This might be the hardest draft to predict the number one pick in recent memory. There is no player who is a sure thing as far as impact goes so it’s really hard to predict. Until recent weeks Nerlens Noel has been the favorite, but weighing in at 206 at the combine and recovering from a season ending knee injury leave this pick up in the air.
Cleveland could do several things with this pick, first of all being trading down. This is an even-talent lottery or maybe the talent will be even throughout the first round. It’s reminiscent of a draft when a guy like Danny Granger fell on draft day but turned out to be one of the best players in the draft.
There are a few Europeans who have that ‘tremendous upside’ that we hear about each year. We could see a couple of them taken in the lottery based solely on potential.
We’ve included other likely options for the lottery picks.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers
The Pick: Nerlens Noel, Kentucky
I hate this pick for Cleveland but I don’t have a player I love at number one. I just don’t know if there is a better option. A point guard might make sense for them but only if they trade down.
Noel had a horrific season-ending injury but his potential has kept him atop most draft boards. Great shot-blockers are born more often than taught and Noel proved he can block shots. The Magic need a big man and Noel fits the bill.
Other Options: Ben McLemore, Cody Zeller, Trey Burke
2. Orlando Magic
The Pick: Ben McLemore, Kansas
McLemore was quiet at times during his freshman season and has had some questionable accusations leveled against at people around him since the draft declaration deadline has passed. Leaving that aside, there is no doubt that McLemore can shoot and Orlando needs help everywhere.
Other Options: Victor Oladipo, Cody Zeller
3. Washington Wizards
The Pick: Otto Porter Jr., Georgetown
Porter is the most NBA-ready of all the small forwards in the draft. He led the hometown Hoyas to one of the most consistent regular season performances this season. Porter underachieved in the tournament but shone throughout the regular season.
Other Options: Victor Oladipo
4. Charlotte Bobcats
The Pick: Cody Zeller, Indiana
Zeller brings a unique skill set to the NBA and had a chance to be the number one pick in the draft based on preseason hype. Zeller is still the most complete big man in the draft despite having an underwhelming season. Zeller is as close to a sure thing as this draft has to offer despite his undersized wingspan.
Other Options: Nerlens Noel
5. Phoenix Suns
The Pick: Victor Oladipo, Indiana
Oladipo will help a Phoenix team that struggled on both ends of the floor. He is a lock-down defender and has the ability to score and make big shots down the stretch.
Other Options: Otto Porter Jr.
6. New Orleans Pelicans
The Pick: Alex Len, Maryland
Len is where the risks begin. He is a mobile big man who needs some polish but seems good enough to play now. The question is still his ceiling and whether he is still improving.
Other Options: Rudy Gobert, Kelly Olynyk
7. Sacramento Kings
The Pick: Trey Burke, Michigan
With DeMarcus Cousins and Jason Thompson down low the Kings could use a true point guard. Burke is the best true point guard in the draft who can step up and knock down a big shot.
Other Options: Anthony Bennett
8. Detroit Pistons
The Pick: Anthony Bennett – UNLV
Bennett is a “tweener” who has the length to play power forward but might be slightly undersized to fill the position every night. If the Pistons choose to play him at small forward he will be one of the most aggressive in the league. He will have a chance to play both forward spots as match-ups and mismatches allow.
Other Options: Otto Porter, Jr.
9. Minnesota Timberwolves
The Pick: Steven Adams, Pittsburgh
Adams was the talk of the combine because of his athleticism and shooting ability. It would appear that he was lost or at least limited in Pitt’s offensive scheme and his upside is now pinging loudly on NBA radars. Adams is one of the players who could surprise and move up even more before draft day. A top five pick is not out of the question if his individual workouts impress.
Other Options: Kelly Olynyk, Rudy Gobert
10. Portland Trailblazers
The Pick: Kelly Olynyk, Gonzaga
Olynyk gets to stay in the Pacific Northwest and the Blazers get a solid backup for LaMarcus Aldridge and a possible replacement for JJ Hickson.
Other Options: Rudy Gobert, CJ McCollum
11. Philadelphia 76ers
The Pick: Rudy Gobert, France
Gobert is a European big man with a huge wingspan and a huge upside. He has what you can’t teach in length and height and someone is going to take a chance on him. If he is around he makes sense to take the roster spot that was never filled by Andrew Bynum.
