The 2013 NBA Draft process has led to one of the most exciting and unpredictable buildups in recent memory. There is almost no telling what will happen at the Barclays Center on Thursday, just hours before the entire event kicks off.
The Cleveland Cavaliers’ selection at No. 1 is still nearly as undecided as lottery night, which is almost unprecedented in recent draft history. By now, we usually have a relatively concrete idea of how at least the first three or four selections will play out.
This year, there’s no telling what can happen. The Cavs hold all the chips in their hands, with an innumerable amount of scenarios coming in the aftermath of their selection. For those whose job it is to prognosticate these things (*looks wistfully in the mirror*), it’s been quite the process parsing through and finalizing my final mock draft.
However, the time for posturing and rumor mongering is over. We’re at the point where it’s time to take a long look at the information at our disposal, make an informed selection and hope one trade doesn’t send it all straight to hell. (Note: It will.)
The draft is mere hours away, and it’s time to cast our final 30 ballot to the draft gods and hope nothing bad happens. With that in mind, here is a complete look at our final breakdown of the entire first round.
(Note: There will be no “trades” made in these selections. If I’ve heard anything or another source has reported information, it will be noted—especially if it’s something I expect to happen. As for actually indicating it within the picks, that’s just a slippery slope that’s not worth going down.)
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Nerlens Noel (C, Kentucky)
After a bit of a scare over the past week or so, it's beginning to look like Noel will settle in where everyone thought he would—atop the 2013 NBA draft. The Cavaliers are still giving consideration to a few other players, namely Anthony Bennett and Alex Len, and it's still very unconfirmed which direction they'll head.
While Noel isn't on the top of my board, Cleveland taking him in this spot is totally understandable. Kyle Tucker of The Courier-Journal reported that Noel said Cavaliers doctors checked him out and everything was fine, which was a major hurdle for any team potentially interested in Noel. Cleveland can only go on what its team doctors say, and if they're on board with the Noel selection, it's a trigger the Cavs have to pull.
An explosive defensive stopper during his shortened season at Kentucky, Noel unquestionably has the highest potential of any player in this draft. He was starting to show signs of improvement offensively before getting hurt—minor ones, but still—and his Larry Sanders-esque qualities around the rim are attractive even if he only develops into a league-average scorer.
To put it another way: The Cavaliers know they're not getting a guaranteed star at this spot regardless of who goes here. Why not roll the dice on someone who has the highest potential?
2. Orlando Magic: Ben McLemore (SG, Kansas)
In this scenario, the Magic's selection comes down to two players: McLemore and Indiana's Victor Oladipo. There has been a prevailing thought that this is essentially a 50-50 split, one where it could go either way depending on the in-the-moment whims of the front office.
The McLemore-Oladipo argument at No. 2 is also internally fracturing. I have Oladipo as the best player on my board and have for a long time. McLemore is third, behind only Otto Porter of Georgetown. While the only board that matters is Orlando's, it's important to note just how close these two players are in terms of talent.
Which is exactly the reason it'd be justifiable for the Magic to take McLemore over Oladipo here. While McLemore by all accounts has acquitted himself poorly in workouts, he was also extremely productive at the college level and essentially matches Oladipo in the athleticism department.
With the Magic already having two wings who are poor outside shooters in Tobias Harris and Moe Harkless, it would be more than understandable to take McLemore here due to fit. If the plan is to ship off Harris or Harkless, though, then Oladipo could hear his name called second on Thursday.
3. Washington Wizards: Anthony Bennett (SF-PF, UNLV)
Once upon a time, Otto Porter looked like a lock for this spot. His combination of skills and willingness to work off the ball were paramount factors in that belief, with John Wall and Bradley Beal needing the ball to be effective.
However, the Wizards have apparently fallen in love with Bennett in recent weeks. Sheridan Hoops' Joe Kotoch reported that Washington was "determined" to draft the UNLV forward, and the buzz elsewhere seemed similar.
Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun noted that Bennett's friendship with Bradley Beal could have a slight factor in the decision:
Bodog has odds of Anthony Bennett going No. 3 to Washington at 1/1. Interesting fact: Bennett and Wizards G Brad Beal are very close.— Ryan Wolstat (@WolstatSun) June 25, 2013
As for whether that would be a good decision, that depends on who you're speaking with. There are some who love Bennett's ability to play both the 3 and 4 spot, seeing the traits that would once get him a tweener label as bolstering his case. Bennett can shoot comfortably out to the three-point line, though I'm more inclined to call him a 4 after watching a ton of film on him.
