Happy Draft Day! Tonight when David Stern approaches the podium and is booed by the crowd at the Barclays Center at his final NBA Draft, we will finally have our answers.
In the meantime, Alex Len remains on top of our Final Mock as sources in Cleveland have emphatically stated the 7-footer from Maryland is on top of the Cavs’ draft board.
However, Cleveland’s first choice is to trade the pick and there are a half-dozen teams they were still talking to as of Thursday morning. Also, I expect Orlando to trade the No. 2 pick and draft Nerlens Noel on behalf of another team.
The Cavs, as we’ve discussed for weeks, want to trade the first pick but are struggling to find a package that meets their demands. It does not appear they will get an established star such as LaMarcus Aldridge or Kevin Love, and they are engaged in discussions with Portland to move up to No. 10 to draft Sergey Karasev.
While Cleveland has settled on Len if they keep the pick, the Orlando Magic are in a curious position. Orlando loves Victor Oladipo but are having serious discussions with Oklahoma City, Minnesota, and Portland about trading down with teams looking to grab Ben McLemore or Nerlens Noel.
The Wizards, according to a source, have placed Anthony Bennett at the top of their board. Bennett combined with John Wall and Bradley Beal would give the Wizards a dynamic threesome with plenty of offensive versatility. While some in the organization still like Otto Porter and think he is a safe choice, Bennett is the guy they are leaning toward.
It is true Portland has been listening to offers for Aldridge, who quietly wants out, but Portland expects a large sum for their All-Star. Cleveland has had talks about Aldridge for 1 and 19, but that offer was laughed at by members of the Blazers front office.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is a hot name right now, the Georgia wing has been shooting up boards and now a lock to go no later than 9th. According to a source, Oklahoma City really is intrigued by Caldwell-Pope and would consider trading up to land him. Several teams I spoke with believe he is the target of several teams looking to jump the Thunder. More on OKC’s attempt’s to trade up here.
Lehigh’s C.J. McCollum is shooting up boards and will be the 7th pick to Sacramento unless a team trades up in front of the Kings to grab the talented scorer.
It sounds like at least one of the top 7 prospects: Alex Len, Nerlens Noel, Anthony Bennett, Otto Porter, Ben McLemore, Trey Burke, or Victor Oladipo will slip to 8th to Detroit, which covets Burke.
It is true that Cody Zeller’s name is being discussed in Charlotte and Phoenix, and he could be selected in the top 5, but I suspect those teams are more inclined to move down and grab Zeller rather than reach for him.
I have been extremely high on Jamaal Franklin for some time but an ankle injury limited his availability to work out for teams and prevented him from cracking the lottery, but watch for Atlanta to possibly tab him with one of their two picks as Franklin is working out for a second time in front of Danny Ferry and company. For now, I’ve got him going to the Knicks at No. 24. (Tonight, I will be joining our special live chat with venuing.com. Click on the banner at the top for more info).
As we reported first, way back in Mock 6.0, the Cavs have had discussions to acquire Shawn Marion from Dallas in a lopsided trade that would allow them to move up from No. 19 to No. 13 in the first round by relieving the Mavs of Marion’s $9.3 million salary, allowing Mark Cuban more salary cap flexibility to use on July 1. But with Doc Rivers landing with the Clippers, it appears there is no longer any chance that any team can make a run at both Chris Paul and Dwight Howard — something the Hawks had planned to do.
As for the potential Shawn Marion trade, Cleveland has the cap space to absorb Marion’s contract, and they view him as an upgrade over Alonzo Gee in their pursuit of a playoff spot next season. Sources say Cleveland has been eyeing Sergey Karasev at 13 (The trade would be Marion and No. 13 for No. 19), but he may not last that long.
On the trade front, it sounds like possibly five lottery picks could be traded tonight. Minnesota and Portland, along with the aforementioned Mavs, continue to reach out to teams to discuss potential deals as their respective draft picks are available to the highest bidder.
