Now that an historic NBA Finals have come to a close the focus of the basketball world has turned to the NBA Draft. Players have been working out for teams all across the NBA hoping to make an impression good enough to hear their names called on draft day.
With the big day upon us we've been in touch with agents, players, and team personnel to give our best guesses as to what will happen.
Picks No. 1 through No. 4 are almost locks at this point, with John Wall and Evan Turner going one and two, followed by Derrick Favors and Wesley Johnson going three and four in some order. However, Sacramento’s pick at No. 5 will alter the course of this draft. The question is which big man do teams like. We've spoken about it at length, and this is the best we can come up with.
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The obvious pick for the No. 1 spot: John Wall. A ton has already been said, so we won't make this any longer than it needs to be. He's got incredible speed and leadership, two things that go a long way towards making a great NBA point guard.
He'll look to make it three straight Rookie of the Year awards for players from Coach Calipari-coached schools.
Evan Turner, nicknamed The Villian, is a complete player who will go a long way to enhancing the 76ers roster. He has the ability to play the 2 or the 3 and can even spell the point guard for short bursts. In college he won every award, but that hasn't always translated to success at the next level.
A few people believe that Turner is a duplicate of Andre Iguodala, but they both do different things well.
Turner puts the ball on the floor more effectively than AI, who excels scoring when slashing to the rim. Both have good length and rebound and pass well for the position, giving the 76ers two dangerous options on the wing for the foreseeable future.
Wesley Johnson is one of the most complete players in this draft. He has the frame of an NBA small forward. He can take smaller players in the post and step outside and punish defenders who give him too much space.
This year he shot better than 40 percent from three-point range, giving him the edge over Aminu in that category. And he played in the Big East, largely considered this year's toughest basketball conference. His rebounding was also impressive, and he was a threat to get 20 and 10 every night.
The Nets moved Chris Douglas-Roberts today to make room for Wes Johnson. This move makes sense for the Nets because it gives them the ability to sign a veteran power forward (Bosh, Boozer, or Stoudemire) next to Brook Lopez.
The uber-athletic and intelligent Derrick Favors is a very imposing figure down low. He moves very well for a big man and is a very hard worker.
From a physical standpoint, Favors posted eerily similar numbers at the combine to Dwight Howard, and we all know how he has panned out. Favors is similar in size to the new Superman, so you can also expect him to play at the 5 in the NBA, which will allow flexibility for any team that drafts him.
Penciled in as the third pick in most mock drafts, Favors now finds himself in Minnesota. This is the second straight year that the T-Wolves will have benefited from a player slipping (last year it was Ricky Rubio). Yes the frontcourt is crowded, but the T-Wolves aren't in a position to pass on a talent like Favors.
DeMarcus Cousins is projected by some to be in for a slide on draft night, but we don't think so. The fact is the Kings are drafting a big man and Cousins is the best big on the board at No. 5.
Cousins can do it all, and he showed a great amount of skill in his workout with the Kings. He can shoot from outside, shows good touch, and has an NBA body already. There is a chance the Kings trade down, but without taking trades into account they'll draft the Kentucky center.
Ekpe Udoh is rising up draft boards because of his performances in individual workouts and his impressive off-court demeanor. We were lucky enough to sit down and inteview Ekpe and we think he's going to transition to the league very easily.
While his off-court manner is impressive, his abilities on the court are even more impressive. He scores the ball off the bounce, passes, and scores both in the post and from the perimeter. His offense is impressive, but his defense and size will make him valuable to the Warriors, who could use all the defense they can get.
He has a lot of length and is strong enough to keep players from getting deep position. When coupled with his incredible timing his shot-blocking is nearly unmatched in this draft, and we expect him off the board somewhere in the top 10. If he does "slip" it won't be past the Jazz .
Ed Davis is exactly what the Pistons need. He has height and length, and can block a ton of shots.
