The NBA Draft is finally here. With so many unpredictable prospects waiting for a call, tonight has the potential to be a very entertaining draft. By Jason Quint.
1) Cleveland Cavaliers – Alex Len, C, So, Maryland
Rationale: Anderson Varejao is always hurt, Tyler Zeller doesn’t project to be a starter, Zydrunas Ilgauskas (Len has drawn comparisons to the former Cavs star) and Vitaly Potapenko (Fellow Ukranian 7-footer) are both a part of the organization, and owner Dan Gilbert wants to make the playoffs in 2013 which rules out Noel.
Thoughts: I don’t think there is a clear number 1 pick this year, so if Cleveland loves Len, why not? It will be easier for the Cavs to address their small forward need via free agency or through a trade (Paul Pierce anyone?), and there is a lot to like about Len. I wouldn’t worry too much about his lack of production at Maryland. He was still adjusting to American basketball while learning how to speak English during his two seasons in College Park, and frankly the Terrapins had pathetic guard play last season.
Comparisons: I don’t hate the Ilgauskas comparison, although you have to go back to Big Z before his injuries. Len has size and skill but needs to get tougher, much like recent draft pick Jonas Valanciunas.
2) Orlando Magic – Nerlens Noel, PF, Fr, Kentucky
Rationale: Nik Vucevic had a tremendous sophomore year and the Magic want a defensive minded power forward to stick next to him. Andrew Nicholson, who I am pretty high on, might be included in a draft night trade to the Clippers along with Aaron Afflalo for Eric Bledsoe, so there will be a vacancy at the four.
Thoughts: If Nicholson isn’t moved, I think the Magic would be making a mistake passing on one of the guards, Trey Burke, Victor Oladipo, or Ben McLemore. Burke is the most natural fit, but we’ve heard Orlando isn’t high on him. You can’t argue with Noel though. I love his ability to defend the pick & roll, which has become a huge part of big man defense. His weight and burst coming off an ACL tear are concerning, but the Magic are in it for the long haul.
Comparisons: I’ve seen Serge Ibaka comparisons because of his shot-blocking ability, and I think that is just lazy. Noel resembles Larry Sanders much more than Ibaka. I think his upside is an elite defensive player who can score 9-13 points a game on dunks and putbacks.
3) Washington Wizards – Anthony Bennett, PF, Fr, UNLV
Rationale: All along, this pick appeared to come down to Bennett and Otto Porter, and the consensus right now is Porter. John Wall and Brad Beal are locked in place, but the rest of the Wizards roster is expendable. Bennett is the most talented frontcourt prospect remaining, so I think he edges out Porter on draft night.
Thoughts: I’ve kept no secrets when it comes to Bennett. I think he’s the best player in this draft with a chance to become a 20-10 inside/outside threat. The next step for Washington would be adding a defensive-minded center.
Comparisons: The name being floated around is former Hornet and Knick great Larry Johnson, which I like, but I’ll take it a step further and call Bennett (mustering up the confidence to type this next sentence, taking a hit from my inhaler)… Karl Malone Jr. There, I said it. I’m gonna go take a shower now.
4) Charlotte Bobcats – Cody Zeller, PF, So, Indiana
Rationale: According to reports, GM Rich Cho loves Zeller and will be spending the next 24 hours or so trying to convince the rest of the Bobcats braintrust that he’s their man at four. The Bobcats need everything, including outside shooting, another playmaker to take some pressure off Kemba Walker, and interior scoring. Zeller doesn’t really fit a need, but he is a high character guy who is NBA ready and will help change the culture in Charlotte.
Thoughts: I like Zeller as a rotation player at the next level, but I would have a hard time justifying his selection this high, especially with high upside wings still available. McLemore would be a much better fit. But since Michael Jordan has taken over in Charlotte, they’ve made very few draft picks that have made sense. Zeller should work with Bismack Biyombo, but even if both players get better it’s still a mediocre starting frontcourt.
Comparisons: He’s a more athletic version of Tyler.
