Ask The Experts: 2012 NBA Draft

The NBA Draft went down on Thursday and after a couple of days to digest what went down, the staff of writers at weighed in on who the steal of the draft was, the biggest surprise and they made their picks for Rookie of the Year.

Will Guillory:

Steal of the draft: I have to go with Perry Jones going 28th to Oklahoma City. In January, we looked at Jones as the best player on a top-5 team in the nation and now you mean to tell me teams would rather have guys named John Jenkins, Arnett Moultrie and Miles Plumlee over him? Jones did seem to have major attitude problems and a whole lot of “I Don’t Care” going on in his game last season, but Jenkins, Moultrie and Plumlee will never be as talented as he is. And if playing with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook doesn’t inspire you, I don’t know what will.

Biggest Surprise: For me, it has to be Thomas Robinson dropping all the way to no. 5 in the draft. At the end of last year’s college season, I thought the two best players in the country were Robinson and Anthony Davis, and Robinson looked more like the guy that was ready to play immediately in the NBA. He’s strong, he rebounds, he can score and he is fearless. You can probably only describe a hand-full of big men in the league right now that can fit that description. Him and Demarcus Cousins in the paint fighting together for rebounds? Kinda scary.

’12-13 Rookie of the Year: No surprise here, I think we all know the obvious choice is no. 1 overall pick Anthony Davis. He is, without a doubt, the best guy coming out in this year’s draft. He will be the face of his franchise immediately and get plenty of opportunities to get numbers. His team will probably be much better than people anticipate and may even squeeze their way into a playoff birth. Last, but not least, the pressure of carrying his team won’t be solely on his shoulders from a night-to-night basis. With Eric Gordon and Austin Rivers on the roster, the Hornets won’t ask Davis to come out from day one and be the top scorer on the team, which isn’t really who he is. The Hornets will only ask him to be Anthony Davis–nothing more and nothing less–and if he does that he will probably be Rookie of the Year.

Matthew Cote:

Biggest Steal: Jared Sullinger going 21st overall to Boston. He has the potential to be a perennial all-star and an elite player with many offensive and defensive skills to boot. Could have gone top 15 in my opinion.

Biggest Surprise: Austin Rivers going to the Hornets at pick 10. Rivers is an incredible talent who just didn’t excel as much as hoped at Duke. In the Hornets system, he and Anthony Davis should bring some spark back to New Orleans basketball.

2012-13 Rookie of the Year: Kris Joseph of the Boston Celtics. Stay with me on this one, Joseph is one of those guys who can pick up an offense right away. He’s highly athletic and can be lethal with his jump shot. His passing could use work but this is a guy who can make an impact right away. Honorable mention goes to Anthony Davis and Harrison Barnes.

Chuck Nunn:

It’s hard for me to pick just one “steal of the draft” this year. I think the Bobcats made a great move with Kentucky small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, because he fills a real need for their team after losing Corey Maggette, and Gerald Wallace before him. I also like how the Trail Blazers made out, getting not only an outstanding guard in Weber State’s Damian Lillard, but also landing one of this draft’s best centers — if not THE best — in Illinois’ Meyers Leonard. As to biggest surprise, I’d have to go back to Charlotte’s selection of Kidd-Gilchrist. I don’t think anyone saw that coming. I was also a bit surprised to see Duke forward Miles Plumlee make it into the first round, as a lot of mock drafts had him going in the upper second round. It’s hard not to go with Anthony Davis as Rookie of the Year next season, but I’d keep an eye out once again on Kidd-Gilchrist, and Damian Lillard gets my Beehive State bias pick as ROY dark horse.

Tom Westerholm:

Biggest steal: I realize everyone will say PJ3, so while that is my actual answer, I’ll say Thomas Robinson for the Kings. I realize he didn’t fall out of the top 5, but Sacramento, who openly shopped their pick in the weeks preceding the draft, got exactly the piece they were hoping for in Robinson, a talented power forward who grabs a lot of rebounds. That, to me, qualifies as a steal.

