North Carolina's Harrison Barnes is projected as a Top-10 pick in Thursday's NBA Draft. (Source: UNC Athletics)
(RNN) – The NBA Draft is usually one of the craziest nights in all of sports … among the ones that don't involve actual sports.
While the NFL Draft features a marathon of seven rounds during a three-day span, basketball offers more of a 100-yard dash. It is one night with two rounds and limited chances for teams to change their fortunes.
Many team executives' jobs are on the line every year. And with each selection and move scrutinized by their respective fan bases, they are more likely to make a blockbuster deal to engage the masses, no matter what the cost.
This year's top candidate for the "They Did What??" moment is the Houston Rockets.
The Rockets already have added to their original picks, Nos. 14 and 16, by adding the Minnesota Timberwolves selection at 18 via trade. They then flipped No. 14 and a player for No. 12.
The rumor mill is buzzing that they are trying to get multiple picks within the top 10 in a draft with the deepest talent pool in years. If they pull it off, the Rockets could get something they have lacked for a long time: Real star power.
They may try to deal for All-NBA center Dwight Howard. Or All-Star-caliber forward Josh Smith. Or they may want rookie center Andre Drummond from Connecticut.
Or maybe they just want some attention. Or they're going crazy from the heat down there in Texas. We'll see.
There are risks with the moves, but it is time the organization made waves and generated some interest. And it could set into motion a big change in the NBA landscape.
2012 NBA Draft: 7 p.m. ET Thursday
Here is a breakdown of how the night could play out, with a focus on the teams that didn't make the playoffs this season. It's a look at what each of the first 14 will probably do, and what they should do.
1. New Orleans Hornets
Will: Draft Anthony Davis (Kentucky)
Should: Draft Davis
This is the one thing set in stone Thursday. It would take a player the caliber of LeBron James or Kevin Durant in return for New Orleans to give up this pick, and that's not going to happen. Davis has a combination of size, athleticism and work ethic not found in a majority of players, especially not at 19 years old. He needs to add weight and strength, but so do most at that stage.
2. Charlotte Bobcats
Will: Trade down in the draft, get Thomas Robinson (Kansas)
Should: Trade down in the draft
Charlotte is the worst team in basketball and needs help at every position on the floor. There are multiple top-tier prospects available here, but in a draft this deep it would pay to move back in exchange for multiple picks or a combination of picks and proven players. If they can trade with Cleveland for the No. 4 pick and other assets, they may still get the guy they are rumored to like the most, Robinson. Look for the team that moves up to take Bradley Beal of Florida.
3. Washington Wizards
Will: Draft Harrison Barnes (North Carolina)
Should: Draft Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Kentucky)
The Wizards would be in decent shape if they were a fantasy basketball team; they have several players who can put up statistics in multiple categories. Unfortunately, they are an actual basketball team. With Kidd-Gilchrist, they will get a fierce defender, a guy who fits in with their fast-paced offense and most importantly the on-court leader they sorely lack. Barnes could end up being an All-Star caliber player, but Washington has enough shooters already. If they work out a deal for the No. 2 pick, they take Beal.
4. Cleveland Cavaliers
Will: Trade up to No. 2, take Beal
Should: Draft Kidd-Gilchrist
Cleveland has pick Nos. 4 and 24 in the first round, 33 and 34 in the second. They want to ship the four-slot and the second rounders to Charlotte, but will probably end up giving them the two first round picks instead. However, while Beal could give them more wins right away, MKG and whoever is there at 24 would give them a better defensive team and long-term outlook. According to sources Thursday, the Cavs want to take Dion Waiters at No. 4. But that is likely a smokescreen to get the Bobcats to come down on their asking price.
5. Sacramento Kings
Will: Draft Kidd-Gilchrist
Should: Draft Kidd-Gilchrist
Sacramento is a lot like Washington; it has some good pieces but can't translate them into wins. MKG would help turn around a talented squad immediately, and the Kings should grab him if he's around at No. 5. Another outcome is a deal with the Rockets, in exchange for multiple picks. If the deal for Howard with the Magic is going to happen, this pick could be the anchor piece of the trade package.
6. Portland Trail Blazers
Will: Draft Damian Lillard (Weber State)
Should: Draft Drummond
Drummond may bring back painful memories of another talented big man, Greg Oden. The Blazers picked Oden ahead of Durant a few years back, hoping to see him develop into one of the best centers in the game. Five injury-plagued seasons later, Oden is gone and the team has a chance to take another seven-footer with baggage. However, while Oden's issues were physical (and unknown at the time), Drummond's come from questions about whether he has the drive to reach his full potential. And if Portland has the nerve to go for it, they have the coaching staff and veteran leadership in place to maximize Drummond's considerable ability. Lillard fills the need at point guard, but the team could find someone else to do that later in the draft.