5) Phoenix Suns – Victor Oladipo, SG, Jr, Indiana
Rationale: Rumor is Phoenix is enamored with Oladipo, who ranked #1 on the NBA GM’s composite big board. I bet the Suns don’t expect Oladipo, McLemore, Porter, and Burke all to still be available, but if this scenario plays out I see them going Oladipo.
Thoughts: The more time that goes by, the less I like Oladipo, but that could just be the result of not having watched him in a game in months. I loved him during the season for his energy and positive attitude on the court, and I’m impressed at how he’s progressed every year in Bloomington. I still think he’s a lottery pick with a ton of upside, but his height and below average offensive instincts worry me. We usually see defensive specialists like this at the point guard or small forward spots, but Oladipo is too small to guard the Lebron’s and Carmelo’s of the league. Maybe the Suns allow him to heckle point guards, allowing Goran Dragic and/or Kendall Marshall to defend off the ball? I like the pick, but once again I’d prefer McLemore.
Comparisons: I’m gonna stay away from Tony Allen, because I think Oladipo will be better offensively, but anyone calling him the next Wade is out of their mind. Let’s go with a more energetic Wes Matthews.
6) New Orleans Pelicans – Trey Burke, PG, So, Michigan
Rationale: Is Greivis Vasquez the long-term answer at point guard? Probably not. Burke excels in pick & roll, as does last year’s top pick Anthony Davis, and the Pelicans are hoping the two of them make a formidable 1-2 punch.
Thoughts: I think Burke is one of the two or three best players in the draft. I love his attitude and competitiveness. I think his height is a bit of a concern but his 6’5″ wingspan puts him right on par with most NBA point guards. I’d say he has a great future and will be a serious Rookie of the Year candidate, especially if the Pelicans move Vasquez.
Comparisons: He’s got some Damian Lillard in him, some Kyrie Irving, and some Tony Parker. That doesn’t mean he’ll be an all-star like the three of them, but he shares some positive characteristics. I think his ultimate upside is a top five or seven point guard in the league.
7) Sacramento Kings – Ben McLemore, SG, Fr, Kansas
Rationale: If this scenario presents itself, Sacramento can just flip a coin and take McLemore or Otto Porter, both considered a possibility for the top overall pick. McLemore is a starting shooting guard from day one.
Thoughts: After Bennett, McLemore has the best chance of anyone from this draft class to develop into a star. We know about his athleticism and sweet shooting stroke, but a red flag has been his inconsistency and tendency to disappear in big spots. I’m not worried about that. Kansas didn’t have a true point guard and relied heavily on a trio of seniors, including Travis Releford and Elijah Johnson, who handled the ball a ton. McLemore will be better in the league than he was in college.
Comparisons: I see McLemore as a better Aaron Afflalo, and I’m very intrigued to see his career play out with Brad Beal and Klay Thompson. Shooting guard has been one of the weakest positions in recent memory, but there is a lot of young talent right now.
8) Detroit Pistons – Otto Porter, SF, So, Georgetown
Rationale: Absolute no-brainer. Word is Detroit wants a point guard so Michael Carter-Williams could be a fit, but if Porter is still on the board they simply can’t pass on him.
Thoughts: Kyle Singler started at small forward for the Pistons last year, which says all you need to know. Porter is an immediate upgrade in all facets of the game. I love his defensive ability, offensive versatility, and basketball IQ, but worry he’ll have difficulty getting separation at the next level. Porter did not play AAU ball in high school, which is worth noting because it explains his unselfish demeanor on the court, which is his best attribute.
Comparisons: Coincidently, Porter reminds me of former Piston all-star Tayshaun Prince with less pure athleticism but a more complete offensive game. Another name is Evan Turner, but Porter is much less emotional and seems to understand his weaknesses better than ET.
9) Minnesota Timberwolves – Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG, So, Georgia
Rationale: The Wolves really need to add an outside shooter, and aside from Russian sniper Sergey Karasev, KCP is the best on the board.
Thoughts: In terms of fit, KCP is absolutely the pick. I think his value is somewhere between 15-25, but he certainly fills a need and will make life a little easier for Ricky Rubio.
