Potential. Production. Potential versus Production. It's the greatest dilemma when looking at draft prospects. Do you take guys with minimal production but enormous potential? Or, do you take the guys with enormous production but minimal potential? And, finally, do you take the guys with solid production and solid potential? The NBA Draft is always a wild event. You get teams who want to shed payroll and get back younger talent by giving up older, proven talent to teams that think they need said veterans to compete. You get teams who try to deal younger guys, and draft picks, for proven guys. You get teams who are willing to give away millions of dollars in cash just to acquire the rights to a first round pick. It's an experience like no other. It's quite hectic and the only good thing about it is that it's only two rounds now.
Personally, I view the 2012 NBA Draft in an entirely different light than everyone else. I have guys I'm high on, guys I'm low on, and guys I'm meh on. It happens. It happens for everyone actually. I've been looking forward to this draft for quite some time and have grown quite fond of a lot of the players. The thing that makes my viewpoint of this draft different from everyone else's is that I've put players into tiers and then structured those tiers into fits. The reason for this is because there's a growing epidemic going on in the NBA Draft world that all prospects after a certain point are created equal and fit only matters slightly. Not the case. Fit matters more than talent. You can be the most talented guy on the court but if you don't fit into the system then it doesn't matter now does it?
The first tier for me consists of a guy no one had going first overall roughly a year or so ago; Anthony Davis. The consensus top pick among draft pundits last year was Andre Drummond. As crazy as it sounds, they're in the same tier for me. They're first tier players for different reasons. While Anthony Davis is a difference maker on defense for his ability to alter shots from the weakside and his explosiveness on the offensive side, Andre Drummond is a difference maker on defense because he's actually an amazing post defender. I understand that his offense is lagging behind his defense but there's a ton of room for growth and he's a tree. He's a legit center. But, as I said up above, fit matters for him. If a team like Golden State drafts him, or one with a very poor track record of getting players to play hard, he's screwed. It won't do him any good. If a team like Portland or Cleveland drafts him then there's no telling how great he could become. It's all fit for him. Still a first tier guy, though.
Also in that first tier are Thomas Robinson, Bradley Beal, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and Damian Lillard. That's it. They all have qualities that make them excellent fits for certain teams. The number one reason they're a perfect fit for a lot of teams, though, is their hustle. They all hustle. They all work hard. They all play hard. And they never give up. They're tireless at their craft. Select any of these four guys and you're sure to get a quality player no matter simply because they're hard workers. You always take a less-talented hard worker over a more-talented slacker. And that's why this group of four players will go ahead of Andre Drummond even though they're in the same tier for me.
The second tier is where things get fuzzy. At this point it all comes down to positional need. If you need a shooting guard from the second tier you have guys like Jeremy Lamb, Dion Waiters, Terrence Ross, and Austin Rivers. If you need a point guard you have guys like Kendall Marshall and Marquis Teague. If you need a small forward you have guys like Harrison Barnes and Moe Harkless. Need a power forward? John Henson, Jared Sullinger, and Arnett Moultrie would be fine. Combo forwards like Terrence Jones and Perry Jones III are there. And, lastly, if you need a center you can always draft Tyler Zeller and Meyers Leonard. Like I said, it all comes down to what you need. All could be solid pros. None will be stars.
And that's what this draft comes down to. There aren't a lot of superstar types. In fact, there aren't any. None of these guys are really superstar material. Not even Anthony Davis. He's ugly. And ugly isn't marketable. But there are stars. Just not superstars. There are some guys in here who have the potential to be a number one option on teams but most are either a two or three option at best. For instance, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is not a one. He's a two. But he's a Scottie Pippen two. Pair him with someone like Kyrie Irving and watch him take off. Especially if the Cavaliers can deal Anderson Varejao and the 24th pick to Golden State for the 7th pick. Could you imagine if Cleveland was able to put Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Terrence Ross next to Kyrie Irving? Turns them into contenders with two years.
But, as I said, lot of twos and some threes. A guy like Damian Lillard is neither. He's a one. Yet he can play off the ball like a two at times. What's that show you? Unselfishness. And as we've learned lately in the NBA, unselfishness leads to wins. That's why a guy like Bradley Beal will be successful. He can be a good one or a great two. He'll thrive wherever he ends up on draft night. Maybe not as much ash e could but he still will be good. Just like Thomas Robinson. Reminds me a lot of Elton Brand but more athletic. Will he be the same player? Don't think so but even a step down from Brand isn't a bad thing.
Let's be honest for a second here. This draft isn't bad. It's like most drafts. There's a clear cut first pick, guys right after him who will be good/great, and then guys after that who will be solid roleplayers. This draft is deep in roleplayers and sleepers. Sleepers who can be good or great. Sleepers like Kyle O'Quinn, Jae Crowder, Darius Johnson-Odom, and Orlando Johnson. Guys, who in the right situation, could be great. And at this point I'm sure people think I'm actually being quite pessimistic rather than optimistic but go look around the web and see how many people are down on this draft right now. They think it's a two pony draft with Anthony Davis and Bradley Beal as the two thoroughbreds while the rest of the crop is viewed as spoiled. It's viewed as an average product. It's not. It's a good product. You just have to know where to look and know what fits your team in particular.
The absolute worst thing a team can do is love a player so much without evaluating whether nor not he's worthy of the selection. That'd be the point in time when you just trade down, pick up more assets, and go about your business. That's why I could see a team like Cleveland dealing down from 4th by calling Houston and asking for at least two of their picks or even all three. Houston wants a center. Do that deal and they get Drummond while Cleveland gets more assets, can use them to move back up in the lottery, and still get quality players to surround Kyrie Irving with. It's all in the outlook for teams. It's all on how they view their team going forward. They need to be optimistic. This is a good draft. You can win championships with players from this draft. Look no further than Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. A winner. A worker. A wunderkind. The one guy I'd take over the rest.
When people look back years from now on this draft we'll undoubtedly hear the famous "I can't believe so-and-so passed on that guy!" but it always happens. It's why the NBA Draft isn't scientific. It's a crap shoot. It's already happened with the Portland Trail Blazers in regards to them taking Greg Oden over Kevin Durant. Yet people seem to forget how the draft was viewed at that time. It always happens. That's why the draft is so fun. And that's why you have to be so optimistic with it. We'll seem some teams deal out of the first round this year and acquire a pick for next year but that always happens. It has nothing to do with the draft this year but rather about saving money and picking up stuff for the future. Because, as the saying goes, the future holds more promise than the present.
So when looking at this draft, be optimistic. It's not hard. Latch onto a quality of a certain player and realize that quality will keep him in the league. For guys in that first tier, they have multiple qualities. For guys in that second tier, they have one quality. Even third tier guys have one or two qualities. Not every draft pick needs to be a star. They just need to contribute. That's the problem this day in age. We think everyone is special. We think everyone needs to be star. We think everyone has to be the best player on the team. And that's not the case. They just have to do their job. Play within themselves. If they do that then the outlook for the team that drafts them, based on fit more or less, will be happy with the end result.