NEWARK -- With 30 hours to go before the 2012 NBA Draft, Bradley Beal was a wreck. He had no clue where he might get picked, and his carefully-crafted plan of working out with only the teams picking from No. 2 to No. 4 was blowing up in his face with so many other teams looking to move up. Overwhelmed by reports and rumors, he tried to put on a happy face at media day, but he repeated a phrase similar to this one many, many times.
"I'm hearing teams are trying to trade up, teams that I haven't even worked out for," Beal said. "I don't even know their systems or what type of people they are. So it's really nerve-racking,"
One night later, Beal went No. 3 to the Washington Wizards after all. Suddenly, the Florida star was singing a completely different tune.
"We kind of had a clue, a little bit," he said when asked when he knew the Wizards would take him.
Welcome to the 2012 NBA Draft. One moment, everyone's confused. The next, they're acting like they knew all along, revising history at their own whim. How else to describe a lottery where nothing went according to plan after obvious No. 1 pick Anthony Davis?
It started at No. 2, where the Charlotte Bobcats took in trade rumors all day and seemed on the verge of completing a deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Everyone in the building seemed prepared for the inevitable announcement of Beal going second, which would have signaled that the trade was done. Instead, the name "Michael Kidd-Gilchrist" rattled off David Stern's tongue, a true shock because most figured Kansas' Thomas Robinson was the backup plan in case no trade happened.
Kidd-Gilchrist's late rise back to the No. 2 pick remains a mystery. Kentucky coach John Calipari may have revealed a clue to what happened, telling the media that, once he heard reports that Kidd-Gilchrist was falling, he "started making some calls" to figure things out. But it's also possible Kidd-Gilchrist was always at the top of the Bobcats' board, given the way his tenacity lines up with the style of new coach Mike Dunlap. I guess we'll never know.
"I was shocked at first," Kidd-Gilchrist admitted when he heard his name called.
But that surprise paled in comparison to the curveball the Cavaliers threw in selecting Syracuse's Dion Waiters at No. 4. Three months ago, Waiters was the sixth man on a team that didn't reach the Final Four. One month ago, he abruptly left the Chicago pre-draft camp and shut down all interviews, workouts and physicals, leading to speculation that he received a promise from a team picking late in the lottery. Two days ago, reports suggested the Cavaliers were actually considering him at No. 4, but few believed those reports. The Bobcats and Wizards would have to take Kidd-Gilchrist and Beal, respectively, and few believed it would happen.
In the end, though, it did happen, and the Cavaliers pulled the trigger with much trepidation. Of course, they didn't paint it that way. General manager Chris Grant told Cleveland reporters that they've never done more research on a player than they did with Waiters, conveniently ignoring the fact that they never interviewed him, watched him work out or gave him a physical. But unless the Cavaliers fooled everyone, this was clearly their backup plan.
"I didn't even talked to Cleveland," Waiters said. "I didn't even work out for Cleveland."
One day earlier, Waiters was engaged in an awkward discussion at media day about reports that the Phoenix Suns gave him a promise at No. 13. Waiters was asked directly about the reports, and he stared dumbfounded at the reporter, repeatedly telling him that he didn't know what he was talking about. At the end of the exchange, he was asked to try to explain how his stock kept rising when he wasn't doing anything.
"I don't know," he said, laughing uncomfortably. "It's a blessing, not having to go through that and my name still rises."
But that's what happens when a draft featuring several players with similar talent also includes an incredible amount of misdirection. It's how Waiters can surge up to a team that didn't promise to pick him -- he wouldn't say which team did, but did say it wasn't Cleveland -- without doing anything. It's how Thomas Robinson, a hard-working big man who attacked workouts with vigor, boasted about being capable of being the No. 1 overall pick and did everything right, fell to the Sacramento Kings at No. 5. It's how Harrison Barnes can go from being in the picture at No. 3 and No. 4 to falling into the Warriors' lap at No. 7, just as they desperately need a small forward.
Either nobody knew what teams were actually thinking, or the teams themselves are crafting some great revisionist history pitches. I'm leaning towards the latter.
For full coverage of the draft, visit our 2012 NBA Draft results StoryStream.