Lottery Breakdown

Ahh, it’s that time of the year again. The time of the year when the most incompetent franchises in the NBA pray that they’ll be gifted the absolutely unearned right to draft a great player. The draft is supposed to be a plac

e to get promising players who are very cheap. Unfortunately, many of the same teams find themselves in the lottery year after year, and are either hindered by bad luck or by delusional incompetence. (See: 2008-2009 Washington Wizards) This a useful example, if only because it is so absurdly idiotic and illustrates why every Wizards fan feels like this whenever Ernie Grunfeld is about to make a decision. It would not surprise me if some fans have in fact “lost their eyes,” being forced to watch the likes of Oleksiy Pecherov and Jan Vesely in the past few years. Anyway, the 2008-2009 Wiz give us a textbook example of a GM and team that are impatient and ridiculously delusional. We’re talking about a team coming off a 19-63 campaign. What does a 19 win team look like you ask? Well, we’re talking about a team 1) whose best player was bringing guns into the locker-room, 2) had a soon-to-be convicted murderer, and perhaps the worst indictment of all, 3) started Darius Songaila.  We’re looking at a historically dysfunctional team that needed to be dismantled ASAP. So what did manageme

nt do when it had the 5th pick in the draft and the chance to draft Stephen Curry? They did what any competent team would do: they traded the pick for two mediocre role players, Randy Foye and Mike Miller! The Wizards may have been 19-63 and the punchline of the NBA, but they were going all-in next season! What’s the point of this example? The point is that patience is key and trading away top picks is rarely worth it, unless it’s possible to acquire a franchise player in return. Sort of like how the Wizards had a chance last year to trade the #3 pick used on Brad Beal for JAMES HARDEN, one of the ten best players on earth. This year’s draft has been called one of the weakest of all time, and while that may be true, there will inevitably be very good NBA players somewhere in this draft. Let’s look at the best and worst case scenarios for each of the lottery teams in this draft whose top prospect is a 206 pound center with a torn ACL!

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1. Cleveland Cavaliers

Best-Case Scenario: Victor Oladipo
Worst-Case Scenario: Nerlens Noel

As will be stated approximately forty billions times between now and the draft, this is the Cavs’ chance to build a team that could attract LeBron in 2014. The Cavs already have a nice core with Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, and Tristan Thompson, and with the top pick, the Cavs will have plenty of options. They own the top pick, as well as the 19th, 31st, and 33rd pick in the draft. It’s tempting to trade the pick, along with some other assets, for someone like Kevin Love, but is an injury-prone guy worth it? When healthy, Love is one of the best players in the league and would be a perfect combo to Kyrie Irving, but he’s never healthy. Assuming they keep the pick though, their top pick will not be easy. I am not a believer in Nerlens Noel at all. A 206 pound center just coming off knee surgery is one of the least attractive phrases ever written about a number one pick. You’re drafting Noel on the belief that he’ll end up somewhere between Marcus Camby and Tyson Chandler. Even if he reaches his potential, no one is expecting Noel to ever become a consistent low post scorer. He could be a very good defensive anchor though. Comparing Nerlens to current or past pros though, it’s nearly impossible to find a very similar player. Keep in mind that Anthony Davis was 220 pounds and he was considered extremely skinny. Or keep in mind that Nate Robinson is 15 inches shorter than Noel and only 25 pounds lighter. As far as Oladipo, he is the best player in the draft in my view. He will impact the game on offense but especially defense from day one. He’s been compared to Dwyane Wade, but that may be a bit lofty. A shorter version of Shawn Marion seems completely realistic though, and in a weak draft, I would take Shawn Marion any day.

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2. Orlando Magic

Best-Case Scenario: Ben McLemore
Worst-Case Scenario: Trey Burke

The Magic came out of the Dwight Howard trade in much better shape than anyone expected. They found a hidden gem in Nikola Vucevic down low and made a good deal acquiring Tobias Harris in return for J.J. Redick. I’m a fan of Trey Burke’s game, but I’m not sure he’s worthy of a top three pick. If the Magic were picking at the bottom half of the top 10, I would feel good picking Burke, but not at #2. One of the biggest questions regarding Burke is his height, or lack of it. He’s considered small for the NBA despite being taller than Chris Paul. Burke could easily be a star at the next level, but being on a loaded team in college will make for a tough transition when he’s stuck on a bottom-feeding NBA team. The Magic would be better off going with Ben McLemore from Kansas who could come in and be a big scorer in his rookie season. McLemore would have no pressure on such a bad team, and he could easily assert himself as the top dog, which has been a concern of many scouts who see him as too passive at times.

