No. 1 was a sure-shot long before the draft, long before the lottery. There was no risk and no surprise. No eyebrows were raised and nobody gasped.
“With the number one pick of the 2012 Draft, the New Orleans Hornets pick… Anthony Davis from the University of Kentucky!”
The 6 foot 10 soon-to-be superstar shook hands with NBA’s Commissioner David Stern to join a rare group of young players chosen first in the draft every year. But Davis, a skilled big man who can not only change games but potentially change franchises, was a definite number one this season, and a definite number one in many more years in the past decade.
No surprises, no raised eyebrows, just crickets…
And then the draft really started.
A draft deep in talent, NBA teams had the freedom to pick and choose the positions they needed and the right kind of personalities. Instead of falling for unproven and unpredictable athletic guys of the past, the scouts made the next few picks based on the best fits with their existing rosters. With the second pick, the Charlotte Bobcats picked versatile, team-first, and defensive small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Davis and ‘MKG’ became the first duo of the same college (Kentucky) to go one and two in the same draft.
Ignoring some of the more tantalising bigger men like Thomas Robinson, Harrison Barnes, and Andre Drummond, the next two picks – to the Wizards and the Cavaliers – were shooting guards Bradley Beal and the surprise high-pick of the night, Dion Waiters. The Kings made power forward Thomas Robinson the fifth pick to join DeMarcus Cousins in their frontcourt.
Draft scouting is an inexact science: top picks have failed to rise to their expectations and lower picks have turned out to be diamonds in the rough. Over the past few years, higher picks like Kwame Brown, Darko Milicic, Andrea Bargnani, Michael Olawakandi, and Greg Oden have been dissapointments. And then there were stars like Kobe Bryant (13th), Steve Nash (16th), Tony Parker (28th), Manu Ginobili (57th), and Gilbert Arenas (30th) who have enjoyed good NBA careers.
So it’s hard to predict who will be a risk and who will be a reward from the class this year. Some players could have a great start to their career and fizzle out soon after. Others could be late bloomers. Some could dominate from day one and be the stars that they were always touted to be. Some would fail spectacularly – through injury or through underachievement – and never make it at all.
What we can do is praise the teams that made the right moves to rebuild their rosters. The Hornets were of course the big winners, in not only adding Anthony Davis but also coupling him with intelligent, mature 10th pick guard Austin Rivers. The Wizards and Cavs both found the right shooting guards to run on the backcourt along with their existing star young PGs, John Wall and Kyrie Irving. Andre Drummond will beef up the Pistons frontcourt along with Greg Monroe. The Celtics picked two high-potential big men with the 21st and 22nd picks: Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo. The Thunder got a potential steal with Perry Jones III at the 28th pick.
The NBA Draft is just the beginning of the luck: what they make of that luck from here on beyond will be up to the players themselves, to leave behind words like ‘potential’ and develop into solid performers.