Philadelphia, PA – It's time to engage in our annual exercise in futility by taking another stab at predicting Thursday's NBA Draft.
It's pretty clear we along with everyone else will be batting 1.000 when New Orleans snaps up the consensus No. 1 overall pick, Kentucky power forward Anthony Davis.
From there, it's anyone's guess with Cleveland likely making a bold move up to secure Bradley Beal. Snaring the Florida shooting guard to team with last year's top overall pick and reigning Rookie of the Year Kyrie Irving would solidify the Cavaliers' backcourt for years to come.
What is known is that this year's draft will feature a ton of Kentucky and North Carolina players. In fact 30 percent of the first round could very well be either Wildcats or Tar Heels.
In contrast, the internationals are off the radar this time around with France's Evan Fournier and possibly Turkey's Furkan Aldemir as the only ones threatening to go in the opening round.
So here we go with The Sports Network's 2012 NBA Mock Draft, version 2.0:
1. - New Orleans Hornets - Anthony Davis (Kentucky), Power Forward (6-10, 220) - The Hornets truly won the lottery and cashed in on a 13.7 percent chance to up from the fourth spot to land the first overall pick, a no-brainer in Davis, a player who is regarded as the only can't miss prospect in this year's draft. The "Unibrow" will enter the NBA as an elite defender and shot blocker who still has a long way to go offensively. He has the athleticism and skills, however, since he spent most of his youth playing on the perimeter before a massive growth spurt in high school.
2 - Cleveland Cavaliers (projected trade with Charlotte) - Bradley Beal (Florida), Shooting Guard (6-4, 210) - The Cavs possess the No. 4 overall pick as well as the 24th and have their eyes on the Florida shooting guard. It's unlikely Beal will last to No. 4, however, because Washington, sitting at No. 3, also covets him. Charlotte, on the other hand, isn't as high on him and needs assets, so trading the two No. 1 picks to move up to the Bobcats' second overall selection looks like the likely scenario. Beal, a smooth shooter who also can get to the rim, looks like a perfect compliment to Irving.
3.- Washington Wizards - Harrison Barnes (North Carolina), Small Forward (6-8, 220) - Beal is likely the team's top choice, but with Cleveland moving up, the Wizards will have the first big decision in the draft. Connecticut center Andre Drummond is the top option up front, while defensive specialist Michael Kidd-Gilchrist along with Barnes are the fallback options for the Wiz. Barnes is a good spot-up jump shooter who could excel in the often-forgotten- about mid-range game and flash out to the 3-point line.
4. - Charlotte Bobcats (projected trade with Cleveland) - Thomas Robinson (Kansas), Power Forward (6-8, 240) - The worst season in NBA history will net the Bobcats Robinson, probably the safest player outside Davis in this draft. Robinson is the rare college player who will arrive in the pros with an NBA- ready body. He doesn't have the height teams covet these days, but the wingspan is there and the Kansas product is a high-energy, low-risk player who brings a lunch pail mentality to the dance.
5. - Sacramento Kings - Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Kentucky), Small Forward (6-7, 215) - Isaiah Thomas was a pleasant surprise as the 60th overall pick in the 2011 draft, making the NBA's All-Rookie Second Team and finishing seventh in Rookie of the Year voting. That said, the diminutive 5-foot-9 point guard isn't seen as the long term answer in California's capital and the Kings are seriously considering moving the fifth overall selection in the 2012 draft to Houston for a No. 1 later in the round and Kyle Lowry.
If Sacramento is forced to stay put, however, the Kings should have several options at No. 5. Barnes or Kidd-Gilchrist could solidify the small forward position and Drummond could form a twin towers scenario with emerging star DeMarcus Cousins. Kidd-Gilchrist is a strong, athletic wing player who possesses a high basketball IQ and projects as a lockdown defender.
6.- Portland Trail Blazers - Andre Drummond (Connecticut), Center (6-11, 270) - Billy King is a nice man, but the New Jersey Nets general manager got fleeced by Portland for this pick and the Blazers will likely go with Drummond, probably the biggest boom-or-bust prospect in this year's draft. The physical gifts are certainly there with Drummond, who has the size, power and athleticism to excel, especially as a defender, but former UConn bust Hasheem Thabeet is still fresh in everyone's mind.
7. - Golden State Warriors - Damian Lillard (Weber State), Point Guard (6-2, 195) - Rookie Warriors general manager Bob Myers, the second-youngest GM in the NBA behind Oklahoma City's Sam Presti, is reportedly seriously shopping the No. 7 overall pick for an established veteran wing player with a defensive mind-set. If forced to stay put, Barnes would be a nice option, but he'll likely be off the board, putting point guard in play and a player like Lillard from Weber State. Although a scorer in college, NBA scouts think Lillard's skill set is tailor-made for running a team.
