This draft is Anthony Davis followed by a whole lot of meh. There’s a lot of journeyman depth. There are a lot of decent prospects, but few good ones. For that reason the 2012 draft is a tough one to evaluate and grade. There will be some players who develop into rotation regulars and even stars though and I’m going to try and sort that out right here.
I grade on a curve. There will be 3 A’s, 6 B’s, 12 C’s, 6 D’s and 3 F’s. Grades are given based mainly on how much each team used their 2012 draft pick to improve their lot, with points deducted if they could have done better. Any team that adds John Shurna, Tony Mitchell or Ken Horton as an UFA, gets a + added to their grade.
A: New Orleans Hornets: Drafted Anthony Davis with their own pick. Drafted Austin Rivers with a pick acquired in the Chris Paul trade. I’ve heard Duncan and Garnett mentioned as Davis comps, but the one I like is Olajuwon. Both Olajuwon and Davis were late to play center position. Both were quick learners. Olajuwon developed his legendary quickness playing soccer goalie. Davis’ quickness came from playing backcourt before the growth spurt. No matter which great he eventually most resembles, getting Anthony Davis is worth an A. This is such a solid A that the fact they reached wildly for Austin Rivers with the pick they got in exchange for trading away the franchise’s best ever player, Chris Paul, can’t bring it down.
A: LA Clippers: The Clippers won a couple of trades involving 2012 draft picks, so they get an A. Their own #1 was dealt back in 2010 for Eric Bledsoe. I would call that a net positive, as Bledsoe is a promising young guard and there wasn’t much better available at pick #22. They also held Minnesota’s #1 in the Marco Jaric trade. Jaric clearly isn’t missed. This pick was used as part of the package that brought Chris Paul to LA and made the team a contender. Trading a protected #1 is a gamble for both teams. The Clippers had two of those situations resolved in the 2012 draft and won both of them.
A: Houston Rockets: Drafted Jeremy Lamb, Royce White and Terrence Jones. One pick was theirs, one was acquired for Chase Budinger and one was acquired for Tracy McGrady. Dwight Howard is sort of hovering over these three picks. Reports are rampant that the Rockets horded picks with an eye on bringing Howard in. Whether they deal for Howard or not, I like what happened here. If the picks eventually bring Howard over, that’s a big win. If they just keep the players it isn’t a bad thing either. In a draft like the 2012 version, with every player being so even, quantity is better than quality. This was exactly how this draft should have been worked. By getting 3 picks and using them all on solid players, as opposed to overhyped former high school phenoms, the Rockets really upped their odds of making a big score in this draft. That I like all the players they drafted just makes the A that much more solid.
B: Orlando Magic: Drafted Andrew Nicholson. I love this pick. I know things are bad in Orlando now, but they definitely got one of the best hauls in this draft with Nicholson followed by Kyle O’Quinn in round 2. The future and whatever happens with the franchise player aside, the Magic got a couple of solid players here. That’s a good thing regardless of what else goes down this summer.
B: Denver Nuggets: Evan Fournier: I like the Nuggets, because they draft players I like. It was Lawson 3 years ago, Faried last year and now Fournier. I think they got another steal in Fournier. Add him to one of the best young cores in the league and the future is bright in Denver. Why is it that all the smart teams are in the West?
B: Washington Wizards: Bradley Beal: If the rumors were true and there was a trade on the table bringing Harden to DC straight up for the pick, the Wizards should have jumped. Harden would be a star in Washington. Beal is still something of a project, but is also one of the few players in the draft who is a better than average bet to become a solid player.
B: Dallas Mavericks: Traded pick for 3 later picks that became Jared Cunningham, Bernard James and Jae Crowder: I’m a big Crowder fan. I think the Mavs got a good one with him. What I like though is how they played the draft. This draft should have been about quantity and not quality. All players drafted after #10 were pretty even. Better to get three of them than one. The Mavs got three nice prospects.