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3. Washington Wizards

Best-Case Scenario: Victor Oladipo
Worst-Case Scenario: Otto Porter

This is not a slight at Porter in the least. I’m more setting the stage for Ernie Grunfeld to shock all of us with one of his patented franchise-decimating moves. There are not a ton of players being talked about in the top 5 this year with very high bust potential, aside from maybe Nerlens Noel, and chances are he’ll be gone at #3 anyway. The Wiz will probably be either end up Porter, Anthony Bennett, or Victor Oladipo. Almost everyone assumes they’ll end up with hometown stud Otto Porter from Georgetown, and he does fit their most desperate need of small forward. Porter would in fact be a great fit for the Wizards. Oladipo isn’t looked at as a perfect fit because he plays the same position as Brad Beal, but you could play Oladipo at small forward. A small ball lineup with Wall, Beal, and Oladipo may lack some shooting until Oladipo or Wall makes huge strides from the perimeter, but the Wiz would have one of the most promising backcourts in the NBA.

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4. Charlotte Bobcats

Best-Case Scenario: Ben McLemore
Worst-Case Scenario: Otto Porter

Porter probably won’t be on the board at #4, but he would not be a good fit anyway. He’s a good fit for a team with some established players, preferably a team that already has some scorers. The Bobcats though drafted a glue guy last year in Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Porter would be too similar, despite his superior outside shooting. McLemore would be ideal on the Cats and would be a good complement to Kemba Walker in the backcourt. Building on a core of Kemba, McLemore, and MKG would finally push the Cats’ rebuilding process along.

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5. Phoenix Suns

 Best-Case Scenario: Victor Oladipo/ Ben McLemore/ Anthony Bennett
Worst-Case Scenario: Anyone else

The Suns are in no man’s land right now. They have made a flurry of moves in the past few years that have done little to advance the franchise in the post-Nash era. Signing Mike Beasley, acquiring Wes Johnson, and drafting Kendall Marshall have all been poor moves so far. The Suns don’t really have a single piece worth building around currently. Oladipo would be ideal as a player who could change the culture in Phoenix with his tough defense and increasing offensive game. Meanwhile, McLemore and Bennett both have the potential to be all stars, which cannot be said of most other prospects in this year’s draft.

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6. New Orleans Pelicans

Best-Case Scenario: Anthony Bennett or Otto Porter
Worst-Case Scenario: Alex Len

The top 5 of this draft is such a mess. It’s anybody’s guess as to who goes where in the top 5, so the Pelicans will have a hard time planning who’ll be available. Chad Ford has the Pelicans taking Alex Len in his latest mock draft, but that would be a terrible pick. Let’s put it this way: when two of your three “building blocks” are Austin Rivers and Alex Len, you’ll be in the lottery a lot. Len is the classic unproven center whose production in college was disappointing, yet managed to slip into the top 10 based purely on potential. Those are the types of picks every franchise should seek to avoid. Maybe you can defend Len, putting the blame on the rest of his team that was very weak. Even so, I’m not confident that Len is worth a top 10 pick, even in this weak draft. Porter is ideal here as a player who can step in right away and be productive, most likely starting from the beginning. Bennett is more of a gamble, but his ability to play both forward positions and his potential would be worth it here.

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7. Sacramento Kings

Best-Case Scenario: Anthony Bennett or Alex Len 
Worst-Case Scenario: Michael Carter-Williams 

I know I said Alex Len isn’t worth a top 10 pick–he isn’t. However in this circumstance, when a team has been so bad for so long, and overrun by players with character issues, the Kings can be patient. You would draft Alex Len only if you were going to trade DeMarcus Cousins for a top pick or proven veteran. I would not take Len myself, but it’s very plausible that the Kings could trade Cousins and then look for a big man to replace him here. Otherwise, Bennett would be another piece with plenty of potential. Bennett would’ve made a ridiculously tough frontline if the Kings had kept Thomas Robinson with Cousins. It’s a shame the Kings sent away Robinson for Patrick Patterson in one of the worst trades of the season. Regardless, the Kings need to load up on high character players. There’s no room for more chemistry and immaturity issues. Carter-Williams is a questionable prospect with a shoddy jumper and skinny frame, as well as a history of character issues.

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8. Detroit Pistons

Best-Case Scenario: Anthony Bennett
Worst-Case Scenario: Shabazz Muhammad

Looking at the recent mock drafts, it seems difficult for the Pistons to really mess up this year in the  draft. Sure, it’s always hard to forecast who’ll develop in the pros, but there aren’t too many very questionable prospects at the end of the top 10. Thankfully for the Pistons there aren’t too many enticing Europeans thought to go in the top 10 this year. Aka, don’t worry about Joe Dumars picking Darko again. The Pistons shored up their front court for the future after pairing Andre Drummond with Greg Monroe, but they don’t have anyone worth keeping on the wing. Drafting Bennett, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, or even C.J. McCollum would help out their backcourt. Even Muhammad would provide much-needed scoring, but his attitude and character issues are not what a rebuilding needs.

