There are going to be a few picks in Thursday night’s NBA draft that are bound to blow your socks right off your feet.
Here, I’m going to prepare you in case some teams stray away from their needs, avoid the experts’ recommendations and draft a prospect that no one expects them to take. In other words, there are teams that are going to surprise you.
There were a couple of picks from last year’s draft that left many scratching their heads. For example, the Raptors selected Terrance Ross with the No. 8 pick in the draft when many thought he was a mid-to-late first-round pick. Through one year, that pick seems to be a major bust.
So which team will make a surprise selection this year?
Below is a full prediction as to what could end up happening when the draft commences and things don’t go the way many expect them to.
*Italicized draft picks represent selections that would be incredibly shocking.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Otto Porter, Jr., SF, Georgetown
Everyone’s jaw is going to drop if the Cavaliers don’t take either Alex Len or Nerlens Noel with the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. Those two big men are really the only prospects that experts and the media have considered as potential options for Cleveland to select with the top pick.
But would taking someone other than Len or Noel be that horrible? It’s not just at center where the Cavaliers need help. Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters are the two future guards, but Cleveland has yet to secure a long-term small forward. That’s where Otto Porter, Jr. would come in.
Porter needs to get a little stronger, but he is a true small forward. He’s a very good shooter who also plays exceptional defense. It appears that Cleveland is either going to go with a center or a small forward, as any of the other three spots would just be foolish. Porter at No. 1 is unlikely and would be the definition of shocking, but it could happen.
2. Orlando Magic: Nerlens Noel, C, Kentucky
If the Cavs don’t take Noel, then Magic definitely will. Nikola Vucevic was the starting center for Orlando last year, but Noel is certainly the better option. Vucevic, who averaged 13.1 points and 11.9 rebounds per game in 2012-13, will see plenty of minutes until Noel is cleared to take the floor for Orlando.
3. Washington Wizards: Ben McLemore, SG, Kansas
There’s a chance that Ben McLemore heads to Cleveland instead of Porter, but the odds that he lands with Washington are much higher. The one problem with McLemore going to the Wizards is that he’ll have to move to small forward, which he may be a bit undersized for. Bradley Beal is clearly the shooting guard of the future.
4. Charlotte Bobcats: Trey Burke, G, Michigan
While it’s expected that the Bobcats will select a guard with the No. 4 pick in the draft, it’s unlikely that they would go with a primary point guard. Why? Well, Kemba Walker runs for the point for Charlotte, and it wouldn’t be advisable to replace him when the Bobcats need more help at other positions.
Walker isn’t the problem right now, so there’d be no point in drafting someone like Trey Burke. But if Charlotte were to take the former Michigan guard, it would send a lot of messages to rival general managers throughout the league. Taking Burke might mean that the Bobcats are interested in dealing the former UConn standout.
Walker is probably too small to play shooting guard and the same goes for Burke. Burke might be the better long-term option at point guard for Charlotte, but it just wouldn’t make any sense to take him. But you never know what Michael Jordan is going to want to do when his team is on the clock.
5. Phoenix Suns: Victor Oladipo, SG, Indiana
The Suns must address their need for a strong shooting guard for the future. By taking Victor Oladipo, Phoenix can keep Goran Dragic, the team’s point guard and leading scorer, in the starting lineup. Oladipo would replace the duo of Jared Dudley and P.J. Tucker, who shared starting time in 2012-13.
6. New Orleans Pelicans: Anthony Bennett, PF/SF, UNLV
Anthony Bennett is a little bit too small to be a power forward in the NBA, but he’d be great as a small forward. His shot extends out to the three-point land, and if he can be somewhat accurate from deep, he’s a perfect fit for New Orleans. Aminu Al-Farouq, who started 71 games at small forward for the team last season, is an unrestricted free agent.
7. Sacramento Kings: Giannis Antetokounmpo, SF, Greece
While it’s up for debate as to how NBA-ready Giannis Antetokounmpo is, the Kings need to be the team to find out. Sacramento lacks a legitimate small forward for the future, and aside from Shabazz Muhammad, "The Greek Freak" is the best one available at No. 7. John Salmons started 72 games at small forward last season, but didn’t average nine points.
8. Detroit Pistons: Cody Zeller, PF/C, Indiana
It will be somewhat surprising if Len doesn’t get taken No. 1 by the Cavs, but it will be even more shocking if Cody Zeller gets selected before he does. It will also be unexpected if the Pistons end up taking a center. Greg Monroe is arguably the best player on the team, and he is the main guy down low.
