The NBA draft comes around once again this Thursday June 27, and while there’s rarely a fraction of the interest in this draft as opposed to the NFL’s much-ballyhooed event, this year is an exceedingly thin draft where you are as likely to see a team nab a future starter in the second round as in the lottery.
While that takes the luster off the appeal of the draft, it doesn’t diminish its importance – if anything, this draft is more crucial than ever in terms of teams doing their homework on this year’s crop of prospects…
1. CLEVELAND CAVALIERS: OTTO PORTER (6’8”, SF, Georgetown)
Scouting Report: Multi-skilled player who can play the 3 or 4. Stepped up this season when injuries made him the focus of Georgetown’s offense. Reliable jump shooter. Very active defender. Very mature on the court for his age. Needs to improve his range to be a threat from the 3-point line. Needs to work on creating his own shot. Not an elite athlete.
This pick comes down to three players: Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel, who arguably fills a need, Maryland’s Alex Len, which would be a hit-or-miss swing for the fences, or Porter. I think Cleveland has their superstar in Kyrie Irving, and needs to add the best player they can get to a growing young lineup. Porter isn’t that coveted can’t miss big man, but there isn’t one in this draft. Instead, he’s a player who probably cracks the Cavs’ starting lineup and contributes immediately. In a thin draft, he’s the best you can do here.
2. ORLANDO MAGIC: BEN MCLEMORE (6’5”, SG, KANSAS)
Scouting Report: Can flat out score the ball. Elite athleticism and NBA size at the 2. Can shoot from anywhere. Rebounds well. Needs to improve his ball handling skills to help create more opportunities for himself. Needs to improve his decision making.
Conventional wisdom says the Magic will jump on Nerlens Noel if the Cavs pass him up to replace the void left by Dwight Howard. Really? Does anyone who have ever watched a basketball game think Nerlens Noel is the next Dwight Howard? The underlying rationale, however, is correct. Orlando DOES need to replace Dwight Howard, but they need to do it by getting a new face of the franchise player. Their version of Kyrie Irving, who isn’t LeBron, but IS in Cleveland, and that has fans feeling hopeful. McLemore is one of the few players available who can be that guy, and do it almost immediatley. He’s coming out as a freshman, so there’s tons of room for him to grow, and having a player who can drop 20 a night puts fans in the seats.
3. WASHINGTON WIZARDS: NERLENS NOEL (6’11”, PF/C, KENTUCKY)
Scouting Report: Natuiral shot blocker with elite jumping ability. Exceptionally quick. Has NBA length. Works very hard; is “coachable.” Will need to add strength and bulk if teams want him at the 5. Has very poor post game. Poor free throw shooter. Poor shooter overall.
Washington will take the best frontcourt player available. In this scenario, that’s Noel, but they’d be thrilled if Noel goes first and Porter falls to this spot. Noel has a bit of that “Kentucky bust factor” surrounding him, and Washington is all too farmiliar with big men who don’t pan out, but they’re set with Wall and Beal in the backcourt, so at least Noel’s lack of offense, especially while he’s learning the NBA game, won’t be that much of a liability.
4. CHARLOTTE BOBCATS: VICTOR OLADIPO (6’4”, SG, INDIANA)
Scouting Report: Elite athleticism. Outstanding defender with the potential to take opposing scorers out of the game. Explosive finisher at the rim. Has the potential to take over the game in stretches. Outside shot needs a lot of work. Ball handling is below average. Sometimes plays out of control. Turns it over too often.
About the only thing you can be sure of is that Charlotte won’t take a point guard, where Kemba Walker remains the starter, and they won’t take a small forward, where Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will be given time to develop. Victor Oladipo, with his defensive intenstiy, is pretty much guaranteed a 10 year plus NBA career, and Charlotte will have plenty of raw material to work with to make him a more polished player on the offensive end.
5. PHOENIX SUNS: ANTHONY BENNETT (6’7”, SF/PF, UNLV)
Scouting Report: Inside-outside scorer with great length and athleticism. Explosive finisher. Range out to the 3. Plays physical inside. Uses his strength well. Has a history of injuries. Lacks ideal size for an NBA 4 and ideal quickness for an NBA 3. Sometimes lacks effort on the glass.
The Suns needs an upgrade on the wing, and while Anthony Bennett isn’t a prototype 3, he provides a variety of skills that can make the Suns better, not the least of which is his one-on-one scoring ability. Size-wise Bennett is a tweener, but he’s shown a skill set that suggests he can find a valuable role.
6. NEW ORLEANS PELICANS: ALEX LEN (7’1”, C, MARYLAND)
Scouting Report: One of the true centers in the draft. NBA ready body. Athletic for his size. Moves well on defense. Blocks and alters shots. Solid rebounder. Has a post game. Has lots of upside. Limited range offensively. Needs to add strength. Sometimes plays timidly. Has had injury problems.
