Here’s how we see things playing out Thursday night.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers — Kyrie Irving, PG, Duke: The Cavs have reportedly decided on their guy, and it’s Irving. He has a chance to be an All-Star level guard when he reaches his prime, but the expectations on him will be considerable as the top overall pick. He lacks superstar athleticism and the Chris Paul comparisons may be raising expectations too high. The hope for Cleveland is that he can make his teammates better, and therefore impact a team more than an athlete like Williams.
2. Minnesota Timberwolves — Derrick Williams, SF/PF, Arizona: Williams worked out for Minnesota on June 17 and was described as "a monster" by their scouting staff. The T-Wolves’ best play would be to move Michael Beasley. It’s unclear if B-Easy has much trade value considering most teams are skeptical that you can win with him. Williams, who measured and tested extremely well at the combine, has proven that he’s a winner. Minnesota is said to be shopping the pick, but in reality they should grab Williams and see what he can become for them.
3. Utah Jazz — Enes Kanter, C/PF, Kentucky: We’re hearing that Kanter is going to be the Jazz pick at 3. He gives them a legitimate big man for the future. He’s missed two years of development, but has kept himself in great shape and got a chance to practice every day with a Final Four team.
4. Cleveland Cavaliers — Jonas Valanciunas, C, Lithuania: The Cavs have long coveted Valanciunas and Dan Gilbert feels confident that he can get his buyout worked out. The consensus among European scouts is that Valanciunas is worthy of a top-5 pick and many feel he has even more potential than Kanter.
5. Toronto Raptors — Brandon Knight, PG, Kentucky: Knight is the guy that GM Bryan Colangelo wants here and with Utah taking Kanter at 3, Knight falls to them at 5. For a young rebuilding team, Knight will have time to develop without too much expected of him right away. He’s one of the most clutch and mentally tough freshmen that you will find.
6. Washington Wizards — Jan Vesely, SF/PF, Czech Republic: The Wizards have long been high on Vesely and his transition game would work extremely well with John Wall. Vesely shoots free throws about as well as Shaq, but his outside shot isn’t so terrible, so there’s hope he can improve upon it with work. Vesely is not a great defender but his length and athleticism gives him a chance to develop.
7. Sacramento Kings — Kawhi Leonard, F, San Diego State: Leonard’s poor combine athleticism results might be attributed to the fact that he didn’t warm up ahead of time. His lack of shooting ability is a concern, although he has shown some improvement after the season ended. The Kings could always opt for a PG here, but they appear to be leaning toward Leonard and could potentially find a sleeper like Norris Cole at 35.
8. Detroit Pistons — Tristan Thompson, PF, Texas: Thompson plays the same position as last year’s first-rounder, Greg Monroe, but his skill set is completely different, allowing them to coexist. Thompson has worked out extremely well and is showing tremendous hunger and will get consideration before this pick. His forte is defense and energy, while his offensive game remains raw.
9. Charlotte Bobcats — Marcus Morris, PF, Kansas: Charlotte could use a versatile forward with scoring ability and toughness. Tyrus Thomas is more athletic but doesn’t have the same skill set nor the ability to play the 3. Morris was one of the most productive players in the country last year and has the versatility to play either forward position.
10. Milwaukee Bucks — Klay Thompson, SG, Washington State: Thompson has become a hot commodity in the 9-10-11 range as he’s seen as a low-risk pick who should be able to contribute immediately. The Warriors would gobble him up at 11, and there’s a chance a team will trade for him or Milwaukee will draft him. Unlike many players in this year’s draft, Thompson instantly has an NBA skill with his ability to shoot the ball.
11. Golden State Warriors — Alec Burks, PG/SG, Colorado: Burks has struggled some in workouts as his strength needs to improve. He was one of the top performers in college basketball all season and is our top-rated SG prospect. His versatility and ability to fill in at the point adds to his intrigue. Burks never worked out for the Warriors but then again neither did Stephen Curry.
12. Utah Jazz — Jimmer Fredette, G, BYU: Taking Kanter at 3 allows Utah to grab a player with a built-in fan base. There are questions whether Jimmer can make it as a full-time PG, but even if he can’t he’s certain to make it in the role of a Ben Gordon, Eddie House, instant-offense scorer.
13. Phoenix Suns — Markieff Morris, PF, Kansas: The Morris Twins have built a reputation for bringing intensity and toughness every time out. Some envision Markieff becoming the better pro (over Marcus) due to his size and better ability to fit a position (PF). Phoenix can use some toughness in the paint and Markieff has skills to boot.
14. Houston Rockets — Chris Singleton, SF/PF, Florida State: The Rockets lost a lot of defense when they traded away Shane Battier. Singleton is seen as one of the few potential lockdown defenders in this year’s draft. Houston has a lot of assets and odds are it will make some deals on draft night.
15. Indiana Pacers — Kemba Walker, PG, UConn: With Utah taking Kanter, Walker could slide all the way into the teens. He would be a great value at 15 and could compete with Darren Collison for the starting PG position. Despite his incredible season, there are some concerns over whether he is a true point guard and big enough.
