NBA Draft: The Final Mockdown

Steve Alexander
Steve Alexander's Final NBA Mock Draft (Version 5) is here, and Nerlens Noel still looks like the No. 1 pick in Thursday's draft

NBA Draft: The Final Mockdown

Steve Alexander's Final NBA Mock Draft (Version 5) is here, and Nerlens Noel still looks like the No. 1 pick in Thursday's draft

It’s the final countdown on the NBA Draft, and despite the fact the draft is less than 48 hours from now, we still don’t know who the Cavs are taking with the first pick, assuming they still own it on Thursday night. And without knowing that, the rest of it is just as squirrelly. In fact, as I write this intro, I’m still not sure who I’m going to put at No. 1 and 2. But all of this mystery should also provide for some good drama, as well as make a lot of us who have been mocking for a few months look silly. The draft is Thursday night and you can plan on Rotoworld breaking down each pick as it happens, as usual.   

You can follow me on Twitter by clicking here, and Rotoworld_BK is also a great follow for all the NBA headlines as they happen. Additionally, I’ll be appearing on the radio with Rick Kamla on Friday morning at 9:20 on Atlanta’s 92.9 The Game to recap what goes down on Thursday night.

1. Cleveland Cavaliers – Nerlens Noel C Kentucky

Despite the fact that Alex Len appears to have a very real chance of being taken by the Cavs at No. 1, I’m sticking with Noel, simply because it seems to have the best odds of happening. However, if the Cavs do mix it up and take Len, the entire draft will be shaken up and become even more of a crapshoot than it already is. The Cavs are set at point guard and power forward, but have questions almost everywhere else. Tyler Zeller looks like a nice backup center, while Anderson Varejao’s days are probably numbered in Cleveland, and he simply can’t stay healthy. Noel is coming off an ACL tear, but is said to be ahead of schedule in his rehab. However, there is still a decent chance they’ll try to trade this pick, if they can make the right deal. Lastly, Sam Mitchell and I agreed on the radio last week that Noel’s undersized to be and NBA center right now, and lacks the 15-footer needed to be a power forward. He’ll likely go No. 1, but I’m not expecting any miracles out of him for his first couple seasons.

2. Orlando Magic – Victor Oladipo SG Indiana

If the Cavs take Alex Len, it is almost a certainty the Magic will then grab Noel with the No. 2 pick. Personally, I still like Michigan PG Trey Burke for the Magic, as I think he fits their biggest need, and could end up being the best player in this draft. But unfortunately, I seem to be alone in thinking the Magic might take him. And if the Cavs take Noel, the Magic will have their choice of Oladipo (my choice, once again), Otto Porter, Anthony Bennett, Ben McLemore and Len. The arrival of Oladipo or McLemore could mean fewer minutes for guys like Arron Afflalo and Tobias Harris, but if the Magic are set on taking the best player available, one of these two looks like the pick. If the Magic do take Burke, I’ll pay the price for overthinking and not going with my first instinct, as I initially had them taking Burke.

3. Washington Wizards – Otto Porter SF Georgetown

The Wizards are seemingly taking Porter at No. 3 in every other mock draft I’ve seen. I’ve had him going here since the get-go and he might be my favorite player in this draft. He also fills a need for the Wizards and it’s hard to see them taking someone else at this point. Porter could be a hometown hero for the Wiz after playing at Georgetown and pairing him with John Wall and Bradley Beal should mean the Wizards will have a very good team in the near future. Trevor Ariza hasn’t proven to be a reliable starter and Martell Webster is battling free agency, injury and age. Porter looks like the best small forward in this draft, can get it done on both ends of the court, and is very versatile.

4. Charlotte Bobcats – Alex Len C Maryland  

The Bobcats (Hornets in 2014-15) appear to be set at PG (Kemba Walker), SG (Gerald Henderson) and SF (Michael Kidd-Gilchrist), while big men are a problem with Bismack Biyombo, Byron Mullens, Josh McRoberts and Tyrus Thomas all failing to consistently contribute. While I’m not buying the hype as much as some and putting Len in the No. 1 spot, he does make a lot of sense for the Bobcats, and this is the first time I’ve had Len this high. And given the disastrous big-man play from the Bobcats over the last several years, Len could actually come in and make a difference right away. He’s a big, athletic, two-way center and while he’s coming off ankle surgery, could make a run at Rookie of the Year if he lands a starting job. Which is a real possibility in Charlotte.

5. Phoenix Suns – Ben McLemore SG Kansas

The Suns have all kinds of needs but shooting guard is an obvious problem, as they didn’t seem to fall in love with Jared Dudley or P.J. Tucker this season. My guess is they would be happy to see either McLemore or Oladipo at No. 5, and I’d be shocked if they don’t end up with one of them on draft night.  McLemore looks like the pick here. He might be the best two-way player in this draft, has serious shooting range, and I can’t think of many NBA teams who would pass that up. I had McLemore going at No. 2 in Version 3, but flip-flopped him with Oladipo as the hype train rolls on.