10) Portland Trailblazers – C.J. McCollum, PG, Sr, Lehigh
Rationale: The Blazers ranked dead last in the league in bench scoring. McCollum will take over backup PG duties from Nolan Smith and can play off the ball with future all-star Damian Lillard. If Zeller was left I think he’s a possibility, but otherwise I highly doubt McCollum gets past Portland.
Thoughts: I love this guy. McCollum doesn’t do anything at an elite level, but he does everything well. He can handle, shoot, finish at the rim, and set up teammates. Portland needs guys who can put the ball in the hoop, and McCollum will do that.
Comparisons: Maybe a slower, worse shooting Steph Curry. Or a bigger, smarter Lou Williams.
11) Philadelphia 76ers – Steven Adams, C, Fr, Pittsburgh
Rationale: The jury is still out of whether Philly will attempt to bring back Andrew Bynum this summer. Regardless, they need to get tougher and more athletic up front, and Adams is really big, really strong, and runs the floor extremely well. He’s raw and didn’t do much during his freshman campaign at Pitt, but the upside is intriguing.
Thoughts: As a Sixers fan, I’d love for McCollum to slide. I also wouldn’t hate Karasev here, but for a team that isn’t ready to win now, I can’t complain with a project big like Adams. The new Sixers coach will play a crucial part in Adams’ development.
Comparisons: Stronger Meyers Leonard.
12) Oklahoma City Thunder – Kelly Olynyk, C, Jr, Gonzaga
Rationale: The Thunder could have used some interior scoring during their disappointing second round exit this past postseason. OKC is very good defensively which should help mask Olynyk’s deficiencies on that side of the ball.
Thoughts: I like it. Olynyk can shoot, has a refined postgame, and the ability to take most centers off the bounce. This is a guy who can play from day one. I also love the fit because Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook (and Kendrick Perkins if he returns) will help toughen him up.
Comparisons: More athletic, slightly more skilled Spencer Hawes with better hair and political views.
13) Dallas Mavericks – Sergey Karasev, SF, Russia
Rationale: The Mavericks will almost certainly trade out of this spot, but whoever moves up has a good chance of landing Karasev, who can shoot it with the best.
Thoughts: Karasev had a great week of shooting at the Nike Hoop Summit, but he’s more than just a long-range bomber. He has good scoring instincts and knows the game. There are concerns about his defensive effort and who he’ll guard at the next level, and they are legitimate. But his offense is very advanced for his age and he should contribute immediately.
14) Utah Jazz – Michael Carter-Williams, PG, So, Syracuse
Rationale: The Jazz haven’t had a true point guard since trading Deron Williams. MCW is the best one left (according to most experts, personally I’m higher on Dennis Schröder). Utah could go big here with Mason Plumlee or one of the international bigs, but I can’t see them passing on Carter-Williams if he falls.
Thoughts: I’m not high on MCW at all. I think scouts are overrating his size and ignoring some of his deficiencies, such as his inconsistent shooting stroke, habit of turning the ball over, and the fact that he hasn’t played man-to-man defense since high school.
Comparisons: Shaun Livingston is easy, but it works.
15) Milwaukee Bucks – Dennis Schröder, PG, Germany
Analysis: Lightning, quick, young point guard in the mold of Rajon Rondo and Darren Collison. I love his ability to change speeds and stay in control, rare qualities for a young player with elite quickness. He also defends at a high level and projects to be a stopper once his body matures and he gains experience. The Bucks are in the market for a new point guard with the pending departure of Brandon Jennings.
16) Boston Celtics – Mason Plumlee, PF, Sr, Duke
Analysis: Kevin Garnett is on his way out either this summer or next. That leaves Boston with former first round pick Jared Sullinger, an undersized big man who lacks elite athleticism and has battled injuries, and D-league standout Fab Melo, who looked lost in limited action with the Celts last season. Boston needs to get bigger and more athletic, and Plumlee can help right away.
