Lost in the deluge of stories surrounding the current devolution of LeBron James and the Miami Heat to their embryonic 2011 form is the fact that we're only about two weeks away from the 2013 NBA draft.
Seriously, though, the NBA doesn't fool around in this regard. There's no 74-month buildup to drive monstrous television ratings, much like what happens in the NFL. And David Stern does not stash his draft midway through the regular season so that it passes and no one notices what an epic fail rate the prospect development systems are like in MLB.
Instead, Stern crowns the NBA champion and is then almost instantly off to hear the jeers from the New York City crowd—this year being his last trip before jet-setting off into retirement.
But until we get to Stern standing at the podium—at a point where we've either deified or demonized LeBron and the Heat to the point of exhaustion—all we have is the mere speculative rumblings of the draft's underworld.
Though we have a generalized idea regarding the expected draft range of about every prospect at this juncture, it is very difficult to gauge within that range exactly where each player will fall. The downside (from a prognostication perspective) of having a weak draft such as this is that it's inherently unpredictable. We'll probably see a trade within the first five picks that will fundamentally alter the entire landscape of Round 1.
This is awesome. And awful—at least for those who get a paycheck speculating on this stuff. This particular draft especially renders those who hope to have our personal Rain Man moment of perfection with the mock draft process rudderless.
But what we can do is look at the information we do know and make educated assertions from that data. With that in mind, here's a complete breakdown of our latest projections for Round 1.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Nerlens Noel (C, Kentucky)
The rumblings continue to be that the Cavaliers are completely unsure about what will happen with this pick. Though Noel remains the unanimous favorite to be picked at No. 1, no one is even sure whether Cleveland will pick here. The team has been linked to Indiana Pacers forward Danny Granger (among others) by Fox Sports' Sam Amico, but are the Cavs really that desperate to get rid of the top pick? I say no.
That means, barring someone like Boogie Cousins becoming available in the next few weeks, Cleveland will be stuck here. If that's the case, Noel will be the pick because he was always going to be the No. 1 pick.
There can be blusterous conversation about other players, but Noel has possibly the highest upside of anyone in this class, and he plays a need position for Cleveland.
There's a possibility that he never develops past that potential, though, with his knee injury and unpolished offensive game serving as potential detriments to his professional career. However, there are plenty of negative words worth being spewed about the remainder of this class as well.
2. Orlando Magic: Ben McLemore (SG, Kansas)
One request before we continue: can we stop the Trey Burke talk here? I'm not one to overly deride Burke's candidacy as a top-five selection in this class, nor am I completely bearish on his potential. Actually, it is quite the contrary, but we'll get to that later. Pundits' only reasoning for putting Burke at No. 2 is that the Magic need a point guard.
Allow me to throw a super-crazy theory out there: Orlando needs a lot of things. The team won 20 games this season, and chief among those needs is perimeter shooting. Tobias Harris and Moe Harkless are promising youngsters, but neither have anything resembling a plus outside game.
McLemore, an elite athlete with perhaps the best shooting stroke in this class, has everything Orlando needs and has a ceiling that is far higher than Burke's. Should a coach ever find the right buttons to push with this kid—and if those buttons exist—McLemore is one of only a few players in this class with a legitimate chance to be an All-Star. Give him a better dribble-drive game, and he's quite nearly the prototypical player for his position.
So even with those questions about whether he has the stab-you-in-the-heart type of drive, Orlando has to pull the trigger.
3. Washington Wizards: Otto Porter (SF, Georgetown)
The more you watch Porter play, the easier it is to fall in love with his all-around game. While the intricacies of his game don't necessarily stick out when watching him once, or even twice, by the third time, you know why this kid has the chance to be special.
It's always a bit of a red flag to say this, but Porter doesn't do anything poorly. He's possibly the most underrated defender in this class, handles the ball well enough to lead a break and has a developing outside shot that should only get better once he moves to the 3 full-time in the NBA.