Biggest surprise: Terrence Ross to the Raptors at #8. Ross is a good shooter and could develop into a nice player, but with other, more highly thought of wings still available (Austin Rivers, Jeremy Lamb), his meteoric rise into the mid-lottery was…surprising to say the least.

Rookie of the Year: Instead of picking Anthony Davis like all you geeks, I’m going with Bradley Beal. I think Davis will take a year or two to adjust to the NBA offensively, while Beal will be ready to contribute immediately, especially on a team that desperately needs his shooting.

Ryan McNeill

Biggest steal: I’ve got to go with Jared Sullinger. He can slip into Boston’s starting five right away at power forward and makes Brandon Bass expendable as a free agent.

Biggest surprise: Cleveland going with Dion Waters at four. Sure, they needed a guard who could shoot and handle the ball, but why not slide down a spot or two? Also, they had talks about moving up to number two, why not burn both first round picks to accomplish this?

Rookie of the Year: As much as it pains me to admit this being based out of Toronto, I think Harrison Barnes is poised for a monster season for Golden State.

Bryan Jansen:

Who was Steal of the Draft: Perry Jones III — seems like an obvious choice–but definitely not a safe choice. I had projected the Bucks to take PJIII at 12 (before the trade), was still comfortable picking him at 14 even with injury potential. Huge value at 28.Who was a reach: Terrence Ross. Seems very likely he was available much later in draft–even if traded for only cash and later pick.

Bust Potential: Damian Lillard. Seems like I’m in the minority here, but something about this talent scares me. Call it Big Sky bias. Another player for this list is Dion Waiters. Illinois players scare me. I feel the same way about Meyers Leonard–but I also felt the same way about Deron Williams (another lottery pick from Illinois that I didn’t like–but I was obviously wrong about that one).What was Biggest Surprise: Charlotte Bobcats not trading #2 pick–feel they could have picked up major immediate contributing assets instead of a supremely athletic individual piece that will take time to develop. I love MKG, but would prefer 2-3 veteran pieces. Honorable Mention: meteoric slide of PJIII and Jared Sullinger.

Rookie of the Year: Thomas Robinson. Perma-Chip on his shoulder, toughest guy ever who seemed tougher for weeping publicly–hard not to vote for Anthony Davis, but my gut says Robinson averages a double/double for Kings and edges Davis.

Zach Salzmann:

Given the depth of this year’s draft, there was always going to be some uber-talented draftees falling late in the first round. Sam Presti is nodding his head in agreement. The Oklahoma City Thunder got the steal of the draft, selecting Perry Jones III with the 28th pick. He should mesh perfectly with their up-tempo style of basketball, and would’ve gone much higher if it weren’t for some injury concerns.

As for the biggest surprise of the night, although Cleveland and Indiana did their best to win the award for most head-scratching selection (Waiters and Plumlee), Toronto trumped them both by selecting Terence Ross with the 8th pick. It’s way too early to call anyone a bust, but when the whole world thinks he went too high, he probably did. Rivers or Lamb would’ve been better options for a Raptors team that desperately needs some star power.

And as for my Rookie of the Year prediction: the best player in this year’s draft, Mr. Anthony Davis. Fear the Brow!

Robert Kester:

North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes going No. 7 to the Golden State Warriors was my steal of the 2012 NBA Draft. Barnes was considered to be a top four talent in this draft class, but the Warriors didn’t have to give up any assets to obtain him and now have a productive small forward that can possibly start next season.

My surprise of the draft was Kansas forward, Thomas Robinson, falling down to the Sacramento Kings at No. 5. Robinson has an NBA body and showed the ability to score and rebound at a high level in college. Many believed that he would be selected by the Charlotte Bobcats at No. 2 or that a team would trade up to get him, but neither happened.

I’ve got the ’12-’13 Rookie of the Year going to Kentucky’s Anthony Davis. Davis is a freak athletically and a ferocious shot blocker. He can score around the rim with ease (shot 62% as a freshman) and defend the perimeter with his length. Fundamentally, Davis has the skills to do it all. He will put up good numbers and help the New Orleans Hornets win games as a rookie.

