After Nerlens Noel suffered a season ending ACL injury, McLemore became the favorite to be the top pick. But with inconsistent play, culminated by a dreadful tourney performance in which he scored two points on 0-9 shooting vs. UNC, McLemore left the door open for Noel to go first even with the ACL injury. McLemore bounced back with a big final game against Michigan, showing off his feathery touch and athletic gifts. He is not a finished product and scouts will nitpick his level of assertiveness and lack of a fiery personality leading up to the draft. But at the end of the day, he’s the guy in this draft with the greatest shot at becoming a superstar.
Orlando executed its plan to rebuild quickly by trading away veterans and ending up with the most losses on the year. They got into ideal position with the second pick and will likely take whomever is left over between Noel and McLemore. Noel’s length, leaping ability and cat-like reflexes make him an extraordinary shot blocker. He shows a willingness to hustle and play hard, which combined with his elite-level athleticism is very encouraging. His offensive game, however, is extremely raw and may never be anything more than dunks and hook shots.
The Jan Vesely experiment has not worked out, leaving the door open to add local guy Otto Porter. Another local product, Maryland center Alex Len, is a possibility. Porter made a very impressive jump from his freshman to sophomore seasons, showing no difficulty in becoming the leader of the Hoyas and winning Big East Player of the Year. Porter is about as low risk as it gets in this draft, but his ceiling isn’t as great as some of the other top prospects.
Charlotte is probably the team most devoid of talent in the league and Bennett has been talked about as a possible No. 1 overall pick and gives them the upside they desire. Despite being 6-7, Bennett’s wingspan makes him essentially a 6-9 player and he’s got massive shoulders and hands. Bennett wins the award for most vicious dunks in college as he had numerous dunks that reminded fans of Shaq. He lacks the foot speed to defend on the perimeter, essentially making him a stretch 4.
Similar to Charlotte, the Suns really need to swing for the fences with their pick and go for upside and that’s exactly what Len offers. Though he’s been unable to work out for teams, his early-season performance dominating both Nerlens Noel and Willie Cauley-Stein remains fresh in scouts’ minds. Len shows the agility to get up and down the floor, make plays at the rim and the touch to knock down shots from mid-range. While some may knock his fluidity, toughness and consistency, bigs take time.
New Orleans will hope that Burke can make the same type of impact that his idol Chris Paul made on the city. Burke was not only the top PG in the nation this year, he was the best player in the nation. He carried the Wolverines all season with a will to win that was unmatched on the college level. On the negative side, Burke lacks elite-level speed and athleticism, making it a challenge for him to gain separation on opponents. But his immeasurables — competitiveness, heart and determination — are off the charts.
A solid character guy like Zeller could be a nice addition to Sacramento’s dysfunctional family. Zeller failed to live up to the preseason hype and much of the time chose to defer instead of taking on the role of Indiana’s star. It obviously took a toll on his draft stock, but a tremendous combine has him back on track. His 35.5-inch standing jump is the highest recorded for a big man in years. Zeller shows the ability to knock down mid-range shots with regularity and runs the floor like a gazelle, which is rare for a 7-footer.
It’s possible Oladipo will be long gone by this pick, but he would be an ideal addition to a team with a young and talented frontcourt and a solid young PG in place in Brandon Knight. Oladipo is a late bloomer who draws rave reviews for his demeanor and personality. While he may lack superstar potential, he appears to be the ultimate glue-type player as an overachiever who brings boundless energy. His explosiveness is off the charts (42-inch vert at combine), particularly off of two feet and his shooting and ball handling have shown surprising improvement. At 6-4 in shoes, he’s undersized, taking his long-term potential down a notch.
CJ would probably be used in a combo role spelling Ricky Rubio at times at the point and also shifting off the ball where he has proven to be highly effective. Rubio’s size would help as the team might struggle some defensively while on the floor together, but would be a handful to contain offensively. As a likely first-rounder in 2012, some questioned McCollum’s decision to return to campus despite knocking defending champion Duke out of the NCAA tournament almost single-handedly. This year CJ was able to establish himself in many scouts’ minds before going down with a season-ending broken foot.