The usual flip-side to a player who does "everything well" is that he doesn't have one overarching translatable skill, but that's not the case with Porter. His heady passing and solid rebounding skills for a 3 are both instantly translatable, and his prodigious length should allow him to guard 3's and 4's with some extra bulk.
Couple that with an unselfish attitude, and the Wizards' already burgeoning core would only get better by adding the kid who played collegiately just down the road.
4. Charlotte Bobcats: Alex Len (C, Maryland)
ESPN's Chad Ford noted recently that Len, despite being unable to work out due to an ankle injury, is quickly rising up draft boards. Teams view his soft touch around the basket and ready-built size as a "safer alternative" to Noel, which is surprising considering that Noel was still the better collegiate player, even with both players' flaws accounted for.
That being said, I would be surprised to see Len get past Charlotte, even with Anthony Bennett and Victor Oladipo (the No. 1 or 2 player on my board, depending on the day) still available.
The Bobcats, unsurprisingly, are in an untenable position once again following a disappointing draw in the lottery. A best-case scenario involves McLemore falling down a few spots because of his lack of competitiveness and Charlotte getting the floor-spacer it desperately needs.
Len represents a big-man alternative in this scenario. With Bismack Biyombo, a defensive stalwart, holding down the fort at one big man spot, Charlotte needs a big who can work around the basket and still stretch the floor a bit—a Zydrunas Ilgauskas type of player. They also need a player whose name is not Byron Mullens.
Len fits both criteria, and a "Big Z" comparison could be an insult to the former Maryland standout should he reach his full potential.
5. Phoenix Suns: Victor Oladipo (SG, Indiana)
Should Oladipo fall to the Suns at No. 5, they would react like the winning contestant of a "Win a Date With Kate Upton" contest. As the draft process moves forward, teams continue to fall more and more in love with Oladipo—as they should.
As previously mentioned, Oladipo is a big time favorite of mine. His combination of elite athleticism, defensive tenacity and ever-improving offensive game makes him enough of a late-blossoming talent that his age (already 21) isn't that much of a concern.
At the very worst, whoever drafts Oladipo is getting Tony Allen 2.0. There aren't many better worst-case scenarios in this draft, and the best case is Oladipo blossoming into a superstar at the next level. His ultimate career path will probably wind up somewhere in the middle, with the first couple seasons seeing him serve almost exclusively as a defense-first player before developing into a second or third banana on a contending team.
The Suns obviously aren't a contending team, and they don't even have the seed to plant the banana tree stalk. Still, Oladipo could be the first building block in the process of truly moving on from the Steve Nash era.
6. New Orleans Pelicans: Trey Burke (PG, Michigan)
After sweeping the national player of the year awards around the country and then leading his Michigan Wolverines to within one victory of a national championship, it seemed almost like a stone-cold lock that Burke would be a top-five pick. Even with Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart looming (at the time), the board could have gone in an innumerable amount of directions to have both point guards go within the first five picks.
Fast-forward a couple months and one "meh" combine workout later, and Burke is dangling as someone who might fall precipitously on draft night. Should New Orleans pass on Burke for Anthony Bennett, the former Michigan star will get consideration from both Sacramento and Detroit. But the Kings are said to prefer Michael Carter-Williams to Burke, per Ford, and the Pistons could go in any number of backcourt directions with their pick.
So, what is the reason for Burke's fall? That would be a combination of small stature and mediocre lateral quickness. While there are many small point guards throughout history who made teams regret not taking them (e.g. Chris Paul), that number is probably equal to the amount of general managers who lost their jobs for taking a small point guard with a lottery pick (e.g. D.J. Augustin).
There's no hard and fast rule here, and personally speaking, I like Burke and think he'll be an NBA starting point guard. His incredible IQ and craftiness around the basket can translate should he work on his game, and there's no indication that he won't. With Greivis Vasquez looking at a contract extension here in a year or so, the Pelicans would be remiss should they not take a long look at Burke here.
