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2012 NBA Mock Draft: Version 2

06.26.12 at 11:15 pm ET
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Will Syracuse center Fab Melo be there when the Celtics pick in the NBA draft? (AP)

Since last we mocked, there has been a fairly significant trade involving the Wizards and Hornets and a half-dozen juicy trade rumors involving the Rockets, Raptors, Warriors and Bulls, to name four. It seems likely that there will be more movement between now and Thursday’s draft because after Anthony Davis there is no clear-cut pecking order.

This is the kind of draft that makes general managers look back with regret a few years down the line. Is it worth making a big move for say, Florida guard Bradley Beal, if the cost is a player like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and later picks in what should be a deep draft for rotation players?

What of Jared Sullinger? The Ohio State forward can play, but a back injury has killed his momentum and could send him tumbling down the draft. How far is too far before the potential value outweighs the risk?

Behind that backdrop is the possibility of a blockbuster trade for Magic center Dwight Howard. The Rockets now have three picks in the first round at 14, 16 and 18. That won’t get it done, but if the Rockets could grab a couple of top 10 picks … that’s when it gets interesting.

Predicting who goes where will at this point depends entirely on who is actually doing the selecting. As for the Celtics, I’ve still got them taking Andrew Nicholson and Fab Melo. That assumes that somebody doesn’t fall and that Iowa State forward Royce White is off the board.

To the picks:

1. Hornets: Anthony Davis, C, Kentucky (Previously: Davis)

The obvious choice, and the only question is whether Davis will be good, exceptional or transcendent.

2. Bobcats: Thomas Robinson, PF, Kansas (Previously: Robinson)

It’s still Robinson, and no one seems to be totally enthused about the selection, but he is the closest thing to a sure thing after Davis. The only issue is it seems assured that Robinson will be pretty good and not great. The Cats could still trade the pick, which would throw the rest of the top five into a blender.

3. Wizards: Bradley Beal, SG Florida (Previously: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist)

Having missed the days of milk and honey as a 40-win playoff team with no real upside, Wizards GM Ernie Grunfeld threw Rashard Lewis‘ $20 million-plus expiring contract to New Orleans for Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza. We’ll leave the part about Okafor and Nene playing together for another time, but what really stands out about the Wizards’ new-look roster is the complete lack of outside shooting. Enter Beal, an 18-year-old shooter/scorer who would look mighty intriguing playing alongside John Wall. The Wizards still aren’t anyone’s idea of a contender, but they’d no longer be a joke. That’s progress, right?

4. Cavaliers: Harrison Barnes, F, UNC (Previously: Bradley Beal)

If Cleveland doesn’t make a move for Beal the Cavs seem likely to take Barnes, who would be an interesting complement to point guard Kyrie Irving. The Cavs have little punch on the wing and Barnes would provide scoring and outside shooting. The defense would have to be left to Anderson Varejao.

5. Kings: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, SF Kentucky (Previously: Barnes)

Somehow MKG has become a consolation prize. His offense obviously needs work, but how many 18-year-olds come into the NBA with his kind of defensive skill set and proven winner’s pedigree? Celtics coach Doc Rivers likes to say that playing hard is a skill, and that helps make MKG one of the safest picks in the top five.

6. Trail Blazers: Damian Lillard, PG, Weber State (Previously: Andre Drummond)

Lillard has entered a strange zone where is he underrated to the point of being overrated, but for the Blazers he’s an exciting prospect for a franchise that desperately needs a fresh start.

7. Warriors: Andre Drummond, C, UConn (Previously: Perry Jones)

Well, why the heck not? True, the Warriors added Andrew Bogut, but when the chance is there to take a boom-or-bust candidate with the seventh pick and all preferred options — read: small forwards — are gone, you might as well swing for the fences. Drummond could end up making the W’s looking very, very smart or be the latest in a long line of draft casualties.

8. Raptors: Dion Waiters, G, Syracuse (Previously: Waiters)

Few players enjoyed a meteoric rise as Waiters, who blossomed from an undisciplined freshman into college basketball’s top sixth man on a deep Syracuse squad. Waiters has similarly shot up the draft boards and has emerged as a hot name late in the process. The Raptors need offense and they could go with UConn’s Jeremy Lamb here, but Waiters is too intriguing to pass up.

9. Pistons: John Henson, F, North Carolina (Previously: Henson)

Henson is a complementary frontcourt player, but the Pistons are well set with emerging center Greg Monroe as their meal ticket inside. What Lawrence Frank‘s crew needs is defensive-minded players, and Henson fits the bill, although his thin frame could cause him to slide. The only issue here seems to be that everyone has had Henson here from the beginning and there’s a tendency to want to shake things up.

10. Hornets: Tyler Zeller, C, North Carolina (Previously: Lillard)

A point guard would be nice, but this seems too high for Kendall Marshall. Would Austin Rivers fit the bill? He might, but as good friend Jeff Goodman pointed out on our Talking Hoops podcast, Doc’s son isn’t that. A forward like Terrence Jones might be interesting, but Zeller is basically a finished product and could be part of a nice big man rotation with Davis and the underrated Gustavo Ayon. The Hornets won’t be built in a day, but their front line for the next four years could be assembled rather quickly.

11. Trail Blazers: Jeremy Lamb, SG, UConn (Previously: Jared Sullinger)

While the Hornets take the high road, the Blazers take the low and pull together a brand new backcourt. Anything would be an upgrade over Ray Felton and Jamal Crawford.

12. Bucks: Meyers Leonard, C, Illinois (Previously: Leonard)

At 7 feet and a chiseled 250 pounds, Leonard looks the part, and he’s also a good athlete who can rebound and block shots. His post game is very raw and his emergence as a late lottery pick is tied to his combine workout as much as his performance. Long story short, the Bucks need size.

