“My theory on NBA Draft reporters is that they’re like mushrooms; feed ’em shit and keep ’em in the dark.” – Mark Wahlberg in The Departed
Okay, so that wasn’t the actual quote from the movie. Wahlberg was talking about federal agents, but it’s the same principle. It feels like we hear a new report about what team is locked in to what player every ten minutes this time of the year. They’re all smokescreens. What kind of quality organization would leak info about their preferable targets weeks before the draft? Maybe if they’re trying to bait another team for a trade, but other than that, it takes away your competitive advantage to let the world know what direction you’re leaning towards. So no matter how reputable the source, you have to take any NBA draft rumor with seven grains of salt.
Unless it’s Yahoo/Fox Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski. That guy is to the NBA what Adam Schefter is to the NFL. It’s hard to take any breaking story or rumor seriously until you see him tweet it out.
Speaking of my favorite avian-themed social media outlet, we live in an era where everybody has an opinion. That’s cool if those opinions are based off anything concrete. Just don’t write the book on these guys already. Most of the player projected to go in the top 10 are still teenagers. I don’t want to hear any talk about Andrew Wiggins’ “killer instinct”. Don’t tell me about Marcus Smart’s “temper”. Aaron Gordon is only 18, so it’s pretty ridiculous to throw him out the window because he’s not “polished”. If I rewind the clock a few years to when I was 18, my main concerns were scoring beer and cramming for my accounting exams. There’s a good chance you were in the same boat.
This draft class has been hyped all year and now, as always, it’s beginning to be nit-picked right before the actual draft. It’s a very good draft class. The best in years. But there aren’t 10 All-Stars in it.
And finally with three days remaining before the draft we have enough clarity to make some actual predictions. Here are mine. I’m no scout, no big fancy NBA writer, and sure as hell no expert. I just watch more hoops, pro and college, than is healthy or reasonable. So I like to think I have a decent understanding of how some of these guys project as pros.
– No Trades
Stay with me, too. This post is way too long to go up on one of my usual outlets so I’m dong this for you guys, my dear friends, both on the internet and real life. We’re at 400 words already and I haven’t even made a pick yet, so I won’t take offense if you skim through some of the rambling just to see the picks. We live in an era of Bleacher Report slideshows and BuzzFeed lists, so I understand any hesitancy to invest your very important time in a lengthy WordPress post by a college kid with nothing better to do on a summer weekend. But if you’ve made it this far, you should be good.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers
The Pick: Andrew Wiggins, SG/SF, Kansas
I’ve believed Wiggins is the best player and was going #1 in this draft for well over a year. The news of Joel Embiid needing foot surgery only cements that idea in my mind. It’s between Wiggins and Parker here. That’s not really debatable. I understand that the Cavs are in “win now” mode and that Jabari Parker is the more NBA-ready player. But that “win now” mindset is what has kept the Cavs at the bottom of the league since losing LeBron despite being fortunate enough to have two (now three) number one picks. The idea that they’re just a few pieces away is what led the Cavs to overpay Anderson Varejao and Jarret Jack. It’s also what led them to make a bogus trade for Luol Deng.
The truth is, the Cavs aren’t close to being a contender unless a certain player was betray the Sith and come back to the good side of the force. So Cleveland needs to take the top prospect with the biggest potential long-term payoff. That prospect is Andrew Wiggins. It’s not like Wiggins isn’t ready to play at a high level right now, anyway. He’s already an outstanding perimeter defender. Oh yeah, and he can do this…
In all seriousness Andrew Wiggins is not as raw as some think. Yes, his handle needs major work and he continues to work on his shot. It’s not like he can’t shoot. 34.1% from deep isn’t great for a college wing looking to go #1 but it’s honestly pretty ridiculous to rely solely on a percentage from 35 games when determining a players actual shooting ability. That’s not even half an NBA season. More impressive, and reliable, stats exist nowadays. Wiggins doesn’t seem nearly as raw if you look at his 56.3 True Shooting %, his 26.3 Usage %, or his 4.9 wins shares in just 35 games. Wiggins has a smooth J that he gets off quickly. He’s going to be a good shooter. We live in a world where all these telling numbers/video clips are just a basketball reference search away; why the hell are people still looking at points per game to tell the tale? Oh, Wiggins also set the all-time freshman scoring record at Kansas. So even the more elementary hoops heads should be impressed.