His ability to score isn't completely needed, as the Pistons will focus on defense and hope that Rodney Stuckey, Ben Gordon, Charlie Villanueva, Richard Hamilton, and Tayshaun Prince can carry the scoring.
Coming into the college season everyone thought that Davis would be a top five pick, so the value is very high at No. 9. When you consider that the Pistons tried to make a splash last offseason, it seems that they consider themselves nearly a playoff team in the East. Ed Davis would move them a step closer to that goal.
The Clippers want a wing and here they will get the second best one in this draft, Al-Farouq Aminu. He is a perfect fit for the Clippers, who only have five players under contract, none of whom can play the small forward position.
By taking Aminu the Clippers' starting lineup could be formidable for years: Baron Davis, Eric Gordon, Aminu, Blake Griffin, and Chris Kaman. This is the best way the draft could fall for the Clippers, so if Aminu is off the board expect them to trade down or reach for Paul George or Luke Babbit.
Greg Monroe on the court is absolutely a monster. He's nearly a seven-footer who can put the ball on the deck and greatly improved his rebounding during his sophomore year. Last Saturday he worked out against Hassan Whiteside and Ekpe Udoh in Sacramento, in an attempt to move up to No. 5.
However, he's falling now and his refusal to work out for Detroit and the Clippers may end up hurting him. If he falls to the Jazz they will be absolutely ecstatic to get the player they've coveted from the beginning.
Xavier Henry might be one of the top five talents in this draft, but he isn't talked about in the same breath as those players. For us this is a pick of best player available and takes into account last year's draft.
Many have the Pacers going big, but last year they drafted Tyler Hansbrough, and two years ago they went with Roy Hibbert. Taking three young big men in a row doesn't seem very likely. A wing pairing of Danny Granger and Henry would give the Pacers a ton of firepower while they wait for Hibbert and Hansbrough to fully develop.
Cole Aldrich is ready to contribute today for an NBA team. The Hornets are a playoff team when Chris Paul is healthy, so a project like Hassan Whiteside wouldn't be as good a fit as a player like Aldrich.
While Aldrich won't blow you away, he's going to be a consistent player in the league. Too much is being made of his height, or lack thereof, as he uses his body well and is rarely out of position.
Also, he is already accustomed to playing a supporting role because of the talent he played with at Kansas. So he'll have no problem being the third or fourth option behind Paul and David West.
Luke Babbitt is the name we're hearing most around the Memphis Grizzlies. He recently worked out for them against a group of other small forwards and performed well despite a strong defensive showing from Quincy Pondexter.
Babbitt's skill set reminds us of Mike Miller, who had moderate success with the Grizzlies. Obviously this selection has a lot to do with the fact that the Grizz are unlikely to retain Rudy Gay. If they do re-sign Rudy, I'd expect them take a big man here, likely Whiteside or Sanders.
Also, if he is off the board this pick could be Patrick Patterson or Paul George.
Patrick Patterson is as NBA-ready a player as there is in this draft. He is slightly undersized for a power forward, but he uses his long arms and NBA-ready frame to out-position and out-hustle players on the boards. This year at Kentucky he showed the ability to stretch the floor, making him a better version of Paul Millsap in our opinion.
It sounds as though Patterson has gotten a guarantee if he's on the board since the Raptors' main target, Ekpe Udoh, will be off the board.
Many mocks have Paul Georgeoff the board with the No. 12 pick to Memphis, but even if the Grizzlies go Babbit we don't see him getting past the Rockets.
George has called himself a shooting guard recently in interviews, which seems crazy, but when you look at him closer it makes sense.
He does have a ton of size for a shooting guard at 6'9", and his game is definitely suited to play the position. He has the ability to put the ball on the floor and hit from the outside, things typical of shooting guards. He also rebounds the ball well, probably better than most small forwards.
So while calling himself a shooting guard has some fans scratching their heads, the truth is he's just a wing player. A very talented one at that, and one who would help carry the scoring load for Houston.