With the Wizards looking for long-term replacements for the Emeka Okafor-Nene duo and needing a fix on the wing, it ultimately doesn't matter where Bennett plays. His array of talents seem to be winning out.
4. Charlotte Bobcats: Otto Porter (SF, Georgetown)
Kotoch's report also has another interesting tidbit of information: The Bobcats are looking to trade Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. While they’re merely shopping him at the moment, Charlotte’s motivation is that it apparently grades Porter higher than the man it took No. 2 overall a year ago.
In some ways, the appeal of Porter is similar in some ways to that of Kidd-Gilchrist a year ago. Neither were considered the highest-upside players in the world but ones who worked hard on every possession and almost certainly wouldn't bust.
The differences here lie in their weaknesses. Porter’s biggest concern is his strength and his tendency to be too passive on the offensive end. Kidd-Gilchrist’s biggest weaknesses are his complete inability to shoot a basketball and the spacing problems that come with it.
Whether there’s ultimately any fire to that smoke is unclear. It would seem awfully shortsighted for the Bobcats to make such a move, especially considering that Kidd-Gilchrist is still very young. But my love of Porter’s game has been well-documented, and if Charlotte can get relatively equal value in return for Kidd-Gilchrist, it’s an option worth considering.
5. Phoenix Suns: Victor Oladipo (SG, Indiana)
The Suns would be doing backflips should Oladipo be available at No. 5. For some (*again looks in a mirror*), the former Indiana star represents the apex of this year’s class. Oladipo is an athletic 2-guard who plays some of the finest perimeter defense you’ll ever see and started to really show signs of growth as a scorer last season in Indiana.
As scouts continue to watch him play, the higher Oladipo has gone in mock drafts. The Magic will give him heavy consideration at No. 2, and this is the absolute basement of his potential. And with so many teams looking to trade into and out of the top five, it’s very possible that a team will move up to land Oladipo if he slips past Orlando.
Since we’re not worrying about trades here, Oladipo falls and he could ultimately be the steal of the draft. He’ll definitely have to improve as a shooter to make that happen, though. NBA teams aren’t afraid to ignore players who can’t make them pay from long range, and those one-sided players are slowly getting pushed out of the league.
At his best, Oladipo could be Tony Allen mixed with a poor man’s Dwyane Wade. At his worst, he’s just Tony Allen. With the No. 5 pick in this draft, that’s a chance the Suns are likely willing to take.
6. New Orleans Pelicans: Alex Len (C, Maryland)
New Orleans would have a really tough decision to make in this spot. The newly branded Pelicans don’t have many holes on-paper outside of their 3 spot, but there is no one on the board who justifies the sixth pick at that spot.
With that out of the way, the selection will probably come down to Len and Trey Burke. New Orleans took a big last year in Anthony Davis, but he seemed to fit in better as a 4 last year than a 5. Robin Lopez is a very viable NBA starting center and has a workable contract, but he’s in line with a raise within the next couple years. Same can be said for Greivis Vasquez, the team’s incumbent starting point guard.
In the debate between Len and Burke, the Maryland center would probably win out. It’s been noted plenty of times that the Cavaliers are giving him serious consideration at No. 1, and the Bobcats could be interested at No. 4. This represents something of a McDonald’s Value Meal pick. Len has All-Star potential in the right system and can be brought along slow with Lopez still in the fold.
7. Sacramento Kings: Trey Burke (PG, Michigan)
It’s easy to like Isaiah Thomas. He’s a little spitfire of a microwave scorer, an exceedingly fun guy to watch play the sport and a great story. It doesn’t matter. Sacramento isn’t going anywhere if Thomas is its long-term answer at the point guard spot—especially not in this league dominated by that position.
This scenario almost forces the Kings to pull the trigger on Burke. While there are questions about the National Player of the Year’s size and athleticism, the kid has had success everywhere he’s been. Burke is a crafty player who knows how to finish around the basket and the most advantageous ways to get his teammates involved. His understanding of spacing is already at an NBA point guard level.
