Last year things weren’t nearly this easy. The morning after the NBA Draft lottery order was selected, we got the answer to the question “Who’s drafting No. 1?” but unfortunately had to follow it up with an entirely different question completely: “What the heck are the Cleveland Cavaliers going to do with the pick?”
In hindsight it seems almost laughable to think that the answer was anything other than “Take Kyrie and run.” Only at the time, it wasn’t nearly so easy. The Kyrie in this case (Irving, of course) was coming off a major toe injury, had sat out most of his only season at Duke, and when he did return to action in time for Duke’s first NCAA Tournament game, looked pretty average. At this time last year, Irving appeared to be the best of a flawed group of players, no better or worse than the undersized Derrick Williams, the position-less Kemba Walker, Enes Kanter (who hadn’t played competitive basketball in a year), and a bunch of foreign guys no one had ever heard of. Granted, I personally liked Irving more than virtually everyone else, but to most other basketball experts, drafting him No. 1 overall was like grabbing a bag of bruised apples and trying to figure out which one was “best.” If they were all bruised, did it really matter which one you took?
But as we get back to 2012 and back to Wednesday night, once the ping pong balls stopped bouncing, the questions about the No. 1 pick became completely different than they were a year ago. None of them centered on who the No. 1 pick would be, but instead, what would happen when he got to the Crescent City. They all sounded a little something like this: What neighborhood would Anthony Davis live in? What dealership will he pick up his white Bentley at? Will he learn the saxophone in the offseason and join a jazz band? You know, all of life’s truly pressing issues.
All bad jokes aside, we do now know that unless truly absurd happens, Anthony Davis will be a New Orleans Hornet in a couple weeks. Mark it down in permanent ink. Chisel it into stone. Shave it into your eyebrow if you please. Behind the Harlem Globetrotters, Davis-to-New Orleans is the safest bet in sports right now.
So with that, the real question on the 2012 draft isn’t “Who’s No. 1” but instead, “Who’s No. 2?” While the NBA would tell you that the Hornets are on the clock, it’s really the Charlotte Bobcats who are up to bat, and if they don’t get a talent infusion ASAP, someone might have to bring in a priest to read them their last rights. The Bobcats are bad, really bad, but they’ve got a chance to change that. In the watered down East, the right selection could put them on the path towards the playoffs within a few years.
To most, Charlotte’s choice at two isn’t nearly as easy as New Orleans’ at No. 1, except personally, I kinda, sorta, think it is. If you’re asking me, there is in fact a clear-cut, no-doubt-about-it, pass-on-him-at-your-own-risk No. 2 player in this draft, and if the Bobcats do let him go, well, they’ll have nobody to blame when they find themselves in the NBA lottery next year too (Well, they’ll probably be in the lottery anyway, but that’s not really the point). Anyway, before we get to who the pick should be, let’s instead cross off some of the names it shouldn’t be.
Let’s start with a couple of longshots, and say that there is probably no chance that Jared Sullinger, Perry Jones, Jeremy Lamb, Austin Rivers, or anyone else truly unexpected gets selected with the pick. After all, the Bobcats might be known to antagonize their fans every once in a while, but unless they truly hate them, I doubt Charlotte would draft any of the above names (then again, looking at the 2012 roster, you could make the case that the Bobcats do legitimately hate their fans. That’s another conversation for another day though.)
Let’s also go ahead and eliminate another consensus Top 5 pick in Harrison Barnes.
Now, if this was 2010 or even 2011, someone could probably make the case on Barnes getting drafted this high. Unfortunately, it’s 2012 and at this point we kind of know what Barnes is and is not capable of. What you need to know about Barnes is that he basically has one truly elite skill (shooting wide open jumpers) and a bunch of other below average ones. For a guy who’s game is played on the perimeter, Barnes isn’t a good passer or ball-handler, doesn’t have a quick first step and really isn’t all that good at creating his own offense. That’s fine if you’re James Jones and the fourth guy off the Miami Heat’s bench. But as a high lottery pick? It’s not nearly as cool.
Moving away from Barnes, there’s also a lot buzz around Florida’s Bradley Beal at No. 2. It’s buzz which, I kinda, sorta get. But not really.
To his credit, Beal is basically like a shorter Barnes only with more skill, someone who can shoot the lights out, but can also create his own shot and get to the rim, two skills that Barnes hasn’t totally mastered yet. Yes, it took Beal some time to get going at Florida, but to his credit he did eventually “figure it out” and by the end of the year did give us as fans glimpses at why folks liked him coming so much out of high school. Like Jeremy Lamb and a few other guys in this draft who can create their own offense, I think Beal will be a much better pro than he was in college.
At the same time I watched a lot of Bradley Beal at Florida, and never once did I think to myself, “Now THERE is the No. 2 pick in the draft! Top 10? Sure, why not. But the first player to come off the board after Anthony Davis? That seems like a bit of a reach for me, and even more of a reach for Charlotte. The Bobcats are already a bit small in the backcourt (Beal is only listed at 6’3) and given their need for help in the frontcourt, I’m thinking Beal is a bit of a long shot. Believe me when I say this: It’ll work out best for everyone if the Charlotte Bobcats don’t draft Brad Beal.
Moving to the frontcourt, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my 2012 college basketball man-crush, Thomas Robinson, who----
…(Visualizes Robinson catching an alley-oop from Tyshawn Taylor)…
…(Slowly opens eyes, as a single tear rolls down the cheek)…
Sorry, I got distracted there for a second. What was I saying? Oh right, Thomas Robinson.
