Here's our first NBA mock draft of the year, so you can expect plenty of changes between now and the actual draft, taking place on June 23. The lottery will also likely end up causing a different order in the Top 14 than what we've got here.
1. Timberwolves - Kyrie Irving
He's the best point guard in the draft and while he's not as fast as Derrick Rose
or John Wall
, he's quick enough to keep defenses honest. The Wolves may skip him if Ricky Rubio
is really coming to the NBA next season, but they really don't need a big forward like Derrick Williams
, either. David Kahn seems to have a thing for drafting point guards, and could easily do so again if they land the No. 1 pick. Jonny Flynn
won't be back next season, and Irving would make sense to back up Luke Ridnour
if that's the case.
2. Cavaliers - Derrick Williams
Williams recently announced he was entering the draft and he could go No. 1, depending on who gets the pick. The Cavaliers would happily take point guard Kyrie Irving
to back up Baron Davis
next year, but if they don't have a shot at him, Williams is too good to pass up. Playing time would be an issue in Cleveland with J.J. Hickson
and a healthy Anderson Varejao
3. Raptors - Kemba Walker
He became a household name during the NCAA tournament and while his size is an issue (6-feet, 180 pounds), plenty of other small men have succeeded in today's NBA. Think Brandon Jennings
. And with Jose Calderon
always injured and Jerryd Bayless
looking more like a permanent backup point guard, Walker makes sense in Toronto.
4. Wizards – Harrison Barnes
SF North Carolina
Barnes will be able to play either wing position in the NBA and has a strong hoops IQ. With Josh Howard
always hurt and Rashard Lewis
on the downside of his career, Barnes makes sense in Washington and would be a nice addition to the rest of their young guns, which include John Wall
, JaVale McGee
, Andray Blatche
and Jordan Crawford
5. Kings – Brandon Knight
PG KentuckyBeno Udrih
has done a serviceable job as point guard in Sacramento and even exceeded expectations. Tyreke Evans
and Marcus Thornton
are also already in the guard stable and the Kings' real need is a small forward. But Knight is going to be a pretty good NBA point guard and Paul Westphal might enjoy having someone with a more up-tempo game running his offense. If Harrison Barnes
falls, the Kings would probably grab him, but if it doesn't happen, Knight could be their guy. The Kings will also probably give SF Jan Vesely
a close look as well, while I could also see Knight end up getting drafted by the Jazz a pick later.
6. Jazz (via Nets) – Jimmer Fredette
PG BYUGordon Hayward
came on strong near the end of the season and the Jazz could try to grab a hot name that wouldn't be booed on draft day, as Hayward was. Fredette is a household name and while I have him higher than most other drafts I've seen, I don't see how he's going to fall out of the Top 10. Yes, he struggled in his final college game, but is a pure scorer, as well as a point guard, and the Jazz aren't exactly deep at either guard position. If they don't get Jimmer, Brandon Knight
could be their guy.
7. Pistons – Jan Vesely
SF Czech Republic
The Pistons are still hurting from their selection of Darko Milicic
and might be a little gun shy about taking another European player so high in the draft. They also need a point guard, as it's become clear they don't really trust Rodney Stuckey
in that position. Or, at least John Kuester didn't, but he won't be coaching the team next season. Jimmer Fredette
could also end up here, along with nearly any other player listed in this column. The only place the Pistons are truly set is with Greg Monroe
, who they can use at PF or C. Vesely's a 6-11 small forward who is a confident shooter, who will draw comparisons to Andrea Bargnani
8. Cavaliers (via Clippers) – Enes Kanter
Kanter was ruled ineligible to play for Kentucky after receiving more than $30,000 from his Turkish team, although the money was used mostly for furthering his education. Therefore, we haven't seen much of Kanter over the last year as he was serving as a student assistant coach at UK. Kanter is 6-11, 265, meaning he clearly has the size to play center in the NBA. The Cavs have Anderson Varejao
and J.J. Hickson
, but neither is a true center. Project or not, the 18-year-old Kanter has the potential to be a very solid NBA center and may not even fall out of the Top 5. And if he had played for Kentucky this year, he might even be the No. 1 overall pick, and I probably would have won my NCAA bracket pool with UK as my pick to win it all.
9. Bobcats – Jonas Valanciunas
The Cats seem to be set at PG (D.J. Augustin
), SG (Gerald Henderson
), SF (Stephen Jackson
) and PF (Boris Diaw
), but they start Kwame Brown
at center. That's obviously a problem, although Kwame actually exceeded some expectations for the first time in his career in the second half of this season. Valanciunas is a skinny center, built in the mold of Andris Biedrins
, but is also possibly the best on in the draft. We'll see if Michael Jordan
will draft for need, or try to trade up to get his Carolina man – Harrison Barnes
. He could also be drafted much higher than this if his workouts go well.
10. Bucks – Kawhi Leonard
SF San Diego State
Leonard has had a pretty tough life thus far, but really turned heads with a great freshman year at San Diego State. He could be a tweener in the NBA, but several guys without a true position have found a home. I don't know if he'll really be a Top 10 pick, but if his workouts go well, I could see the Bucks taking a flier, as they don't really need guards or big men.
11. Warriors – Bismack Biyombo
F/C CongoEkpe Udoh
and Biyombo appear to have a similar skills set, but the Warriors are desperately hurting for big bodies. Biyombo is a bit of an unknown coming out of the Congo, but Chad Ford is on board, as are most of the other mock drafts I have seen. He's got points/rebounds/blocks triple-double potential and a relatively simple buyout from his professional team, clearing the way for him to play in the NBA once the lockout issues are resolved.
12. Jazz – Alec Burks
Burks is a true shooting guard and would fit in very well with the Jazz. He's one of the smoothest scorers coming out of college and most importantly, can create his own shot. He could end up being taken in the Top 10, but No. 12 feels right as of now.
13. Suns – Donatas Motiejunas
Motiejunas surprisingly pulled out of last year's draft and then tore it up in the Italian league this season. He's a great shooter, both from the floor and beyond the arc, and appears to be one of the more NBA-ready players in the draft. The Suns could use another power forward besides Channing Frye
, and Motiejunas looks like a nice complement to Marcin Gortat
. He's another guy I could easily have in the Top 10 in a future column.
14. Rockets – Jordan Hamilton
Like Alec Burks
, Hamilton is a smooth scorer and plays best when he's the main cog in a team's offense. That means it could take him a while to get going in the pros, but he might be the best pure shooter in the draft, and his quick release will be a key to his success in the pros. The Rockets have some needs at the wing and Hamilton makes sense – especially since he's already in Texas.
15. Pacers – Klay Thompson
G/F Washington State
Thompson is another scoring wing player and would be a senior at Washington State this year if he stuck around. Shot selection could be an issue, and the Pacers don't need to hear that with Danny Granger
firing up bombs with no conscience, but their biggest hole is still at shooting guard, as they have failed to draft one that could take over. The jury is still out on Paul George
, who had a decent rookie season, but it would not be surprising to see them take another one this time around.