Gordon Hayward battled with the idea of declaring for the draft before finally entering his name, foregoing his last year at Butler. It may prove to be the right decision, as the problems with Hayward (athleticism and length) aren't going to change with one more year of college play.
His intangibles, like his work ethic and high basketball IQ, are qualities that most teams are in need of, so we can't see him lasting much past the lottery.
The Bucks have a good young core in place with Brandon Jennings and Andrew Bogut, but they could use a 3 who can stretch the floor to create space. Hayward would be able to fill that role from day one.
Avery Bradly is a wildcard in this draft. He's had good workouts, visiting Toronto and Indiana multiple times. He's a shooting guard who many believe can transition to the point.
He possesses a quick release that allows him to get his shot off easily. Also, he has incredible length and quickness that let him defend both guard positions, making him a valuable asset.
At No. 16 he may not fill a need for the Timberwolves, but with the other wings off the board and no small forward worthy of the pick they will go "best player available" with Bradley.
Eric Bledsoe is one of the toughest players to project in this draft. From a talent standpoint he should be a lottery pick, but it appears he's fallen below Avery Bradley as far as point/shooting guards go, and big men seem to be occupying all the lottery slots.
The fact that Bledsoe is available hear is surprising based on a strong, but limited season at Kentucky. Bledsoe's abilities to knock down open jumpers and to find the open man are his two biggest strengths, and those are two of the things Boston would love to have more of.
This pick reminds us of the Darren Collison pick for New Orleans last year. Yes the Bulls have a point for the future in Rose, but Bledsoe would give them a blindingly fast backcourt and he has the length to defend shooting guards.
There are rumblings, and pretty strong ones, that the Thunder have guaranteed Daniel Orton will be their pick at No. 18 if he's on the board. The big man from Kentucky has been inconsistent in workouts, but where he's been impressive there is interest.
He was scheduled to work out for five more teams before the draft before canceling his workouts, but he may return to the Indiana Pacers for a second workout. It would be hard to imagine him going No. 10 overall, but perhaps the Pacers are targeting him in a trade back.
The Celtics should be doing backflips if Hassan Whiteside is available at No. 19. The freshman out of Marshall has caught some heat for his post-workout interviews, but to us it seems he is simply a young man who isn't comfortable with so much attention. When considering the issues that some higher-ranked bigs have, shyness isn't something to condemn a player for.
What Whiteside does have is the ability to change games on the defensive end with his length and shot-blocking ability. Also, what many don't realize is that of the big men in this draft he has arguably the most consistent outside game, stepping out to 18 feet with ease.
The versatility and potential he offers makes us think he should go higher, but with the way we're hearing it shakes out he'll be there at No. 19. Boston needs a big body, but has limited minutes. This gives Hassan the ability to learn under his favorite player KG, and wont rush his development.
Another player in the Solomon Alabi category of bigs who aren't getting the hype of the "lottery caliber" big men. Larry Sanders pulled out of a workout with the Grizzlies last week, so there is some talk of him having a guarantee somewhere in the teens, namely with the Bucks at No. 15.
The Bucks publicly addressed it, stating they haven't made such a guarantee, but everything has to be taken with a grain, or cup, of salt. We don't see Sanders going No. 15, mainly because of the bigs left on the board at that spot, but we don't see him lasting past the Spurs.
He would be able to play minutes at power forward and center as Duncan's role continues to regress. Also, it would give them a young player to mold going forward.
Elliot Williams only worked out for the Spurs before he stopped working out because of a "knee injury." Many are taking this to mean that he has a guarantee from them, but we don't think so.
I see the Spurs taking the best player available, regardless of position, with an aging team, and I can't see them guaranteeing Williams.
With a hole currently at shooting guard it wouldn't be surprising to see Williams join Russell Westbrook in the Thunder backcourt. Also, he could spell Westbrook for stretches at the point guard position.
Two months ago Seraphin was not on many people's radars as a draft prospect. A few weeks ago he tweaked his knee, which made many think that he would pull out altogether, but when the deadline passed he decided to remain in the draft.