Michael Carter-Williams could get a strong look here as well. But with Tyreke Evans’ contract situation looming over the summer, it’s difficult to see Sacramento pulling the trigger on another similarly sized guard. And Burke is a better player. That always helps.
8. Detroit Pistons: C.J. McCollum (SG, Lehigh)
Joe Dumars has been slowly building up the Pistons from the rubble these past few seasons with mid-lottery selections. Both Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond dropped down past their expected value, leaving Detroit with no choice but to pounce on its good fortune.
We could look back on this in hindsight and say the same thing. McCollum may be the most underrated prospect in this entire class by the masses. Scouts know how good he is, as do NBA teams. But you’re going to hear a collective gasp in the Barclays Center on Thursday night when his name is called.
McCollum is a score-first combo guard with a quick first step and excellent finishing skills around the basket. Though most of his senior season was wiped out due to injury, the former Lehigh standout also showed major flashes of an improving three-point shot. Having even a league-average three-point shot would be a major boon to someone with his skill set and could make him a relative steal at No. 8.
9. Minnesota Timberwolves: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (SG, Georgia)
I’ve been taking a risk here throughout this process having Caldwell-Pope at No. 9, and it still feels that way. The former Georgia star only had moderately impressive workout performances, which cooled his name among scouts. There was some prevailing wisdom that Caldwell-Pope would soar in workouts, not having the pressures of carrying an entire workload on his shoulders. While he hasn’t been dreadful, the middlingness of it all made his top-10 status questionable.
This scenario leaves Flip Saunders little choice but to take the risk. The Timberwolves, for all their promise with Ricky Rubio and Alexey Shved, were the worst three-point shooting team in the league last season. Shved was among the worst qualifying individual players, and, as a team, Minnesota shot just a shade about 30 percent.
Caldwell-Pope won’t succumb to such trivialities. He’s one of the best three or four pure shooters in this class, and his presence would help space the floor a great deal for Rubio to work.
10. Portland Trail Blazers: Cody Zeller (PF-C, Indiana)
There’s really no telling what Portland will do in this spot. The Blazers need to fill out roster spots, what with their bench being filled with armless and legless talking mannequins last season.
With J.J. Hickson a likely departee in free agency this summer, Zeller would fit a need for a 4-5 with versatility. Zeller has a nifty post game that came out plenty of times against Big Ten competition throughout his two seasons at Indiana, and he’s been showing teams an improved mid-range jumper during workouts.
Couple those traits with surprising athleticism, and Zeller would be a solid pick here at No. 10.
11. Philadelphia 76ers: Mason Plumlee (PF, Duke)
Say hello to your worst-case scenario, Sixers fans. Two players who have seemed like perfect fits during this process for Philadelphia at No. 11 were McCollum and Zeller. The former would give an instant scoring impact one of the league’s worst offenses needs, while the latter is an intriguing combination of size and athleticism.
And now here we are. Philly would essentially be choosing between a bunch of second-rate versions of the picks it wanted, with each player bringing forth some level of potential pitfall. I’m not ultimately sure whether they would take Plumlee, Sergey Karasev, Shabazz Muhammad, Steven Adams or Kelly Olynyk here. I’m just sure it’d be one of those five guys.
Plumlee won my mental jostling of the Rubik’s Cube because he’s probably the best instant-impact and needs combination. There won’t be anyone who will confuse Plumlee with a future star, but he’s an athletic big who can crash the rim hard and works on every possession.
If the Sixers are going for the long-term game here, don’t be surprised to see Adams be the pick.
12. Oklahoma City Thunder: Steven Adams (C, Pittsburgh)
It’s been expected for a while now that the Thunder would look to go with more of a project player here than anyone who will instantly contribute. There’s no use in Oklahoma City wasting what could be its final real asset from the James Harden deal on someone who will play 10 minutes a game next season and 15 at his peak.
For that reason, Adams has always felt like a perfect fit. A massive molding project when he arrived at Pittsburgh, Adams left Jamie Dixon’s tutelage having seemingly learned little. He spent his entire freshman season with one offensive skill—dunking—and his understanding of defensive rotations still needed work. Though the talent has always been there, it was understandable when some questioned Adams’ decision to turn pro this early.
