words // Brennan Hiro Williams
It is almost that time of year again, when NBA fans will gather to boo David Stern, groan at the decisions of the New York Knicks and collectively welcome a new wave of talent into the league. The 2012 NBA Draft will take place on Thursday, June 28, at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.
The New Orleans Hornets won the Draft Lottery, and will make the first selection, followed by the record-setting Charlotte Bobcats and the Washington Wizards. Will any of the lottery teams strike gold in this draft, turning their fortunes around? Sole Collector provides its first ever NBA mock draft below, analyzing the top ten picks.
1. New Orleans Hornets: ANTHONY DAVIS (PF – Kentucky)
The one pick in the 2012 draft that is already, save for any unforeseen disasters, set in stone. The New Orleans Hornets are ecstatic over their draft lottery good fortune, and the selection of Anthony Davis will usher in a new era under the ownership of Tom Benson. Davis, the 2012 NCAA player of the year, will step right in as a force in the frontcourt, using his impressive length and athleticism to cause nightmares for opposing teams on both sides of the ball.
Market Analysis: Let's just say it – the Anthony Davis Signature Unibrow became one of most unlikely sports icons of 2012. Before most sports fans knew Anthony Davis as Anthony Davis, they likely heard of him as “that amazing player with the crazy eyebrow(s).” Will he further capitalize on his anti-grooming stance? Much like Dwayne Johnson during the late '90s, we're eager to see whether the enigmatic Davis gives us the People's Eyebrow or the Corporate Eyebrow.
2. Charlotte Bobcats: HARRISON BARNES (SG – North Carolina)
The Bobcats, who set the record for worst losing percentage in NBA history this past season, need talent at almost every position. Now that they were beat out in the Anthony Davis sweepstakes, it only seems right that the Michael Jordan-led team takes a smooth swingman from North Carolina with the second pick of the draft. Barnes should step in right away as a primary scoring threat for the Bobcats, using his great instincts and mid-range game. Returning to UNC for an additional year of college experience allowed him to develop physically, better preparing him for the challenge of playing defense at the pro level. Once again, he'll face elevated expectations, which will be tough on a team with such deep flaws, but it seems that Barnes has the necessary maturity and temperament to lead the charge.
Market Analysis: The once top high school recruit in the nation has all of the intangibles an owner could want in a franchise player, displaying good character, a strong work ethic and vocal leadership during his time at UNC. Michael Jordan once scolded Barnes for breaking protocol by wearing the Zoom Kobe VII on the court instead of UNC Jordan Exclusives – would Mike outfit his newest prized prospect in his image?
3. Washington Wizards: ANDRE DRUMMOND (C – Connecticut)
After cancelling season five of the JaVale “Pierre” McGee show, the Wizards will start their high upside big man project over again with the selection of Andre Drummond. The freakishly athletic Drummond, while still unpolished, will provide John Wall with another alley-oop recipient next to Jan Vesely, and another shot blocking presence under the hoop to accompany the rebounding prowess of Nenê. If he develops as a legitimate pick-and-roll threat, the Wizards will have scored a major victory in this draft. I'm sure I'll take some heat for this one, but with the physical measurables of a center combined with guard-like, end-to-end speed, I believe Drummond has too much upside for the Wizards to pass on.
Market Analysis: Drummond's combine-killing attributes seem like a good fit for a brand like Under Armour. Drummond is often compared to other electric front court players like Amar'e Stoudemire and DeAndre Jordan (the latter already being a UA-sponsored player), and should have plenty of poster opportunities around the rim from the day he steps on the court.
4. Cleveland Cavaliers: BRADLEY BEAL (SG – Florida)
Following the 2011 draft in which the Cavs picked up both forward Tristan Thompson and eventual Rookie of the Year Kyrie Irving, the team will look to add another key piece in the post-Lebron era. Bradley Beal, arguably the best perimeter shooter in the lottery, is a great fit, and should see plenty of open looks off of Irving's isolation drives. With a solid core of young players, the Cavs could develop into a playoff contender for years to come.
Market Analysis: Bradley Beal, the 2011 Gatorade High School Player of the Year, did not have the early hype of other lottery candidates due to his lack of national television time; however, Beal's game is real, and he has star potential. Often compared to Ray Allen (by himself and others), he should field offers from all of the major brands, though I expect him to wear Nike when he officially enters the league.
5. Sacramento Kings: MICHAEL KIDD-GILCHRIST (SF – Kentucky)
If the draft plays out the way we predict, the team picking in the five spot should be sprinting to the podium to select the youngest player in the draft, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. The only question is, will that team be the Kings, or will the cash-strapped Maloofs opt to trade down (and pay less...if at all)? Ever since the Kings let Gerald Wallace go in the 2004 Expansion Draft, the team has longed for a do-it-all small forward. That missing piece is Kidd-Gilchrist, who in his one year at Kentucky showcased a Wallace-like ability to play shutdown defense, rebound, score and provide the glue for the champion Wildcats. Don't be surprised, though, when the Kings trade down and opt for a European player who never ends up crossing the Atlantic (word to Dejan Bodiroga).
