The New Orleans Hornets own the top pick in this week’s NBA draft and will most likely use it to select consensus college player of the year Anthony Davis of Kentucky. But after Davis is anyone’s guess. OneManFastBreak.net predicts who teams will pick in the first 14 slots.
1. New Orleans Hornets
Anthony Davis: PF, 6-10, 220, Kentucky, Fresh
Hornets coach Monty Williams got a lot of out of his beleaguered crew last season, but now he’s got a real thoroughbred in Davis — aka Fear the Brow . . . aka Unablocker. Davis should start immediately for the Hornets, and can play either the 4 or 5 position. His game is a mixture of Kevin Garnett, Marcus Camby, and Tim Duncan. He has the shot-blocking skills of Camby, the versatility of Garnett, and the demeanor of Duncan. Davis has uncanny guard skills for a big man because just three years ago he was a 6-3 shooting guard in high school. As soon as NBA commissioner David Stern announces Davis’ name with the first overall pick, the city of New Orleans will be buzzing about The Brow.
2. Charlotte Bobcats
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist: SF, 6-6, 228, Kentucky, Fresh.
Can Michael Jordan screw this one up? He is certainly capable of mucking it up again based on his track record (i.e. Kwame Brown and Adam Morrison). Someone better give MJ some notes because he’ll need all the help he can get. Jordan took guard Kemba Walker last season so it is unlikely he’ll go guard again. He has two forwards to choose from: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Thomas Robinson. The Bobcats can benefit from both players, but Kidd-Gilchrist is a special player with loads of intangibles. MKG is not a prototype small forward, but he is absolutely relentless and brings energy and effort every night. He’s like Gerald Wallace without the hops. MKG is a flat-out winner and can single-handedly change the culture of a locker room.
3. Washington Wizards
Thomas Robinson: PF, 21, 6-9, 240, Kansas, Junior
The Wizards just unloaded overpaid forward Rashard Lewis and need to start fresh. Robinson plays bigger than his listed height, and age-wise is mature enough to handle the pro game. Maturity is the key word here because the Wizards lacked discipline on and off the court last season. Robinson is a safe pick. He is a tireless worker and brings a ton of physicality on the court. He has the physique of a WWE superstar and plays with a lot of energy, something JaVale McGee never brought to the table. Robinson should be a solid influence on franchise point guard John Wall.
4. Cleveland Cavaliers
Harrison Barnes: SF, 6-8, 223, North Carolina, Soph.
The Cavs need help everywhere, but their most glaring need is a consistent scorer on the wing. Bradley Beal is a viable option here, but he plays a similar game to reigning Rookie of the Year Kyrie Irving. They both need to dominate the ball to be effective. Barnes is a small forward who can play shooting guard. But more importantly, Barnes plays well off the ball, which should mesh well with Irving. The only knock on Barnes is his motor. He tends to disappear in some games and plays to the level of the competition. But Barnes’ NBA range is hard to ignore and he can be a Glen Rice-type pro.
5. Sacramento Kings
Andre Drummond: C, 6-11, 270, Connecticut, Fresh.
Drummond is a bit of a reach at No.5, but the Kings play in a division dominated by the L.A. Lakers and their Hollywood Hills in 7-footers Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol. So, adding more size up front to pair up with power forward DeMarcus Cousins is the right approach. The 18-year-old Connecticut big man has the size to compete in the NBA trenches and his ceiling is extremely high. He is hard to move on the block and athletic enough to defend the basket. The only question is: Will he bring it every night? Drummond is the classic high risk, high reward prospect.
6. Portland Trail Blazers (via Brooklyn)
Bradley Beal: SG, 6-3, 201, Florida, Fresh.
The Trail Blazers are looking for a replacement for the retired Brandon Roy and they’ll be keeping an eye on two shooting guards: Beal and Austin Rivers. Either one can fill their need but if forced to choose between the two Portland may lean toward the Florida guard. Beal is a natural-born scorer who can create his own shot. His game has been compared to Eric Gordon and Dwyane Wade, but the injury-ravaged Blazers will settle for the next Brandon Roy at this point. At 6-3 and 201, Beal is built like a running back and doesn’t shy away from contact.
7. Golden State Warriors
Damian Lillard: PG, 6-3, 189, Weber State, Junior
The Warriors desperately needs a combo guard who can fill Monta Ellis’ spot and be an insurance policy for Steph Curry, who can’t seem to stay healthy. Lillard is from Oakland and the Warriors will be kicking themselves if they pass up on a local kid. Lillard was a tremendous scorer at Weber State and has unlimited range as a shooter. He may not be a natural point guard, but he can play either guard position. Lillard follows in the footsteps of Jason Kidd and Gary Payton, two of the best point guards to come out of the Oakland area.