With excellent athletic testing and some subtle improvements to his touch around the basket in workouts, Adams has proven himself right—especially if he gets taken by Oklahoma City. The Thunder would allow him the proper time to develop (likely in the D-League), and one or two years down the line Adams might replace Kendrick Perkins in the starting five.
13. Dallas Mavericks: Sergey Karasev (SG, Russia)
The Mavericks will probably be dealing this selection. There have been reports (per Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski) that Dallas has a deal in the works with the Cleveland Cavaliers, but neither side has confirmed or denied the expected transaction.
If that deal does get consummated, all signs point to Karasev being the selection. An intriguing wing scorer, Karasev is my favorite international player in this draft. His combination of a shifty Manu Ginobili Lite finishing ability around the rim and excellent long-range shooting could make him a factor earlier than anyone expects.
Even if Dallas winds up staying in this spot via some miracle, Karasev would still be a more than adequate selection. He could theoretically stay over in Russia for another year to develop, while helping the Mavericks keep their cap space open.
14. Utah Jazz: Michael Carter-Williams (PG, Syracuse)
Utah has essentially been linked to every mid-first-round point guard in this draft. Their need to replace the Mo Williams-Randy Foye duo is quite apparent when you see those names pixelated on your screen—I need to go no further.
Carter-Williams, even despite his major shooting flaws, would be a steal here in this spot. The Jazz would instantly morph into a far more interesting team with Carter-Williams’ versatility. A standout at Syracuse during his entire career, Carter-Williams can defend both guard spots and is one of the more interesting prospects in this class.
His court vision and passing skills make him a bit of a freak at 6’6”, and he’s always seemed like a player more suited to the NBA game. What that means for his NBA career is unclear. Teams cannot subsist in today’s league with a guard who cannot shot whatsoever. If Carter-Williams develops an even league-average jumper it would do wonders for his career.
If not, at least he’s not Mo Williams or Randy Foye.
15. Milwaukee Bucks: Shabazz Muhammad (SG-SF, UCLA)
Putting it mildly, the Bucks need to add some insurance to their backcourt. They strangely acquired J.J. Redick at the trade deadline this past season, giving up promising young wing Tobias Harris. That move solidified their playoff spot—which they would have had regardless—but also put Milwaukee in a situation where its entire backcourt could leave this offseason.
Brandon Jennings (restricted), Monta Ellis (player option) and Redick (unrestricted) are all relatively free to throw up the deuces to the Bucks this summer. It’s a strange situation the team put itself in.
Muhammad, while not a perfect prospect to say the least, would represent a good value in this spot. He’s become a victim of the expectations his high school career placed at his feet. Expected to be the game’s next transcendent scorer, Muhammad proved to be merely very good.
Couple that with his strange off-the-court stuff, and teams have shied away. That said, Muhammad is still a talented scorer who might be good enough to lead all rookies in scoring with the right opportunity. If things keep heading the way they have been, that situation may just be in Milwaukee.
16. Boston Celtics: Dennis Schroeder (PG, Germany)
In case you’ve been in an Internet-free cocoon these past few weeks, the Celtics are currently in the process of blowing up their franchise. Doc Rivers is heading to the Clippers, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce’s futures are up in the air, and who in the hell knows what’s going on in the Wonderful World of Rajon Rondo at the moment.
There’s no telling what Danny Ainge will do on draft night.
Schroeder fits here because of his upside, draft-and-stash potential and the constant linkage of his name to the Celtics. Boston would be more than fine allowing its pick to hang out overseas for a season, keeping his salary off the cap and perhaps helping set up a Tankapalooza next season. It's unclear whether he will want to stay overseas—ESPN's Chad Ford says he's informed teams he wants to come over right away.
So your guess is really as good as mine here. But Boston would be remiss to not take a long look at Schroeder even if he wants to come over right away. Should Rondo stick around next season, it'd be hard to find a much smarter guy to learn from. Rondo is one of the more inquisitive guys in the league, one that could teach Schroeder a ton about how to play the NBA game.
