Beyond the top four picks, the 2012 NBA Draft ended up being an extremely shallow class and the bottom of the lottery was filled with role players at best. Essentially the Anthony Davis sweepstakes, the rest of the teams having to pick and choose amongst the rest of his talented Kentucky class. However, there were more than a few late first round, and second round, picks that have turned out to be extremely talented and fell for various reasons on draft night. The clearest and most glaring of omission from the lottery being Draymond Green. Other players, like Andre Drummond, Khris Middleton, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist have been massive projects that are just recently paying dividends. Let’s take a look at where teams went wrong and re-draft the 2012 lottery:
- Anthony Davis- A clear cut, once in a decade type prospect. Taking him at number one in this draft was a no-brainer, but where does he rank amongst other great number one picks of the last thirty years? Possibly second to only LeBron James. Davis is still only scratching the surface of his potential, and with the recent news of The Brow playing the last 2+ years with a torn labrum, it is difficult to fathom how high Davis’ ceiling really is. Having added range to his jumper, and constantly improving his defense both on and off ball, Davis would have been picked by any team slotted in this number one slot in 2012.
- Andre Drummond- The most shocking fact about Drummond: he was the youngest player in the league in 2012-13 AND the second youngest in 2013-14. After forgoing his senior year of high school to join the UCONN Huskies, Drummond was still viewed as nothing but potential after a semi-lackluster freshman year, but GM’s must have forgotten that he was still only 17 during nearly his entire collegiate career. Free throw shooting is still an issue, but as of this season Drummond has shown tremendous upward trajectory in his career path. Universally viewed as one of the top two centers (only behind DeMarcus Cousins) in a league where that position is dying. Andre was an absolute steal at the 9th spot in the draft for the Pistons, who were desperate for a superstar and took the risk on this high-upside talent.
- Draymond Green- Obviously the biggest misstep made on June 28th, 2012, Green was passed on by every team once, the Cavaliers THREE times, and the Wizards & Bobcats twice, falling to the 35th overall pick. Only two teams showed any interest in the undersized forward from Michigan State, the Miami Heat, who were at the height of their dominance, who opted to trade their pick, and Green’s future team, the Golden State Warriors. A perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate, Green has burst through even the most optimistic of glass ceilings regarding how far he could make it in the NBA. But was he really the third best player in this class? When he came into the league, the criticism was the he didn’t have a defined position, couldn’t defend, and couldn’t shoot. He has turned all of those into positives in his game, so how can we judge what other detriments he will correct?
- Damian Lillard- The Rookie of the Year in the 6th slot of the draft, Lillard was a four year player at Weber State, and although it took a while for the NBA to come calling, the moment they did, Damian showed he belonged. Both the Cavs and Kings swung and missed on Dion Waiters and Thomas Robinson, respectively, while one of the best PGs of the future sat in green room waiting. His defense still leaves a bit to be desired, but guarding the perimeter is one of the hardest aspects of the game in today’s NBA. With nearly unlimited range, the clutch gene, and a pension for dunking on big men, Lillard may already be the closest to reaching his full potential in this draft, but if that means top 5 point guard in the NBA, Portland will be ecstatic having landed him at 6.
- Bradley Beal- A perplexing career thus far, Beal was worthy of his draft position at third overall by the Wizards, but hasn’t been able to stay healthy for much of his career. Having played only 241 of a possible 320 games in his four years in the league, much of the Wizards success depends on his health and ability to spread the floor for John Wall to slash to the basket. When he’s on the court, Beal is one of the sharpest shooters in the NBA, and with his size and strength, he still has the upside of being a plus defender. Perhaps because of how young he was drafted, and how much time he’s missed, Beal can still reach his full potential on the second stretch of his career, but being healthy is a skill, and this year definitely hindered his development.
- Festus Ezeli- The Golden State Warriors found another gem of a prospect on that fateful day in June in the big man from Vanderbilt. Having picked up basketball much later than other NBA prospects, Ezeli’s development took years to bear fruit, but after the Warriors took a gamble on him in the 30th slot (in a trade from the Spurs), Ezeli was brought into a perfect system to nurture his skills. For years, he didn’t need to do anything on the court outside of set hard picks and finish alley oops, and he got to learn from one of the best at setting barely legal screens, Andrew Bogut. Although Festus is currently 26, he has not reached his full potential, as it always takes big men years longer to fully adjust to the game at the NBA level. The Warriors were on fire late in the 2012 draft.
- Harrison Barnes- The only player on this list in the same slot they were taken on draft day, Harrison Barnes may be on his way out of Oakland in the offseason to show the league he is better than being a perpetual 4th option as he currently is on the Warriors. Barnes has little pressure to consistently post gaudy stats, but much of the Warriors success depends on Barnes both getting buckets and defending the post when the Warriors trot out their ‘small ball lineup of death’. With very desirable versatility to play both the perimeter and inside the paint, the Warriors will have a tough decision on their hands as to whether Barnes is worth the massive contract he expects.
