Alright here's my whole deal with the NBA Draft: I absolutely love it. In a sport where so few players actually make an impact on the game, so many players taken on draft day can have a HUGE influence on team success (for better or worse). Tons of surprises, tons of guys waiting around longer than they would have liked, and tons of reaction on twitter. Also, wingspan.
So I'm going to probably do a few mock drafts over the course of the coming weeks, and maybe we'll bring back our Bullets Blog Fantasy NBA Draft Contest from last year (with some rule changes to make it, you know, possible to win).
Here's volume one, which covers the top 12 picks because I was only going to do the top ten but Philly picks at 11 and Oklahoma City picks at 12:
1. Cleveland Cavaliers - Otto Porter, SF, Georgetown
Coming from a Villanova student and avid (ha?) Wildcat basketball fan, Porter is scary to play against. He can score from outside and inside, which is most of the reason he was Big East POTY. But he isn't a slouch on defense by any definition. And the most important part of his game, for me, is that he conducts the team on the floor. I understand that most of that responsibility will go to Kyrie, especially on offense. But to have a leader like Porter on the floor who can bring it on both ends is a huge plus. And he's a much safer play than Nerlens Noel. Also, Cleveland has Anderson Varejao locked up for less than $10 million for the next two years.
2. Orlando Magic - Trey Burke, PG, Michigan
Somewhat coming out of left field here, but I'm a big believer that the draft should be used to plug team holes rather than just taking the best player on the board. Orlando's frontcourt is set for the future: Nik Vucevic, Glen Davis, and Tobias Harris are going to be serviceable at worst. Jameer Nelson has been a staple in the Magic rotation for what feels like forever - and he's destined to play the role of backup as he ages. The problem now is he makes almost $9 million a year, and that is about twice what he should make. Burke is more talented, younger, less expensive, and his clutch gene is no secret.
3. Washington Wizards - Anthony Bennett, PF, UNLV
Having already invested nearly $90 million in Nene and Emeka Okafor over the next four and two years respectively, Noel doesn't seem like a smart move. The point guard and shooting guard positions are also taken, and in a much more favorable way than the center position. The two forward positions are currently filled with a lot of guys with more name recognition than talent: Trevor Ariza, Jan Vesely, Kevin Seraphin, Chris Singleton, and Trevor Booker. Looking at the teams remaining in the playoffs, the post presence listed there (plus the two centers) is not going to cut it unless the Wiz plan on signing LeBron. Bennett is essentially a strictly offensive player, but his size (6'8") means he could play the 3 or the 4 and he has the ability to score inside and out. People will say that he's taken too high if he goes at 3, but he fills the biggest hole in Washington.
4. Charlotte Bobcats/Hornets - Ben McLemore, SG, Kansas
If you are a Charlotte fan (which you aren't), you are thrilled to end up with McLemore. He fills the hole of primary scorer and creates a young, promising core of Kemba Walker-McLemore-Kidd Gilchrist-Tyrus Thomas-Bismack Biyombo. Okay, so maybe $8 million a year for Thomas is a lot and Biyombo is far from an All-Star, but maybe it gets them out of the basement?
5. Phoenix Suns - Victor Oladipo, SG, Indiana
I have no idea why, but I feel like this is a lock. The first four picks had a logical reasoning process behind them, but this one I'm going with my gut and now I'm going to attempt to justify: looking at the Suns roster, it actually makes a lot of sense. Goran Dragic and Kendall Marshall are two solid playmaking point guards. Michael Beasley is the shoot-a-lot-and-maybe-hopefully-make-some-of-them guy. Marcin Gortat, Luis Scola, and the Morris twins are decent (ish?) in the frontcourt. They are really just missing a steady hand at the 2 position to offset Beasley's erratic nature and lack of defense. Oladipo is probably the best perimeter defender in the draft, definitely a nice athletic boost for a slower team, and most importantly he makes my blind prediction seem reasonable.
