Answers to the big questions about the 2012 NBA Draft

 

The draft lottery has come and gone, fixed as obviously as it was in 1985. Now we’re starting to get a better picture of who will end up where, and we can try to predict the future of the league. When the season ends and the draft gets closer, we plan on providing you with a great deal of information regarding players in the draft – how they performed in college, how you can expect them to play in the NBA, and how some teams are gonna screw up big time with their first round picks (by the way Bill Simmons, a first round pick is not the same as a no. 1 pick!!!! when you say “no. 1 pick” we think you’re talking about the #1 overall pick!! LeBron was a no. 1 pick. Jordan was not.) Until then, I’m gonna answer a few questions and provide some thoughts on the draft.

How Good Can New Orleans Be?

Everyone knows New Orleans is the big winner here. There is a lot of decent talent in this draft, but there is only one franchise player. To quote myself from a post I made in March, Davis is “the most sure fire no. 1 draft pick since LeBron really good.” But we know that one great player doesn’t alone make for a great team. So what does this mean for New Orleans? Do they have the pieces? It’s really gonna depend on what they can do in the offseason. The Hornets should have a lot of free space, so solid free agent signings are a MUST if this team wants to compete.

The Hornets as they stand now (without resigning anyone and assuming Gordon accepts his qualifying offer):

Player Pos WP48 (last 6K min)
Gustavo Ayon C 0.171
Emeka Okafor C 0.153
Trevor Ariza SF 0.099
Jarrett Jack PG 0.099
Eric Gordon SG 0.091
Greivis Vasquez SG 0.085
Al-Farouq Aminu SF 0.084
Jason Smith PF 0.007
Xavier Henry SG -0.009

That looks to me like a pretty average team. Add Anthony Davis in the mix and you easily have an above average squad. How the hell were they so bad then? It’s simple: of all the players whose contracts expire, not a single one produced at an above average rate. Chris Kaman was especially bad. He cost the team over a win in his nearly 1400 minutes. But now Kaman and fellow poor players with expiring contracts are free agents. And it’s New Orleans’ job to make sure they don’t get re-signed.

So how can New Orleans do well next season? Well, they already got Anthony Davis, and that was half the battle. Now they have to find production in free agency. I don’t think it’s particularly easy to attract talent to the New Orleans market, but the chance to play with Anthony Davis will probably help. The Hornets should focus primarily on its backcourt. I know every sportswriter on ESPN (remember folks, the E stands for entertainment, not expert) thinks that Eric Gordon is a top 3 shooting guard in the league, but let me let you in on a little secret: he’s not! He’s average. And he’s probably worth less than average (in production, not market value) because he can’t stay healthy.

So who should the Hornets go after? Steve Nash would be a HUGE get, but I don’t see that happening. Still, there are some free agent guards and swingmen that could be super helpful: Landry Fields, Goran Dragic, Matt Barnes, and Steve Novak, for example. Each of those players possess traits that can help any team win. Also, if Portland can’t close the deal with Nic Batum, he could be a fantastic pick up assuming New Orleans is willing to go high enough (but not too high). In addition, it wouldn’t hurt to bolster up the front court a bit even though it looks to be solid (although I’m not sure about Okafor’s health). Ryan Anderson!! and Kris Humphries would both be great additions. But while the addition of Davis and the right moves in free agency can help the Hornets be a playoff team as early as next season, the team probably needs one more marquee guy to actually compete for a title. Still, things are certainly looking up if you’re a Hornets fan, that’s for sure.

Which Lottery Team is in the Best Spot to Be Competitive Next Season?

None of them? The truth is, most of the lottery picks year won’t be very good in the NBA. If you’re a fan of a team not called the Hornets in the top 5, you’re probably gonna have a disappointing next few years. Thomas Robinson will probably be pretty good, and there’s a good chance Bradley Beal will develop nicely, but I doubt either of those guys are franchise players. Outside the top 5, the Blazers have a decent opportunity to make themselves competitive next year. But that of course depends on whether or not they can land Jared Sullinger with the 6th pick and who is still on the board at pick 11. The Rockets, by default, should be competitive next year. But that’s just because they were 9th best in the mighty west. So, really, my answer is the Hornets. They’re getting a fantastic player, and they have a lot of room to work with in free agency.

Who is This Year’s Faried?

Late first round guys can be serious difference makers. We see this with the Spurs every year. We saw it big time this year with Kenneth Faried and Kawhi Leonard. But who will it be this year? This answer, my friends, is simple: Jae Crowder. Indeed, Mr. Crowder looks to be the second best overall prospect in the draft from a production standpoint – and someone is gonna get him in the late first or even second round! Of course, he may be a guy who never gets his due because he probably won’t score a lot of POINTS!

It will certainly be an interesting draft, and there are a lot of storylines to watch and look forward to. The Hornets have a great opportunity, most lottery teams should think twice about who they take, and some team should wise up and take Jae Crowder!

-James

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