1. Cleveland Cavaliers—Nerlens Noel (7’0” C, Kentucky)
It has become increasingly difficult to pinpoint exactly where the Cavaliers will go with the first overall selection on Thursday. Nerlens Noel is generally considered the top prospect, but recent rumors about a bad entourage have hurt him in some eyes (not to mention that knee injury thing). His comeback will take some time, but a successful recovery means he can be a true defensive force. Teams are willing to gamble on that in this draft
2. Orlando Magic—Ben McLemore (6’5” SG, Kansas)
Everybody is waiting to see if the rumored Arron Afflalo-for-Eric Bledsoe deal goes through. At any rate, their emerging front court tells me they’ll be more apt to pick up whichever guard they deem the most worthy. They may go after Oladipo or even Trey Burke, but for now, McLemore’s shooting ability gives him the slight edge for a team that needs some spacing.
3. Washington Wizards—Otto Porter (6’9” SF, Georgetown)
John Wall recently said he wanted the Wizards to go after a pick-and-roll big man. That would lead one to believe he thinks a guy like Anthony Bennett would be a good fit. He certainly would, but I think his size and injury concerns push them more towards a guy who is also a great fit for that roster in Porter. He doesn’t have the same scoring potential as Bennett, but his overall ability should serve them well in the long run.
4. Charlotte Bobcats—Victor Oladipo (6’4” SG, Indiana)
Rumors have been swirling that the Bobcats will go after either Bennett or Len if available. Unfortunately, GM Rich Cho has run an incredibly tight ship so speculators really have no clue which direction he’ll go. The Bobcats obviously have a sore need for talent in their front court, but if Oladipo is available I have to think Cho will go for him. The talented and athletic guard out of Indiana showed tremendous growth while in school and is projected to be a lock down defensive presence in the mold of Tony Allen. If his jumper continues to improve like it did in college then he can be a terrific player.
5. Phoenix Suns—Anthony Bennett (6’7” PF, UNLV)
If there’s one thing history tells us about the Phoenix Suns, it’s that they love to get out and run. If there’s one thing recent history tells us, it’s that they are severely lacking in talent. Couple those two together and you get the perfect excuse to take a high upside guy who has a similar physical profile to former superstar Charles Barkley. Bennett could thrive in the Suns system and could put up some very respectable numbers as a rookie for them.
6. New Orleans Pelicans—Alex Len (7’1” C, Maryland)
Some believe this is a good spot for Trey Burke. While I don’t disagree, I think they value incumbent PG Greivis Vasquez and go after a guy like Alex Len because they see the potential for a potent front court with young star Anthony Davis. Assuming Len continues his growth as a post scorer and Davis continues to develop into one of the most skilled bigs in the league, you’re all of a sudden looking at one of the scariest young duos in the NBA.
7. Sacramento Kings—Trey Burke (6’1” PG, Michigan)
The Kings are a team sorely looking for some stability. The franchise was recently almost sold to a Seattle investment group before actually being sold to a new ownership group in Sacramento. They have a new GM, a new coach, and a disgruntled young cornerstone who recently said “pay me or trade me”. Yikes! Enter Trey Burke, the best PG in the college ranks this past season and a guy lauded for his leadership. He may not be a blazing athlete, but he has fantastic point guard instincts and always seems to step up in big moments. Bringing him in would hopefully help appease the big guy down low and keep things moving in a positive direction.
8. Detroit Pistons—CJ McCollum (6’3” PG/SG, Lehigh)
Fans in Detroit seem to be underwhelmed with Brandon Knight’s development as a PG. This leads me to believe they’ll go after one of Carter-Williams or McCollum because guys like Shabazz seem to be falling on most boards. Most people are hot and cold on Carter-Williams, and his passing would certainly work well for Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond, but I think McCollum has a much higher ceiling. His shooting and killer crossover will instantly win over the crowds as they hope he becomes “the next Damian Lillard”.
9. Minnesota Timberwolves—Shabazz Muhammad (6’6” SG/SF, UCLA)
Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic need some help scoring the ball. Ricky Rubio, while a fantastic passer, just doesn’t have the ability to do that with any sort of consistency. Past experiments Michael Beasley and Wesley Johnson have not worked out, so why not keep trying until you get it right? Shabazz is arguably the best scorer in the draft and could fit in very nicely in that lineup.
10. Portland Trailblazers—Cody Zeller (7’0” PF, Indiana)
The issue with the Blazers in recent years is that they went from a team with a ton of depth to a team with no bench at all. They have holes all over the place and outside of Damian Lillard, Nicolas Batum, and LaMarcus Aldridge, they just don’t have very much talent. JJ Hickson is apparently on his way out so they could definitely use a replacement. Cody Zeller might be similar to Aldridge, but I have him comfortably as the BPA at this point in the draft. He has the talent and versatility to mesh with the other pieces on the roster.
