Todd Saltzberg & Jake Weiner
With the NBA Draft around the corner, I’m excited to see how these prospects develop into NBA players. While the draft doesn’t have much star power, I think it has a lot of depth. There are a lot of players who can be a 3rd or 4th starter on teams and glue guys who will help their team in other ways. Without further ado, here is my mock draft. If you like this mock, or even not, follow me on twitter @salty23. I need followers.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers– Nerlens Noel (C-Kentucky)- The (lack of) star power in this draft is on display with the projected top pick rehabbing an ACL tear. Noel is a great defender and rebounder, but his offensive game and strength need a lot of work because he will be going up against bigger and better players. I think Noel lacks the strength to be an elite NBA player, but Cleveland has long-term solutions at three positions in Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson. With LeBron James approaching free agency rapidly, this pick makes the most sense for the Cavs if they don’t trade it. In addition, Cleveland could let Noel take the whole year off to rehab his knee, increasing their odds at 2014’s number one pick and true prize: Andrew Wiggins.
2. Orlando Magic– Victor Oladipo (SG/SF-Indiana)- You can’t teach work ethic and athleticism, two of Oladipo’s biggest strengths along with being quick and an amazing defender. He will need to improve his jump shot in the NBA, but he has a lot of time to work on that. Oladipo is a good fit for the rebuilding Magic, who want to build a core that can grow together into a playoff squad.
3. Washington Wizards– Otto Porter (SF-Georgetown)- This year’s draft is key for the Wizards as they could be ready to take the next step and make the playoffs with the right pick. Porter is a great fit with young talents John Wall and Bradley Beal. He is a big small forward who can spread the court as well as get to the rim. Porter can score in transition and plays tough defense. Overall, Porter is someone who is solid at everything, but not great at one certain thing. While I don’t think he will ultimately be the best player in the draft class, I think he will win Rookie of the Year due to the immediate impact he will make.
4. Charlotte Bobcats– Anthony Bennett (PF-UNLV)- I see Bennett as the best player in this draft (and Bicky thinks I’m crazy for that), but I don’t think he will win Rookie of the Year because I don’t believe he can make the impact that Porter will because of the difference in talent around them. Bennett is a power forward who can bang down low and also shoot. The Bobcats need pretty much everything, but this is a good start.
5. Phoenix Suns– Ben McLemore (SG-Kansas)- A star in college, I have doubts about McLemore in the NBA. He’s a great shooter who plays hard, but when the going gets tough he disappears. That will happen a lot more on a team like Phoenix against the more difficult competition of the NBA. We’ll see how he adjusts, but you have to take a player like McLemore here because of his tremendous upside and All-Star potential.
6. New Orleans Pelicans– Alex Len (C-Maryland)- No one really knows what to think of Len. He has a whole lot of potential on both ends of the court, but he has recently had ankle surgery. If we know anything about basketball players and leg injuries, it’s that they are often very tricky and recurring. Personally, I think Len is out of the NBA in 5 years, but when a true center is on the board, you have to pick him over other amazing talents, right Portland?
7. Sacramento Kings– Trey Burke (PG-Michigan)- A small quick point guard, Burke would have been lauded as a number one pick if he was a couple of inches taller. He’s been compared to Chris Paul, which in my opinion is unfair and a little outrageous. I do believe that his toughness, on display during March Madness, will make up for his size. Burke may not be CP3, but he’ll be a solid NBA player.
8. Detroit Pistons– Shabazz Muhammad (SF-UCLA)- Two out of the past three drafts, the Pistons have capitalized on a player with high upside dropping to them. Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond look like a formidable force going forward. Shabazz was once the number one recruit in the country for his class and talked about as a #1 pick. On the right team, Shabazz could be a star—a poor man’s Carmelo Anthony—and I think the Pistons are the right team for him. The big problem he has is he can only create plays with the ball in his hand. When he does make plays, he can score at will, but he also plays poor defense. Muhammad is one of the few players who can make a difference right away and bring the Pistons to the next level.