Caardel Eaddy:

The steal of the draft was Jared Sullinger. Going 21st overall to the Boston Celtics was possibly the best destination for him. To learn from Kevin Garnett everyday, Sullinger will likely turn into a very solid pro player.

The biggest surprise was Perry Jones III falling to the 28th to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Jones had concerns about his knee, but still to see countless teams pass on a solid player is just astonishing.

The Rookie of the Year will clearly be Anthony Davis. He is ready for this league and this season will prove that he is an up and coming superstar.

Chris Deacon:

Considering the Golden State Warriors needed a forward, getting Harrison Barnes as the seventh overall pick was the steal of the draft. With scouts across the board marking him out as one of the top five choices available it was hard to imagine the Warriors would actually manage to get him on their own terms. But they grabbed the North Carolina prospect and will hopefully turn him into an exciting player.

The surprise of the draft had to be Dion Waiters going to Cleveland early on, number four overall. The Cavs have clearly seen something they like about the young guard but I’m not sure many other teams would have gambled on someone whose jump shot is so inconsistent. Waiters is a good athlete but you feel that Cleveland could have made a much stronger choice with such an early pick.

It’s hard to look past the giant stature of new Sacramento King Thomas Robinson for Rookie of the Year. At 6’9″ and with the athletic ability of Blake Griffin, he averaged 17.7 points and 11.9 rebounds at Kansas. If he turns his NCAA form into NBA points then he’ll definitely go far this season.

Hiren Joshi:

Who was steal of the draft: Jared Sullinger. Though he was red flagged, Sullinger was a nice pick at 21 for the Celtics. I can understand lottery teams passing up on him, but a veteran team like the Celtics will mold Sullinger into a nice player in the paint.

What was the biggest surprise: Perry Jones III slipping all the way down to 28. That could be a steal for a team that just competed in the NBA finals! As if the Thunder didn’t already have a talented squad, Jones will have the luxury of learning in this league, instead of contributing immediately.

2012-13 Rookie of the year: Anthony Davis has all the intangibles to win Rookie of the year. Great hands, smart player, and has a strong opportunity at lifting a depleted CP3-less Hornets, along with Austin Rivers. Not a bad revival for the embattled franchise.

Michael Collins:

Who was steal of the draft – To me it would have to be Thomas Robinson going 5th to Sacramento. I was surprised to see Charlotte pass on him, but they had a good pick in Kidd-Gilchrist My jaw nearly hit the floor when I heard Washington and Cleveland passed on him. With Robinson and Cousins down low, not many rebounds will be given up by the Kings.

What was the biggest surprise – The Celtics taking a chance on Jared Sullinger, despite all the red flags about his back. Could end up being a huge steal for Boston, or we could be looking at another Greg Oden.

2012-13 Rookie of the year – I’m going to go back to Thomas Robinson. I think he was one of the top two players in this draft, and he’s walking into a perfect situation in Sacramento. He should be able to hit the ground running and make a huge difference for the Kings.

Justin Wells:

Steal of the ’12 Draft : John Jenkins, the guard from Vandy was picked 23rd by the Atlanta Hawks. Jenkins clearly the best shooter in the draft will instantly provide a 6th man type spark off the bench for the Hawks. *Honorable Mention – Tyshawn Taylor, 41st to Nets. Instantly backup PG.

Biggest surprise: Perry Jones III slid all the way to 28th and into Oklahoma City’s lap. Being w/ Baylor and the Big12 for two years I’m fully aware of PJ3’s ups & downs. But there weren’t 27 players better than him picked draft night. If and when he matures, the kid has endless untapped potential. The rich may have gotten richer in the ThunderDome. *Honorable Mention – Dion Waiters, 4th to Cavaliers. This kid didn’t even start on his own college team. Think smaller Marvin Williams.

2012-13 NBA Rookie of the Year: Thomas Robinson, Sacramento. He will start Day 1, and lead NBA rookies in Double-doubles. *Honorable Mention: Anthony Davis, 1st to Hornets. AD is the easy choice given his situation/role in New Orleans.