B: Boston Celtics: Drafted Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo. Melo came in exchange for a pick that came to the Celtics in the Jeff Green for Kendrick Perkins deal. Sullinger is obviously a gamble, but with the 21st pick there could be a big payoff. The Celtics have been good about getting production from big players drafted later in round one, so I expect both players to contribute something immediately. I don’t see where Melo will be an upgrade on what Perkins gave them, but he does have some potential as a defender and wasn’t a reach at 22.
B: Milwaukee Bucks: John Henson: What I like about Henson is he can come right in and help on the boards and eventually on defense. The Bucks need an inside grinder to go with their mad bombers in the backcourt and Henson was the best one available. That he will help right away gives the Bucks an edge.
C: Memphis Grizzlies: Tony Wroten: Good pick at this point. Wroten is a top 10 talent and there could be a huge payoff in a few years. If he doesn’t make it, all that’s lost is the 25th pick in a weak draft. I also want to give them credit for using their #2 pick to acquire Marreese Speights, a young big with some potential. This was a good use of the draft by the Grizz.
C: Cleveland Cavaliers: Drafted Dion Waiters and Tyler Zeller. Zeller was acquired for 3 later draft picks. Sometimes the best trades are the ones you don’t make. By Charlotte turning down the rumored deal, the Cavs got more upside in Waiters and kept the 3 later picks. On the flip side, sometimes the worst trades are the ones you make. The Cavs were set to add 3 more decent pieces to their developing young core. Instead they dealt the three picks for the wildly over rated Tyler Zeller. Waiters should improve the team and might become a star. But it could have been a lot better.
C: Charlotte Bobcats: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. MKG is a poor man’s Shane Battier at best. Regardless of what you might be hearing about Gilchrist, the truth is second fiddles in college rarely become superstars in the NBA. I doubt very much he’ll be an exception. They should have taken the offer from Cleveland and used the four picks. Charlotte’s best move was to scoop up as many picks as possible, so they could throw as many bodies as possible at the record setting mess they put on the court last year.
C: Sacramento Kings: Thomas Robinson: Just so I got this straight, the Kings draft a weak defensively, inefficient scoring, rebounding machine to complement DeMarcus Cousins? Okay. At least they’ll be able to brag about leading the league in missed put backs. I like Robinson and have no problem with the value for the pick. It’s just that he seems like terrible fit on this team.
C: LA Lakers: Traded pick to Cleveland for Ramon Sessions: I have no problem with this use of a pick. A contender filled a gaping hole in their lineup by trading a late first round pick. That’s how to do it.
C: Portland Trail Blazers: Drafted Damian Lillard in a pick acquired for Gerald Wallace and drafted Meyers Leonard with their pick. A few things bother me about this. The first is getting Lillard for Wallace is a downgrade in talent. That’s never good. The next is both picks are wild reaches. Granted there wasn’t much available here, but they could have done better. Finally, they needed a point guard and Lillard is more of a combo. I don’t see him making the quick transition from small college gunner to starting NBA point guard. Leonard is a huge project. He’s unlikely to see much court time right away and possibly ever. I do like that they got Will Barton in round 2.
C: Golden State Warriors: Harrison Barnes: My feelings on Barnes have been noted. I think he’ll be a bust. The Warriors started out with an F. Then they argued their case. In their favor is they snagged the 30th pick from San Antonio for taking on Richard Jefferson’s contract. Good move. They got Festus Ezeli with that pick. In round two Draymond Green was not only a steal, but a will be a great fit here. They also grabbed Bosnia and Herzegovina center Ojngen Kuzmic which is another steal. They’ll regret the Barnes pick, but recovered enough that I can give them a C.
C: Oklahoma City Thunder: Perry Jones III: OKC is a good place for Jones. The culture is positive. He doesn’t need to contribute immediately. If he does learn to be a more aggressive player, the payoff could be big. I don’t expect much from Jones, but if he’s going to become anything near the player he was advertised as, this is a good place for that to happen.
