For the second time in three years, the Cleveland Cavaliers win the NBA draft lottery and get the first pick, which will most likely be Nerlens Noel, entering the NBA after only one season in Kentucky. Yes, people love centers so much they’re willing to overlook his injury, while talented players like Trey Burke, Ben McLemore and Otto Porter will probably fill out the rest of the top 5.
At this point, it’s all speculating and deciding between taking the best available player, or trying to fill out a team’s biggest need. In our projection, we tried looking at a team’s need first, like the Magic taking Burke at second because he’s the best point guard in the draft, while others might enjoy Otto Porter (Washington) and Ben McLemore (Charlotte) falling down the picking order.
Utah Jazz, 14th – Dennis Schroeder
While it’s always a gamble, it seems European players are even more of a risk, especially when you use your pick on them to fill out your biggest need. The Utah Jazz, before anything, need someone at point guard, and they’re not going to try and sign Chris Paul, or re-sign Mo Williams. At 14th, the 19 year-old German is likely to be the point guard still on the board, and with so many people comparing him to Rajon Rondo, it wouldn’t be a surprise seeing the Jazz going for him.
Dallas Mavericks, 13th – Shabazz Muhammad
The Mavs simply need the best player they can get. They’re likely to see a large turnover in their roster, leaving (possibly) only Nowitzki, Shawn Marion, Vince Carter, Jared Cunningham and Jae Crowder from this season’s team. They might pursue Chris Paul or Dwight Howard in the draft but for now, any player who can give them immediate contribution will be welcomed. Muhammad isn’t the superstar some thought he might be when he left high school, but he’ll be able to put up points and quickly in the NBA.
Oklahoma City Thunder, 12th – Steven Adams
The Thunder need a center, as Thabeet isn’t panning out despite some signs of improvement, while Kendrick Perkins is slowly but steadily getting on everyone’s nerves. Adams had an excellent combine, showing more than just the physical ability to play in the NBA, but also displaying a soft touch with his jump shot. He’ll probably won’t be a guy who can put in too many minutes during his rookie year, but with the Thunder looking for a big man to help them in some minutes on both ends of the floor, Adams should be the best available at that point.
Philadelphia 76ers, 11th – Cody Zeller
The Sixers are solid only at point guard with Jrue Holiday. Other positions might be OK, but the 76ers will take anything they can get at this point. Despite that, they’ll be looking for a big man first and foremost after the debacle with Andrew Bynum last season. Zeller might have been slightly disappointing in his sophomore season, but he had a terrific combine and will probably be used as a power forward somewhere down the line.
Portland Trail Blazers, 10th – Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
The Blazers need either a big man or a shooting guard, and pretty much any kind of depth they can get. While they might opt to take either Zeller or Adams a little bit before the two teams we just mentioned, Caldwell-Pope is a much better prospect to give them points, and will allow them to use either him or Wesley Matthews as a sixth man with more to give them off the bench than they had this season.
Minnesota Timberwolves, 9th – Alan Crabbe
Above everything, the Timberwolves need some shooting, and Crabbe, who had a fantastic combine, might be the best option there, although some do think it’s a reach for him to be in the top 10. Others might consider C.J. McCollum, a point guard, to take his spot, but than the Timberwolves are left once again with a two point guard set up that might not be the best thing for them.
Detroit Piston, 8th – Anthony Bennett
While the Pistons need a small forward more than anything, no one is worthy of the pick at this point. That’s why Anthony Bennett, who seems like an undersized power forward at this point with an impressive ability to score from anywhere on the floor, should be good enough to be taken here. It might give the Pistons an option to use a very big lineup, or hope that Bennett doesn’t struggle defensively with guarding small forwards and adjusts.
Sacramento Kings, 7th – Victor Oladipo
The Kings have talent, but they don’t have a single player you can consider a defensive stopper. Tyreke Evans, who the Kings still haven’t figured out what to do with, is becoming a free agent and might not get a renewal, or want to. Oladipo might not be as talented of a scorer, but he’ll bring some toughness and defensive edge the Kings seriously need.
New Orleans Pelicans, 6th – Michael Carter-Williams
The Pelicans do have a point guard they’re happy with, Greivis Vasquez. But Carter-Williams has the size to be quite impressive in a two-point guard scheme, although his shooting might not be as good as you’d want from a shooting guard. But he’s one of the best athletes heading into the draft, with long arms making him a terrific defender, which might turn a team like the Pelicans, with Anthony Davis in the paint and Carter-Williams on the wing, into a defensive juggernaut.
Phoenix Suns, 5th – Alex Len
In terms of making sense, Len might not be the best option because the Suns have Gortat as their starting center. Still, it wouldn’t be surprising if Len isn’t ready to be a starter right off the bat, or if the Suns try and make some sort of massive front-line. Gortat might be traded away fro all we know, and that will open up a spot for Len to be a starter.
Charlotte Bobcats, 4th – Ben McLemore
The Bobcats are probably the biggest losers in the lottery because they fell down to fourth, but grabbing McLemore at fourth, as he might be the best shooter in the draft, might not be the worst thing in the world for a team that needs some talent on the wings.
Washington Wizards, 3rd – Otto Porter
Some things simply fit, and Porter, who played two years of college basketball in the city of Washington, does with the Wizards. Washington need some scoring, but they also need someone with a little bit of court vision and a small forward like Porter seems like the right decision. In any case, the Wizards are quite high on Anthony Bennett, so they might surprise and take him quite early.
Orlando Magic, 2nd – Trey Burke
If the Magic were the number one team in the draft, they might have thought twice about taking Burke, who won most individual awards last season with Michigan, losing in the nation final. But at second? There’s little doubt they’ll fill their biggest need – point guard, with the best one available, who should bring them an immediate impact of passing and scoring, despite some fearing he’s a tad small for the position.
Cleveland Cavaliers, 1st – Nelrens Noel
Despite his season ending injury last year, there’s little chance the freshman out of Kentucky isn’t going to be the first pick. He should be as efficient defensively as Anthony Davis, although his offensive game is just, and probably a little bit more, raw, than the previous Kentucky number one. The only way Noel isn’t the first pick is if doctors announce some terrible news about his prospects in the league, and thoughts of Greg Oden cross people’s minds.