NBA Basketball Column: Offseason Beat
2012 NBA Draft: Fantasy Recap
In the draft that draftniks had dubbed the deepest in recent memory, the mood had grown increasingly skeptical and pessimistic among decision-makers around the league. Aside from Anthony Davis, there was no consensus No. 2 player and sunny-side up mock drafts started to resemble scrambled eggs. Teams with an idea of who they liked started to make the calls to trade up, but question marks at the top of the lottery put GMs on alert and made most of them sellers.
The Rockets were the only real buyers on Thursday, and even they couldn’t buy their way into a top draft pick and, by extension, a chance to rent Dwight Howard for a year.
So instead of a deluge of trading activity to accommodate those GMs seeking to trade down, the draft was relatively quiet with just one veteran being traded (Kelenna Azubuike). There were a few surprises, but nothing more than a garden-variety reach here and a tumbling stock there.
Despite the quiet night, the table is now officially set for fantasy leagues. The draft culminates months of speculation and guessing about the future, and when free agency starts on Sunday at midnight, the shape of next season will begin to take form much, much earlier than it did in last year’s locked out mess.
So let’s get right to it with a look at the lottery picks, winners and losers, and the best of the rest from the 2012 NBA Draft.
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1. New Orleans Hornets – PF/C Anthony Davis, Kentucky
Davis was the consensus No. 1 pick and has All-Star caliber talent from the get-go. Here is what we know. He’ll block the ball (4.7), he’ll rebound (10.4), and he’ll steal the ball (1.4). We know he’ll get as many minutes as he can handle. We know the Hornets don’t have anybody to steal his playing time. Can he get enough easy offense to score 10 ppg? Probably. With elite capabilities for blocks and no danger areas, he’s worth a look in the early half of the middle rounds.
2. Charlotte Bobcats – SF/PF Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kentucky
MKG’s college numbers don’t jump off the page (12 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.9 blocks, 49.1 FG%, 25.5 3PT%, 74.5 FT%), but they’re good enough to provide solid value in 8- and 9-cat formats. Factor in an overloaded Kentucky team that limited guys’ numbers, and an anemic Bobcats squad that had the worst winning percentage in NBA history, and Kidd-Gilchrist will be among the safest rookies to select in fantasy drafts. We can’t guarantee that he will have a neon green light from 3-point distance and he’s raw enough on offense that a breakout fantasy performance is unlikely. But if you’re looking for a safer play toward the end of your draft with some solid upside, he’s your guy.
3. Washington Wizards – SG Bradley Beal, Florida
There was mild controversy over whether a high pick should be used on the sharp-shooting Beal (1.7 3PG, 34%), but the Wizards telegraphed their intentions after adding Emeka Okafor and Beal was the pick all along. While draftniks weren’t sold on his length, ball-handling and his ability to create his own shot, fantasy owners should know that Beal isn’t just a one trick pony. He grabbed 6.7 rebounds, 1.4 steals, and had 0.8 blocks per game at Florida, and his 3-point shooting percentage was abnormally low by most reports, too. He also plays defense and has good intangibles, and that’s going to profile well next to incumbent starter Jordan Crawford, who has never met a shot that he didn’t take. It will be tempting for the Wizards to bring the 19-year old along slowly, but basketball-wise it makes sense to eventually start Beal and allow Crawford to gun with the second unit. In terms of a draft day decision, unless the Wizards aggressively announce their intentions to run Beal for heavy minutes early in the year -- he's a late round target with upside, at best.
Losers: Jordan Crawford
4. Cleveland Cavaliers – SG Dion Waiters, Syracuse
Waiters, a sophomore, didn’t even start for his college team and surged up draft boards as teams started to fall in love with his upside. A physical specimen at 6’4/210, he’s built in the mold of guys like Rodney Stuckey and Dwyane Wade with the ability to take a lick and keep on tickin’. He has issues with shot selection and there are question marks about his attitude, which unfortunately begs the question of how he’ll do playing for rookie drill sergeant Byron Scott. Fortunately for Waiters and his owners, the Cavs don’t have anybody that can truly compete with him for playing time. He can score, hit the three (1.1 3PM, 36.3%), and has elite steals capability with 1.8 per game in just 24 minutes per night. And if he can stay focused, the Eastern Conference will have their hands full with the Waiters/Kyrie Irving backcourt early on in the year. Draft him in the late rounds with confidence, and if preseason reports are favorable he could crack the late middle-rounds.
