The NBA season might be over, but the offseason officially begins on Thursday night in Newark with the 2012 NBA Draft.
New Orleans will have the first pick at the Prudential Center and David Stern is expected to announce that the Hornets have selected Anthony Davis. But after Davis? Well, that’s open to debate with Charlotte and Washington following with the second and third picks.
To break down the draft, CBS Sports Network analyst and former first-round pick Wally Szczerbiak joined CBS Local Sports to give perspective as to what the prospects are going through on the biggest night of their basketball lives.
CBS Local Sports: As a former player and first-round pick and someone who experienced the draft firsthand, what did you go through as a player on draft day?
Szczerbiak: I remember I had all my buddies down at the draft in Washington D.C., and my family members were there, and we were just having a good time and enjoying ourselves in the moment. I was also spending a lot of time with the other prospective draftees, getting to know my draft class and trying to become friendly with them off the court since I knew I was going to be competing against them for years on the court. Those are the most memorable things about my draft night.
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CBS Local Sports: Anthony Davis is going to be the first pick, and as a guy who dominated college, what do you think his impact will be in the league in his rookie season?
Szczerbiak: I think he’s going to be great. It’s up to the New Orleans Hornets to surround him with good players. Obviously he was on a great team in Kentucky and he’s a winner and he’s a team player, and he needs to be surrounded in a winning culture and I think New Orleans will do that. They have another pick in the first round (10th pick), so they’re going to be able to surround him with good players. When you get an impact player like Davis, it’s time to perform; it’s time to start winning; it’s time to start making the jump. It works hand in hand. The team has to perform and also Anthony Davis has to perform.
CBS Local Sports: There are a lot of mock drafts out there that have any combination of Thomas Robinson, Bradley Beale, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Harrison Barnes and others following Davis, but who do you see following him at the second pick?
Szczerbiak: It’s really wide open. I really like Andre Drummond, and I think his potential and ceiling are through the roof. I think when you look at him and what he could become as a basketball player with the proper coaching and with a good work ethic, which is sounds like he has because he’s really a good kid, I think his ceiling is a lot higher than those other guys.
CBS Local Sports: Who is a player who’s expected to go later in the first round or in the second round even that could make a jump up the board and surprise people?
Szczerbiak: Moe Harkless is a guy I really like. I watched him play a lot here in the New York area, and I think his stock is skyrocketing. I think just because his team wasn’t great since St. John’s didn’t really compete in the Big East, he didn’t get a lot of notoriety, but that kid has all the skills. He’s really smooth and I know a lot of the NBA scouts had their eye on him all year-long and they really like what he can do. He’s kind of slipping through the cracks a little bit. He was only a freshman, and I think he’s going to have a great career in the NBA too.
CBS Local Sports: As someone who went through the draft process, what is the procedure from the time leading up to getting selected on draft day to the point where you are selected and you go on the stage and get your jersey?
Szczerbiak: You don’t know who’s picking you until you’re actually announced by David Stern. That’s the beauty of the NBA Draft. Once you’re announced you realize that that team believes in you, but it’s a give and take. Obviously they want you to succeed – the general manager, the vice president, the owner and the coach. There are some jobs on the line to make sure you do succeed and have a successful career because they don’t want to be the guy that picked the guy that ended up to turn out as a bust. You have to continue to work hard as player. You certainly haven’t achieved anything when you get drafted. The fun just begins and the works just begins, and now you have to go prove that you’re worthy to be a pro and have a lengthy NBA career.
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CBS Local Sports: Do you feel the need once you head to your workouts and training camp with the team to justify yourself to the organization and to your veteran teammates?
Szczerbiak: Yeah, rookie year is tough. You have to pick up the donuts; you have to carry the water cooler; you have to kind of be everyone’s whipping boy. And at the same time you have to go out there and try to have good games, and rebound and drop 20 points if you’re a scorer or whatever you’re asked to do. So you have to be lofty, you have to be ambitious as a player because you can’t just sit back. The NBA is very competitive. There are a lot of dollars out there that you can earn and a lot of notoriety and a lot of fame; you can become a winner. The bottom line is to really stake your claim and make your mark and make a name for yourself and go out there and do the best you can.
CBS Local Sports: You went sixth overall in the 1999 draft, so there was the possibility of you getting picked by a few teams. Prior to the draft were you during your research to see which teams had to fill certain needs? And what does it feel like to know you are going to be selected, but you don’t know which team you’re going to be selected by?
Szczerbiak: It depends. I was lucky because I worked out for seven teams. I was a projected top-seven pick, so I could have gone anywhere from first to seventh, and I went sixth. A lot of guys that go in the second round or late first round have to work out for 20 to 30 teams and that’s grueling and the preparation process is tough. It’s tough to put your best foot forward in that many workouts when you’re traveling all around the country, but that’s your job and that’s what you have to do. In my situation I was able to only work out for seven teams.
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CBS Local Sports: With the Finals just ending, there was a chance to see two teams built in different ways. Oklahoma City became what they are now from their time in Seattle by building through the draft with Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden, while the Heat built their success through free agency. Do you see New Orleans, with the first pick in the draft and the pieces from the Chris Paul trade, as a team that could build within the next few years the way the Oklahoma City has?
Szczerbiak: I think so. Obviously one guy’s not going to change it around when you see how deep and how good championship-caliber teams are in Miami, Oklahoma City, San Antonio and Boston where they have multiple stars. But the Hornets are well on their way and I think they have a great organization there. I think it all starts from the top and it starts with the owner and your general manager and it trickles down to the coach, to the players, to all the staff that’s in charge of making the team successful. I think they’re breeding a good winning culture in New Orleans.
CBS Local Sports: It seems like next year the playoff field will be pretty much the same to what we saw this year. LeBron James talked about winning multiple championships after he signed with the Heat, and now that they have won one, do you see them having a repeat performance?
Szczerbiak: They’re my favorite for the next couple of years. That team’s really good, and I think they’re just realizing their potential and I think we saw it in the Finals. I think the hurdles that they’ve overcome and the mental toughness that they’ve developed is going to make them a tough team to beat in years to come.