NBA Mock Draft: Dion Waiters, Harrison Barnes Solidify Positions in Lottery

NBA Mock Draft: Dion Waiters, Harrison Barnes Solidify Positions in LotteryWhat a difference a week makes. Seven days ago, most NBA draft observers were convinced that Anthony Davis was headed to the New Orleans Hornets with the No. 1 pick. Now all those observers have dramatically changed course to predict the top pick on June 28 will be… Davis.

OK, so whereas the first pick does not provide enough excitement, the rest of the first round is sure to be compelling. There could be an unprecedented amount of movement as teams high in the draft try to swap picks for proven talent or to move down the board, so every one of the following pick predictions must be taken with a grain of salt. The draft-day trading fun could begin as early as the Bobcats’ second pick.

New revelations and workout results led to some slight changes in this week’s mock draft from the last version, but this will always be an inexact science. Without further ado, here is the second shot at our 2012 NBA mock draft.

1. Hornets: Anthony Davis (6-10, 225). PF, Kentucky, freshman. Unless Davis switches skills with a jayvee player a la Kevin Durant in Thunderstruck, this pick is not changing between now and June 28.

2. Bobcats: Thomas Robinson (6-10, 237). PF, Kansas, junior. The rumblings that Charlotte will trade this pick are becoming louder, as Michael Jordan‘s club apparently is skeptical that Robinson — or Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Harrison Barnes, Bradley Beal or anyone else besides Davis in this draft class — is definitely worthy of the No. 2 selection. If they keep the pick, they probably could not do better than the solidly built Jayhawk. Although he is listed at 6-foot-10 by NBA.com, more reliable measurements place him almost three inches shorter.

3. Wizards: Bradley Beal (6-3, 207). SG, Florida, freshman. John Wall‘s development was retarded somewhat this season, and Beal could be the ideal backcourt mate to put Wall back on track. With a consistent outside shooter to feed — sorry, Jordan Crawford — Wall could prove to be a deadly drive-and-kick point guard. Plus, several team executives think Beal could be the second-best talent in the draft, according to an SI.com report.

4. Cavaliers: Harrison Barnes (6-8, 215). SF, North Carolina, sophomore. The safer pick might be Kidd-Gilchrist, but reports indicate the Cavs will not let Barnes fall past the top four, if he is even available when Cleveland’s pick comes up. Barnes does not quite fit the Cavs’ need for frontcourt scoring to replace Antawn Jamison, but he brings a high basketball IQ to pair with second-year savant Kyrie Irving.

5. Kings: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (6-7, 232). SF, Kentucky, freshman. He may be the second-best overall player in the draft, and he seems certain to be a reliable rotation player for any team immediately. But “rotation player” is not what most teams are looking for in the top four picks of the draft, which is why Kidd-Gilchrist could slide a few spots to No. 5.

6. Trail Blazers (from Nets): Damian Lillard (6-3, 195). PG, Weber State, junior. The story keeps getting more encouraging for the small-school floor general. He may never become Rajon Rondo, but if he can become a taller version of Damon Stoudamire — a scoring point who can distribute when need be — score one for the point guard-needy Blazers.

7. Warriors: Andre Drummond (6-11, 275). PF/C, Connecticut, freshman. Everyone drafting through pick No. 6 sounds hesitant about taking Drummond so high. At the same time, few expect Drummond to fall out of the top 10. Golden State remains a sensible landing place for Drummond considering they need insurance behind Andrew Bogut, yet can afford to fail with Drummond if David Lee and Bogut stay healthy.

8. Raptors: Dion Waiters (6-4, 215). SG, Syracuse, sophomore. Waiters is believed to have a promise from some team early in the draft, and his camp is so confident that they have shut down all workouts. Toronto general manager Bryan Colangelo went on the record to shoot down rumors that the promise came from him, but the Raptors do not need to make a promise to know the rim-attacking slasher is a perfect fit. Jeremy Lamb is a possibility, too.