I don’t care who Cleveland’s coach is. I don’t care about their plans in regards to LeBron. I don’t care if Kyrie Irving is a completely ball dominant offensive player. If you’re picking number one, you’re a terrible team. Terrible teams need to pick the best players available. As of now, June 22nd, that appears to be Andrew Wiggins.
2. Milwaukee Bucks
The Pick: Dante Exum, PG/SG, Australia
Yes, Jabari Parker is a legitimate option here. And I wouldn’t completely throw away the idea of Milwaukee, the worst team in the NBA, drafting Joel Embiid and being patient. Unlike the Cavs the Bucks seem to understand that they’re not going to become a contender overnight. Big-time free agents aren’t suddenly going to flock to Milwaukee hoping to see the Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory (I spent a solid 15 minutes looking for something in Brew City that possibly could be considered a tourist attraction).
Dante Exum, the International Man of Mystery, is the most intriguing prospect in this draft. Most of us, myself included, haven’t seen anything from him save a few very impressive YouTube clips. But we’re talking about a 6′ 6″ combo guard with outstanding athleticism and extremely high basketball IQ. The shot will likely come. To this point in his career Exum hasn’t really had to shoot because it’s so easy for him to get to the rim against his competition. Here’s a short highlight reel of Exum vs Team USA at the 2013 Nike Hoops Summit.
The Bucks like Brandon Knight but offensively he’s not a point guard. Drafting Exum would allow them to play Knight at his natural position while still having him guard opposing point guards since he’s way too small to handle NBA wings. Again, you’ll see most people have Parker going here. That’s makes sense considering most view him as the best player on the board. But a perimeter trio of Exum, Knight, and Giannis Antetokounmpo would be very exciting.
3. Philadelphia 76ers
The Pick: Jabari Parker, SF, Duke
The Sixers are set on either Parker or Wiggins. This means that Embiid’s injury could potentially be devastating news for them if the Bucks go with one of those two. In this case, Parker is on the board. The Sixers tanked for Wiggins, but given the circumstances, they should be thanking their lucky stars if they still end up with Parker.
Embiid is not completely out of the question here, especially if Wiggins and Parker are gone. He’s a very different player than Nerlens Noel. But what the Sixers really need is scoring from the wing. Michael Carter-Williams is a nice young player, Thaddeus Young is solid, and I have high hopes for Noel. Jabari Parker would make this team significantly better right away. He’s extremely strong and skilled which makes him a menace when he’s facing the basket. He has the ability to develop a devastating back-to-the-basket game as well.
I personally don’t see the Carmelo Anthony comparisons. Parker is a more-athletic Paul Pierce to me. But no matter who you compare him to everyone seems to agree that Parker is going to be a perennial All-Star who gives you 20+ a game with great rebounding and the potential to develop elite defense.
4. Orlando Magic
The Pick: Joel Embiid, C, Kansas
The Magic have the best overall roster out of any team picking in the top five. Combine that with the fact that they also hold the 12th pick and they’re in as good of a position as anybody to take a gamble on Joel Embiid. The upside at #4 may simply be too much to pass up. Though Exum is certainly a strong possibility if he falls. Marcus Smart and Noah Vonleh are also great fits as well.
I don’t know what the long-term effects of Embiid’s chronic back, and most notably, foot problems will be. Anytime a seven-footer has foot problems it’s concerning; even more so with a guy like Embiid whose best attribute is his footwork. He could very well be the next Greg Oden. But just a few days ago he was being compared to Hakeem Olajuwon. Going from Hakeem to Oden is a lot like Halle Berry going from winning Oscars and starring in Bond/X-Men movies to doing a TV show on CBS.
