We could say New Orleans had the best night of all, but that would be cheap. We’ve known since the draft lottery they’d have the greatest night of anyone. Anthony Davis confirms that (Austin Rivers is the icing on top).
We documented each selection as it unfolded, and besides the Hornets obvious moves in the lottery, here’s our list of the top 10 winners of the draft.
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10. ROBERT SACRE
With the 60th pick the Los Angeles Lakers select… Robert Sacre. The Prudential Center was as tense in anticipation of this name called as it was assured that Anthony Davis was going to the New Orleans Hornets. He became this year’s Mr. Irrelevant. And that’s not a bad thing at all. Little Isaiah Thomas made a name for himself last season. Sacre has a real chance to make the Lakers roster, especially with the possibility of a Pau Gasol trade, and Jordan Hill as a restricted free agent. The Lakers will need size in any scenario. Sacre could just look at how they developed a fellow former Bulldog and second round pick, Ronny Turiaf. There’s light at the end of the draft for Sacre as he embarks on his NBA career.
9. FUTURE MARQUETTE PRODUCTS
The string of hard-nosed, tough Marquette players catching the eye of NBA execs continues. Their basketball program hasn’t produced a superstar since Dwyane Wade in 2003, and that was back when they belonged within Conference USA. Since joining the Big East in 2005, Marquette has taken on the same strong persona as its storied conference’s hoops tradition. The players that have left to go pro reflect this embodiment and it has served them well enough to get picked in the draft. Steve Novak, Lazar Hayward and Jimmy Butler have all been drafted in the late first and second rounds. And now Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom are the newest Golden Eagles to get selected. This trend has become a mainstay, where future Marquette recruits can point to and believe that they, too, have a spot in the league.
8. INTERNATIONAL PLAYERS
As ESPN’s John Hollinger tweeted, “Only three of the final 13 picks were from the United States.” And actually 16 players out of the total 60 drafted had a passport from abroad. This list includes foreign players who played collegiately in America such as Andrew Nicholson, Fab Melo, Festus Ezeli, Jeff Taylor, Kris Joseph, and the aforementioned Sacre. So while this class was dubbed as a weak international pool initially, it really was not. Most of them were picked in the second round and quite a few happen to have hooped during March Madness. Teams decided they were better off scoopin’ cats that they could stash away than to deal with home-grown players who need the bread right away. These foreigners won the latter part of the night, and pissed off some American ballers in the process.
7. BERNARD JAMES
To know that Bernard James was one of the winners on draft night, all one had to do was listen to the crowd’s chant, “U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” He received the loudest ovation out of any player selected, without question. Well, besides the boos Adam Silver got when the New York Knicks were on the clock. Although he’s the oldest draftee at 27 years old, his story as an Iraq war veteran touched the raucous dirty Jerseyans. This moment will be something James won’t forget. Also, he is in an ideal position to sign a two-year deal with the Dallas Mavericks and immediately capitalize on a second lucrative contract right away, similar to the situation faced by DeAndre Jordan. The Mavs are likely to amnesty Brendan Haywood, they won’t bring back The Goods, may not sign an expensive free agent center, and Ian Mahinmi and Yi Jianlian, the probable backups, are free agents. Going to war was a lot harder than whatever comp they may have in their bigs depth chart – if any.
6. DALLAS MAVERICKS
The Mavs were one of the few teams that consummated a trade. They were able to flip one mid-first round asset into three picks, all of whom will make their squad next year. Trading Tyler Zeller to the Cleveland Cavaliers for draft rights of Jared Cunningham, Jae Crowder, and the aforementioned James enables them to fill their roster out a bit prior to free agency. While none of these guys seem likely to start right away, they bring much-needed youth, toughness, and depth that they sorely lacked this past season. The Mavs are trying to reload without adding expensive contracts in the process in order to maintain flexibility to attract Deron Williams back home. These selections offer a good start to their offseason objectives.