It's shorter than the NFL draft, far more accessible than the MLB or NHL version and the players drafted are far more likely to make an impact immediately than in other sports. It's the NBA draft, and it's a blast!
With the entire draft order now set, a clearer picture of how the board may shake out is taking shape. While this draft lacks a true top player and next year's draft promises to be much deeper, there are still excellent players to be had.
Let's break down where they'll end up.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Nerlens Noel, C, Kentucky
The Cavs have one of the most promising young backcourts in the league in Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters. But with a new emphasis on defense sure to follow coach Mike Brown into town, adding a dynamic young shot-blocker like Noel with this pick is the most logical move.
Does Noel's offensive game need a ton of work? Yes. Is his injury a concern? Sure. But after averaging 10.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 4.4 blocks per game, there isn't a more dynamic defensive presence on the block in this draft.
The trio of Noel, Irving and Waiters could develop into a one of the league's best down the road. This draft class may not have a consensus top pick, but the Cavs will be very happy with this selection.
2. Orlando Magic: Ben McLemore, SG, Kansas
The thinking at this pick seems to be divided into two schools of thought: address the top need at point guard by selecting Trey Burke, or select the top player overall since there are a number of needs to address in Orlando. I say the team goes the latter route and takes McLemore, who I would argue is the top prospect in this class.
3. Washington Wizards: Otto Porter, SF, Georgetown
Porter may not be spectacular in any area, but he does everything well. He can defend multiple positions (and does so well), runs the floor, can hit outside jumpers, sets up his teammates and crashes the boards. He'll be a great Swiss Army knife for the Wizards.
4. Charlotte Bobcats: Anthony Bennett, PF, UNLV
Bennett may be a bit of a tweener, as he's not quite big enough to handle the 4 and not quite a natural 3, but he has the athleticism and ability to score to fit in somewhere. The Bobcats will find a role for him and be glad to add another offensive weapon.
5. Phoenix Suns: Victor Oladipo, SG, Indiana
The Suns could really use a shooter from outside, but I don't see how the team can pass on an athletic freak like Oladipo if he's available. His offensive game will need work, yes, but he's the draft's best on-ball defender, and he'll be a dangerous weapon on the break.
6. New Orleans Pelicans: Trey Burke, PG, Michigan
I really don't see Austin Rivers as the point guard of the future, and while Greivis Vasquez was very good this year, he isn't a dynamic playmaker or scorer like Burke.
The Michigan star won just about every award out there this year—and for good reason. He averaged 18.6 points and 6.7 assists per game and led Michigan to the NCAA title game. He's a smart player as well, knowing when to take over a game himself and when to involve his teammates.
In Burke and Anthony Davis, the Pelicans will have a very nice inside-outside game, along with a dangerous scorer in Eric Gordon (if he can ever stay healthy). Things are looking up for New Orleans.
7. Sacramento Kings: Alex Len, C, Maryland
The Kings don't lack for players who look to find their shot. What this team needs is another powerful presence in the post or perhaps a replacement for DeMarcus Cousins, who talent is no longer overshadowing the headaches he causes.
8. Detroit Pistons: Shabazz Muhammad, SF, UCLA
The Pistons are going to luck out here, as their biggest need (small forward) will coincide with the best player available, Shabazz Muhammad. The added bonus is that Muhammad is the best pure scorer in this draft—another need for a team that averaged just 94.9 points per game, 22nd in the NBA.
Muhammad was a bit of a disappointment in his one season at UCLA. While he didn't find any difficulties scoring (17.9 PPG), he didn't really contribute in any other area for the team and often displayed a selfish and occasionally simply poor attitude.
But in truth, his game is probably more suited to the NBA, and his talent is unquestionable. His drop will be the Pistons' gain, as the team will get a stud at No. 8.
9. Minnesota Timberwolves: C.J. McCollum, G, Lehigh
The Timberwolves need players who can shoot the ball, and McCollum can flat-out score the rock. Next to Ricky Rubio in the backcourt, McCollum could end up being a sneaky Rookie of the Year candidate.
10. Portland Trail Blazers: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG, Georgia
Damian Lillard will get a running mate in the backcourt in Caldwell-Pope, an athletic scorer with good size (6'6") at the shooting guard position.
11. Philadelphia 76ers: Cody Zeller, C, Indiana
Zeller will likely move to power forward in the NBA, a position the team desperately needs to fill. And hey, with Andrew Bynum's Philly future up in the air, he could always slide over to center as well. This is an easy pick for the Sixers.
12. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Toronto Raptors): Dario Saric, F, Croatia
At this year's draft, the Thunder can afford to go for potential over immediate production. Saric is a smooth forward who passes well and has immense upside. The team can stash him for a season or two and let him develop in the mold of the San Antonio Spurs.