I’m a big Embiid fan. Obviously he’s a defensive factor (though he fouls too much) but what’s most impressive if the growth he’s shown on offense. He’s a great passer and has developed some devastating post moves. He’s like Hakeem or even Kevin McHale in the sense that if he gets his feet in the right spot and goes into his move there’s no physical way you can stop him. You just have to hope he misses the easy shot. Yes, he’s still developing. Yes, the injury is a major concern. But I really can’t see Embiid falling too far, even in a draft as talented as this one.
5. Utah Jazz
The Pick: Aaron Gordon, SF/PF, Arizona
Every time I talk about the NBA Draft I feel obligated to defend my man-crush Aaron Gordon because everybody thinks the book is written on him already. So here I go.
He’s 6′ 9″ and has a 39″ vertical. Even more impressive is is 2.76 second shuttle time, the fastest of ANY PLAYER AT THE COMBINE. He has better lateral quickness than Smart, Exum, Tyler Ennis, etc. At 6′ 9″. I don’t care if Gordon never makes a free throw in his NBA career, he’s an ELITE defensive player who can guard both 3’s and 4’s right now. He’s also a terror in transition. He can’t dribble, has an ugly jumper, and needs to get physically stronger if he wants to score and/or defend in the post. He is very raw. I can’t deny that. But guess who else were very raw and a lot like Gordon coming out of school? Paul George and Kawhi Leonard. (Sidebar: George should be the NBA superstar Gordon is compared to, not Blake Griffin. I hate to play this card but anyone seriously comparing Gordon to Blake is just repeating what they heard and/or taking into account skin color)
Back to the Jazz. They would love Exum to slip here but that is highly unlikely. Noah Vonleh is very much a possibility and most seem to think he’s moved past Gordon and Julius Randle. I don’t disagree, but the Jazz have a pretty stacked front court rotation as is. They could surely find minutes for Vonleh given his versatility but Gordon just seems to be a more logical fit. Again, even if Gordon never develops his game we’re still talking about an elite defender here.
6. Boston Celtics
The Pick: Noah Vonleh, PF, Indiana
If this is how the draft plays out things get very confusing here and Danny Ainge will likely be making calls trying to move the pick. If they hold it, here are my odds.
Noah Vonleh: 40%
Marcus Smart: 40%
Julius Randle: 15%
Kendrick Perkins’ back sweat: 5%
The Celtics have a murky backcourt situation given the fact the Avery Bradley is a restricted free agent and Rajon Rondo is once again right in the middle of multiple trade rumors. Personally, as a fan, I’d want Randle here but Vonleh seems to have surpassed him and Smart is a common pick being mocked to Boston. The Celtics will surely be taking the “best available” approach so this pick ultimately comes down to which of those three guys you think is the best. I think Smart is being over-rated and it has nothing to do with his jumper. A 1.78 assist-to-turnover ratio is bad even for a college guard and the teams that Smart apparently “ran” at Oklahoma State were all terribly inefficient on offense.
Vonleh has impressed with his length and skill set. While not an elite athlete, he runs the floor extremely well. He’s a great rebounder as well. He certainly needs to develop a better post game and it remains to be seen if his jumper will yield the results some expect but Noah Vonleh has all the tool to be a Chris Bosh-type player.
The Celtics rebuild is going to be a multi-year process. Danny Ainge and Brad Stevens have both said so. Take the guy who you think is going to be the best player down the road. If Gordon is off the board, that appears to be Vonleh.
7. Los Angeles Lakers
The Pick: Marcus Smart, PG/SG, Oklahoma State
The Lakers sort of just have to wait and see how the top six picks play out. The group of guys they would choose from (Exum, Gordon, Vonleh, Randle, Smart) will be cut down by the time they pick. Here, I have Smart and Randle on the board. Not only is Smart a good fit for a team lacking both a point guard and any resemblance of perimeter defense, but Randle’s injury doesn’t exactly help his stock.