11. Philadelphia 76ers—Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (6’6” SG, Georgia)
One thing is for certain, the Andrew Bynum trade was a disaster for Philadelphia. Now that they’ve lost Iguodala and look to be losing Bynum in free agency, they go from a promising young team to one on the cusp of a rebuild if they can’t turn things around quickly. The best two options I see available for the Sixers are Caldwell-Pope and Steven Adams. Neither one projects to be as good as the guys they’ll be replacing, but I think they’d rather go with KCP because he seems to be much closer to producing for his team than Adams.
12. Oklahoma City Thunder—Steven Adams (7’0” C, Pittsburgh)
This pick makes sense to me for a couple of different reasons. On one hand, Kendrick Perkins played like crap this year and is due for a trade or amnesty. On the other, Steven Adams has a ton of raw potential that could really bloom in this organization. He’s huge, plenty mobile enough, and has great defensive instincts. He’ll need to be brought along slowly, but he could become a perfect fit for the Thunder in the long run.
13. Dallas Mavericks— Dennis Schroeder (6’2” PG, Germany)
The 2010-2011 title must seem like forever ago. In just two short years, the Mavericks have gone from Champs to lottery limbo. Mark Cuban has vowed to make a splash in free agency to give Dirk one last crack at a title, but until it happens, I remain skeptical. They need an infusion of talented youth for the future. Schroeder burst onto the scene this summer and displayed a physical profile that teams drool over. His national ties to Dirk are just the icing on the cake.
14. Utah Jazz— Michael Carter-Williams (6’6” PG, Syracuse)
Utah has a ton of young talent on their roster—most notably a front court duo in Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors that many teams wish they could have. Unfortunately, their PG position has been a mess ever since Deron Williams was traded away. They’ll use this pick on the highest rated PG left on the board. In this case it’s MCW. His passing ability will be exactly what the bigs need to get their touches down low.
15. Milwaukee Bucks— Giannis Adetokunbo (6’9” SF, Greece)
The Bucks are the definition of purgatory. Barely good enough to scratch the playoffs, not bad enough to get top talent in the draft, and a small market that doesn’t draw big time free agents. To make things worse, two of their best players from the past season are gone as Monta Ellis looks like he wants to test free agency and Tobias Harris exploded onto the scene in Orlando after being traded for JJ Redick. They need to do something big. Adetokunbo is the enigma of this year’s draft and represents just the type of risk they need to make.
16. Boston Celtics—Sergey Karasev (6’7” SF, Russia)
Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett aren’t going to be around forever. The problem is that at this point in a weak draft the Celtics cannot expect to get a big time contributor. They’ll likely be searching for any guys who show potential to be elite in any facet of the game. The Russian with the sweet jumper can definitely be that guy. As the modern NBA moves towards focusing on maximizing spacing and three point shooting, guys like Karasev are going to be very valuable.
17. Atlanta Hawks— Kelly Olynyk (7’0” C, Gonzaga)
Atlanta hasn’t exactly thrived since trading Joe Johnson and things may get worse if Josh Smith decides to find another team to play for. Al Horford is still around though so they still have one all-star caliber player and Jeff Teague has become a solid option at the point. Other than that, they could use some help. They’ll use their two picks on some combination of big and a wing. I think the best available is Olynyk, the highly efficient and skilled big man from Gonzaga. He was looking like a potential top 10 pick before the combine, but really measured out poorly with his T-Rex arms and lower tier athleticism. Still though, he’s great value at this point.
18. Atlanta Hawks— Jamaal Franklin (6’5” SG, San Diego St.)
And for their wing choice? Well, they could go a number of different directions here, but I think Franklin may just be the best of the bunch. Franklin presents an intriguing combination of long arms, athletic ability, and defensive potential that any team could use. He may not be a star caliber player, but should perform well enough in a Kawhi Leonard role.
19. Cleveland Cavaliers—Reggie Bullock (6’7” SF, North Carolina)
The Cavs second pick is largely dependent upon the direction they take with the first overall. In this mock, I have them going with Nerlens Noel. Therefore, they’ll target a SF and fill up their final open position with young talent. Bullock developed into a very good player whilst at UNC and should step in immediately and do well as a 4th banana three-and-d guy for the Cavs.
20. Chicago Bulls— Tim Hardaway Jr. (6’6” SG, Michigan)
Richard Hamilton simply isn’t an NBA starter anymore. The Bulls have struggled in the playoffs as teams focus in on Rose and force the other players on the team to score. Hamilton and the other options haven’t been able to step up when needed. Hardaway Jr. provides some athleticism and high level shooting that could help space the floor for Rose to operate. He’s done well as a second option in college and would do fine in that role again.
