It’s the final countdown on the NBA Draft, and despite the fact the draft is less than 48 hours from now, we still don’t know who the Cavs are taking with the first pick, assuming they still own it on Thursday night. And without knowing that, the rest of it is just as squirrelly. In fact, as I write this intro, I’m still not sure who I’m going to put at No. 1 and 2. But all of this mystery should also provide for some good drama, as well as make a lot of us who have been mocking for a few months look silly. The draft is Thursday night and you can plan on Rotoworld breaking down each pick as it happens, as usual.
You can follow me on Twitter by clicking here, and Rotoworld_BK is also a great follow for all the NBA headlines as they happen. Additionally, I’ll be appearing on the radio with Rick Kamla on Friday morning at 9:20 on Atlanta’s 92.9 The Game to recap what goes down on Thursday night.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers – Nerlens Noel C Kentucky
Despite the fact that Alex Len appears to have a very real chance of being taken by the Cavs at No. 1, I’m sticking with Noel, simply because it seems to have the best odds of happening. However, if the Cavs do mix it up and take Len, the entire draft will be shaken up and become even more of a crapshoot than it already is. The Cavs are set at point guard and power forward, but have questions almost everywhere else. Tyler Zeller looks like a nice backup center, while Anderson Varejao’s days are probably numbered in Cleveland, and he simply can’t stay healthy. Noel is coming off an ACL tear, but is said to be ahead of schedule in his rehab. However, there is still a decent chance they’ll try to trade this pick, if they can make the right deal. Lastly, Sam Mitchell and I agreed on the radio last week that Noel’s undersized to be and NBA center right now, and lacks the 15-footer needed to be a power forward. He’ll likely go No. 1, but I’m not expecting any miracles out of him for his first couple seasons.
2. Orlando Magic – Victor Oladipo SG Indiana
If the Cavs take Alex Len, it is almost a certainty the Magic will then grab Noel with the No. 2 pick. Personally, I still like Michigan PG Trey Burke for the Magic, as I think he fits their biggest need, and could end up being the best player in this draft. But unfortunately, I seem to be alone in thinking the Magic might take him. And if the Cavs take Noel, the Magic will have their choice of Oladipo (my choice, once again), Otto Porter, Anthony Bennett, Ben McLemore and Len. The arrival of Oladipo or McLemore could mean fewer minutes for guys like Arron Afflalo and Tobias Harris, but if the Magic are set on taking the best player available, one of these two looks like the pick. If the Magic do take Burke, I’ll pay the price for overthinking and not going with my first instinct, as I initially had them taking Burke.
3. Washington Wizards – Otto Porter SF Georgetown
The Wizards are seemingly taking Porter at No. 3 in every other mock draft I’ve seen. I’ve had him going here since the get-go and he might be my favorite player in this draft. He also fills a need for the Wizards and it’s hard to see them taking someone else at this point. Porter could be a hometown hero for the Wiz after playing at Georgetown and pairing him with John Wall and Bradley Beal should mean the Wizards will have a very good team in the near future. Trevor Ariza hasn’t proven to be a reliable starter and Martell Webster is battling free agency, injury and age. Porter looks like the best small forward in this draft, can get it done on both ends of the court, and is very versatile.
4. Charlotte Bobcats – Alex Len C Maryland
The Bobcats (Hornets in 2014-15) appear to be set at PG (Kemba Walker), SG (Gerald Henderson) and SF (Michael Kidd-Gilchrist), while big men are a problem with Bismack Biyombo, Byron Mullens, Josh McRoberts and Tyrus Thomas all failing to consistently contribute. While I’m not buying the hype as much as some and putting Len in the No. 1 spot, he does make a lot of sense for the Bobcats, and this is the first time I’ve had Len this high. And given the disastrous big-man play from the Bobcats over the last several years, Len could actually come in and make a difference right away. He’s a big, athletic, two-way center and while he’s coming off ankle surgery, could make a run at Rookie of the Year if he lands a starting job. Which is a real possibility in Charlotte.
5. Phoenix Suns – Ben McLemore SG Kansas
The Suns have all kinds of needs but shooting guard is an obvious problem, as they didn’t seem to fall in love with Jared Dudley or P.J. Tucker this season. My guess is they would be happy to see either McLemore or Oladipo at No. 5, and I’d be shocked if they don’t end up with one of them on draft night. McLemore looks like the pick here. He might be the best two-way player in this draft, has serious shooting range, and I can’t think of many NBA teams who would pass that up. I had McLemore going at No. 2 in Version 3, but flip-flopped him with Oladipo as the hype train rolls on.
6. New Orleans Pelicans – Trey Burke G Michigan
The team I’ve seen Burke most associated with recently is the Pelicans. And while Greivis Vasquez had a surprisingly fine season last year, it also has a bit of a fluky feel to it. And Burke wouldn’t come in and demand a starting job, and could be given time to develop behind Vasquez. Burke tore it up for Michigan and was outstanding in the NCAA tournament. He’s considered to be an undersized point guard, but so is Chris Paul. I am still pulling for the Magic to take Burke at No. 2, but if that doesn’t happen (and I don’t expect it to), No. 6 to the Pelicans looks like a good fit. And if the Pelicans decide to pass on Burke and go for a player at a different position, don’t be surprised. They have needs across the board with the exception of power forward.