So yeah, it’s pretty clear from my weird day-dream that I love Thomas Robinson. The guy plays insanely hard, is- by all accounts- an incredible teammate, and someone that is impossible not to root for. If you’re telling me you don’t like Thomas Robinson, I’m guessing there’s also a pretty good chance you don’t like puppies, apple pie and democracy either (As you can probably tell, I didn’t get much sleep last night).
At the same time, I have to ask an honest question: Strictly as a basketball player, how much better do we really think Thomas Robinson can get? So much of what makes Robinson great is based on energy and hustle, and unfortunately those are two skills that you can’t really improve on as you get older. Could I see Robinson making an All-Star team or two? Yes I could, if only because he’s going to play 80 games a year, and pile up stats on sheer want and will. But do I ever see him developing a real low-post game and averaging more than say 15 points a game? Probably not, which isn’t a great sign for the Bobcats, who finished dead last in the NBA in scoring. Thomas Robinson would be a great fit for most teams in the NBA. He’s just a good one in Charlotte.
Closing down the list of potential candidates at No. 2, Andre Drummond is an interesting name that’s going to get thrown around a lot between now and the draft.
Given that I’ve already written extensively about Drummond, I won’t get into it too much here, but if you’re looking for a Reader’s Digest scouting report on Drummond, here’s what you need to know: He’s a great kid, a great teammate and someone who I’ve heard described as “A big marshmallow” roughly 27,000 times over the last year. Drummond is also insanely skilled, which makes things tough for anyone looking to draft him this spring; simply put, he’s got all the tools to average 22 and 12 and be the next Dwight Howard, but could just as easily average 12 and six and be a glorified Tyrus Thomas. I watched every single game the kid played in college, and have no clue what kind of NBA player he’ll become. None whatsoever.
Meaning that the more I think about it, the more I realize that there’s only one, clear-cut, no-brainer choice for the No. 2 pick. And just because I’m a nice guy, I’ll even give you a hint. His name starts with “Michael” and ends in “Kidd-Gilchrist.” And if the Bobcats are thinking about drafting anyone other than him, they’re out of their minds.
First, let’s start with the basketball stuff on MKG and really, he’s got the skills to warrant being the second pick in this draft. He isn’t a totally fluid scorer like Beal or Lamb but can create off the dribble, and can get to the rim pretty much anytime he wants, even if it sometimes only based on sheer force. He’s also an excellent defender, with the athleticism to guard twos and the size to also guard small forwards as well. At this point the only real thing lacking from Kidd-Gilchrist’s game is a reliable jumper, which just so happens to be one of the few skills that an NBA player can actually acquire through hard work. You can’t grow taller if you’re only 6’0. You can’t pick up a 42’’ vertical leap if you weren’t born with it. But you can become a competent shooter just by getting into the gym and working at it.
And really, it’s that work ethic, desire to get better, and need to win, which is why Kidd-Gilchrist is such a no-brainer for me. He’s the kind of kid that isn’t going to stop working until he’s the best, and isn’t going to stop pushing everyone else around him until his team is the best too. As I said during this past college basketball season, “There isn’t a single team in the NBA that wouldn’t be better tomorrow by adding Michael Kidd-Gilchrist today.”
Honestly, that’s the best part about Kidd-Gilchrist. The stories about Michael Kidd-Gilchrist the “person” are better than the ones on Michael Kidd-Gilchrist the basketball player.
There’s the one story about Kidd-Gilchrist organizing team breakfasts and get-togethers at Kentucky, despite being the youngest player on the team. Or how, with Kentucky barreling toward a National Championship late in the season, Kidd-Gilchrist went to John Calipari and gave up his starting spot to Darius Miller, because he thought Miller needed the confidence boost. And really, maybe the best story about Michael Kidd-Gilchrist the person isn’t actually a “story” at all. It came in the middle of the season, when Kidd-Gilchrist- who was the star at the time- gave up the spotlight to Anthony Davis.
Now I know that sounds goofy to say right now, except its true.
As easy as it is to forget, it was recently as last November, December and January that Davis was still figuring out his gawky body, and it was Kidd-Gilchrist who was the star of Kentucky’s team. Sure the stats say that Kidd-Gilchrist “only” averaged 11.8 points per game, but what the stats won’t tell you is that without Kidd-Gilchrist’s 17 points and 11 boards, Kentucky wouldn’t have beaten North Carolina in December. Or that without his 24 points and 19 boards they might’ve lost to Louisville on New Year’s Eve too. And what those stats really won’t tell you is that early on in the season- when Davis was maturing, Marquis Teague was a turnover machine, and Terrence Jones was still figuring things out- it was Kidd-Gilchrist who carried the team on his back. Heck, I was in Kentucky in the middle of January, and only then was the conversation of “Who is more valuable: Davis or Kidd-Gilchrist” swinging in Davis’ favor. Up until that point, Kidd-Gilchrist was in poll position for a first-team All-American spot, and maybe a handful of National Player of the Year votes.
Instead Kidd-Gilchrist saw that Davis was ready to take over, and gave up the spotlight to him. Even as a burgeoning lottery pick, Kidd-Gilchrist never complained as his stats dwindled. He only smiled wider when the wins piled up.
So to the brass in Charlotte, I give you the same message I gave Cleveland a year ago: Don’t overthink this one. Stop worrying about measureables, wingspan or how a guy looks in one workout, on one random day. Instead, let a 40 game college season make the pick for you.
Do that, and your choice is pretty easy. Actually, if you do that, there will be no choice at all. Just a simple answer to the simple question of “Who’s No. 2?”
The answer is Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
Don’t screw this one up, ok?
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