17. Atlanta Hawks: Giannis Antetokounmpo (SF, Greece)
18. Atlanta Hawks (via Houston Rockets): Shane Larkin (PG, Miami)
ESPN’s Chad Ford has reported he’s continually heard Antetokounmpo’s name linked at No. 17 throughout this process. Ford’s info on overseas talent is very good—he was one of the first pundits to really push the non-American movement—so I’ll cede to him on that selection.
Antetokounmpo is a guy I’ve been down on throughout this process, even when I had him going to Minnesota at No. 26. Should Danny Ferry pull the trigger on this kid inside the top 20, well, we'll see what happens. Let’s just say there isn’t much precedent for a kid who hasn’t played at any higher level than Greece’s second division making it in the Association.
The Larkin selection feels much more rational from a basketball and value sense. He’s probably never going to make an All-Star team—only eight players listed below 6’0” ever have—but it’s also hard to see him being a bust. There are few players who work harder on both ends of the floor than Larkin, and his heady play at Miami last season proved he can last on big stages.
We’re probably talking about a seventh or eighth man here. In this draft, that might wind up being a value selection.
19. Cleveland Cavaliers (via Los Angeles Lakers): Rudy Gobert (PF, France)
Since we’ve established that Cleveland might not be picking here, let’s go through this one Twitter-style (140 characters or less): Gobert might be a draft-and-stash talent. He would work if the Mavericks wind up here and would be a future asset for Cleveland. Have a nice day.
20. Chicago Bulls: Gorgui Dieng (C, Louisville)
The Bulls found a way to adequately replace their vaunted “Bench Mob” on the cheap last season, with guys like Nate Robinson stepping up beyond anyone’s wildest expectations. But their decision to let Omer Asik leave for the Houston Rockets proved to be critical. Nazr Mohammed struggled (understandably at his age), leaving the Bulls without an option when Joakim Noah was essentially playing on one leg in the playoffs.
Dieng, despite his rawness offensively, would fit in quite nicely as a Mohammed replacement. The former Louisville standout got plenty of lottery buzz when the Cardinals made their run through the NCAA tournament but was ultimately unable to keep that up.
While falling down on draft night will hurt his wallet, it will also help curb unrealistic expectations. Dieng was never going to be anything other than a defense-first backup big in the NBA. Anyone who watched him play consistently during the college basketball season could tell you that. He’s a guy who looked like a man among boys, literally because he was a man among boys.
With his only overarching offensive skill being his passing out of the post, Dieng needs a situation that can utilize what he’s good at while not expecting more. The Bulls are a perfect fit.
21. Utah Jazz (via Golden State Warriors): Kelly Olynyk (PF-C, Gonzaga)
After landing their coveted point guard at No. 14, the Jazz are almost playing with house money at this spot. They have a need on the wings, and Jamaal Franklin is still available in this scenario. Expect him to get a ton of consideration at this spot.
But prevailing wisdom, with Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap both hitting the open market this summer, is that Utah will draft a point guard and a big on Thursday. That could change, but in this scenario Olynyk’s value is probably too great to pass up.
A versatile big who emerged last season at Gonzaga, it’s unclear what role Olynyk will play at the NBA level. He’s got the size of a 5, the game of a combo big and the athleticism of a lamp. While that combination of skills (and lack of athleticism) has left some teams tepid on his ability to translate, the Jazz would consider him at No. 14 if Carter-Williams is off the board. With the futures of Jefferson and Millsap both up in the air, it’s tough to see Utah passing on Olynyk seven picks later.
Lucas Nogueira is also a possibility at this spot should the team want to draft-and-stash a big.
22. Brooklyn Nets: Allen Crabbe (SG, California)
The Nets are fully locked into a no screwing around position. With a self-created salary cap situation from hell and little flexibility thanks to the NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement, cheap assets like draft picks are the only way Brooklyn is going to get better this summer unless it unloads Kris Humphries’ expiring deal.
Billy King has no room for error here. His team needs instant help on the outside, and Crabbe is easily the best scoring option on the board.
The former Cal standout has seen his value go up and down throughout this process, mainly because it’s hard to peg how teams rank him against similarly skilled players like Reggie Bullock. I’ve been bullish on Crabbe’s NBA outlook since he declared for the draft, and it’s been impressive to see how he’s handled this process. His lights-out shooting performance at the combine was exemplary, as was his surprisingly above-average performances in the athleticism drills.
