Despite the relative lack of excitement as far as the number one overall pick is, this year's NBA Draft looks to provide plenty of drama just in the Top 5 alone.
What will Minnesota do after losing out on the opportunity to draft a third point guard in three years?
Does Utah really love Brandon Knight that much?
Which European player will go first?
Did the NBA really stack the lottery so that Cleveland could get the best point guard and best center in the draft?
The Chicago pre-draft combines will certainly change some of these, especially for those guys on the edge of the lottery and first round, but here are the early returns from scouts around the league.
Kyrie Irving is not actually a lock to be the Number 1 overall pick
He is close though, but Cavs owner Dan Gilbert is actually more enamored with Derrick Williams of Arizona, so there is a very good chance the Cavs will take Williams, then try to draft Kentucky's Brandon Knight with their fourth pick.
Standing in the way of that plan are the Utah Jazz. The Jazz like Knight so much that they may have taken him with the first pick, had they gotten it. Now they are sitting at Number 3 and all indications are they intend for that pick to be Knight.
The Cavs may try to swing a deal for the Timberwolves' Number 2 pick, though I imagine Minnesota can get way better than anything the Cavs can offer them, and then take who they consider to be the two best players in the draft, Williams and Irving.
I think in the end Irving is the pick at 1, but don't be surprised if the Cavs are active to try to land Williams.
The Timberwolves will not keep the Number 2 pick
The lottery wasn't even finished for five minutes before the "Minny trading Number 2 pick?" trade rumors got started.
In this case, however, they are more than rumor. The Timberwolves desperately need a point guard, and they were prepared to finally move Ricky Rubio's draft rights to take Irving number one.
Now they have to hope Rubio decides to come to the NBA, hope he has let them know he plans to come by the draft, and hope it doesn't take long for him to acclimate.
That's a lot of hoping for a GM that has to know he is the first one against the wall when the revolution comes in Minnesota.
Minny will move this pick for a proven talent, possibly a point guard if Rubio is still waffling. Denver would seem to be an ideal partner with Raymond Felton not happy he isn't starting any more, despite his public claims to the contrary. Maybe the chance to move up in front of Cleveland for Kanter is enough to convince Denver that Felton is not a headache they want long term.
If Kahn were smart he'd scare the Jazz by sending scouts to watch Brandon Knight, make a bunch of noise about Knight and make a very convincing argument for drafting him to get the Jazz to bite and part with one of their vast array of big men AND the third pick for the Number 2 spot, but David Kahn doesn't think that way.
I do know that whoever makes this pick is taking Enes Kanter. No one is trading up to get Williams as he does not have game changing ability at this point and there are questions about his ability to develop out of his "tweener" role.
Minnesota and Cleveland are in a good position to help each other out, but David Kahn knows he has to produce some signs of a bright future or he is out the door, so he will insist on a veteran in whatever trade he makes involving this pick. That makes the Cavs an unlikely trade partner because, despite the hopes and dreams of every Cavaliers fan everywhere, Minnesota has ZERO interest in Baron Davis.
Chances are, think of the worst possible trade the T-Wolves could make, and that is probably what they will do.
Is the Euro class really as deep as it seems?
Maybe, though I have my doubts. The best of them right now seems to be Enes Kanter, of Turkey, but he is slow and has major health concerns involving his knees (Greg Oden anyone?). Spain's Bismack Biyombo appears to be NBA ready as well, but he could either be 18 or 26 years old so who knows when some team thinks it's okay to risk it. Jan Vesely of Serbia, Jonas Valanciunas of Lithuania and Italy's Donatas Motiejunas are younger players that will have to develop into the NBA game.
In addition, Valanciunas is on record as saying that he is not sure he wants to come to the NBA right now. He seems to want to play Euroball for a few years which translates to, "If I don't like who drafts me I ain't comin'," in Euro speak.
There have been some whispers about Motiejunas's buyout from his Euro club, and his inability to rebound consistently (he averages five rebounds a game...in the Euroleague...he's a seven-footer) have helped add to the growing skepticism that he doesn't really care about playing.
I think they all get drafted relatively high with Kanter coming off the board before the others either second overall or fourth overall. I don't see Valanciunas falling out of the lottery at this point, but if he starts pulling some Rubio nonsense teams are gonna start looking the other way and he could plummet. Unless something drastic happens with the top 5, Vesely will go 6th to Washington.
Biyombo probably goes in the lower portion of the lottery or the first few picks after, if he can prove his age, but I don't see Motiejunas going in the lottery at this point, though his stock is rising.
Who are the movers?
You already know Minnesota is going to look hard at moving that Number 2, and my odds on favorite right now to move up for it is Houston. Daryl Morey loves to be active, especially at the draft, and his reluctance to trade Courtney Lee at the trade deadline makes me wonder if Kevin Martin is in their future plans. Martin would fit Minnesota's need for a veteran scorer, and they have the salary to absorb his contract without giving anything up. Houston could then move up and take Kanter.
With two picks in the late first round, and Charlotte's pick conditionally starting next year, Chicago would also seem to be a mover. Tom Thibodeau doesn't seem to be the type of coach who likes to play younger guys too much—forget your Taj Gibson and Omer Asik posts, they are not young—and the Bulls know they need to get another wing scorer to team with Rose; even if they win the championship this year they know they can't get away with it forever. Look for them to make another run at Lee, try a sign and trade for Jamal Crawford (though unlikely since he doesn't play defense) or someone like Brandon Rush or O.J. Mayo. The commonly held belief is that Rush just needs the right coach to get all of the potential out of him and his relatively small salary makes him easily acquired by a salary cap stretched team like the Bulls.
The Pacers are an interesting team too. Sitting at 15 they could potentially pick up a guy that slips out of the lottery, Biyombo for example, but all indication is they feel they are a veteran post player away from contending in the top half of the East right now and adding another young player to the mix rarely helps with that. Look for them to shop one of their scorers; Danny Granger, Rush or Paul George with the pick for that post player.
Also, watch the Lakers. They need to get younger and they need to move Ron Artest, though they'll probably have to give him away. If they do decide to make a run at Dwight Howard they may be willing to move Pau Gasol, who the Magic don't want, to acquire young talent for a trade. That often begins at the draft.
The Grizzlies are another team that would seem to be poised to make a major move considering how much better they were without Rudy Gay. While Gay is a tremendous talent and his athleticism is off the charts, his injury history is not very good and he can sometimes be a ball stopper which hurts Zach Randolph. Look for the Grizzlies to try and unload his contract onto a team with loads of cap space.
Denver, the Knicks and Washington could also be movers as the Nuggets have a surplus of talent and an unhappy point guard (Raymond Felton) they need to move. The Knicks have cap space, the expiring contract of Chauncey Billups and no movable talent on the roster and the Wizards have too much young talent and a couple of cancers in the locker room they need to move before it can further infect John Wall (yes Andray Blatche I am talking to you).
Stay tuned for the pre-draft camps in Chicago
Most of the players in the top of the draft don't need impressive showings to remain where they are. Chances are Irving would have to fail a physical or talk about how he always wanted to be a member of the Miami Heat in the interviews to fall out of Number 1, but Derrick Williams is on the rise in Cleveland and it is possible he wows the right people. It's the edge guys, JuJuan Johnson, Shelvin Mack, Klay Thompson, Marshon Brooks and Trey Thompson that need good showings to move up or solidify their spot in the first round.
But anything can happen.