7. Sacramento Kings – Anthony Bennett F UNLV
A lot of folks have the Kings taking a point guard with this pick, but that plan should end if Bennett is still available. Especially since the Kings have had bigger problems at forward than point guard for some time. Bennett’s a classic “tweener,” meaning he’s not really going to be a true small or power forward due to his 6’7” size. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Kings plug Bennett in at small forward and let him compete for Rookie of the Year. If they do end up going point guard, Trey Burke or Michael Carter-Williams would be the pick.
8. Detroit Pistons – Michael Carter-Williams PG Syracuse
Brandon Knight could end up being a backup NBA point guard or a shooting guard, and Rodney Stuckey and Jose Calderon won’t be around forever. The Pistons really could use a small forward with this pick and Shabazz Muhammad will be in play. But I am guessing they take Burke or Carter-Williams, if Burke is off the board. Carter-Williams’ lack of a jumper is a concern, and it’s probably because of that that I have him going higher than other folks do.
9. Minnesota Timberwolves – C.J. McCollum G Lehigh
The Timberwolves need wings and with Ricky Rubio all set to run the Wolves offense until he can’t take it anymore, McCollum would slot in nicely at shooting guard, where the Wolves are severely lacking. McCollum is a combo guard with strong offensive skills and could also adapt to become a reliable NBA point guard, where he could serve as a backup for Rubio. He looks like a great fit in Minnesota.
10. Portland Trail Blazers – Cody Zeller F/C Indiana
Zeller’s one-dimensional game was exposed in the tournament, but he’s still slated for a lottery pick and the Blazers seem to always be looking for centers. Zeller’s probably going to be a better NBA player than what he showed in the tourney and his ability to run the floor will work in his favor. His standing vertical leap of 35.5 inches was particularly impressive at the combine, and only helped his stock. In short, no player standing 6’9” over the last 10 years has been able to get up as high as Zeller did at the combine. On a side note, my college expert buddy Kelin says Zeller is going much higher than 10, but I’m sticking to my guns.
11. Philadelphia 76ers – Steven Adams C Pittsburgh
Andrew Bynum didn’t exactly work out and Spencer Hawes, despite some very nice runs last season, still may not be the long-term answer at center. Adams is going to be a bit of a project, but he’s 7’0” tall, athletic for his size and should thrive at running the floor. He’ll need to work hard to develop an inside game worthy of the NBA, but has enough upside that someone will likely grab him in the lottery.
12. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Toronto) – Kentavious Caldwell-Pope SG Georgia
The Thunder could use an eventual replacement for Kendrick Perkins so I had Kelly Olynyk going here in previous mocks. But his stock may be falling and I don’t see the Thunder reaching for Mason Plumlee here. Therefore, I’m going with the Georgia product and SEC Player of the Year. Caldwell-Pope averaged 18.5 points and should be a very good 3-point shooter in the NBA, which sounds like a good replacement for James Harden, once Kevin Martin eventually fades into obscurity. He’s also a solid defensive player, and really looks like a nice fit for the Thunder. I still wouldn’t be surprised to see them take a big man with the No. 12 pick, but they’ll look at a smaller player if they’re goal is to get the best one available.
13. Dallas Mavericks – Shane Larkin PG Miami
Rick Carlisle apparently can’t stand Darren Collison, so much so that he decided to roll with Mike James in a lottery campaign. I had them taking Carter-Williams here in a previous version, but it’s starting to look like he’ll be gone. They desperately need a center, and I could see them taking a big man here, but I get the sense Carlisle really wants a point guard. Therefore, we’re going to run Larkin up the board, as he made the biggest move from Version 3 to Version 4 (along with Carter-Williams). Larkin is very quick and will probably be the best option on the board when the Mavs pick. He’s only 5’11”, but did a great job of running Miami’s offense last season. German PG Dennis Schroeder is also a candidate for this pick.
14. Utah Jazz – Dennis Schroeder PG Germany
Mo Williams and Jamaal Tinsley are in the final stages of their careers, and Earl Watson is nothing more than a backup. The Jazz need a point guard and can easily grab Schroeder at this point in the draft. Schroeder is a nicely sized 6’2” PG that should immediately make an impression on Ty Corbin and his teammates with his speed and ability to get to the rack. He made a big jump up my draft board for the last couple versions, and makes a lot of sense for Utah. Schroeder, who is from Germany, could also be in play for Dirk Nowitzki’s Mavs at 13.
15. Milwaukee Bucks – Shabazz Muhammad G/F UCLA
The Bucks look set with young big men like Larry Sanders and John Henson, and still have Ersan Ilyasova to start at power forward. But they could use an upgrade over Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and whomever else they plan on plugging in at small forward. Jamaal Franklin is also in play here, but if Muhammad falls, the Bucks may get a bit of a steal, although the same can be said about Franklin. Muhammad is strong and could provide a solid answer at small forward in Milwaukee, although there are concerns about his basketball IQ and inability to dish the rock. I would also not be surprised if they take Franklin instead, or if Muhammad goes much earlier, to a team like the Kings (7) or Pistons (8).