One thing is for sure, Cavaliers GM Chris Grant marches to the beat of his own drummer. No one had Bennett pegged as the No. 1 pick. He has the talent to be No. 1 but issues surrounding his proper NBA position and rumors of offseason weight gain seemed to drop him a few spots on everyone’s big board. He says he is a small forward at the next level, but he doesn’t shoot it well enough currently and will have a tough time guarding other SFs in the league. What he does have is a massive wingspan and a versatile offensive game.
After fielding calls for trade offers all day long, the Magic elected to hang onto this pick and snag Oladipo. He is this draft’s premier perimeter defender and has the potential to develop into a Tony Allen-level, first-team All-NBA defender. His offensive skills are a work in progress (particularly his ball-handling and catch-and-shoot skills), but he made tremendous strides in both areas during his sophomore season in Indiana (60% FG, 44.1% 3pt). Oladipo is blessed with rare athletic ability as well as an unparalleled work ethic scouts and NBA execs raved about during interviews. He is this draft’s safest prospect and will maximize his skills.
The Wizards go across town to pick up the Georgetown product. While Porter lacks the upside of some of the other potential picks at this slot (say, Noel or McLemore), his jump-shooting ability and defensive prowess should allow him to immediately slide into the Wizards’ starting lineup. Playing alongside John Wall and Bradley Beal should partially alleviate concerns about his passivity, as he won’t be asked to carry the scoring load. It’s the ideal situation for Porter.
The draft lottery hasn’t been kind to the Bobcats over the last two years. Even so, the team still had a shot at taking one of the top talents in this draft with either Noel or McLemore. There were rumors that the team really liked Oladipo but that Zeller was a close second. Zeller’s stock dropped considerably after a less-than-spectacular NCAA tournament but apparently not enough to knock him too far down on the Bobcats’ board. Zeller has loads of talent but struggles when he is asked to bang down low in the post. McLemore was the better fit considering how badly the team needs scoring but in the end, Zeller’s high basketball IQ and upside at the four spot was too much to pass on.
New Phoenix general manager Ryan McDonough has a massive rebuilding project ahead of him. He starts in the middle, taking the big Maryland center. Despite not making any of the three All-ACC teams his sophomore year, Len possesses an intriguing combination of size, length (7-foot-3.5) and athleticism (grew up as a gymnast in his native Ukraine). Len is surprisingly agile for his size, with the ability to cover a lot of territory without expending much energy. However, he would disappear for large stretches of games last year (to be fair, you would too if you played with his guards) and he has a high center of gravity, which can allow stronger players to push him off his spot. It will be up to the phenomenal Phoenix Suns training staff to help him overcome the stress fracture he suffered in his foot – a scary injury for any big man.
Noel’s slide ends before it becomes catastrophic. He probably would’ve gone to the Suns, but their team doctors red-flagged him (and considering their training staff’s rep, that could be a long-term problem). While Pelicans fans might have dreams about teaming up Noel with fellow former Wildcat Anthony Davis, Noel is on his way to Philadelphia after a trade to the Sixers.
Congratulations Sacramento, you might have just gotten the best value pick in the draft. With the addition of McLemore, the Kings get one of the top talents in the draft at a spot where they never thought he would be. McLemore is a player who can and will come in and contribute right away. He has tremendous range on his jump shot and is one of the better scorers in this draft. This pick signals the end of the line for Tyreke Evans, who has had a tumultuous first few years in the league.
Perhaps Brandon Knight isn’t moving to the 2-guard, after all? Joe Dumars has built a solid nucleus through the draft, landing Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond for his frontcourt. He addresses his backcourt by selecting the high-scoring Georgia product. Despite playing with the worst supporting cast of any lottery pick, Caldwell-Pope made tremendous strides during his sophomore year, boosting his averages to 18.5 points and a terrific 7.1 rebounds. He might be this draft’s premier shooter off the dribble is also a devastating finisher in transition and a very good man-to-man defender.
Sure, point guard is Minnesota’s most loaded position, but the Wolves already have a (questionable) history of overloading at that position. However, that isn’t going to be the case this time. Burke isn’t going to be in the backcourt with Ricky Rubio. The national player of the year will be traded shortly to the Jazz. He’ll immediately fill the Jazz’s backcourt needs. His size is an issue, but if he can overcome that he’s got the tools to be a successful starter in the league.
