For whatever reason, elite talent doesn’t get drafted like it should, and in a draft as loaded as this one, it’s bound to happen again.
Just look at 2011.
Kawhi Leonard went outside of the lottery. So did Iman Shumpert, Kenneth Faried and MarShon Brooks. All of those guys—with the exception of Brooks, who made the second team—made the All-Rookie First Team.
Whether it’s injury concerns or personality concerns or unintelligent general manager disorder (it’s a thing) that cause more lottery-deserving players to fall in this year’s draft, just know one thing: non-lottery picks, especially this year, still have a very good chance of contributing.
In my newest first-round mock draft, I’ll take a closer look at the studs who will slip too far.
Note: These players are in italics
Also note: All following stats come from DraftExpress.com.
1. New Orleans Hornets (21-45): Anthony Davis, PF, Kentucky
Anthony Davis is sort of good. He has crazy length and athleticism, he’s an elite shot-blocker, he can guard the perimeter even though he’s just under 6’11″; he even has a ever-improving offensive game from mid-range.
The only thing Davis doesn’t do is clean the floors. The Hornets, who need a franchise-changer—and will get one with the former Kentucky star—are probably alright with that.
2. Charlotte Bobcats (7-59): Thomas Robinson, PF, Kansas
In any other draft, T-Rob would have a good shot at the No. 1 pick. Heck, he even thinks he has a shot at No. 1 this year.
That won’t happen, but the Bobcats, who need immediate help, would be smart to grab Robinson. The former Jayhawk is strong, athletic, a good rebounder and has tremendous range on his jump shot.
3. Washington Wizards (20-46): Bradley Beal, SG, Florida
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist looked like a likely pick here, then the Wizards went and traded for Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza. That leaves shooting guard as the one main hole in the starting lineup, which means Beal is the logical choice here.
He’s a solid defender, has a good NBA body and can be deadly from the outside.
4. Cleveland Cavaliers (21-45): Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, SF, Kentucky
Harrison Barnes is in play here, but the Cavs would be smart to get Kidd-Gilchrist, who offers defense, rebounding and tenacity instead of offense like Barnes.
While the former North Carolina star is talented, MKG is a better player for building a winning team.
5. Sacramento Kings (22-44): Harrison Barnes, SF, North Carolina
Of course, that’s not to say Barnes isn’t worthy of a top-five pick. In fact, he’s been thrown around as a potential No. 2 to Charlotte.
If he does manage to drop here, the Kings won’t hesitate in taking Barnes, who is a fantastic shooter and will work well off the ball with Isaiah Thomas and Tyreke Evans.
6. Portland Trail Blazers (via 22-44 Brooklyn Nets): Damian Lillard, PG, Weber State
It will be hard for the Blazers to pass up on someone of Drummond’s talent level, but it appears they prefer Lillard and won’t risk him slipping to them at No. 11.
With Raymond Felton likely leaving via free agency, grabbing the explosive point guard from Weber State makes a lot of sense.
7. Golden State Warriors (23-43): Andre Drummond, C, Connecticut
The Warriors would rather get a small forward, but with Barnes rising up draft boards and Kidd-Gilchrist extremely unlikely to fall, they’ll settle for Drummond or possibly trade the pick.
If they do grab Drummond, they are getting a unique player who has a rare combination of size, athleticism and talent. This could end up being a huge steal for the Warriors, who need a consistent true big man.
8. Toronto Raptors (23-43): Dion Waiters, SG, Syracuse
There’s a chance the Warriors don’t let Waiters get to this point, but if they do grab Drummond, the Raptors will rejoice.
Waiters’ stock has been soaring through the roof. The Raptors would like to pair true point guard Jose Calderon up with a scorer and would like to move DeMar DeRozan to small forward.
Waiters lets them do that.
9. Detroit Pistons (25-41): John Henson, PF, North Carolina
Greg Monroe is an up-and-coming talent in this league, but he lacks ideal length and above-the-rim ability.
Henson, who is long, athletic and springy, makes for a good defensive complement next to Monroe.
10. New Orleans Hornets (via 26-40 Minnesota Timberwolves): Meyers Leonard, C, Illinois
Leonard, who has a nice amount of athleticism for a true seven-footer to go along with a raw offensive game, has been shooting up the draft boards.