Watch out for these names on draft night as they are on the rise: Ricky Ledo, Jamaal Franklin, Glen Rice Jr., Tony Snell, and Myck Kabongo, all of whom have been impressive during workouts and could hear their names called during the first round. Franklin, who is still recovering from a sprained ankle, has been showcasing an improved jumper. (More on draft sleepers in this column from Tommy Dee).
Without further ado, here is Mock Draft 8.0:
1. Cleveland Cavaliers – Alex Len, C, Maryland (7’1, 11.9 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 2.1 bpg)
This is the fifth straight Mock Draft that I have Alex Len going to Cleveland. After talking to numerous sources, I say with 100 percent confidence that the Cavs will draft Len if they do not trade the pick.
The Cavs feel that Len’s ability on both ends of the court better mix with budding star Kyrie Irving and would give the team the dynamic combo it needs to push for the playoffs. While Len may not have as much upside defensively as Noel, he is a significantly better offensive option and a productive rebounder and shot blocker.
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 Cleveland makes a push for the playoffs having a center that can score gives their roster balance as well as the flexibility to potentially move Anderson Varejao at some point.
2. Orlando Magic – Nerlens Noel, C, Kentucky (6’10, 10.5 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 4.4 bpg)
The Magic are currently talking to teams who want to move up to No. 2 to take Noel if he is available. The Magic like Victor Oladipo, and if they feel they can get him or another high-quality lottery pick, they’ll trade down.
Noel and Oladipo both represent better value and have higher ceilings than Trey Burke at this spot.
If the Magic were to select and keep Noel, they could slide him in between Tobias Harris and Nikola Vucevic and have an impressive front court, and they can bring him along slowly with Vucevic, Andrew Nicholson, and Kyle O’Quinn all able to contribute.
But I don’t think they’re drafting Noel to keep him. Too much chatter from our sources that the Magic are trading this pick.
3. Washington Wizards – Anthony Bennett, PF, UNLV (6’8, 16.1 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 1.2 bpg)
The Wizards are looking to pair somebody with John Wall and Brad Beal to form a talented, young Big 3.
While undersized, Bennett will be excellent offensively and can play some 3 or 4. Scouts and stat gurus alike praise Bennett for his tenaciousness on offense and recognize he has plenty of upside. The Wizards are focused on making the playoffs next season and can count on Bennett providing them with a punch instantly as a rookie.
4. Charlotte Bobcats – Otto Porter, SF, Georgetown (6’8, 16.9 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 2.7 apg)
While Ben McLemore would make sense here, I’m told by multiple sources that Charlotte would pass on McLemore because of concerns about his inner circle. Charlotte needs more offense and Porter makes sense.
Porter enjoyed a breakout season at Georgetown, and playing for the Bobcats will allow Porter to utilize his skill set on both ends. Porter excels in multiple areas and would fit in well with a team that has two primary ballhandlers because of his ability to play off the ball and effect the game in other areas.
His ceiling may not be as high as McLemore, or the prospects drafted ahead of him, but Porter projects as a much safer pick.
5. Phoenix Suns – Ben McLemore, SG, Kansas (6’5, 15.9 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 42% 3pt)
This pick falls into the category of “too good of a player to pass on.”
If McLemore does slip here I expect McDonough’s phone to blow up with teams trying to trade up and land the Kansas guard. When a player with his combination of talent, athleticism and shooting is available, they go high — and the Suns would love to back someone take one or two of their bad contracts — Channing Frye is due to make $13.2 million over the next two years, and Michael Beasley has two years left at $12.2 million.
It seems strange to think of McLemore slipping this far, but there have been discussions in Sacramento about whether McLemore might slip all the way to the Kings.
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 once had an outside shot at being 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 but was emphastic in his desire to play for the Suns when they signed him to an offer sheet last season.
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 will look to get theirs.