This points strongly to Seraphin having a guarantee to be selected in the first round. We've bought into the reports that he'll be selected 22nd overall as he likely would not have stayed in the draft without a guarantee.
Quincy Pondexter, the senior forward out of Washington, is coming off his best year in college. He improved in virtually every category, sometimes by large margins.
Pondexter was crazy efficient as a wing player this past year, putting up a big man-like field goal percentage of 53 percent while also shooting a very good 82 percent from the free throw line. He also proved to be active on the defensive end, being very capable at rebounding and looking for steals.
At No. 23 Pondexter is the first senior off the board. He plays lock down defense and gives the TImberwolves a wing, which they desperately need.
The Hawks need a big shooting guard with the impending departure of Joe Johnson. Enter James Anderson, one of college basketball's best scorers and most complete players. He can score in any type of offense, using his body control and consistent stroke to get good looks.
If the Hawks add him he may help push them towards a deeper playoff run next year. He's a contributor right away, and the Hawks should be thrilled to see him still on the board.
The Grizzlies are a team on the verge of big things and Terrico White could be another piece. They have a great base with OJ Mayo and Marc Gasol and by adding a talent like White they would get another ball-handler. He has the ability to play on or off the ball and is a great complementary player.
What White doesn't do well is take games over. For the Thunder this is actually a plus, as he will be playing with some great talents and will not be forced to do so much. At No. 25 White has a ton of upside with very limited risk, which is a theme in the late first round. Also, he's a Memphis native.
Damion James played a very successful four seasons at Texas. Early this past season he was considered to be a player of the year candidate, but as the Longhorns started to struggle his name quickly fell out of that mix.
Now James is projected in the middle of the first round, with a chance to move into the teens. He is NBA-ready, so teams close to contending could take him. The Thunder pushed the Lakers last year and will make a big leap this year, so they grab Damion James who has the ability to play the wing and power forward as he told us in our interview with him prior to the draft.
However, at No. 26 he's probably the best player on the board, and the Thunder are happy to add him.
Solomon Alabi is one big man who is just now getting some buzz. Late buzz in a draft is much better than early buzz, so he definitely has a chance to shoot up, maybe even as high as Toronto at No. 13.
The Nets don't have the depth in the frontcourt currently, and took Wesley Johnson ahead of Favors in our draft. Taking Alabi at No. 27 is definitely selecting the best player available and he will have plenty of time to develop.
Devin Ebanks is a combo forward who has ideal length for the position and could play a Trevor Ariza-like role going forward in his career. Originally protected in our lottery, he's fallen because of inconsistent workouts and his inability to score from the perimeter.
Anywhere after the 20th pick Ebanks has the talent to outweigh his risk. Unfortunately for him, that can be said about many other players in this draft, so him falling to the bottom of the first round is very possible.
Willie Warren is being under appreciated by many people leading up to the draft. He's being mentioned after Terrico White, Eric Bledsoe, and Avery Bradley when in actuality he is probably on or above their level.
Playing in the Big 12 for the Oklahoma Sooners, his stock plummeted as his team struggled. He has the ability to score the ball and set up the offense, and he is more of a point guard than the other combo guards who getting more publicity are.
Ultimately he's a first round pick, and since the Magic like scorers and are in need of a backup PG for Nelson, he could see minutes at point guard as well as playing off the ball.
Jordan Crawford is a true scorer who showed that he thrives on the big stage with an incredible performance against Kansas State in the NCAA tournament. After playing his freshman year at Indiana he transferred to Xavier, where he truly came into his own.
His range is one of his biggest strengths, as he easily shoots the ball from NBA three-point range and shot nearly 40 percent on the year. Crawford not only can knock it down from deep, but he can also put the ball on the deck and then pull up against his man. His lift is unquestioned, but he needs to work on getting to the basket at a higher rate.
All of the above is why he's a great pick for the rebuilding Washington Wizards.