For Anthony Davis, the algebra is easy. He will be the No. 1 pick no matter what happens on Wednesday at the 2012 NBA Draft Lottery. He's the surest bet since Blake Griffin, and maybe going back to LeBron James in 2003. (John Wall and Greg Oden were also undisputed No. 1 picks in 2010 and 2007, respectively, but had some concerns attached.) Really, Davis will be watching the lottery to find out where he'll play next year. If he likes warm weather, he'll be rooting on a West Coast or southeastern team. If he wants a savior opportunity, he'll root for the Bobcats.
But for everyone else slotted toward the top of the stack going into the lottery, the results really do matter. There's uncertainty behind Davis, and I count six players who could land in those No. 2 or 3 slots depending on which teams win those picks on Wednesday and how the combine and workout season shake down.
Here's a preliminary look at which teams look like the best spots for the seven prospects potentially in play behind Davis.
The quintessential hard effort, defense-focused wing prospect has fans all over the place, and could end up as the consensus No. 2 before too long. But he makes more sense in places where there isn't already a small forward, and where defense is a bigger need than offense.
MINUS: Take this minuses for MKG and the next prospect on the list with a grain of salt -- if any team lands No. 2 or 3, it'd be very easy to fall in love with either and take them regardless of the roster already in place. But the Wizards and Blazers do already have young small forwards (Jan Vesely and Nicolas Batum).
The powerful, high-motor power forward earned fans all season long at Kansas as he rose into a starring role in the absence of the Morris twins in Lawrence. He'll have plenty more fans among NBA decision-makers, too. Part of me thinks that it's inevitable that MKG and Robinson will go 2-3 in some order; high-character, high-production players are hard to pass up for riskier prospects. But Robinson does make more sense in some cities than others.
PLUS: Bobcats (this will be a regular theme), Wizards, Hornets, Kings, Nets, Warriors, Pistons, Bucks, Suns, Rockets.
An elite physical specimen who makes Michael Beasley look stable. The best player in the draft for whom psychological consultants will be brought in. The Kwame Brown comparisons have already begun!
PLUS: Bobcats (they are desperate!), Cavaliers (bet on Kyrie Irving's positive aura), Hornets (desperate), Kings (Drummond-DeMarcus Cousins! oh my God I don't even know what to think about that), Pistons, Blazers (the goody two-shoes era didn't pan out), Bucks, Rockets.
A perfectly solid two-guard prospect -- the best in the nation by no small margin -- who, as with all two-guards, will struggle to draw as much hype as the big men or point guards involved. (Luckily for Beal, we're light on point guards, too. He could potentially be the only guard in the top 10.)
PLUS: Bobcats, Wizards, Cavaliers, Nets, Raptors (is DeMar DeRozan good enough?), Pistons, Blazers (Beal's best chance to be the No. 2 pick), Suns.
MINUS: Hornets (hoping to keep Eric Gordon and have bigger needs up front), Kings (two of the their top three players are two-guards), Warriors, Bucks, Rockets.
A more polished but less athletic version of Robinson who will be much more divisive because of size issues that are perceived to be much more problematic due to the athleticism gap. But the polish!
PLUS: Bobcats, Wizards, Hornets, Warriors, Pistons, Bucks, Suns, Rockets.
MINUS: Cavaliers, Kings (looking for more defense/rebounding than scoring next to Cousins), Nets, Raptors, Blazers.
The stigmatized un-creator who had proverbial blood on his hands when North Carolina sans Kendall Marshall fell apart in the tournament. Also: one of the best pure shooters to enter the draft in a long time. Any team in need of a small forward will likely prefer MKG, so Barnes may need teams with SF needs to land at Nos. 2 and 3 to leap up.
PLUS: Bobcats (yes, the Bobcats need everything equally, and will take whoever looks best), Cavaliers, Hornets, Kings, Warriors, Raptors, Pistons, Bucks, Suns, Rockets.
MINUS: Wizards (need shooters, but need a power forward and a two-guard even more), Nets (reportedly aren't interested), Blazers.
Again, this could change because a) I am completely misunderstanding how these prospects are seen, b) combine results and workouts or c) I am just wrong. We'll find out soon enough!
On Wednesday: who deserves to win the No. 1 pick?