Last night, the NBA held its annual pinging and ponging to determine the draft spots of the upcoming NBA Draft, which will be held on June 27 at the Barclays Center. And it’s safe to say that if the Cleveland Cavaliers avoid the NBA Draft Lottery next year, one of 14 teams will be adopting Nick Gilbert. It is known.
As most hoops “experts” are wont to do soon after the lottery, this is my initial mock draft (just the lottery teams). However, please understand that “experts” are like Jon Snow and really know nothing. Here’s the proof, and while I did relatively well in predicting the 2012 NBA Draft, there are a plethora of factors going against draft prognosticators. Maybe we should have Nick Gilbert standing next to us whenever we write these up.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Nerlens Noel, C, Kentucky
Noel has been the favorite to go first in this draft for months now. He’s also injured and likely to miss significant time this upcoming season. What does that say about this draft class? Noel could be a default “Never Nervous Pervis” Ellison type of pick where it’s like, “Hey, he’s tall, long, can defend, has potential, and has a cool nickname/haircut.” And like Ellison, Noel will likely miss a good portion of his rookie year. But, let’s look at the positives for Noel — super athletic and quick, can block and steal the ball at a high level and should be fun to watch on a break. However, because of his offensive deficiencies, Noel won’t be a true franchise player although there’s a great possibility 20 years from now that he does Geico commercials wagging his finger.
2. Orlando Magic: Trey Burke, PG, Michigan
Yes, this could be a stretch, I’ll admit that. But, I’m looking at team need here and drafting the reigning Player of the Year isn’t a bad thing. That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Magic try to trade down with the next four teams already having their point guard position on lock. Burke would inherit the position currently held by Jameer Nelson, who has a year left on his contract with a team option the following year. Burke has high-grade intangibles and leadership ability, can hit the J, create for others and would be an excellent young player to add to the Magic core.
3. Washington Wizards: Otto Porter, SF, Georgetown
Big fan of Porter! He’s fundamentally very sound and can do a lot of things well. Porter would fit right in with John Wall and Bradley Beal because he doesn’t need to shoot the rock to be effective and can facilitate the offense. Porter has an excellent mid-range game, coming off screens and utilizing ball fakes with one or two dribbles to create space. He’s one of the more NBA-ready players in this draft and could fit in just about any system.
4. Charlotte Bobcats/Hornets: Ben McLemore, SG, Kansas
If there’s any team that might bite on a potential Magic trade-down, it could be Charlotte, who got shafted out of the top three spots after being shafted out of the top pick in last year’s draft. The team would be ecstatic to get McLemore, who could still go higher based on his skill set and ridiculous athleticism. He can rain Js and bring the thunder when attacking the rim. McLemore has the potential to end up being the best player of this draft and a true franchise player.
5. Phoenix Suns: Victor Oladipo, SG, Indiana
The Suns could go with Anthony Bennett here, but I’m going on a hunch that they’d rather shore up their backcourt and add an athletic defensive stopper in Oladipo. He improved his shooting last season and Goran Dragic will love to pass to a super athlete with non-stop motor charging the rim and finishing, something the team currently lacks. Oladipo also has the ability to board because he’s always active and could be a fan favorite.
6. New Orleans Pelicans: Anthony Bennett, SF/PF, UNLV
Bennett is the classic tweener. He has loads of ability offensively and could play either the three or four at the NBA level. Offensively, at least. Defensively will be another matter, as he’ll be slower than other threes and shorter than other fours. Bennett, however, has excellent back-to-the-basket skills and can bruise out points versus smaller defenders, or face-up bigs and drive past them. He also can hit the trey, so his versatility in scoring the ball will be highly desirable and could complement Anthony Davis well for a bright Pelican future.
7. Sacramento Kings: CJ McCollum, PG/SG, Lehigh
McCollum has been compared to Damian Lillard, the current NBA Rookie of the Year, because of the small school/big production thing and the point guard connection. Kings fans would be more excited about that than keeping their team in Sactown if the comparison continues. Well, maybe not, but it’ll be close. McCollum has a high basketball IQ and has shown an expertise in adjusting, whether it’s from going team-ball to individual-ball or counteracting against various defenses, he is mentally ready for the L. He has great ball skills and can get buckets from inside and out and at the charity stripe. He’ll need to work more on being a point guard, but they said the same thing about another small school player McCollum has been compared to: Stephen Curry. If that comparison turns out to be true, I think that’s when Sacramento will be more excited than keeping the team.