I don’t think Marcus Smart has “character concerns”. In fact, I hate that term all together. What worries me with Smart is his inability to shoot the ball and tendency to make boneheaded plays. But he’s talented. He’s physically strong to go with his impressive burst. He won’t have a problem imposing his will on either end of the floor. He doesn’t have the elite athleticism to develop into a Russell Westbrook, Derrick Rose, or John Wall type but there’s not really anything he can’t do on a basketball court.
His ball handling is a major problem. As mentioned early, he made a lot of turnovers. He has a loose handle for a point guard and does tend to telegraph passes. But with good coaching (insert Lakers joke here) Smart should be able to develop into a very good NBA point guard. He will be a terror on defense.
8. Sacramento Kings
The Pick: Elfrid Payton, PG, Louisiana Lafayette
A lot has been made about the Kings looking to trade this pick and that makes a lot of sense. But I’m not doing trades. The uncertainty surrounding Isaiah Thomas makes a point guard the likely pick if the Kings do in fact stand pat. Smart is gone. Exum is gone. I’m not sold on Zach LaVine as a point guard and there’s no way Shabazz Napier or Tyler Ennis go this high. Enter my other man-crush in the draft, Ragin’ Cajun Elfrid Payton.
Payton has dominated workouts. His body (6′ 4″, 6′ 7″ wingspan) and his elite defense actually make him a relatively safe pick. He’s an outstanding ball handler as well. At the very worst, you’re going to get a great defensive player who can handle the ball off the bench. If he can improve his shot and bulk a bit, we could be talking about an elite point guard here.
Historical Note: Payton would be the first Ragin’ Cajun to go in the 1st round since Kevin Brooks in 1991.
9. Charlotte Hornets
The Pick: Rodney Hood, SF, Duke
The Hornets desperately need perimeter shooting, which is why everyone and Ray Allen’s mother has them taking Doug McDermott here. That’s very much a possibility and I think Dougie McBuckets will be a solid NBA player but the other Duke guy in this draft presents much more upside.
A 6′ 8″ lefty with solid athleticism and penetrating ability, it’s Hood’s ability to pull up from the mid-range or from NBA three-point range that make him such a tantalizing prospect. He shot 42.0% from deep at Duke, many of those shots coming well behind the arc. He plays within the flow of the offense too. Now, he’ll definitely need to add some muscle in order to defend NBA wings. He also should make more of an impact on the boards.
In an NBA so reliant on three point shooting Hood has a strong case for being a top 10 pick. He’s a knockdown shooter but has the body, skill, and athleticism to be able to do other things on both ends of the floor as well. Personally, I’d rather have Hood than any of the other wings on the board (James Young and Nik Stauskas most notably).
10. Philadelphia 76ers (via New Orleans)
The Pick: Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky
Randle slides in this draft, in part due to his injury and in part due to him not being a physical specimen like Gordon or Vonleh. Philly gets lucky. Getting Julius Randle, once thought to be a possible #1 overall pick, at 10th after already getting Jabari Parker would all of a sudden make them an intriguing threat in the Atlantic Division. Obviously, this is all contingent on both Parker and Randle slipping a bit. But if the team that tanked so shamelessly came out of this draft with Jabari Parker and Julius Randle, they’d be ecstatic.
While Randle has relatively limited upside I also think he is the least bust-prone player in this draft. He’s going to rebound (19.2 Total Rebounding %) and use his strength to finish with his left inside. If he can hone his post moves, his perimeter skills, and his all-around defense he will be an All-Star. The Sixers would be the most exciting young team in the NBA if they could throw out a lineup consisting of MCW, Jabari Parker, Julius Randle, and Nerlens Noel. Don’t forget about Thaddeus either!
Dario Saric has been linked to Philly here for a while. And given their desperate need for perimeter shooting Stauskas and James Young are probably in play but I think it’s be hard for them to justify drafting another wing if they get Parker and Randle is on the board here.