2012 NBA Draft Preview

I was able to join Justin Hull on “The Home Stretch” to talk about the 2012 NBA Draft. Some of the topics we covered included Harrison Barnes being the second best player in the draft, why Thomas Robinson is overrated and what players are poised to surprise teams next season.

My favorite part of this segment is when Justin shares a classic Bryant “Big Country” Reeves story that is guaranteed to make you laugh.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Here’s the link to download the MP3 directly.

Marshall, Lillard Have Questions To Answer

Kendall Marshall and Damian Lillard are both point guard, but that’s where the similarities end.

Marshall is the steady floor general – a pass-first playmaker who had more assists (9.8) than points (8.1) per game last season as the creator for the talent-laden North Carolina Tar Heels.

Lillard is tougher to get a grasp on, based on his do-it-all career as the first (and, really, only) scoring option as a member of the mid-major Weber State Wildcats. What we do know is that he is a fast-rising competitor with an NBA-ready shot who is coming off a four-year college career.

Awkward as comparisons between the two very different players may be, they are inherently necessary for lottery teams who may be in need of point guard help, such as the Toronto Raptors.

Executive vice-president of basketball operations Ed Stefanski, the designated team voice after draft workouts on Tuesday involving the two prospects, stopped short of drawing any comparisons, but highlighted their inherent differences in describing Marshall and Lillard individually.

“[Marshall’s] basketball IQ is very, very good and he sees the floor well,” says Stefanski of the North Carolina product.

On Lillard, the former Nets’ and Sixers’ GM focused on an entirely different set of qualities.

“He’s a tough kid – he competes,” says Stefanski. “He comes from a smaller school than these other guys and I think that’s part of his competition and his willingness to work hard.”

That’s not to say that Marshall isn’t tough, nor does it suggest that Lillard isn’t a smart basketball player. It does, however, speak to the difficulties of the whole draft process, particularly when agents typically don’t allow for one-on-one workouts between similarly-projected players.

For example, Marshall appeared in an afternoon session against lower-rated prospects like Devoe Joseph, while Lillard’s workout saw him fly solo.

While they didn’t go up against one another on Tuesday (in a literal sense, anyway), they are both battling heavy scrutiny over perceived areas of weakness through the draft workout process.

For Marshall, the Toronto stop marked his first workout coming off a wrist injury that was actually revealed to be an elbow injury.

“I fractured my elbow as well,” acknowledges Marshall. “The doctors never looked at it until about three weeks ago, so it was a late development. I wish I could’ve started my rehab earlier, but thankfully it’s not something that would’ve took surgery, so it’s just a matter of time.”

The 20-year-old isn’t in denial about the effects of the injury, but he is encouraged by its early progress and believes that he should be ready to go sooner rather than later.

“It felt pretty good,” replies Marshall when asked about the arm after Tuesday’s workout. “Obviously there’s still some soreness, some pain, but I’m able to get through it. My conditioning isn’t where I want it to be, but it’s still at a good level so I’m excited about moving forward from here.”

For Lillard, it’s a question of competition – specifically how the level of competition he faced at Weber State will translate in the pros. The Wildcats, after all, went 14-2 in the notoriously weak Big Sky Conference last season before dropping the Conference championship 85-66 to Montana. Although, to be fair, the loss can’t be blamed on the 22-year-old, who tallied 29 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists in the game.

While Marshall played with three other potential lottery picks (Harrison Barnes, John Henson and Tyler Zeller), Lillard feels that he was able to develop a multifaceted game by being a do-it-all player. He does, however, acknowledge that it’ll be nice to take a slightly scaled back role on a more balanced NBA club.

“That’s something I’m looking forward to,” Lillard admits,” not having a huge responsibility and having to carry a team. I can show off other parts of my game.”

With no point guard expected to go in the top five and only two likely to be lottery picks come June 28, the ‘one’ isn’t exactly a strong position heading into the deep 2012 draft. No wonder, then, that the two top players at the position both face significant unresolved questions.

