(Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports)
It has been my tradition to write my lone NBA mock draft on the night of the lottery and I will not change this pattern just because the year ends with a 13. The lottery fell in such a way that Cleveland will have the interesting conundrum of picking for potential or fit. It is my belief that teams should always take the best available player, with fit being a secondary consideration. The best players will figure out how to play together regardless of position. That said, the Cavaliers have a very interesting selection to make after winning Tuesday’s lottery.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers – Otto Porter, forward, Georgetown Hoyas
If the Cavaliers really want to follow through on the playoff hopes of Gilberts junior and senior, then I don’t think they can take Nerlens Noel. I am not even completely sure he is the best prospect in this draft, since he is hurt and has a very limited offensive game. The Cavs have a young nucleus in Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson, and Tyler Zeller (with possible contributions from Anderson Varejao). The missing element is a small forward. Porter would slide right in there for Alonzo Gee and be an immediate upgrade. He may not be better than Jeff Green (another small forward who was a lottery pick from Georgetown), but he could help the Cavaliers win some games with his versatility.
2. Orlando Magic – Nerlens Noel, center, Kentucky Wildcats
The Magic seem to understand that their rebuilding may be a long process. Therefore, they can wait on Noel to get healthy. If he doesn’t play until after the All-Star break after tearing his ACL in February, that would likely be ok with Orlando. They can keep putting Nikola Vucevic on the court to collect boards. Noel and Vucevic could be a nice power combo in the Magic frontcourt eventually and the Magic should have a nice pick for the loaded 2014 draft.
3. Washington Wizards – Anthony Bennett, forward, UNLV Runnin’ Rebels
Much like the Cavaliers, Washington faces a sticky issue. The best player on the board is Ben McLemore, but the Wizard backcourt is set with John Wall and Bradley Beal. While I think McLemore has slightly more upside than Bennett, the UNLV forward has plenty of intrigue to his game. The one thing I am not sure about is if he can accept a role beyond main man. The 6-8 forward has a wide range of offensive skills and enough athleticism to be a good defender. Playing with Wall may make him better as well.
4. Charlotte Bobcats – Ben McLemore, guard, Kansas Jayhawks
Seeing how things fall this way, you might think I am a Bobcat fan. (I am not.) McLemore fits the team very nicely between Kemba Walker and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. I don’t think his one year at Kansas will have much effect on his game. McLemore should be a solid 3-point shooter and was praised for his defensive abilities by Bill Self. He could be a defensive stopper for the soon to be, once again, Hornets.
5. Phoenix Suns – Victor Oladipo, guard, Indiana Hoosiers
Oladipo had a fantastic junior season. He improved his shooting significantly and has always been a hound on defense. However, he still only scored 13.6 points and it is fair to ask what was going on with his shooting in his first two seasons in Bloomington. For Phoenix, Oladipo could be a reliable and steady presence in their backcourt while the Suns rebuild.
6. New Orleans Pelicans – Shabazz Muhammad, forward, UCLA Bruins
I may be the last Shabazz fan left. He is older and shorter than people thought. When I watched the Bruins this season, I saw a guy who can probably score on the NBA level. I may have thought (and still think) the same thing about Austin Rivers. Even as a rookie, I think Muhammad can provide some scoring punch off the Pelican bench. Will his game mature so that he can do other things? I am not sure, but I think he’ll be given an opportunity in the Big Easy.
7. Sacramento Kings – Trey Burke, guard, Michigan Wolverines
Whereas I like Muhammad more than most draft wonks, I am not quite as high on Burke. I believe that if a player is approximately six feet tall, he has to be extraordinary to play in the NBA. Burke is an excellent perimeter shooter and has nice court vision. The question is whether he is upgrade on players like Isaiah Thomas and Jimmer Fredette. He might be and the Kings should take a shot on him at this point.
8. Detroit Pistons – Dario Saric, forward, Croatia
The Pistons are set in the middle with Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe, and they have been drafting combo guards for the past few years (maybe Joe Dumars is picking players in his own image). It may be time to take a shot on a point forward like Saric who has ball handling and passing skills at 6-11. If he can defend opposing small forwards, Saric would make a nice upgrade on players like Kyle Singler and the never-ending contract of Charlie Villaneuva (just one more season left).
9. Minnesota Timberwolves – Alex Len, center, Maryland Terrapins
My guess is that the Timberwolves will match any contract offered to Nikola Pekovic after his nice season, but they could use some frontcourt depth after Pekovic and Kevin Love suffered injuries in 2012-13. For someone so big (7-1, 225 lbs), Len produced fairly mediocre numbers (11.9 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.1 blocks) in a watered down ACC. I think he won’t eclipse backup center duties and his currently fractured leg could be just a hint of injuries to come.
10. Portland Trailblazers – Cody Zeller, forward, Indiana Hoosiers
The Trailblazers leaned so heavily on their starters that they just need some competent reserves to play a few quality minutes. Zeller did not have the breakout sophomore season that many people expected (although not me). He has a little more offensive diversity compared to his brother, Tyler, but he isn’t quite as big. The younger Zeller could fit into a rotation with LaMarcus Aldridge and J.J. Hickson to provide a solid 15-20 minutes per game.
11. Philadelphia 76ers – Gorgui Dieng, center, Louisville Cardinals
More than any other returning player, I thought Dieng showed off more new dimensions to his game in helping the Cardinals to the national championship. Prior to 2012-13, he was mainly a defensive player who could block shots and rebound. He showed some high-post passing skills and the ability to knock down a 12-foot jumper. With Spencer Hawes, Dieng could provide some decent minutes at center and power forward.
12. Oklahoma City Thunder (from the Toronto Raptors) – C.J. McCollum, guard, Lehigh Mountain Hawks
Because of his injured foot, McCollum has been kind of a forgotten man. The 6-3 combo guard from the Patriot League has a wide range of skills. Had he been healthy to play into March, he may have opened some eyes with his ball handling and shooting. The Thunder could use just such a player to take a few minutes off of Russell Westbrook and keep his Achilles tendon from breaking down again (although there may not be a correlation between Achilles injuries and minutes played).
13. Dallas Mavericks – Michael Carter-Williams, guard, Syracuse Orange
For the most part, the NBA does not have much use for players that can not shoot. Carter-Williams made just 29.2% of his 120 3-point attempts last year with the Orange. The 6-6 guard has good court vision and played passing lanes well in the 2-3 zone. In addition to short players, I don’t really care for skinny players. MCW has two strikes against him, but if he learns to can corner 3-pointers, he could be a nice pick for the Mavericks.
14. Utah Jazz – Jamaal Franklin, guard, San Diego State Aztecs
Any team that has Mo Williams as their point guard needs an upgrade at the position. Williams has always been a good shooter, but he doesn’t do much else well. Draft wonks will try to shoehorn a point guard into the Jazz slot, but no one really fits. I think Pierre Jackson would be a fine selection, but he is only 5-11 and could be Mo 2.0. Franklin is an uber-athletic wing. Like Carter-Williams, he is not a good shooter, but could be an impact defender and rebounder for the Jazz.
15. Milwaukee Bucks – Pierre Jackson, guard, Baylor Bears
I am a Bucks fan and a Jackson fan, so why not add in a bonus pick to make myself happy. Brandon Jennings is a restricted free agent and Monta Ellis is an unrestricted free agent. If both leave, which is possible, there are going to be a ton of available shots. The Bucks would likely bring in some mid-range veterans, but I think Jackson could run the show in Milwaukee and maybe bring me back into the fold as a Bucks fan. He is a high-usage player