16. Philadelphia 76ers — Bismack Biyombo, C, Congo: The Sixers would like to add a beast inside to do the dirty work and Biyombo fits the bill. His lack of offensive skills were readily apparent in his workout in Treviso. How much offensive game he can develop is debatable as is his true age. A tremendous shot blocker, he uses his quick reflexes, length and explosiveness to protect the rim.
17. New York Knicks — Nikola Vucevic, C, USC: The Knicks would love to add an eventual PG replacement for Chauncey Billups. They feel that Jimmer Fredette would be a great fit within the D’Antoni system and are looking to move up to 13 to grab him. If not, Vucevic is a real possibility here because of his ability to knock down shots from the center position.
18. Washington Wizards — Donatas Motiejunas, PF/C, Lithuania: Despite projecting a big Euro forward to Washington at 6, Motie and Vesely bring very different skill sets and would work together as a combination. Despite receiving a lot of criticism for his perceived lack of intensity, Motiejunas had himself a very solid season. He’s a finesse forward and despite lacking great toughness and rebounding, he could develop into a poor man’s Dirk.
19. Charlotte Bobcats — Iman Shumpert, PG/SG, Georgia Tech: Rumors continue to swirl around Shumpert landing within the teens somewhere. He’s a top-notch ball handler, defender and athlete in the mold of Houston’s Terrence Williams. Unfortunately, he has some of the same red flags as Williams surrounding his attitude.
20. Minnesota Timberwolves — Jordan Hamilton, SG/SF, Texas: The T-Wolves need to add a SG and would jump all over Hamilton if he slips this far. Minnesota could use Hamilton’s scoring ability and readiness to contribute. He’s one of the draft’s top shooters and measured very well at a legit 6-8. With a real need for a 2-guard, Marshon Brooks is a possibility here as well.
21. Portland Trail Blazers — Kenneth Faried, PF, Morehead State: Portland has long been tied to Faried and he would give them a specialty rebounder coming off the bench. Despite lacking much in the way of offensive skills, Faried’s freakish athleticism and relentless approach to rebounding is intriguing.
22. Denver Nuggets — Tobias Harris, SF/PF, Tennessee: Denver has Harris on its short list of players. After moving Carmelo Anthony, this is a team in the process of rebuilding and Harris is the youngest player in the draft. He can do a little of everything with good vision, passing and ball-handling abilities.
23. Houston Rockets — Marshon Brooks, SG, Providence: Brooks has some interest from teams in the lottery after some strong workouts and there are rumors he could go as high as 9. He proved to be a deadly scorer this season at Providence and a handful to guard with the ball in his hands. His length (7-1 wingspan) allows him to play a few inches bigger than his 6-5 height.
24. Oklahoma City Thunder — Reggie Jackson, PG/SG, Boston College: With Jackson sitting out the NBA predraft combine and workouts, there has been a lot of speculation that he has a promise in place and we’ve received word that OKC could be the team. The team is said to be shopping backup point guard Eric Maynor and that could be to clear room for Jackson. Reggie lacks great PG skills but has a huge (7-foot) wingspan and is a quality isolation player.
25. Boston Celtics — Trey Thompkins, PF, Georgia: Danny Ainge will likely look to bolster the team’s aging and depleted frontcourt. After receiving heavy criticism for his high body fat and perceived laziness, Thompkins could end up falling into the second round. He’s easily the most polished offensive big man available. The big question is whether he will stay motivated.
26. Dallas Mavericks — Nikola Mirotic, SF/PF, Montenegro: Mirotic recently signed a new deal and is unlikely to be available to play for three years. He’s one of the elite shooting prospects in Europe with combo forward skills. Mirotic allows the Mavs to stash him overseas and have more money to go after free agents to defend their title.
27. New Jersey Nets — Davis Bertans, SF, Latvia: Bertans is said to have a promise in the 20s somewhere. There’s also a chance that a team will trade into this range to acquire a pick to select him. Bertans is possibly the top shooter in the entire draft and although he’s a few years away, he could be a very intriguing option to stash overseas.
28. Chicago Bulls — Kyle Singler, SF, Duke: With a contending team, Chicago could use Singler’s all-around feel for the game and NBA-readiness. While Singler’s combine athleticism numbers (30-inch vertical) didn’t help his cause, his basketball IQ, skill level and toughness should make him a mainstay in the NBA for years to come.
29. San Antonio Spurs — Tyler Honeycutt, SG/SF, UCLA: If the Spurs are looking for an upside pick, Tyler is about as "boom or bust" as it gets. He has surprising vision and passing skills for a SF and also possesses some ability to knock down shots off the dribble. Despite being slight of frame and having a perceived lack of toughness, Honeycutt crashes the boards hard.
30. Chicago Bulls — Norris Cole, PG, Cleveland State: After some strong workouts, Cole is getting looks in the late first round. He’s a quick and athletic point who has been fighting an uphill battle due to playing in a smaller conference. CJ Watson recently signed an extension, but Cole could add depth and eventually push him for the backup position.