Market Analysis: Kidd-Gilchrist was the first player in the 2012 draft to sign a footwear contract, inking a deal with Nike in May. While he might never be a superstar in the traditional sense, MKG has all the makings of an impact player for years to come. Look for him in the Hyperdunk or Hyperfuse 2012 next season, or perhaps even the Zoom Soldier VI.
6. Portland Trail Blazers: DAMIAN LILLARD (PG – Weber St.)
Damian Lillard is rocketing up draft boards, and might not make it past Portland in the sixth spot. Lillard is an offensive-minded point guard who shoots a high percentage from the perimeter and works effectively off of the pick-and-roll. With Raymond Felton likely gone, the Blazers will be looking for new talent at the point guard position – the only question is, with two first round picks (6 and 11), when they will draft one.
Market Analysis: Damian Lillard has fan favorite potential with his exciting style of play and penchant for the big shot. Lillard wore adidas at Weber State, and could continue that relationship at the pro level. The quick and crafty guard is a good candidate for the new adiZero Crazy Light 2.
7. Golden State Warriors: THOMAS ROBINSON (PF – Kansas)
Thomas Robinson could very likely go as early as number two in this year's draft, and in all likelihood will not slip this far (but hey, it's a mock draft). If Robinson is available at seven, multiple teams will be blowing up Bob Meyers' cell phone, but it would behoove the Warriors to stand pat and select the powerful forward from Kansas. A high motor player who cleans up on the boards and plays tough on defense, Robinson should be one of the most successful players from this draft class. If his developing offensive game continues to improve, he can be special.
Market Analysis: As an imposing physical presence, Robinson seems ideal for a brand like Under Armour (he would not seem out of place next to Ray Lewis and Cam Newton in a football commercial). I would not be surprised, however, if he goes with adidas, the brand he wore at Kansas. If any rookie could embody “adiPower,” it's Thomas Robinson.
8. Toronto Raptors: JEREMY LAMB (SG – Connecticut)
The Raptors will take Jeremy Lamb, a versatile wing to play alongside DeMar DeRozan. Lamb's shooting ability, combined with his physical gifts, gives the Raptors another scoring threat and potentially a solid defender. With 2011 pick Jonas Valanciunas likely joining the team this year, the Raptors could be well on their way back to the playoffs with an exciting, young lineup.
Market Analysis: Some observes criticize Lamb's “passive” demeanor, while others have labeled him a “quiet assassin.” What is undeniable, though, is Lamb's ability to make brilliant, breathtaking plays, whether it be a killer crossover or a huge dunk (check out his 2011 slam against Columbia if you don't believe me). I expect Lamb to continue his relationship with Nike, the brand he wore throughout his UCONN career.
9. Detroit Pistons: PERRY JONES (C – Baylor)
Perry Jones is perhaps the highest risk and highest upside pick in this draft – a true wildcard. Thought to be a top pick in the 2011 draft, Jones went back to Baylor and did little for his draft stock. At the ninth pick, Jones could make Pistons GM Joe Dumars look like a genius, using his incredible combination of size, range and athleticism to create mismatches in the front court alongside Greg Monroe. Conversely, Jones could sit on the bench alongside fellow toolsy player Austin Daye.
Market Analysis: Whether or not Perry Jones “sticks” in the NBA, it's a safe bet that he will provide some highlight reel-level plays for his new team. Jones wore adidas during his college career at Baylor, and they could stick with their guy in the pros, outfitting him with a shoe from the adiZero range. Since we're in wildcard mode here, though, I see a Chinese company like Li-Ning or Peak betting on Jones because, well, why not? Wildcard!
10. New Orleans Hornets: AUSTIN RIVERS (SG – Duke)
Austin Rivers, son of Doc, entered the college season as one of the most hyped prospects in the country. His time at Duke showed off several strengths, but also several weaknesses – while he often got by the first line of defense, Rivers was prone to getting caught in no man's land as he entered the lane, forcing up difficult shots instead of taking the extra dribble or kicking the ball out. That's a correctable mistake though, and the coach's son should keep improving on his weaknesses while making an immediate impact for the Hornets with his perimeter scoring prowess.
Market Analysis: Despite differing opinions on his game, Rivers certainly has star potential, carrying a noticeable swagger on the court made for Sportscenter replays. Could an Anthony Davis / Austin Rivers duo make New Orleans relevant? It is a story you would have to root for. Currently, there are whispers that Rivers will sign with Under Armour, joining their roster of charismatic young players.