11. Denver Nuggets
The Pick: Zach LaVine, PG/SG, UCLA
The general consensus that is if the Nuggets keep this pick they’re going to go with either Stauskas or Gary Harris. I expect both of those two to be solid NBA players for a long time but neither carries the upside of the 6′ 6″, freakishly athletic, silky-smooth shooting Zach LaVine.
LaVine was buried on the UCLA bench most of the year due some of his mind-boggling on court mistakes and physical weakness. He is certainly one of those “project” players we hear a lot about. He’s a little raw right now so when his jumper isn’t going in he struggles to score.
But again, the tools are there. LaVine brings a combination of shooting and highlight-reel dunking ability only a handful of current NBA players can touch. There’s a good chance he makes next to no impact for whatever team drafts him. There’s also a chance he emerges as one of the best players in this class. Denver doesn’t seem comfortable with anyone on their roster other than Ty Lawson, an uber-short point guard. LaVine makes a lot more sense than Gary Harris here. Here’s LaVine’s crazy athleticism on display thanks to his agency.
12. Orlando Magic (via Denver)
The Pick: Gary Harris, PG/SG, Michigan State
James Young, Dario Saric, and even Tyler Ennis are in play here. If the Magic take the risk on Embiid at #4 I think they use this pick to give Victor Oladipo some help in the backcourt.
Neither Harris or Oladipo are natural point guards but the combination could be quite intriguing especially given Oladipo’s ability to defend shooting guards. Measuring at 6′ 2″ w/o shoes at the combine was very bad for Harris but he’s an exceptional all-around basketball player who plays bigger than his listed size. He’s a good athlete with a good jumper. What’s most impressive is how he can get that jumper off from any position. Fading away, pulling up in transition, coming off a screen, it doesn’t matter. Harris is always prepared to score the rock.
He’s also an extremely underrated playmaker which should ease some of the concern regarding his height.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves
The Pick: Doug McDermott, SF, Creighton
Obviously this is up in the air until we know whether or not the dust is going to settle around Kevin Love before the draft. I’m not going to compare McBuckets to Love, but he has a similar skill set. McDermott is obviously a knockdown shooter but he’s also physically strong and rebounds well. He has outstanding footwork as well. He also recorded a 36.5″ vertical at the combine, so he’s not that terrible athletically speaking.
He is slow however and will be a liability on defense. There are also some concerns that he doesn’t have a true position. He was able to bully guys in college with his strength but that won’t be the case in the league. McDermott isn’t going to be a star in the NBA but he’s simply too skilled and smart not to carve out a role.
Saric and Adreian Payne are legit options here, too.
14. Phoenix Suns
The Pick: James Young, SG/SF, Kentucky
This pick seems easy. Phoenix desperately needs a wing. Stauskas is still on the board but James Young is a much better athlete who projects as a better defender. Both can obviously shoot.
James Young may not necessarily be elite at anything but he’s very good at pretty much everything. He was probably Kentucky’s most reliable player throughout the year.
The Suns would probably be ecstatic if Rodney Hood was still on the board but that isn’t the case here. Fans should be fine with the selection of Young. He’ll help this fast-paced teams transition offense and perimeter shooting right away. If they don’t go with Young or Stauskas my money would be on Saric, Kyle Anderson, or even TJ Warren.
15. Atlanta Hawks
The Pick: Nik Stauskas, SG, Michigan
Stauskas falling out of the lottery would be a blessing for Atlanta, a team that desperately needs shooting. All of the international big men (Saric, Clint Capela, and Jusuf Nurkic) make sense given Atlanta’s history but Stauskas would give this playoff team the best immediate boost.
While he’s not a great athlete or defender, Stauskas is much more than just a catch & shoot guy. He’s a pretty good passer who doesn’t turn it over. He also has the ability to pull up off the dribble or use the threat of his jumper to get to the rim. He’ll find ways to score in the NBA. And even if by some chance he ends up being just a shooter, he does that so well that he’s worth the 15th overall pick.
16. Chicago Bulls (via Charlotte)
The Pick: Dario Saric, SF/PF, Croatia
With the draft playing out the way it has there are enough quality perimeter shooters remaining for the Bulls to wait and snag one with their next pick. You’re probably thinking that the last thing the Bulls need is another front court body. But Dario Saric is so versatile and skilled that he really could add to any roster in the NBA.