Blazers owner Paul Allen attended a KCP workout, so the interest in him is apparent. He is an underrated athlete with the ability to get to the rack as well as create and knock down shots on the perimeter. He doesn’t blow you away in any one area, but he’s a good shooter and scorer.
Bebe is on the rise after an outstanding adidas Eurocamp in which he validated his surprising season showing maturity and focus. He dominated the competition showing great mobility, length and energy. Sixers GM Sam Hinkie was in attendance and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Bebe climb up to this spot considering the Sixers need for an athletic defender. Nogueira is extremely raw, but players with his size and agility are rare.
There are some parallels between Adams and Byron Mullens which could dissuade GM Sam Presti from selecting him, but Adams brings the kind of size and rebounding potential that the team could use. Adams was a surprise entry as many felt he needed more time in college to develop his feel for the game and post skills. Adams used a very strong draft combine performance, displaying a surprisingly accurate mid-range jumper, to likely ensure a place in the top 20.
The Mavericks could opt to go international and take a stash pick with free agency in mind and a possible run at Dwight Howard and Chris Paul. But if they decide to keep things more conventional, a player like MCW could be their long-term PG if he lives up to his potential. Carter-Williams is a true point guard with tremendous size. At 6-6 he reminds some of the high school version of Shawn Livingston that many became so enamored with before his tragic knee injury.
Utah is in need of a point guard and has been linked to Larkin and it’s uncertain whether they can wait to get him at the 21st pick. Larkin recorded the highest vertical leap ever at the draft combine with a 44-inch running jump. He was not far behind Trey Burke in terms of being a team leader and floor general on the college level and there are a number of scouts that actually prefer Larkin to Burke as a prospect.
With rim protector extraordinaire Larry Sanders already in the fold, Olynyk would be the perfect complement to their frontcourt as a polished, offensive-minded big. He was flying way under the radar before this season, having redshirted last year with Robert Sacre as the team’s starting center. He was arguably the most dominant big in the country and despite Gonzaga’s flame-out in the tourney, he was solid. Kelly lacks great athleticism and quickness, but shows the skill set of a 10-year veteran.
Rumors persist that Schroeder has a promise, and our sources have indicated that Boston is the team that has promised him. Obviously the team already has Rajon Rondo, but no one is expecting most of the players from this draft to instantly become starters. Schroeder used a tremendous week in Portland at the Hoop Summit to skyrocket up teams’ draft boards. He combines elite quickness with solid decision-making. While his season in Germany was just average, he seems to have made real strides recently.
The Hawks are in a nice position with back-to-back picks and should be able to snag a player that slides on draft night. Credit Shabazz for participating in the Chicago draft combine, but subpar shooting did not help his cause. Scouts aren’t sure what he brings a team if he’s asked to be a role player. He’s got the desire but has a lot of skill development left to work on.
Plumlee was one of the surprises in college this year, but may slip to the teens due to his case of "senior-itis." Similar to last year with Tyler Zeller, younger prospects with more perceived upside may ultimately push the senior into the second half of the first round. He added some offensive skills around the basket, and played the year with surprising consistency. He is a better version of his brother Miles who somehow landed in the late first round in 2012.
The Cavs won the lottery and can add a position of need here with a SF like Snell, who has been steadily moving up teams’ boards since declaring for the draft. He had better-than-expected athleticism numbers at the draft combine and shows excellent ability to knock down outside shots as well as find open looks off the dribble. He’s an unselfish player with upside and just needs to work on his level of intensity and consistency.
With Carlos Boozer’s status uncertain in the future, Mitchell would offer nice insurance and depth at power forward with the versatility to play some small forward as well. He surprised many by returning to North Texas for his sophomore year and was unable to enhance his draft stock. He is a unique player as he combines freakish length (7-foot-3 wingspan) and explosiveness. He seems to be convinced that he’s a 3, and despite his chiseled physique, apparently does not enjoy battling in the paint.
