On Thursday night, the NBA hold their annual draft and dramatically change the lives of some young men.
The trade winds have started blowing already, and more deals could certainly happen between now and the end of the selection process. But here's how I see the first round shaping up when it goes down in less than 48 hours.
Please read this before the mock draft: I am not assuming any trades in this draft, so the teams are slotted where they are expected to pick on Thursday night (as of 10 pm CT on Tuesday). There will probably be a few trades before and during the draft, so keep that in mind.
1. New Orleans Hornets
Anthony Davis, C, Kentucky
This is a no-brainer, and the only lock in the entire draft. ESPN is already having a love affair with the kid that would embarrass John Travolta, so he better be the goods when he steps onto the floor as a professional this fall. No pressure, kid.
2. Charlotte Bobcats
Andre Drummond, C, Connecticut
Lots of folks have the Bobcats doing something sensible and/or reasonable here, like picking Thomas Robinson or Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. But this is where things go a little funky in this year's draft. The Bobcats have been pretty open about their willingness to trade down, and have already made one trade this week; the dealt Fenwick grad Corey Maggette to Detroit for former Bull Ben Gordon and a protected pick. So now the Bobcats have two tiny snipers from UConn on their roster in Gordon and Kemba Walker. Drummond is one of the most debated prospects in this year's draft because of his size and the flashes he's shown of great ability... but also because of the moments of questionable effort. For a team that didn't have a single player average over seven rebounds a game last year, they might look to the second (and only remaining) legitimate center in this year's draft.
3. Washington Wizards
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, SF, Kentucky
A month ago when I took my first look at a mock draft, the Wizards desperately needed to add some size to their roster. Around Nene, who they acquired at the deadline this past season, they had almost no size at all. Since then, Washington made a fabulous trade in sending a second round pick and arguably the worst contract in the NBA, Rashard Lewis, to New Orleans for Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza. Okafor and Nene will probably be the starting center and power forward for Washington this season, while John Wall and Jordan Crawford handle the guard spots. Kidd-Gilchrist would be a great fit at the SF spot in a rotation with Ariza.
4. Cleveland Cavaliers
Harrison Barnes, SF, North Carolina
Cleveland could go a couple routes here, thinking that Robinson as a PF might be a good fit or Barnes, who appears to be flying up most draft boards. Last year, the Cavs took Kyrie Irving to be the PG of their future, and also found good value in Tristan Thompson later last year. Adding a tall wing player in Barnes who can hit from anywhere on the floor would open up the game for Irving.
5. Sacramento Kings
Thomas Robinson, PF, Kansas
The Kings are another team that will probably not pick where they're slotted tonight, especially if Robinson and/or Bradley Beal is still available at this point. If they can pick up a solid big man at this stage in the draft, they might be more willing to entertain offers for DeMarcus Cousins (who hasn't been the best friend of the organization over the last couple years). Robinson's a great character guy who works hard and would fit in well with the talented shooters on their roster.
6. Portland Trail Blazers
Bradley Beal, SG, Florida
The Blazers need a sniper to replace what they lost when Brandon Roy was lost to injuries over... and over... and over again. Beal would be a perfect compliment to both LaMarcus Aldridge and Raymond Felton (who Beal might have to replace if Felton leaves as a free agent). I had Beal falling this far a month ago, and can still see a scenario where he surprises a few people by lasting past the fifth pick.
7. Golden State Warriors
Tyler Zeller, C, North Carolina
The Warriors traded away Monta Ellis last year, leaving them with two legit offensive weapons in PF David Lee and G Steph Curry. While Lee was certainly an adequate PF last year (20.1 ppg, 9.6 rpg), adding a seven footer in the middle who can also step out and hit a jumper off a pick-and-roll would be a great compliment to Lee and Curry. Jerry West loves guys who work hard, and Zeller fits that mold and is a low-risk proposition from a GMs perspective. (On the record: I believe Zeller will be the biggest bust in this year's draft).
8. Toronto Raptors
Dion Waiters, G, Syracuse
A month ago I liked Austin Rivers here, and that still wouldn't surprise me. But there's something to be said for the fact that Toronto is the only team that Waiters has worked out for, and we're less than two days from the draft beginning. The compliments for Waiters coming from the people at Syracuse have been as big as his range.
9. Detroit Pistons
Jeremy Lamb, SG, Connecticut
The Pistons did well to pick up Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight the last two years, so putting a guy that can shoot like Lamb on the court with them makes perfect sense. Also consider they worked out all big men in their final workout before the draft, and then traded Gordon for a SF in Maggette. Lamb would fit the role Gordon had played for Detroit, but with an extra five or six inches of height on his frame.
10. New Orleans Hornets
Damian Lillard, PG, Weber State
If the Hornets could put Lillard in their backcourt with a (hopefully) healthy Eric Gordon and Anthony Davis, they would have the beginnings of a really good, young nucleus.
11. Portland Trail Blazers
Perry Jones III, PF, Baylor
In this mock, the Blazers have already selected Brady Beal out of Florida to bolster their back court and add outside scoring. Here, they might look to compliment Aldridge inside with the talented Jones, who has great size and athletic ability.
12. Milwaukee Bucks
Terrence Jones, PF, Kentucky
The Bucks need to add size inside, and could go a number of directions to accomplish that here. Meyers Leonard is a possibility, but it's hard for small markets to commit to a project after adding a lot of money to their books in Monta Ellis. Jones is a beast inside who has a more NBA-ready body than Leonard and would compliment Ellis and Brandon Jennings well.
