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The NBA Draft is almost upon us and the closer we get to the watching David Stern awkwardly hug young men (for the last time ever) the less people seem to agree on how exactly things are going to go down.
There is still a lot of disagreement about what's going to happen with the first three picks, not to mention the countless trade rumors that seem to involve every team's draft pick. Of course, the Dallas Mavericks are in the center of those trade rumors with many people around the league firmly believing that the Mavs will trade their draft pick, likely as a means of clearing more cap space.
But until any of these trades happen they are merely speculation. So the final version of DB.com's Mock Draft was constructed as if all teams make the actual draft pick that they currently own, including the Dallas Mavericks.
1.) Cleveland Cavaliers: Nerlens Noel, PF, Kentucky
Noel seemed like a lock as the number one pick a month ago, but many people have softened on their prediction that the Cavs take him with the first pick. Don't count me as one of those people. Is it possible that Noel doesn't end up being the best player from this draft five years from now? Sure. But is it likely that he will be a very productive player in this league five years from now? Yes, I think that's as safe a statement as you can make about this draft (barring unforeseen events).
The Cavs have been a terrible defensive team for the past three years. Noel is by far the best defensive player in this draft. He's an extremely active shot blocker that covers a lot of ground and his athleticism is enough to make him a serviceable offensive player as a rookie. The only worry is that Noel is still recovering from an ACL tear suffered during his only season at Kentucky. Pretty much every sentence written in this paragraph was said about Greg Oden in 2007. Even so, he's too instinctively good and athletic to pass up.
2.) Orlando Magic: Ben McLemore, SG, Kansas
I expected the Magic to take McLemore with the number one overall pick if they had won the lottery. I still feel that way. McLemore has everything that you would expect from a swingman that will eventually score 18-22 points per game. He has a great outside shot and is developing the skills to be able to take the ball to the basket and finish.
3.) Washington Wizards: Otto Porter, SF, Georgetown
Throughout all three mock drafts, my top three picks have remained the same. Anthony Bennett will remain a strong possibility for Washington, but I think Porter is probably the safer pick.
4.) Charlotte Bobcats/Hornets: Cody Zeller, PF, Indiana
This is probably the first "controversial" pick of our mock draft. Some might say Zeller is a reach at number four, but the truth is that NBA executives are very split on ranking this draft 3-15 (and some might say they're split on 1-2 as well) and that's for good reason: those players are extremely close in talent and skill level. They just so happen to offer different types of talents and skills.
Version one had the Bobcats taking Victor Oladipo. But if Charlotte is committed to anything they are committed to Kemba Walker and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. That doesn't leave a lot of room for Oladipo on the wing. That's why I now have them drafting Oladipo's Indiana teammate, Tyler Zeller, who can slide into the power forward position. Zeller is great at running the floor and finishing for a big man and with the speed driving abilities of Walker and Kidd-Gilchrist the Bobcats could finally find an identity.
5.) Phoenix Suns: Victor Oladipo, SG, Indiana
I would make the same argument about Oladipo that I would make for Noel: he might not be the best player in this draft in five years (Dwyane Wade comparisons are quite the stretch), but he'll find a way to contribute for quite a few years.
Oladipo has a great motor and works hard getting to the basket. He's also a great defender. If we believe that the NBA Draft is just a roll of the dice, then you increase your chances by selecting an athletic, high-effort player who plays great on both ends of the floor.
6.) New Orleans Pelicans: Anthony Bennett, SF, UNLV
7.) Sacramento Kings: Michael Carter Williams, PG, Syracuse
8.) Detroit Pistons: CJ McCollum, PG, Lehigh
My first version had the Pistons taking Trey Burke with this pick. Burke was the National Player of the Year for Michigan and all of his big shots in the NCAA Tournament made him possibly the most popular player in college basketball last year. Having the Pistons keep him in the state of Michigan seemed perfect. That being said, I think CJ McCollum is the better prospect and will turn out to be a more complete point guard. Burke might have hit more noteworthy shots for Michigan, but McCollum was the better shooter at Lehigh all season long. It will just be a matter of if the Pistons agree with me and have the courage to pass up the hometown hero.
9.) Minnesota T-Wolves: Trey Burke, PG, Michigan
The T'Wolves will be happy to try to make the Pistons regret leaving Burke on the board.
10.) Portland Trail Blazers: Alex Len, C, Maryland
I know. Way lower than so many other mocks. This would just be one of those situations when a team gets a chance to draft a player they assumed wouldn't be available. Some still believe that Cleveland might take Len with the number one overall pick. Getting the 7'1 center out of Maryland to pair with LaMarcus Aldridge would be ideal for the Blazers.
11.) Philadelphia 76ers: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG, Georgia
12.) Oklahoma City Thunder: Kelly Olynyk, C, Gonzaga
The Thunder have been heavily criticized for sticking with Kendrick Perkins even when the results clearly showed he was ineffective. By drafting Olynyk, they a defensive center in Perkins and an offensive option in the rookie so that they don't always have to play four-on-five offensively.
Olynyk may struggle on the boards as he gets used to NBA play, but I would expect him to become a serviceable rebounder in time. He'll have to work pretty hard to become a good defender at this level, but his quickness should help him avoid becoming a defensive liability.