With Gerald Wallace acting as the human eraser of spacing last season, Brooklyn would be remiss if it didn’t make a run at Crabbe. Even as a rookie, pairing him with Joe Johnson almost sounds more appealing than seeing Wallace throw up another prayer.
23. Indiana Pacers: Reggie Bullock (SF, North Carolina)
After coming one win away from making the NBA Finals this past season, the Pacers will be one of the more intriguing teams to watch this summer. Assuming David West returns at a market-value contract, they won’t have any cap space this summer. That leaves only cap exceptions, Danny Granger’s expiring contract and this pick as potential assets.
It’s very possible that Indiana winds up moving this pick.
But it’s hard to see the Pacers passing should Bullock, a versatile wing who fits their need for a three-point shooter while showing a lunchpail mentality that Frank Vogel would love, fall to No. 23. Bullock fully embraced Roy Williams asking him to play the 4 down the stretch last season, flashing his rebounding skills and creating space on offense with his shooting threat.
Indiana already has a plethora of wings, so it could make a splash with someone like Isaiah Canaan in this spot. There are just too many positives pointing in Bullock’s direction—especially with Granger’s future up in the air.
24. New York Knicks: Jamaal Franklin (SG-SF, San Diego State)
Carmelo Anthony might want the Knicks to add another scorer this offseason, but they’re not going to find it at this spot. Much like their crosstown rival, the Knicks need to make the most of this pick by adding a contributor, not trying to play the hero.
There are questions about what position Franklin will play at the next level, and he’s become a polarizing player as this process has moved along. Some see the next Kawhi Leonard in the right situation. Others see a flameout who never finds much time off the bench due to his complete inability to shoot.
The Knicks would be smart to stay on the positive side of things here. Franklin is quick and athletic enough to guard both wing spots, a place where New York’s laissez-faire defenders struggled last season. He’s also a hardworking kid who was willing to play out of position and bang against players bigger than him at San Diego State.
Concepts like team-first attitude and winning mentality are thrown around by cantankerous writers who have stopped enjoying the game long ago. But they’re traits that won’t hurt—especially not on this Knicks team. Franklin should be good for 10-15 minutes next season regardless of his situation.
25. Los Angeles Clippers: Isaiah Canaan (PG, Murray State)
There have been multiple rumors flying around the league that Thursday will the Clippers consummate a trade to land Arron Afflalo from the Orlando Magic for Eric Bledsoe and Caron Butler. It’s possible that teams are just throwing that possibility out there to gauge a reaction, but this has been a move that’s been talked about for a great while.
We’re not going to get into discussing the merits of that deal here, but it could fundamentally alter Los Angeles’ draft strategy. With Bledsoe out of the picture (even if it's not Thursday), suddenly there’s a gaping hole at the backup point guard spot. For all the talk of Bledsoe being a luxury, his presence allowed the team to limit Chris Paul’s minutes—critical to preserving a guy with knee issues.
Canaan is the type of player who could both fit in early in his career and help mitigate the loss of Bledsoe. Not as prodigious of a defender, Canaan makes up for it with his scoring prowess. Canaan and McCollum are the two most explosive microwave scorers in this class. It’s worth noting that McCollum went inside the top 10.
A superstar at Murray State, Canaan has more questions than McCollum body-wise. But he could be a reasonable facsimile of the expectant value at No. 25.
26. Minnesota Timberwolves: Lucas Nogueira (C, Brazil)
The Timberwolves will probably match any offer to restricted free agent Nikola Pekovic this summer, but don’t be surprised if they grab some insurance here anyway. No one knows what craziness can happen during the summer, and it would be awfully hard for Minnesota to match a max contract if a team went completely haywire.
Nogueira probably won’t come over next season even if Pekovic re-signs and could be interesting trade bait. A defense-first, high-energy player, Nogueira has been on NBA radars since breaking out at camps in 2011. While he hasn’t developed as rapidly as some teams hoped he would, there is still a ton of talent left to be mined in the right situation.
Minnesota doesn’t need to jumble up its roster with any more clutter, so it matters little to Flip Saunders and Co. where he does that growing. Nogueira will be taken somewhere in the first round, and the Timberwolves’ recent propensity for taking non-American talent makes them as interesting a fit as any.