7. Sacramento Kings: Anthony Bennett (PF, UNLV)
The Kings supposedly like Carter-Williams, but one has to wonder who within the organization actually has the power to "like" anyone. This is a franchise in a full transition, already equipped with a new head coach and still looking for someone to run basketball operations. Until the latter man is hired and we start seeing his plan at work, there's little reason to say anything definitive about this pick.
For now, Bennett gets stuck here, mainly because he's the best player available. Though there are questions about what position Bennett will play and whether he'll ever develop the necessary post moves to subsist where he should (as a 4), there's no denying his array of skills. Just don't expect him to play defense, man.
8. Detroit Pistons: Michael Carter-Williams (PG, Syracuse)
With Mo Cheeks installed as the Pistons head coach—a move I'm not super-keen on, for what it's worth—the Pistons can move forward with whatever their original plan was for this draft. Detroit didn't go with an innovator who is going to push hard for a culture change. Cheeks is a defensive-minded specialist who knows how to develop point guards.
From a draft perspective, that could mean one of two things: he's going to try and make lemonade with the meh-mons Brandon Knight has given so far in his career, or the Pistons are going to hope Carter-Williams or Burke falls to them at No. 8.
I'm going with the latter, mainly because Carter-Williams' player personality fits so well with the Cheeks mentality. Though still developing as a shooter (he is a bad, bad shooter), Carter-Williams can guard at least two positions defensively and is lengthy enough that you could even switch him onto a small-ball 3 in certain situations.
9. Minnesota Timberwolves: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (SG, Georgia)
The Timberwolves' strategy, if they be planning on keeping Nikola Pekovic this summer, should involve doing one thing: adding shooting. They were far and away the worst three-point shooting team in the league this past season, and I'm putting the hopes that Ricky Rubio develops an outside jumper with unicorns at the end of a rainbow until it shows up.
Caldwell-Pope hasn't impressed during workouts that much, and this is the absolute peak of his stock. But Minnesota needs a player who can space the floor, knock down open jumpers and has the potential to develop into a starter-worthy player down the line. Caldwell-Pope doesn't have the highest ceiling of the players remaining on the board, but he fits the need criterion on a team that's looking to make the playoffs next year.
10. Portland Trail Blazers: Cody Zeller (PF-C, Indiana)
The Blazers could go any number of directions with this pick, mainly because they're in such desperate need of depth. No team's bench scored fewer points or averaged fewer minutes per game than Portland last season, and that's not because Terry Stotts is some unrepentant taskmaster.
To put it another way: Victor Claver started 16 games for this team. Claver was probably not far along enough in his development to play 16 games during the regular season, let alone start them. The Blazers need help, and they need it pretty much everywhere.
With Zeller's combine performance wowing scouts and putting him back into the top-10 conversation, he perhaps represents a solid middle-ground selection. The days of thinking about Zeller as a future star are gone, but so are the days of thinking of him as a bust. Should he find range from about 18 feet consistently, it's conceivable that he could be an interchangeable 4 or 5 that teams will be looking for in the coming years.
J.J. Hickson is probably leaving in free agency, so Zeller would be a good enough option to fill his spot.
11. Philadelphia 76ers: C.J. McCollum (PG/SG, Lehigh)
Looking back in a few years, McCollum will either be the sleeper of this draft or we'll wonder what the heck we analysts were thinking for touting him as such.
On the surface, there is a ton to like. He's lightning quick off the dribble, and he is a fearless attacker of the rim who can get to the hole in a multitude of ways. He also basks in the glow of big moments (e.g. 2012 NCAA tournament). Before being injured, McCollum also showed a vastly improved long-range jumper, though the sample size was too small to see if it was sustainable.
The latter part of that equation is most salient. What about the sample sizes with which we've seen him shoot proficiently, or compete against top talent, makes us convinced that he could do it at an NBA level? There's much inane talk of McCollum being the next Damian Lillard, which ignores the fact that they don't possess the same skills. McCollum could be the score-first version of Lillard without the passing—or he could be Rodney Stuckey.