17) Atlanta Hawks – Shabazz Muhammad, SF, Fr, UCLA
Analysis: Josh Smith is leaving in free agency, and I just can’t picture the Hawks without a high volume shooting lefty who overrates his abilities. Just kidding. Muhammad has more red flags than any first rounder, from his unwillingness to share the basketball (27 assists in 32 games with a high usage rate), selfish attitude (watch this video) or poor effort on the defensive end. I don’t like Muhammad and I don’t think NBA veterans will either.
18) Atlanta Hawks – Lucas Noguiera, C, Brazil
Analysis: One of the draft’s biggest unknowns. Noguiera has been on the NBA radar for a long time but never impressed scouts with his attitude and work ethic until recently. Reports are Noguiera has dedicated himself to working on his game, and his performance at the Adidas Eurocamp earlier this month speaks to that. Noguiera is a pogo stick that swats shots and can finish above the rim, but his offense is as undeveloped as anyone in the draft.
19) Cleveland Cavaliers – Reggie Bullock, SF, Jr, North Carolina
Analysis: The Cavs are dangling C.J. Miles and Alonzo Gee in trade talks, and Wayne Ellington is a free agent. They really need athletic wings that can shoot from deep to help space the floor for Kyrie Irving, and Bullock fits the bill. Tim Hardaway Jr. and Tony Snell are possibilities here as well.
20) Chicago Bulls – Tim Hardaway Jr. SG, Jr, Michigan
Analysis: Like Cleveland, Chicago will be looking for a bench wing that can space the floor and defend. Hardaway Jr. is one of the most mature players in the draft and an underrated athlete. He should be able to give Thibs 15 good minutes a night backing up Jimmy Butler.
21) Utah Jazz – Jeff Withey, C, Sr, Kansas
Analysis: The deepest frontcourt in basketball last season is expected to lose Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap to free agency, so Utah is in need of a third big to provide solid minutes behind Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors. Withey is NBA ready. He defends and rebounds at a high level, and is really, really white, so he’ll get along with the NBA’s most polite fan base.
22) Brooklyn Nets – Isaiah Canaan, PG, Sr, Murray State
Analysis: The Nets’ most consistent bench player C.J. Watson is a free agent and might not be back in Brooklyn next season. Canaan can fill Watson’s shoes and more, and he’ll benefit from Jason Kidd coaching him up. Canaan is undersized and doesn’t finish well around the rim, but he can score in bunches and play with Deron Williams in smaller lineups.
23) Indiana Pacers – Shane Larkin, PG, Jr, Miami
Analysis: I’m not going to sugar coat this; D.J. Augustin was useless in the Miami series. Now I’m not saying a better backup point guard would have put Indiana in the finals, but it absolutely would have helped. If Withey falls, I’d love him for Indy playing behind Hibbert. But Larkin is a confident young player who tested off the charts at the combine and will add to an already strong locker room.
24) New York Knicks – Nate Wolters, PG, Sr, South Dakota State
Analysis: Wolters was one of the most talented players in all of college basketball last season, but the fact that he played in the Summit League has scouts worried that his numbers were inflated playing against weak competition. I understand the concerns about his athleticism, but Wolters performed very well against high-major teams such as Alabama, Baylor, and Washington. His IQ is off the charts and his craftiness should make up for average athleticism. The Knicks need a backup point guard with the departure of Jason Kidd and age of Pablo Prigioni.
25) Los Angeles Clippers – Tony Snell, SF, Jr, New Mexico
Analysis: Regardless of whether the Eric Bledsoe trade goes down, the Clippers can use another athletic wing to run with the up-tempo ball club. Snell moves well without the ball, can stretch the floor, and projects as a pretty solid defender. I like the value here.
26) Minnesota Timberwolves – Rudy Gobert, C, France
Analysis: Projected as high as fifth overall earlier this season, Gobert’s workouts have really hurt his stock. Despite measuring as the tallest and longest player at the NBA combine last month in Chicago, Gobert’s athleticism ranked dead last out of 52 prospects. He’s a couple years away from contributing, if he even makes it to the NBA. But the value here is too good to pass up.
