The day is here! Numerous NBA teams are going to go out of their way to expose their incompetence tonight! We’re going to see picks that cost teams for years to come. We’ll see Michael Jordan pick someone he destroyed in 1 on 1, and maybe even called “a flaming f*ggot.” We probably will not see a franchise player drafted. We could see each of the top 3 picks traded on draft night. Whatever happens tonight, we will be ready. This is “the most unpredictable draft” Chad Ford has ever seen, and we still don’t even know who’s going number one. Tonight is sure to confuse many, and predicting the order of the draft this year is pretty much impossible. We will give our best shot here at a mock draft, but it will be based on who teams should select, combined with what we think will happen.
1. Nerlens Noel
Despite all of the trade rumors, the Cavs will be forced to keep the pick and take Noel. Noel is not a bad prospect, but in most drafts, a 206 pound center with a torn ACL would not be selected first. The Cavs have talked about taking Noel, Len, and trading the pick, so it’s anyone’s guess what they’ll do with the pick. They should take Victor Oladipo, but they’ll most likely go with a big man here.
2. Victor Oladipo
Oladipo was dubbed the safest prospect by the GMs in the league, and for good reason. At the very least, he will be an elite defender in the NBA. If he continues to develop his offense, namely his perimeter shooting, then he could be an all star. The Magic could be tempted to take McLemore here, but Oladipo is a far safer prospect with little chance of failing in the NBA.
3. Anthony Bennett
The Wizards will probably select hometown hero Otto Porter from Georgetown, whose been tabbed as one of the safest prospects in this draft, but Bennett is one of the few guys with true all star potential. Bennett could easily be a 20 and 10 guy in the pros, while Porter’s upside is capped as a role player. Bennett has the type of potential you look for in a top 3 pick, and while Porter might be a safer prospect, you’re getting a starter if he maxes out. The Wizards aren’t at the stage where they can just look for role players to fill out the roster.
4. Otto Porter
Recent trade rumors suggest the Bobcats value Porter over Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, which wouldn’t be too surprising considering MKG shot 22% from 3 last year. This wouldn’t be a horrendous pick, but there are better players available here. I just wouldn’t trust MJ to make the call here. Don’t be surprised to see Len go here, forming one of the least imposing frontcourts in the NBA with Bismack Biyombo. The ‘Cats would be better to go with a scoring guard like McLemore, McCollum, or Caldwell-Pope here.
5. Ben McLemore
McLemore is a high value, high upside pick at 5. He has been called “the prototypical NBA shooting guard” way too many times in this draft process, and I’m not sure he excels being the go-to-guy from day one in Phoenix, but they are in desperate need for talent. It’s almost impossible to pass up McLemore here. The Ray Allen comparisons are a bit ambitious, but McLemore has a sweet stroke and can’t dribble so I guess it’s fair.
6. Alex Len
This is the part where the Pelicans’ rebuilding process gets ugly. They spend lottery picks in back-to-back years on Austin Rivers and Alex Len, both destined to dominate the D-League for years to come. All kidding aside, Len really is not all that different of a prospect from Noel. They’re both extremely athletic for their size, extremely raw, and have nearly nothing to add offensively. I would NOT take Len first overall, but he has a little upside here.
7. C.J. McCollum
The Kings need just about everything, and McCollum is one of the most underrated players in this draft. He’s been compared by everyone to Damian Lillard because he went to Lehigh, but he’s a better shooter than Lillard. McCollum would be a fine replacement for Tyreke Evans when the Kings let him go. McCollum is also one of the highest character guys in this draft, and the any team with Demarcus Cousins needs every good locker room guy it can get. McCollum could easily be one of the best players in this draft in a few years.
8. Michael Carter-Williams
It’s usually tough to sell a skinny point guard who can’t shoot to NBA GMs, but when that guy is 6’6 and a very good defender, then the game changes. MCW is a risky prospect, but the top point guard prospect in this year’s class. If the Pistons had a big shooting guard, they’d probably take Trey Burke, but having just moved Brandon Knight to shooting guard, they need a bigger point guard and MCW fits the bill.
9. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
My favorite prospect this year, Caldwell-Pope is one of the biggest unknowns in the draft. A former McDonald’s All-American out of high school, KCP’s only real mistake was going to Georgia, basically college basketball Purgatory. He’s a freak athlete with classic NBA two-guard size at 6’6, not to mention many people call him the best shooter in the draft. If he had been at a major program like Kansas or Duke, he’d probably be a top 5 pick. The Wolves desperately need a shooting wing and that is exactly what Caldwell-Pope is. Plus, who doesn’t love a guy whose initials sound like an extremely dangerous street drug?