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9. Minnesota Timberwolves

Best-Case Scenario: C.J. McCollum or Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
Worst-Case Scenario: Cody Zeller

The Wolves are in a dicy position, as Kevin Love has made it clear he’s not happy with the direction they’re going. The Wolves haven’t had a competent backcourt scorer since he arrived, and for some reason they thought adding a guy without knee cartilage was the answer (see: Brandon Roy). There’s a good chance Love will be traded within the next year, but even if he’s not, the T’Wolves will still need some guys on the wing. It’s not clear whether Derrick Williams will make the leap, but a shooting guard is a key need. McCollum is more of a point guard, but most scouts see him as a Damian Lillard type who can score. Caldwell-Pope is more of a classic scoring guard at 6’6″ with a nice stroke. Whatever the Wolves do with the pick, they should make sure to avoid Cody Zeller and Steven Adams. Zeller is the second coming of Tyler Hansbrough, a hyped up white guy down low with no post moves, who has no answer to superior athleticism found in the NBA.

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10. Portland Trailblazers

Best-Case Scenario: C.J. McCollum
Worst-Case Scenario: Cody Zeller/ Steven Adams

The Blazers hit last year on a mid-major prospect in Lillard, so why not go with another one in McCollum? Now with a core of Aldridge, Lillard, and Batum, the Blazers should be looking for players ready to contribute right away. Not to say that they are in win-now mode, but Aldridge only has two years left on his deal and he’s 28 years old. McCollum may be unknown to some casual fans because he broke his foot, cutting his senior season short. But in case you’re looking for something to woo you, McCollum led 15th seeded Lehigh over Duke in the first round of the tournament two years ago. The Blazers spent a lottery pick last year on project Meyers Leonard, so there’s no need to spend another pick on another project big man. They may be tempted to draft a big man to serve as Aldridge’s replacement in two years, but I don’t see Zeller or Adams as the long-term answer.

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11. Philadelphia 76ers

Best-Case Scenario: Trade the Pick
Worst-Case Scenario: Cody Zeller/ Steven Adams

Not to be repetitive, but Zeller or Adams don’t do anything significant for the Sixers here. The Sixers blew it last year dealing for Andrew Bynum and essentially exchanging Louis Williams for Nick Young. They’re left with Jrue Holiday and countless question marks. They were a game away from the Eastern Conference Finals last season and now they look to be headed for full-blown rebuilding. There’s always gems outside the top 10, but this draft is so tough to gage that I’d deal the pick. There might be a case for taking Shabazz Muhammad to join his UCLA counterpart Jrue Holiday, but if the Sixers re-sign Andrew Bynum, those are two players with character issues.

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12. Oklahoma City Thunder

Best-Case Scenario: Freaky Friday Reversal of James Harden Trade
Worst-Case Scenario: Cody Zeller

So, this is basically what the James Harden trade comes down to, eh? Good job, Thunder! One of the worst NBA trades in recent memory right there. The Thunder could go with Steven Adams as a long-term project down low with Ibaka. Or, they could go another route and take lefty Shabazz Muhammad to replace lefty James Harden. They could even squint and pretend that Muhammad resembles Harden or force Muhammad to grow an outrageously long beard, but they’d be fooling themselves. It’d be evident the first time Russell Westbrook rubbed Muhammad the wrong way and got in a scuffle. Lastly, the Thunder could go with German Dennis Schroeder, who has been compared to Rondo. I’m a huge fan of Schroeder and he has shades of Westbrook in his game. Maybe that would get people to forget Harden–temporarily.

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13. Dallas Mavericks

Best-Case Scenario: Trade the Pick
Worst-Case Scenario: Any Project

Mark Cuban has made it clear he’s trying to get Dwight Howard and Chris Paul this summer to join Dirk. The Mavs are not the type that rebuilds slowly through the draft. Cuban would rather throw his cash around in free agency, especially in the twilight of Dirk’s career. The Mavs will most likely deal this pick to save cap space for free agency, but if they do keep the pick, it’d be best spent on a guy who can contribute right away. Perhaps Shabazz Muhammad or Allen Crabbe of Cal could come in, but any projects, European “draft-n-stash” type prospects don’t make much sense here.

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14. Utah Jazz

Best-Case Scenario: Dennis Schroeder
Worst-Case Scenario: Anyone Who’s Not a Guard

The Jazz NEED guards. They blew it this year. They had Al Jefferson and Paul Milsap in the final year of their deals, and Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter ready to start in the NBA, but they didn’t make a trade. Now, they’re most likely going to lose some of those assets for nothing. Meanwhile, the Jazz have no one besides Gordon Hayward in the backcourt. Schroeder is an ultra athletic point guard with shades of Rondo and Westbrook in his game, except he’s a very good shooter. To be exact, he’s been compared to Rondo, and he shoots 84% from the line and over 40% from behind the arc.

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