8. Detroit Pistons: Shabazz Muhammad, SF, UCLA
Muhammad has been taking a trashing thus far in pre-draft season as he’s been pinned as a one-dimensional player. He can “only” score. Well, guess what? The Pistons could use some of that, couldn’t they? He’ll be a nice fit with Greg Monroe in the post and Andre Drummond running all over the place, making a solid young frontcourt with loads of potential. Defensively, Muhammad needs some work and shouldn’t rely on Drummond wiping out shots from Muhammad’s man when they blow by him. There’s definite high potential here, but continuing to work hard to improve will be key for Muhammad.
9. Minnesota Timberwolves: Alex Len, C, Maryland
Nikola Pekovic will be a restricted free agent this summer and I have a feeling some team will overpay for his services and the T-Wolves will not match, especially since they might want to extend Ricky Rubio soon. So, in comes Len as solid insurance. Len is a classic, physical center who does his damage in the post — scoring, rebounding and swatting shots. However, he also has range on his shot and could form a very solid four-five combo with Kevin Love when Love is healthy. Please note that he probably won’t be as charismatic or fun to root for as Pekovic, but as long as he’s effective, it won’t matter. Oodles of potential here.
10. Portland Trail Blazers: Cody Zeller, PF/C, Indiana
Before the college basketball season, Zeller was seen as the favorite to win Player of the Year, but then the season started and his draft stock fell because he has T-Rex arms, among other unknown reasons. Of course that’s hyperbole, but it seemed to be the biggest reason people started hating Zeller. Well, the recent draft combine allayed any fear of CeeLo arms as his wingspan measured longer, plus he totally killed it at the draft combine. So, draft stock rise! JJ Hickson isn’t the answer for the Blazers at the five and Zeller might not be either, but he would at least be a more dynamic offensive player. And remember that Pekovic guy, the Blazers could be players for him as well. Also look for Gorgui Dieng possibly jumping here if the Blazers really want that interior defensive presence and Dieng does well in individual workouts. Might be a reach, but it happens.
11. Philadelphia 76ers: Kelly Olynyk, C, Gonzaga
Who knows what happens to Andrew Bynum? It’ll remain one of the mysteries in life until July 1st when free agency begins. However, the Sixers will need to make a decision before then, so they’ll likely draft a frontcourt player and Olynyk could be it. He has legit size and post skills with the ability to hit from outside and has shown himself to be a real offensive threat in the college ranks. Will all of that translate to the NBA? We’ll see, but Olynyk has the work ethic to make it happen.
12. Oklahoma City Thunder: Steven Adams, C, Pittsburgh
There are rumors that the Thunder may do some things with this pick, their 29th overall pick and one of their young players to make a move. But let’s assume they stay right where they are and understand that Hasheem Thabeet is not the future of OKC’s center position. Duh. Adams has an NBA-ready body at the five, excellent length and athleticism, but more importantly, is a hard worker that could fulfill his tremendous upside. It’ll take a bit of time, but the Thunder can afford that with Kendrick Perkins not coming off the books for another two seasons, if he’s not amnestied this summer.
13. Dallas Mavericks: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG, Georgia
O.J. Mayo controls whether or not he returns to the Mavs, but it’s not guaranteed he actually does, so look for the Mavs to likely draft his potential replacement. Caldwell-Pope is a scorer, particularly on the outside where he loves to chuck jumper after jumper. He wasn’t very efficient his freshman year, but made significant strides last season. He should be able to create space down low for Mavericks post players and could be very effective on kickouts to the perimeter. He’ll need to work on his ball-handling and be more aggressive slashing in order to be a very real threat.
14. Utah Jazz: Dennis Schroeder, PG, Germany
The Jazz have some hard thinking to do about their own free agents, including Mo Williams, who seems likely to be let go into free agency. Schroeder, a young (19 years old) and super-quick point guard could be the one that runs, literally and figuratively, the Jazz moving forward. He has excellent length for his size, is able to accelerate under control and uses his speed well on both sides of the court. Schroeder will need to add some muscle to his thin frame, as well as become more efficient as a playmaker, but considering his youth, he has the potential to become very good.
All analysis above comes from digesting a lot of words and watching a lot of YouTube videos. Unfortunately, I don’t have the ability to read minds or have access to NBA team decision-makers. I’m just guessing here with more guessing to come leading up to the draft!
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