With less than two weeks until the NBA Draft, the rumors and speculation are coming from all over.
According to sources, Cleveland has been warming to Alex Len as concerns about Nerlens Noel’s knee and whether he is the best fit longterm alongside Kyrie Irving have increased.
Cavs owner Dan Gilbert has come out publicly saying the playoffs are the team’s goal for next season, and with Noel’s recovery from an ACL injury likely to bleed into the first few months of the regular season, the Cavs might be cooling on that option. Cleveland executive Zyndrunas Ilgauskas also has been one of Len’s biggest fans, perhaps seeing some of himself in Len.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has impressed multiple teams during workouts and now is primed to be selected in the back-end of the lottery. Another wing, Jamaal Franklin, is close to 100 percent after suffering a sprained ankle and should be full go starting this week but has already impressed in his visit with New York.
That means there is some shuffling in our latest projections, so without further ado, here is Mock Draft 5.0:
1. Cleveland Cavaliers – Alex Len, C, Maryland (7’1, 11.9 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 2.1 bpg)
Recent buzz out of Cleveland has centered around Alex Len, Anthony Bennett, and Ben McLemore as targets Cavs GM Chris Grant has started to re-examine. It appears Grant might pass on Noel, who has loads of upside but is very raw offensively and likely won’t play his first NBA game until at least January 2014.
All season long Len has intrigued Cavs executive Zydrunas Ilgauskas with his skills, length, and upside. It appears Ilgauskas may be swaying others in Cleveland to join him on Len’s bandwagon.
It is easy to see why pairing Len with Kyrie Irving could change the fortunes of this downtrodden franchise. Len is a long and lengthy defender who can block shots and rebound, though not at the impactful level of a healthy-Noel.
Len’s signature right now is his developed offensive game in the post and facing the basket. With Irving and Len, Cleveland could have a really impressive pick-and-pop game.
As mentioned at the top of Mock 3.0.1, Cleveland would like to trade this pick for an established player, but the market hasn’t materialized so far. Watch the Cavs closely as they have the ammunition to pull off a large deal or acquire an additional lottery pick. If a deal happens, it will take place closer to draft night. But history shows that it’s very rare for the top pick to change hands.
2. Orlando Magic – Victor Oladipo, SG, Indiana (6’5, 13.6 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 2.1 apg)
Sources say Orlando is very interested in Eric Bledsoe and is prepared to deal Arron Afflalo to the Clippers to get him. GM Rob Hennigan has been aggressive in acquiring assets and has assembled a good core of young players.
With a potential hole at shooting guard to fill, the Magic have their choice of Ben McLemore and Oladipo. Both guards represent better value and have higher ceilings than Trey Burke. The current preference is Oladipo, who projects as a better defender and is a better athlete than McLemore.
Although McLemore has been as high as No. 1 in our mocks, Oladipo looks to be making a push. Considering Hennigan came from Oklahoma City, going with a player that has a high upside, high character and is very long and athletic makes the most sense. While Oladipo has continually risen up NBA draft boards, McLemore has started to slip a bit, and that could see him fall more than initially anticipated.
3. Washington Wizards – Otto Porter, SF, Georgetown (6’8, 16.9 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 2.7 apg)
The Wizards might be the biggest winners from the lottery by vaulting into the top three. Washington has built a strong backcourt with John Wall and Bradley Beal. Now it must find a big man or small forward to complement them.
Just up the road at Georgetown, Porter enjoyed a breakout season and could give the Wizards a dynamic and lethal scoring trio. If there was a clear-cut big man to take here, Washington would.
Playing for the Wizards will allow Porter to utilize his skill set on both ends and not have to put the team on his back like at Georgetown. Porter excels in multiple areas and would fit in well with a team that has two primary ball-handlers because of his ability to play off the ball and effect the game in other areas.
His ceiling may not be as high as UNLV’s Anthony Bennett, but Porter projects as a much safer pick.
4. Charlotte Bobcats – Nerlens Noel, C, Kentucky (6’10, 10.5 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 4.4 bpg)
With Rich Cho in charge of the Bobcats, the decision will likely be to address Charlotte’s putrid offense. The Bobcats were 26th in scoring and 27th in 3-point shooting, two areas where Oladipo could help right away — if he is still on the board. With Kemba Walker and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, the Bobcats would like to slide someone between them and complement their skill sets.
With Noel, Anthony Bennett and Ben McLemore, the Bobcats would have a conundrum on which way to go with the pick. Bennett would give them the inside-outside threat they’re looking for up front. But if they’re committed to Bismack Biyombo, it would form a very undersized duo inside.
McLemore’s shooting would be a welcome addition, but growing concerns around McLemore could push him down Charlotte’s list of top targets. That would leave Len, who had surgery to repair a stress fracture in his left ankle, as the preference at this point — again, if he is still on the board.
Noel would give the Bobcats the another impactful defender in the post. Would Cho and MJ be willing to roll the dice on a player slated to miss the first few months of the season? In a draft this wide open, they should be, as Noel has as much if not more upside than any other prospect in the draft.
When healthy, Noel is still the best player in this draft and a game-changer on the defensive end.
5. Phoenix Suns – Ben McLemore, SG, Kansas (6’5, 15.9 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 42% 3pt)
Checking around the league, McLemore is slipping due to his unclear agent situation. Most teams don’t seem concerned by the Rodney Blackstock reports. Whatever the concerns are shouldn’t cause McLemore to fall too far. When a player with his combination of talent, athleticism and shooting is available, they go high.
McLemore does have his flaws, but this would be a great start for the new front office. While Anthony Bennett would be tempting here, finding a running mate and shooter to pair with Goran Dragic could be the main focus. Pairing McLemore and Dragic in the backcourt could be just what the Suns need to boost their offensive production.
6. New Orleans Pelicans – Trey Burke, PG, Michigan (6’0, 18.6 ppg, 6.7 apg, 3.2 rpg)
No chance New Orleans passes on Burke. Austin Rivers showed he is not a point guard, and if given the chance to take Burke – who had an outside shot at the top pick – the Pelicans will rush the stage on draft night. With Rivers and Eric Gordon, the Pelicans are deep at shooting guard and can even entertain trade offers for Gordon, who is signed to a massive extension.
The Pelicans took their centerpiece last year in Anthony Davis. Now New Orleans must surround him with talent. Burke is one of the quickest guards in the draft and can get by most defenders. With as much success as rookie point men have had the last few seasons (see Damian Lillard, Kyrie Irving), the Pelicans look to get theirs.
7. Sacramento Kings – Anthony Bennett, PF, UNLV (6’8, 16.1 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 1.2 bpg)
The Kings moved fast with their coaching search, making a wise hire in Golden State assistant Mike Malone. Whoever gets the GM job, one thing seems to be clear already from new owner Vivek Ranadive: DeMarcus Cousins isn’t being traded. There have been reports of his availability, but it looks like the Kings want to rebuild with Cousins instead of without him.
The Kings have gone through several power forwards (Patrick Patterson, Chuck Hayes, Jason Thompson, Thomas Robinson) in trying to find one to pair with Cousins. In selecting Bennett, that trend would likely stop. Cousins and Bennett would form one of the better young offensive duos in the league. Bennett is a talented offensive prospect with the ability to score inside or out and is a quality rebounder as well.
With that in mind, Sacramento still needs a lot of pieces. The Kings are in an easy position here where they can sit back and take one of the top seven prospects. There is a drop-off in talent after that.