Most NBA general managers and team executives aren’t getting all uptight about this year’s draft lottery. Basically, there’s no one guy GMs feel like they have to have.
Most seem to think you could land as good of a player with the fifth overall pick as you can at No. 1. But most also seem to believe there’s an abundance of prospects who could offer immediate help — and that’s really what the draft is all about.
Here’s a look at how things are shaping up, with plenty of time to reconsider before the actual draft on June 27 (order based on final regular-season records; lottery is May 21):
1. Orlando: Nerlens Noel, PF, Kentucky — Out with an ACL injury, but still considered the best athlete in the draft with NBA-ready defensive skills and a developing game on offense.
2. Charlotte: Cody Zeller, C, Indiana — 7 feet tall and skilled, he needs to get stronger and probably tougher near the basket. Still, scouts admire his athleticism and intelligence. 3. Cleveland: Otto Porter Jr., SF, Georgetown — Heady player who excels in no particular area, but does just about everything very well.
4. Phoenix: Ben McLemore, SG, Kansas — Classic shooter with loads of potential as a scorer, but mediocre postseason has scouts feeling nervous. 5. New Orleans: Alex Len, C, Maryland — A little mechanical, but has great size and never forces a thing. Will need to be more aggressive, though.
6. Sacramento: Trey Burke, PG, Michigan — Not a classic point guard, but tough with a built-in desire to win. Makes big plays. 7. Detroit: Victor Oladipo, SG, Indiana — Improving perimeter shot bodes well for all-around athlete and solid defender. Could climb via pre-draft workouts.
8. Washington: Anthony Bennett, SF/PF, UNLV — At 6-8, scouts still are wondering what position he’ll play in NBA, but there’s no doubting his nose for rebounds or 7-0 wingspan.
9. Minnesota: Shabazz Muhammad, SG/SF, UCLA — Crafty with the ball and finds ways to score. Not a great athlete but knows the game.
10. Portland: C.J. McCollum, SG, Lehigh — Missed most of the year with a foot injury, the fact remains he can get open and knock down perimeter shots. Smart and fluid.
11. Philadelphia: Sergey Karasev, SG, Russia — Possesses a true scorer’s mentality and is strong off the dribble. Has a knack for finding the open man, too.
12. Oklahoma City (via Houston and Toronto): Steven Adams, C, Pittsburgh — A work in progress, but that’s OK — he’s 7-foot with a big upside. In this draft, that counts for a lot.
13. Dallas: Michael Carter-Williams, PG, Syracuse — Can score in bundles, yet never really showed consistency on offense. Scouts like his defense and ball-handling, however.
14. Utah: Mason Plumlee, PF, Duke — Rugged with an expanding offensive game. Always crashing the boards.
15. Milwaukee: Jamaal Franklin, SG, San Diego State — Quickly climbing the draft charts thanks to his athleticism and determination. Can’t shoot, though. 16. Boston: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG, Georgia — Outstanding athlete whose stock is rising. Can get to the rim but needs to improve his outside shot.
17. Atlanta: Tony Mitchell, SF, North Texas — Passionate with an evolving perimeter shot. Could use some polish in all areas.
18. Atlanta (from Brooklyn via Houston): Kelly Olynyk, C, Gonzaga — Springy with a nice shooting touch. Needs to act more willing to mix it up underneath.
19. Cleveland (from Lakers): Gorgui Dieng, C, Louisville — Not likely to provide much offense, but can really jump and has great timing for blocking shots and snaring rebounds. 20. Chicago: Rudy Gorbert, C, France — Stands 7-1 with a ridiculous wingspan, but must get more physical. Offers a nice touch near the rim. 21. Utah (from Golden State): Giannis Adetokoubo, SF/PF, Greece — Athletic and can play inside or out. Very raw, but pretty promising.
22. Brooklyn: Allen Crabbe, SG, California — Can fill it up and fairly fluid offensively. Has a ways to go as a defender, though.
23. Indiana: Jeff Withey, C, Kansas — Top-notch defender who protects the rim. Just don’t ask him to handle the ball or put it in the basket.
24. New York: Archie Goodwin, SG, Kentucky — Finished strong after a disappointing start, and he’s proving to be nimble and a shrewd scorer. 25. L.A. Clippers: C.J. Leslie, SF, NC State — Strong athlete who can do a little of everything. Still developing in all areas.
26. Minnesota (from Memphis): Lucas Nogueira, C, Brazil — Great size (7-0) and can run the floor. All that’s lacking is an ability to finish or operate in the halfcourt. 27. Denver: James Ennis, SF, Long Beach State — Outstanding athlete who defends. Not a great shooter, but not awful, either.
28. San Antonio: Isaiah Austin, PF, Baylor — Fairly soft and inconsistent, but that’s not all bad. After all, he is a 7-footer with developing skills.
29. Oklahoma City: Erick Green, PG/SG, Virginia Tech — Not really a playmaker, but finds ways to score. Scouts like his resilience.
30. Phoenix (from Miami via Lakers): Deshaun Thomas, SF, Ohio State — Doesn’t really do much more than shoot. Still, has plenty of potential when it comes to scoring.