C: Chicago Bulls: Marques Teague: What I said for Jones and OKC applies here also. I just find it strange that a team with the best PG in the game would draft another one. I know Rose will be out until the all-star break, but Teague isn’t ready to step in as the starting PG anywhere, even as a stopgap, let alone on a contender.
C: Miami Heat: Traded pick to Philadelphia in exchange for a future pick. Good move by the champs. There wasn’t much help at #27 and they didn’t need to waste the cap space paying whoever they drafted. They get what will likely become a better pick in the future when it will definitely be of more use to them. Thanks a lot for helping these guys out, Philly.
C: Brooklyn Nets: Traded pick for Gerald Wallace. A lot depends on whether Wallace comes back. Wallace is a solid NBA player who helps any team. He’s well worth the 6th overall pick in this draft. Wallace has opted out of his contract, so the Nets may get nothing for the pick. The good news is a pick from 2-10 in the 2012 draft is likely going to cost a team more than it’s worth. The bad thing is the Nets continue to look incompetent in their efforts to become a contender.
C: Detroit Pistons: Andre Drummond: Detroit seems like the wrong place for Drummond. They’re a rebuilding team and such teams need to hit on their draft picks. Drafting a player who is 3 years away just doesn’t seem like a good strategy. There will be more pressure on Drummond in a place like Detroit than he would have seen on a contender. He’s a long shot for success anywhere and his failure will only be magnified if it happens on a bad team.
D: Philadelphia 76ers: Drafted Moe Harkless with their own pick, then traded the #45 overall pick and a future 1st rounder to the Heat for Arnett Moultrie. Harkless is a reach here. But that isn’t my main issue with the Sixers. I can’t understand dealing the future #1 for Arnett Moultrie. Forget that Moultrie was also a reach. Forget that helping out Mimai isn’t something any team should be doing. This is about value. They picked up the 27th pick in a bad draft for what will likely be a higher pick in a stronger draft. They gave up value and that just isn’t a smart way for a team to operate.
D: Utah Jazz: Traded pick for Darius Songalia as best I can tell. Obviously that didn’t work out too well. The Jazz have some good young players and the Warriors’ #1 pick next year. They’ll recover from this.
D: Toronto Raptors: Terrence Ross: This is was a reach. But they can be thankful Barnes didn’t slip to them. This is where I’m going to list the picks I considered to be the wildest reaches.
D: Phoenix Suns: Kendall Marshall: Not a bad time to bring in a young PG, but Marshall is also a reach.
D: Atlanta Hawks: John Jenkins: Big reach. Jenkins is nothing more than a gunner. There were some good players on the board here. Gunners like Doron Lamb and Marcus Denmon were available in round 2. They were better values and might become better players.
D: Indiana Pacers: Miles Plumlee: I didn’t expect him to be drafted, let alone in round one. This is the craziest reach of the night. They drafted a guy who is basically a rebounding specialist.
F: Minnesota Timberwolves: The original pick went to the Clippers and eventually the Hornets in the Chris Paul trade in exchange for Marco Jaric. They owned Utah’s pick that they landed for Darius Songalia, I think. What they got was Chase Budinger for the Utah pick and a nice score in round two with Robbie Hummel. The Jaric trade is unforgivable and gets them the F. Considering Kahn’s drafting record, dealing the pick for an established player like Budinger was probably smart.
F: San Antonio Spurs: Traded pick to Golden State in order to dump the contract of Richard Jefferson. I’m not sure they deserve an F, but it’s fun to flunk the goody-two-shoes valedictorian and I’m going to do it when the opportunity presents itself. The disappointing thing is the Spurs would have killed it with a late first rounder in a draft like this. They grabbed a useful player, Marcus Denmon, in round 2 of course.
F: NY Knicks: Traded pick for Tracy McGrady: The good thing for the Knicks is they own all their draft picks for the next few years and have a solid roster so they may not feel the need to keep trading protected #1s.