He’s a combo forward. While his slow feet limit what he can do defensively he can dribble and pass, which makes him a matchup problem on offense at 6′ 10″. Another basketball IQ guy, Saric is an okay shooter. He doesn’t have the athleticism to get his shot up from weird spots, but give him an open jumper, and he can stick it. He’s also a great positional player which allows him to rebound effectively and at least make some impact on defense despite his lack of athleticism.
The Bulls could very well grab a shooter here (PJ Hairston, CJ Wilcox, etc) or they could go with a backup point guard (Tyler Ennis, Shabazz Napier, Jordan Clarkson) but given the current board Saric presents great value at this pick. Some think he can creep into the top 10. Below is a nice Saric highlight reel.
17. Boston Celtics (via Brooklyn)
The Pick: Spencer Dinwiddie, PG/SG, Colorado
Maybe a bit of a surprise, but hear me out. With the uncertainty in their backcourt the Celtics could use a combo guard who can do it all: run the offense, fill lanes on the break, hit the three, get to the line, defend, etc. Well, Spencer Dinwiddie is that guy. He flew under the radar and is still recovering from a torn ACL but if he gets healthy he could be a steal.
He’s a great athlete and a 41% three-point shooter. Always viewed as a “team guy”, he really can play the point guard at 6′ 6″. One negative is that he’s not an outstanding penetrator so he relies on others to get him his shots. If he’s playing with Rajon Rondo, that won’t be a problem.
It’s rare that players with the athleticism and skill set of Dinwiddie are around at pick #17. He has a chance to be one of the great sleepers in this draft. And injuries have never prevented Boston from drafting guys in the past.
18. Phoenix Suns (via Washington)
The Pick: Clint Capela, PF/C, Switzerland
Europe’s best rebounder and shot blocker may not come over to the states immediately but that shouldn’t deter Phoenix from drafting who might be the next Serge Ibaka in time. Capela is extremely raw, mostly because he’s 19, but he’s an explosive athlete who will make some highlight reel plays in the NBA.
Phoenix has built some nice depth and can afford to let Capela develop. They don’t really have that intimidating post presence though and that is what Capela would potentially provide. They could very well grab another offensive minded wing like TJ Warren or Kyle Anderson but I think Capela is the right pick here. Below is a quick clip showing Capela’s ability to rise at the 2014 Nike Hoops Summit.
19. Chicago Bulls
The Pick: PJ Hairston, SG, North Carolina/Texas Legends
Chicago is back on the clock and here they get a guy they’re probably seriously considering with their first pick. Chicago is still my bet to land Carmelo Anthony but I’m not taking that into account in this mock. After getting Saric they still need shooting and a backup point guard (which makes Ennis, Napier, and Clarkson legit options). Hairston is a knockdown shooter who is also physically strong with enough athleticism to score at the rim.
Hairston doesn’t have great foot speed which hurts him on defense but the way the Bulls play they don’t really require their guards to stay in front of everyone at all times. If Hairston makes the right rotations, he’ll be fine defensively.
It’s hard not to mention off the court stuff with Hairston but everything I’ve read says he was deeply humbled by his time in the D-League and impressed every team he interviewed with.
20. Toronto Raptors
The Pick: Tyler Ennis, PG, Syracuse
With all the questions surrounding Kyle Lowry’s free agency the Raptors are almost surely grabbing a point guard here. Even if Lowry is back, they need another ball-handler on their roster. Tyler Ennis is a polished point guard many think will go in the lottery who happens to be Canadian, so he makes sense here.
Personally, I have major concerns about Ennis in the NBA. He’s slow, weak, and un-athletic by modern NBA point guard standards. He’s terrible on defense and his steal numbers were elevated greatly because he was at the top of the 2-3 zone in college. We’ve never seen him be the focus of the opposing defense, either. Syracuse had plenty of more effective scorers so Ennis really didn’t have to do all that much other than dribble the ball up the court and make easy passes. He did hit some huge shots though.
