It’s been a couple weeks since my last mock draft, so here is Version 4. I’m guessing the next one will happen just prior to the June 27th NBA Draft. There aren’t any huge changes, although I gave in and finally moved Victor Oladipo up to the No. 2 pick, while some other players rose or fell. And Providence product Ricky Ledo is back in for this version, replacing Kentucky’s Archie Goodwin.
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1. Cleveland Cavaliers – Nerlens Noel C Kentucky
No change for Noel. 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 and likely won’t be available until December (at best), but that’s not enough of a reason for the Cavs to pass on him here. However, there is also a decent chance they’ll try to trade this pick, if they can make the right deal.
2. Orlando Magic – Victor Oladipo SG Indiana
The Magic’s bad luck continued with the news they failed to land the No. 1 pick, but No. 2’s not bad. The hype machine on Ben McLemore has apparently been exceeded by that of Oladipo lately. Both players are good bets to have long careers and while the Magic could still take Michigan’s Trey Burke here (as point guard is the most pressing need), Oladipo or Bennett look like the pick. 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
While I seemed to be higher on Porter than most other industry folks a month ago, I’m now hearing his agent is very confident about a Top 3 pick. 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 – Anthony Bennett F UNLV
The Bobcats (Hornets in 2014-15) appear to be set at PG (Kemba Walker), SG (Gerald Henderson) and SF (Michael Kidd-Gilchrist), while power forward is a big problem with Byron Mullens, Josh McRoberts and Tyrus Thomas all failing to consistently contribute. Bennett makes a lot of sense here, although he’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 them plug Bennett in at power forward and let him compete for Rookie of the Year. They could also use an offensive-minded center with Bismack Biyombo around, which means Alex Len is also in play.
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 – Alex Len C Maryland
Len is a big, athletic two-way center but is also injured, coming off ankle surgery. However, it does sound like there’s a good chance he’ll be ready for the start of the season. The Hornets have Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson at power forward, while Greivis Vasquez has the inside track for another season at point guard, and Eric Gordon is the starting shooting guard as long as he’s healthy. They could easily be looking for another SG option here, and would also welcome a replacement for Robin Lopez at center, or a small forward other than Al-Farouq Aminu. If any of the previous mentioned players are still on the board at No. 6, I could see the Pelicans taking Porter, Bennett or Oladipo here. But if they’re all gone, Len makes a lot of sense.
7. Sacramento Kings – Michael Carter-Williams PG Syracuse
Carter-Williams took a big jump this time, although I’m still not sure the Kings really want to add another point guard to the mix. But now that the drama of where the Kings will be playing in the future is over (congratulations, Sacramento), they’ll need to figure out who the best player available at No. 7 is. While Shabazz Muhammad does fit a need at small forward, he’s probably not the best player available. Isaiah Thomas probably won’t be happy if they take a point guard here, but his job may not be in jeopardy if Carter-Williams doesn’t find a jump shot soon.
8. Detroit Pistons – Trey Burke G Michigan
Brandon Knight could end up being a backup NBA point guard, and Rodney Stuckey and Jose Calderon won’t be around forever. The Pistons really could use a small forward with this pick and Muhammad will be in play. And the biggest question with Burke is whether or not he’ll still be around after the No. 7 pick. The fact he played for Michigan and looked outstanding in the NCAA tournament will not be lost on Joe Dumars, at least in theory, while the Magic could still shock the experts and take him at No. 2.
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 last week.
11. Philadelphia 76ers – Steven Adams C Pittsburgh
I bumped Adams up (again) and he’s been all over the place in my mocks thus far. I had Rudy Gobert here last time, but his stock appears to be falling. Andrew Bynum didn’t exactly work out and Spencer Hawes, despite some very nice runs this 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 the last one. But his stock is 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 the last 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.
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 this version, and makes a lot of sense for Utah.
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. I had them taking Jamaal Franklin here in the last one, but it now looks like Muhammad may fall. And if he does 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.
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 Doc Rivers and the Celtics faithful. 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 had them taking Steven Adams and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope then, but it appears both may be off the board this late. 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 the last version, but his stock appears to be falling a bit.
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 – Giannis Adetokunbo SF Greece
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 Adetokunbo could be taken at any point after the lottery come draft night. 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 Bulls appear to be in a position to wait for him to develop.
21. Utah Jazz (via Golden State) – Tony Mitchell F North Texas
Mitchell is an athletic freak and is another guy that could help a Utah team stacked with big men, but lacking effective wing players. He’s another ‘tweener, but I doubt the Jazz would have a problem slotting him at small forward and turning him loose. He’s another player I consider underrated in this draft.
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 have still not 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.