First off, let’s stop making fun of the name Pelicans. It’s far from the worst name I’ve ever heard. New Orleans has a choice here, deciding whether or not “General” Greivis Vasquez is the real deal at the point. I don’t see why they wouldn’t believe in him, and it’s always easier to find a 6’ guy than a 7’ one. Len has a lot of potential but is raw, but the Pelicans got a serviceable performance out of Robin Lopez last year and can afford to bring a big man along more slowly. If Len develops, the combination of him and Anthony Davis up front is an intoxicating one.
Boom or Bust: Maryland’s Alex Len
7. SACRAMENTO KINGS: MICHAEL CARTER-WILLIAMS (6’6”, PG, SYRACUSE)
Scouting Report: True point guard with tremendous passing ability and court vision. Slasher who attacks the basket. Exceptional size for his position. Forces turnovers on defense. Rebounds well. Not a good outside shooter. Can be turnover prone. Needs to improve his consistency.
This is a choice between Trey Burke who is undersized or Carter-Williams who is oversized. Burke is the more polished player, but Carter-Williams has more flash and upside potential. While not a dynamic scorer, Carter-Williams has the potential to be a true stat-sheet stuffer in the Rajon Rondo or Andre Iguodala mold.
8. DETROIT PISTONS: KENTAVIOUS CALDWELL-POPE (6’6”, SG, GEORGIA)
Scouting Report: Natural scorer with unlimited range. Great efficiency on offense. Terrific athlete. Ideal size for an NBA 2. Elite defensive skill set. Uses defense to create offensive opportunities. Settles for the jump shot too often. Lacks slashing ability to get to the basket. Not a great passer. Can be turnover prone.
The Pistons need to decide if they’re ready to give up on Brandon Knight (in which case they’ll take Trey Burke) or move on from Rodney Stuckey. I think they go the latter route and give Caldwell-Pope the opportunity to take Stuckey’s job.
9. MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES: C.J. MCCOLLUM (6’3”, SG/PG, LEHIGH)
Scouting Report: Tremendous scoring ability. Deadly shooter with range out to the 3. Can attack the basket with a variety of moves. Can create his own shot or play without the ball. Gets to the free throw line. Lacks ideal size at the 2 and ideal quickness for the point, making him a true combo guard. May struggle defensively against bigger/faster players. Not a great distributor.
The Timberwolves would have preferred one of the three true shooting guards at this point, but McCollum, if he can learn to defend the 2 consistently (and he known as a solid defender in college), could fill the bill quite nicely. McCollum really isn’t an NBA point guard, so his future in the NBA depends on his making a living as an off guard.
10. PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS: STEVEN ADAMS (7’0”, C, PITTSBURGH)
Scouting Report: NBA ready body. Blocks shots. Rebounds well. Runs the floor well. Has a good work ethic. Passes well for a big man. Has a good feel for the game. New Zealand product who has not played a lot against top competition. Overall offensive game is very raw and needs work. Terrible free throw shooter.
Despite being in the lottery, Portland doesn’t necessarily need to find a starter in this draft, as depth is a huge issue for the Traiilblazers. They can afford to take a bit of a project player like Adams and develop him more slowly.
11. PHILADELPHIA 76ERS: SHABAZZ MUHAMMAD (6’6”, SF, UCLA)
Scouting Report: Great athleticism. Fiercely competitive. Attacks the basket. Explosive finisher. Has 3-point range. Gets to the line. Has a star mentality. Wants the ball in the clutch. Needs to improve his consistency as a jump shooter. Needs to improve as a ball handler. Has medical concerns due to Tourette’s Syndrome.
A lot of experts have mocked Cody Zeller to my Sixers, but I swear if they take another soft big man I will blow my brains out. While some teams may fear Shabazz Muhammad’s mentality, the Sixers DESPERATELY need an infusion of the type of toughness he displays on the court. For my money, Philly can ship out their entire roster except for Jrue Holliday anyway, so drafting for “need” is an oxymoron for this team.
12. OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER: CODY ZELLER (7’0” PF/C, INDIANA)
Scouting Report: Good athleticism. Runs the floor very well. Has a high basketball IQ. Capable and willing passer. Moves well on defense. Decent post game. Needs to add strength. Gets pushed around too easily. Does not play physically underneath. Not a shot blocker.
The Thunder don’t really have any pressing needs and you can never have too much size. Zeller’s shortcomings defensively are less of a concern for Oklahoma City who have master defender Serge Ibaka and tough guy Kendrick Perkins playing in front of him. In that fashion, Zeller could find a role as a change of pace offensive option in the low block for the Thunder.