Gobert struggled some at the draft combine as he looked mechanical and slow running the floor. On the bright side, he has ridiculous length with a 7-foot-9 wingspan. He also possesses good shooting touch and appears to have a body that will allow him to add strength and eventually battle in the paint in the NBA. He struggled to put up consistent numbers in the French League. So the question is whether teams will be willing to look past the lack of productivity and draft him on potential.
Adetokoubo would bring the Nets a nice piece for the future as well as a player to leave in Europe and keep off their books for a few seasons. After watching Adetokoubo in Jesolo, Italy in early June, it’s apparent that he needs a lot of time (three seasons or so) before he’ll be ready to play in the NBA. He’s very skilled and long, but lacks strength and explosiveness at this point.
The Pacers are in pretty good shape at all positions and with Paul George and Lance Stephenson’s emergence aren’t in need of a young wing, but Hardaway would add depth and shooting on the perimeter. Hardaway Jr. shows mental toughness and consistent effort at all times. He has a well-developed offensive game with good elevation and form on his shot. The big knock on him has always been foot speed as he lacks a great first step to beat opponents off the dribble. He grew up around the game, and that is apparent with his focus and feel.
Dieng would help add depth to an aging frontcourt that battled injury trouble all year with Tyson Chandler and Amar’e Stoudemire. Dieng benefited from Louisville’s deep tourney run, as he was able to display the ability to consistently knock down mid-range shots. While not a speed burner, he shows good defensive abilities, particularly in blocking shots. Dieng missed a portion of the year with a fractured wrist, but his return coincided with the team’s resurgence as he anchored Louisville’s interior defense. His condor-like 7-4 wingspan makes him a formidable obstacle around the basket.
The Clips could use some additional firepower off the bench and Crabbe has nice scoring ability. The Pac-12 Player of the Year, Crabbe has a sweet outside shooting stroke and solid athleticism. He also possesses good size for the 2-guard position. The biggest knock against him has been his toughness, level of intensity and consistency. He had a solid finish to the year, leading Cal into the second round of the tourney, but it seems that he’s a player that needs a push (or shove) to motivate him.
Karasev would be a nice addition for the T-wolves at 26 to eventually join Minnesota’s Russian duo (AK47 and Shved). He decided to stay in Russia up until the draft, instead of doing workouts or participating at the Eurocamp, fueling speculation that he has a promise. His jump shot, while a bit unorthodox is his biggest strength and should have him in position to grab a late first-round spot. His English is good, and he seems to have the type of personality that will allow him to adjust to American culture without much of an issue.
Denver is in solid shape with depth at each position and may look for a player to leave in Europe for a season or two. Livio was another big winner from this year’s Hoop Summit, leading all scorers and rebounders with 27 and 13. His season playing in France was modest but he’s shown a strong motor and brings great energy to the floor.
Bullock would offer the Spurs another weapon off the bench as a shooter. Bullock has been a name on the rise throughout the draft/workout process as he has one elite-level skill and that’s shooting the ball. He’s got prototypical size for the shooting guard position and three years playing in the ACC gives him excellent experience. The one concern scouts have is his inability or unwillingness to attack the rim.
Reggie Jackson has begun to emerge as Russell Westbrook’s backup with some solid performances in the playoffs. Wolters would add more depth and be able to push Jackson in the backcourt. Showing great creativity and a flare for the dramatic, Wolters is a flashy lead guard who some scouts are extremely high on. He is solid athletically but lacks elite quickness off the dribble and needs to improve upon his outside shooting.
The Suns take a somewhat local guy as San Diego and Phoenix are a hop and a skip away, and Franklin offers energy and athleticism to a team in need of talent. Franklin is a bit of a 2/3, showing better ability to slash and affect the game with his athleticism than smooth guard skills, but he competes hard. Some concerns linger about character and attitude. An incident flipping off a fan and/or referee have him on the first-round bubble.