Now that we are a few years removed from the 2012 NBA Draft, it’s fair to start reevaluating the talent and determining which players are gems and which are duds. One way to organize those thoughts is to put together a redraft of that year, dropping players onto different teams in a way that explores how that draft could have turned out differently were guys drafted in an order of actual NBA success rather than how things really played out.
It’s all a hypothetical game, but we’ll be doing it all week. Today, we start with the 2012 NBA Draft, which turned out quite a bit differently than anybody could have expected:
#1 – New Orleans Pelicans: Anthony Davis, PF/C, Kentucky – We might be only nine months away from Davis earning his first MVP award. The man is a freak of nature and clearly one of the best players alive. New Orleans got it right in using their first overall pick to select him. There literally is no debate here.
#2 – Charlotte Bobcats: Damian Lillard, PG, Weber State – The idea of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was a good one at the time, but we knew then that he wasn’t going to be an offensive powerhouse and that defense would ultimately be his calling card. Lillard, meanwhile, has been pretty much the opposite of that, but his big-time scoring has been enough to make him an All-Star early in his career and one of the most exciting young point guards in the league.
#3 – Washington Wizards: Andre Drummond, C, Connecticut – Already one of the league’s best rebounders, Drummond’s draft stock dropped back in 2012 because there were questions about his motivation. That obviously hasn’t been an issue, and while Bradley Beal has been perfectly fine in Washington, Drummond is knocking on the door of All-Stardom, which is what inches him ahead of Beal in this redraft.
#4 – Cleveland Cavaliers: Bradley Beal, SG, Florida – If the Cavaliers could have ended up with Beal instead of Dion Waiters as their shooting guard of the future, things could have gone much differently for them in the years following that not-so-well-received selection. Waiters has been an effective scorer, but Beal clearly has a much higher ceiling. He did in 2012, too, but was off the board by the time the Cavaliers picked, so they settled for Waiters.
#5 – Sacramento Kings: Draymond Green, SF/PF, Michigan State – This is our first big jump of the redraft, with a former second-round pick leaping all the way up into the top five. Green was a Defensive Player of the Year candidate last year, and that paired with his ability to hit three-pointers makes him a very valuable NBA asset.
#6 – Portland Trail Blazers: Harrison Barnes, SF, North Carolina – It’s still not out of the question that Barnes could turn into the star he was pegged to be back at the University of North Carolina, but he’s on a deep Golden State roster that uses him well but sparingly. Had he landed in Portland in 2012 to pair with LaMarcus Aldridge, we might be talking about him as an All-Star talent today the same way we do Damian Lillard.
#7 – Golden State Warriors: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, SF, Kentucky – If everything else played out the same, the Warriors probably would still be just as good if it were Gilchrist in the lineup instead of Barnes. Andre Iguodala would be starting, but MKG would be a nice defensive specialist off the bench.
#8 – Toronto Raptors: Khris Middleton, SF, Texas A&M – Quietly one of the better scorers from this draft class, Middleton would have supplemented DeMar DeRozan rather nicely on the wing. Terrence Ross hasn’t been a bum by any means, but Middleton already is the steadier player. Consistency matters in the NBA, and this former second-round pick seems to get better every year.
#9 – Detroit Pistons: Terrence Ross, SG, Washington – Ross is known for his athleticism, but he’s a more well-rounded player than people realize. He’s respectable on both ends of the floor, and while his shooting is a little inconsistent at times he’s still plenty good enough (and young enough) to have himself a long and productive career in the NBA. That said, the Pistons wouldn’t re-do this pick for all the Hellcat engines in Detroit.
#10 – New Orleans Pelicans: Dion Waiters, G, Syracuse – The Austin Rivers gamble didn’t pay off, and while Waiters has been a bit disappointing as a former #4 overall pick, he would have been great here. New Orleans certainly would have been happier to pair Waiters with Anthony Davis than Rivers.
