On Wednesday night, the NBA Draft Lottery decided who will make the first pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. Surprisingly, the lottery was won by the team currently owned by the league: the New Orleans Hornets, who have a "Sale Pending" sign on the franchise as Saints owner Tom Benson comes up with the cash to keep hoops in New Orleans.
So Benson will balance his personal checkbook after the debacle the Saints have been for the last six months (and will be through the 2012 season) by selling Anthony Davis merchandise. Good for him.
But where will the rest of this year's talented draft class go? Let's take a shot at predicting the first round.
1. New Orleans Hornets
Anthony Davis, C, Kentucky
Pun intended, but this pick is a layup. He's a game-changer who could wind up becoming anywhere between Marcus Camby and Tim Duncan when it's all done. He's a great player and will make an immediate impact on the Hornets. But who will get him the ball? We might find out when the Hornets select again with the tenth overall selection.
2. Charlotte Bobcats
Andre Drummond, C, Connecticut
After Davis, Drummond is the best big man in this year's draft and the Bobcats will likely jump at the idea of putting him on the court with their top pick from last year, UConn's Kemba Walker. The Bobcats top rebounder averaged under six boards per game last year, so adding quality size is a must this year. They have a lot of needs, and size is something you can't teach.
3. Washington Wizards
Thomas Robinson, PF, Kansas
Washington made a nice trade late in the season to bring Nene in from Denver, and they have a few players with some decent size on their roster. But they don't have a big man that can score like Robinson, and he'd be a great offensive compliment to John Wall and Jordan Crawford. Also, he's one of the hardest working guys in this class, and the leadership he displayed at Kansas would be an additional plus for the Wizards.
4. Cleveland Cavaliers
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, SF, Kentucky
They won the lottery last year and selected the 2012 NBA Rookie of the Year, point guard Kyrie Irving. They also selected forward Tristan Thompson later in last year's first round, and he was a decent role player for them last year (8.3 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 1.03 bpg). Adding a great athlete at the small forward position is a no-brainer for the Cavs at this point, and they would be thrilled if Kidd-Gilchrist fell to four. They have another pick later in the first round as well.
5. Sacramento Kings
Harrison Barnes, SF, North Carolina
The Kings might look to move their uber-talented yet disgruntled big man DeMarcus Cousins, but they would be better served to put some more talent around him and build with a guy that averaged 18 points, 11 rebounds and better than one block and steal per game last year. The Kings have two solid scorers at guard with Tyreke Evans and Marcus Thornton, but adding a smooth jump shooter like Barnes to the mix makes a lot of sense for the... Seattle (?) Kings.
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).
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. (On the record: Zeller will be the biggest bust in this year's draft).
8. Toronto Raptors
Austin Rivers, SG, Duke
The Raptors need a scorer and some attitude, and Rivers is both of those. He's got the stroke and swagger to be a solid SG in the NBA right away. You feel bad for whomever ends up going to Toronto, though.
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. At 6-5, he's already a more NBA-appropriate height than Ben Gordon ever was, and he might average more than the 15.4 ppg that led the Pistons last year as a rookie.
10. New Orleans Hornets
Kendall Marshall, PG, North Carolina
Marshall is the best pure PG in the draft, which would be an ideal compliment for the Hornets to select here with their second pick of the first round. He might not replace Chris Paul's offense, but with a healthy Eric Gordon and Anthony Davis on the court with him, he could be a top assist guy in the NBA as a rookie.
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
Jared Sullinger, PF, Ohio State
The Bucks acquired Monta Ellis from Golden State during the season, and already have Brandon Jennings at the point. Adding a legit post player like Sullinger (despite being too short to play center in the NBA) would make sense. Sullinger's a solid rebounder and a big body that would improve their front court depth with the exciting two guards they already have in place.
13. Phoenix Suns
Damian Lillard, PG, Weber State
The Suns would love to see Kendall Marshall fall to them here as a potential replacement for Steve Nash, but Lillard is a more offensive-minded guard who could pick up the tempo on the underwhelming Suns. There are lots of issues to address in Phoenix, but this seems like a great fit.