13. DALLAS MAVERICKS: TREY BURKE (6’0”, PG, MICHIGAN)
Scouting Report: Best pure point guard in the draft. Natural leader and competitor. Clutch player. Tremendous point guard skill set, including ball handling, quickness, passing ability and court vision. Tenacious defender. Undersized as an NBA point guard. Not a great finisher. Lacks high-end athleticism.
Every draft in every sport has that top 5 or top 10 guy who falls. In my scenario, it’s Trey Burke, who could be the steal of the draft if he drops to Dallas at 13. Really the only knock on Burke is his size, and there are literally scores of NBA point guards who have succeeded at his height or less.
1st Round Steal: Point Guard Trey Burke
14. UTAH JAZZ: SHANE LARKIN (5’11”, PG, MIAMI)
Scouting Report: Natural leader, “floor general” type. Great quickness. Excellent pick and roll guard. Good shooter with 3-point range. Consistently makes good decisions with the basketball. Aggressive on defense. Very undersized. Not an elite athlete. Not a lock down defender.
The Jazz have a real lack of depth at the 1 and ideally want to add a starter at the position. Larkin has defied the odds so far given his lack of height and length but each new step up will require him to prove himself all over again.
15. MILWAUKEE BUCKS: SERGEY KARASEV (6’7”, SF, RUSSIA)
Scouting Report: Can shoot the lights out from anywhere on the floor. Good basketball IQ. Decent ballhandler. Good passer. Lacks athleticism. Not a good finisher. Needs to add strength. Defensive liability.
Unless you count Steven Adams, this is the first international player to go. The Bucks can probably make good use of Karasev’s catch and shoot ability, since Monta Ellis draws so much attention from opposing defenses.
16. BOSTON CELTICS: LUCAS NOGUEIRA (7’0”, C, BRAZIL)
Scouting Report: Elite athlete with tremendous upside. Uses length to block and alter shots. Good rebounder who gets points off the offensive glass. Mid-range game is developing. Needs to add strength. Very raw prospect who can’t play a lot of minutes right away. Defensive liability one-on-one. Needs to develop all aspects of his game.
The Celtics seem hot to trade Kevin Garnett, but even if they don’t, they can afford to take a look at a project player with a lot of upside, so Nogueira or Giannis Adetokoubo (who could eventually replace Paul Pierce) is the kind of player that makes sense for them.
17. ATLANTA HAWKS: GIANNIS ADETOKOUBO (6’9”, SF, GREECE)
Scouting Report: Great length and athleticism. Eye-opening ball handling skills. Finishes well. Extremely high upside. Has not played against top competition. High bust factor. Needs to add strength. Needs to adjust to the NBA game. Inconsistent shooter.
No team is looking at more roster turnover this offseason than the Hawks, and they could literally do anything with their back-to-back mid first round picks. Anyone’s guess is as good as anyone else’s without knowing Atlanta’s specific free agent and resigning strategy. Adetokoubo is a potential star in the making, and Atlanta definitely needs to add some star potential to a team full of role players.
18. ATLANTA HAWKS: MASON PLUMLEE (6’11”, PF, DUKE)
Scouting Report: Hard working big man who is a prolific rebounder. Good athleticism. Can block shots. Has a variety of offensive moves close to the basket. Needs to play with more physicality. Lacks a mid range game. Needs to add strength.
Atlanta has to have a plan in place in case Josh Smith leaves, and even if he doesn’t they need front court depth as much as anything. Plumlee projects as a solid NBA role player in the front court.
19. CLEVELAND CAVALIERS: GORGUI DIENG (6’11”, C, LOUISVILLE)
Scouting Report: Good size and length. Good defender and shot blocker. Decent jump shot gives him a viable face-up game. Active rebounder. Needs to add strength. Lacks a good post game. Inconsistent shooter. Upside is limited.
Despite taking Porter #1, the Cavs are still able to add a pretty reasonable big man prospect with their second first round choice. This would be a good haul for Cleveland.
20. CHICAGO BULLS: REGGIE BULLOCK (6’7”, SG/SF, NORTH CAROLINA)
Scouting Report: Good size. Plays well without the ball. Has three point range. Solid defender. Not a good ball handler. Not a great finisher. Relies too much on the jump shot. Can’t create his own shot.
The Bulls need a wingman who can play the 2 and 3 to backup Jimmy Butler and Luol Deng. Of the three players I have slotted here who can fill that need, Bullock, Alan Crabbe and Tim Hardaway Jr., Bullock best fits the Bulls’ defensive identity.
21. UTAH JAZZ: KELLY OLYNYK (7’0”, C, GONZAGA)
Scouting Report: Prolific scorer with a polished post game. Good perimeter player who can pass and shoot. Has range to the 3 point line. Decent strength. Decent rebounder. Plays good positional defense. Lacks athleticism. Can’t block shots. Not a physical player. Doesn’t finish well. Will struggle defensively against elite bigs in the NBA. Not a ton of upside.
