For the second straight year, Golden State Warriors radio play-by-play announcer Tim Roye wants to know who I think the Warriors are going to take in the NBA Draft. It’s exceedingly difficult to predict what the Warriors will do with the seventh overall pick, because one (or more) of the top seven picks will almost certainly be traded from one team to another, and that pick could very well be the Warriors’. But let’s pretend picks won’t be traded for veterans, picks won’t be traded for picks, and each team will stand pat at their assigned draft position.
So what do we know about this draft? Not much. Anthony Davis is going to go No. 1 overall, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist probably won’t last past No. 3. After that, you have a group of about a dozen players who could go pretty much anywhere. Maybe more than a dozen. And before we figure out who the Warriors are going to pick, we have to figure out who the teams ahead of them will select.
So here’s my first 2012 NBA Mock Draft — the first seven picks, anyway:
1. New Orleans Hornets: Anthony Davis, PF, Kentucky
We all know Davis is the top pick, and we all know why. We also know that he’s an odd-looking person in the facial region. Because of how he looks, I’m not sure everyone realizes how nasty this kid is. He’s cocky, and he takes on the persona of a ruthless predator on defense. He wants to swallow everyone and everything on the floor. He isn’t scared of the NBA, but you can be sure there are several NBA players who’ll be scared of Davis by December.
2. Charlotte Bobcats: Thomas Robinson, PF, Kansas
The Bobcats need one or two of everything, because they’re the worst team since the 1997-98 Denver Nuggets. Charlotte scored the fewest points of any team in the NBA, and had a worse rebounding percentage than every team except … Golden State. Robinson was a winner in college, and we know Michael Jordan likes that. While Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has more upside, look for MJ to be tempted by the 17.7 ppg and 11.9 rpg Robinson averaged in his junior year.
3. Washington Wizards: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, SF, Kentucky
The Wizards won’t need their full time allotment here. While MKG isn’t a very good shooter, he can run with John Wall (another UK one-and-doner who can’t shoot) and defend twos and threes. Plus, Kidd-Gilchrist can push Chris Singleton to the bench and allow Jan Vesely to play power forward next season. Bradley Beal is an option here since the Wizards only have one SG (Jordan Crawford) and the Wizards are a pretty terrible 3-point shooting team, but Kidd-Gilchrist will prove too much to pass up.
4. Cleveland Cavaliers: Harrison Barnes, SF, North Carolina
After Barnes’ vertical leap measured at a ridiculous 38 inches (fourth all-time since they started doing pre-draft measurements, two inches higher than Vince Carter), this pick became a no-brainer. Since the Cavs were rumored to be considering Barnes with the No. 1 overall pick a year ago before Barnes decided to remain a Tar Heel, he was probably the pick here already (to the Warriors’ dismay).
5. Sacramento Kings: Andre Drummond, C, Connecticut
The Kings’ best shot-blocker is Hassan Whiteside, and he never plays. DeMarcus Cousins led the team in blocks during the 2011-12 season with less than 1.2 per game. Drummond’s a project, but it’s not like the Kings are in any hurry to be relevant again.
6. Portland Trail Blazers: Bradley Beal, SG, Florida
It’s hard to imagine a scenario where Portland doesn’t trade this pick. They need a PG, but unless they want to reach on Damian Lillard that’s not going to happen here. They could use Drummond, but as you can see the Kings scratched that idea.
7. Golden State Warriors: Jared Sullinger, PF, Ohio State
I think it’s between Sully and Terrence Jones here, and after flipping a coin … just kidding (sort of). While Jones is an intriguing option due to his versatility, athleticism and handle, Sullinger fits the Warriors template. Are the Warriors looking for enigmatic leapers with no discernible position? No, otherwise they would’ve kept Anthony Randolph. Are they fans of guys who know how to score and can easily be pictured hanging around the league for 10 years? Yes.
Sullinger is known as a “high IQ” guy who was quite productive in college. He rebounds. While weight has been a concern for Sullinger in the past, he has dropped his body fat to 10.7% (Jones is at 7.7%). Sullinger (6′ 7.75″ without shoes) is only a half inch shorter than Jones, and has the same standing vert (29.5″). Reportedly the Warriors weren’t blown away by either Jones workout (Terrence or Perry III), and Sullinger’s interview alone might propel him ahead of the Joneses.
Does Sullinger play the same position as David Lee? You bet. Is he a good defender? Not really. But while the Warriors need a small forward, Terrence Jones isn’t certain to be any better than restricted free agent Brandon Rush at this point. Andrew Bogut’s expected to return, but behind Bogut and Lee were these PF/C’s last year: Andris Biedrins, Jeremy Tyler, Chris Wright, Mickell Gladness, Earl Barron and Keith Benson. Unless the Warriors plan on playing Lee and Bogut a combined 82 mpg, they’re going to need to add some depth up front.
The main reason why I see Sullinger heading to Oakland? This might be the Warriors’ last lottery pick in a while. Next year’s pick is top-6 protected, but should be heading to Utah. If they’re in the lottery again two years from now, Bob Myers may be looking over his shoulder to find Kirk Lacob holding a scythe. Elite young talent may be hard to come by for a while, so the Warriors better not screw this one up. That’s why they’ll go with the “safe” pick here.