But here’s why the Pistons could select Zeller over Len. Len is a true center. He plays well underneath and won’t have a problem backing down opponents to get the shot he wants. Drafting Len would mean that Monroe would likely have to move to power forward, or that Detroit was going to trade him.
If Detroit takes Zeller, everything is fine. Zeller may be seven-feet tall, but he’s more of a power forward than a true center. He handles the ball well and won’t be restricted to shots in the paint in the NBA—like Len might be. Jason Maxiell, who averaged 6.9 points in 24.8 minutes per game this year, would lose his spot.
9. Minnesota Timberwolves: C.J. McCollum, SG/PG, Lehigh
The Timberwolves have a bunch of point guards, but they don’t really have a shooting guard. Minnesota will likely stick with Ricky Rubio for a bit longer, but only if he’s going to start averaging more than 10.7 points per night. C.J. McCollum can play shooting guard and score the points that Rubio won’t.
10. Portland Trailblazers: Alex Len, C, Maryland
So, instead of going No. 1, Len will go to where he’s more suited, at No. 10. While Portland has a solid starting squad already on the roster, J.J. Hickson is an unrestricted free agent who won’t need to be re-signed. Len will take over at center, LaMarcus Aldridge can move to power forward and everyone will be happy.
11. Philadelphia 76ers: Mason Plumlee, PF/C, Duke
The 76ers can no longer continue to put out a bunch of small forwards on the court in order to make up for the void at power forward. While Mason Plumlee isn’t a true center, he and Spencer Hawes would make for a solid tandem on the low block. Philadelphia would prepare itself well if Hawes leaves after 2013-14 by taking Plumlee here, too.
12. Oklahoma City Thunder (via TOR): Steven Adams, C, Pittsburgh
Oklahoma City should end the Kendrick Perkins era by selecting a young center with its first of two first-round picks. Perkins is taking up 25 minutes of time on the floor and is only giving the Thunder 4.2 points and six boards. He’s not worth it. Steven Adams may not be a huge offensive weapon, but he’s a better player than Perkins.
13. Dallas Mavericks: Michael Carter-Williams, PG, Syracuse
The Mavericks can do better than Darren Collison at point guard. Collison is also a restricted free agent who probably won’t play better than he did this past season when he averaged 12 points and 5.1 assists per night. Michael Carter-Williams should be the long-term guy running the point in Dallas.
14. Utah Jazz: Shane Larkin, PG, Miami
The Jazz are probably going to lose a lot of its backcourt talent to free agency, meaning that Utah must select a guard with its top pick. Randy Foye and Mo Williams shared the point guard duties this past season, but the team should hand the ball-handling duties over to Shane Larkin staring in 2013. This is a great fit for the former Miami Hurricane.
15. Milwaukee Bucks: Gorgui Dieng, C, Louisville
If Milwaukee doesn’t take a big man with its top pick in the first round then the Bucks are in a world of trouble for next season. Larry Sanders averaged over 25 minutes per game in 2012-13, but he only averaged 9.8 points per night. Gorgui Deng would be a significant upgrade down low.
16. Boston Celtics: Shabazz Muhammad, F, UCLA
The No. 16 pick is going to tell us a lot about the future of the Celtics. If Boston takes Shabazz Muhammad, it will likely mean the end of the Paul Pierce. It will also mean that a full rebuild is underway with the Celtics. Muhammad would become the full-time small forward, and then Boston could buy out or trade the Boston icon.
17. Atlanta Hawks: Kelly Olynyk, PF/C, Gonzaga
There’s going to be a big hole at small forward if Josh Smith takes his talents elsewhere this summer, but there’s already a void at power forward. Al Horford is the clear-cut center for the time being, but Atlanta went through most of the year without a power forward. Kelly Olynyk at No. 17 makes a lot of sense.
18. Atlanta Hawks (via HOU): Allen Crabbe, SG, California
In previous mock drafts, I’ve had Atlanta taking guards back-to-back. I strayed away from that here, but I still believe the Hawks will take at least one. The Hawks will have a big group of solid prospects to choose from, but Allen Crabbe is the one who fits best. He could end up being the starting point guard at the beginning of the season.