9. Minnesota Timberwolves– Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (SG-Georgia)- The T-Wolves really need a shooting guard, and while Pope is a reach, he is the best shooting guard available by far. Because he went to Georgia, you may have not heard of him as much but he is a great shooter and could beat a team based on that alone. I could also see the Wolves trading up for Oladipo or McLemore to get a shooting guard who can do more, but I believe if they keep this pick Pope will be the choice.
10. Portland Trail Blazers– Kelly Olynyk (C-Gonzaga)- Another ugly longhaired player coming out of Gonzaga who will be a bust, I believe. The Trail Blazers need a center, and Olynyk could fit with them well. He is a grinder, who next to LaMarcus Aldridge might do well scoring points. He also is a team player, as he redshirted his junior year to improve and benefitted a lot. He went from an unknown to a lottery pick.
11. Philadelphia 76ers– Cody Zeller (PF/C-Indiana)- Zeller has range and a decent post game. The Sixer’s new GM has said Andrew Bynum is “just another free agent”, so that trade was a bust as they lost a productive year from Andre Iguodala for nothing. They will need a replacement for Bynum, and Zeller will be a good pick here for them, even if he’s not the franchise center they thought they had.
12. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Toronto)– Steven Adams (C-Pittsburgh)- The Thunder have the luxury of waiting for a player to develop, and Adams is very raw since he just came from New Zealand before the season. The tremendous amount of potential he has could make him a perfect fit, especially if they amnesty Kendrick Perkins in the future. This is the definition of “high-risk, high-reward”. If it works out, the Thunder will be more dangerous than people thought they would be and MAYBE the Harden trade won’t be such a robbery.
13. Dallas Mavericks– CJ McCollum (PG/SG-Lehigh)- Everybody says the Mavs will trade this pick to clear up cap space for CP3/Dwight Howard free agency. I believe whoever trades for this pick takes McCollum. Everyone is looking for the next Damian Lillard. Before he got hurt, McCollum was having a great season, and of course everybody remembers Lehigh beating Duke as a 15 seed. McCollum is small, but can score at will, and I for one am excited to see how his game transitions into the NBA.
14. Utah Jazz– Michael Carter Williams (PG-Syracuse)- Carter Williams is a big point guard with tremendous passing ability, quickness and defense. He can’t score very well, but if he doesn’t shoot his team out of games he will be able to succeed in the NBA. The Jazz will be lucky to get him here as they have been looking for a franchise PG since Deron Williams left. MCW could be elite and is a steal here.
15. Milwaukee Bucks– Dennis Schroeder (PG-Germany)- With the Bucks appearing to try and keep Monta Ellis instead of Brandon Jennings, they need a point guard. We don’t know much about the German, but watching videos and hearing about him, he seems to be a quick point guard who can shoot and pass. He’s young and raw, and isn’t as strong as most NBA players, but could improve and be very solid next to Ellis.
16. Boston Celtics– Rudy Gobert (PF/C-France)- Another foreign player, Gobert is 7’2” with long arms and raw, but he isn’t going to play a lot right away. He plays tremendous defense and a guy by the name of Kevin Garnett would likely be his mentor. He can learn from a future Hall of Famer at the tail end of his career and slowly work his way into NBA minutes. If KG takes him in, Gobert could really be solid.
17. Atlanta Hawks– Jammal Franklin (SG-SD State)- Without Joe Johnson’s Contract, the Hawks have been looking for a player who can supply them instant offense and shoot. Franklin is that guy. He is quick, shoots well and draws contact. He could be a great role player alongside anyone for the Hawks. If they can sign a big time free agent, Franklin might make an immediate impact off the bench.
18. Atlanta Hawks (via Houston)– Sergey Karasev (SF-Russia)- The second of two straight picks, Karasev has been compared to Toni Kukoc, and as we Bulls fans know, who doesn’t need a Kukoc? The Hawks already have a solid core, and could add on to it another player who can come off the bench and score.
19. Cleveland Cavaliers (via Los Angeles Lakers)– Giannis Adetokoubo (SF-Greece)- Another foreigner with tremendous upside. He is a 6’9” forward who can handle the ball and shoot. If he went to college in the states, people would be drooling over him—he can guard any position on the court. The big problem with him is he needs to bulk up to be able to go against the big men of the NBA.