Other Options: Dario Saric
12. Oklahoma City Thunder
The Pick: Michael Carter-Williams, Syracuse
The Thunder could use a big man who can rebound. If the top three big men are unavailable it will be hard to pass on a solid player like Carter-Williams, who could round out the lottery as a reliable backup to Russell Westbrook who could develop into a star down the road.
Other Options: Mason Plumlee
13. Dallas Mavericks
The Pick: CJ McCollum, Lehigh
There probably isn’t a better shooter in the draft and if the Mavericks are looking for scoring they won’t have to look much further. A season-ending injury called McCollum’s durability into question and could cause him to fall much further than this.
Other Options: Mason Plumlee, Dario Saric
14. Utah Jazz
The Pick: Dennis Schroeder, Germany
Schroeder is a late comer to the first round of the draft. The German prospect has been compared to Rajon Rondo. Entering the draft with an alleged first round promise from someone, Schroeder is one of the hardest picks to predict. Utah would make sense.
15. Milwaukee Bucks
The Pick: Mason Plumlee, Duke
Plumlee may not fall this far as his athleticism is liable to move him up the draft board. If he is still here he is definitely the best available.
16. Boston Celtics
The Pick: Dario Saric, Croatia
Saric is 6-10 with a deadly shooting stroke. At pick 16 he is a safe choice and could be the piece the Celtics need to rebuild. Saric is a candidate to rocket up draft boards once individual workouts begin.
17. Atlanta Hawks
The Pick: Jamaal Franklin, San Diego State
Franklin is a “tweener” who could see time at small forward or shooting guard. He is a mature player who brings a well rounded game to the NBA.
18. Atlanta Hawks
The Pick: Gorgui Dieng, Louisville
Dieng showed an improving face-up game with extending range as his career progressed under Rick Pitino. He is a game-changing defender who could anchor the Hawks for years to come.
19. Cleveland Cavaliers
The Pick: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Georgia
Pope proved he could score and rebound in college averaging more than 18 points and seven rebounds per contest in his sophomore season.
20. Chicago Bulls
The Pick: Tony Mitchell, North Texas
Mitchell is a great athlete who has a big upside. He had a stellar season in the middle of nowhere at North Texas, which may have hurt his draft stock. He also fell in love with the three-point shot and saw all major statistical averages decrease.
21. Utah Jazz
The Pick: Tony Snell, New Mexico
Snell is this draft’s Kawhi Leonard. Long, can shoot and can be a gritty defender, Snell has moved up in recent weeks.
22. Brooklyn Nets
The Pick: Shane Larkin, Miami
Even though the Nets have Deron Williams a backup the caliber of Shane Larkin cannot be overlooked. Larkin is a cold-blooded shooter and a very good point guard. His decision to leave Miami was a little bit of a surprise but the son of Barry shouldn’t slip out of the first round after showing he is a tremendous athlete at the combine.
23. Indiana Pacers
The Pick: Jeff Withey, Kansas
Another good shot-blocker made in the image of Rik Smits. Different country, similar game. Withey might have a little less offense than Smits but might be a better shot blocker.
24. New York Knicks
The Pick: Archie Goodwin, Kentucky
Goodwin is a scorer who can handle the ball. Goodwin can learn from Raymond Felton and serve as a backup once Jason Kidd departs.
25. LA Clippers
The Pick: Shabazz Muhammad
Muhammad is a solid small forward who can do a little bit of everything but no one thing particularly well. He gives the Clippers versatility at the small forward spot, which they desperately need.
26. Minnesota Timberwolves
The Pick: Lorenzo Brown, NC State
Brown is a great scoring guard who can bring instant offense to the land of a thousand lakes.
27. Denver Nuggets
The Pick: Lucas Nogueira, Brazil
Defense and rebounding are needed in Denver and this 20-year-old who stands seven feet tall conjures up memories of Nene.
28. San Antonio Spurs
The Pick: Tim Hardaway, Jr., Michigan
Hardaway brings some youth and scoring but fits the “tweener” definition. He doesn’t have the UTEP two-step like his pops, but he has great scoring potential and fits the Spurs style. He solidified his shooting guard potential at the combine earlier this month putting up the best numbers of any shooter.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder
The Pick: Giannis Adetokunbo, Greece
Forward with tremendous potential he is a project going to a team who can afford to wait a year or two for him to develop.
30. Phoenix Suns
The Pick: CJ Leslie, NC State
The Swiss cheese Suns are looking for fill every hole on their roster, making this a best available situation. There is likely to be a good player fall to the end of the round that we aren’t expecting. Leslie fits the bill at this point in the draft. He can play both forward spots and contribute right away.