Losers: Manny Harris
5. Sacramento Kings – PF Thomas Robinson, Kansas
The Kings were winners by default on Thursday, as Robinson fell to them and kept them from having to ponder yet another ball-handler. His problem area in fantasy leagues is his foul shooting, which was 69.2 percent last season, and the silver lining is that he improved from 39.5 percent in 09-10 and 51 percent in 10-11. He’s a freak physically and has a fairly versatile offensive game, though he’s not nearly as good a shooter as his shot selection might show. Assuming the Kings can afford to keep restricted free agent Jason Thompson, Robinson will start the season competing for big man minutes off the bench. Unless Hassan Whiteside makes an unlikely surge past the 12-15 mpg mark, there should be enough minutes to feed both power forwards and DeMarcus Cousins in what will be one of the league’s up-and-coming front lines. Look at Robinson in the late rounds if you’re in need of rebounds (11.9), steals (1.1), and blocks (0.9).
6. Portland Trail Blazers – PG Damian Lillard, Weber State
After Raymond Felton was nearly run out of town by local media and fans, the search for a new PG was on before last season ended. Ultimately, rather than chasing down a free agent PG or trying to trade for a veteran, the Blazers set their eyes on Lillard, who comes with plenty of potential and a handful of question marks. Namely, he beat up on lesser competition playing in the Big Sky conference, and because he was asked to shoulder the scoring load (24.5 ppg) his assist numbers were down (4.0 apg). That said, he developed some bad habits along the way not hitting the open man and taking plays off on defense. Lillard is otherwise a solid PG prospect, boasting great handles and efficiency (46.7/40.9/88.7, 2.3 TOs). He would have to face-plant to not be the starter on opening day, unless the Blazers bring in a veteran to ease the burden early on. With a strong shot at solid shooting numbers, owners can afford to take a chance in the later middle rounds that he’ll be a poor man’s Kyrie Irving.
7. Golden State Warriors – SF Harrison Barnes, North Carolina
The Warriors were staring down the barrel of a gun that appeared to be a decision on risky big man Andre Drummond, but the late surge by Dion Waiters allowed Barnes to fall in their lap. While the scoring wing fulfills a need for the Warriors at the SF slot, and scoring is his calling card (17.1 ppg, 1.3 3PT, 35.8 3PT%, 5.1 FTA, 72.3 FT%), he’s going to have a hard time breaking out without some attrition amongst his teammates. Assuming the Warriors can get rid of Dorell Wright (probable) and Richard Jefferson (improbable), Barnes will still have to compete with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, David Lee, and Andrew Bogut for touches. I can see taking a late round flier on him with the hopes that Mark Jackson decides to run with his team that is built to run, but anything beyond that is extremely optimistic even if he’s guaranteed starter’s minutes.
8. Toronto Raptors – SG Terrence Ross, Washington
The selection of Ross was the first pick that got Twitter buzzing last night, as most mock drafts had him being selected outside of the lottery and behind Jeremy Lamb and Austin Rivers. The pick was also interesting in that it creates a redundancy with SG DeMar DeRozan, who could conceivably be moved to SF in what may signify the white flag on his 3-point shooting aspirations. As for Ross, he is a solid 3-point shooter (2.1 3PM, 37.1%) that contributes on the glass (6.4 rpg) and on defense (1.3 steals, 0.9 blocks). He plays solid man-to-man defense despite his average length and athleticism, with the only other huge knock being his sub-par basketball IQ. The Raptors clearly liked what they saw in him taking him this early, but the presence of DeRozan, James Johnson, and a handful of other potential time-sucks at the shooting guard position cap his upside. Unless we get great preseason reports, Ross is a late-round flier at best.
9. Detroit Pistons – C Andre Drummond, UCONN
The whipping boy of the lottery, Drummond started high on draft boards and ultimately fell to the Pistons, who can’t be blamed for taking a chance on the high-risk, high-upside poster boy. Though the situation lines up well for Drummond – the Pistons would like to move Greg Monroe to a more natural power forward position, and the roster isn’t oozing with big man talent – he’ll be on his own development schedule and Joe Dumars wasted no time in letting media know that on Thursday. The red flags for Drummond were increasing concerns about his motor and attitude, which create bust potential for a guy with an extremely raw offensive game. He shoots just 29.5% from the foul line and struggled in pre-draft workouts. A project, owners can only look at him as a late-round, late-blooming source of blocks (2.7) and boards (7.6) best fit for 14-16 team leagues.
10. New Orleans Hornets – SG Austin Rivers, Duke
Rivers brought a lot of star power into the 10-slot of the draft, and is a lethal scorer that struggles when the ball isn’t in his hands. And though he falls into a great situation in New Orleans, a team that struggled to field healthy bodies last season let alone impact basketball players, there are a lot of problems with Rivers’ fantasy game. Namely, all he does is score and hit threes. His shooting numbers leave a lot to be desired, too, with a 43 percent mark from the field and an ugly 65.8 percent from the line on a decent clip of 5.4 freebies per game. Whether he comes off the bench behind injury prone Eric Gordon or gets slotted into a small lineup next to him, Rivers is a solid bet for 30+ minutes per game a month or two into the season. I just think there’s more bark than bite here and I probably won’t bite except as a last round flier pick, assuming the reports out of New Orleans are golden.