9. Pistons: Meyers Leonard (7-0, 240). C, Illinois, sophomore. This spot was reserved for Jared Sullinger in an earlier iteration of this mock draft, but scouts suddenly sound a lot higher on Leonard. Apparently, they are confident he can add the girth necessary to fill out a toolkit that already includes a polished post game and NBA-ready rebounding and shot-blocking skills.

10. Hornets (from Timberwolves via Clippers): Jeremy Lamb (6-5, 180). SG, Connecticut, sophomore. Below the neck, Lamb is an All-Star, judging by the various reports coming out of his workouts. Above the neck, there are questions as to whether the freakish athlete with a smooth handle can take control when need be. Teamed up with Davis and potentially Eric Gordon, of course, Lamb would seldom need to worry about that.

11. Trail Blazers: John Henson (6-11, 220). PF, North Carolina, junior. No player created more worry as to his physical status than Sullinger, but the silver medal could go to Henson. Henson’s strength tests were said to be disappointing, not that anyone should be surprised. Several teams reportedly remain enamored of his athleticism and defensive instincts no matter what the tests say.

12. Bucks: Terrence Jones (6-8, 244). SF, Kentucky, sophomore. The versatile Wildcat continues to take a beating for his questionable athleticism and inconsistent intensity, but his skills still appear to be impressive in individual workouts. One of the biggest errors teams can make is dismissing a talented player due to bad “body language,” and if Milwaukee’s brass decides not to pick Jones, that will not be the reason.

13. Suns: Austin Rivers (6-4, 199). SG, Duke, freshman. Rivers’ critics seem to forget that his pop, Doc Rivers, had a bit of sway in his step, too, as a young guard with the Hawks. More than two decades later, it is difficult to find an observer who would criticize Doc’s professionalism either as a player or a coach. Rivers was a hit in his interviews, by all accounts, proving once again that negative body language remains a brainless factor to consider when evaluating a player.

14. Rockets: Arnett Moultrie (6-11, 249). PF, Mississippie State, junior. This may be mostly a cosmetic change, since Moultrie was slated to go to Houston (albeit with the 16th pick) in the previous mock draft. But the 76ers are in dire need of size as well, and Moultrie is said to be a better athlete than most of the big men available at this point in the draft.

15. Sixers: Tyler Zeller (7-0, 250). C/PF, North Carolina, senior. A few months ago Zeller was rated on some draft boards ahead of Leonard. Now it appears to be no contest. With Leonard seemingly entrenched in the top 10, Zeller would still be a decent get in the mid-teens given his work on the boards and soft touch both shooting and catching the ball.

16. Rockets (from Knicks): Jared Sullinger (6-9, 280). PF, Ohio State, sophomore. ESPN.com reported Monday that Sullinger had been red flagged by the NBA over concerns regarding the health of his back. We must wait and see how this prognosis, if confirmed, affects his draft position. For now it makes sense that the Rockets would still try to round out their frontcourt with a below-the-rim forward, kind of like their success with fan favorite Chuck Hayes.

17. Mavericks: Perry Jones III (6-1, 235). PF/SF, Baylor, sophomore. General manager Donnie Nelson says he wants somebody with “punch” after last year’s experiment with Lamar Odom failed to work out. Jones could bring his own set of inside and midrange skills, although his intangibles may be just as uncertain as Odom’s proved to be.

18. Timberwolves (from Jazz): Terrence Ross (6-6, 190). SG, Washington, sophomore. This just makes too much sense not to happen. The Wolves’ only glaring hole in their young core is at shooting guard, and Ross is a do-everything type of player on the wing who could be the perfect complement to Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio.

19. Magic: Kendall Marshall (6-4, 195). PG, North Carolina, sophomore. Jameer Nelson‘s solid second half to this season aside, the Magic are running out of viable pieces to create a winning club in the coming years with or without Dwight Howard. Marshall could be the piece that holds it all together for the next few years as Orlando’s new management and coaching staff figures out how to salvage the franchise.

