CHICAGO – The first day of the NBA draft combine did little to dispel the pervasive sense that there is very little certain about the 2012 draft beyond Anthony Davis going No. 1 to New Orleans.
Who might go No. 2? Six months ago, the overwhelming consensus pointed to Andre Drummond, who was viewed as a prospect with perhaps even more upside than Davis at that point. He’s been compared to the likes of Dwight Howard and Amare Stoudemire, but a lackluster freshman year at UConn also drew less flattering comparisons to names like Kwame Brown or Emeka Okafor.
But it’s clear that Drummond’s side – his agent is Rob Pelinka, the former teammate of Michigan’s Fab Five who also represents Kobe Bryant among many high-profile NBA stars – doesn’t believe he’ll slide very far on June 28. Drummond told me he’ll work out for five teams without identifying them – “you’ll find out next week,” he said – but here’s a pretty good guess: Charlotte, Washington, Cleveland, Sacramento and Portland. Those are the teams that hold the second through sixth picks, three spots ahead of the Pistons.
It seems like a long shot that Charlotte would spend the No. 2 pick on Drummond, who averaged 10 points and 7.6 rebounds as a UConn frosh. But it’s not out of the question, nor is it unfathomable that the Bobcats – with more holes than a single pick other than Davis could begin to remedy – might trade out of the No. 2 spot with a team intoxicated by Drummond’s size, athleticism and potential. Drummond won’t turn 19 until August.
If Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Bradley Beal are next off the board after Davis, Cleveland could look hard at Drummond at No. 4. Portland is another possibility at 6 – or the Trail Blazers are prime candidates to trade out of that spot to a team targeting Drummond. But if Drummond slips past 6, there’s a chance he’ll be on the board when the Pistons pick at No. 9. If, as the draft nears, Drummond agrees to work out with any team beyond Portland at 6, you’ll know Pelinka has no assurances from any team picking that high. Both Golden State and Toronto, picking seventh and eighth, are more likely to draft wing players.
Drummond isn’t the only enigma among the lottery candidates. Maybe the second biggest is Perry Jones III. Here’s what Jones’ Baylor teammate, Quincy Miller – a real dark horse candidate for the Pistons – told me about Jones: “Awesome. If you created a player on a video game, Perry Jones would be that player. He’s got everything you’d want in a player.”
Jones was talked about as a top-three talent had he entered the 2011 draft, but he returned to Baylor for his sophomore season and saw his numbers stay flat, in part because the talented Miller – in many ways, similar to Jones – arrived as a freshman to share the spotlight.
We’ll have much more on Jones and other candidates for the Pistons’ pick at 9 when we start a 14-part draft series Monday on Pistons.com, but here’s a taste of what Jones said in acknowledging that teams are curious why he seemed to float in and out of games.
“The hardest question I’ve been asked is, ‘What kept me from playing as hard as (Baylor teammate) Quincy Acy?’ To be honest, I didn’t have an answer to that. Quincy Acy is a monster. It’s hard to match his intensity. I don’t think anybody in this draft can match his intensity. That’s how hard he works.”
Two more players we’ll profile in the weeks ahead are North Carolina teammates John Henson and Tyler Zeller. Both said they have workouts scheduled with the Pistons. Henson, whose lack of bulk is the biggest concern with him, said he thinks that every workout he has scheduled – and he said he’s headed to Sacramento, Portland, Phoenix, Golden State, Houston, Milwaukee, Philadelphia and Toronto in addition to the Pistons – also includes Jared Sullinger and Terrence Jones, two more players we’ll profile.
It’s interesting that Henson is working out for Sacramento, Portland and Golden State; those three teams all pick ahead of the Pistons, though Portland also picks 11th, two spots behind the Pistons.
Zeller said he expects to work out frequently against Henson; both players worked out last week for New Orleans, which picks 10th in addition to having the No. 1 pick.
One more note to wrap up: Sullinger passed the eye test in Chicago. He looked a very legitimate 6-foot-8, broad and surprisingly well proportioned. He’s battled weight and conditioning issues, but his upper body looked toned and even lean. Sullinger said back spasms during the season kept him from lifting weights, but since the season ended he’s been in the gym. It showed.