#11 – Portland Trail Blazers: John Henson, PF/C, North Carolina – About as long as a big man comes in the NBA, Henson has bulked up in the last few years and looks more like a respectable professional big man every year. Defensively he’s really shaping into a dominant presence, which is what Portland hoped for when they drafted Meyers Leonard here, instead.
#12 – Houston Rockets: Terrence Jones, PF, Kentucky – Jones ended up with the Rockets anyway, but in this scenario they end up with him six picks earlier than reality. He’s versatile for a four, running well in transition and knocking down shots from all the over the floor. He also can bang a little bit and fits really well in that Rockets frontcourt. Injuries have been an issue, but he’s been good enough despite that to warrant a lottery pick anyway.
#13 – Phoenix Suns: Meyers Leonard, C, Illinois – We’ll see this year just how good Leonard can be now that he’ll get big minutes in the wake of LaMarcus Aldridge’s departure, but he would have gotten that opportunity even sooner in Phoenix. He’s really fast for a seven-footer and has the measurables to be really good soon. He’d have been a great fit for Phoenix and Jeff Hornacek.
#14 – Milwaukee Bucks: Jared Sullinger, PF, Ohio State – Injury concerns back in 2012 dropped Sullinger, once thought to be a lottery pick, all the way down to pick #21. The way things panned out, Sullinger actually does look like one of the top 14 players from his draft class, though it turns out the injury concerns have not been completely unjustified. When he’s healthy, though, Sullinger is a bruiser that should have a nice long NBA career, even if he never does become a superstar.
#15 – Philadelphia 76ers: Jae Crowder, F, Marquette – As a quintessential “3 and D” guy, Crowder has well outplayed his second-round price tag. Back then, the Sixers were looking for foundational guys on which to build their team, but there aren’t a whole lot of them left here for them at pick #15. Crowder at least gives them a really good role player to put around higher-profile players they’d draft in later years.
#16 – Houston Rockets: Miles Plumlee, C, Duke – It has been an up-and-down few years for Plumlee, but there’s no questioning the fact that he’s been a much better NBA player than anybody thought he’d be when Indiana made him a late first-rounder back in ’12. That pick was almost universally mocked, but now Plumlee’s athleticism and rebounding have made him a borderline starting-quality NBA center. He’d be a really nice backup to Dwight Howard were he in Houston.
#17 – Dallas Mavericks: Tyler Zeller, C, North Carolina – We all know the big man woes that Dallas is dealing with right now, and while Zeller wouldn’t have necessarily made the pursuit of a big-name free agent center avoidable, he is coming off a strong season with Boston in which he averaged 10.2 PPG and 5.7 RPG. He’s improving and starting to live up to those high Zeller expectations.
#18 – Houston Rockets: Moe Harkless, G/F, St. John’s – He hasn’t gotten much opportunity to shine in Orlando thus far, but he’s still incredibly young and has more than enough talent to shine given the right situation (which Portland very well could be). That opportunity probably wouldn’t have come any sooner in Houston, but his mix of talent and potential would make him a great value here.
#19 – Orlando Magic: Evan Fournier, SG, France – Orlando is where Fournier ended up eventually, and we’ve already seen what a good fit he is there. Offensively gifted, Fournier isn’t necessarily a well-rounded player, but he knocks down threes and is aggressive attacking the bucket. He also looks like he’s got some room to improve as a player, which makes him a logical selection this late in the round. He’s a good balance between current production and untapped potential.
#20 – Denver Nuggets: Will Barton, G, Memphis – While he’s still thin as a rail, Barton’s athleticism and offensive talent make him one of the most intriguing talents in the second-half of the first round. He’s only just now being given the opportunity to play real NBA minutes, but that’s been enough to draw comparisons to Corey Brewer, a more than fair comp for a kid with his skill set. The team that finally gave him a chance to play, by the way, was the Denver Nuggets. In this scenario, he would have been given that opportunity a couple of years sooner.