Maybe I’m being hard on Ennis. He’s a very smart and poised player who will likely carve out a role as a very good backup/fringe starter. I just know that I sure as hell don’t want him as the PG of the future for my team.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Dallas via Houston via Lakers)
The Pick: CJ Wilcox, SG, Washington
The Thunder grab one of the drafts best shooters here and wait to grab a big man with their next pick. Having a reliable floor stretcher in the backcourt would really open things up for this team. CJ Wilcox is a knockdown shooter from both deep and mid-range who has the size to get his shot off at the NBA level without any problems.
He’s a solid defender but he’s not going to able to create his own shot. That shouldn’t be a concern though as whoever drafts him will be strictly looking for a catch and shoot guy. Wilcox is possibly the best at that in this class.
They could choose to go big here which would put Jusuf Nurkic very much in play.
22. Memphis Grizzlies
The Pick: Adreian Payne, PF, Michigan State
With Zach Randolph possibly out of town, the Grizzlies need insurance both down low and on the scoring sheet. Payne, who is a steal this late, provides both. TJ Warren and Jarnell Stokes are possibilities but I feel Payne pairs best with Marc Gasol.
Payne is a very good athlete with a deft touch on his jumper. He will be lethal as a pick-n-pop guy. He rebounds well and can score from the block as well. On the offensive end, Payne is probably the best big man in this draft at this point in time.
However, a player with his height and athleticism should be a factor on defense. Payne is not. Not only is he not a shot blocker, he’s just not very good guarding guys down low. Payne also cannot dribble and pretty much refuses to pass. But he’s too good not to be a great role player in the NBA. Think a taller Brandon Bass.
23. Utah Jazz (via Golden State)
The Pick: TJ Warren, SF/PF, NC State
Warren makes a lot of sense here seeing as he’s one of the drafts best scorers and I have the Jazz taking Aaron Gordon with their first pick. They could use a big-bodied guard, would like Exum, but at this point they may as well just wait. Warren is a good value pick here.
Warren doesn’t have typical NBA wing athleticism or big man size but he makes up for it with his ridiculously polished scoring ability. He’ll find away to put the ball in the hoop wherever you play him. He runs the floor and cuts well. He can shoot from anywhere. He bullies weaker players and hits the boards hard. Warren is basketball player. He was flat-out unstoppable at times for the Wolfpack.
Utah could grab a guard here like Jordan Clarkson or even Jordan Adams but Warren is a significantly better prospect than either of those two.
24. Charlotte Hornets (via Portland)
The Pick: Bogdan Bogdanovic, SG, Serbia
Even after getting Rodney Hood the Hornets desperately need reliable shooters. Bogdanovic is intriguing due to his frame, defensive ability, passing, and streaky shooting. He should be able to become more reliable from deep.
He can defend the 1-3 due to his athleticism. He’s not necessarily an explosive athlete but he’s an efficient athlete who won’t have any problems gliding up and down the NBA court. I’m not 100% sure he’d come to the league right away, but he’s the most underrated international player in this draft. And he has a badass name. Check out this clip.
25. Houston Rockets
The Pick: Jerami Grant, SF, Syracuse
The Rockets could use some wing depth and Jerami Grant is a long and athletic guy who can run the floor, finish at the rim, and defend. He doesn’t have great perimeter skills but as a role player on this roster that shouldn’t hold him back much. He’ll come in to spell Chandler Parsons or even play the 4 in a small ball lineup. A Parsons/Grant/Howard front court would cause problems.
Grant literally can’t hit a jumper unless he’s within 10 feet of the hoop, however. He will have to greatly improve his shooting and handle if he ever wants to more than just an energy guy off the bench. Think Al-Farouq Aminu with Grant.
26. Miami Heat
The Pick: Kyle Anderson, SF, UCLA
I know what you’re thinking. The Heat need a point guard! Shabazz is still on the board! Shabazz! Shabazz! Shabazz!