27) Denver Nuggets – Gorgui Dieng, PF, Jr, Louisville
Analysis: Speculation is that Denver will move this pick, and whoever buys it from them could look to add Dieng, a key member of the Cardinals 2013 National Championship run. Dieng is one of the oldest prospects in the draft (23 years old) and has had injury concerns, but he is a very complete defensive player with a sneaky effective offensive game, which includes a lethal set shot from 15 feet.
28) San Antonio Spurs – Giannis Adetokunbo, SF, Greece
Analysis: Adetokunbo has so many holes in his game, but he has shown promise as a more athletic Boris Diaw type prospect. He has Durant’s body and plays like a point forward in Greece. His vision and ball-handling abilities are impressive for his age and experience, but he needs to add a lot of weight and learn the nuances of the game. If the Spurs draft him, he’ll become a star. But if anyone else does, probably not.
29) Oklahoma City Thunder – Allen Crabbe, SG, Jr, California
Analysis: I think it would be really interesting if the Thunder added a shooter like Karasev at 12, but if they go big like is expected, they’ll add Kevin Martin’s replacement with the second to last pick in the first round. Crabbe doesn’t defend at a high level but has the tools if he works on that aspect of his game. He is a true shooting guard who moves well off the ball and makes outside shots. Crabbe won’t create offense, but in OKC, he won’t have to.
30) Phoenix Suns – Mike Muscala, PF, Sr, Bucknell
Analysis: Muscala might be one of the steals of the draft. His refined offensive game and the way he moves defensively will allow him to play right away, despite needing to add 20 to 30 pounds to his frame over time. I like him as a stretch, finesse four man who could develop into a very good low post player. Phoenix has a lot of mediocre forwards, including Markieff and Marcus Morris, so Muscala has a chance to contribute immediately.
31) Cleveland Cavaliers – Jamaal Franklin, SF, Jr, San Diego State
32) Oklahoma City Thunder – Colton Iverson, C, Sr, Colorado State
33) Cleveland Cavaliers – Pierre Jackson, PG, Sr, Baylor
34) Houston Rockets – Glen Rice Jr. D-League
35) Philadelphia 76ers – Erick Green, PG, Sr, Virgnia Tech
36) Sacramento Kings – Tony Mitchell, SF, So, North Texas
37) Detroit Pistons – Trevor Mbakwe, PF, Sr, Minnesota
38) Washington Wizards – Lorenzo Brown, PG, Jr, North Carolina State
39) Portland Trailblazers – C.J. Leslie, SF, Jr, North Carolina State
40) Portland Trailblazers – Jackie Carmichael, PF, Sr, Illinois State
41) Memphis Grizzlies – Ricky Ledo, SG, Fr, Providence
42) Philadelphia 76ers – James Ennis, SF, Sr, Long Beach State
43) Milwaukee Bucks – Nemanja Nedovic, PG, Serbia
44) Dallas Mavericks – Phil Pressey, PG, Jr, Missouri
45) Portland Trailblazers – Deshaun Thomas, SF, Jr, Ohio State
46) Utah Jazz – Archie Goodwin, SG, Fr, Kentucky
47) Atlanta Hawks – Alex Abrines, SG, Spain
48) Los Angeles Lakers – Andre Roberson, SF, Jr, Colorado
49) Chicago Bulls – Livio Jean-Charles, PF, France
50) Atlanta Hawks – Ray McCallum, PG, Sr, Detroit
51) Orlando Magic – Richard Howell, PF, Sr, North Carolina State
52) Minnesota Timberwolves – James Southerland, PF, Sr, Syracuse
53) Indiana Pacers – Arsalan Kazemi, SF, Sr, Oregon
54) Washington Wizards – Solomon Hill, SF, Sr, Arizona
55) Memphis Grizzlies – Marko Todorovic, C, Montenegro
56) Detroit Pistons – Grant Jerrett, PF, Fr, Arizona
57) Phoenix Suns – Bojan Dubljevic, PF, Montenegro
58) San Antonio Spurs – Vander Blue, SG, Jr, Marquette
59) Minnesota Timberwolves – Raul Neto, PG, Brazil
60) Memphis Grizzlies – Peyton Siva, PG, Sr, Louisville