6. New Orleans Pelicans – Trey Burke G Michigan

The team I’ve seen Burke most associated with recently is the Pelicans. And while Greivis Vasquez had a surprisingly fine season last year, it also has a bit of a fluky feel to it. And Burke wouldn’t come in and demand a starting job, and could be given time to develop behind Vasquez. Burke tore it up for Michigan and was outstanding in the NCAA tournament. He’s considered to be an undersized point guard, but so is Chris Paul. I am still pulling for the Magic to take Burke at No. 2, but if that doesn’t happen (and I don’t expect it to), No. 6 to the Pelicans looks like a good fit. And if the Pelicans decide to pass on Burke and go for a player at a different position, don’t be surprised. They have needs across the board with the exception of power forward.

7. Sacramento Kings – Anthony Bennett F UNLV

A lot of folks have the Kings taking a point guard with this pick, but that plan should end if Bennett is still available. Especially since the Kings have had bigger problems at forward than point guard for some time. Bennett’s a classic “tweener,” meaning he’s not really going to be a true small or power forward due to his 6’7” size. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Kings plug Bennett in at small forward and let him compete for Rookie of the Year. If they do end up going point guard, Trey Burke or Michael Carter-Williams would be the pick.

8. Detroit Pistons – Michael Carter-Williams PG Syracuse

Brandon Knight could end up being a backup NBA point guard or a shooting guard, and Rodney Stuckey and Jose Calderon won’t be around forever. The Pistons really could use a small forward with this pick and Shabazz Muhammad will be in play. But I am guessing they take Burke or Carter-Williams, if Burke is off the board. Carter-Williams’ lack of a jumper is a concern, and it’s probably because of that that I have him going higher than other folks do.

9. Minnesota Timberwolves – C.J. McCollum G Lehigh

The Timberwolves need wings and with Ricky Rubio all set to run the Wolves offense until he can’t take it anymore, McCollum would slot in nicely at shooting guard, where the Wolves are severely lacking. McCollum is a combo guard with strong offensive skills and could also adapt to become a reliable NBA point guard, where he could serve as a backup for Rubio. He looks like a great fit in Minnesota.

10. Portland Trail Blazers – Cody Zeller F/C Indiana

Zeller’s one-dimensional game was exposed in the tournament, but he’s still slated for a lottery pick and the Blazers seem to always be looking for centers. Zeller’s probably going to be a better NBA player than what he showed in the tourney and his ability to run the floor will work in his favor. His standing vertical leap of 35.5 inches was particularly impressive at the combine, and only helped his stock. In short, no player standing 6’9” over the last 10 years has been able to get up as high as Zeller did at the combine. On a side note, my college expert buddy Kelin says Zeller is going much higher than 10, but I’m sticking to my guns.

11. Philadelphia 76ers – Steven Adams C Pittsburgh

Andrew Bynum didn’t exactly work out and Spencer Hawes, despite some very nice runs last season, still may not be the long-term answer at center.  Adams is going to be a bit of a project, but he’s 7’0” tall, athletic for his size and should thrive at running the floor. He’ll need to work hard to develop an inside game worthy of the NBA, but has enough upside that someone will likely grab him in the lottery.

12. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Toronto) – Kentavious Caldwell-Pope SG Georgia

The Thunder could use an eventual replacement for Kendrick Perkins so I had Kelly Olynyk going here in previous mocks. But his stock may be falling and I don’t see the Thunder reaching for Mason Plumlee here. Therefore, I’m going with the Georgia product and SEC Player of the Year.  Caldwell-Pope averaged 18.5 points and should be a very good 3-point shooter in the NBA, which sounds like a good replacement for James Harden, once Kevin Martin eventually fades into obscurity.  He’s also a solid defensive player, and really looks like a nice fit for the Thunder.  I still wouldn’t be surprised to see them take a big man with the No. 12 pick, but they’ll look at a smaller player if they’re goal is to get the best one available.

13. Dallas Mavericks – Shane Larkin PG Miami

Rick Carlisle apparently can’t stand Darren Collison, so much so that he decided to roll with Mike James in a lottery campaign. I had them taking Carter-Williams here in a previous version, but it’s starting to look like he’ll be gone. They desperately need a center, and I could see them taking a big man here, but I get the sense Carlisle really wants a point guard. Therefore, we’re going to run Larkin up the board, as he made the biggest move from Version 3 to Version 4 (along with Carter-Williams). Larkin is very quick and will probably be the best option on the board when the Mavs pick.  He’s only 5’11”, but did a great job of running Miami’s offense last season. German PG Dennis Schroeder is also a candidate for this pick.