The Hornets might entertain the idea of a point guard like Kendall Marshall here, but with Emeka Okafor gone, they need lots of frontcourt depth, even with Davis.
11. Portland Trail Blazers (28-38): Tyler Zeller, C, North Carolina Tar Heels
The Blazers are hoping New Orleans goes in a different direction and Leonard drops to them because they need a center after getting Damian Lillard with their first pick.
This isn’t a bad consolation prize, though. Zeller is a seven-footer, he’s tall, provides good defense and can score the ball from a variety of places on the court.
He’s the prototypical 13-7 guy. Nothing elite, but a solid choice here.
12. Milwaukee Bucks (31-35): Perry Jones III, SF/PF, Baylor
This is a pick that really could go in any direction. The Bucks need frontcourt help, but with Leonard and Zeller gone, the best true big man available would be Jared Sullinger or Arnett Moultrie.
Jones is “big;” he just doesn’t play like it. Still, lack of motor and rebounding skills notwithstanding, he’s a terrific talent when he puts his mind to it, and it will be hard for the Bucks to pass him up.
13. Phoenix Suns (33-33): Jeremy Lamb, SG, Connecticut
I had Lamb at No. 8 for a long time, but it’s amazing how one team passing can you drop you four or five picks.
Nonetheless, the Suns don’t care because they get the talented wing player they so desperately desire.
Lamb has terrific length that helps him play scrappy defense, and he can also fill it up from mid-range.
14. Houston Rockets (34-32): Terrence Jones, SF/PF, Kentucky
The Rockets also want a center, but Leonard and Zeller are gone, and Jared Sullinger is a little too undersized and a little too much like Luis Scola.
No worry, though, because Terrence Jones is a terrific point-forward talent who was seen as a top-five pick a year ago.
15. Philadelphia 76ers (35-31): Jared Sullinger, PF/C, Ohio State
Red flag or not, some team is going to take a risk on Jared Sullinger. He’s a terrific scorer with his back to the basket, and while he doesn’t have much athleticism, he’s intriguing as an old-school post player.
Unless the Sixers want to re-sign Spencer Hawes, Sullinger fills a big need.
16. Houston Rockets (via 36-20 New York Knicks): Austin Rivers, SG, Duke
In my opinion, Rivers has a good chance of falling because of his lack of a true position. He doesn’t have the vision or passing to be a true point guard, but at 6’3.5″ without shoes, he doesn’t have great size for a shooting guard.
Nonetheless, he’s an electric scorer from all over the court, and the Rockets, who don’t have much faith in Kevin Martin, will take the risk.
17. Dallas Mavericks (36-30): Kendall Marshall, PG, North Carolina
If you want a rookie capable of running an offense right away and making everyone around him better, look no further than Kendall Marshall.
The former North Carolina point guard absolutely turned the Tar Heels around when he stepped in for Larry Drew III in 2010-11, and then they suffered in this year’s NCAA Tournament without him.
Pretty simple. With Marshall in the lineup, UNC was good. Without him, they weren’t.
Marshall lacks great shooting touch or defensive ability, but his vision, ability to find mismatches and his all-around true point guard skills are second to no one in this draft.
Unless the Mavericks can get Deron Williams, they are going to need a point guard with Jason Kidd’s future up in the air. They can get a steal in Marshall should he slip this far.
18. Minnesota Timberwolves (via 36-30 Utah Jazz): Terrence Ross, SG, Washington
Ross is another player who has lottery talent and fits the team that luckily gets to draft him.
The Timberwolves need a consistent scoring guard, and Ross is just the guy for the job. The former Washington star can sometimes disappear from action, but there’s no questioning his offensive ability.
Not only is he extremely athletic, Ross is an incredibly smooth shooter from all over the court, from off the catch, from off the dribble, everything. He is sort of like this draft’s shooting guard version of Harrison Barnes.
Ross has good size to go along with athleticism and scoring ability, and he improved during his sophomore campaign with the Huskies.
The Timberwolves will get a steal if Ross drops to them.
19. Orlando Magic (37-29): Moe Harkless, SF, St. John’s
Really like this pick for the Magic. They need someone who can make plays on the perimeter and inject some excitement into the team.
Harkless isn’t a great shooter, but he’s young and can do a lot of other things really well. He’s long, athletic, a good rebounder and a great defender.
