#1 Cavs – Kyrie Irving, PG, Duke
Over the last week or so, there have been rumblings about Cleveland considering Derrick Williams. That’s a pure smokescreen. Irving played very limited games due to injury this past season, but he’s a natural scorer and athlete at the point guard position. I’m not sure if Irving has the upside of an elite NBA player, but I do think he can be a core piece of a good playoff team.
#2 Timberwolves – Derrick Williams, F, Arizona
Really just a lock of a pick. Minnesota has the 2nd selection in a draft with 2 clear top prospects, and even GM David Kahn can’t screw that up. People always worry that a forward might end up like Marcus Fizer or Tyrus Thomas, but I’m a fan of Williams’s game. He has tons of athleticism, can score inside, and even has some range. How he fits with Kevin Love is a bit of a concern, though.
#3 Jazz – Brandon Knight, G, Kentucky
They could pull a surprise, but that’s the sense I’m gathering as I scour all the NBA Draft websites. Utah had a bigger point guard in Deron Williams, and Knight has good size at 6-3. I watched him live at Reliant Stadium during the Final Four, and there’s no question that Knight can score. What I personally wonder about is whether or not Knight is a natural PG. It’s tough to learn that position in the NBA, especially when you’re surrounded by veteran players who want you to produce right away.
#4 Cavs – Enes Kanter, F, Kentucky
With the news over the last week that Jonas Valanciunas will probably have to stay overseas for one more year, this selection makes the most sense. Irving and Kanter is a pretty solid foundation to build around. Reading the scouting reports, it seems like Kanter is a ready-made NBA big man inside, but there are some questions about his ability on D.
#5 Raptors - Bismack Biyombo, F, Congo
I could end up looking like a moron for this, but I figure I’d toss in a surprise. There’s no real consensus on what Toronto is going to do at this spot. Biyombo is a defensive monster who lacks a real offensive game. This team just hired Dwayne Casey as its head coach, and he’ll want to focus on fortifying the defense. Biyombo is someone who could go anywhere from 5-16 in this draft.
#6 Wizards – Jan Vesely, F, Czech Republic
Vesely is a terrific wing athlete, a rare European player who can really run the court and play above the rim. Washington has another great athlete in JeVale McGee, so I think that type of pairing makes sense. John Wall running the point with those types of wing players could make for an exciting team, even if the wins will still be hard to come by.
# 7 Kings – Kawhi Leonard, F, San Diego State
Since I have Biyombo and Vesely going at 5 and 6, that allows Leonard to slip to Sacramento here at number 7. They need a small forward, and Leonard is one of those guys who just seems to produce, as he did in both high school and college. This team has a bunch of character/effort question marks with players like DeMarcus Cousins, Tyreke Evans, and Donte Greene. Leonard is going to be like the kid who always sits in the front row while there are fights breaking out in the back of the class.
#8 Pistons – Kemba Walker, G, UConn
This team needs a ton of help in all areas. GM Joe Dumars made a huge mistake committing big money to Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva, both of whom have been major disappointments. They did acquire a pretty nice big man in Greg Monroe last year. Walker is simply the best player available; Gordon is a sunk cost, and Dumars needs to take Kemba and figure out what to do from there. Like Irving, I’m not sure if he will be a great NBA player, but he has some Dwyane Wade in his game.
#9 Bobcats – Chris Singleton, F, Florida State
This is probably the wildest guess of my top ten so far. Logic? The Bobcats (to me) have a roster without a real identity. There are holes everywhere, and the reports are that Michael Jordan wants a college player with a couple of years of experience. Singleton led Florida State to the NCAA Tournament last season, and is a very good defensive player. Similar to the Kings with Leonard at 7, Singleton is a player you can take and not worry about.
#10 Bucks – Jonas Valanciunas, F/C, Lithuania
The big man’s slide stops right here. What’s the key for the team who picks Valancuiunas, a really good prospect who won’t play in the NBA next season? Probably the stability of the GM. Guys like Dumars and Kahn need to win right now, or at least show some major signs of improvement. I think Daryl Morey has enough job security to take a gamble on Valanciunas. According to ESPN’s Chad Ford, John Hammond has the same kind of situation in Milwaukee. Thus, he’ll take a slight gamble on a player with a lot of upside.
#11 Warriors – Klay Thompson, F, Washington State
He just seems like the kind of player who fits Golden State’s run-and-gun style. Thompson is from the West Coast, has an NBA pedigree (his dad is Mychal Thompson), and is a sharpshooter from the outside. In the NBA, the big question marks are his athleticism and ability to play defense.
#12 Jazz – Jimmer Fredette, G, BYU
The local connection is there, and I do think Fredette will be a valuable role player in the league. As the Mavs showed in beating the Heat, you need contributions from all over the roster to win a title. Fredette has a little Stephen Curry in his game, with the combination of very deep range and decent athleticism on the perimeter.
#13 Suns – Marcus Morris, F, Kansas
It’s hard to figure out where the Suns are as a franchise, whether they’re rebuilding or still trying to push for the playoffs. Either way, Morris is a pretty good value here, and was always a productive college player in Lawrence.