10. Cody Zeller
Many people including me were not Zeller fans coming into the draft. After seeing him get eaten alive by every athletic team in college, he looked like a slightly better version of Tyler Hansbrough, but Zeller dominated in the athletic testing of the combine, his name surged up draft boards. Zeller also showed an ability to hit 3’s consistently at the combine, something he didn’t even preview in college. At this point in the draft, just getting a rotation player is a win. There’s no need to swing for the fences. Zeller could be a great stretch 4 in the NBA. The Blazers might be tempted to draft Steven Adams, but they just took a project big man in Meyers Leonard last year.
11. Steven Adams
It’s going to be a long time before Adams contributes in the NBA, but the Sixers aren’t in a rush. They can and should let Bynum walk in free agency and start over, building around Jrue Holiday. Taking Adams in the lottery is risky, but he has as much upside as Noel and Len.Trey Burke is the best player available, but Jrue Holiday probably couldn’t move over to shooting guard.
12. Trey Burke
The Thunder need to get someone of value here to feel like they at least got some value back for James Harden. They have Westbrook and Reggie Jackson already, but Burke is too tough to pass up. Just a few weeks ago, he was talked about as going second to the Magic. He’s a proven winner and would fit in great with the Thunder’s locker room. Plus, if the Thunder don’t want to pay Reggie Jackson in a few years, they will have some insurance in Burke. Burke has starting point guard talent.
13. Sergey Karasev
I don’t know much about the foreign players this year, but the word on the street is that the Mavs are trying to trade the pick so they can save cap space for a run at CP3 and Dwight. In fact, they were apparently offering Shawn Marion and the 13th pick to MOVE DOWN to the 19th pick! From all accounts, Karasev isn’t the type of “draft, stash, and pray he’s good” European player. Most scouts anticipate a long NBA career out of him.
14. Shane Larkin
The Jazz need a point guard. They’ve needed one for years, and Larkin is an intriguing prospect. Larkin is small, but he measured out as an athletic freak of nature, with the highest ever recorded vertical and the fastest sprint time too. Larkin is a good pick and roll player. It’s tough to project how small point guards will translate into the NBA. He could be D.J. Augustin (ugh!) or a poor man’s Tony Parker.
15. Dennis Schroeder
The Bucks went ALL IN with um Brandon Jennings, Monta Ellis, and J.J. Redick and that failed, surprisingly. Back to reality, the Bucks need to start over without any of those guys. They have one nice piece in Larry Sanders, but taking Schroeder would be a great start in the backcourt. Often compared to Rondo, Schroeder is a super athletic point guard from Germany who can also shoot the ball. Schroeder could be better than MCW, Burke, and Larkin in a few years.
16. Shabazz Muhammad
Now that the Celtics are in rebuilding mode, they can look for a replacement for Paul Pierce. Muhammad is a far cry from Pierce, but at the beginning of the year, he was projected to go in the top 5. His one-dimensional game and not-very-likable personality have caused him to plummet in the draft, but the Celtics would be smart to snatch him up. He’s a bargain in the middle of the first round. Last year, the Celtics took Sullinger when he slid down draft boards, and this year they can do the same with Muhammad.
17. Jamaal Franklin
Two years ago, an versatile, athletic two-guard who couldn’t shoot out of San Diego State went 17th overall. His name was Kawhi Leonard. Two years later, one of Leonard’s teammates in college, Jamaal Franklin has an identical scouting report. Franklin is not as good as Leonard, but he is a very underrated prospect that could help the Hawks out immediately.
18. Gorgui Dieng
The Hawks will probably use one of their back-to-back picks on a European player they can keep overseas for a year or two, but they could add two NBA-ready players capable of making their rotation immediately. Dieng is reminiscent of Taj Gibson out of college, as both guys were 23 years old coming into the draft. Dieng is a better player on both sides of the ball than Gibson was at this time. Whoever takes Dieng will have a big man that can step right in and contribute from day one.
19. Giannis Antetokounmpo
With four picks in the top 31, the Cavs are sure to spend at least one on a European player that they can keep overseas and bring over in a few years. Antetokounmpo is an interesting prospect, a 6’8 wing who played a lot of point guard in Greece’s second league this past year. At this point in the draft, it’s tough to find players like him with such a unique game.