11. Portland Trailblazers – C Meyers Leonard, Illinois
Leonard and Tyler Zeller will be linked throughout their careers as the upside guy vs. the safe play, respectively, and the Blazers chose to go for the gusto in taking the raw but athletic Illini big man. Amazingly inconsistent, it would be a surprise if the Blazers exposed him to heavy minutes before the All Star break unless the light bulb turns on in unimaginable ways this summer. That said, the Blazers have little to no depth in their frontcourt, so taking a flier on Leonard might make sense if you’re shallow at center or hunting big man stats in a stash.
Losers: J.J. Hickson
12. Houston Rockets – SG Jeremy Lamb, UCONN
Right now, Lamb is hands off in standard formats due to the presence of Kevin Martin and Courtney Lee, but Martin has been in trade rumors all summer and the Rockets appear to be rebuilding. Fantasy-wise, there’s a lot to like about his shooting (47.8/33.6/81.0) and scoring (17.7 ppg). While he doesn’t completely fall off the map in terms of peripheral stats (4.9 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.6 blocks), and he has untapped potential on defense and across the board – he exhibits red flags in terms of effort, consistency, being a good teammate, and he needs to beef up his 185-pound frame. It’s hard to imagine Kevin McHale and Daryl Morey selecting Lamb without some sense of how to corral all of that, but we’d be remiss not to remember how McHale likes to bench little problems like those. We’ll be more than happy to give Lamb a late round rating if/when guys like Martin and Kyle Lowry are ushered out, but until those issues are resolved there are probably better ways to spend that pick.
13. Phoenix Suns – PG Kendall Marshall, North Carolina
At this point, you’re either a Kendall Marshall guy or you’re not. There’s no doubt about his ability to see the game and dish the rock, and with Steve Nash entertaining serious offers everywhere the writing may already be on the wall. But there are serious questions about Marshall’s ability to succeed at the NBA level due to his non-existent offense (3-point shooting aside) – and what may be more glaring is his inability to play on-ball defense at such a young age. Luckily owners will likely know Nash and Aaron Brooks’ status well before draft day, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Suns give the heady PG the rock if Nash goes elsewhere. A late round value if that is the case, he’ll have some upside too if he can make like Ricky Rubio and silence the doubters.
Losers: Aaron Brooks
The Best of the Rest
PF Royce White, Rockets: Taken with the 16th pick, White was the not-so-secret sleeper that could end up making noise in both fantasy and reality. A point forward that averaged 13.4 points, 9.3 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.2 steals, and 0.9 blocks for Iowa State, he draws comparisons to Boris Diaw before Diaw locked himself in a room with Pizza the Hut. Yes, there are trouble areas, though the ones involving his off-the-court issues appear overblown. The real worries for fantasy owners are his foul shooting (49.8%), turnovers (3.8), defense, lack of a jumper, and log-jam of power forwards on the roster. The only silver lining is that Marcus Camby is the only notable center on the roster, and White would fit nicely in a small lineup. Owners should wait to see some of the clutter clear out, but White should be on radars, for sure.
PF Terrence Jones, Rockets: A mixture of Zach Randolph and Derrick Williams, the intriguing blend of power and versatility also comes with big-time question marks about his motor and attitude. Similarly to Royce White, he could struggle to tread fantasy water in a crowded field of PFs, but his upside is tremendous with solid peripherals (0.4 3PM, 32.7% 3PT, 1.3 steals, 1.8 blocks). He can score from all over the court (12.3 ppg in a crowded Kentucky offense) and he rebounds (7.2) well, too. The recommendation is the same for Jones as it is for White – be ready to move if Houston clears space for their new talent.
C Tyler Zeller, Cavaliers: Getting no respect, Zeller fell to No. 17 over concerns about his upside, or lack thereof. He joins a Cavs squad with legitimate (albeit injury-laden) talent in Anderson Varejao and a glaring question mark in Tristan Thompson. Zeller arrives on the scene with the ability to contribute right away, and projecting a 20-minute role right off the bat is a safe play. Likely to see his minutes increase as the season goes along, Zeller is a slightly risky No. 2 big man for your fantasy squad. Though his overall upside as a player is limited, along with his general upside in fantasy leagues, if he pans out he could be looking at double-double like numbers with average numbers of steals (0.9), blocks (1.5), and good shooting numbers (55.3 FG%, 80.8 FT%).
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