Jun 29 2012 12:04PM

First Impressions


Layne Murdoch/NBAE/Getty Images

1. NEW ORLEANS HORNETS: It goes without saying that Anthony Davis is the greatest No. 1 draft pick since the 2003 NBA Draft when Cleveland selected LeBron James first. The shot-blocking teen king will be an All-Defense power forward as a rookie and a likely 15-10 guy on offense right away. I see him making the Hornets 10 wins better by himself as a rookie, while improving by leaps and bounds with every NBA season. Add Austin Rivers to the mix and the Hornets got themselves another rookie who will become an NBA lifer--someone who is the complete opposite of Davis in that he's a shoot-first, ask-questions-later guard. I see Rivers, who went 10th in the draft, taking longer to develop into a big contributor. But I like the pick. The Hornets also added small forward Darius Miller with the 46th pick.

2. CHARLOTTE BOBCATS: Michael Jordan played poker here, leading everyone to believe Thomas Robinson was the player the Bobcats coveted with the No. 2 pick. So when his GM Rich Cho swooped in and took small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist--the second-best player in the draft--it was a pleasant surprise. The Bobcats are still many moves away from becoming a .500 team. But getting the ultra-competitive MKG is a step in the right direction. Defense first, baby! Drafting ballhawk Jeff Taylor with the 31st pick reinforces that theme.

3. BOSTON CELTICS: I firmly believe seven organizations rule the NBA, mainly because they are smarter than the average bear--the Spurs, Lakers, Mavs, Thunder, Heat, Celtics and Bulls. Some have financial advantages, but they too use their blessings wisely. So when Celtics GM Danny Ainge took power forward Jared Sullinger--a man I had No. 3 on my NBAge Draft Rankings--with the 21st pick in the draft, i literally LMAO on my recliner. Once again, the smartest guys in the room steal the draft from the risk-averse non-playoff teams. I know some NBA doctors red-flagged Sullinger's back and that is what caused him to drop. But many more team doctors saw nothing wrong with him. And if you only had to commit a few million dollars over two years, wasn't Sullinger worth the risk to anyone from 10-thru-20, not to mention 3-thru-9. So typical of losing lottery teams to pass on sure things because of a last-minute panic. Throw in Boston's No. 22 pick Fab Melo--a 7-0, 255-pound center--and the Celtics got a lot bigger overnight with their two first rounders. That has to make a Boston return even more appealing to free agent Kevin Garnett. The Celtics also added small forward Kris Joseph with the 51st pick.

4. MILWAUKEE BUCKS: GM John Hammond certainly made his coach, Scott Skiles, very happy by landing some elite defensive talent this week, first trading down from the 12 slot to the 14 slot while taking on the annual $7 million contract of Houston center Samuel Dalembert, a shot-blocking/rebounding machine. Then with the 14th pick in Thursday's draft, Hammond landed power forward John Henson, who is the best defensive big man in the draft following Davis. When Milwaukee becomes a Top 5 defensive unit next season, don't forget to cast a vote for Hammond somewhere on your Executive of the Year ballot. The Bucks also added reserve shooting guard Doron Lamb with the 42nd pick.

5. GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS: Someone in Oakland knows something about scouting the last few years, landing Klay Thompson at No. 11, Ekpe Udoh at No. 6 and Stephen Curry at No. 7. So it was no surprise the Warriors made the right call at No. 7 this season, taking heralded Harrison Barnes to play some small forward for them. But the Warriors' real talent the past few years--and the reason they are ranked fifth here--is finding talent in low places, like undrafted Jeremy Lin, Reggie Williams, Anthony Morrow, C.J. Watson and Anthony Tolliver. Only trouble was, old ownership and management let these guys get away by being too cheap in free agency. With new execs in charge, hopefully Golden State will hold on to their low-drafted talent because they just landed the second-round-steal-of-the-draft in versatile power forward Draymond Green, taken with the 35th pick--not to mention big center Festus Ezeli with the 30th pick. Those are some very nice backups for Andrew Bogut and David Lee. Add yet another big in Ognjen Kuzmic at No. 52 and it looks like the days of Warriors smallball are over.