13. Phoenix Suns
Austin Rivers, SG, Duke
The Suns need to replace Steve Nash, and Rivers is too good for them to pass up at this point. They still have a lot of issues to address, but adding a kid that likes to take (and make) big shots who can handle the ball as well is a good place to start.
14. Houston Rockets
Arnett Moultrie, PF, Mississippi State
The Rockets have three of the next five picks, and would prefer to have Dwight Howard to any of the kids available on the board right now. They're loading up to make a major run at a superstar, and will try to package their picks in a blockbuster before we get to this point. However, if they end up using the picks, Moultrie is a name to watch here. He's become a really popular name heading into the draft, and has a big body and a solid, underappreciated game.
15. Philadelphia 76ers
Terrence Ross, SG, Washington
The Sixers need to add length on their roster, and Ross is a hot name right now. With Andre Iguodala back in almost every trade scenario out there, adding a big shooter in Ross would open up some options for the Sixers with Evan Turner possibly moving to SF after a potential deal.
16. Houston Rockets
Meyers Leonard, C, Illinois
If one big body isn't enough, the Rockets could come back with an entirely new front court with Leonard and Moultrie. Again, the odds of the Rockets hanging onto their three picks and using them are getting lower with each passing hour, but they could improve their roster a great deal (and be a more competitive team for the next few years) by keeping them and adding talent and size to their team.
17. Dallas Mavericks
Fab Melo, C, Syracuse
The Mavs really missed the defensive force that Tyson Chandler was inside for them when they won the championship in 2011, and Melo projects to be a similar defensive presence in the NBA. Like Teague, this might be a stretch on Melo at 17, but he fits a need for a team that isn't far removed from the mountain top.
18. Houston Rockets
Moe Harkless, SF, St. John's
If Houston added Harkless to the other two bigs would be a grand slam for the Rockets, whether they're looking to move the picks or just trying to... you know... actually get better.
19. Orlando Magic
Jared Sullinger, PF, Ohio State
A lot of teams are backing away from Sullinger at this point because of some health concerns and a perceived lack of athletic ability. He could go anywhere from around 10 to the second round. If Orlando hangs onto this pick (or Howard), adding a guy that can score in the post would make sense.
20. Denver Nuggets
Tony Wroten, G, Washington
Wroten is an enormous talent that might work his way higher on the board than this when the draft finally arrives. He can play either guard position, which is a huge plus for the Nuggets considering he's six inches taller than Ty Lawson and a better shooter than Arron Afflalo.
21. Boston Celtics
John Henson, PF, North Carolina
22. Boston Celtics
Doron Lamb, G, Kentucky
The Celtics have consecutive picks here at 21 and 22, and are heading into what might be the most fascinating summer in the NBA. There's a good chance Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen might not be back in Boston. What the Celtics clearly need, however, is more size inside; Brandon Bass is a nice player, but at 6-8 there are taller players that give him problems. Henson would help with that part of the equation. He's a strong rebounder that could develop an offensive game to compliment Bass.
Lamb is a dead-eye shooter from outside that could replace Allen eventually, but handles the ball well enough that he could give Rajon Rondo a break at the point sometimes as well. The Celtics have had good luck with guards from Kentucky lately, so why not take another one?
23. Atlanta Hawks
Kendall Marshall, PG, North Carolina
Atlanta needs someone to consistently get the ball to Joe Johnson, Marvin Williams and Al Horford. There's plenty of talent in Atlanta, and Marshall's the type of consistent point guard that's the perfect, "safe" pick for new GM Danny Ferry.
24. Cleveland Cavaliers
Andrew Nicholson, PF, St. Bonaventure
Between Barnes and Nicholson, the Cavs would add a couple nice pieces to run with Irving. But no, it doesn't erase the pain of LeBron being a champion.
25. Memphis Grizzlies
Marquis Teague, PG, Kentucky
They might look to move Rudy Gay before/during the draft, which might open the door for a SF here. But they desperately need better play from their PG slot, and Teague's a talented kid with a lot of upside.
26. Indiana Pacers
Royce White, PF, Iowa State
The Pacers' strength is their guards and Danny Granger at SF, but lack depth inside after Roy Hibbert and David West. White has been characterized as a guy that makes those around him better, and he can play either forward position as well. He would be a nice compliment to the pieces they have in place already.
27. Miami Heat
Quincy Miller, F, Baylor
This is a luxury pick; Miller's the kind of player the Heat can allow the time to get healthy and develop. There are some concerns about his knee, but he's a smart player that has a lot of range and can play either forward position. If he needs some time to get his legs back under him, what better team to be on than the Heat, where he would be begging for minutes behind LeBron and Chris Bosh.
28. Oklahoma City Thunder
Draymond Green, F, Michigan State
Green isn't the tallest PF prospect in this year's class, but he's a great all-around player who was well trained by Tom Izzo. He's polished in the post, which is something the Thunder need, and he's an excellent passer. In the Finals, the Thunder's lack of any offense inside, or a player that could handle the ball and pass out of the post, was costly. Green could fill those needs well.
29. Chicago Bulls
Will Barton, SG, Memphis
Barton could use a few pounds of muscle, but he would provide a skill that Chicago desperately needs: the ability to get his own shot. Barton can score, and would take a lot of pressure off another Memphis guard, Derrick Rose, whenever he's ready to come back from his knee injury.
30. Golden State Warriors
Jeffrey Taylor, SF, Vanderbilt
In this scenario, the Warriors would be looking for a SF to play in the middle of a lineup with Zeller, Lee, Curry and Klay Thompson. Taylor's an elite athlete who plays lock-down defense and would be the perfect fit in Golden State with the rest of their lineup.