The draft provides the life-blood of the league, and the 30 teams comb the U.S. college system and leagues around the globe for the best young talent.
Players figured to be near the top of the class of 2012 include Thomas Robinson, a forward from Kansas, and guards Bradley Beal from Florida and Damian Lillard from Weber State.
The Charlotte Bobcats have the second pick of the draft, followed by the Washington Wizards, Cleveland Cavaliers and Sacramento Kings, provided trades do not alter the order.
Last-minute deals often juggle the selection order, though there seems no suspense for New Orleans with Davis, the U.S. college player of the year who was named Final Four Most Outstanding Player after Kentucky's NCAA Tournament triumph.
"It's great," the 6-foot-10 (2.08 metres) Davis said about looking forward to his big draft night. "It's what I've dreamed about my whole life."
Davis, an extraordinary shot-blocker in the process of learning to play the pivot position, has superior ball-handling skills since being accustomed to playing the backcourt.
He stood just 6-ft-3 at the start of his junior year of high school before a growth spurt turned him into a big man.
Davis, 19, is now comfortable in his skin, as well as comfortable with his uninterrupted eyebrow, or 'unibrow' as it has been called.
The striking facial feature became a focal point of fan adoration during the NCAA tournament, with 'Fear the brow' T-shirts worn by the Wildcat faithful, leading his camp to apply for trademark rights to the phrase.
"My parents and my agents told me it was done," said Davis, referring to the trademark application.
He has been likened to Boston Celtics' Kevin Garnett and three-time NBA scoring champion Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
"I always compare myself to both those guys. They both are great players. KG and KD are awesome players. Can't go wrong with either one."
The rest of the top prospects face uncertainties.
"It's real crazy because you don't know what's going to happen," said Beal.
"At first you kind of knew where you were going, but now teams are trading and Charlotte announced they were willing to trade their pick. It's going to get real interesting. I'm kind of nervous because I have no idea where I'm going to end up."
The sweet-shooting Lillard said he could not wait.
"I'm just extremely anxious," he said. "I just want to go to sleep and I want to wake up and it be Thursday. I want to wake up just before the draft.
"There's no fear, I'm just waiting for it to happen."
The most highly touted international prospects look to be forward Evan Fournier of France and towering center Ognjen Kuzmic of Bosnia.
The Celtics will make do without the input of their coach Doc Rivers at the draft.
Usually a fixture in his team's draft decision room, Rivers has been excused for the evening by the club so he can be with his son Austin, a guard out of Duke, who is expected to be one of the top picks.
First round order of selections:
1 New Orleans Hornets
2 Charlotte Bobcats
3 Washington Wizards
4 Cleveland Cavaliers
5 Sacramento Kings
6 Portland Trail Blazers (from Brooklyn)
7 Golden State Warriors
8 Toronto Raptors
9 Detroit Pistons
10 New Orleans Hornets (from Minnesota via L.A. Clippers)
11 Portland Trailblazers
12 Milwaukee Bucks
13 Phoenix Suns
14 Houston Rockets
15 Philadelphia 76ers
16 Houston Rockets (from New York)
17 Dallas Mavericks
18 Houston Rockets (from Minnesota)
19 Orlando Magic
20 Denver Nuggets
21 Boston Celtics
22 Boston Celtics (from L.A. Clippers, via Oklahoma City)
23 Atlanta Hawks
24 Cleveland Cavaliers (from L.A. Lakers)
25 Memphis Grizzlies
26 Indiana Pacers
27 Miami Heat
28 Oklahoma City Thunder
29 Chicago Bulls
30 Golden State Warriors (from San Antonio