The Blazers hope they can catch lightning in a bottle twice with mid-major stars. Last season’s No. 6 pick Damian Lillard was the NBA’s Rookie of the Year at point guard. McCollum is your classic combo guard who is used to playing with the ball in his hands but has also shown the ability to play off the ball. He suffered an injury during his senior season that some thought would cost him in the draft. It didn’t and now the Blazers could feature a small yet explosive scoring backcourt for years to come.
Fresh on the heels of the major Jrue-Holiday-for-Nerlens-Noel-and-picks trade, the Sixers were faced with a big hole at point guard. Enter Michael Carter-Williams. Much like Holiday, Carter-Williams is a big, athletic point guard who can see over the top of defenses and possesses the physical attributes to be a lockdown NBA defender. But unlike Holiday, Carter-Williams isn’t much of a shooter right now and he struggles when longer defenders sag off of him and dare him to knock down perimeter jumpers.
The final piece of the James Harden trade falls into place as the Thunder pick up the Kiwi big man. While Adams is clearly a project, he made great strides over the course of the past season at Pittsburgh. He’s got the ideal blend of size, athleticism and energy to be an impact player, but needs more seasoning. Since he’s relatively new to playing basketball, expect the Thunder to stash him in the D-League to start the year in order for him to get minutes needed to improve.
The Mavs are in full-scale Dwight Howard mode. Clearing cap space so that they can sign him to a max deal is their top priority. By trading this pick to the Celtics, the Mavs accomplish the goal of not adding another guaranteed salary to their roster. For the Celtics, who are in trade talks with the Nets for K.G. and Paul Pierce, this signals a full-scale rebuilding mode. Olynyk is the most polished offensive big man in this draft and will be a solid building block during their rebuilding process.
Before we start talking red flags, let’s discuss why the Timberwolves traded for Muhammad. He is a legitimate lottery-level talent who plays with an edge. He is a crafty, nimble scorer who can put the ball in the bucket in a variety of ways. Of course, no discussion about Muhammad can take place without mentioning the age controversy, or the occasionally poor body language, or the lack of top-shelf athleticism that could make him a dreaded tweener (not explosive enough to be a 2-guard, not big enough to be a small forward), or the defensive lapses, or any number of reasons why this top-rated high school prospect fell to No. 14. But playing alongside Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio should put Muhammad in a tremendous position to succeed.
He’s been rising up draft boards despite being one of the hardest players to gauge. While highlight reels make the 18-year-old look the part, he’s only played against extremely weak talent. He’s got an intriguing body (Kevin Durant comps have been wildly thrown about) and handle for his size. The Bucks should probably stash him in the D-League for a year or two, but it’s unclear if they’ll be patient enough to do so.
The Mavericks traded Noguiera and last year’s draft pick Jared Cunningham to the Hawks in exchange for the 18th overall pick and the No. 44 pick in the second round. Nogueira is a guy that really blew up in recent weeks. He is still a very raw international prospect that likely won’t make an impact on an NBA roster for at least another two years or so but he is long and athletic which are two things that teams really love at this point in the draft.
The German speedster exploded onto the scene at this year’s Nike Hoops Summit, as he more than held his own against the top U.S. prospects. Schroeder is a pure point guard who excels in the pick-and-roll, thanks to his uncanny knack for finding creative passing angles and his ability to knock down perimeter jumpers. He excelled against top-level German competition and projects as the midway point between Darren Collison and Rajon Rondo. Perhaps this signals Jeff Teague’s exit? He is a restricted free agent and may have played well enough to price himself out of Danny Ferry’s rebuilding project.
For a second there it looked like the Hawks went all David Kahn on us! Instead, Larkin looks to be headed to Dallas. The Mavs definitely need an upgrade at point guard, and Larkin should be able to get minutes early. While he doesn’t have ideal size, he’s got burner speed and solid shooting. Darren Collison better be packing his bags.
After shocking the world and taking Bennett with the No. 1 overall pick, the Cavs decided to go with an international talent in Karasev. He was projected a lot higher than this with rumored promises to the Mavericks and Hawks, but in the end he falls to the Cavs. He isn’t likely to come over to the NBA this season but he has a lot of value at this point in the draft. He is an above-average shooter but struggles with his overall consistency. He is just 19 years old and one of the youngest players in the draft so there is plenty of time for him to grow and develop the consistency on both ends of the floor that he needs to play at the next level.