14. Utah Jazz – Dennis Schroeder PG Germany

Mo Williams and Jamaal Tinsley are in the final stages of their careers, and Earl Watson is nothing more than a backup. The Jazz need a point guard and can easily grab Schroeder at this point in the draft. Schroeder is a nicely sized 6’2” PG that should immediately make an impression on Ty Corbin and his teammates with his speed and ability to get to the rack. He made a big jump up my draft board for the last couple versions, and makes a lot of sense for Utah. Schroeder, who is from Germany, could also be in play for Dirk Nowitzki’s Mavs at 13.

15. Milwaukee Bucks – Shabazz Muhammad G/F UCLA

The Bucks look set with young big men like Larry Sanders and John Henson, and still have Ersan Ilyasova to start at power forward. But they could use an upgrade over Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and whomever else they plan on plugging in at small forward. Jamaal Franklin is also in play here, but if Muhammad falls, the Bucks may get a bit of a steal, although the same can be said about Franklin.  Muhammad is strong and could provide a solid answer at small forward in Milwaukee, although there are concerns about his basketball IQ and inability to dish the rock.  I would also not be surprised if they take Franklin instead, or if Muhammad goes much earlier, to a team like the Kings (7) or Pistons (8).

16. Boston Celtics – Gorgui Dieng C Louisville

The Celtics need a center, as evidenced by the fact Kevin Garnett spent most of his time in the middle this season.  Dieng’s stock rose during the NCAA Tournament and he should be a very good NBA defender, which will make him a hit with whoever might become the next coach of the team, along with the Celtics faithful.  And his offensive skills have potential given his ability to knock down the mid-range jumper, and he looks like a nice fit in Boston. 

17. Atlanta Hawks – Jamaal Franklin SF San Diego State

The Hawks have needed a solid big man, well, pretty much forever. They also need a shooting guard, but finding a true center should also be a top priority. The Hawks have the luxury of back-to-back picks, and they’ve both changed since the last version. I’ve got them taking Franklin with the first of their two picks, which would provide some relief at shooting guard, as Atlanta didn’t view Lou Williams as a starter last season, even when he was healthy.  Franklin is a freakish athlete and led his college team in scoring, rebounds, assists and steals. And he can even play defense and created more shots for himself last season. Franklin might be the most underrated player in this draft.

18. Atlanta Hawks (via Houston) – Rudy Gobert C France

The Hawks have needed a center since Dikembe Mutombo patrolled the paint for them back in Mookie Blaylock’s heyday.  Gobert looks like an impressive big man. He has a massive 7’9” wingspan and moves very well for a guy standing 7’2”. He should be able to clean the glass and play well enough offensively to make an immediate impact in the league.  And if he has a good camp, it’s possible he could be thrown into the fire sooner than later for new Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer.  However, that doesn’t mean I’d take him in a fantasy draft this fall.  I had Gobert in the lottery in a previous version, but his stock appears to be falling a bit, and Mason Plumlee is also a real possibility here.

19. Cleveland Cavaliers (via Lakers) – Sergey Karasev SF Moscow

The Cavs may be looking for a small forward here if they take Noel (or trade the No. 1 pick), as that is easily their biggest need, and Karasev would likely be one of the best small forwards left on the board at this stage. He’s only 19 and has plenty of upside, along with a competent offensive game and high basketball IQ. Defense and a lack of athleticism are the biggest concerns with Karasev, but not enough that he won’t be taken in the first round.

20. Chicago Bulls – Tony Mitchell F North Texas

The Bulls are pretty set across the board but Luol Deng isn’t getting any younger, while Jimmy Butler can play both wing positions. They’ll likely be looking for the best player available, and both Mitchell and Giannis Adetokunbo could in play here.  I flip flopped Mitchell and Adetokunbo in this version, as I think the Bulls may be more intrigued with Mitchell’s freakish athleticism. He’s another ‘tweener, but I doubt the Bulls would have a problem slotting him at small forward behind Deng (if they don’t trade him) and turning Mitchell loose.  He’s another player I consider underrated in this draft and is one of my favorites.

21. Utah Jazz (via Golden State) – Giannis Adetokunbo SF Greece

He needs to have the ball in his hands to be effective and will likely need some time to adapt to the NBA game, but he’s a great ball handler and a stellar athlete. The Jazz have plenty of big men and really need a point guard more than anything else, but the good ones will probably be gone.   

22. Brooklyn Nets – Mason Plumlee C Duke

The Nets clearly need wing players, as Gerald Wallace fell off a cliff this season, Joe Johnson and his feet aren’t getting any younger, and MarShon Brooks still hasn’t been able to rise to prominence. That means Reggie Bullock, Allen Crabbe and others are in play here, but I could also see them taking the best available big man as Brook Lopez insurance.  Whether the answer will be Plumlee remains up for debate, but he would at least give them a feasible backup at center.  His offensive game is still developing, but he’s a solid defensive presence with some athleticism, and could fill a need for Jason Kidd in Brooklyn.

