Both rounds of the 2012 NBA Draft will be held on Thursday, June 26 and Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Terrence Jones, Marquis Teague, Doron Lamb and Darius Miller are all expected to hear their names called. In fact, they are expected to hear their names called in that order.
With the NBA Combine now in the books and teams narrowing their lists, it's getting to be crunch time for all prospects. The best chances to impress will now come in interviews and individual workouts. With the draft so close at hand, let's take a look at the six and where they stand right now according to experts.
ESPN.com projection - No. 1 to New Orleans Hornets
Draft Express projection - No. 1 to New Orleans Hornets
Not too much mystery here. Though the Hornets can't yet say it publicly, Davis is bound for the Big Easy. He did nothing to hurt himself with his measurements at last week's combine and maintains the strong grip on the top overall pick that he's had for quite a while now. Barring a shocking trade, Davis will head to New Orleans to form a new young core with Eric Gordon.
ESPN.com projection - No. 2 to Charlotte Bobcats
Draft Express projection - No. 3 to Washington Wizards
This is where things begin to get interesting. Davis is perceived to be a notch above a second tier of prospects that includes MKG, Bradley Beal (Florida), Thomas Robinson (Kansas) and Andre Drummond (UConn). All four could go anywhere between second and seventh, with names like Harrison Barnes (North Carolina) and Jeremy Lamb (UConn) also creeping into the conversation.
Everything begins with the Bobcats. Will they elect to build around a big like Drummond or Robinson? Will they go with a sweet-shooting two guard in Beal? Is Kidd-Gilchrist's blend of athleticism, defense character and leadership the way to go? Could they trade down? Regardless, MKG can likely rest assured he'll fall no lower than fifth.
No. 3 to the Wizards is an interesting landing place. A personality like his could be just what the doctor ordered for a young team looking to transform its culture. Besides, can you imagine John Wall and MKG streaking down the floor on a fast break? At No. 4, the Cleveland Cavaliers have a young point guard in Kyrie Irving that Kidd-Gilchrist considers one of his close friends from his high school days. At No. 5, Kidd-Gilchrist would play with another former UK star in DeMarcus Cousins, as well as veteran Chuck Hayes.
ESPN.com projection - No. 7 to Golden State Warriors
Draft Express projection - No. 14 to Houston Rockets
How's that for a difference of opinion? Jones has been somewhat of a riser of late and seems to have boosted his late-lottery stock. According to pretty much every expert, the Warriors have significant interest at seven and will bring Jones in for a workout this week with fellow likely lottery picks in Perry Jones III and Tyler Zeller. That workout report comes from Sam Amick of SI.com, who also says that the Kings are "intrigued" by Jones at No. 5.
Of course, trading down and then taking Jones is always a possibility, but it's good news he's getting that kind of interest regardless. Jones, for obvious reasons, is a fascinating prospect. Players with his size - 6-foot-9.5 and 252 pounds at the combine - don't normally possess the ability to play both forward positions.
As a side note unrelated to Jones, I find it absolutely amazing how many of the players in contention to be selected in the lottery and first round played against UK over the past two seasons. In ESPN.com's latest mock draft, eight of the 11 non-Wildcats projected in the lottery faced UK at least once in 2010-11 or 2011-12 (Beal, Barnes, Robinson, John Henson, Jared Sullinger, Perry Jones III, Jeremy Lamb and Tyler Zeller). Moreover, six of those players faced UK multiple times. All told, those eight guys played UK 16 times over the last two seasons. Outside of the lottery, eight of the remaining 15 non-UK players in the first round also played UK at least once in the last two seasons (Terrence Ross, Arnett Moultrie, Kendall Marshall, Moe Harkless, Quincy Miller, Jeffery Taylor, John Jenkins and Royce White).
So, not only has UK fielded an unprecedented level of talent during the John Calipari era, the Wildcats have faced the best players in the nation as well.
ESPN.com projection - No. 20 to Denver Nuggets
Draft Express projection - No. 25 to Memphis Grizzlies
When you get to the late first round in these mock draft, it probably makes as much sense to look at where the players are projected versus who is selecting them. Therefore, you can look at those projections and feel relatively confident that Teague will go somewhere between 17 and 25.
The young point guard, was a subject of much conversation during last week's combine broadcast. Chad Ford said on a few occasions he believed Teague could end up being the best point guard to come out of this draft and his fellow experts did not disagree. He made the case that he was being undervalued and I'd have to agree. The first impressions he made back in November and December are likely hurting him still, but Teague was a radically different player down the stretch as UK fans can attest.
ESPN.com projection - Second round (No mock draft, but ranked as No. 34 prospect)
Draft Express projection - No. 33 to Cleveland Cavaliers
In somewhat of a reprisal of the 2011-12 season, Lamb is flying under the radar compared with his Kentucky teammates. The guard who led all players in scoring during the national championship game is trying to make a push to be selected in the first round with his shooting and ability to play both backcourt positions. Teams like the Memphis Grizzlies - where Lamb will work out this week - that are looking for outside shooting could give him long looks.
ESPN.com projection - Second round (No mock draft, but ranked as No. 46 prospect)
Draft Express projection - No. 35 to Golden State Warriors
Miller will actually be competing with Lamb as both make their cases for the first round. According to Jeff Goodman of CBSSports.com, Miller was impressive at the combine and boosted his stock. It's not as easy task for a college senior to find his way into the first round with the way NBA teams draft - only three of the 30 players in Draft Express' first round are seniors - but whichever team lands Miller will be grabbing a guy who knows how to play a role on a great team. Good teams drafting late in the first round like the Indiana Pacers, Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder and Chicago Bulls will surely take notice of that.