Chicago native Anthony Davis, as expected, was drafted first overall Thursday night by the New Orleans Hornets in the 2012 NBA Draft, becoming the fifth Windy City product to be earn that distinction. Then, things got strange.
The flurry of trades that was expected didnt occur, though a handful of draft-day trades were consummated. However, with a much-anticipated free-agency period set to begin following a lockout-shortened season, its understandable that many teams were waiting to improve their rosters through acquiring veteran help.
That said, several organizations selected youngsters that could pay off both in the short term and down the road, due to either bold draft strategies or prospects unexpectedly dropping. Conversely, some front offices made some questionable decisions notably Indiana reaching for Duke big man Miles Plumlee, Dallas drafting Oregon State guard Jared Cunningham, a player who could have been available in the second round, Milwaukee adding North Carolina shot-blocker John Henson to an already defensive-oriented group of big men and Toronto opting for Washington swingman Terrence Ross, a similar player to Raptors leading scorer DeMar DeRozan annual occurrences in the draft.
But enough teams made a positive impact through the draft that its not worth it to pan what seems like bad decisions, at least on paper. Clearly, New Orleans has the most potential to improve based on next seasons rookies, with Davis, the lone prospect regarded as having franchise-changing ability, joining Duke scoring guard Austin Rivers the pair share a Chicago connection, as the son of the Celtics coach can trace his roots back to powerhouse high-school program Proviso East in west suburban Maywood, Ill. and the sixth and last of Davis Kentucky teammates to be drafted, swingman Darius Miller in the second round.
For teams that acquitted themselves well Thursday, there are a few different categories. Some teams didnt follow the script and got steals, others simply resisted temptation to do the right thing, a handful of teams just got lucky and some organizations reached, in decisions that like the rest of these moves, that will be better evaluated with time.
Among the bold:
Cleveland, which chose Syracuses Dion Waiters a sixth man in college, but perhaps the guard with the most NBA scoring potential in the draft with the fourth pick, giving the Cavaliers another playmaker and shot-creator in the backcourt with reigning Rookie of the Year Kyrie Irving, in addition to trading up to acquire North Carolina center Tyler Zeller, whose experience should complement raw and athletic power forward Tristan Thompson; Philadelphia, which went for potential in drafting young St. Johns small forward Maurice Harkless, then making a swap with Miami to acquire Mississippi State big man Arnett Moultrie, who was regarded as having lottery talent; Boston, which had Ohio State power forward Jared Sullinger, he of the bad back and good production, drop into its lap, then getting Syracuse center Fab Melo to provide the Celtics with size and defense before getting his college teammate, versatile swingman Kris Joseph, in the second round; and Oklahoma City, which could afford to take a gamble on Baylors Perry Jones, an enigmatic talent who will have no pressure on him, yet no excuse not to develop alongside the Thunders young core.
In the group that did the right thing:
Charlotte, which went with the player who combined the most long-term potential and winning intangibles in Kentucky small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist proving reports that team owner Michael Jordan wasn't enamored with his game to possibly have been a smokescreen who wont be a scoring sensation right away, but along with second-round pick Jeff Taylor of Vanderbilt, augments the Bobcats defensive and sheer will; Washingtons selection of Florida shooting guard Bradley Beal also makes sense, as he potentially adds a deep threat next to point guard John Wall and frontcourt that now has some veteran leadership; and Orlando, which is at least making preparations for the eventual departure of All-Star center Dwight Howard by taking St. Bonaventure power forward Andrew Nicholson (a move that could make Ryan Anderson, the leagues Most Improved Player, expendable) and in the second round, defensive-oriented big man Kyle OQuinn of Norfolk State.
Teams that got lucky, by virtue of a player that filled a need falling to them, include:
Sacramento, which was saved from having to decide between small forwards Kidd-Gilchrist and North Carolinas Harrison Barnes when Kansas power forward Thomas Robinson, expected by many observers to be the No. 2 pick, slipped into its hands, giving the Kings a promising post duo with emerging center DeMarcus Cousins; Golden State, which snatched up Barnes to fill its own small-forward void and added Vanderbilt center Festus Ezeli at the end of the first round to give the Warriors more of a defensive presence; and Detroit, which grabbed free-falling Connecticut center Andre Drummond, who will have the benefit of playing next to Greg Monroe who will move to his natural power-forward position and with his passing skills, should set up the potential-laden Drummond, whose athleticism and shot-blocking is expected to be a tremendous complementary piece, for easy opportunities and swingmen Khris Middleton of Texas A&M and Kim English of Missouri, adding shooting off the bench.
Finally, there were the reaches:
Portland drafted Weber State point guard Damien Lillard, the consensus top point guard in the draft, with its first lottery pick, which was acceptable, and got good value in Memphis swingman Will Barton in the second round, but sandwiched between those selections was Illinois center Meyers Leonard at No. 11 when the likes of the aforementioned Zeller was still on the board and while his potential is huge, hes certainly a project, which is reflected in the Blazers pursuit of Bulls free agent Omer Asik; Phoenixs pick of North Carolina point guard Kendall Marshall makes sense on paper, with future Hall of Famer Steve Nash strongly considering signing elsewhere as a free agent, but although Marshall was the best pure passer in the draft, hes still a rookie, has deficiencies (quickness, outside shooting, defense) and will join a Suns team that doesnt have a ton of athleticism or scorers; and lastly, Houston, which certainly got three great value prospects in power forwards Royce White of Iowa State and Terrence Jones, as well as Connecticut shooting guard Jeremy Lamb, but unfortunately had a logjam of veterans at both positions before the draft and will now have to find multiple deals to clear space for the rookies to develop.
The NBAs summer leagues in Orlando and Las Vegas later this month will surely yield more opinions on teams various draft classes, but for now, on-paper prognosticating will have to do. Still, no firm evaluations can truly be made until the actual season starts and in some cases, it will take two or three years to make long-term judgment calls on how everybody fared.