I wouldn't exactly say that Olynyk is a superstar in the making, but it's fair to say that he brings much more to the table than he takes away. In terms of just offensive skills, he might be the most polished center in the draft.
13.) Dallas Mavericks: Giannis Adetokunbo, SF, Greece
With all the trade rumors flying around, it's hard to say what Dallas will do at 13. Part of me thinks Shabazz Muhammad -- who Fish reports was recently a Dallas consideration as a second-best 2-guard in the draft -- is a real possibility, but maybe he will not have a high trade value if the Mavs wanted to move him post draft.
That's why I have them drafting the first international player of the draft.
Adetokunbo brings a lot of options. There is the ever-present possibility of letting him continue to play in Europe while he develops. He might also be an interesting trade piece.
Both of these options are on the table because Adetokonbo is a very raw player who hasn't quite fully developed. It's hard to argue against the claim that he might turn out to be a very, very good player, but at this point, it's very hard to tell.
But if the Mavs decided to keep Adetokonbo around this year this is what they would have: a 6'9, 205 (the same weight as Noel) wing player who is very athletic and has the ground work to be good in about every skill you need as an NBA player.
I'm not exaggerating when I say he is good at shooting, ball handling, defense, and passing. The problem is that "good" is not "great" and being good in Greece does not exactly translate to being good in the NBA. At 19 years old he is definitely an interesting prospect.
14.) Utah Jazz: Dennis Schroeder, PG, Germany
Mavs will pass up on a German point guard to play alongside Dirk Nowitzki.
15.) Milwaukee Bucks: Shane Larkin, PG, Miami
16.) Boston Celtics: Lucas Nogueira, PF, Brazil
Some believe that Nogueira is the best international prospect ahead of Schroeder and Adetokunbo.
17.) Atlanta Hawks: Shabazz Muhammad, SF, UCLA
I think that a lot of the criticism of Muhammad is a bit overblown. There are a few reasons to pass him up in the draft, but they shouldn't completely overshadow the positives he brings to the table, which are a serious competitiveness and an ability to score the basketball. A lot of players have made a nice career for themselves based on those two traits.
18.) Atlanta Hawks: Jamal Franklin, SG, San Diego State
19.) Cleveland Cavaliers: Tony Snell, SG, 6'7, New Mexico State
20.) Chicago Bulls: Tim Hardaway Jr. SG, Michigan
21.) Utah Jazz: Allen Crabbe, SG, California
22.) Brooklyn Nets: Steven Adams, C, Pittsburgh
This is pretty low for ranking for Adams in most people's opinions. Adams is projected as a high first rounder and many consider him a lottery pick.
However, I watched Adams play numerous times at Pittsburgh and have always been left very unimpressed. He often looked lost in the moment and unable to even come close to taking advantage of the size he had over his college competition.
There are some nice highlight packages of Adams' game, but left out of those highlights are points where he is outworked on the boards by smaller, tougher big men, as well as a serious hesitancy to make anything happen on offense that is not created by a teammate.
I would say the 7.2 points and 6.3 rebounds per game he averaged last season are not an anomaly, but a sign of a player that will need to develop confidence, assertiveness and legitimate post skills before he can contribute to an NBA team.
I don't think that Adams is nearly as developed as a player like Meyers Leonard was when he came out of college last year before being drafted by Portland.
23.) Indiana Pacers: Erick Green, PG, Virginia Tech
24.) New York Knicks: Tony Mitchell, SF, North Texas
25.) LA Clippers: Mason Plumlee, PF, Duke
26.) Minnesota T'Wolves: Ricardo Ledo, SG, Providence
Some might say that the only difference between Ledo and Ben McLemore (who I have going number two overall) is that one went to a high profile university and one didn't. I'd say that's overlooking just how good McLemore is, but Ledo might surprise some people.
27.) Denver Nuggets: Sergey Karasev, SG, Russia
Like most of the NBA draft prospects, evaluating international players is very difficult. While I have Karasev as the fourth international player selected in this draft, there's a small argument to be made that he is the safest one. That's because he has one skill that has always helped players find time on the court: his jump shot. And he can really shoot. It's all the other parts of his game that he'll have to work on.
28.) San Antonio Spurs: Isaiah Canaan, PG, Murray State
Canaan is my hidden gem of the draft. Very few people are projecting him as first rounder at the moment, but I was tempted to place him even higher. Of course, I have a consistently smart organization like the Spurs selecting him.
He's undervalued because of his size; he's only 6'0, but the thing to always look out for in short point guards is strength and Canaan is certainly strong for his size. Despite his height, he won't be pushed away from the spot he wants to get to on the court. He's also got an excellent jump shot off the dribble. He may be small, but I have yet to find a reason why he won't eventually be able to do the same things on the court that Jarrett Jack can do.
29.) Oklahoma City Thunder: Jeff Withey, C, Kansas
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook aren't going anywhere soon. Drafting two centers is a smart move for the Thunder, who will need to be able to field a well-rounded team to continually find ways to compete for the Western Conference Championship.
Withey has great timing as a shot blocker. Having him on the floor at the same time as Serge Ibaka would be a nightmare for opponents driving to the basket.
30.) Phoenix Suns: Gorgui Dieng, C, Louisville