Shown here last year with Kyrie Irving, NBA commissioner David Stern will have honor of announcing Kentucky's Anthony Davis as first pick in tomorrow's NBA Draft. (Photo courtesy of Reuters)
For the third consecutive year, I will once again attempt to make it look like I know something about the NBA.
That's right, it's draft time once again; and one thing is certain prior to tomorrow night's selection show at Newark's Prudential Center, that being that Kentucky forward Anthony Davis will be selected first overall by the New Orleans Hornets. What happens from there is anyone else's guess, but I will give it a shot for the fifty-nine picks that follow. Please be advised that the draft order that I am using is current as of the time I write this, and that there can (and probably will) be several other deals before David Stern takes the stage to his usual resounding chorus of boos.
1) New Orleans Hornets: Anthony Davis (F - Kentucky) - The closest thing to a sure thing after his dominating freshman season at Kentucky, Davis becomes the biggest attraction in the Big Easy and sets the tone for what will be yet another record-breaking night for Wildcats coach John Calipari. Davis also becomes the second Kentucky product in the last three years (John Wall in 2010 being the other) to go in the top spot.
2) Charlotte Bobcats: Thomas Robinson (F - Kansas) - Rumor has it that the Bobcats will be shopping this pick and that Cleveland is strongly considering taking the offer, but Mike Dunlap will get his power forward of the future if Charlotte stays where they are. Robinson will join Bismack Biyombo to create a formidable front line of the future to protect Kemba Walker, D.J. Augustin and newly acquired Ben Gordon.
3) Washington Wizards: Bradley Beal (G - Florida) - The precocious Beal will celebrate his 19th birthday tomorrow night by heading to the nation's capital as the backcourt companion for the aforementioned John Wall. Already compared to the great Ray Allen, Beal has had scouts salivating over his mounds of potential since he first took the court in Gainesville.
4) Cleveland Cavaliers: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (F - Kentucky) - Kidd-Gilchrist could also go in the No. 2 spot regardless of who ends up making that selection, but Charlotte is rumored to be very high on Robinson at the present moment, which gives the Cavaliers a small forward to replace reigning NBA champion LeBron James. A potential X-factor in this selection is that Kidd-Gilchrist played with 2011 No. 1 pick Kyrie Irving in high school when the two starred at St. Patrick's in New Jersey.
5) Sacramento Kings: Harrison Barnes (F - North Carolina) - After two years in which Barnes came very close to exceeding the sky-high expectations that were set for him before he even arrived in Chapel Hill, Barnes enters the next phase of his career. Projected to be a better pro than college player, Barnes will join Tyreke Evans and Jimmer Fredette in Sacramento to give the Kings a young core to build around wherever the team ends up.
6) Portland Trail Blazers: Damian Lillard (G - Weber State) - The Blazers are notorious for shaking things up on draft night, and this will be no exception. Lillard is a guard unlike most others, and led the nation in scoring as a point guard. The Big Sky superstar will need to become more of a passer to succeed at the professional level, but should get immediate opportunities to prove what he is capable of.
7) Golden State Warriors: Dion Waiters (G - Syracuse) - Golden State has made no secret of their affinity for the Syracuse reserve who was among the best in the Big East despite not starting a game last season. Likened by some to Dwyane Wade, Waiters will be one of a handful of players that can make an immediate difference in the professional ranks, and will give Stephen Curry a backcourt partner with a game that is just as explosive.
8) Toronto Raptors: Jeremy Lamb (G - Connecticut) - With Waiters off the board, the Raptors settle for the next best thing in Lamb, a former national champion who will move DeMar DeRozan into the frontcourt on a permanent basis. Lamb's length and tendency to make big shots in big moments will be augmented with Jose Calderon playing alongside him at the point.
9) Detroit Pistons: Andre Drummond (C - Connecticut) - Hardly anyone could have expected Drummond to fall this far, but the Pistons get a second consecutive draft surprise after they had Brandon Knight fall into their laps in the No. 8 spot a year ago. However, the Pistons are looking for a big man to serve as Greg Monroe's frontcourt partner now that Detroit has both solidified their backcourt and now acquired swingman Corey Maggette from Charlotte.
10) New Orleans Hornets: Meyers Leonard (C - Illinois) - New Orleans could (and probably should) take a guard here, but the Hornets could use a big man to sit under the rim while Anthony Davis makes his presence felt on the perimeter. New Orleans has a solid backcourt anyway with Greivis Vasquez, Eric Gordon and Jarrett Jack, so the 7-1 Leonard makes more sense than some may initially suspect.