The uneasiness that comes with that juxtaposition, though, should not be enough of a deterrent for the Sixers. They need scoring, perhaps more than any other team save for Phoenix and Charlotte, and getting a potential Sixth Man of the Year on the cheap is more than advisable.
12. Oklahoma City Thunder: Steven Adams (C, Pittsburgh)
Should Adams carry the momentum of his combine excellence into a lottery selection, he's still going to need a team to be patient. It's one thing for him to show off a feathery-soft touch while working against the chair, proverbially speaking. It's another to use those skills in game situations while not reverting to his tactics at Pitt, where he was afraid to do anything but dunk or lay the ball in.
So it's no surprise that he would land in Oklahoma City in this scenario. The Thunder have no plans on amnestying Kendrick Perkins. And even though the rapidly decaying seven-footer is worth about a third of his current salary, that's probably the prudent decision. Remember folks, amnestying a player still means you're paying him, and even as his current, wretched self, Perkins would still get 15-20 minutes for a ton of NBA teams.
That's valuable minutes tonnage, and as Perkins' value continues to diminish over these next two years (and it will), Adams' should theoretically rise. So by the time Adams is truly ready to make a full-time NBA contribution, Perkins, his minutes and his contract should be out the door.
13. Dallas Mavericks: Dario Saric (SF, Croatia)
There's no in-depth analysis needed here. Should Saric stay in the draft, it will be because a team promised to allow him to stay in Croatia another year while still selecting him in the lottery. Dallas, having already been reported as likely to trade its pick, is far and away the most likely candidate should that endeavor not be fruitful. The Mavs could acquire an asset while not paying him, and Saric could stay back home for at least a year.
This would be a win-win.
14. Utah Jazz: Shane Larkin (PG, Miami)
The Jazz are in an interesting spot as a franchise. They have Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap as impending free agents, but they also possess the rights to two talented young bigs (Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors) who are not getting enough burn at this juncture. Do they bring both Jefferson and Millsap back—or just one of them; or perhaps neither? The internal answer to that question for Utah may answer its choice between taking the "best player available" approach or the "best point guard available" approach at No. 14.
At this juncture, the latter seems far more likely of a scenario. Either Jefferson or Millsap will be back, simply because the Jazz cannot afford to allow both to leave without recouping assets in return—especially after they failed to move either of them at the trade deadline.
So, enter Larkin. This is the top of the mark for a 5'11" point guard, and it's probably still too high for him, all things considered. German enigma Dennis Schroeder has the higher upside, but no one knows when or if he'll ever be able to come in and contribute to an NBA franchise.
The same cannot be said for Larkin. Even at Lilliputian size, Larkin is a relentless worker, an excellent athlete and very good pick-and-roll ball-handler. With the Randy Foye-Mo Williams duo also hitting the free-agent market this summer, look for Larkin to be the pick here unless something crazy happens.
15. Milwaukee Bucks: Shabazz Muhammad (SG-SF, UCLA)
The Bucks have quite the little conundrum on their hands. They have a trio of guards already on the roster in J.J. Redick, Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, all of whom will potentially be hitting the market this summer. As noted by Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel, at least the negotiations with Ellis have gotten off on a rough patch. There is no word on how things are going with the other duo, but suffice it to say, this can't be the most comfortable time for Milwaukee.
Muhammad's draft stock has plenty of understandable question marks, but he'd be a borderline pilfering anywhere outside the lottery. Despite his faults, this is a kid who was good enough to garner top-three consideration heading into his first collegiate season. And even if his overall performance was a relative disappointment, Muhammad was not a disaster. He's already a polished scorer who may lead all rookies in points next season and would help mitigate the potential loss of Ellis or Redick.
16. Boston Celtics: Kelly Olynyk (C, Gonzaga)
It's been easy to put off making a definitive call on the Celtics. Nobody even knows who's coming back, who's not or anything other than the fact that the team will be located in Massachusetts next season. But with two weeks left before draft day, there has to be some consensus developing with Celtics brass, right? Word is mum on that as well.