Here’s why Miami shouldn’t draft Shabazz:
– He’s a marginal NBA point guard talent.
– You draft marginal NBA point guard talents as backups, not to replace other marginal NBA point guard talents (Mario Chalmers & Norris Cole).
– The last thing the Heat need is another player who is just going to dribble out the entire shot clock before playing hero ball.
Here’s why the Heat should draft Kyle Anderson:
– He’s the best player on the board and might go in the lottery.
– He can pass, handle, and shoot like a point guard but rebounds like a center.
– He’s the best player on the board and might go in the lottery.
Kyle Anderson isn’t really a 6′ 9″ point guard like some are making him out to be. He’s way too slow to guard the point in the NBA and putting him there would take away the competitive advantage his skills give him at his natural position. But Kyle Anderson is a very good all around basketball player. He’s the kind of guy the Spurs would draft. In fact, if he is for some reason still on the board when the Spurs pick, I guarantee they take him.
27. Phoenix Suns (via Indiana)
The Pick: KJ McDaniels, SG/SF, Clemson
McDaniels is just too athletic and dominant on defense to fall out of the first round. He’s made great strides on offense but still has a lot of work to do. Even if it never comes, McDaniels will be a Tony Allen-type player.
He rebounds well for his size (6′ 6″) and his explosive athleticism allows him to still produce despite his offensive deficiencies.
Even after getting James Young earlier in this draft Phoenix could use a wing. McDaniels gives you a great defender with the potential to develop into a starting caliber player.
28. Los Angeles Clippers
The Pick: Cleanthony Early, SF/PF, Wichita State
Anthony is a versatile forward who made a lot of money in the game against Kentucky during the tournament. He’s going to have to be a 3 in the league but given the Clippers size he could certainly play the 4 in small ball lineups with DeAndre Jordan on the bench.
He’s a great athlete who shoots well. It’s the dribbling that is the biggest concern when it comes to Anthony making the full time transition to the perimeter. He has some nice moves both slashing and in the post. Early won’t ever be a star, but you can pretty much guarantee you’re getting a solid bench guy at the very least.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder
The Pick: Mitch McGary, C, Michigan
We saw how the Thunder struggled without Serge Ibaka. After grabbing a shooter earlier they can set their sights on a big man here. McGary would’ve likely gone in the top 10 last year. The biggest concerns with him are conditioning-related. Everyone knows he can play.
McGary has some nice moves and is a great finisher down low with either hand. He’s a hustle guy who often bulls himself into position for a rebound or on defense. He’s not a great athlete but he doesn’t really need to be given his size and skill set. He doesn’t have the upside of other big men but McGary is ready to get his weed crumb-covered hands dirty right away. Hehe, joking, just seeing if you were paying attention.
30. San Antonio Spurs
The Pick: Khem Birch, PF, UNLV
Here the Spurs get a guy with a 7′ 1″ wingspan and 36″ vertical who averaged 3.8 blocks a game last year. Tim Duncan isn’t going to be around forever, well maybe he is, and Splitter is a little slow to be relied on as the sole rim protector.
Birch is also great at team defense, making him a nice fit. He rotates, helps, and has great closing speed when guys attack the rim. He obviously rebounds well. Running the floor is a strength, and he could become a nasty alley-oop finisher.
Welp, that’s all folks.
Here are my top 10 prospects who didn’t go in the 1st (ranked in order, best to worst)
1. Semaj Christon, PG, Xavier
2. Glenn Robinson III, SF, Michigan
3. Jarnell Stokes, PF/C, Tennessee
4. Jusuf Nurkic, C, Bosnia
5. Shabazz Napier, PG, UCONN
6. Jordan Clarkson, PG/SG, Missouri
7. DeAndre Daniels, SF, UCONN
8. Jordan Adams, SG, LSU
9. Patric Young, PF/C, Florida
10. CJ Fair, SF, Syracuse
Just over 6,200 words. Could’ve been worse. Follow me on Twitter @ZakKondratenko.