Eds. Note: This mock isn’t necessarily intended to predict what teams will do, but to spell out what WE would do at each pick. Some of that is likely to map onto what teams actually end up doing on Thursday, some isn’t.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers – Nerlens Noel, C, Kentucky
Patrick J: I think the Cavs go with the conventional wisdom here. In a draft without a sure-thing superstar, you go with talent and size, especially when there’s a seven footer with potentially upper upper level shotblocking skills and defensive instincts.
Andy G: Can’t disagree, here. It’s not so much that NERLENS is can’t-miss as much as there’s probably not a sure thing anywhere in this draft and it’s pretty easy to see how his game carries over to modern NBA defense, often times built around roaming paint protectors.
Plus, that flat top.
2. Orlando Magic – Anthony Bennett, PF, UNLV
Andy G: All signs point to Orlando NOT drafting Bennett. I’m just here to point out what a mistake that will be. Orlando stinks, they’re going to stink this year again, and they’ll be drafting very high in the star-studded 2014 draft. So why not take the best player available now, and start with a foundation that people can actually get excited about? Bennett is recovering from rotator cuff surgery and will likely start this season a little slow — maybe even overweight. (!) But once he gets healthy, the talent is obvious and he’ll be one of those players that a good team will be paying a lot of money someday.
Patrick J: Concur on Bennett. I’ve said lots of times that I think he’s going to be a beast. And I still do. I’d consider taking Bennett at number one, but would take Noel based on a coin flip and the logic I laid out above. But in Bennett, you’re getting a guy with much higher offensive upside and versatility. The downside is, for all the defensive talent and ability you’re getting in Nerlens, you’re pretty much getting the opposite in Bennett, whose offensive game far outstrips his D.
3. Washington Wi’zards – Otto Porter Jr, SF, Georgetown
Patrick J: I don’t like Porter as more than a role player in the NBA. A third-option-at-best kind of guy. And that’s not very exciting at number three overall. But the ‘Zards actually have some really nice pieces in place at the point (John Wall), the two (Brad Beal), and in the frontcourt (Nene and Okafor). Martell Webster, no matter what he shot last year, is the weak link, and he plays the three. Whether or not Porter will prove to be the best player available in the long run, I think he immediately makes Washington better at an important position for them if they’re gonna make the playoffs before 2019.
Andy G: I’m not really sure what to think of Porter. I take from reading Canis Hoopus that the stats like him. I saw him play a few times and wasn’t overly impressed — but the Tayshaun Prince comparisons make some sense, which isn’t bad value in this year’s draft lottery. If nothing else, he can probably fill in the gaps of that Washington offense, and maybe become a plus defender in a Kirilenko sort of way.
4. Charlotte Bobcats – Ben McLemore, SG, Kansas
Andy G: The only thing I can say about Charlotte, in this draft, is that Charlotte wishes it were a better draft. Don’t get me wrong, I like McLemore (especially for the Timberwolves) but I don’t really love him going to a totally rebuilding team like the Bobcats. But MJ’s hands are tied with this one, particularly after drafting Michael Kidd-Gilchrist so high, last year. With MKG providing the type of energy and intangibles that have fans excited about Oladipo in this draft, Jordan is best served going with the smoother offensive player this time around. McLemore and MKG would be a wing pairing that — if ever led by a dominant point guard — could look pretty good.
Patrick J: Is it wrong to say that I secretly want Michael Jordan to draft Alex Len, just so he can be re-united with PDW favorite Byron Mullens? And so MJ can buttress his reputation as perhaps the worst talent evaluator in the NBA Draft this side of David Kahn? I digress.
On McLemore, he’d be a steal for the Bobcats at #4. He’s got a silky smooth jumper and nice athleticism and looks like the quintessential NBA SG. There’d be a lot of pressure for the Bobcats to draft Oladipo here, but that seems like a dicier fit than McLemore, given that Oladipo brings a lot of the same qualities at the two that MKG brings at the three. The ‘Cats need more balance, size, and firepower – McLemore would bring all of those things to Charlotte. (Even though I agree that I’m not sure how much I like putting a guy with McLemore’s, errr, disposition, onto a Charlotte Bobcats team.)
5. Phoenix Suns – Victor Oladipo, SG, Indiana
Patrick J: The Suns are lucky to get a crack at Oladipo at five. He’s a plus defender. He’s got that insane (possibly literally) work ethic. And Phoenix needs that to counterbalance the acquisitions of Wes Johnson and Mike Beasley. This is a step forward for the Suns organization.
Andy G: Agree. Suns are comparable to Bobcats as far as hope for the immediate future goes. Take the best talent, and here that’s ‘Dipo.
6. New Orleans Pelicans – C.J. McCollum, G, Lehigh
Andy G: This is a tough one. The Hornets have the outline of a pretty nice roster, if everybody is healthy (read: Eric Gordon). Ideally they’d land a small forward here to replace Al-Farouq Aminu, but I just don’t know who that would be that’s available after Porter. The decision amounts to whether to bolster depth in the frontcourt (where they have Ryan Anderson/Robin Lopez/Anthony Davis) or the backcourt (where they have Greivis Vasquez and Eric Gordon). Since Eric Gordon is a perpetual trade rumor — even when he’s healthy and playing — I think they take the combo guard from Lehigh here.
Patrick J: Yeah, I guess you could make an argument that you’d want to pick Alex Len here to swap in for Robin Lopez. But this mock isn’t really a mock, it’s a list of who WE would take if we were making the call. And I wouldn’t take Alex Len sixth overall.
McCollum is one of the most interesting players in the draft. He put up killer numbers at Lehigh. He seems like a great kid. He’s clearly a nice athlete. He can shoot the lights out. But even though McCollum gets billed as a point guard, I think he’s more of a combo – just like Gordon. If you’re taking the BPA here and the BPA is McCollum, then I think you’ve gotta shop Gordon hard. (Flip Saunders, are you reading?)
7. Sacramento Kings – Cody Zeller, PF/C, Indiana
Patrick J: The Kings roster is full of deficiencies. Where to start? You could literally fill gaps at the 1, 2, 3, and 4 (depending on how you value Isaiah Thomas and Tyreke Evans). Cody Zeller has a lot of upside as an NBA power forward. He is long and athletic (oh my!) and runs the floor like a deer. He might be the only player left here with All-Star potential, unless you like Trey Burke a lot more than I do. And he’d be a nice fit at the four in Sacramento. I’d grab Zeller here if I’m the Kings.
Andy G: Kings would be wise to pluck Zeller here. His mobility and skills would nicely complement Big DMC at center.
8. Detroit Pistons – Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG, Georgia
Andy G: Some would call this a reach, and maybe it is. Alex Len is still on the board and his 7’1” frame would be late-lottery upside reminiscent of last year’s Piston pick, Andre Drummond. But that’s the thing: Detroit already has Drummond. They have Greg Monroe, too. It comes down to Trey Burke, who plays the same position as Brandon Knight, or a slew of wings like KCP, Shabazz Muhammad, Sergey Karasev, and Giannis Antetokounmpo. I feel pretty confident in saying Detroit picks KCP out of that crop.
Patrick J: The Pistons seem to think that Brandon Knight is actually a two guard, and that Rodney Stuckey is actually a D-Leaguer, which would mean they need a point guard, unless they’re good with Will Bynum as a long-term solution (they’re not). Trey Burke is the hometown hero. I get your logic on KCP but disagree, even though the Pistons could use some outside shooting.
We’ll have more–including analysis of the Wolves’ pick at #9–in our next post.