Olynyk is sticking here for now, though, mainly because he would give the Celtics an interesting set of skills. It's possible that the seven-footer's destiny is to be a stretch-4, and it's surprising that everyone is bashing his lack of toughness before evaluating the talents that he has.
The touch around the basket is real, and Olynyk's ability to stretch the floor could make him an interesting long-term fit with Rajon Rondo. There's no real guarantees with this pick—much like with this entire roster—but Olynyk's development will be really interesting.
17. Atlanta Hawks: Dennis Schroeder (PG, Germany)
18. Atlanta Hawks (via Houston Rockets): Rudy Gobert (PF, France)
The Hawks have two options: They can either go all-in on the free-agent market—their expected route, especially with tampering fines signaling their underhanded movings—or they could blow things up, which comes only if "Plan A" fails.
Either way, pressing the draft detonator and selecting two players who might not come over next season might be the best way to go. At this spot, it's arguable that Gobert and Schroeder are the two best players in the draft, anyway. They certainly have the highest upside of the players still left at this spot, what with Schroeder being one of the quickest guards in recent memory and Gobert being so big that he'll be effective defensively by proxy of his presence alone.
Should the Hawks want to blow things up, they could either bring Schroeder and Gobert over or stash them; it doesn't matter either way. But if cap space is the goal, there might be some ever-so-slight nudging toward Schroeder and Gobert sticking it out another year outside the States before making it over.
19. Cleveland Cavaliers (via Los Angeles Lakers): Jamaal Franklin (SG-SF, San Diego State)
If the Cavs are unable to trade the No. 1 pick for a usable veteran asset, it's hard to see them making a pick in this spot. There will be a team that likes a player enough at No. 19 to make a deal, whether it be for yet another future pick or even a second-tier veteran with a high cap figure for next season. (This spot would be way too low for the Pacers to part with the aforementioned Granger.)
Staying here would be an option if Franklin is available, though. With Mike Brown having been brought in to re-instill defensive tenacity in a team that so often lacked it under Byron Scott, Franklin is the epitome of that attitude. He played out of position in college to help his team (to the detriment of his jumper) and can adequately guard three spots on the floor.
The development of his jumper will play a large role in his NBA future, but at worst, he's a mid-bench guy who comes in and wreaks a little havoc defensively with his energy. The Cavs need such a player.
20. Chicago Bulls: Gorgui Dieng (C, Louisville)
Speaking of players whose express purpose will be to wreak havoc for 15-20 minutes a night, I can't think of many more perfect fits than Dieng and Chicago. The Bulls desperately missed Omer Asik's presence this season behind Joakim Noah, as evidenced by Noah obliterating his career high in minutes per game. Nazr Mohammed has had a very nice NBA career, but his usefulness has long since passed.
Dieng, while maybe not quite on Asik's level, could step in almost right away and present a decent facsimile. The former Louisville standout is already a strong rebounder and an excellent shot-blocker, and though he doesn't have enough strength to bang with the NBA's biggest centers, those are a rapidly declining species anyway.
If the Bulls' expectation is merely that Dieng comes in, plays hard and never develops past eighth man status, then this should be a copacetic relationship.
21. Utah Jazz (via Golden State Warriors): Mason Plumlee (PF, Duke)
Even if the plan is to bring 50 percent of the Millsap-Jefferson duo back to Salt Lake City, there will still be a few leftover minutes to distribute. The Jazz have nothing beyond their current quartet of bigs, and with at least one of them probably heading elsewhere this summer, they should focus on using the No. 21 selection on a potential long-term replacement.
Plumlee's ceiling as a player depends on who you talk to, but most will agree that he has a spot in an NBA rotation. The former Duke standout is one of the most athletic bigs in this class, runs the floor well and is a revolving door of action on both ends of the floor. That has value in this league, even as Plumlee's still-raw offensive game will give teams some pause with his age (23) already being in the upper reaches.