With their two picks, the Jazz will almost certainly go big man and point guard. Since I had them taking back court help earlier, they take the best available big man here.
22. BROOKLYN NETS: TIM HARDAWAY, JR. (6’6”, SG, MICHIGAN)
Scouting Report: Solid scorer. Good size and athleticism. Can shoot from anywhere. Finishes well. Plays well without the ball. Cannot create his own shot. Limited ability to drive and score. Limited upside. Average defender.
This is a depth draft for the Nets so the most important consideration for them is getting a player who can contribute as part of their rotation. Hardaway has solid role player written all over him.
23. INDIANA PACERS: ALAN CRABBE (6’6”, SG, CALIFORNIA)
Scouting Report: Textbook shooter with lethal range out to 3. Good leaper who rebounds well for the position. Plays well without the ball. Decent passer. Decent defender. Does not create his own shot. Plays too soft. Doesn’t play with intensity. Not a good ball handler.
Indiana could add shooting with this pick, as I have them doing, or could look for depth at power forward, if one of the big men drops into the 20s.
24. NEW YORK KNICKS: NATE WOLTERS (6’5”, PG/SG, SOUTH DAKOTA STATE)
Scouting Report: Prolific scorer with range out to 3. Can catch and shoot or create his own shot. Flashy ball handler who makes highlight-reel plays. Good size for an NBA combo guard. Lacks athleticism and speed. Didn’t play top competition in college. Needs to add strength.
Some people have Nate Wolters going in the second round, and I hope he does, because I want my Sixers to get him, not the hated Knicks. The South Dakota State product is my official “diamond in the rough” pick for the 2013 draft.
Diamond in the South Dakota rough: Nate Wolters
25. LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS: RUDY GOBERT (7’2”, C, FRANCE)
Scouting Report: Amazing 7’9” wingspan makes him the longest player in the draft. Blocks and alters shots. Rebounds well. Good agility. Runs the floor well. Good finisher. Needs to add bulk and strength. Has zero offensive game in the set offense. Weak ball handler and passer. Doesn’t play with attitude.
The Clippers might trade DeAndre Jordan, so adding youth and depth in the front court is a need. More to the point thought, it’s been ages since the Clips could afford to take a project guy and let him develop. The Clippers make this pick just because they can.
26. MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES: JEFF WITHEY (7’0”, C, KANSAS)
Scouting Report; Legit NBA size. Good timing on shot blocks. Capable help defender. Runs the floor well. Plays smart. Good rebounder. Very limited upside. Has no back to the basket game. Will never be an impact player on the offensive end. Needs to add strength.
Having taken a shooter earlier, Minnesota needs to add front court depth. Withey is not an eye-opening player, but he could have a role as a solid NBA backup.
27. DENVER NUGGETS: TONY SNELL (6’7”, SF/SG, NEW MEXICO)
Scouting Report; Good athleticism and length for an NBA swingman. Has good range out to 3. Talented ball handler. Clutch player. Inconsistent player whose head isn’t always in the game. Needs to add strength. Has talent on defense, but does not always put forth maximum effort.
The Nuggets have some turnover on the wing, and will be looking for a 2 or 3 to add to their rotation. Snell can play both positions and is a bona fide shooter.
28. SAN ANTONIO SPURS: DENNIS SCHROEDER (6’2”, PG, GERMANY)
Scouting Report: Blazing speed. Dangerous player in transition. Solid ball handler and passer. Good court vision. Uses length well on defense. Inconsistent shooter. Needs to add strength. Still a raw player who needs some time to develop.
Does anyone score more regularly with overseas picks than the Spurs. Don’t be surprised if this guy is the Tony Parker of the next decade.
29. OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER: JAMAL FRANKLIN (6’5”, SG/SF, SAN DIEGO STATE)
Scouting Report: Natural scorer who can drive or pull up. Range out to the 3 point line. Good athleticism. Gets to the free throw line. High energy defender. Outside shot can be inconsistent. Lacks ideal size for an NBA swingman. Decision making needs to improve.
I had the Thunder adding depth up front earlier, so they’ll go for depth on the wing here. Franklin has the tools for the NBA, but his game does need some work before he can make an impact.
30. PHOENIX SUNS: TONY MITCHELL (6’9”, PF/SF, NORTH TEXAS)
Scouting Report: Natural combo forward with good athleticism. Runs the floor well. Can block shots. Can score from the perimeter. High motor on both ends of the court. Not a good ball handler. Decision making must improve. Needs to polish his game.
The Suns added a wing player earlier, so they address the frontcourt here, and get a player at great value for the last pick of the first round. Suns fans should be quite pleased if the draft works out this way.