Commentary

2012 draft could be like 1997

Updated: June 14, 2012, 11:05 AM ET
By Dick Vitale | ESPN.com

When I look at the upcoming NBA draft, I see a lot of similarities to 1997.

Back in 1997, San Antonio drafted a young man named Tim Duncan, who helped change the franchise. New Orleans hopes that Kentucky's Anthony Davis can do the same thing, helping the franchise become a big-time, consistent winner.

When I compare Duncan and Davis, I feel the former Wake Forest star entered the pros with a more refined offensive game; he had more scoring ability and skill. Davis comes into the league with more defensive ability, including the shot-blocking skills and timing that were so impressive in leading the Wildcats to a national championship.

Both Duncan and Davis are class personified. They both came in to their respective situations showing that they would be great teammates.

[+] EnlargeAnthony Davis
Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesKentucky's Anthony Davis is the crown jewel of the 2012 NBA draft.

Looking ahead to the 2012 draft, there is also a potential comparison to 1997 for the Charlotte Bobcats. The runner-up status in the draft lottery puts a lot of pressure on Michael Jordan and his organization. This is a franchise that won seven games a season ago, and is still out looking for a coach.

Think back to 1997. Duncan became an MVP and is still going strong. After he went numero uno, there were some good players who went next: Keith Van Horn out of Utah and Chauncey Billups of Colorado.

While they were good players, they represented a big drop-off from Duncan, a future Hall of Famer. Just ask Rick Pitino, then of the Celtics, who was hoping and dreaming he would get Duncan in the green and white. Imagine how different history would have been if the big fella from Wake played on the parquet in Boston? Pitino may have stayed in the pros, baby!

This year is very similar. Davis is a shot-blocker who can dominate a game. I believe he will have a very special pro career. The drop-off from stardom after him is big.

The 1997 draft had Antonio Daniels, Tony Battie, Ron Mercer, Tim Thomas, Adonal Foyle, Tracy McGrady and Danny Fortson rounding out the top 10. There were some good players among this group, but you can see a difference compared to the top of the class.

It has been a tough year for Charlotte, and there is some pressure on the organization to make the right call. It is often more difficult picking out of that number two slot (remember Hasheem Thabeet?).

Right now, Davis is in a great position. We will see if history will repeat itself.

Dick Vitale

College Basketball analyst
Dick Vitale, college basketball's top analyst and ambassador, joined ESPN during the 1979-80 season. His thorough knowledge of the game is brought forth in an enthusiastic, passionate style. Vitale also contributes columns to ESPN.com.