Posted: Friday June 29, 2012 12:39AM ; Updated: Friday June 29, 2012 5:15PM
Ian Thomsen
Ian Thomsen>INSIDE THE NBA

Shake a Magic 8 Ball on this year's draft class -- cannot predict now

Story Highlights

This was a draft of educated guesses that can't be judged for years down the road

Andre Drummond must buck the trend of UConn big men in the Jim Calhoun era

Perry Jones, taken by the Thunder at No. 28, could become the face of the draft

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Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
Bobcats No. 2 pick Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was one of six Kentucky players drafted.
Elsa/Getty Images

Unless you're with the New Orleans Hornets and you watched Anthony Davis put on your team's cap, you couldn't begin to know what to make of this draft. Everything that happened after the first five minutes was a matter of opinion, more so than any draft in recent memory.

This is what happens when so little separates No. 2 from No. 5, when No. 6 might as well be No. 11, and when a team picking No. 21 or No. 28 hopes to have stolen a top-10 talent.

This was a draft of educated guesses that can't be judged for years down the road. Will the surprise choice of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist with the No. 2 pick turn out to be a winner for the Bobcats, who were expected to prefer Thomas Robinson or Bradley Beal? Apart from his intensity and attention to defense, his success as a small forward will depend on his ability to develop a jump shot -- as well as on the Bobcats' ability to fill out a roster around him.

Equally surprising were the choices of shooting guards by the Cavaliers at No. 4 (Dion Waiters of Syracuse) and the Raptors at No. 8 (Terrence Ross of Washington). It's hard to criticize those teams for taking players earlier than expected, because there were no sure things in the lottery.

The big scare for every GM not named Dell Demps (whose Hornets used the No. 1 pick on Davis) is that the wrong choice was made. The good news is that we probably won't be able to reach such conclusions for some time. Will Harrison Barnes (No. 7 to the Warriors) develop the ball handling he needs to augment his athleticism and spot-up shooting? Will Bradley Beal (No. 3 to the Wizards) fulfill the upside of his recent hype, in which he was quoted as suggesting that Western Conference champion Oklahoma City was interested in moving up for him, and one of his supporters predicted he could become better than Ray Allen?

What to make of the Pistons' No. 9 choice of Connecticut power forward Andre Drummond? Detroit has long been seeking an interior defender to replace Ben Wallace, and Drummond has the athleticism to protect the rim someday. But consider the list of UConn big men drafted in the first round during the Jim Calhoun era:

Year Player Pick
1994 Donyell Marshall No. 4
1996 Travis Knight No. 29
2004 Emeka Okafor No. 2
2005 Charlie Villanueva No. 7
2006 Hilton Armstrong No. 12
2006 Josh Boone No. 23
2009 Hasheem Thabeet No. 2

This is not to say Drummond isn't going to live up to the hype, like so many of his predecessors. But it does suggest that Calhoun is a tremendous coach who has a way of bringing out the best in his big men, and that the truth is exposed when they graduate onto the NBA. Drummond is so unfinished and promising that the truth about him may not come out until his second contract.

There were few trades because, in the end, not many players were worthy of the resources it would have taken to move up in a draft that was exceptionally deep and yet lacking in All-Star potential. Not until the 17th pick was a deal made Thursday night, with the Cavaliers taking North Carolina center Tyler Zeller while sending three picks to the Mavericks -- Nos. 24 (shooting guard Jared Cunningham of Oregon State), 33 (power forward Bernard James of Florida State) and 34 (forward Jae Crowder of Marquette).

The Rockets were acquiring first-round picks in hope of putting together a package for Dwight Howard, and in the absence of that deal Houston wound up with an intriguing trio of UConn shooting guard Jeremy Lamb at No. 12, Iowa State forward Royce White at No. 16 and Kentucky forward Terrence Jones at No. 18.

White was one of three notable first-rounders to plummet, and in all cases those players may ultimately benefit from their falls. White goes to a Houston team that is seeking to reinvent itself, which will give him a chance to take on a bigger role than he could have found with other teams -- and he has the talent to potentially seize that role. Power forward Jared Sullinger of Ohio State was anticipated to be a top-10 pick each of the last two years before recent news of a lingering back problem caused him to drop out of the lottery to the Celtics, who were happy to take him at No. 21. If Boston is correct in its medical assessment, Sullinger could find himself starting alongside center Kevin Garnett next season.

Then there was the odd case of Perry Jones, who in 2010-11 was considered a top-five candidate. Questions about a knee injury and his commitment to basketball conspired to slide Jones down to No. 28, where he was caught by the Thunder. Could he have found a better home? There will be no pressure on him to produce immediately, and he will be joining an environment in which young players bring out the best in each other. There he may yet be able to salvage his potential.

And that hope makes Jones the face of this draft. Check back in three or four years to see what becomes of him.

 
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