Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Whoever Drafts After Anthony Davis Will be Disappointed
NEW ORLEANS — After the ping pong balls do their magical dance during the NBA Draft lottery on May 30, one franchise and its fan base are going to be delighted and a whole group of others will be disappointed.
Kentucky freshman Anthony Davis — who was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four following Kentucky’s 67-59 victory over Kansas Monday night — will inevitably be the first NCAA champion taken at No. 1 since Kansas’s Danny Manning in 1988.
And he could become an NBA Hall of Famer down the line.
The other players in the draft? Not so much.
“The most disappointed NBA team this year will be the team with the No. 2 pick,” ESPN college basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla told SNY.tv.
“The No. 1 team may get a transcendent, once-in-a-decade NBA player, and the team with the No. 2 pick has a chance to hopefully get a good rotation player.”
“The draft begins at 2 because Anthony Davis is a lock at 1,” one veteran NBA scout told SNY.tv. “He’s a special player.”
The Charlotte Bobcats own the NBA’s worst record (7-43) and theoretically stand the best chance of landing Davis. Their fans and media are already drooling at the thought.
“Anthony, everybody in Charlotte and throughout the great state of North Carolina would like to know if you’re considering coming out in the NBA Draft,” came a question from a North Carolina-based reporter just a few minutes past the end of Monday’s game.
“No, I haven’t decided. Coach Cal said we have until April 29th to decide,” said Davis, who finished with 6 points, 16 rebounds, 6 blocks and 5 assists against Kansas.
The NCAA rule is that players must decide by April 10, and it’s a safe bet Davis comes out.
The combination of his uniquely special skill-set combined with the overall lack of depth in the rest of the draft make the separation between No. 1 and everybody else so great.
Consider that in the national semifinal win over Louisville, Davis became the first player since Manning in 1988 to put up at least 15 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks in a Final Four. He posted 18, 14 and five.
He then dominated the first half of the championship game despite failing to score a single point.
“He rebounded,” Calipari said. “He had 16 rebounds. At halftime, I knew he didn’t have a point. Before he left the locker room, I said, ‘Listen to me, don’t you now go out and try to score. If you don’t, don’t worry about it.
“‘You’re the best in the building, so don’t worry.”
If you’re the team with the No. 1 pick, you don’t even hesitate.
“There is a huge gap between 1 and 2 mainly because Davis’s only real weaknesses is his strength and weight, which will be easily addressed with weight training, dieting and age,” a second NBA scout told SNY.tv.
“The other players are lacking at least one basketball skill depending on the prospect. In addition, Davis is the only player entering the draft as a potential franchise player — future All-Star — and though there are players that may become an All-Star not one of them enter the draft with that label attached to his name like Davis. Finally, there is not a clear No. 2 which also makes the case that the gap is wide.”
Ah, yes. Who to take at No. 2?
Andre Drummond?Michael Kidd-Gilchrist?Thomas Robinson?Bradley Beal?Harrison Barnes?Jared Sullinger?
“I would take Thomas Robinson,” the veteran NBA scout said before Robinson’s 18-point, 17-rebound performance in the title game.
“I like Gilchrist a lot but Gilchrist needs a lot of work on his perimeter shooting. He has great upside. He defends, he competes. He’s very good around the basket. He has the physical tools.”
Still, while a Robinson or Kidd-Gilchrist are potential NBA standouts, neither is a once-in a decade type players like Davis.
“The team with the No. 2 pick will draft a guy, no matter how good with a lot of question marks,” Fraschilla said.
“Thomas Robinson or Michael Kidd-Gilchrist could turn out to be an NBA All-Star or they could turn out to be a good, not great NBA player. But it’s highly unlikely that Anthony Davis will not reach All-Star status in the NBA relatively quickly.”
Louisville coach Rick Pitino compared Davis to Bill Russell –– he of the 11 NBA rings — following the national semifinals.
“He’s got Hall of Fame potential,” Fraschilla said. “There’s parts of Russell, [Tim] Duncan, [Kevin] Durant, [Kevin] Garnett that you see in this kid’s game and it’s not all hyperbole.”
“I think outside of Anthony Davis it’s a draft with a lot of well-known college names but few can’t-miss NBA players.”
So when the ping pong balls start bouncing, there will be 13 NBA franchises praying they aren’t No. 2.
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.