13. Suns: Austin Rivers, G, Duke (Previously: Rivers)

He could go higher, but this would be a nice spot for Rivers. If Steve Nash takes his talents elsewhere, that’s a lot of shots and opportunities for Rivers to have the ball in his hands. If Nash stays, Rivers would get to learn from the best.

14. Rockets: Jared Sullinger, PF Ohio State (Previously: Tyler Zeller)

Rumors abound that the Rockets are looking to trade up and it would be something of an upset if they keep their first-rounders. For the purposes of this exercise we’re going with Sullinger, because if there’s one thing Rockets GM Darryl Morey loves to do, it’s maximize value, and despite Sullinger’s medical red flags, he has value in the middle of the first round.

15. 76ers: Terrence Jones, F Kentucky (Previously: Jeremy Lamb)

Just what the Sixers need, another long hybrid forward. Jones could be really, really good or he could be really, really average. He could also help replace Andre Iguodala if the Sixers finally move on from the second A.I. era.

16. Rockets: Kendall Marshall, PG, North Carolina (Previously: Marshall)

If the Rockets trade Kyle Lowry then they could use another point guard. If they trade Lowry it would probably be part of a package with one or both of their first-round picks. This makes mocking this pick a loser’s game, but this is about the time Marshall figures to get drafted, so he’ll do for now.

17. Mavericks: Moe Harkless, F, St. John’s (Previously: Terrence Jones)

There’s a lot to like about Harkless, who willingly played out of position for the Red Storm and has a lot of room for development, particularly offensively. At the very least, he’ll be the kind of long, tough defender the Mavs need around Dirk Nowitzki. If things go well, he could be that and a whole lot more. Not bad for the second part of the first round.

18. Rockets: Terrence Ross, SG Washington (Previously: Ross)

This was Minnesota’s pick, traded for Chase Budinger. There’s no chance Houston keeps all three picks, but Ross is too good to fall past this spot, and in the interest of the rest of the mock we’ll keep him here for a team to be decided later.

19. Magic: Arnett Moultrie, C, Mississippi State (Previously: Moultrie)

A big, offensive rebounding machine. He’s no Dwight Howard, obviously, but the Magic are in desperate need of size.

20. Nuggets: Royce White, PF, Iowa State (Previously: Moe Harkless)

Whether or not White received a promise from the Celtics, this is the point in the draft when he could go. One of the draft’s biggest enigmas, White has an anxiety disorder that includes a fear of flying, but he’s already developed a cult following and not one, but two tremendous profiles. White is a skilled passing big man and ball-handler, but he lacks a consistent outside shot and has been an indifferent defender. He’d be an interesting addition for the Nuggets.

21. Celtics: Andrew Nicholson, PF, St. Bonaventure (Previously: Nicholson)

The draft sets up nicely for the Celtics, who need size, size and more size. At 6-foot-9 with a long wingspan, Nicholson is a scorer with range. He shot over 57 percent from the field and made over 43 percent of his 3-pointers while leading the Bonnies back to the NCAA tournament after a long absence. The Celtics love big men who can stretch the floor, and Nicholson is one of the better ones in the draft.

22. Celtics: Fab Melo, C Syracuse (Previously: Melo)

I’m sticking with these two picks, even with Baylor’s Perry Jones, who has more talent than both but a questionable motor, on the board. A legit 7-footer, Melo made huge strides as a sophomore, going from nine minutes a game as a freshman to 25 in his second season. He’s raw offensively, but he can block shots. If Kevin Garnett returns to Boston, Melo would have no better defensive tutor.

23. Hawks: Perry Jones, F Baylor (Previously: Royce White)

A steep fall, but this wouldn’t be the worst spot for Jones, who has tons of talent but has not been able to tap into it consistently. He could go higher, but the bet is he falls further than Sullinger.

24. Cavaliers: Will Barton, SG Memphis (Previously: Miles Plumlee)

More scoring for the Cavs. If they take Beal, they would probably go bigger here.

25. Grizzlies: Evan Fournier, G/F, France (Previously: Fournier)

The top-rated international player, Fournier is better around the rim than he is on the perimeter. Fournier played a major role for his team, a rarity for 19-year-olds in Europe. The Grizzlies have uncertainty on the wing with Rudy Gay‘s name mentioned in trade rumors and O.J. Mayo, who is a restricted free agent.

26. Pacers: Marquis Teague, PG, Kentucky (Previously: Teague)

The Pacers have issues at the point, where Darren Collison regressed and George Hill is better used as a combo guard. Teague needs work, particularly on his shot, but he made big strides in his freshman season at Kentucky.

27. Heat: Festus Ezeli, C Vanderbilt (Previously: Draymond Green)

In addition to having the best name in the draft, Ezeli is big and has four years in the SEC to his credit. With players like Juwan Howard and Eddy Curry littering Miami’s roster, the draft is the one place the Heat can get serviceable big men on the cheap.

28. Thunder: Draymond Green, F, Michigan State (Previously: Quincy Miller)

For a team that supposedly has everything, the Thunder had a noticeable lack of depth behind Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka. If Green pans out, he’s another option in case of foul trouble or ineffectiveness. He might also be some level of protection if they can’t re-sign Ibaka in a few years.

29. Bulls: John Jenkins, SG Vanderbilt (Previously: Jeff Taylor)

Jenkins is a shooter, and the Bulls could always use more help on the perimeter.

30. Warriors: Quincy Miller, F Baylor (Previously: Tony Wroten)

It wouldn’t be a Warriors draft without a high-risk, high-reward forward. Just 19 years old, Miller has already played through a torn ACL, and while there are questions about his frame and toughness, he is skilled.

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