6. CHICAGO BULLS: I love the Marquis Teague 29th pick on so many levels. First off, I overrate Teague compared to everybody else--I ranked the 19-year-old point guard as the fourth-best prospect in this draft. Teague is so young, it's going to take him a little time to learn this league. But with the 29th pick, the Bulls got the second-best steal-of-the-draft (I'd have to rate Sullinger at No. 21 as the top heist). Teague can penetrate, finish and pass--making him a perfect fit in Chicago, playing in a role where the offense is predicated by get-in-the-paint point guards. Plus, with Derrick Rose missing perhaps half the season recovering from torn knee ligament surgery, Teague will get valuable on-the-job training immediately. I expect the NCAA champion hoops quarterback to make the NBA's 10-team All-Rookie squad, even though he nearly dropped out of the first round.

7. WASHINGTON WIZARDS: Everything worked out exactly as the Wizards planned it, with them taking shooting guard Bradley Beal with the third pick. There was a lot of worry this week in D.C. when rumors circulated that other teams were trading up to Charlotte's No. 2 spot to take Beal. It resulted in nothing, however, and the Wizards can now place the 19-year-old Beal alongside the 21-year-old John Wall as their backcourt of the future. Now that Washington has added Nene, Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza, the youngsters have some vets to teach them how to win. Good moves, Washington. Also a nice reserve addition at No. 32 in shooting guard Tomas Satoransky, who hails from the Czech Repulic and is a friend of fellow countryman Jan Vesely, last year's first-round draft pick.

8. SACRAMENTO KINGS: I had power forward Thomas Robinson slotted at No. 5 on my NBAge Draft Rankings, so I was very pleased the Kings took him when he was available with the fifth pick, as opposed to taking, say, Andre Drummond or another reach at that slot. DeMarcus Cousins and Robinson should make a formidable frontline--at least offensively--for years to come.

9. CLEVELAND CAVALIERS: The Cavs are ranked this high because they added some quality players in shooting guard Dion Waiters at No. 4, center Tyler Zeller at No. 17 via a trade with Dallas and veteran guard Kelenna Azubuike, also picked up in that trade. But I would have rated Cleveland so much higher if they took risks and drafted on talent, rather than need. I mean, the Cavaliers easily could have taken Thomas Robinson with the 4th pick or Jared Sullinger with the 17th pick. Instead, they made the safe choices, unlike last year when their young, risky picks made them the kings of draft day.

10. MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES: The T-Wolves traded their 18th pick a few days ago to land Houston Rockets forward Chase Budinger, who in my opinion, has equivalent value to a No. 10 pick. Thus, Minnesota becomes a Top 10 team in these 2012 NBA Draft Power Rankings without even making an official first-round pick. Throw in wing Robbie Hummel with the 58th pick and Minny had itself a nice day without really showing up until the draft's final hour.

11. PHOENIX SUNS: Whether free agent Steve Nash stays or goes, Kendall Marshall--who was taken with the 13th pick--is the type of guy you want to entrust your team. It reminds me of the 1996-97 Suns who drafted Nash with the 15th pick, even though they already had Kevin Johnson.

12. DETROIT PISTONS: The Pistons picked Andre Drummond with the ninth pick, which was wonderful bang-for-buck value. I don't see the 18 year old contributing for a couple years, but I do believe the 7-0, 279-pound center is a prospect worth developing. He could become a defensive force or he may really just be a solid reserve who is an offensive liability. Either way, by taking Drummond at No. 9, GM Joe Dumars didn't take him too high. The Pistons also added small forward Khris Middleton at No. 39 and shooting guard Kim English at No. 44.

13. DENVER NUGGETS: The Nuggets, who made a great find with Kenneth Faried at No. 22 last year, made another great discovery with the 38th pick in forward Quincy Miller, who was 16th on my NBAge list. Shooting guard Evan Fournier was a decent pick at No. 20, while project power forward Izzet Turkyilmaz was added late, with the 50th pick.

14. HOUSTON ROCKETS: Who knows what Houston will end up doing with power forward Terrence Jones (18th pick), shooting guard Jeremy Lamb (12th) and Royce White (16th)? The Rockets trimmed $3 million off its team salary adding these three rookies, but had to lose talents like Samuel Dalembert and Chase Budinger to do so. I don't think Houston had a good draft day, but like Dallas, their main goal seems to be freeing up salary-cap room--not to mention adding first-round picks for Orlando Magic/Dwight Howard bait.

15. PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS: Portland had the wherewithal to have a stellar draft, but where did it all go? With the 6th and 11th picks, I would expect them to land more than Damian Lillard and Meyers Leonard. Honestly, I like their 40th pick, shooting guard Will Barton more than I like their first-round point guard and center. I am sure all three will get playing time, but I don't see LIllard or Leonard being Trail Blazer starters for long. The Blazers rank 15th here because they did land three players who are NBA talents. I do have to say, however, that Portland had the most disappointing draft of any team.

16. PHILADELPHIA 76ERS: The 76ers special-ordered some big bodies for Coach Doug Collins with power forwards Maurice Harkless at No. 15 and Arnett Moultrie at No. 27. They may be offensively-challenged a bit, but Philly plays D and needs more big bodies for the long haul. That's why it sacrificed a future lottery-protected first-round pick to acquire Miami's No. 27 selection.

17. MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES: At No. 25, the Grizzlies got themselves a good, young talent in teen Tony Wroten Jr., who will learn at the feet of point-guard brainiac Mike Conley.

18. BROOKLYN NETS: The Nets have a--how shall we say this--a fluid point guard situation with potential free agents Deron Williams and Jordan Farmar maybe staying or maybe going. Guard Tyshawn Taylor is quite a find for Brooklyn at No. 41. He may end up playing more than you'd expect a second-rounder to play. Brooklyn also added some draft-and-stash prospects later in the second round--small forward Tornike Shengelia with the 54th pick and power forward Ilkan Karaman with the 57th pick.

19. OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER: The Thunder had one first-round draft pick, taking reserve power forward Perry Jones at No. 28. I don't see him getting much playing time for the Thunder as a rookie.

20. TORONTO RAPTORS: The Raptors surprised everybody by taking a reserve shooting guard Terrence Ross at No. 8. Toronto's draft could have been--should have been--so much better. The Raptors then added a couple second-rounders in forward Quincy Acy at No. 37 and project power forward Tomislav Zubcic at No. 56.

21. ORLANDO MAGIC: The Magic really needed another big and found a nice reserve in 6-10, 234-pound power forward Andrew Nicholson at No. 19, while also adding another power forward in Kyle O'Quinn at No. 49.

22. INDIANA PACERS: The Pacers had a first- and a second-round draft pick, taking center Miles Plumlee at No. 26 and shooting guard Orlando Johnson at No. 36.

23. ATLANTA HAWKS: The Hawks had a first- and a second-round draft pick, taking shooter supreme John Jenkins at No. 23 and power forward Mike Scott at No. 43.

24. DALLAS MAVERICKS: The Mavs mostly picked up NBA roster filler in defensive guard Jared Cunningham at No. 24, 27-year-old center Bernard James at No. 33 and forward Jae Crowder at No. 34. Dallas sacrificed its No. 17 pick in the Cleveland trade for Cunningham, James and Crowder because it wanted to clear Kelenna Azubuike's $1 million salary, in hopes of making every dollar available for wooing free agent Deron Williams Sunday. So basically, the Mavericks sacrificed the draft for free agency.

25. MIAMI HEAT: The Heat only had one draft pick, taking draft-and-stash 22-year-old center Justin Hamilton at No. 45. Miami did acquire a future lottery-protected first-round pick by trading the No. 27 pick to Philadelphia.

26. NEW YORK KNICKS: The Knicks only had one draft pick, taking small forward Kostas Papanikolaou at No. 48.

27. LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS: The Clippers only had one draft pick, taking power forward Furkan Aldemir at No. 53.

28. LOS ANGELES LAKERS: The Lakers had two second-round picks, taking combo guard Darius Johnson-Odom at No. 55 and center Robert Sacre at No. 60.

29. UTAH JAZZ: The Jazz only had one draft pick, taking shooting guard Kevin Murphy at No. 47.

30. SAN ANTONIO SPURS: The Spurs only had one draft pick, taking combo guard Marcus Denmon at No. 59