C, Illinois
I'm not a huge fan of Leonard at all. Yes he is 7'1" and very athletic for someone with his size, has some offensive skills and he is getting stronger to become a really intimidating defensive threat. But his play overall in Champaign was really inconsistent and his scoring and rebounding numbers were not what they should be for somebody with his size. It will take a couple years for him to be a real contributor, in my opinion, and I would have gone with Tyler Zeller.
Grade: C-


12. Houston Rockets - Jeremy Lamb, SG, Connecitcut
There are flaws in Lamb's game such as questions about whether he can create his own shot, whether he can play defense and he needs to get bigger. Also, why did he not take the next step in his sophomore season? That aside, his offensive skills are so good and his jumper is just a thing of art. This is a solid value selection as the team is expected to trade Kevin Martin and re-sign Courtney Lee.
Grade: B


13. Phoenix Suns - Kendall Marshall, PG, North Carolina
Let's just be honest, Steve Nash is leaving the Suns and nobody can blame him for doing so. The guy wants to win a title and that is not happening in the next few years in the desert. Hence, the selection of the best natural point guard in this draft makes a ton of sense. Marshall's shot is not great, neither is his defense, but his passing ability and his incredible court vision will make him an assists leader down the line. Adding his point skills to that offense is just scary.
Grade: A


14. Milwaukee Bucks - John Henson, PF, North Carolina
Henson was probably the best player on the board here but now he just adds to the logjam at the four for Milwaukee. They had been looking for a big man at center before trading for Samuel Dalembert but now they have Henson to compete with Epke Udoh, a very similar player, and Larry Sanders for playing time at the four. Henson is a terrific defender with game-changing shot blocking talents. But he is already very thin and he could get chewed out down low. His offensive game is also lacking.
Grade: C


15. Philadelphia 76ers - Moe Harkless, SF, St. John's
I am a big fan of Harkless' game. He has a really strong all-around skill set and he is good at scoring, really good at rebounding the rock plus he has plus athleticism. Doug Collins seems to love this kid but I really do not see where his minutes are gonna come from. The team may look to move Andre Igoudala and pick up a quality big man but Harkless will still have to compete for minutes with Thaddeus Young and Evan Turner. He will be a good player in the NBA, regardless.
Grade: B-


16. Houston Rockets - Royce White, F, Iowa State
Now don't get me wrong, I have been very intriguied by White throughout the draft process. Yes he has his anxiety disorder that can result in a fear of flying but White is a do-it-all point forward type that can score, pass and hit the boards really well. White has the skills to be a really good player in the league. But the Rockets did draft a tweener forward a year ago in Marcus Morris and have a real logjam at the four. You do have to wonder how many of their picks Rockets GM Daryl Morey may be looking to package for something else.
Grade: B-


17. Cleveland Cavaliers (from Dallas) - Tyler Zeller, C, North Carolina
The Cavaliers had a bunch of needs throughout their roster and could have still found a decent big man and utilize the picks they traded for this pick to get more depth but all in all, it was a wise move to move up for Zeller, who gives Cleveland the true center they have lacked since Shaq's corpse was in town. Zeller needs to get stronger and play more physically but he is a really solid offensive big man that is athletic, passes really well and has a soft touch.
Grade: B+


18. Houston Rockets - Terrence Jones, F, Kentucky
Morey is a smart guy and unless he was planning to move one or more of these selections, he would not be taking two consecutive forward tweeners when he has a glut already at the position in Houston. But alas, Jones is an intriguing prospect because of his solid skill set and a good inside/outside game. He does also have a tendency to play selfishly at times and there were several times this season where he just disappeared. The talent is there but does he want it?
Grade: C+


19. Orlando Magic - Andrew Nicholson, PF/C, St. Bonaventure
The Magic do have two power forwards in place in Ryan Anderson and Glen Davis but this pick makes sense if they think they may lose Anderson, who is a restricted free agent, or think if Nicholson could be an undersized center at the next level. That said, I really like this big Canadian and the love started in the A-10 Tournament, when he carried the Bonnies to the NCAA Tournament, then almost led them to an upset of Florida State in the second round. He has a good inside/outside game and can score pretty well.
Grade: B+


20. Denver Nuggets - Evan Fournier, SG, France
I'm not a huge fan of this pick as while I have heard some positive buzz surrounding this French teenager and I think he could contribute in the league down the line, this was early for him. But Denver does have a relatively deep roster so they can afford to stash Fournier overseas while he seasons his game. He has a solid offensive game with a solid shot and the abilities to be a good slasher. I would have gone with a small forward here but since Denver ended up stealing Quincy Miller at 38, it's passable here.
Grade: C