14. Houston Rockets
Terrence Jones, PF, Kentucky
The Rockets are another team with plenty of issues, one of which is adding size to a frontcourt that only one player, Luis Scola, average over 10 points per game last season. Jones is a big body who can score, which they frankly don't have right now. They'll come back after the next pick and address another hole with the 16th pick.
15. Philadelphia 76ers
Jeffrey Taylor, SF, Vanderbilt
This could be one of the most interesting picks in the draft. The Sixers are allegedly open to the idea of moving Andre Iguodala this summer, and might bring back a big man (Pau Gasol?) if they do trade him. The Sixers need to add size, but Taylor would be a perfect replacement for Iguodala.
16. Houston Rockets
Marquis Teague, PG, Kentucky
This is probably way too high for Teague to come off the board, but this isn't a strong class of point guards... and the Rockets need someone to run their offense with Kyle Lowry likely gone. Selecting college teammates Jones and Teague would provide some familiarity on and off the court for the two rookies, which could help the team progress into a playoff contender on it. A starting five including Teague, Kevin Martin and Jones is at least more athletic than what they brought to the dance last year
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 similardefensive 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. Minnesota Timberwolves
Dion Waiters, G, Syracuse
Once you get past the overwhelming disappointment that Ricky Rubio's season ended because of injury and the fact that Kevin Love is the most underappreciated star in the league, the Timberwolves have a roster filled with underachievers. Last year's top pick, Derrick Williams, averaged 8.8 points per game last year as a rookie after many analysts picked him to win top rookie honors. And their top pick in 2010, Wesley Johnson, averaged only 6.0 points per game. Adding Waiters at the SG spot would push Williams and Johnson into a rotation at the SF position (and force Michael Beasley out of town), while Waiters would bring a lot of offense to the table. Minnesota might go big here to take pressure off Love to do it all, too.
19. Orlando Magic
Meyers Leonard, C, Illinois
Some think Leonard could jump as far up as the top ten, but his limited body of work on mediocre Illinois teams could hurt his place in the draft. One thing you cannot take away from him is size, though, and the Magic are heading into a summer that's already being dominated by Dwight Howard trade talk. Taking a legit seven footer to fill a hole up front in the wake of a potential Howard deal makes sense, and Leonard is the best (and biggest) center available here.
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
Arnett Moultrie, PF, Mississippi State
The Hawks need to add some size up front, and Moultrie is one of the best pure rebounders in this year's draft. So much attention is being paid to the kids from Kentucky and North Carolina, many fans might not recognize a guy like Moultrie who could become a really solid PF at the next level.
24. Cleveland Cavaliers
Royce White, PF, Iowa State
After taking Michael Kidd-Gilchrist earlier in this projection, the Cavs are coming back with a really smart kid that plays bigger than his size. White has been characterized as a guy that makes those around him better, and he can play either forward position as well. Putting him on the court with Irving and Kidd-Gilchrist would give Cleveland fans something to watch for the next few years.
25. Memphis Grizzlies
Terrence Ross, SG, Washington
Ross is a swing guard can really stroke from the perimeter and has the size to grow into a solid NBA contributor. He's one of the hottest names moving up draft boards right now, and could easily be gone in the mid-teens.
26. Indiana Pacers
Andrew Nicholson, PF, St. Bonaventure
The Pacers' strength is their guards and Danny Granger at SF, but lack depth inside after Roy Hibbert and David West. Nicholson would be a solid compliment to those two inside players at this point in the draft.
27. Miami Heat
Kyle O'Quinn, C, Norfolk State
The Heat cannot go another year without addressing their need for better depth up front. LeBron and Dwyane Wade can handle the ball all day, but the Heat are limited to only Chris Bosh for offense up front. O'Quinn is a big kid that had a solid season for Norfolk State (he averaged 15.9 points and 10.3 rebounds as a senior).
28. Oklahoma City Thunder
Draymond Green, PF, 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.
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
Moe Harkless, SF, St. John's
This is the Warriors second pick, which they can afford to use on a luxury like Harkless at SF. He was a box score-filling machine last year, averaging over 15 points and adding 8.6 rebounds, 1.4 blocks and 1.6 steals per night. For a team that doesn't have a lot of guys that score, rebound, block or steal the ball, adding a guy this late that can do it all is great value.