8. Toronto Raptors
Perry Jones: PF, 6-10, 220, Baylor, Soph.
When your center (Andrea Bargnani) prefers to drift beyond the 3-point line, you need an athletic power forward to balance the floor. The Raptors won’t publicly admit it but the Ed Davis project has fizzled and they need to address the power forward position yet again. Jones didn’t have a good sophomore season at Baylor, but he still has tremendous upside and could fill out once he matures physically. Some coaches project Jones as a small forward, but ESPN basketball expert Fran Fraschilla strongly believes he’ll be a power forward in the NBA. That would give the Raptors three quality big men in Bargnani, Jones, and last year’s pick Jonas Valanciunas.
9. Detroit Pistons
Meyers Leonard: C, 7-0, 250, Illinois, Soph.
There is always a high-riser in each draft, someone who was overlooked during the college season but opened eyes in the pre-draft workouts. This is year the hot name on the list is Meyers Leonard. The Illini big man is the tallest player in the draft and has impressed scouts at the Combine. Leonard is a space-eater in the paint, and you can’t enough big men in your roster. The Pistons are still reeling from the Darko Milicic debacle from 2003, and the Motor City folks are hoping Leonard can become Detroit’s center of the future and team up with power forward Greg Monroe.
10. New Orleans Hornets (via Minnesota)
Jeremy Lamb: SG, 6-5, 185, Connecticut, Soph.
Eric Gordon says he’ll test the free agent market, so the Hornets better have a backup plan in case he bolts New Orleans. Lamb is a natural shooting guard who can easily transition to small forward because of his length (nearly 7 foot wingspan). So even if the Hornets retain Gordon, coach Monty Williams can play Lamb and Gordon at the same time. Lamb comes from a basketball-rich college program. He was a member of the UConn squad that won the national championship in 2011 and his path to the Association has been paved by former Huskies stars Ray Allen, Caron Butler, Richard Hamilton, and Ben Gordon.
11. Portland Trail Blazers
Tyler Zeller: C, 7-0, 250, North Carolina, Senior
There are not a lot of great centers in this year’s draft, but there are a few good ones. One of them is Zeller. Plug him in alongside LaMarcus Aldridge, one of the best power forwards in the NBA, and the Blazers instantly become one of the longest teams in the league up front. Zeller is an underrated low-post scorer and at 22 he should be able to contribute immediately. Zeller has a nice jump hook in the low post and runs the floor very well for a center. He may not thrill you with his finesse game, but Zeller is a solid pick and could have a long pro career.
12. Houston Rockets
John Henson: PF, 21, 6-11, 220, North Carolina, Junior
When head coach Kevin McHale started his abbreviated training camp last season, he noticed he was the tallest player on the court. Ouch! The Rockets need size up front and Henson could be in the team’s future plans. Assuming the Rockets re-sign point guard Goran Dragic and trade Kyle Lowry, the Rockets will have a decent starting five led by Luis Scola and Kevin Martin. Henson can develop into a good NBA power forward if he puts on some pounds . . . a lot of pounds.
13. Phoenix Suns
Austin Rivers: SG, 6-3, 203, Duke, Fresh.
If Rivers falls to Phoenix at No. 13 it will be the steal of the draft. Most scouts have Beal ahead of Rivers, but it wouldn’t be a complete shock if Rivers — the son of Celtics coach Doc Rivers — eventually turn into a better pro than Beal. Rivers showed just flashes of brilliance in the Duke system, but his game is tailor-made for the NBA and is a top-five talent. Rivers may be the second-best player in the draft talent-wise behind only Anthony Davis. But his swagger borders on arrogance, which is a reason why teams will pass on him. But the Suns have nothing to lose, and what better way to rebuild their fastbreak offense by adding a player who loves to shoot the ball.
14. Milwaukee Bucks
Terrence Jones: SF, 6-8, 240, Kentucky, Soph.
After trading Bogut to Golden State and losing Stephen Jackson via a trade, Milwaukee is woefully thin in the frontcourt and will reach for a big man at No. 12. But if Jones is still on the board the Bucks won’t be able to resist taking the Wildcat forward, who has all the tools to become a solid NBA starter. Jones can play small forward or power forward, and can fill that “stretch 4″ that most teams now covet.
Joel Huerto is the editor and publisher of OneManFastBreak.net. Follow him on Twitter @onemanfastbreak.