21. Utah Jazz—Glen Rice Jr. (6’6” SF, D-League)
The Jazz already addressed the gaping hole at PG in Michael Carter-Williams. There next option would be to add some depth on the wings. Alec Burks hasn’t exactly worked out as well as they would like so they may decide to replace him with somebody like Glen Rice. He has a bit of a rocky past with school, but has seemed to get his act in order after some time in the d-league.
22. Brooklyn Nets—Mason Plumlee (7’0” C, Duke)
I was surprised to see him fall so low because many mocks have him on the tail end of the lottery, but things just worked out this way. This is an interesting fit—the Nets have soured on Kris Humphries and seem to want to move him despite him being a productive player. Mason would be a much cheaper option and has had some excellent coaching in college. He’s destined to be a role player, and his role in Brooklyn would suit him very well.
23. Indiana Pacers— Shane Larkin (5’11” PG, Miami)
Indiana has been perhaps the biggest obstacle for the Miami Heat on their trip to the Finals. Unfortunately, their PG play has been a part of the problem. Darren Collison didn’t really work out, George Hill is more of a combo guard, and DJ Augustin just isn’t very good. Adding a guy like Larkin might be a boon to a team looking to get over the top on the Heat. He’s a bit small, but that can be masqueraded by the size they have across the board at other positions.
24. New York Knicks—Gorgui Dieng (6’11” C, Louisville)
Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks are in win-now mode, but don’t have very long to stay there. Key players either have big injury problems (Amare) or age issues (Iman Shumpert will be the only projected starter next year under 30 years old). They won’t be targeting high upside guys that may not be ready to produce immediately and they won’t be going after euro-stash players. A guy like Gorgui Dieng would be a fantastic pick for them because he has a versatile skillset on both ends of the floor and won’t be high maintenance.
25. Los Angeles Clippers—Allen Crabbe (6’6” SG, California)
At the time of this writing, the Clippers have just picked up former Celtics coach Doc Rivers with one or two potential player deals to follow. As such, this selection is going to be fluid all the way up to draft night. Their biggest holes though remain on the wings with Grant Hill retiring and Chauncey Billups, Jamal Crawford, Matt Barnes, and Caron Butler all being at least 34 years old next year. Allen Crabbe will be a great option as a floor spacer and fast break player.
26. Minnesota Timberwolves—Ricky Ledo (6’6” SG, Providence)
Ledo is a difficult guy to figure out. He was a big time recruit who turned down offers from a few big time schools (twice) to stay home at play for Providence, only to be ruled academically ineligible and forced to miss his entire freshman season. Talk about a busy year! He spent most of the season off many draft boards completely, but has since steadily climbed to where he’s considered a late first round pick. There obviously isn’t very much evidence on him, but he’s a clearly gifted basketball player so some team is going to take a chance on him. Why not a team that desperately needs help on the wings?
27. Denver Nuggets—Rudy Gobert (7’2” C, France)
Things have been a bit wonky for the Nuggets after posting a franchise best record of 57-25. First longtime head coach George Karl was informed he would not be retained, then star player Andre Iguodala decided he would try his luck in free agency. That said, they are a team blessed with incredible depth and do not have any huge needs. That all leads me to believe that Gobert will be the guy they go with here. He’s a huge prospect (literally) and should be good insurance in case the Nuggets decide they want to trade JaVale McGee somewhere down the line.
28. San Antonio Spurs—Tony Mitchell (6’9” PF, North Texas)
Is this a typical Spurs pick or what? In keeping with recent memory of taking guys way more talented than their draft slot would otherwise state, they pick up a guy who was a lottery lock after a strong freshman season but slid down boards after a rough sophomore campaign under a new coach. In a setting like San Antonio with Duncan and Popovich, I would be surprised to see him develop into a Kenneth Faried type of player.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder—Isaiah Canaan (6’0” PG, Murray St.)
Having already picked up a Kendrick Perkins replacement in Steven Adams, the Thunder don’t exactly need much more help outside of a long term backup for Russell Westbrook. Isaiah Canaan is a terrific scorer with a very nice jump shot and, while he isn’t an elite athlete, has plenty of quickness to belong in the NBA despite playing for a small school.
30. Phoenix Suns—Lucas Noguiera (7’0” C, Brazil)
Depending on how you view Noguiera, this is either a steal or a reach. Some draft boards have him as high as #12; some have him out of the first round altogether. Bebe has very intriguing physical attributes but has had questions about his motor and work ethic. He projects to be a primarily defensive presence, but could be a very good value pick if he continues to work hard.