On the eve of what many people have called the worst draft of all time, we are hearing numerous trade rumors that could drastically alter where players are drafted. There’s a good chance the Cavaliers won’t make the first selection tomorrow night, as they continue to try to move the pick for a superstar like Kevin Love. After the Cavs, the Magic have been linked to trades too, looking to shop the pick if they can’t get Nerlens Noel. We have no idea who will be picking when, and in a draft lacking in franchise players, this is one of the most confusing drafts in recent memory. It may be more valuable this year to stockpile picks at the end of the first round than to have a pick at the top, considering the difference between the 6th and 26th pick could be minimal. Will there really be a huge difference between the career of Ben McLemore and Tim Hardaway Jr? We all know that fit matters as much or more as talent when it comes to the draft. This is the first year in a long time where the first pick is unknown the night before the draft. Predicting the order of the draft this year will be nearly impossible this year, but we will try to make a few bold predictions on what will happen tomorrow night.
1. The Cavaliers will make the first selection tomorrow night. Okay okay, this may not seem too bold, but given the number of trades linked to the Cavs recently, it would be a surprise if the Cavs keep the pick. They’ve tried to get Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Demarcus Cousins, but to this point, they’ve been unsuccessful. They shouldn’t feel pressured to trade the pick. Each of these players has all-star talent, but is also damaged goods to an extent. Love may be capable of putting up 25 and 15, but he also hasn’t played a full NBA season once in his career. Aldridge is an interesting player, but like Love, has never been to the playoffs and it’s not clear just how good he is since his team has been so bad. Cousins is the most intriguing player here, but his character issues would be enough to tear apart the Spurs. The Cavs should feel comfortable moving forward with a Kyrie, Waiters, Thompson, and Noel nucleus.
2. Shabazz Muhammad will have the biggest slide in the draft. And most teams will regret it. Muhammad has plummeted in Chad Ford’s latest mock draft, mostly because he is extremely one-dimensional and is not a great locker room guy. He can score the ball effectively, or at least sort of effectively, but don’t count on Muhammad to play defense, rebound, or make his teammates better. Despite all of this, Muhammad is one of the surest things in this year’s draft and if he goes to a playoff team, he will be instant offense off the bench next season. In a draft with so many question marks, it seems foolish to nitpick Muhammad’s game and personality when he brings one elite talent: scoring. Muhammad may not be James Harden, but for a team like the Pacers with virtually no bench, he could be a great asset. UCLA was a terrible environment for him and he made plenty of mistakes, but in five years, don’t be surprised if Muhammad is one of the few rotation guys from this draft.
3. Victor Oladipo will be the best player in five years. Let’s be clear: Victor Oladipo will never be Dwyane Wade. That comparison is a step too far. I’m not a believer that a guy who was never the go-to-guy in high school or college can suddenly blossom into a 20 point scorer in the NBA. To be fair, most people have abandoned the Wade comparison lately, but that is not a dig at Oladipo. The bottom line is he is one of, if not the most athletic players in the draft and has almost no chance of flaming out. And most GMs and scouts feel this way too. As many including Bill Simmons have said, Oladipo’s worst case scenario is Tony Allen– a defensive stopper who locks down the best player on the opposing team. If he develops his offense more, he’s suddenly a 16-18 point scorer, a potential all star. I would take Oladipo first overall. Unfortunately, I don’t have faith in the Cavs front office that they would do so too.
4. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and CJ McCollum will be two of the five best players in the draft. Two of the most unknown players in the draft, McCollum and Caldwell-Pope, aren’t rated higher merely because of where they played college ball. McCollum is a Patriot-leaguer from Lehigh and Caldwell-Pope is a former McDonald’s All-American whose only mistake was going to play at Georgia. McCollum is best known for leading 15th seeded Lehigh’s upset over Duke too years ago, but he’s one of the best shooters in the draft, often compared to Damian Lillard. Caldwell-Pope, whose initials KCP sound like some sort of crazy street drug, is a 6’6 prototypical two-guard with a sweet stroke. Scouts knew about McCollum after the Duke upset, but KCP is more unknown since Georgia never played any meaningful games or any games on TV.
5. Tony Mitchell will have the highest upside of any player in the draft.
In a draft starved of franchise guys, there are only a few players that have true all star potential. Two of the most interesting prospects are Anthony Bennett, projected to go somewhere in the top 10, and Tony Mitchell, projected to go somewhere at the end of the first round. Mitchell is the most confusing prospect by far. He’s a 6’8 240 pound athletic freak of nature, often compared to Shawn Marion. He’s the most athletic player in the draft, and has the most NBA-ready body of anyone in the draft. He should be a top 10 pick. So what’s the problem? Oh yeah, he played at North Texas last season, in the Sun Belt.
Oh, and they went 12-20 last season. So in a conference most people have not even heard of, the only team with an NBA player finished in the cellar. Basically, Mitchell admitted he didn’t bring it every night. He took games off and his motor was bad. He’s compared himself to Kenneth Faried, and he should be similar to Faried, but his bust potential is through the roof too. Fit is probably the most important factor for Mitchell. If he gets drafted by the Spurs, expect a very solid 10 year career. If he gets drafted by the Knicks, expect him out of the league before March.
6. Jamaal Franklin is the next Kawhi Leonard.
Who? Frankin slated to go somewhere in second half of the first round tomorrow night and is one of the least sexy picks out there. You pretty much know what you’re getting out of him: defense, rebounding, slashing, and bricks from the perimeter. Sound familiar? That was the same scouting report as Kawhi Leonard a few years ago. Just to make matters more interesting, Franklin and Leonard were teammates at San Diego State too. Franklin will find an NBA home with his current game, but if he adds any semblance of a perimeter game like Leonard did, he’ll be an absolute keeper.
7. The Bobcats (read: MJ) will do something REALLY stupid.
Just kidding, that’s not a bold prediction. Let’s all sit back and wait for the moment for the Bobcats to draft Alex Len. That Len-Biyombo frontline will be really imposing in a few years!
8. Gorgui Dieng will be the best center in this draft.
Dieng may be 23 years old, but he has the most polished skills of any big man in this draft, easily. Since he came into college, he’s rapidly improved to the point where he’s going to be a very good two way player in the pros. He can pass it exceptionally and knock down mid-range jumpers reliably now, which he couldn’t do last year. Not to mention he’s a very good defender and shot-blocker. Maybe Dieng doesn’t have quite the upside as Noel, Len, or Adams because of his age, but Dieng will be a rotation guy for a playoff team next year. There’s virtually no chance Dieng flames out of the NBA. That can’t be said about the other three guys.