That could be a problem at No. 10, but it's not 11 selections later. This draft is filled with players who may never become a regular rotation member, some of whom were already off the board in this scenario before Plumlee. Even though they wouldn't be getting superstars, the Jazz would do well for themselves with a Plumlee-Larkin combo meal.
22. Brooklyn Nets: Allen Crabbe (SG, California)
Brooklyn will be fully in warm-body mode for its foreseeable draft future. The Nets can't goof around with long-term projects because their core seems to be aging in dog years. They need to land a guy who can either help in the short-term—particularly, a shooter—or someone who can play well enough instantly to get flipped while his value is high.
Crabbe has the potential to fit both criteria. He put on a lights-out show at the draft combine, raining shots with a sweet compact jumper, and that's a skill you can't teach. That shot was on consistent display at Cal, and he could have probably fit in as an eighth or ninth man in the Nets' rotation this season.
And perhaps more importantly, NBA teams are much more prone to fall in love with an offensive talent early in his career than a great defender who can't shoot. The scoring comes in value that they can see, while the advanced numbers on defensive impact are still in their infancy. Say Crabbe comes in and lights the net on fire for the first couple months from beyond the arc; does the Kris Humphries' expiring contract plus Crabbe combination spark some interest?
Maybe it will, or maybe it won't. But the possibility is high enough that Brooklyn should pull the trigger.
23. Indiana Pacers: Reggie Bullock (SF, North Carolina)
The Pacers, even if they choose to bring Granger back, need help to make their offense tick consistently. They probably would have defeated Miami in the Eastern Conference Finals with a healthy Granger, and if you add two solid scoring contributors to that bunch, the odds go even higher.
No one is going to confuse Bullock with a potential superstar—a trope you all should be used to by now. Teams don't use late-round picks expecting to land a Kobe Bryant-equivalent here. Typically, late first-rounders are either draft-and-stash prospects or instant-contributor types that teams hope they can plug into their bench instantly.
Bullock should fit the latter bill. He showed a team-first attitude playing out of position at the 4 for Roy Williams last season, a gift-and-curse situation that allowed him to show off a strong rebounding prowess. Couple that with his toughness guarding 4s and his long-range shooting, and Bullock could be a perfect bench component for Frank Vogel.
Another way to look at it: he's not Sam Young.
24. New York Knicks: Jeff Withey (C, Kansas)
It will be the same thing, different song for the Knicks. Much like their Eastern Conference counterparts across the city in Brooklyn and in Indiana, New York needs pieces that can fit now, with the future being a very tertiary concern. Whether a window for NBA title competition actually exists for the Knicks is another story entirely, but at least they think it does.
So enter Withey, an amenable seven-footer who can provide size, toughness and a solid spell for Tyson Chandler should the Kenyon Martin train go off the tracks again. Withey is pretty much a stiff offensively, which puts him in danger of being out of the league in a couple years, but the instant-impact possibility on defense is too strong for the Knicks to take a pass on here.
25. Los Angeles Clippers: Glen Rice, Jr. (SG, NBA D-League)
The Clippers have developed a reputation in recent years of embracing enigma personalities (e.g. Jamal Crawford, Matt Barnes), so this seems like as good a spot for Rice as any. The former Georgia Tech disappointment turned D-League breakout star had his chariot turn into a pumpkin at the combine. He struggled to impress scouts or interviewers and there are still plenty of questions about his shooting prowess.
But Rice's stretch in the D-League playoffs was so unbelievable that some teams are still buying in. His combination of athleticism, scoring and defensive prowess (when locked in) are top-notch, and spending a couple months in Rio Grande Valley riding buses and eating off the Dollar Menu has to be enough to humble any kid.
If not, this pick will be a wash. Rice has to be willing to put in the work to develop. If those flashes of greatness down the stretch with the Vipers are even an inkling that he can be a seventh man in the NBA, though, the Clippers will have snagged a great pick at a need position.