8. - Toronto Raptors - Dion Waiters (Syracuse), Shooting Guard (6-5, 215) - Waiters pulled out of a number of interviews after getting a "promise" from a certain team. That is believed to be the Raptors, who are looking for more skill and athleticism on the wings.
9. - Detroit Pistons - John Henson (North Carolina), Power Forward (6-10, 220) - The Pistons should be in a nice spot to find a defensive big man to team up with ascending young center Greg Monroe. Carolina's Henson is a slight guy with a major league defensive presence. There is no question that Henson needs to add strength, but he can destroy half-court sets with a 7-foot-4 wingspan.
10. - New Orleans Hornets - Kendall Marshall (North Carolina), Point Guard (6-4, 197) - After going big with Davis, it's time to get a legitimate point guard, and Marshall projects as the best of this year's bunch since Lillard was more of a scorer in the Big Sky. Marshall is a natural floor leader who understands how to control the flow of a game.
11. - Portland Trail Blazers - Jeremy Lamb (Connecticut), Shooting Guard (6-5, 190) - Lamb projects as the best pure scorer in the draft and could form a nice inside-out combo with LaMarcus Aldridge in Rip City.
12. - Milwaukee Bucks - Tyler Zeller (North Carolina), Center (7-foot, 240) - With Andrew Bogut gone, Milwaukee should go with Zeller, a player who moves well for his size, although needs to add strength so he can hold up on the blocks at the defensive end.
13. - Phoenix Suns - Meyers Leonard (Illinois), Center (7-foot, 245) - The Suns would love to add more size and a solid defensive presence, and Leonard may slip.
14. - Houston Rockets - Terrence Ross (Washington), Shooting Guard (6-6, 200) - It's pretty clear that the Rockets are acquiring assets in an effort to make a run at Orlando All-Star center Dwight Howard. Houston already held the last pick in the lottery, No. 14 overall, for the third straight season as well as the 16th selection in the 2012 draft before acquiring the 18th pick on Tuesday by dealing Chase Budinger to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
There will obviously be further wheeling and dealing by Rockets general Manager Daryl Morey, but if he's forced to make a selection here Ross, a hybrid wing player with terrific length and a high motor could fit in nicely as the replacement for players Budinger and Kevin Martin, who is also on the trading block.
15. - Philadelphia 76ers - Jared Sullinger (Ohio State), Power Forward (6-8, 260) - The Sixers rarely roll the dice, but with Elton Brand on his last legs, Sullinger would be a perfect fit in South Philly. A lottery level talent, Sullinger's balky back has scared off a number of teams, but the risk-reward ratio is great at this point in the draft.
16.- Houston Rockets - Terrence Jones (Kentucky), Small Forward (6-8, 245) - If the Rockets stay put again, Jones, a powerfully built combo forward who took a back seat to Davis and Kidd- Gilchrist on an ultra-talented Kentucky team, is a nice option here. Despite his size, Jones relies too much on the jumper and should consider attacking the basket more.
17. - Dallas Mavericks - Perry Jones (Baylor), Power Forward (6-10, 240) - Early on Jones was considered a possible No. 1 overall pick, so the skills are there, but he never produced consistently at Baylor, scaring off a number of teams. He's certainly worth a flyer here for a team that can afford to wait a bit.
18. - Houston Rockets - Moe Harkless (St. John's), Small Forward (6-8, 220) - Staying with the wing theme In Houston, Harkless is farther along than Royce White right now and should be taken off the board about now.
19. - Orlando Magic - Austin Rivers (Duke), Combo Guard (6-4, 203) - So much of what Orlando does will be tied to new general manger Rob Hennigan and what he decides to do with Dwight Howard. A lesser story in Central Florida, however, is point guard Jameer Nelson, the former All-Star on the downside who can opt out of his deal. Finding an heir apparent to Nelson at No. 19 could be Hennigan's first order of business in his debut draft and Doc Rivers' kid Austin, a nice-sized combo guard, figures to fit into any team's rotation very early in his career.
20. - Denver Nuggets - Arnett Moultrie (Mississippi State), Power Forward (6-10, 235) - The Nuggets are a deep and talented bunch that possesses much of what you need to win in the NBA with the exception of a solid low-post scoring threat. Moultrie is the kind of big body who could help.
21. - Boston Celtics - Royce White (Iowa State), Combo Forward (6-8, 250) - If you have watched the playoffs, you know that the C's are paper-thin and need to address multiple positions with back-to-back picks. At 21, White is a steal, a lottery-level talent who needs time to develop his offensive game. Boston has reportedly given White a promise to take him if he's still on the board.
22. - Boston Celtics - Fab Melo (Syracuse), Center (7-foot, 255) - Boston hasn't had a legitimate center since shipping Kendrick Perkins to Oklahoma City and Melo could be the answer, projecting as a Perkins-type player, limited offensively but solid as a defender.
