Anthony Davis is the best player from the 2012 NBA Draft class. That much is certain. He has made seven straight All-Star appearances and is now leading the Western Conference-topping Los Angeles Lakers with LeBron James.
After that, how would the 2012 Draft shake out if teams made their selections over again? Today, USAbetting is redoing that draft’s top 10 picks and predicting what could have been.
1. New Orleans Hornets select F/C Anthony Davis
Original pick: F/C Anthony Davis
Davis is a pretty obvious pick here. His time in New Orleans didn’t exactly go as planned, as he only won one playoff series and ended up requesting a trade last year. However, by his third year in the league, he was already an MVP candidate, and he has stayed in range of that award ever since.
The Hornets (and later Pelicans) made poor move after poor move in the free agency department, giving long-term money to Eric Gordon, Ryan Anderson, Tyreke Evans, Omer Asik, Alexis Ajinca, Solomon Hill, none of whom proved to be worthy investments. If New Orleans had managed its money better, Davis would likely still be there today.
2. Charlotte Bobcats select G Damian Lillard
Original pick: F Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
While Draymond Green may have had the better career, Lillard is the clear best player from this draft outside of Davis. Dame won the 2012-13 Rookie of the Year award and is still improving year by year even at the age of 29. This season, he is averaging 28.9 points and 7.8 assists per game on an elite 61.9 true-shooting percentage.
You might think Lillard is an awkward fit next to the Bobcats’ prized rookie from 2011, point guard Kemba Walker. Both are scoring point guards who don’t have much defensive versatility because of their lack of size. To be honest, the fit is far from perfect.
The 2012 Bobcats can’t afford to be picky on the heels of a 7-59 season. Charlotte should take the only superstar player available here and worry about putting the pieces together later.
3. Washington Wizards select G Bradley Beal
Original pick: G Bradley Beal
The Wizards made the correct selection here. Again, I see the argument for Draymond Green, but with John Wall as a ball-dominant, non-shooting point guard, I don’t think he would work well with Green, who thrives with the ball in his hands as a playmaker.
The sweet-shooting Beal has proven to be a strong backcourt mate for Wall, even though Beal didn’t really emerge as a true star until Wall got injured. In a perfect world, these two talented young guards stay healthy, have more time to develop on-court chemistry and have a front office that surrounds them with a better supporting cast.
4. Cleveland Cavaliers select F Draymond Green
Original pick: G Dion Waiters
Green, the 2017 Defensive Player of the Year, is an excellent fit for the 2012 Cavaliers. Cleveland played big frontcourt minutes to Antawn Jamison, Omri Casspi, Alonzo Gee, Anthony Parker and Samardo Samuels in 2011-12 and the squad was coming off of two consecutive seasons with a bottom-five ranking in defensive efficiency.
The selection of Green to join young big man Tristan Thompson would give young point guard Kyrie Irving two excellent screen-setters. Both guys offer a lot of defensive versatility to make up for Irving’s lack of defensive ability.
If LeBron James still ended up coming to Cleveland in the 2014 offseason, Green would be an amazing glue guy to do the dirty work for a team that would undoubtedly contend for championships with James and Irving taking the lead.
5. Sacramento Kings select G/F Khris Middleton
Original pick: F/C Thomas Robinson
There is a massive drop-off in this draft class following the top six. The only reasonable choices here for the Kings are Middleton and Andre Drummond. Drummond is an absolutely horrible fit in Sacramento, because he is a center and DeMarcus Cousins is entrenched as the team’s franchise center. By default, Middleton becomes the correct choice.
The swingman from Texas A&M has turned into one of the NBA’s best second options in the past few seasons. He is a consistent three-level scorer who can hold his own on defense. His quiet efficiency would be a nice complement to Cousins, who is a superstar talent but has a mercurial personality.
6. Portland Trail Blazers select C Andre Drummond
Original pick: G Damian Lillard
The Trail Blazers would be very disappointed to not snag Lillard this time around. At point guard, the squad was starting veteran Raymond Felton during the 2011-12 season. Felton was definitely not the long-term answer at the position and Lillard would have been a big help.
However, the Blazers also had a need at center. They were trotting out a trio of past-their-prime bigs in Marcus Camby, Joel Pryzbilla and Kurt Thomas during the 2011-12 season and that was a big point of weakness for the squad.
Drummond’s dominant rebounding, rim protection and strong finishing inside could have been a nice complement to star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge’s finesse, midrange-oriented game.
7. Golden State Warriors select F Harrison Barnes
Original pick: F Harrison Barnes
The six players drafted before this pick have all been selected to the All-Star team at least two times. Unfortunately for the Warriors, there is a massive dropoff following those six players and no one after them has really come close to challenging for an All-Star spot.
Barnes never turned into the star that he looked like when he was the No. 1 high school recruit in the class of 2010. He has become a respectable all-around player, someone you can be comfortable with as your third or fourth-best player.
He probably would have gone on to have a nice, long tenure with the Warriors, but Golden State’s chances of signing Kevin Durant in the summer of 2016 (which it ultimately did) made letting Barnes walk in free agency an easy decision.
8. Toronto Raptors select F Jae Crowder
Original pick: G/F Terrence Ross
I really like this pick for Toronto. Crowder originally went 34th overall to the Cleveland Cavaliers and was traded to the Dallas Mavericks, but he has had a very respectable career despite his low draft position.
The former Marquette forward has worked hard on his skill set to become one of the league’s poster boys for the 3-and-D prototype player over the past several years. His shooting accuracy has never been elite, but it is good enough for him to force defenses to respect him. Defensively, he is best described as “above average” with his versatility at 6’6” and 235 pounds.
In 2012 Toronto had future All-Star DeMar DeRozan as its key young building block. It was about to trade for future All-Star Kyle Lowry that summer. With those two leading the offensive charge and DeRozan being a below-average defender, a low-maintenance role player like Crowder who would play hard and knock down shots occasionally is a great fit.
9. Detroit Pistons select F Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
Original pick: C Andre Drummond
Kidd-Gilchrist has been the victim of high expectations. He originally went No. 2 in this draft, and there is no question that he has had an underwhelming career based on being drafted that high.
However, one interesting stat from MKG’s career is that his team has posted a better net rating with him on the floor than with him on the bench in each of his eight seasons. That is no coincidence.
Kidd-Gilchrist is a defensive swiss army knife who, despite his complete inability to shoot, will grab the tough rebounds and make the hustle plays that endear him to teammates and fans. Detroit has a history rooting for that type of player (Dennis Rodman, Rick Mahorn and Ben Wallace) and would have likely embraced him. Plus, MKG would have a great mentor to learn from in veteran forward Tayshaun Prince, who was still with the Pistons at the time.
10. New Orleans Hornets select G/F Evan Fournier
Original pick: G Austin Rivers
The Hornets got Anthony Davis in real life and in this redraft at the No. 1 pick. With the No. 10 pick, it’s time to start thinking about how best to support Davis with reliable complementary players.
Ultimately, I think Fournier is the best fit as opposed to other viable options like Jeremy Lamb, Will Barton and Terrence Ross. All four guys are capable scorers and shooters from the wing position, but Fournier is the only one who has earned a starting position for most of his career. He is certainly the most consistent.
Davis never played on a team with lots of shooters. Fournier would become a significant boon to AD as a guy who can pump in around 15 points per game on reasonable efficiency and help with spacing.