- Michael Kidd-Gilchrist- MKG has been a bit of a project for the Charlotte Hornets (Bobcats at the time), his jump shot is still suspect, having one of the more unorthodox of shooting forms, and has also missed quite a bit of time due to a multitude of injuries. That said, his upside as an elite wing defender is as high as ever. When healthy, MKG may be the best perimeter, on ball, defender in the NBA, and if he could put together a 70+ game season, would be a strong contender for Defensive Player of the Year. Another member of that 2012 championship Kentucky team, at 22, MKG slips in this mock because of his atrocious shooting form (that is still begging to get fixed), and his injury history.
- Khris Middleton- Middleton was a second round selection by the Detroit Pistons (39th overall), and spent almost no time on the court, appearing in only 27 games, and even spent time in the D-League. Kris was a throw-in place run the Brandon Knight for Brandon Jennings trade between the Bucks and Pistons and began making an immediate impact in Milwaukee. Having gone from only a three star prospect in 2009, to signing a $70 million dollar contact in 2015, Middleton has undergone quite the journey to reach NBA relevance. Still only 24 years old, Middleton was obviously drafted into the whole situation, but thus is the case for many second round picks, he was fortunate to find himself on a franchise that needed wing scoring, and he fulfilled that role swimmingly. While he might not succeed in every franchise, he eventually landed on a team that suited his game.
- Dion Waiters- The Cavaliers selection of of Waiters in the fourth slot of the draft was perplexing, even more so in retrospect. Waiters started zero games for the Syracuse Orange over the course of two seasons, and although was viewed as the second best shooting guard in his high school class, the Cavaliers clearly were reaching for a specific position, and not settling for the best overall player. Waiters career has taken a nosedive since LeBron James came back to Cleveland, and is now toiling away on the bench in OKC. Obviously, he’s still a tremendously talented player, the biggest detriment to his game is all upstairs. Possessing one of the lowest IQ’s in the league, and pouting when he isn’t involved enough on offense are just a few reasons his stock has fallen league wide.
- John Henson- John Henson does one thing very well at an NBA level, block shots. This concept was known on draft night, and still stands true today. His offensive game is very slowly but surely coming around, but given the situation he’s in with the Bucks, he doesn’t need to score to have an impact on the game. The Bucks took him with the last pick of the lottery (14th overall) from a trade with the Rockets, and it’s hard to gauge just how effective he can be on offense, having been given no real responsibility outside of put-backs, finishing oops, and the occasional post up. Given the lack of talent in the 2012 draft, however, Henson is able to climb a few spots higher than his original selection.
- Kent Bazemore- The Baze-God took a long time to become a relevant NBA player, but after two+ years with the Warriors, a few stints in the D-League, and a cup of coffee with the Lakers after being traded for Steve Blake. Now, he has settled into his role as heir-apparent top wing defender on the Hawks after DeMarre Carol signed with the Toronto Raptors. At 26, he is closing in on his ceiling, but perhaps because the Hawks limit his offense role we haven’t gotten to see what he can truly achieve. When given the reigns to open up his offense during his brief time with the Lakers, he showed promise as both a creator and shooter. Going undrafted was a massive oversight by any team that could have used an elite wing defender (read all), and has scratched and clawed to cut out his niche in the NBA.
- Will Barton- A former five star prospect and once considered the best shooting guard in his class by Scout.com and ESPN, it took Barton almost four full seasons to figure out his role in the league. An extremely lanky, lengthy, and freakishly athletic guard, Barton’s play prior to Christmas has the Nugget getting Sixth Man of the Year consideration. Another case of possibly getting drafted by the wrong team, Barton was traded to the Nuggets from the Blazers in the Aaron Afflalo deal, and upon landing in the Mile High City, has flourished in his sixth man role under Michael Malone. Another overlooked talent, Barton fell to 40th overall on draft night and, despite a pretty stellar 2 year college career.
- Evan Fournier- Although Fournier is only 23, he has been playing professional basketball since 2009 for multiple teams in the French league. Picked with the 20th overall pick by the Nuggets, and then traded to the Magic for Aaron Afflalo on draft night 2014, Fournier’s career is still on an upward trajectory and he still has potential to become a solid second or third option on offense.
So there you have it! Clearly many teams swung and missed, especially early on, but there were many role player gems to be found beyond the lottery, second round and even one that went undrafted. A few more players that fell outside of this lottery re-draft that deserve a mention are Terrence Ross, Terrence Jones, Tyler Zeller, Austin Rivers, Meyers Leonard, Tony Wroten, and Mike Scott. All of whom have carved out roles in the NBA, but were not worthy of being taken in the top 14.
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