Todd Saltzberg & Jake Weiner
With the NBA Finals wrapping up and the NBA Draft fast approaching, we’re checking back in with our second mock draft. While the 2014 draft is looking like the true prize, there are plenty of difference makers available this season that can help out teams right away. Dario Saric has withdrawn from the 2013 NBA Draft and is not included in this mock draft.
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 Miami struggling and 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)- Oladipo declined an invite to the facility of his hometown Washington Wizards, fueling speculation that he’s received a promise from the Magic. On the other hand, Orlando has also worked out Ben McLemore in the last week–either one could go here. You can’t teach work ethic and athleticism, two of Oladipo’s biggest strengths along with being quick and an amazing defender. Although he shot lights out his last year at Indiana, he will need to improve his jump shot in the NBA. 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)- The Wizards looked like a playoff team the second half of last year and are thus looking for someone who can contribute immediately. Porter is a big small forward who can spread the court as well as get to the rim. He 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, he could 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 given 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. Phoenix would gladly take either McLemore or Oladipo here if one drops.
6. New Orleans Pelicans- Alex Len (C-Maryland)- Len has created a ton of buzz in the last few days with rumors that the Cavs are considering him at #1. Clearly, no one really knows what to think of Len. He has a whole lot of potential on both ends of the court but he recently had ankle surgery. If we know anything about basketball players and leg injuries, it’s that they are often very tricky and recurring. Len looks like the biggest risk/reward scenario in the draft. He could conceivably be the best player or the biggest bust.
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 never be a true star, but he has strong leadership skills and the ability to make the players around him better.
8. Detroit Pistons- Shabazz Muhammad (SF-UCLA)- Muhammad really benefits from fellow forward Dario Saric dropping out of this year’s draft. 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. He can often 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- CJ McCollum (PG/SG-Lehigh)- McCollum has one of the fastest growing stocks based on his workouts. Because he went to a small school and finished the season injured, it’s not surprsing that McCollum’s workouts have teams buzzing. Minnesota is a great fit for a combo guard who can spell Rubio but also play with him. If they don’t trade up for Oladipo or McLemore, then McCollum is the best fit for Minnesota’s backcourt.
10. Portland Trail Blazers- Kelly Olynyk (C-Gonzaga)- Another ugly longhaired player coming out of Gonzaga who I believe will be a bust. 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 . 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 potential 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. Zeller could go higher as his workouts have had several teams talking.
12. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Toronto)- Steven Adams (C-Pittsburgh)- Oklahoma City got this pick through the infamous James Harden trade. 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.
13. Dallas Mavericks- Michael Carter Williams (PG-Syracuse)- Everybody says the Mavs will trade this pick to clear up cap space for CP3/Dwight Howard free agency. This would be a good place to trade into for teams needing a point guard. 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.
14. Utah Jazz- Shane Larkin (PG-Miami)- Larkin makes up for his lack of size with quickness and the ability to find the open man. He’s a tough point guard that will not back down from opposing teams and players. Larkin could be a solid fixture for the forseeable future in Utah.
15. Milwaukee Bucks- Dennis Schroeder (PG-Germany)- With Monta Ellis entering free agency and Brandon Jennings thinking he should get paid like Tony Parker, the Bucks could be in need of a point guard. We don’t know much about the German, but from watching videos and hearing about him he seems to be a quick 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 in Milwaukee’s backcourt.
16. Boston Celtics- Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (SG-Georgia)- The Celtics really missed having a shooter like Ray Allen last year. While it’s impossible to replace a Hall of Fame talent like Allen, Caldwell-Pope’s college stats resemble a similar type player. He has the potential to be a source of instant offense for Boston who you almost certainly wouldn’t leave open from deep.
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)- With Derrick Rose returning, Chicago’s biggest issue to be addressed in the draft is the lack of backup bigs past Taj Gibson. 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- Rudy Gobert (PF/C-France)- Rudy is someone who could stay in France to develop but would also benefit backing up Favors and Kanter for a year (Millsap and Jefferson are pricey free agents). He plays tremendous defense, but has no offensive game and is very raw. Gobert could ease into a useful role for Utah.
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 big men in the draft and will be a great backup, making an immediate impact for the Pacers’ bench.
24. New York Knicks- Tim Hardaway Jr. (SG-Michigan)- Hardaway starred in a fast-paced offensive system at Michigan that would carry over well to the Knicks. He could be a valuable sixth man if J.R. Smith decides not to come back to New York.
25. Los Angeles Clippers- Ricky Ledo (SG-Providence)- This pick obviously depends on what trades and signings the Clips make. Ledo has a lot of talent but could have gone much higher had he qualified to actually play at Providence. One knock against him is that he can’t do much without the ball in his hands, but this amazing athlete should fit in well with the high flying Clippers.
26. Minnesota Timberwolves (via Memphis Grizzlies)- Jeff Withey (C-Kansas)- Assuming Minnesota is able to resign Nikola Pekovic, Withey would make a great backup. Withey plays great D and is an elite shot blocker. He could be an ideal fit next to the offensive minded Kevin Love.
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 of the court and 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