20. Nuggets: Moe Harkless (6-9, 190). SF, St. John’s, freshman. If the Nuggets like Harkless, they may want to avoid falling in love with him, because his stock appears to be rising. It is possible the Rockets could take the athletic four-man as high as No. 16, according to some reports, on the belief that he will fill out after a couple of seasons in the pros. (He is only 19.) Denver still seems to be the best fit, both for the team and the player.

21. Celtics: Andrew Nicholson (6-9, 240). PF, St. Bonaventure, senior. After a while you just have to start wondering if there really is something to all that bridge-jumping your mom warned you about. Numerous reputable draft evaluators seem to be leaning toward the promising Nicholson and talented Royce White heading to Boston, and the logic is sound. Nicholson shoots very well and defends even better, and his rebounding is a bit suspect. In other words, he is the perfect prospect to fit in right away with the Celtics.

22. Celtics (from Clippers via Thunder): Royce White (6-8, 270). SF, Iowa State, sophomore. Off-court issues such as an anxiety disorder and his oft-mentioned fear of flying get repeated as the biggest issues facing whichever team selects White. When one sees White’s passing skills, though, it is easy to forget all those concerns.

23. Hawks: Tony Wroten (6-5, 205). PG, Washington, freshman. The Hawks probably would not love this pick, but it is hard to see what other options they have. Atlanta needs a traditional point guard and had some success slamming square peg Jeff Teague into that round hole, and Wroten is far from a round peg. Still, Wroten is known to attack the cup, a quality that the Hawks could use in their jumper-happy halfcourt offense.

24. Cavaliers (from Lakers): Fab Melo (7-0, 274). C, Syracuse, sophomore. Most people say Melo has no clue what he is doing when he is on the court. In the same breath, they add that he impacts the game even when he is at his most clueless. If anyone knows reckless hustle can pay dividends, it is the Cavaliers, who employ the crash-test dummy known as Anderson Varejao.

25. Grizzlies: Doron Lamb (6-4, 210). SG, Kentucky, sophomore). Vanderbilt’s John Jenkins may be the better shooter, but Lamb is said to have an added element in his unusual length for his size. The Bulls would love to have him, but it is hard to see him falling that far.

26. Pacers: Marquis Teague (6-2, 189). PG, Kentucky, freshman. In another case of a team that could use a point guard but may have to settle for a slashing guard instead, Indiana could take a gander at Jeff Teague’s younger brother. Like Darren Collison, the Pacers’ current point guard, Teague tends to forget sometimes that he has teammates on the floor. Unlike Collison, the Pacers can hope to wean Teague out of his freewheeling ways.

27. Heat: Draymond Green (6-7, 230). SF, Michigan State, senior. A classic Big 10 player, Green is rugged, smart, passes well and rebounds above his grade. He could be perfect for the Heat from a basketball standpoint, if Miami does not outthink itself and try to make a bigger splash with a trade or an aging veteran free agent.

28. Thunder: Evan Fournier (6-7, 206). SG, France. What do you get the team that has everything? How about a 19-year-old international standout who could develop into a solid role-playing two-guard in case James Harden departs next year? Fournier has the below-the-rim skills and the strength to play in the NBA right away, by many indications, and could iron out the flaw in his game with more seasoning, according to several experts.

29. Bulls: Jeffrey Taylor (6-7, 225). SF, Vanderbilt, senior. Chicago reportedly is willing to shop Luol Deng for a lottery pick. If that deal does not include the Bulls’ 29th pick as well (details are still unclear), the Bulls could examine Taylor, a defense-first three with length that rivals Deng’s.

30. Warriors (from Spurs): Quincy Miller (6-10, 210). SF, Baylor, freshman. The poster boy for staying in school, Miller still has not allayed anyone’s concerns about his recovery from ACL surgery or his rail-thin body. A sophomore season with the Bears may have been invaluable for Miller, but instead he will have to hang on for dear life to even stay in the first round.

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Thumbnail photo via Facebook/Dion Waiters