11) Portland Trail Blazers: Terrence Ross (F - Washington) - Nicolas Batum could be on his way out, opening a spot on the wing for the Blazers to draft the exceptionally athletic Ross to team with Damian Lillard.
12) Houston Rockets: Tyler Zeller (C - North Carolina) - Houston just acquired this pick from Milwaukee in exchange for Samuel Dalembert, and will use their first of three in the opening round to take his replacement. Zeller comes in with four years of seasoning and a national championship at North Carolina, and should fit right in as the long-term successor to Yao Ming.
13) Phoenix Suns: Kendall Marshall (G - North Carolina) - Steve Nash isn't getting any younger, so the Suns take the highest-rated point guard to replace him. Marshall's passing skills are already as good as the two-time MVP that he will learn from in the Valley of the Sun should Nash re-sign with Phoenix.
14) Milwaukee Bucks: Austin Rivers (G - Duke) - Doc's son gets to start his professional career in the same city in which his dad played college ball at Marquette, and gives the Bucks a combo guard to take some of the pressure off Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis while also freeing both of them up to make more of an impact in the open court.
15) Philadelphia 76ers: Arnett Moultrie (F - Mississippi State) - Many people tend to lose Moultrie in the shuffle being that he came from an SEC program not named Kentucky, but his game would be the perfect fit for the Philadelphia front line. An aging Elton Brand and developing Nikola Vucevic could use a third man to give the Sixers an even stronger unit to complement Jrue Holiday and Andre Iguodala, and Moultrie looks to be more pro-ready than some of the other bigs still on the board.
16) Houston Rockets: Moe Harkless (F - St. John's) - Houston's trade of Chase Budinger for the No. 18 pick gives the Rockets an opening at the small forward spot that Harkless can fill right away. A wing who played out of position all year last season due to the Red Storm's depth issues, Harkless has a perimeter game unlike any other that becomes enhanced when he makes his presence felt on the defensive end.
17) Dallas Mavericks: Royce White (F - Iowa State) - Dallas has Shawn Marion and Dirk Nowitzki up front, but the 2011 NBA champions will not be able to look past a unique talent the likes of White if he is still on the board in this spot. An unbelievably talented specimen who singlehandedly dominated UConn in the NCAA Tournament, White can do a little bit of everything, which makes his game indispensable.
18) Houston Rockets: Marquis Teague (G - Kentucky) - The Rockets will need a guard after using their first two picks on front line help, and Teague is the best available with Marshall and Rivers having gone off the board. Teague will not start right away, but he provides an effective change of pace to Kevin Martin at the point in Houston.
19) Orlando Magic: John Henson (F - North Carolina) - The steal of the draft lands in the Magic Kingdom as Orlando picks up their long-term replacement for Dwight Howard. Henson will most likely go much higher, but his raw offensive output may drop him out of the lottery. Nonetheless, the Magic get a freakishly talented big man who can block shots on the perimeter and attack the glass under the rim while simultaneously scoring ten or more points every night.
20) Denver Nuggets: Will Barton (G - Memphis) - The Nuggets will be in the market for a guard who can spell Ty Lawson and provide immediate playing time now that Andre Miller is nearing the end of his career. Don't be surprised to see Denver go for a backup point guard in the second round, but for their first pick, they take a player in Barton who has been extremely underrated in the days leading up to the draft despite his ability to change a game at any given time.
21) Boston Celtics: Terrence Jones (F - Kentucky) - The Celts need help on their front line with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett both nearing retirement. They just so happen to have a former national champion fall into their lap in Jones, who would have been a Top 5 pick had he come out after his freshman year. Jones showed his ability to be a team player last year at Kentucky by sacrificing scoring opportunities for Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and his unselfishness can give Pierce, Garnett and Ray Allen (if he returns to Boston) one last chance to ride off into the sunset.
22) Boston Celtics: Fab Melo (C - Syracuse) - Boston doubles up on their frontcourt rebuilding project with the defensively strong seven-footer from Syracuse who will always be a force under the rim despite his developing offensive skill set.
23) Atlanta Hawks: Perry Jones (F - Baylor) - Atlanta could use a forward/center hybrid to move Al Horford to the power forward position permanently, and Jones fits the mold if he is still on the board in this spot. If not, look for the Hawks to go smaller and potentially draft a Jared Sullinger or Draymond Green.