13. Dallas Mavericks: Michael Carter-Williams, PG, Syracuse
The Mavericks really need a point guard, and Carter-Williams is a steal here. With excellent size for the position (6'6") and a facilitating mindset, he's the perfect fit for Dallas.
14. Utah Jazz: Dennis Schroeder, PG, Germany
The Jazz, in desperate need of a point guard, will probably be disappointed to see Carter-Williams snatched up one pick before they select. But the consolation prize will be pretty sweet, as the team will land an athletic point who has been compared to Rajon Rondo. Not a bad second option, huh?
15. Milwaukee Bucks: Allen Crabbe, SG, California
The Bucks could have major turnover in the backcourt this offseason, as Brandon Jennings (restricted) and J.J. Redick (unrestricted) are free agents and Monta Ellis can opt out of the last year of his contract. With the possibility that one, if not all three, will be gone this summer, the Bucks will address the guard position with Crabbe, a natural scorer.
16. Boston Celtics: Gorgui Dieng, C, Louisville
The Celtics need to add depth to the frontcourt, plain and simple, and Dieng is a beast in the paint who would instantly upgrade the Celtics down low.
17. Atlanta Hawks: Mason Plumlee, C, Duke
Plumlee can probably play the 4 or 5 in the NBA, a plus for a team that likely will be losing Josh Smith this summer and would love to pair Al Horford with a talented running mate in the paint. Plumlee doesn't have star potential, but he'll be a very solid player for years to come.
18. Atlanta Hawks (via Houston Rockets): Jamaal Franklin, SG, San Diego State
Franklin will give the team options at both shooting guard and small forward, and he'll be tough to pass up here for the Hawks, despite the team's crowded backcourt.
19. Cleveland Cavaliers (via Los Angeles Lakers): Kelly Olynyk, C, Gonzaga
The Cavs added a big man who will become a defensive force in the NBA. Now, they'll pair him with a finesse scorer in Olynyk who's likely to transition to power forward in the NBA. The pair makes this a solid draft for the Cavs.
20. Chicago Bulls: Rudy Gobert, C, France
If Gobert drops to the Bulls, the team will snatch him up with nary a thought otherwise. Needing depth down low behind Joakim Noah, the team will gladly add Gobert, a talented center who could be off the board well before this.
21. Utah Jazz (via Golden State Warriors): Archie Goodwin, SG, Kentucky
Is he raw? Yes. Would he have entered the draft if next year's class wasn't so stacked? Probably not. But the Jazz will gladly develop this project because his upside is huge and the team will happily continue upgrading the backcourt.
22. Brooklyn Nets: Steven Adams, C, Pittsburgh
Brook Lopez needs some support down low. While Adams is a bit of a project, he's a physical specimen who should at least give the Nets 10-15 quality minutes off the bench in relief of Lopez.
23. Indiana Pacers: Tony Mitchell, PF, North Texas
This pick is a must if David West signs elsewhere, but even so, Mitchell would provide a solid backup for the power forward. Mitchell is a beast down low and has a ton of upside.
24. New York Knicks: Glen Rice Jr., SF, Georgia Tech
Rice is a fantastic prospect, and he eased character concerns in his one season in the NBA Developmental League after being kicked out of Georgia Tech. He'll provide some depth for the Knicks on the wing, who don't have many great options behind Carmelo Anthony at the 3.
25. Los Angeles Clippers: Shane Larkin, PG, Miami
If Chris Paul departs, the Clippers will hope the athletic Larkin can step in and become a nice replacement. If Paul remains, the team will likely have to move Eric Bledsoe and Larkin will have time to grow and will provide excellent depth at the position.
26. Minnesota Timberwolves (via Memphis Grizzlies): Sergey Karasev, SF, Russia
Why not add another shooter? Karasev is NBA-ready and may be the best perimeter shooter in the draft. The Timberwolves are going to be a lot of fun to watch next season after their two first-round selections.
27. Denver Nuggets: Tim Hardaway Jr., SG, Michigan
Hardaway will provide some cover at the 2 in case Andre Iguodala departs this summer, bringing an intensity and perimeter game that will fit in well in Denver.
28. San Antonio Spurs: Jeff Withey, C, Kansas
Withey just feels like a good fit for the Spurs, a proficient shot-blocker that can spell Tiago Splitter and make opponents think twice about driving the lane.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Giannis Antetokounmpo, SF, Greece
Why not make it two projects in the first round? Antetokounmpo has a lot of potential, but he's really, really unproven at just 18 years of age. Consider this first round a nod to the future for OKC.
30. Phoenix Suns (via Miami Heat): C.J. Leslie, PF, North Carolina State
Leslie can play either the 3 or 4, has plus athleticism and has a very high ceiling. He's battled inconsistency, but in Phoenix he'll be given time to work out the kinks.
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