2012 NBA Draft: Mocking the Draft

Mar 25, 2012; St. Louis, MO, USA; Kansas Jayhawks guard Tyshawn Taylor (10) shoots as North Carolina Tar Heels forward Harrison Barnes (40), forward Tyler Zeller (right) and forward John Henson (rear) defend during the second half of the finals of the midwest region of the 2012 NCAA men's basketball tournament at the Edward Jones Dome. Kansas won 80-67. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-US PRESSWIRE

Happy UniBrow day!

There are more mock drafts out on the innernets than can be processed by a single human brain (the #10 conclusions of a few of them here), and if there's one thing we can say for sure about them, it's that they'll all be wrong. And so it is this standard of error and futility that I attempt to match this morning in The Official At the Hive Mock Draft, my needless stab at how the draft will proceed based on the latest rumors.

Off we go.

The New Orleans Hornets Select Anthony Davis With the 1st Pick

Self-explanatory. The Hornets have already done a photoshoot with Davis in a #23 Hornets jersey, images of which will probably appear on www.hornets.com at approximately 6:01 PM CST.

The Charlotte Bobcats Select Thomas Robinson With the 2nd Pick

Ultimately, I don't see Charlotte moving the pick. Cleveland would be a prime contender to jump the Washington Wizards to draft shooting guard Bradley Beal, but the Bobcats have insisted on dumping the terrible contract of Tyrus Thomas on any team that wants to acquire the #2. That's a steep price to pay, especially when a player of comparable talent to Beal - Syracuse's Dion Waiters - is said to intrigue Cleveland at #4.

My personal second overall prospect for this draft would be Kentucky's Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, whose ability to contribute value without using possessions is outstanding. Unfortunately, he's a tougher player to "build a team around," whatever that phrase actually means, and Charlotte probably sees Robinson's scoring and rebounding ability as a great building block alongside Bismack Biyombo.

Trading the #2 for Cleveland's #4, #24, and possible 2nd rounder probably wouldn't be a terrible move for Charlotte either, given Washington's possible reticence to take Thomas Robinson at #3 with Nene, Emeka Okafor, and Jan Vesely already on the roster.

The Washington Wizards Select Bradley Beal With the 3rd Pick

I really don't think Beal will be the third best player to come out of this draft, but he's a great fit for Washington.

Trevor Ariza has excelled in the past alongside wings that can create for themselves and get to the rim (Jamal Crawford in New York, Hedo Turkoglu in Orlando, Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles) and John Wall (7% three point shooting a year ago) desperately needs someone that can space the floor alongside him. Beal checks both those boxes while also registering as a top prospect. Again, I'd easily rate Kidd-Gilchrist as the better prospect, but Beal makes a lot of sense for the Wizards.

The Cleveland Cavaliers Select Michael Kidd-Gilchrist with the 4th Pick

If Woj's report on Cleveland's interest in Dion Waiters is legitimate, the Cavs could realistically go three different directions here - Waiters, MKG, or Harrison Barnes.

MKG dominated Barnes in college and in high school, but scouts will much prefer Barnes' stroke to Kidd-Gilchrist's. The Waiters interest might simply be a smokescreen from Waiters' camp (keep in mind that he started the draft process in the 15-20 range just a few weeks ago before a mysterious promise, likely from Phoenix at #13, saw him cancel his combine activities/team workouts and rocket up draft boards).

Both MKG and Barnes have ties to Cleveland's Kyrie Irving; Barnes is reportedly one of his best friends while Kidd-Gilchrist was Irving's high school teammate. I'm picking MKG because I think he's the vastly better player, but logic doesn't always win out among NBA GMs obviously.

The Sacramento Kings Select Harrison Barnes with the 5th Pick

Barnes has resisted working out for Sacramento, though I can't envision him holding out (or anything close to it) if he lands with the Kings. It's a sold enough fit.

The real question at #5 involves the Houston Rockets. Sacramento rejected a Kyle Lowry + 16 offer for the 5 and Chuck Hayes yesterday, but Houston could tack on another draft pick (either 12 or 18) to that package and consummate the deal today. The Rockets have plenty of incentive to move into the top 10, obviously. It would aid their primary objective of flipping high draft picks and assets to the Orlando Magic for Dwight Howard, it could let them obtain UConn center Andre Drummond for themselves if Orlando's new GM Rob Hennigan refuses to budge, and it'd allow them to move on the disgruntled Kyle Lowry.

The Portland Trail Blazers Select Damian Lillard with the 6th Pick

Lillard to Portland momentum has picked up ridiculously over the last week, with the "Lillard had the best NBA workout since Kevin Durant" line trumpeted on a daily basis.

