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June 28, 2012
NBA Draft
Who should they take?

by Dan Feldman

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I believe in the tier system for NBA drafting, where teams should group players with similar value--regardless of position--into tiers. Then, within each tier, teams should rank players based on fit and always choose the best fit in the highest-remaining tier.

This way, unlike a best-prospect-available system, teams aren't forced to split razor-thin margins between players and end up with someone who doesn't fit. And in a tier system, teams won't reach for need, either.

So, with that in mind, here's how I would choose the first round of tonight's NBA draft if I were running each team.

1. New Orleans Hornets: Anthony Davis (tier 1)

Duh.

2. Charlotte Bobcats: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (tier 2)

Kidd-Gilchrist, because he probably can't carry a team alone right now, would be a perfect fit for the Bobcats. They need multiple high draft picks to turn this around, and if Kidd-Gilchrist's skills don't shine without another top player around, that would help keep Charlotte bad enough to draft high again next year. Then, the Bobcats can get someone who will cover Kidd-Gilchrist's flaws and take off from there.

3. Washington Wizards: Thomas Robinson (tier 2)

Robinson and Kidd-Gilchrist are the only players, beyond Davis, who have top-end NBA potential and played great in college last season. That's why, despite already having a few bigs, the Wizards should take Robinson.

4. Cleveland Cavaliers: Bradley Beal (tier 3)

Tristan Thompson's defensive rebounding was surprisingly not great at Texas, and I'm not sure sure one solid NBA season as the team's default rebounder qualifies as a breakthrough. Beal's ability to rebound as a guard gives him a slight edge for a team that already has nice pieces to grow with.

5. Sacramento Kings: Harrison Barnes (tier 3)

Tyreke Evans probably needs to play with a quality point guard, and Barnes is similar in that regard. Is it crazy to think that means they fit together? Now, Sacramento just needs to find that point guard.

6. Portland Trail Blazers: Andre Drummond (tier 3)

As the final tier-3 player, Drummond's potential is just too much to pass up.

7. Golden State Warriors: John Henson (tier 4)

The Warriors must get better defensively, and Henson is another step. He and Andrew Bogut could form an elite defensive combination.

8. Toronto Raptors: Damian Lillard (tier 4)

Although the Raptors could use another big man (whether or not they believe that), Jose Calderon's time is coming to an end. Lillard could slide in nicely.

9. Detroit Pistons: Meyers Leonard (tier 4)

Greg Monroe can play either center or power forward, giving the Pistons flexibility here. An athletic 7-foot with skill is too much too pass up here, other questions aside.

10. New Orleans Hornets: Terrence Jones (tier 4)

Jones is line to become the biggest steal of the draft if he keeps falling. He has the size and athleticism to be an NBA power forward, and used his impressive skills enough at Kentucky to convince me his effort questions are overblown.

11. Portland Trail Blazers: Kendall Marshall (tier 5)

Stuck picking at the top of tier 5, Portland at least comes out of this draft with a center and a point guard, two positions of need.

12. Houston Rockets: Dion Waiters (tier 5)

How did Waiters go from projected in the latter half of the first round to a high-lottery hotshot without working out for anyone? Houston is too far along in the process of stockpiling assets to stop now.

13. Phoenix Suns: Perry Jones (tier 5)

Phoenix's outlook for the next few years is bleak. They should take a risk here rather than trying to sustain a sinking ship.

14. Milwaukee Bucks: Jared Sullinger (tier 5)

Sullinger could play next to Samuel Dalembert, who would cover for all times quicker power forwards blow by Sullinger.

15. Philadelphia 76ers: Tyler Zeller (tier 5)

Zeller was really productive in college. That should count for more than it does.

16. Houston Rockets: Royce White (tier 5)

White is a big gamble, but a big talent. After picking a guard 12 and knowing the final tier-5 player at 18 will be a guard, the Rockets wisely choose the remaining tier-5 big man.

17. Dallas Mavericks: Jeremy Lamb (tier 5)

Lamb doesn't really feed a need, but he's too good to pass up here. If the Mavericks are eying a re-tool, around Deron Williams or otherwise, Lamb could be a decent trade chip.

18. Houston Rockets: Austin Rivers (tier 5)

Rivers is probably very valuable to somebody. Trade-happy Houston just needs to find that team.

19. Orlando Magic: Arnett Moultrie (tier 6)

Moultrie has some nice physical tools and played well at Mississippi State.

20. Denver Nuggets: Terrence Ross (tier 6)

There are worse plans than assembling a team of great, young athletes and hoping they click at the same time.

21. Boston Celtics:  Fab Melo (tier 6)

If Melo weren't academically ineligible for the NCAA tournament, how much higher would he go? How much should that issue matter now?

22. Boston Celtics: Draymond Green (tier 7)

The Celtics took the eventual NBA champions to seven games. Boston shouldn't give up now. Give it one more year of trying to win a title, and use Green, who's very NBA ready.

23. Atlanta Hawks: Kyle O'Quinn (tier 7)

I wouldn't rush to trade Josh Smith, but if the Hawks need to, maybe O'Quinn could fill in. If not, O'Quinn could back up Smith and Al Horford.

24. Cleveland Cavaliers: Quincy Miller (tier 7)

For a team with more-reliable young prospects, Cleveland can gamble on Miller's health here.

25. Memphis Grizzlies: Evan Fournier (tier 7)

If Memphis doesn't want to pay a first-round pick right now, Fournier makes sense. Plus, his development could ease a Rudy Gay trade down the road.

26. Indiana Pacers: Marquis Teague (tier 7)

The rising Pacers are fine at point guard. They could pick Teague and patiently wait to see whether they become excellent at point guard.

27. Miami Heat: Miles Plumlee (tier 7)

If the large and athletic Plumlee accepts a role as a defender and rebounder, he could be very valuable. Miami can use more players who contribute without the ball, especially big men.

28. Oklahoma City Thunder: Scott Machado (tier 7)

I liked the Reggie Jackson pick last year, but the Thunder have so few flaws that, without being certain of Jackson's health, Oklahoma City could pick another point guard. Machado, who possesses great court vision, is ready to play now, and he'd thrive with a team full of quality options to find.

29. Chicago Bulls: Moe Harkless (tier 7)

The Bulls are the Eastern Conference's best chance to challenge the Heat, and as a basketball fan, I hope they don't have to unload Joakim Noah or Luol Deng for financial reasons. But if Harkless develops, he could soften the blow of losing Deng, who's less valuable than Noah.

30. Golden State Warriors: Jae Crowder (tier 7)

The Warriors need to get tougher. Enter Crowder.

Remaining tier-7 players: Festus Ezeli, Jeff Taylor, Doron Lamb, Tony Wroten Jr., Andrew Nicholson

Dan Feldman is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact Dan by clicking here or click here to see Dan's other articles.

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