23. Indiana Pacers – Reggie Bullock SF North Carolina

The Pacers don’t really need a small forward with Paul George and Danny Granger around, but Granger’s knee is a big concern going forward, and given the fantastic season and playoff run they had this season, taking the best player available makes sense.  Bullock hasn’t really been allowed to fully explore his offensive game, spending much of his time as a spot-up shooter instead of being allowed to create his own shot for the Heels.  He is perfectly sized for an NBA wing position and my guess is his stock will rise in workouts.  Bullock is talented and could serve a nice bench player for the already deep Pacers next season.

24. New York Knicks – Kelly Olynyk C Gonzaga

The Knicks’ greatest need is probably power forward, as Amare Stoudemire’s legs are on their last…legs.  And while Jason Kidd is now coaching the Nets and Raymond Felton is entering the twilight of his career, they may try to hang onto Pablo Prigioni, who could end up in Europe or with another NBA team next season.  The bottom line is that there won’t be many viable point guards left on the board this late.  Enter Olynyk, who took one of the biggest tumbles in this version.  Olynyk appears to be a decent offensive player, averaging nearly 18 points per game at Gonzaga last season. The Knicks need healthy big men under the age of 40 that can score, making Olynyk look like a nearly perfect fit this late.

25. L.A. Clippers – Allen Crabbe SG California

The Clippers have a need at shooting guard, with Willie Green getting a lot of starts, Jamal Crawford embracing the role of sixth man and Chauncey Billups a shell of his former self. Crabbe is a shot maker, likes to run off screens and has a solid offensive game, which should work well with the Clippers’ offense, regardless of who might be coaching the team next season.

26. Minnesota Timberwolves (via Memphis) – Glen Rice Jr. SF Rio Grande (D-League)

Rice got kicked off of Georgia Tech’s team last season, but says he was in the wrong place/wrong time, each time he got into trouble. He’s already got serious D-League experience, where he averaged 25 points per game while leading his team to the championship, which is huge.  He also performed very well at the combine, which put him on the radar as a potential first-round pick.  And it’s no secret the Wolves need wings – badly.  

27. Denver Nuggets (via Memphis) – Ricky Ledo SG Providence

Andre Iguodala and Evan Fournier were both quality shooting guards last season, but the Nuggets are also pretty stocked at most other positions (whenever Danilo Gallinari happens to be healthy). And with Iguodala entering the twilight of his career (and possibly leaving via free agency), taking a wing prospect here makes sense for the Nuggets, although they could also look at a center, like Lucas Nogueira, with this pick. Ledo, who was in Version 1 but then fell out of 2 & 3, has a solid offensive game and he could end up becoming a volume scorer in the NBA. There are questions about his basketball IQ, body language and background (he’s transferred schools many times), but the talent in definitely there. I am a fan and think he could end up being one of the steals of this draft, although he’s still a bit of an unknown based on the fact he didn’t play in a single college game due to the aforementioned transfers, as well as academic issues.  And in case you missed it, George Karl will not be coaching the Nuggets next season, and they not yet named a replacement.

28. San Antonio Spurs – Lucas Nogueira C Brazil

The Spurs have plenty of big men, including grandpa Tim Duncan, Tiago Splitter and ACL-less DeJuan Blair, but could still use some depth and upside in the paint. The Spurs love drafting foreign players and Nogueira is a freakish athlete with raw offensive skills. Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard give them one of the best sets of guards and wings in the league, so taking a big man makes sense. And this might finally be the year Nogueira gets drafted in the first round and shows up next season as a rookie.

29. Oklahoma City Thunder – Jeff Withey C Kansas

The Thunder need to find a replacement for the aging knees of center Kendrick Perkins sooner than later, and Withey, whose stock has been spiraling downward, is a deceptively adequate athlete and a former volleyball player. Strength is a concern, but he’s a good shot blocker and knows what to do with the ball when he gets it down low. If he can bulk up, he could end up being a very good NBA center one day. In short, he’d be a solid potential backup and replacement for the underachieving Perkins.

30. Phoenix Suns (via Cavs, Heat) - Archie Goodwin SG Kentucky

The Suns weren’t happy with their shooting guards (or most of their other players) this season, as Wes Johnson, Jared Dudley and Shannon Brown were underwhelming.  Maybe they’ll try to correct that problem by taking a shooting guard late in the draft, and Goodwin should be available.  He could end up going as early as 20 or slip into the second round, but given the fact the Bulls don’t have a glaring need, Goodwin could end up being a draft-day sleeper. He’ll have to work on creating his own shot, and shooting it well when he gets it, but he’s got plenty of potential. 

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