27. Denver Nuggets: Tim Hardaway, Jr. (SG, Michigan)
The Nuggets have taken a wretched situation and somehow flipped it around this offseason. Losing Masai Ujiri and George Karl, the respective Executive and Coach of the Year award winners this year, looked like a complete mess. And with Andre Iguodala (player option) hitting the free-agent market this summer, Denver looked like a team that could go flying out of the playoffs.
Two solid hires in head coach Brian Shaw and general manager Tim Connelly, and all seems right with the world. Denver still has a chance to re-sign Iguodala. It could theoretically just say “run it back” with last year’s bunch, only with a different coach, and see how things go.
Connelly still has to prepare for the worst-case scenario. In that event, Iggy leaves the Rocky Mountains after just one season, puncturing a hole into the team’s wing spots that cannot be replaced by this current roster
Hardaway isn’t a remotely reasonable Iguodala replacement, but he could represent the beginning part of a long-term cobbling of semi-substitutes. The former Michigan guard can shoot the ball well from outside, works hard on the defensive end and was one of the more unselfish leaders in the country last season. He willingly soldiered up as Trey Burke, Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary got more credit, despite Hardaway acting as the emotional leader of that team.
Hardaway’s outside shooting will obviously be his most attractive trait for the Denver front office. That said, Shaw probably won’t mind having a young man with his attitude either.
28. San Antonio Spurs: Tony Mitchell (PF, North Texas)
Let’s call this the ultimate Spursian pick, shall we? Every year it seems folks have San Antonio pegged one way or another on draft night. Most of the time the projections revolve around the draft’s top international talent, which is understandable considering the Spurs’ franchise-wide success in that area.
Here’s a secret: The Spurs haven’t taken an international player with their first pick since Tiago Splitter in 2007. They’ve actually been much more attune to the underrated collegiate American players, grabbing guys like Corey Joseph, DeJuan Blair and others after they’ve fallen farther than expected.
Mitchell would be a major risk. He’s a lottery talent but has character red flags and failed to make many improvements from his freshman to his sophomore year at North Texas. At the very peak of his potential, Mitchell might turn into an All-Star someday, the next in a line of guys where the skepticism went way too far.
Or he could be out of the league in two years. That’s the guy you’re dealing with here.
With Tiago Splitter hitting the open market this summer and the “ageless” Tim Duncan actually having a birth certificate (he’s 37, folks), San Antonio needs to shore up its front line. Mitchell might be that guy. Or he might not. But he has an upside that makes him worth finding out.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Glen Rice Jr. (SG, NBA D-League)
Much like their No. 12 selection, any player selected here will probably spend much of his first NBA season in the D-League. Why not go grab someone who has already had a ton of success in the NBA’s minors?
Rice, who joined the Rio Grande Valley Vipers after being kicked out of Georgia Tech, reinvigorated his draft stock with a tantalizing run through this past year’s D-League playoffs. A nightly 25-10 while flashing a much-improved jumper, Rice went on to win the finals MVP and lead the Vipers to a championship.
He hasn’t been able to parlay that into lottery consideration, but much like Adams, Rice may have found his perfect fit. The Thunder need to find a long-term answer for a score-first 2-guard, with the Harden trade lingering and Kevin Martin’s free agency impending. Rice flashed that potential both at Georgia Tech and in the D-League.
If it wasn’t merely a flash of potential before the inevitable downfall, the Thunder may find the steal of the draft here.
30. Phoenix Suns (via Miami Heat): Pierre Jackson (PG, Baylor)
The Suns could go quite literally anywhere with this pick. Their roster is mostly devoid of long-term answers, with Goran Dragic likely being the only player who the team views as a viable option going forward. If Nogueira were here, Phoenix would take a long look at him as a potential Marcin Gortat replacement.
In this scenario, Mike Muscala and Jeff Withey are the best bigs remaining. Both are nice players, probably longtime bench contributors in the NBA, but nothing to get excited about.
Jackson has the potential to be an electric scorer—maybe even as soon as his rookie year. Too often in this draft process scouts emphasize genetics-given height over tangible basketball skills. Jackson can shoot, penetrate and works hard on the defensive end of the floor. If he were three inches taller, he’d be a lottery pick.
You take that type of offensive talent and run with the last pick in Round 1.
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