24) Cleveland Cavaliers: Jared Sullinger (F - Ohio State) - Native Ohio product, forward, Cavalier. Sound familiar? That's about as close as you'll get to comparing Sullinger to LeBron James. The Buckeye big man will be a difference maker right away in Cleveland with Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson around him. Sullinger has been criticized for not having an NBA body, but the same thing was said about Tyler Hansbrough, who is now turning into a solid professional player in Indiana.
25) Memphis Grizzlies: Tony Wroten (G - Washington) - Memphis' trade of Greivis Vasquez gives the Grizzlies a need to find a backup point guard for Mike Conley Jr. With Marquis Teague off the board, Wroten is the man on Beale Street.
26) Indiana Pacers: Draymond Green (F - Michigan State) - Green is a true leader and winner. Never mind the fact that he may not have a true position in Indiana, because he will force his way into the lineup by doing all the little things right. He will be a solid pick for a Pacer team that could seriously be a threat to win the Eastern Conference next year.
27) Miami Heat: John Jenkins (G - Vanderbilt) - With Mike Miller poised to walk away a winner, Miami gets their sharpshooting replacement with the Allan Houston clone Jenkins, who automatically slides into a championship rotation.
28) Oklahoma City Thunder: Doron Lamb (G - Kentucky) - Lamb becomes the fifth Kentucky first-rounder this year, and his ability to hit clutch shots will serve Oklahoma City well even with Russell Westbrook and James Harden in front of him.
29) Chicago Bulls: Andrew Nicholson (F - St. Bonaventure) - Nicholson will essentially be the replacement for Luol Deng if he does not come back to the Windy City, and his tendency to put up a yeoman's effort every night will expand the abilities of Carlos Boozer and a recovering Derrick Rose next season.
30) Golden State Warriors: Jeffery Taylor (F - Vanderbilt) - A Richard Jefferson-esque swingman, Taylor will give Golden State some flexibility when Klay Thompson is not in the lineup, as well as assist Stephen Curry and Dion Waiters in the backcourt when needed.
31) Charlotte Bobcats: Jared Cunningham (G - Oregon State)
32) Washington Wizards: Festus Ezeli (C - Vanderbilt)
33) Cleveland Cavaliers: Darius Miller (F - Kentucky)
34) Cleveland Cavaliers: Drew Gordon (F - New Mexico)
35) Golden State Warriors: Quincy Miller (F - Baylor)
36) Sacramento Kings: Kim English (G - Missouri)
37) Toronto Raptors: Evan Fournier (G - France)
38) Denver Nuggets: Tyshawn Taylor (G - Kansas)
39) Detroit Pistons: Orlando Johnson (G - Cal-Santa Barbara)
40) Portland Trail Blazers: Miles Plumlee (C - Duke)
41) Portland Trail Blazers: Bernard James (C - Florida State)
42) Milwaukee Bucks: Jae Crowder (F - Marquette)
43) Atlanta Hawks: Khris Middleton (F - Texas A&M)
44) Detroit Pistons: Kyle O'Quinn (F - Norfolk State)
45) Philadelphia 76ers: Mike Scott (F - Virginia)
46) New Orleans Hornets: Kevin Murphy (G - Tennessee Tech)
47) Utah Jazz: Kevin Jones (F - West Virginia)
48) New York Knicks: Scott Machado (G - Iona)
49) Orlando Magic: Darius Johnson-Odom (G - Marquette)
50) Denver Nuggets: Tu Holloway (G - Xavier)
51) Boston Celtics: William Buford (G - Ohio State)
52) Golden State Warriors: Furkan Aldemir (F - Turkey)
53) Los Angeles Clippers: J'Covan Brown (G - Texas)
54) Philadelphia 76ers: Kostas Papanikolaou (F - Greece)
55) Dallas Mavericks: Robert Sacre (C - Gonzaga)
56) Toronto Raptors: Tomas Satoransky (G - Czech Republic)
57) Brooklyn Nets: Kris Joseph (F - Syracuse)
58) Minnesota Timberwolves: Tornike Shengelia (F - Republic of Georgia)
59) San Antonio Spurs: JaMychal Green (F - Alabama)
60) Los Angeles Lakers: Quincy Acy (F - Baylor)