2012 NBA Draft Losers
Anyone who tells you they knew Thursday night’s draft order in advance is either psychic or pulling your leg. Teams inevitably take the players they wanted, not taking the various mock drafts into consideration. This knowledge can still leave one scratching their head about some of the moves witnessed coming into the draft and after Commissioner David Stern announced the names of the NBA’s newest recruits, some teams exited the process looking like they had left a lot on the table.
The real impact of any draft often isn’t fully known until most of the players have completed their rookie contracts, but we may not have to wait that long to label this year’s biggest draft losers.
Dallas looked like one of this year’s big winners when projected lottery pick Tyler Zeller fell to them at seventeen, then they traded down.
Jared Cunningham, Bernard James and Jae Crowder were all mid-second round prospects heading into the draft and individually could make an NBA roster, but it would be a surprise if any team would guarantee the contracts of all three players heading into next season. The best explanation could be Dallas was more concerned about lowering the salary cap hold of their draft picks heading into free agency, but Zeller has the potential to contribute immediately on an NBA roster. It leaves one wondering what the Mavericks were thinking?
On a positive note, Cunningham could challenge Rodrigue Beaubois for playing time next season and has the potential to be a good acquisition with the twenty-fourth pick down the road.
Cleveland looks like the big winner in this transaction.
While still in New Jersey, the Nets swapped what would become the sixth pick of the draft for small forward Gerald Wallace, who held a player option on his contract for next season. The Nets were out of the playoff picture at the time and even with the trade, they were not a serious threat to make the postseason.
Wallace has since opted for free agency and Portland used the Nets pick to select the best point guard prospect in the draft Damian Lillard. While the Nets are hoping to re-sign Deron Williams and would not have taken a point guard this high in the draft, small forward Harrison Barnes was still on the board.
The highly-touted Barnes would have been a solid long-term addition to the Nets and a possible future star the team could have built around as they move to their new home in Brooklyn. Now, the Nets have to hope they can entice Wallace to re-sign with the team long-term or this move will prove to be one of the worst of 2012.
Maybe everyone is projecting their own desires onto the Rockets’ future plans and the team has finally decided just to blow it all up and rebuild from scratch? The big deal to acquire an established star player at the draft using their logjam of young talent never materialized as the team selected Jeremy Lamb, Royce White and Terrence Jones. Houston’s draft performance has been praised by some, but not acquiring a face-of-the-franchise player is a letdown.
Adding three rookies to Jon Leuer and Jon Brockman, who were acquired from Milwaukee, and the Rockets’ own youthful trio of Chandler Parsons, Patrick Patterson and Marcus Morris does give Houston a wealth of good young prospects with which to pursue a big name player or a roster that could ensure a shot at the first overall pick next season.
All of these young prospects have the potential to become very good NBA players, but there is no way Houston can hope to develop all of them without losing an incredible number of games. Maybe the big deal materializes and some other team chooses to rebuild with the assets Houston has accumulated, in the meantime the Rockets look like they drafted well and are still one of this year’s big losers.
Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers finally managed to dump the salary of seldom used Luke Walton and acquire some needed point guard help from the Cavaliers in the process. Unfortunately, they had to surrender their own first-round draft pick to accomplish it.
Ramon Sessions has since announced he will opt-out of the final year of his contract to test free agency and Cleveland managed to convert the Lakers twenty-fourth overall draft pick into the highly-touted center Tyler Zeller.
If the Lakers were a cash-strapped team that worried about their luxury tax bill, the result of this move would be easier to accept, but Walton would have been off the books before the new luxury tax provisions of the collective bargaining agreement kicked in and the Lakers were not noticeably improved with Sessions playing point guard instead of Derek Fisher.
As of now, the Lakers could really use a player from the first round of this year’s draft.
Teams To Watch
A couple of teams selected players in the lottery several spots higher than expected and will have some explaining to do if the better known names they passed on turn out to be significantly better players.
Cleveland reached to take Dion Waiters fourth overall instead of the well-scouted Harrison Barnes or the more NBA-ready Thomas Robinson. Waiters could turn out to be the better player down the road, but it will be surprising if both Barnes and Robinson don’t get off to a quicker start.
In Toronto, no one saw the Raptors selecting Terrence Ross instead of Austin Rivers or Jeremy Lamb. Even the enigmatic Andre Drummond would have been a high value pick at eight. Washington played in the NIT instead of the NCAA tournament where Ross shot 15 of 37 from three-point range and averaged 24.8 points over four games, but that is not the stage where college players gain recognition. Coach Dwane Casey got the shooter he was asking for, but the Raptors will hear about it if Ross can’t produce at the next level.
The biggest winners and losers in this year’s draft are yet to be determined and teams will have plans in the works that could change one’s opinion about the moves they made before and during this year’s draft. But for now, some moves do not appear to have worked out so well and have left us with more questions than answers.