How Marshall and Lillard answer those questions will speak volumes of their maturity and preparation as NBA players.

New Orleans Has A Bright Future

June 1, 2011 may have been one of the darkest days in the history of the New Orleans Hornets franchise.

The Hornets were already eliminated from the NBA Playoffs after a six-game series against the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round.  The team was being run by the NBA and Commissioner David Stern because there was still a search going on to find out who the owner might be for the team going forward.  Most fans of the team was pretty sure that they witnessed their last game of All-Star point guard Chris Paul, who had been the face of the franchise ever since he stepped into the league.

It was a scary time for Hornets fans.  Not only because of the potential of losing a superstar and beginning the rebuilding process, but due to the fact that there could potentially be no more team in New Orleans if the NBA couldn’t figure out the ownership situation.

Than everything changed once the NBA announced that ownership of the team would be taken over by Tom Benson, owner of the New Orleans Saints.  This insured that the team would be staying in New Orleans for the foreseeable future.

Now we arrive to June 1, 2012.  One year later and the Hornets not only have an ownership group but the also possess the rights to the first overall pick in this year’s draft after winning the NBA Draft Lottery.  This means the team has the right to draft the Naismith award winning center from the University of Kentucky,  Anthony Davis.  The Hornets also possess the No. 10 overall pick in the draft, which they acquired in the Paul trade.

Hornets Head Coach Monty Williams was not willing to admit that Davis would definitively be the team’s first selection come draft day on June 28, but he was willing to say how much Davis could possibly help if the team were to take him with the No. 1 overall pick.

“When we were playing against the Lakers in the playoffs, every time we drove to the basket all I saw was arms and legs,” Williams said.  “When you look around the league today, most of the dominant teams have length.”

Davis’ superior length is what helped him average 14.2 points, 10.4 rebounds and 4.7 blocks during his freshman season at Kentucky en route to a National Championship.

“Defensively, he’s above and beyond most college guys,” Williams said.  “Davis has the instincts to play defense at a high level right now.  He’s one of the few guys that has come into the league (and has been compared to) Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson and Tim Duncan.”

While the possibility of adding Davis and another elite prospect with the No. 10 pick is quite exciting for the future of the Hornets, Williams also understands that the team has a long way to go and that other additions will be necessary in order to truly get the team where they want to be.

“We could probably use a couple more veteran guys that understand the day-in, day-out grind of dealing with me, dealing with the type of practices we have,” Williams said.  “It takes a certain kind of leadership to handle that.  Along with the talent, I think you need to add a few guys that understand what it takes to be a pro.”

One of the players that could fulfill that role for the Hornets—along with a few others—is restricted free agent Eric Gordon, who the Hornets acquired in the deal that sent Paul to the Los Angeles Clippers.

While it has been reported that there has been mutual interest from both sides concerning Gordon’s potential return to the Hornets under a long-term contract, there is still quite a bit of uncertainty around the organization on whether or not it will actually happen.

Williams is unconcerned about all the talk.

“Either guys want to be here or they don’t,” Williams said.  “Having the top pick attracts guys, but at the same time, those guys are going to get offers from other teams.  But I think that pick, our new ownership and our city will attract guys.”

Also, there was a bit of controversy surrounding the lottery after the announcement was made that the Hornets won.  Some conspiracy theorists out there believe that Stern awarding the Hornets the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft was “payback” for the denial of the trade that would have sent Paul to the Los Angeles Lakers instead of the Los Angeles Clippers.  Also some believe that it may be possible that Stern could have thrown the top pick in the draft in to sweeten up the pot and maybe give Benson more motivation to purchase the Hornets.

Williams doesn’t pay much attention to those types of rumors.

“People come up with this (conspiracy) stuff every year.  Chicago had a low percentage when they got Derrick Rose.  When LeBron (James) went to Cleveland,” said Williams.  “People are going to write and say what they want to say.”

While it is nearly impossible to prove any type of conspiracy theory surrounding this year’s lottery to be true, there is no doubt that the results have completely turned the Hornets organization around and this team’s future is much brighter today than it was a year ago at this time.