21. Boston Celtics - Jared Sullinger, PF/C, Ohio State
Sullinger could have been a top ten pick before being red flagged at the draft combine with medical concerns about his back really hurt his stock. His camp says he has tight hamstrings and back problems could be avoided with quality agility work on Sullinger's part. For a team like the Celtics, who desperatly need depth in their frontcourt and may lose Kevin Garnett in free agency, the reward far outweighs the risk for one of my favorite players in the draft. There is a reason that he may have been the top pick in the last year's draft at one point.
Grade: A


22. Boston Celtics - Fab Melo, C, Syracuse
Another really good pick for Danny Ainge and the Celtics brass. Melo had a very good sophomore season where he really improved his game. However, you can see a lot of DeSagana Diop in him, considering that Melo has a ways to go in his offensive game to make it even passable. But for the Celtics, who will need him to be an imposing shot blocker and rim protector, even if Melo never develops any sort of offensive game the pick makes a lot of sense.
Grade: A-


23. Atlanta Hawks - John Jenkins, SG, Vanderbilt
The Hawks only have six players under contract for next season plus considering the fact that they needed to upgrade their bench out on the wing considering Tracy McGrady was still getting solid minutes for them so taking a very talented shooter for their bench makes a ton of sense. Jenkins is considered by some to have the best shot in the draft and he was a masterful three-point shooter with the Commodores, something any club needs.
Grade: A-


24. Dallas Mavericks (from Cleveland) - Jared Cunningham, SG, Marquette
I am really not much of a fun at all of this pick. Yes the Mavericks had a need for a shooting guard but Will Barton or Doron Lamb would have been much better selections than Cunningham. Also, I didn't think at all that Cunningham was a first round prospect. He is solid at getting to the basket and is athletic but his shot really needs a lot of work. Maybe Cunningham will be able to handle the ball a little bit which could enhance his value but I'm not feeling this pick.
Grade: D+


25. Memphis Grizzlies - Tony Wroten, PG, Washington
Contrary to the prior pick, this selection is a really good one and it makes a whole lot of sense. The Grizzlies were looking to find something, anything better than what they currently have behind Mike Conley and Wroten is really good value here. Wroten is very raw, imagine Rajon Rondo in his rookie season (kudos Chris Ford), can make poor decisions at times and has no jumper whatsoever but he has a ton of talent, is a big point guard and his pressure defense is very impressive.
Grade: A


26. Indiana Pacers - Miles Plumlee, C, Duke
I do not get the rise in Plumlee's stock of late which pushed him into the first round and I do not get this selection here by Indiana. Plumlee is not good. Yes he is an athletic seven-footer but he did not contribute much at Duke. Maybe there is a reason that Coach K focused on his talented guards rather than the Plumlee twins down low. If Mike Krzyzewski thought he had something great in Plumlee, he would have utilized him more. I understand that Indiana has a need at center behind Roy Hibbert but Festus Ezeli was still on the board.
Grade: D


27. Philadelphia 76ers (from Miami) - Arnett Moultrie, PF, Mississippi State
The 76ers moved back into the first round to take a guy that fills a big need down low, as the 76ers really needed more big men as Spencer Hawes is a free agent and Elton Brand has not much left, plus someone they were thought to possibly select with their first selection at 15. They get great value in adding a raw but athletic and long big man that was a consistent double-double threat in Starkville. Doug Collins will love how Moultrie gets at the boards, particularly on offense.
Grade: A


28. Oklahoma City Thunder - Perry Jones, III, PF, Baylor
Was Jones' fall this draft stunning? The fact that he fell, no, but yes to how far he fell, to the point that he almost became a second round pick. Jones was disappointing at Baylor, had so much potential but could not seem to harness it, leading to obvious questions about his character and toughness. Some potential medical concerns surrounding one of his knees did not help matters. But for the Thunder, who came close to winning the title and really do not have many needs at all, the reward really outweighs the risk. And if Jones pans out, the Thunder could have insurance for a Serge Ibaka departure.
Grade: A


29. Chicago Bulls - Marquis Teague, PG, Kentucky
Chances are that Derrick Rose will never be the same dynamic player that he was before tearing his ACL in game 1 of the opening round of the 2012 NBA Playoffs and there is a chance he does not play at all next season. The Bulls thus could have used some more insurance at the point as Earl Watson and John Lucas can get you so far and Teague is talented enough to be a good point guard at the next level. Teague's strengths are in putting the ball in the basket, like Rose, but he needs to work on his defense, which Tom Thibodeau is more than qualified to do.
Grade: A


30. Golden State Warriors - Festus Ezeli, C, Vanderbilt
This fourth year senior (yes, they still exist) has an okay post game that could use some work but his defense is what will provide the Warriors the value they want as the new Kwame Brown, a big body to block shots down low without the hilarity of being Kwame Brown. Ezeli is a very good defender in the paint but one area he really needs to work on is rebounding. Ezeli is not as raw as most African big men after working on his game over the four years in Nashville so he should have a higher ceiling than most four year seniors because he has only played the game since he was in his mid-teens.
Grade: B+

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