23. - Atlanta Hawks - Jeffery Taylor (Vanderbilt), Small Forward (6-7, 230) - Josh Smith wants out of Atlanta, so new GM Danny Ferry may want to secure a small forward with some upside.
24. - Charlotte Bobcats (projected trade with Cleveland) - Andrew Nicholson (St. Bonaventure), Power Forward - (6-9, 225) - It's all about assets for Rich Cho, and Nicholson could gain major minutes early thanks to a high basketball IQ.
25. - Memphis Grizzlies - Marquis Teague (Kentucky), Point Guard (6-2, 190) - At this stage, talented teams like Memphis are looking for depth and Teague, the brother of Atlanta's Jeff Teague, could be a nice 10- to 15-minute option to run things in Mike Conley's stead.
26. - Indiana Pacers - Quincy Miller (Baylor), Small Forward (6-9, 210) - The slight Miller has a wingspan of well over 7 feet and the Pacers seem to love wing players with length who can create headaches on defense.
27. - Miami Heat - Will Barton (Memphis), Swingman (6-6, 175) - Miami, more than any other team, tends to disregard traditional positions and looks for basketball players, especially on the wings. Barton can contribute across the board with his athleticism.
28. - Oklahoma City Thunder - Doron Lamb (Kentucky), Combo Guard (6-4, 200) - OKC could use a scorer who can face up and shoot the basketball and Lamb projects as a tweener who can give you minutes at either guard position.
29. - Chicago Bulls - Evan Fournier (France), Small Forward (6-6, 190) - Fournier is a very crafty player who might give Chicago an interesting scoring option from the wing, especially is they are intent on dealing Luol Deng.
30. - Golden State Warriors - Furkan Aldemir (Turkey), Power Forward (6-10, 230) - Aldemir fit in nicely by the time the Warriors are back in San Francisco.
31. - Charlotte Bobcats - Draymond Green (Michigan State), Combo Forward (6-6, 235).
32. - Washington Wizards - Jared Cunningham (Oregon State), Shooting Guard (6-5, 188).
33. - Cleveland Cavaliers - Khris Middleton (Texas A&M), Small Forward (6-8, 220).
34. - Cleveland Cavaliers - Festus Ezeli (Vanderbilt), Center (6-11, 265).
35. - Golden State Warriors - Tony Wroten (Washington), Combo Guard (6-6, 205).
36. - Sacramento Kings - Orlando Johnson (UC-Santa Barbara), Shooting Guard (6-5, 225).
37. - Toronto Raptors - Tyshawn Taylor (Kansas), Point Guard (6-3, 180).
38. - Denver Nuggets - John Jenkins (Vanderbilt), Shooting Guard (6-4, 215).
39. - Detroit Pistons - Kevin Jones (West Virginia), Power Forward (6-8, 250).
40. - Portland Trail Blazers - Miles Plumlee (Duke), Center (7-foot, 250).
41. - Portland Trail Blazers - Kim English (Missouri), Shooting Guard (6-6, 195).
42. - Milwaukee Bucks - Kevin Murphy (Tennessee), Shooting Guard (6-6, 190).
43. - Atlanta Hawks - Darius Miller (Kentucky), Combo Forward (6-7, 235).
44. - Detroit Pistons - Darius Johnson-Odom (Marquette), Shooting Guard (6-3, 210).
45. - Philadelphia 76ers - Mike Scott (Virginia), Power Forward (6-8, 240)
46. - New Orleans Hornets - JaMychal Green (Alabama), Power Forward (6-9, 220).
47. - Utah Jazz - Drew Gordan (New Mexico), Power Forward (6-9, 240).
48. - New York Knicks - Kevin Murphy (Tennessee Tech), Shooting Guard (6-6, 200).
49. - Orlando Magic - Kris Joseph (Syracuse), Small Forward (6-7, 215).
50. - Denver Nuggets - Hollis Thompson (Georgetown), Shooting Guard (6-8, 200).
51. - Boston Celtics - Quincy Acy (Baylor), Power Forward (6-8, 225).
52. - Golden State Warriors - Tornike Shengelia (Republic of Georgia), Small Forward (6-9, 220).
53. - Los Angeles Clippers - Robert Sacre (Gonzaga), Center (6-11, 260)
54. - Philadelphia 76ers - Henry Sims (Georgetown), Center (6-11, 250).
55. - Dallas Mavericks - William Buford (Ohio State), Shooting Guard (6-5, 215).
56. - Toronto Raptors - Tomas Satoransky (Czech Republic), Combo Guard (6-7, 200).
57. - Brooklyn Nets - Cameron Moore (Alabama-Birmingham), Power Forward (6-10, 225).
58. - Minnesota Timberwolves - Kyle O'Quinn (Norfolk State), Power Forward (6-10, 240).
59. - San Antonio Spurs - Kostas Papanikolaou (Greece), Small Forward (6-9, 230).
60. - Los Angeles Lakers - Josep Franch (France), Point Guard (6-4, 190).