19. Cleveland Cavaliers (via LAL): Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG, Georgia
The No. 19 pick relies a lot upon whom the Cavs take with the No. 1 overall pick. If Cleveland takes a big man, the team would presumably take a guard or a forward here. If the Cavs take someone like Porter, it could take a center or guard here. Unless Cleveland wants Jeff Withey, it’ll be restricted to taking a guard like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
20. Chicago Bulls: Jamaal Franklin, SG, San Diego State
Jamaal Franklin to the Bulls has been one of my more consistent predictions over the last few weeks, and I think it’ll hold up on Thursday night. With Nate Robinson being an unrestricted free agent, Chicago will need to find someone to pick up his minutes. Franklin could also start at shooting guard if the Bulls deal Luol Deng.
21. Utah Jazz: Sergey Karasev, SG/SF, Russia
I already have the Jazz addressing their need at guard with their top pick, but the team selecting another guard at No. 21 is something to expect as well. Keep in mind that Utah really needs to fill two holes. Gordon Hayward is more of a shooting guard, but he will play small forward. If Larkin runs the point, Sergey Karasev could play the 2.
22. Brooklyn Nets: Jeff Withey, C, Kansas
Jason Kidd’s Nets need to draft someone that’s going to help put points on the scoreboard next season. It’s expected that Brooklyn will target a sharpshooter who can play small forward or power forward. The last thing that the Nets need right now is another center, since they already have Brook Lopez.
So, why in the world would the Nets want to take Jeff Withey? Well, even though Withey is a center, he knows how to score. He averaged 13.7 points per game in his senior season at Kansas and shot 58.2 percent from the field. He would complement Lopez nicely in the frontcourt if Brooklyn could find a way to play both.
The Nets have a clear opening at power forward. Kris Humphries averaged 5.8 points in 18.3 minutes per game in 2012-13. Reggie Evans played 24.6 minutes per night and only scored 4.5 points. That’s not acceptable. The Nets would be much better off playing a pair of seven-footers instead.
23. Indiana Pacers: Dennis Schroeder, PG, Germany
No one in this year’s draft is going to take the starting point guard job away from George Hill, but that won’t stop the Pacers from taking someone to back him up. If Dennis Schroeder comes over from Germany, he’ll get around 15 minutes per night off the bench. If he stays overseas, it’s not a huge deal for Indiana.
24. New York Knicks: Ricardo Ledo, SG/PG, Providence
Knicks fans are going to be hoping to hear commissioner David Stern call out a prospect’s name who’s bound to win a title for New York. That won’t happen since the draft is very top heavy, but New York will be getting an up-and-coming guard in Ricardo Ledo. He will likely be the backup to Raymond Felton.
25. Los Angeles Clippers: Glen Rice, Jr., SG/SF, NBA D-League
If the Clippers end up taking a guard in the draft, it’ll say that Eric Bledsoe is likely gone. Glen Rice, Jr. has a lot of people doubting him since he’ll be coming from the D-League, but if he gets considerable minutes, he’ll be able to prove them wrong. He will not be a bust in the NBA.
26. Minnesota Timberwolves (via MEM): Reggie Bullock, SG/SF, UNC
Expect the Timberwolves to look for additional depth at the guard position with their second pick in the first round. Reggie Bullock is only going to be a player who comes off the bench, but he deserves more time than the other guys who see considerable time for Minnesota.
27. Denver Nuggets: Rudy Gobert, PF/C, France
Rudy Gobert could go to Denver and become a star instantly. Kosta Koufas isn’t a great starting option and JaVale McGee is more valuable coming off the bench. A starting role would attract Gobert to leave France right away in order to play for the Nuggets. If there isn’t a big learning curve, he would be a steal for Denver at No. 27.
28. San Antonio Spurs: Archie Goodwin, SG, Kentucky
I’ve flip-flopped the late-round guards in my last few mock drafts, but I’m finally sold on Archie Goodwin going to the reigning Western Conference champions. The Spurs could lose a lot of talent to free agency this summer, and they aren’t really built for the long run. Drafting a player like Goodwin would bode well for San Antonio.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Tim Hardaway, Jr., SG, Michigan
Selecting Tim Hardaway, Jr. this late in the first round would be a steal for the Thunder. Thabo Sefolosha would still be the starting shooting guard, but Hardaway would replace Kevin Martin, who’s an unrestricted free agent. Adding Hardaway would give Oklahoma City great depth in the backcourt.
30. Phoenix Suns (via MIA): Pierre Jackson, PG, Baylor
If the Suns end up drafting Pierre Jackson, it could be the end of the aforementioned Dragic in Phoenix. Jackson, though, may start the year coming off the bench until he gets some experience under his belt. He’d definitely be the starting point guard by the All-Star Break, and the Suns could deal Dragic or put him on the bench.
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