20. Chicago Bulls– Mason Plumlee (C-Duke)- We all know the Bulls really need a back up center after letting Omer Asik walk, and old man Nazr Mohammed won’t cut it. Plumlee is a winner and that is what the Bulls look for in their draft picks. He will fit very well in the system, giving Noah rest he needs without hurting the team like Nazr Mohammed. As the second big off the bench, he can make an immediate impact for the Bulls.
21. Utah Jazz– Tim Hardaway Jr. (SG-Michigan)- The Jazz are in a tough spot, because they have to decide on resigning Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson, and the roster could look very different depending on the outcome. Regardless, Hardaway will fit in well there as the shooter he proved to be in college. He is a hard worker and should succeed as a great role player in the NBA.
22. Brooklyn Nets– Tony Mitchell (SF/PF-North Texas)- Mitchell is a very interesting case. He has always had potential and if he came out after his freshman year he could have been a lottery pick. He had a sophomore slump, but declared for the draft anyway. He is a tough player on offense and defense. For a team like the Nets who can take a risk, this could be a great pick and put them closer to the list of contenders for the Larry O’Brien trophy.
23. Indiana Pacers– Gorgui Dieng (C-Louisville)- The Pacers have basically no bench, with Tyler Hansborough and Ian Mahinmi as their first two bigs. Roy Hibbert is one of the best centers in the league but he can’t play all 48 minutes. Dieng is one of the best defensive centers in the draft and will be a great backup, making an immediate impact for the Pacers’ bench.
24. New York Knicks– Reggie Bullock (SG/SF-UNC)- The Knicks are a run and gun team, often without much defense (especially when Tyson Chandler is banged up). Reggie Bullock is a run and gun player who is a perfect fit for the Knicks, especially with the possibility of JR Smith leaving via free agency. If that happens, Bullock could possibly take the Sixth Man of the Year’s role and make an impact.
25. Los Angeles Clippers– Shane Larkin (PG-Miami)- The Clippers have to prepare for Eric Bledsoe’s departure if Chris Paul himself doesn’t decide to leave. Larkin would be a very solid backup in either scenario. A solid leader, he came onto the scene at Miami this year and is very tough and quick, even though he is very small. Realistically, the Clippers are drafting him hoping he will be a backup, but he could be a reliable starter in the NBA—throwing oops to Blake Griffin always makes your job a little easier.
26. Minnesota Timberwolves (via Memphis Grizzlies)-Deshaun Thomas (SF-Ohio State)-He may be a tweener in the NBA, but his ability to shoot and find ways to score will be big. With Derrick Williams possibly on the way out, Thomas can replace him with much less pressure on him, considering he would be the 26th pick and not the 2nd. Thomas can give some good bench minutes and would be great value here.
27. Denver Nuggets– Allen Crabbe (SG-Cal)- Crabbe can shoot lights out. As a bench player for a team starved for shooting like the Nuggets, he can make an immediate impact. With athletes and players that demand a defense’s attention, Crabbe can come off Denver’s bench immediately and make some three pointers.
28. San Antonio Spurs– Mike Muscala (PF-Bucknell)- This could be a stretch here, but without much depth at the position, the Spurs are going to need a power forward for when Duncan retires soon. Muscala dominated the Patriot League, averaging a double double. He can play well on both sides on the court and can pass. He won’t be expected to play immediately, but will learn from the best power forward of all time in Tim Duncan.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder– Archie Goodwin (SG-Kentucky)- Goodwin is very athletic and probably should have stayed another year or two at Kentucky, but as weird as it sounds, his draft stock could be at it’s highest now in a weaker draft. He is quick and can get to the basket, but can’t shoot. If he can get a reliable jump shot, Goodwin can become a very solid NBA player.
30. Phoenix Suns– CJ Leslie (SF/PF-NC State)- Leslie is a very good athlete who can get to the rim at will. He can handle the ball well for his position and is very strong. He could be a top talent in this draft, but when the going gets tough, Leslie tends to disappear and get aggravated. For a team like the Suns that have a lot of rebuilding to do, this could be a very good pick at the end of the round, considering his potential. If he is able to be able to play through the tough times, this could be a nice addition to Phoenix’s rebuilding process.