#21 – Boston Celtics: Jeremy Lamb, SG, Connecticut – Overwhelmingly underwhelming as a pro, the “jewel” of the James Harden trade has done nothing but disappoint a few years into his career. That doesn’t mean the skill set isn’t there for him to be successful, just that Lamb hasn’t yet done much with it. The Celtics in 2012 would have been a nice landing spot for him to find himself as an NBA player a little sooner. Who knows if that would have changed things, but Lamb and Thomas Robinson probably would have been a better haul than Sullinger and Fab Melo. Or not. Picking this late in the draft is hard, even in fictional redraft scenarios.
#22 – Boston Celtics: Thomas Robinson, PF, Kansas – At some point a team has to look at the potential of a player like Robinson (who went fifth overall) and weigh that ceiling against the ceiling of other players, even if the floor might be a little lower than some of the guys taken after him here. He already has inexplicably been tagged a journeyman, but the talent is there for him still be something interesting. This late in the draft, Boston would have loved to have stolen Robinson.
#23 – Atlanta Hawks: Kyle O’Quinn, PF/C, Norfolk St. – Unlike with Robinson, the ceiling for O’Quinn isn’t necessarily all that high, but he’s already proven to be a monster on the block with enough muscle to hang with just about anybody in the league. The Hawks were in a weird place back in 2012 and could have taken a player at just about any position, but O’Quinn is the best of what’s left. He makes sense for a team who was facing some frontcourt uncertainty at the time.
#24 – Cleveland Cavaliers: Tony Wroten, G, Washington – It’s hard to know if Wroten’s success can be attributed to his playing for the 76ers or if he’s actually really good, but he’s shown enough to be drafted late in the first round, even with the injury that knocked him out for the bulk of last season.
#25 – Memphis Grizzlies: Quincy Acy, F, Baylor – Acy has essentially carved a role for himself as a lifer third-string big man on non-playoff teams, which is no way to make an All-NBA Team, but that never was the plan for Acy. It’s a small miracle he’s been more successful than former Baylor teammate Quincy Miller, but there you have it. Acy is a survivor, and he’s done well for himself. He seems tough enough to make it in Memphis too.
#26 – Indiana Pacers: Austin Rivers, G, Duke – Had Rivers not flashed a little in this past postseason, he might not have even made the first-round of this redraft at all. His first few seasons in the NBA have been just north of disastrous, which many predicted coming out of college considering his lack of strength, height and athleticism. Still, he’s a resourceful guy and has carved a role for himself despite his shortcomings. Indiana, coincidentally, wouldn’t have been the worst spot for them to land considering their dearth of serviceable point guards.
#27 – Miami HEAT: Mike Scott, SF, Virginia – Were it not for this past summer’s off-the-court legal issues, Scott probably would have ended up getting drafted quite a bit higher among this group of guys, but no team wants to spend a valuable mid-first rounder on a troublemaker. Late in the first round, though? Scott’s a worthwhile gamble and a borderline steal for the Miami HEAT.
#28 – Oklahoma City Thunder: Andrew Nicholson, PF, St. Bonaventure – A floor-stretching four like Nicholson is a player with value for a number of different teams, but with the Thunder trying to track down versatile frontcourt players for years now, adding one like Nicholson makes some sense. He offers a good jumpshot and has some range, which would work well playing alongside other offensive creators like Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant.
#29 – Chicago Bulls: Kendall Marshall, PG, North Carolina – Marshall hasn’t even been in the league since February, but he’s exactly the kind of established, older player from a respected college program that John Paxson and Gar Forman typically love. He’s had moments of productivity in the NBA (mostly with the Lakers in 2013-2014), and Chicago would love his pedigree. However good (or not good) Marshall may be, at least he’s not Marquis Teague.
#30 – Golden State Warriors: Festus Ezeli, C, Vanderbilt – Let’s just keep Ezeli where is. He’s had some injury issues early in his career, but he has shown he can be a reasonable deep bench guy for a championship team, and at pick #30 it’s hard to expect a whole lot more from a player than that.
Tune in this week for redrafts of the 2011, 2010 and 2009 classes among others. We’ll take a long look at how history could have been different if teams only could have known how their picks would have played out.
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