Len, Oladipo, Porter waiting to hear their names called
There was a pre-lottery mock draft followed by another immediately after we learned the Wizards jumped up to the No. 3 overall pick. Now, with less than 24 hours before Thursday's selection spectacular, I offer my final batch of draft projections (updated 2:08 p.m.)
1) Cavaliers - Nerlens Noel, C, Kentucky. Purely based on positional need, the small forward-lacking Cavs could certainly take Georgetown's Otto Porter Jr. If Cleveland's goal is to select an offensive-minded center, Maryland's Alex Len gets the nod. Yet in a draft lacking surefire prospects, Noel's shot blocking prowess is as much of a can't miss skill as any. With other bigs on the roster, Cleveland can afford to let the 6-foot-11 Noel recover from knee surgery. And hey, if he misses a good chunk of the season and Cleveland misses the playoffs, next year's draft class is really exciting (this last line applies to basically every team in this year's lottery).
2) Magic - Victor Oladipo, SG, Indiana. If any team needs to trade out of their top-5 slot, it's this one. Ideally Orlando could use a point guard, but none of the options are worthy of a selection this high. Many feel Oladipo, the local kid and DeMatha product, and his defensive-minded skill set is indeed appealing. If Orlando secures the engaging wing guard - or goes for a shooter in Ben McLemore -, it could add fuel to the rumored talks of a sending Arron Afflalo to the Clippers for point guard Eric Bledsoe.
3) Wizards - Otto Porter, SF, Georgetown. As I wrote earlier this week, depending on how patient the franchise is in terms of moving up the Eastern Conference standings will likely determine this selection. If the answer is not at all, Georgetown's leading scorer is the call. Even though he improved offensively as a sophomore, it's his defensive versatility and superior basketball instincts that make Porter such an intriguing option for the short and long haul.
4) Bobcats - Alex Len, C, Maryland. In a perfect world, the Bobcats land a frontcourt scorer. While that could mean tabbing UNLV forward Anthony Bennett, Charlotte's center slot needs significant help. With his agility, low post moves, perimeter touch and 7-foot-1 size, Len's upside surpasses all others in this draft. However, even his college coach Mark Turgeon acknowledges that due to Len's inexperience combined with the Ukrainian coming off foot surgery, expecting immediate production is a stretch. That makes landing with a woeful Charlotte franchise a potentially dicey situation.
5) Suns - Ben McLemore, SG, Kansas. It's rather difficult to look Phoenix's roster and find the primary building block so just about any position works. If McLemore proves the doubters wrong by demonstrating an aggressive spirit to go with this textbook perimeter shot, the Suns might have landed the best player and thus their key starting piece.
6) Pelicans - Trey Burke, PG, Michigan. Ideally Porter slips this far or perhaps the Pelicans view Bennett as a starting small forward. If not, the hope is Burke's combination of scoring and playmaking provides the roster with something closer to a classic point guard.
7) Kings - Anthony Bennett, PF, UNLV. Sounds like we have a falling knife situation with Bennett. Seeing as the Kings have a random assortment of blah on their roster besides DeMarcus Cousins, maybe they grab the Canadian prospect. The Mountain West Rookie of the Year missed the entire draft workout process following rotator cuff surgery, though he should be ready for training camp. While undersized at 6-foot-7, the power forward sank 37.5 percent of his attempts. With his 7-foot-1 wingspan and thick frame, Bennett is a rebounding force, but he'll have to step up his conditioning game to become a force in the NBA. That latter point is one reason why Bennett's may slide even further down the draft by Thursday night.
8) Pistons - Michael Carter-Williams, PG, Syracuse. Another team needing a small forward, but likely forced to look elsewhere (unless Detroit starts loving UCLA's Shabazz Muhammad). Carter-Williams is a freaky athlete with tremendous size and court vision. Shooting is not a current strength, but with free agent Jose Calderon uncertain to return, reserve guard Will Bynum headed to free agency and 6-foot-3 Brandon Knight moving to the off-guard slot, Carter-Williams is the call.
9) Timberwolves - Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG, Georgia. Not a trade secret, but sources familiar with Minnesota's desires believe Flip Saunders wants a two-guard with this selection. Ideally that means Oladipo or McLemore, which is why a trade is possible. The 6-foot-5 Caldwell-Pope led the Bulldogs in several categories including points with 18.5 per game. His size makes for a better fit Ricky Rubio than Lehigh's C.J. McCollum.
10) Blazers - C.J. McCollum, SG/PG, Lehigh. J.J. Hickson is a free agent and LaMarcus Aldridge trade rumors exist, so Portland could be looking for another big man in the middle. Otherwise, they have a chance for a dynamic backcourt pairing with Damian Lillard and McCollum, who shot over 51 percent from beyond the 3-point arc as a senior.
11) 76ers - Cody Zeller, PF/C, Indiana. The 7-footer stopped his draft board slide with a rather impressive athletic display at the combine, enough to generate rumors that some teams picking higher up have added him to their final list of options. The 76ers wing spots are not settled and the team ranked last in the NBA in scoring so a perimeter threat like Caldwell-Pope is an option if available.
12) Thunder - Steven Adams, C, Pittsburgh. With a pick acquired from the Raptors, the Thunder could target interior help so they can avoid being reliant on the brutal Kendrick Perkins. Though the New Zealand native needs more seasoning, Adams is already blessed with an NBA-body, brings a rebounding knack and turned heads with his combine workout.
13) Mavericks - Lucas Nogueia, C, Brazil. If Dallas cannot unload this pick and the guaranteed contract that comes with it, look for a draft-and-stash selection. The 7-foot Nogueria, who has a 7-5 wingspan but needs to pack on pounds to his 220-pound frame, is that kind of option.
14) Jazz - Kelly Olynyk, C, Gonzaga. With almost everyone on the roster headed to free agency, including Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap, the Jazz could opt for a big man, though a point guard tops their needs list. With decent depth at the position, they can wait and instead grab a big man. Olynyk turned in a highly efficient season for the Bulldogs, though it will be interesting to see the longhaired one with a short-ish wingspan fares against NBA-sized centers.