#14 Rockets - Tristan Thompson, F, Texas
If the board falls this way, Thompson is a really good value selection here. He’s a really good offensive rebounder and a high energy player, which is a theme throughout Houston’s roster. If you have the #14 and #23 picks and Chuck Hayes is your center, you need to come away from Thursday night with a big man prospect (or 2). Thompson has a ways to go offensively, but he’s good on D, and this team is in need of a post defender.
#15 Pacers – Alec Burks, G, Colorado
I think the goal for Indiana is for Fredette to fall to this spot, so that’s a solid option in case he does. Burks was a very good player at Colorado, and he’s pretty good value midway through the 1st round.
#16 Sixers – Nikola Vucevic, C, USC
Quietly, Rod Thorn and Doug Collins are assembling a pretty good team in the City of Brotherly Love. They have great athletes on the roster like Thaddeus Young and Jrue Holiday, but need size. Vucevic averaged a double-double at USC last season, and is a very good offensive player.
#17 Knicks – Darius Morris, G, Michigan
Chauncey Billups is definitely on the downside, and will be entering next season coming off an injury. Morris plays like Andre Miller – big point guard (6-4), who needs to develop a left hand. He only spent two years in Ann Arbor, and has upside.
#18 Wizards – Markieff Morris, F, Kansas
I have them going with Vesely early, so with him and McGee flying up and down the floor, Morris can be used as the steady low post presence. He can defend and block shots, and has more of a clear position than his brother Marcus has.
#19 Bobcats – Iman Shumpert, G, Georgia Tech
Personally, I would not take Shumpert in the first round of this draft. His Yellow Jackets team consistently underachieved, despite his natural talent (Paul Hewitt got fired at the end of this past season). Based on all the rumors swirling around this draft, somebody is going to take a flyer on Shumpert too early.
#20 Timberwolves – Jordan Hamilton, F, Texas
What Minnesota really needs to do is trade and/or package this pick and some players for a veteran. They already have a lot of young players with Kevin Love, Wesley Johnson, Ricky Rubio, Derrick Williams (hypothetically), and Johnny Flynn (for now). You need some experience to win in the NBA. Having said that, Hamilton is a good offensive player, and a quality value here.
#21 Blazers – Kenneth Faried, F, Morehead State
Lots of the NBA writers I respect have Faried slotted in here, so I’m going to assume they have some info. Portland has apparently liked Faried for a long time. Like Leonard from SDSU, Faried is a high-energy forward who is a relentless rebounder. Those types of players are always valued on playoff teams, and Faried could work well alongside LaMarcus Aldridge.
#22 Nuggets – Tobias Harris, F, Tennessee
He actually played well for the disaster that was the Vols basketball program last year. Harris is a legitimately good player, who can score and has a body made for the NBA. I’ve heard that his workouts haven’t been great, but watching him on the court, he will do well in this league.
#23 Rockets – Donatas Motiejunas, F, Lithuania
It seemed like half the time we had Rockets GM Daryl Morey on Vandermeer and Lopez Thursday mornings, he was calling from some sort of unknown European nation. All the travel means Morey has a few players he must really like. Motiejunas is a really good value in this spot – he’s 6-11/7-0 tall, and we know about the need for a big man. Considering their strengths (Motiejunas is a very good offensive player), he and Thompson would be a pretty nice haul from the first round.
#24 Thunder – Reggie Jackson, PG, Boston College
Jackson had a knee injury and called off all of his workouts, so word is that he has a first round guarantee from somebody. Maybe it’s in Oklahoma City, which is known as a very good drafting team. The big question would be if they think Jackson is a better backup for Russell Westbrook than Eric Maynor is right now.
#25 Celtics – Tyler Honeycutt, F, UCLA
Most of the players who come from Ben Howland’s system seem to be better as pros, for whatever reason. Darren Collison is a perfect example of that. Honeycutt is a high upside player, and the aging Celtics need as much youth and upside as possible.
#26 Mavs – Nikola Mirotic, F, Serbia
He has to stay in Europe for a little while, so I think the makes sense for the champs to select a player like that. They have the ability to wait and see how Mirotic develops overseas.
#27 Nets – Jeremy Tyler, F, USA/Japan
Tyler made a strange decision to leave high school early to play overseas, and he had plenty of struggles both on and off the court. New Jersey, like Boston, needs high-upside players, and that’s what Tyler provides.
#28 Bulls – Marshon Brooks, G, Providence
We all saw what happened to Chicago in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Heat. That team is in desperate need for a second scoring option to Derrick Rose, especially late in games. Brooks takes a ton of shots, but it’s hard to question his ability to score.
#29 Spurs – Justin Harper, F, Richmond
I’m interested to see what San Antonio does on Thursday night, considering the rumors about GM RC Buford possibly trading away Tony Parker. Does this team have another run in them? Maybe. Harper was a very productive player in college, and is bigger than DeJuan Blair.
#30 Bulls – JaJuan Johnson, F, Purdue
He’s not far away, so the Bulls know what type of player he is. Right now, I believe Johnson is being underrated by NBA teams. He has a good chance to be a contributing big man.