7. Golden State Warriors
Will: Trade down with Houston, take Moe Harkless (St. John's)
Should: Draft Dion Waiters (Syracuse)
This is one of the more uncertain picks so far. The Warriors may be committed to coach Mark Jackson, his desire to change the team's overall strategy and want to become better defensively. In that case, they should trade back and get pick Nos. 12 and 18 to help rebuild. Then again, ownership may still want to run the fast-paced offensive style they always have. If so, then their man is Waiters. With a game similar to Dwyane Wade's, he would give the Warriors a scorer who can use his speed and get to the basket. Houston gets Drummond with the pick.
8. Toronto Raptors
Will: Draft Waiters
Should: Draft Waiters
If Waiters slips to Toronto, it would be the best-case scenario for the team. They are a squad full of jump shooters and badly need someone who can create their own shot. If he does not fall to the Raptors, look for them to select Jeremy Lamb of Connecticut or Terrence Ross of Washington.
9. Detroit Pistons
Will: Draft John Henson (North Carolina)
Should: Draft Terrence Jones (Kentucky)
ESPN has all but confirmed Henson will be the pick for Detroit, and it's doubtful anyone picking one through eight has enough interest in him to change that. Henson (listed at 6'10", 216 pounds) will bring shot blocking and overall defense to the Pistons, but will need to gain some serious weight to really bang against other low-post NBA guys. Jones on the other hand would give them a strong, physical presence at power forward right away. While not quite the shot blocker Henson is, he could give Detroit more on offense, especially on fast break opportunities. Jones only knock was a reputation that he would take plays off, but he was a force in the NCAA tournament for Kentucky's national championship team.
10. New Orleans Hornets
Will: Draft Austin Rivers (Duke)
Should: Trade down with Houston, take Royce White (Iowa State)
How about that weather, Houston? If the sun-stroked owners would deal yet again – say Kyle Lowry and the No. 16 – the Hornets could get White or Michigan State's Draymond Green and have an amazing young core of talent. Rivers will need to decide if he's a point guard or shooting guard, but the swagger to take a last-second shot and the ability to hit it are there. Paired with Drummond, Houston would have the most intriguing ‘boom-or-bust' prospects in the league. On New Orleans, Rivers would need to need to be more of a ball distributor than scorer.
11. Portland Trail Blazers
Will: Draft Meyers Leonard (Illinois)
Should: Draft Leonard
The arguments for and against Leonard are the same as the ones for Drummond at No. 6; he's raw and needs work but the people are in place for the Blazers to get him where he could ultimately be. If Lillard was the team's first pick, the Blazers get their center here. North Carolina's Tyler Zeller is also an option, but Leonard is more athletic with a higher ceiling.
12. Houston Rockets
Will: Trade up with Golden State, take Drummond
Should: Go get Drummond
It's fun to have one team who looks a little desperate, a little crazy even, during the draft. But the usually even-keeled ownership of the Rockets has a method to its madness. The team has been solid but unspectacular for a while, making the playoffs some years but unable to get past the second round. The team has been built with smart moves and affordable players, but they have not been able to get a true star to tie it all together. If the Warriors take Harkless at 12, they get a versatile defender to guard the other team's best perimeter scorer.
13. Phoenix Suns
Will: Draft Terrence Jones
Should: Draft Terrence Jones
Jones would be the best bargaining chip to keep point guard Steve Nash in Phoenix. He is a tough, physical guy with incredible athletic ability who can score from the interior. Nash and Jones would team up for roughly 18,000 alley-oops next season. Provided he's healthy, Perry Jones III of Baylor would also fit the bill.
14. Milwaukee Bucks
Will: Draft Terrence Ross
Should: Draft Perry Jones III (Baylor)
This one is more of a toss-up. Both guys fill needs and both should improve the team. Ross is more NBA ready and would give the Bucks another guy with the speed and ability to consistently get to the basket. But Jones has been a guy everyone expected to be a superstar. Unfortunately, that has not happened yet and now he has been red-flagged with a knee issue. But if the knee is not a serious issue, the talent is there. And a team like Milwaukee is not going to get big-name free agents to come there over a place like Los Angeles, New York or Chicago, so they need to roll the dice in the draft when they get the chance to.
15. Philadelphia 76ers – Jared Sullinger (Ohio State)
16. Houston Rockets (presumed deal for No. 10 with Hornets) – Tyler Zeller (North Carolina)
17. Dallas Mavericks – Kendall Marshall (North Carolina)
18. Houston Rockets (presumed deal for No. 7 with Warriors) - Jeremy Lamb (UConn)
19. Orlando Magic – Perry Jones III (Baylor)
20. Denver Nuggets – Marquis Teague (Kentucky)
21. Boston Celtics – Royce White (Iowa State)
22. Boston Celtics – Andrew Nicholson (St. Bonaventure)
23. Atlanta Hawks – Tony Wroten Jr. (Washington)
24. Cleveland Cavaliers (presumed deal for No. 2 with Bobcats) – Quincy Miller (Baylor)
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