20. Denver Nuggets (38-28): Quincy Miller, SF, Baylor
Miller, much like Harkless, is an inconsistent shooter from the wing.
However, most people don’t realize this guy is 6’10″ and quick, and as a result, he’s going to be a menace on the defensive end. Throw in his ability to score from mid-range, and this is a nice role-player pick for the Nuggets.
21. Boston Celtics (39-27): Arnett Moultrie, PF, Mississippi State
Kevin Garnett likely has a year or two left in his tank, but it’s still unclear whether or not the Celtics will re-sign.
Not only is Moultrie—a terrific shooter and rebounder—a steal at No. 21 for Boston, he gives them good insure for KG in the future.
22. Boston Celtics (via 40-26 Los Angeles Clippers): Royce White, SF, Iowa State
There is talk that White has been given a promise by a team, and the speculation is that the Celtics are that team.
If the Celtics do indeed luck out and see White fall to them, they will consider themselves very lucky. The former Cyclone star can do everything on the court.
Not only is he 6’9″ and extremely strong, White often did most of the ball-handling at Iowa State. He’s a prototypical point forward, and that’s evidenced by the fact he led the Cyclones in every major category during his only season.
Not only is White a good scorer from both inside and outside, he’s a ferocious rebounder and easily the best passing big man in this draft. If I were drafting, I wouldn’t let this guy fall out of the top 10.
The Celtics would be getting a rebuilding gift with Royce White.
23. Atlanta Hawks (40-26): Andrew Nicholson, PF, St. Bonaventure
Nicholson lacks ideal athleticism, especially with the amount of athletic power forwards increasing, but he does pretty much everything else well.
He has tremendous footwork on the block, he can knock down NBA three-pointers and he has a very high basketball IQ.
24. Cleveland Cavaliers (via 41-25 Los Angeles Lakers): Fab Melo, C, Syracuse
After getting Kidd-Gilchrist at No. 4, the Cavs would be smart to grab a true center to improve their frontcourt depth.
Melo still needs work on offense, but he is athletic and he’s a dominant shot-blocker. Adding both MKG and Melo makes Cleveland a defensive force.
25. Memphis Grizzlies (41-25): Tony Wroten, PG, Washington
The Grizzlies need a backup point guard, and while Marquis Teague is an option here, they would be smarter to grab Wroten.
Teague is probably the better option to play right away, but since the Grizzlies are only drafting a backup, Wroten, who has the potential to be an All-Star in a couple of years, should be the pick.
26. Indiana Pacers (42-24): Draymond Green, PF, Michigan State
The Pacers don’t have many holes they can fill with this pick, but Draymond Green is someone who can step in and play right away.
The Michigan State alum does everything on the court, and much like Royce White, he’s a point-forward, although he doesn’t have as much pure talent as White.
Green makes for a solid role player.
27. Miami Heat (46-20): John Jenkins, SG, Vanderbilt
We’ve seen what the Heat can do when they have shooters knocking down three-pointers.
Well, there isn’t a better three-point shooter in this draft than John Jenkins. At Vanderbilt, he was often the focus of many SEC defenses, but he still managed to knock down 44 percent of his threes on 8.7 attempts per game.
Put Jenkins in Miami’s lineup, and he will be scary effective.
28. Oklahoma City Thunder (47-19): Marquis Teague, PG, Kentucky
Derek Fisher won’t be around forever and James Harden’s future in OKC is up in the air. No matter what happens, the Thunder need some backcourt depth.
John Calipari’s point guards are close to sure things, so Teague would be a smart pick at No. 28.
29. Chicago Bulls (50-16): Will Barton, SG, Memphis
Will Barton is 6’6″ and 174 pounds. He is insanely talented, but the need for him to add some bulk is painfully obvious.
Nonetheless, Barton did everything for Memphis this season, and he has seen his stock rise very quickly. He might not even make it Chicago.
30. Golden State Warriors (via 50-16 San Antonio Spurs): Jeff Taylor, SF, Vanderbilt
Perfect pick for the Warriors, who don’t seem to have enough maturity or toughness, and won’t be adding that with Andre Drummond.
In addition to his tenacity, Taylor is a solid—albeit inconsistent—shooter, he’s athletic and he plays good defense.
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