Portland probably needs a lead guard and a big man; if they take a big with their first pick (likely Andre Drummond), they leave themselves virtually no chance at the draft's top rated point guard, Lillard, with their second pick. On the flip side, if they lead with Lillard, they'd still have a shot at far safer, if a bit less talented big man options at #11.

The Golden State Warriors Select Dion Waiters with the 7th Pick

Here's the most sourced, comprehensive piece of reporting we have on Golden State's current thinking.

From the logic espoused in the above link, the majority of Golden State's basketball operations personnel would like to stay clear of Drummond. Specifically, consultant Jerry West has pushed Waiters, but Drummond remains a possible favorite of owner Joe Lacob. The Warriors would probably prefer Harrison Barnes dropping to #7, and failing that, they join Sacramento as a candidate to trade down with the Houston Rockets.

I'm guessing the "basketball people" win out, but who knows. I really wouldn't be that surprised if someone like Perry Jones III went at 7.

The Toronto Raptors Select Austin Rivers with the 8th Pick

Jeremy Lamb looked the favorite here for a quite a while, until the odd workout incident at the Raptors facilities. Since then, Lamb's stock has plummeted into the late lottery, and most projections have both Rivers and Waiters ranked above Lamb for the Raptors.

I'd guess that Toronto (which has a huge need at shooting guard and is reportedly in pursuit of Steve Nash this summer) drafts whichever one of Damian Lillard, Dion Waiters, or Austin Rivers falls to them. The Nash rumors seemingly indicate Bryan Colangelo's intention to build an Eastern "contender" as soon as possible, which should rule out Andre Drummond.

The Detroit Pistons Select Andre Drummond with the 9th Pick

Greg Monroe developed into one of the league's very best big men as a sophomore, and Detroit could have the option of pairing him with two very different front court partners next year - John Henson or Andre Drummond. (I'm guessing Jared Sullinger and his back are out of the lottery at this point).

Henson might be the pick, but Drummond is clearly the best player available; you could make a reasonable case that Drummond is the best prospect available for Charlotte at #2 overall.

If Houston hasn't traded up to snatch Drummond at either #5 or #7 either for themselves or for Orlando, I think Detroit seals the deal a pick before the (assetless and helpless to trade up) Hornets are on the clock for the second time.

The New Orleans Hornets Select Tyler Zeller with the 10th Pick

This is a boring, boring pick at first glance. But I genuinely think it would be the best one if the board looks like this.

Zeller was the NCAA's second best offensive rebounder last season and a top 20 defensive rebounder (top 10 if we're only considering major conferences). He shot 81% from the line, and visited the stripe and drew fouls very frequently. His 6.1 free throws made/40 minutes (pace adjusted) ranked fifth in all of college basketball and dwarfed the rate of a much heralded "creator" like Austin Rivers (4.1/40).

Zeller was also asked to create his own shot frequently. He ranked 3rd in NCAA in back to basket possessions used and managed to rank 4th in back to basket efficiency, a very promising combination. He shot over 50% from midrange, 50% on long twos, and has been widely cited as the second best transition big man in this class, ahead of even Anthony Davis. He's got great hands, and has both the bulk (250 pounds) and height (7 feet) to serve as a legitimate defensive center that can allow Anthony Davis to roam defensively and assume his former Kentucky role.

If Drummond is Anthony Davis' best defensive complement in this draft, Tyler Zeller is far and away Davis' best offensive complement. His post moves and ability around the hoop immediately remove pressure from Davis' post-game having to develop immediately. And so despite what my own draft big board from yesterday might indicate, I think I'd agree with the Hornets taking Zeller over:

- Jeremy Lamb, a solid scorer that will at best be Eric Gordon's backup
- John Henson, the bankrupt man's Anthony Davis that will at best be Anthony Davis' backup
- Meyers Leonard, a currently worse, higher upside version of Tyler Zeller who I don't think New Orleans has on their radar
- Jared Sullinger, who appears a non-lottery player, depressingly
- Kendall Marshall, who... hmm.

The Rest of the Draft

In a dream world, the Hornets then go about purchasing Memphis' 25th overall pick (reportedly for sale) to draft the Baylor small forward Quincy Miller, and moving to the top of the second round (by packaging their 46th pick and a future 2nd) to ensure that they get a top-4 value in this class (along with Davis, Miller, and Sullinger in my estimation) in Marquette's Jae Crowder.

Of course, none of that will actually happen, and the Hornets will draft, I don't know, Kris Joseph.

And so there you have it. Draft, consider yourself mocked.

Plenty more draft coverage to come today, so stick with us!

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