The annual NBA Pick ‘Em is tonight. And while it won’t necessarily feature the sizzle of a marquee prospect a la LeBron James in 2003, Greg Oden and Kevin Durant in 2007 or Anthony Davis in 2012, you can be sure many of the 60 prospects selected will go on to have prosperous careers in the NBA. The question is: “Who are they?” Because, like playing the lottery, some tickets pay out great, some tickets just give you a small prize and some tickets will pay in booby traps and bombs. You just gotta hope that your big man is more Tim Duncan than Michael Olowakandi or that your guard is more Chris Paul than Brandon Roy.
So, with all that said, and knowing full and well everyone and their mama wants to trade down in this Draft or trade for a 2014 first rounder, let’s take a look at how it might go tonight. I’m going to limit myself to just the Lottery picks though (1-14).
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Alex Len, C Maryland
Two things to keep in mind here. One, no one wants to trade up to #1 for anywhere near what the Cavs would need to part with the pick. They want to move up, but not at #1/#1 prices. That will make it harder for the Cavs to not pick here. Two, the choice is down to the raw, but talented Noel or the less raw, not as talented, but less volatile pick of Alex Len. Noel could take years to tap all his talents. Cleveland wants to compete now…
2. Orlando Magic: Nerlens Noel, PF Kentucky
…but Orlando has shown themselves comfortable in taking the more talented big man over the more ready one. They have some frontcourt talent around (Vucevic, Nicholson) and they can give Noel a redshirt season to develop, grow and learn. If Noel goes #1, then it’s Trey Burke or Victor Oladipo time.
3. Washington Wizards: Otto Porter, SF Georgetown
I don’t see any way the Wizards pass on the hometown kid. He’s talented. He’s coachable. He’s got strong support in the nation’s capital and he does all the little things that this team needs — defend, hussle, glue guy. Makes too much sense.
4. Charlotte Bobcats: Victor Oladipo, SG Indiana
The soon-to-be Hornets may be hoping Len or Noel fall to them. If not, the options open up. There’s no spot in their roster that shouldn’t be up for grabs in this young Charlotte team. Oladipo has been acing his workouts and interviews and could go even higher as questions regarding his age and development have fallen against his talents and work ethic. And if new owner Michael Jordan wants him, they’ll take him.
5. Phoenix Suns: Anthony Bennett, SF UNLV
The expectation is that the Suns will go with a guard who can score to help improve that area. After all, they went hard after Eric Gordon last year and then got Goran Dragic and drafted Kendall Marshall. Though undersized to be a PF, his wingspan and athleticism make Bennett one of those intriguing picks that has shown enough flashes to be interesting. Phoenix won’t have issues with his health concerns given their medical staff’s renown.
6. New Orleans Pelicans: Ben McLemore, SG Kansas
The question for the newly-christened Pelicans is: do they take Trey Burke if he’s there at #6 or go elsewhere? All indications are that Burke is their pick — which ought to throw people off because Dell Demps doesn’t show his cards that easily. If McLemore slides — which has been projected for a week now — and he’s there at #6, he would offer a lot of scoring potential for a team in need of scorers. His flaws could also be masked by playing alongside Anthony Davis, Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson.
7. Sacramento Kings: Trey Burke, PG Michigan
Sounds crazy, right? Let’s say that the Kings are serious about Tyreke Evans being moved to the wings as a small forward. And let’s also say that they are serious about trading Jimmer Fredette away to a team like Indiana. That leaves Isiah Thomas as their primary PG. So why not take the highly-rated Wolverine PG? Yes, there’s as many fans as detractors of Burke and questions as to who will be the first PG taken. But it’s not as crazy as it sounds.
Last year, the Pistons took the raw but defensively-talented Andre Drummond and while rumors abound of their interest in backcourt players, it’s unlikely Joe Dumars will go chasing for someone. Zeller has had a strange year — from presumptive #1 pick to barely-a-lottery pick after the NCAA Tourney this year — but his talent and willingness to work are getting him back up boards. If he’s there, he and Drummond could make an interesting frontcourt pairing.
9. Minnesota Timberwolves: CJ McCollum, G Lehigh
Rumors abound that the Wolves are desperate to take Victor Oladipo — but not crazy enough to trade Kevin Love to Cleveland. If they’re stuck at #9 and can’t land Oladipo, they couldn’t do better than take the Lehigh guard who’s getting comparisons to Stephen Curry and Damon Lillard. Putting McCollum on the floor with Rubio, Love and Budinger gives the Wolves a dynamic set of shooters that will create mismatches.
10. Portland Trail Blazers: Sergey Karasev, SG Russia.
The BC Triumph/Russian national team guard can shoot. He shoots all day. He shoots all night. For the Wolves, who have their core in LaMarcus Aldridge and Damon Lillard, it’s all about finding pieces that complement and go around those two. One is Nicholas Batum at one wing and Karasev could be the one at the other wing. I’m doubtful they’ll go after a Steven Adams/Kelly Olynyk after using last year’s #11 on Meyers Leonard, even if he struggled.
11. Philadelphia 76ers: Lucas Nogueira, PF/C Brazil
The Sixers made the big move for Andrew Bynum and it bit them back big time. Now, they’re not sure if Bynum will be back or if they want to bring him back. All the same, there should be a Plan B in case Bynum is no longer a Sixer and that could be “Take the best big man available at #11”. If Zeller is there, he’d fit nearly perfectly in terms of needs and wants. If he’s gone, it would likely be Nogueira, whose rebouding, high motor and potential should have teams after him. Comparisons to Joakim Noah (minus the personality) don’t hurt either.
12. Oklahoma City Thunder: Kelly Olynyk, C Gonzaga (From HOU via TOR)
The Thunder always go Best Player Available. Always. But in this Draft? With everyone bunched up as they are? Look, if Michael Carter-Williams is the best player on the board, that’s who OKC will take. But I can’t ignore the obvious and glaring issues in the frontcourt — namely Kendrick Perkins. Last season’s series against Memphis showed why you need frontcourt depth, talent and size. So it’s Olynyk or Adams or Nogueira or whichever big man is available here.
13. Dallas Mavericks: Michael Carter-Williams, PG Syracuse
There’s a very good chance Dallas sells this pick to entice a team to take Shawn Marion’s contract off their hands and give themselves some cap relief. If not, then they need players who can step in and contribute almost immediately in order to help Dirk Nowitzki maximize the next few seasons he has left. MCW could be the highest PG taken in this Draft. He’s long, a quality defender and can create for others.
14. Utah Jazz: Dennis Schroeder, PG Germany
While he may be thinking he’s going to Boston and compares himself to Rajon Rondo, it’s a good chance he could be gone by then. Schroeder is one of those intriguing international prospects whose handle excites and could be kept in Europe for another year to let him improve. The Jazz don’t need more frontcourt help — in fact, there’s a good chance they lose both Jefferson and Millsap in free agency. But with Kanter and Favors there, they’re still good.