NBA GM: Draft offers ‘no one we have to have’

An NBA general manager whose team is headed to the playoffs said he’s glad his team isn’t playing the draft lottery.
And not just because it’s in the postseason.
“There isn’t a whole lot to choose from this year,” the GM told FOX Sports Ohio. “Our scouting department has done their usual due diligence, and we’ve found there’s no one in this draft we have to have.”
The GM said he wouldn’t call this draft lousy — despite that very description being used by numerous scouting services and websites. But he does think most of the top prospects will take longer than usual to make an impact in the NBA.
“There’s no one close to Kyrie Irving or Anthony Davis or (Damian) Lillard or anyone like that,” the GM said. “We don’t see many immediate difference-makers. None, actually.”
Irving was selected No. 1 overall by Cleveland in 2011; Davis No. 1 by New Orleans the year after that.

Lillard, the frontrunner for this season’s Rookie of the Year, was also drafted in 2012 — No. 6 overall by Portland.

This draft, however, “is probably full of guys like Derrick Williams,” selected second overall by Minnesota in 2011. Williams struggled in his first season, but appears to be coming around recently with increased playing time.
Meanwhile, the 2011 draft also produced San Antonio forward Kawhi Leonard and Denver forward Kenneth Faried. Each were selected later in the first round, and each has displayed loads of promise in his first two NBA seasons.
Leonard was selected 15th overall (by Indiana), and Faried went 22nd.
“This is the perfect draft for that type of situation — guys drafted later who go to good organizations and surprise,” the GM said. “It always seem to happen whenever there’s a so-called ‘bad’ draft. That’s because the talent level among prospects seems to be very similar. No one’s really separated themselves.”
Instead, the GM said, this draft is ripe with players who possess “upside,” but again, not necessarily NBA-ready skills.
The GM said if his team had the No. 1 pick this year, he would most likely select Nerlens Noel, a freshman forward/center from Kentucky. This despite the fact Noel went down in early February with a torn ACL. He’s not expected to be ready in time for pre-draft activities this summer, either.
Noel averaged just 10.5 points per game. He’s viewed as a strong defender and decent rebounder with a long ways to go offensively.
Then there’s that whole knee issue.
“In a lot of drafts, (Noel) would go top 10, but definitely not top three,” the GM said. “But a lot of people questioned (Detroit big man) Andre Drummond lastyear, and he looks like he’s gonna be pretty darn good. Noel can be that kind of player. In this draft, that makes him a no-brainer to me.”
Other top prospects according to the GM (in no particular order): Kansas freshman shooting guard Ben McLemore, UNLV freshman forward Anthony Bennett, Georgetown sophomore forward Otto Porter and Syracuse junior center Gorgui Deing.
“McLemore could probably use another year of school, but I think he’ll be pretty good two or three years down the road,” the GM said. “Bennett worries me a little, because he’s sort of a tweener forward like Derrick Williams.

“But I really like Porter — he could be Danny Granger-like. As for Deing, he’s just impressed us with his athleticism and shot-blocking.”

The Portsmouth Invitational pre-draft tournament (for seniors only) will be held next week in Virginia, with the draft lottery scheduled for May 21. The actual draft will be held June 27.

Follow Sam Amico on Twitter @SamAmicoFSO