20. Reggie Bullock
The Bulls have been looking to add wing scorers to complement Derrick Rose for the last few years, and Bullock would fit in nicely. He’s a knock down shooter who’d get plenty of open looks in their system. He does have a few red flags, such as failing his draft interview and Roy Williams’ less-than-flattering comments when Bullock declared for the draft, but he should be a decent bench player. Bullock is not Jimmy Butler, but he could be a good ‘3 and D’ player to replace Luol Deng in a year.
21. Lucas Nogueira
A classic high-upside pick late in the first round, Nogueira has been called a poor man’s Nerlens Noel. He’s extremely long, with a 7’6 wingspan to be exact, and athletic, but he needs to put a lot of weight on like Noel. The Jazz need big men since they’re going to let Al Jefferson and Paul Milsap walk in free agency. Nogueira would be a nice project while Favors and Kanters slip into the starting lineup.
22. Mason Plumlee
From all accounts, the Nets have their sights on Gorgui Dieng, but if he’s not on the board at 22, then Plumlee wouldn’t be a terrible consolation. Plumlee will be a perennial bench player in the NBA. He will probably never offer anything on the offensive end, but if he can spell Brook Lopez for stretches next year, then the Nets will be happy that they drafted him.
23. Tim Hardaway Jr
The Pacers’ biggest weakness this year was their bench. They’ll get Danny Granger back next year, but they will still need more guys off the bench to contribute. Hardaway is going to be a great player for a playoff team next year, and the difference between Hardaway and and McLemore could be minimal. He’s one of the few guys whose game is more suited for the NBA than college, and he’s the perfect 3 and D type of player that will own the corner 3 in the NBA.
24. Kelly Olynyk
This will be the point in the draft where the Knicks fans absolutely lose it and start booing after they draft a big white guy from Gonzaga. The Knicks were the 2 seed in the East, but it feels like they’re rebuilding. They just need the best player available at this point, and Olynyk is probably that guy. He could be a decent NBA scorer off the bench.
25. Allen Crabbe
In Doc Rivers’ first draft with the Clippers, they’ll look to get some help at shooting guard, where Willie Green started last year. Crabbe is from nearby Cal, and can light it up. Crabbe is one of the best shooters in the draft and would be a nice addition to the Clippers. The Clippers could use some youth on the wing, and if they don’t re-sign Matt Barnes, Crabbe could get minutes next year.
26. Ricky Ledo
The Wolves will look to solidify their wings in this draft, and after taking KCP in the top 10, they can take a chance on Ledo who scouts say has one of the highest upsides in the draft. He was one of the highest rated high school players in the country, but didn’t qualify academically at Providence last year. He’s one of the biggest sleepers in the draft, and the Wolves could walk away with two lottery-level talents.
27. Isaiah Canaan
The Nuggets may lose Iguodala to free agency, but Canaan’s talent is too much to pass up here. He’s the classic small school stud that sticks in the NBA. Canaan has a little bit of Lillard in him and his name has skyrocketed up draft boards in the past few weeks. The Nuggets need some help at point guard, with dinosaur Andre Miller running the show.
28. Tony Mitchell
Perhaps the highest upside in the entire draft belongs to Tony Mitchell. Mitchell, out of North Texas, was projected before the season to go in the lottery, but then his team finished 12-20 in the Sun Belt, and NBA GMs realized something must be wrong. He’s the most athletic player in the draft, at 6’8 240. He compares himself to Kenneth Faried, and that is exactly who he should be in the pros. The Spurs are the perfect fit for him, and he would be the perfect guy to put on Durant or LeBron off the bench.
29. Archie Goodwin
The Thunder have a history of taking guys with extremely high upside, who underachieved in college. Goodwin was compared to Russell Westbrook out of college, and he’s the youngest player in the draft, still only 18. Goodwin would spend a few years in the D-League, but in a couple of years, he could be worth the wait. His name has been mentioned in the second round mostly, but before the year, he was considered a definite lottery pick.
30. Glen Rice Jr
The only player coming from the D-League, Rice has high potential and is worth the risk at the very end of the first round. The Suns have needs everywhere, and after taking McLemore, the Suns can swing for the fences with another wing who adds athleticism. Rice dominated the D-League and he deserves a shot on a team where he’ll get some minutes.