26. Minnesota Timberwolves: Giannis Antetokounmpo (PG-SF, Greece)
I've gone on record multiple times as being a doubter on Antetokounmpo, but a team is going to draft him in the first round. It's become a foregone conclusion, one that entirely makes both complete sense and none at all.
On one side, I hate punting draft picks, and I think that Antetokounmpo will prove to be a punted pick. On the other hand, who is Minnesota going to grab at this juncture that will help the club now or has the potential of Antetokounmpo?
That is exactly the conundrum with these situations. But either way, if Antetokounmpo ever plays in the NBA, it won't be consistently well, from my perspective.
27. Denver Nuggets: Tim Hardaway, Jr. (SG, Michigan)
The Nuggets are in quite a bit of disarray. Executive of the Year Masai Ujiri is out, and following him is Coach of the Year George Karl. These aren't small losses, even if you're not sold on either one of them as being saviors. Whomever takes both jobs will have a ton of work to do with this roster, especially if Andre Iguodala opts out of his deal and becomes a free agent—and why wouldn't he?
With Corey Brewer also scheduled to become a free agent this summer, Denver could have quite the hole on the wings. Hardaway won't be able to fill both departures (or the injury-related absence of Danilo Gallinari), but he's another collegiate veteran where you know what you're getting. He has no problem being the second, third or even fourth banana on a team, shoots the ball well (a must for any Denver selection) and could be a replacement-level defender at the next level.
There's no clues as to what direction this team is going next. It's possible that the whole thing implodes and the young assets are sold off, piece-by-piece. But until we have answers, Hardaway is a pretty solid fit here.
28. San Antonio Spurs: Sergey Karasev (SG-SF, Russia)
I've had Karasev pegged here for months, and it's starting to look like teams are starting to become increasingly enamored with the 19-year-old Russian. After watching tape on him, it's not hard to see why. Karasev has a sweet shooting stroke and can play either shooting guard or small forward at the next level.
With Manu Ginobili still struggling to find his past form, it's time for San Antonio to start looking at a secondary developmental option. Danny Green has been sensational in these playoffs, but he's not the creator of the all-around offensive threat of Ginobili.
No one is saying that Karasev will be Ginobili 2.0 or anything. Ginobili is a Hall of Famer, while Karasev is barely a first-round NBA draft pick. But the potential for him to develop into a reasonable long-term substitute is there, and Karasev's crafty moves around the rim are also enough to make this comparison not seem completely off-base.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Ricardo Ledo (SG, Providence)
If history tells us anything, it's that Sam Presti tends to do well when equipped with two first-round picks. His dual pilfering of Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka in 2008 coupled with Kevin Durant being drafted the year before helped to set up the Thunder's current threesome.
Striking gold on that level again, especially in this draft, is a near impossibly. However, if Oklahoma City goes with the boom-or-bust duo of Adams and Ledo with its first-round picks this year, the team has a pretty decent shot of hitting 50 percent. Ledo is an enigma wrapped up in a strategically placed strip of bacon wrapped up in a Fruit Roll-Up. Teams don't know what to make of him, and he could be the most awful idea ever or the greatest selection in mankind history.
Well, OK, maybe he won't be quite the latter, but you get the point. He has the talent on par with any guard that's not Oladipo or McLemore in this class and could just be a couple years of tutelage under a good coach away from realizing that potential.
30. Phoenix Suns (via Miami Heat): Pierre Jackson (PG, Baylor)
The Suns need help just about everywhere. Taking a guard with their first selection does not preclude them from doing the same with the No. 30 selection, a fact that should come to fruition should Jackson be available.
He's the size of a peanut and almost certainly won't be anything other than a microwave scorer, but there's nothing wrong with that. Nate Robinson played a vital role in the Bulls' playoff run this season much in the same way. Isaiah Thomas might be the Kings' best guard, though that says more about Sacramento than anything else.
There is a place for these guys, so long as they have the skills. Jackson certainly does.
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