The Bulls grab another athletic, versatile wing in Snell to go along with Jimmy Butler and Luol Deng (who has seen his name show up in a bunch of trade rumors lately). Snell is a long, lanky wing with terrific measurables for the small forward position and a terrific perimeter shooting stroke. Snell connected on 39 percent of his threes last season on 4.7 attempts per game. However, he often drifts during games and was criticized for his lack of assertiveness at New Mexico. He rarely takes the ball to the rim and he doesn’t rebound as well as he should, given his size/athleticism.
Traded to the Timberwolves, Dieng seems to have limited offensive potential, but his shot-blocking and rebounding skills could be enough for him to stick in the league (ideally as a backup). During Louisville’s national title run, the Cardinals didn’t shy away from letting him set up the offense with catches at the free throw line extended. He’s more comfortable there than with his back to the basket. He could fill a need if the Wolves aren’t able to resign Nikola Pekovic.
The Nets, who are in serious talks with the Celtics to acquire Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, are in a win-now mode and Mason Plumlee is a four-year player from Duke who can come in right away and be a key role player off the bench. Plumlee really came into his own last season as he developed a consistent low-post game, improved his free-throw shooting and was one of the leading candidates for Player of the Year much of the season. He is extremely athletic and still has room to improve.
The Pacers make a major reach for Hill, who most scouts had listed as a second-rounder, but this pick could end up working out for a team desperate for bench help. Hill, a four-year starter for Arizona, is the type of wing who doesn’t have a single elite-level skill or top-notch athleticism, but he’s good-to-very-good at everything. He can handle, pass, shoot and defend at a passable level, and if he can extend his shooting range beyond the NBA 3-point line, he could end up having a Jared Dudley-esque career for a team that needs a lot of help behind Paul George and Lance Stephenson.
If the Knicks are planning to cut the cord on J.R. Smith, this pick makes a lot of sense. While Hardaway doesn’t have any truly elite skills, he also doesn’t have many holes in his game. His game is balanced on both ends of the floor and he’ll be ready see minutes off the bench right away. Hardaway has the potential to be a role player for many years to come.
Bullock is an underrated defender who can rebound and shoot the lights out. He didn’t get the kind of recognition he deserved because the Tar Heels struggled out of the gate last season. His stock really started to rise after the draft combine, where he wowed scouts with his size, strength and ability to shoot the ball. The Clippers have a need on the wing with Caron Butler getting long in the tooth, Grant Hill’s retirement and Matt Barnes’ impending free agency.
The Thunder traded for Roberson and don’t have anyone quite like him on their roster, so his defense/rebounding/athleticism game should fit in nicely alongside their high-scoring All-Star duo of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Roberson wasn’t projected as a first-round pick by most scouts, given his limitations offensively, but he projects as a solid tweener/energy guy in the frontcourt. He’s a bit slight for the 4-spot and he can’t shoot it well enough to play small forward for long stretches, but he’ll do most of his damage on tip-ins, backcuts, and hustle.
The French center has crazy size (including an unreal 7-9 wingspan) and isn’t a stiff out on the floor. He’s got the skills to run the floor and contribute on the defensive end, but he needs to get stronger to compete at the NBA level. It’ll take years to get a proper read on Gobert and the Jazz, who acquired Gobert from Denver in a draft-night trade, could easily stash him overseas while he develops.
Fresh off of their Finals loss to the Miami Heat, the Spurs are in great position to be contenders again next season. But Jean-Charles is still very young and very raw, so he’ll probably be another international prospect signed by the Spurs who doesn’t join the team for a few years.
Traded to the Suns, whose rebuilding project continues with perhaps the rawest prospect available in Goodwin. He struggled mightily at times during his freshman season at Kentucky, but he possesses excellent size, speed and athleticism for either guard spot. He is also one of the youngest prospects in this class (turns 19 on Aug. 17 – youngest American in this draft). His jumper needs serious work and he gets a bit tunnel-visioned in the halfcourt, but the talent is there. If the Suns can be patient in his development, they might end up with one of the top players from this draft in 3-5 years.
The Warriors close out the first round by trading for the Serbian guard, who has elite athleticism for a European player. He’s an effective scorer despite not having a polished jump shot. He’s undersized for a 2-guard and lacks the skills to be a point guard, so it’s no sure thing that he sees the league anytime soon.