OK, I’m throwing this for a lark, like I did last year. Take this for what it is: about as useful a guide to the NBA’s upcoming suit soiree as wings on a fish. All the same, it is fun to extrapolate the various possibilities – even if, in such a wide field, the reality is that things will follow a certain order.
So for you that didn’t hear, the Cleveland Cavaliers won the right to pick first in the next NBA Draft, leaping ahead of the worst-record-having Orlando Magic, who settle for 2nd overall. What does that mean? Let’s look at the Top 10:
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Nerlens Noel, PF Kentucky
Noel is a raw, defensive stud with incredible length and could one day become the next Dikembe Mutombo. The key word next to Noel is “raw”. He’s 19, has years of physical and basketball development to go and I could see the Cavs trading this pick for someone who really loves Noel and is willing to spend the years developing him.
2. Orlando Magic: Trey Burke, PG Michigan
The Magic may be disappointed at landing at #2 given they had the worst record. That said, they find themselves in a position to take their pick of the backcourt talents available. While he may not be the most talented – there’s as many detractors of Burke as there are supporters – Burke’s likely to be the first PG to come off the boards.
3. Washington Wizards: Anthony Bennett, SF UNLV
The Wizards leapt up to land here at #3. They have plenty of options to go, but let’s assume they won’t take a guard, what with having John Wall and Bradley Beal. The best option then becomes taking one of the two talented small forwards, either Bennett or Otto Porter. Porter is the local kid but he’s also the more raw of the two. Bennett might be more NBA-ready and that might tip the scales his way.
4. Charlotte Bobcats/Hornets: Ben McLemore, SG Kansas
The soon-to-be-redubbed Hornets would be thrilled at landing the very talented Jayhawks guard. There’s actually a pretty good chance that, if he slides, teams would be scrambling to trade up to take him ahead of Charlotte, who can always use more talent infusion everywhere. McLemore on one wing and Kidd-Gilchrist on the other is a good way to go. If Burke falls here, he would be an option too.
5. Phoenix Suns: Victor Oladipo, SG Indiana
Last year, the Suns were all set to pay for Eric Gordon. They didn’t get him, but the need for an off-the-ball guard with defensive capabilities remains. Oladipo is drawing comparisons to Gordon and to Dwyane Wade with his athleticism, scoring and defensive abilities. If he lands in their laps, they’d be thrilled to have him at a fifth of the cost of Gordon’s contract.
6. New Orleans Pelicans: Otto Porter, SF Georgetown
Given where they landed, the Pelicans would be thrilled if Porter is still available as he fills one of the two major holes in the roster – PG being the other. Porter is still raw and will need to grow in order to be able to compete with physical specimens like LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony. He can switch to the off-guard position too while he grows. His intelligence and willingness to learn ought to make him a favorite of Monty Williams.
7. Sacramento Kings: Dario Saric, F Croatia
Now that we know the Kings are staying, questions need to be answered. In terms of this roster, it is brimming with talented, precocious or underachieving talents – Evans, Fredette, Patterson and Cousins but a few. They probably don’t need to add more youth right now, which makes taking Saric a good option. Whoever ends up putting the roster together can stash him in Europe for another season or two, sort out what their master plan is going to be and then bring him when he’s ready for the NBA – or flip him for more assets if he’s no longer in their plans. Not sexy, but doesn’t clog their process.
8. Detroit Pistons: CJ McCollum, G Lehigh
McCollum is drawing comparisons to last year’s Rookie of the Year, Damian Lillard. Like Lillard, he comes from a small school. Like Lillard, he’s better known for his offensive touch. Like Lillard, there are questions about his game given the competition he faced. But if he can be Lillard Version 2.0, then the Pistons would gladly take him as they are starving for offense.
9. Minnesota Timberwolves: Cody Zeller, PF/C Indiana
The Timberwolves take the Hoosier big man as insurance policy just in case they can’t keep Kevin Love or if a deal that’s too good to pass up materializes. As things stand, they have a big need to prove to Love that they can challenge before he bolts for LA. So if the chance to add more veteran pieces does occur, they could look to move this pick to someone who wants to move up to nab someone.
10.Portland Trail Blazers: Kelly Oynyk, C Gonzaga
Didn’t they just take Meyers Leonard last year? Yes, yes they did. But he didn’t have the best of rookie seasons and there’s nothing that says they cannot take another big frontcourt player. Olynyk is a true 7-footer and, while not really athletic, could be the type of C that can mesh well with LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard. He’s not going to do things outside his game and will act for the betterment of the team.