NBA Draft: Kentucky, North Carolina prospects dominate first round

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange


It didn't take long for the 2012 NBA Draft to turn into a celebration of college basketball bluebloods.
Freshman forward Anthony Davis of Kentucky, the reigning college player of the year and a defensive force with a high offensive ceiling based on his high school experience as a 6-foot-3 point guard, was the No. 1 pick of the New Orleans Hornets. That move was widely panned as the probable move for a franchise that finished 29th in offense and 24th in rebounding.
"The first thing I said after (the draft lottery) was, it would be great to win another championship in New Orleans," said the 6-11 Davis, who won the national title in April in the Superdome.
The Charlotte Bobcats followed with fellow Kentucky freshman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, a versatile 6-8, 230-pound small forward who can defend four positions because of his 7-foot wingspan but isn't particularly polished as an offensive player.
"He fits everything we want to do," coach Mike Dunlap said.
UConn had two players drafted in the lottery; 7-foot, 280-pound Andre Drummond slid to ninth before the Pistons halted his freefall. Few prospects are thought to have more upside than Drummond, who worked out for Detroit's management Wednesday night in New York City.
Three North Carolina starters went in an eight-pick stretch that also included Duke point guard Austin Rivers, another of a talented 2011-12 freshman class that leapt to the NBA. Rivers, the son of Doc Rivers who received All-America notice for the Blue Devils, was picked 10th by the Hornets, who came away with a well-known tandem to rebuild around.
"With Austin's play-making ability to go along with Eric (Gordon), I'm hoping we're going to be really hard to guard and score on," said GM Dell Demps.
Syracuse shooting guard Dion Waiters (fourth, Cleveland) and Kansas junior forward Thomas Robinson (fifth, Sacramento), followed Kentucky's talented twosome and Florida shooting guard Bradley Beal off the board.
The big-name, power-program theme ran throughout the first half of the round until Weber State point guard Damian Lillard was selected by the Portland Trail Blazers sixth. The Blazers took 7-foot center Meyers Leonard five picks later.
Kentucky coach John Calipari didn't have his entire starting five drafted, but four Wildcats were selected in the first round. In 2010, the Wildcats have five first-round picks, including No. 1 pick John Wall.
Four UNC products were drafted among the first 17 players. Tyler Zeller was picked 17th by the Dallas Mavericks and then traded to Cleveland. Before that, Zeller's fellow starters with the Tar Heels -- Harrison Barnes (seventh, Golden State), Kendall Marshall (13th, Phoenix) and John Henson (14th, Milwaukee) -- went to spots where they're likely to play immediate.
Considered a possibility as early as the No. 2 pick, Barnes fits alongside Steph Curry in the Warriors' backcourt and adds needed perimeter punch. General manager Bob Myers said his phone "blew up" with offers for the seventh pick when Barnes was surprisingly available. The Warriors opted to sit tight.
"We're thrilled," Myers said. "We love this player."
Marshall gives Phoenix capable insurance in the event Steve Nash bolts as an unrestricted free agent as expected. Henson is a rail-thin 6-foot-10, but his shot-blocking ability is valued by defensive-minded head coach Scott Skiles.
The Bucks moved back two spots, from 12th to 14, in a Tuesday deal with the Rockets; that swap sent center Samuel Dalembert to the Bucks and positioned Houston with three picks in the teens -- 12, 16 and 18. There are persistent talks that the Rockets are angling to make another run at Magic center Dwight Howard. Whether they'll move the three seasoned prospects: shooting guard Jeremy Lamb (UConn), forward Royce White (Iowa State) and forward Terrence Jones (Kentucky).
With the 29th overall pick, Kentucky point guard Marquis Teague helped the Wildcats keep pace with Carolina, notching four first-rounders.
The first international player was drafted by the Nuggets with the 20th pick -- French shooting guard Evan Fournier.
Last year, four international players were chosen in the top seven.
Two-time Ohio State All-American Jared Sullinger went to the Celtics 20th. He was widely considered a top-five pick after his freshman season but concerns about his back reportedly caused him to drop. The Celtics took Syracuse center Fab Melo with the next pick, perhaps signaling they expect Kevin Garnett to call it quits rather than returning for another season.

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