NEW YORK – Once Anthony Davis slips on a Hornets hat above basketball’s most celebrated eyebrow tonight, the NBA draft really starts.
Davis will head to New Orleans with the No. 1 pick, even if the college player of the year is reluctant to guarantee it.
After that, nobody can be sure what will happen.
“I don’t know,” said Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, a fellow freshman from national champion Kentucky. “I have no clue.”
Well, here’s how the first round might go at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.
1. NEW ORLEANS (21-45): ANTHONY DAVIS, F, KENTUCKY
Davis said he hasn’t been told he’s the Hornets’ guy, but he shouldn’t need to ask. Teams don’t pass up his mixture of size, skill and defensive dominance.
2. CHARLOTTE (7-59): THOMAS ROBINSON, F, KANSAS.
Michael Jordan has botched a No. 1 pick (Kwame Brown) and a No. 3 (Adam Morrison), and now his Bobcats are at No. 2 after slipping in the lottery following the worst season in NBA history. Charlotte needs some toughness, and Robinson can provide it.
3. WASHINGTON (20-46): MICHAEL KIDD-GILCHRIST, F, KENTUCKY
John Wall and Kidd-Gilchrist would look great in Kentucky, and fans in Washington should like the idea of that combination, too.
4. CLEVELAND (21-45): BRADLEY BEAL, G, FLORIDA
The Cavaliers rebounded as well as they could from losing LeBron James by taking eventual Rookie of the Year Kyrie Irving last year with the No. 1 pick. Next up is trying to find him the kind of help they could never provide for James.
5. SACRAMENTO (22-44): HARRISON BARNES, G, NORTH CAROLINA.
Another top-five pick, another chance to add another good, young piece to follow Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins.
6. PORTLAND (28-38, from Brooklyn): DAMIAN LILLARD, G, WEBER STATE
First of two lottery picks for the Trail Blazers. Plenty of buzz that they’ll take Lillard, but given their injury woes, they should be happy if whoever they take just stays healthy.
7. GOLDEN STATE (23-43): ANDRE DRUMMOND, F/C, CONNECTICUT
Even if Drummond falls over questions about everything from his offensive skills to his desire, it’s hard to imagine his athleticism and defensive prowess let him go any lower than here.
8. TORONTO (23-43): DION WAITERS, G, SYRACUSE
With Jose Calderon battling injuries in recent years and headed for a long summer with Spain’s national team, it seems time to look for another point guard.
9. DETROIT (25-41): JEREMY LAMB, F, CONNECTICUT
The Pistons won a title in 2004 with Richard Hamilton, and now they could grab another swingman from Connecticut with a similar game.
10. NEW ORLEANS (21-45, from Minnesota via Clippers): AUSTIN RIVERS, G, DUKE
Because this pick came in the deal that sent Chris Paul out, how about bringing another point guard in?
11. PORTLAND (28-38): TYLER ZELLER, C, NORTH CAROLINA
After addressing a backcourt need with their first pick, the Trail Blazers can go big with this one.
12. HOUSTON (34-32, from Milwaukee): KENDALL MARSHALL, G, NORTH CAROLINA
If the Rockets keep all of them, this starts a run of three picks in the next seven selections. That wouldn’t be the preferred plan, as the Rockets hope to package the picks in a deal to land an elite player.
13. PHOENIX (33-33): JOHN HENSON, F/C, NORTH CAROLINA
The Suns forever have been looking for someone who can provide some interior defense.
By picking yet another North Carolina player, they can find the two-time ACC Defensive Player of the Year.
14. MILWAUKEE (31-35, from Houston): MEYERS LEONARD, C, ILLINOIS
After trading former No. 1 pick Andrew Bogut last season, the Bucks could use another big body to replace him.
15. PHILADELPHIA (35-31): TERRENCE JONES, F, KENTUCKY
The 76ers are building a nice, deep team, and a versatile player like Jones would fit in nicely.
16. HOUSTON (34-32, from New York): PERRY JONES, F, BAYLOR
If the Rockets kept multiple picks, they could afford to take some risks. Jones has the talent to be gone before here if he’d ever figured out how to use it.
17. DALLAS (36-30): TERRENCE ROSS, G, WASHINGTON
The Mavericks are much more interested in free agency, hoping to bring home Deron Williams to Dallas or land another big piece. In the meantime, getting younger sure would help, too.
18. HOUSTON (34-32, from Minnesota): JARED SULLINGER, C, OHIO STATE
One more risk for the Rockets, if they’re still at this spot, by taking a chance on the draft’s biggest health concern. If Sullinger’s back holds up, he’d be a steal here.
19. ORLANDO (37-29): FAB MELO, C, SYRACUSE
Even if the Magic don’t decide it’s time to trade Dwight Howard, it still would be worth having another big man around while their All-Star center recovers from back surgery.
20. DENVER (38-28): WILL BARTON, G, MEMPHIS
The Nuggets are so deep it’s hard to tell exactly what they need. A player who fits multiple spots always works in that situation.
21. BOSTON (39-27): ROYCE WHITE, F, IOWA STATE
While they await difficult decisions on Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, the Celtics get back-to-back picks to blend in some youth if their aging core sticks around.
22. BOSTON (39-27, from Clippers via Oklahoma City): ARNETT MOULTRIE, F/C, MISSISSIPPI STATE
With no other options, the Celtics eventually moved Garnett to center last season. They may prefer to return to a conventional style whether he sticks around or not.
23. ATLANTA (40-26): MOE HARKLESS, F, ST. JOHN’S
Josh Smith’s name always seems to be linked to trade speculation, and if they do ever move him, the Hawks would want to have another athletic forward in place.
24. CLEVELAND (21-45, from Lakers): ANDREW NICHOLSON, C, ST. BONAVENTURE
Small with their first pick, the Cavs look to the interior now.
25. MEMPHIS (41-25): TONY WROTEN, G, WASHINGTON
After falling short against Chris Paul in the playoffs, the Grizzlies might want to look at adding another point guard for any future matchups.
26. INDIANA (42-24): DRAYMOND GREEN, F, MICHIGAN STATE
Larry Bird, Donnie Walsh and Kevin Pritchard deciding on a pick? Whatever the Pacers do, there certainly will be some good thought being put into it.
27. MIAMI (46-20): FESTUS EZELI, C, VANDERBILT
The Heat threw out the center position and went with Chris Bosh in the middle during their championship run. The search continues for a true man in the middle.
28. OKLAHOMA CITY (47-19): DORON LAMB, G, KENTUCKY
Way easier said than done, but the Thunder needed a perimeter defender to cover LeBron James in the NBA finals and keep Kevin Durant out of foul trouble. Better keep looking, because a finals rematch wouldn’t surprise anyone.
29. CHICAGO (50-16): MARQUIS TEAGUE, G, KENTUCKY
With Derrick Rose likely out all next season after tearing up his knee, point guard is the need for the Bulls.
30. GOLDEN STATE (23-43, from San Antonio): EVAN FOURNIER, G/F, FRANCE
The Spurs always have been good at finding a quality international player around this spot, so perhaps the Warriors can do the same with San Antonio’s pick.