6. New Orleans Pelicans - Michael Carter-Williams, SF, Syracuse
Nola is set in the paint with Anthony Davis, Ryan Anderson, and Robin Lopez. Let me revise that: Nola has no need for Nerlens because they already have The Brow. Here's why MCW makes sense: he is a facilitator. And a damn good one at that. The team has no shortage of scorers: Eric Gordon, Anderson, Davis, and Austin Rivers could all potentially go for 25 points in any given game. Grievis Vasquez put up fantasy stat lines of a near-elite point guard by simply being a facilitator. Carter-Williams could play a similar role from the small forward position, with the thought being that a young, raw team will eventually grow together and realize their potential.
7. Sacramento Kings - Nerlens Noel, C, Kentucky
I don't have any reasoning here because the Kings are a mess of a team. But Noel is, at this point, the best player left on the board and I have this idea in my head that the Kings management team would just throw in the towel and take a shot with him. I don't know. Whatever. I don't care about the Kings.
8. Detroit Pistons - Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG, Georgia
Let's start with the locks for the Pistons rotation: Brandon Knight is the point guard, Andre Drummond is the power forward, Greg Monroe is the center, and Kyle Singler will probably settle into either the 2 or 3 this season or next. Let's assume Singler sticks to the position he played at Duke (and last season on FanDuel) and throw KCP next to him. Here's what you're getting from Detroit: an athletic point guard who can score and distribute, a solid center in the most solid sense of the word solid, a freak power forward who may turn into the next Blake Griffin, a solid small forward in a slightly less solid sense of the word solid, and KCP - an athletic shooting-type scorer who will have to do significantly less for a pro team than he did for the Bulldogs.
9. Minnesota Timberwolves - Shabazz Muhammad, SF, UCLA
Hey, we finally made it to a team that I care about! Although they have been one of the poorest-managed teams in the NBA for the past few years. Not having Kevin Love locked up long term hurts them (more in an intangible sense, but still - it hurts) but their starting five has really just been missing a scoring shooting guard/small forward for the past couple seasons. Muhammad could be that guy, and his lack of defense can be covered by Ricky Rubio's length and Nikola Pekovic's beard and paint defense.
10. Portland Trail Blazers - CJ McCollum, PG, Lehigh
Let me start by saying that I have absolutely no idea how the Blazers are as bad as they are. Their five best (and highest-paid) players each play a different position and it would seem like their games should complement each other nicely (FYI - that would be Damian Lillard, Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum, LaMarcus Aldridge, and JJ Hickson). But no, somehow it doesn't work like that. I'm going to get away from my strategy of using the draft to plug gaping holes and look to the second unit, with hopes that the first unit can figure their shit out and actually play to their respective skill levels. Their three best backup guards are expiring, and although it may not make sense to draft another point guard right after Lillard, this is a weak draft and I think the tenth pick is deep enough to start looking for a backup in a situation like Portland's.
11. Philadelphia 76ers - Alex Len, C, Maryland
This is predicated on the Sixers letting Andrew Bynum walk away. What do Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner, and Thaddeus Young need to turn into a promising team? The most obvious answer is a bruising low post presence (and a new coach, but that will come). Len is the same type of player that Bynum was supposed to be - a big, tough, gritty big man with the ability to score inside and (more importantly) open up some space for his teammates. As somewhat of a Sixers fan, I would much rather see them pay Len $3 million a year than pay Bynum $20 million. In my eyes, the risk that they fail is about the same (failure to develop vs. failure to return from injury) and that extra cap room could be used to pay some shooters to surround Holiday and Turner.
12. Oklahoma City Thunder - Allen Crabbe, SG, Cal
It's almost unfair, isn't it? OKC has no business drafting in the lottery. But, alas, they are because the universe loves Kevin Durant (for the most part, at least). Cody Zeller is still on the mock draft board, but Serge Ibaka is already filling the role of "big man who can do a lot but is really not clutch at all" so they don't need him. I suppose you could say the same about Kelly Olynyk. The most obvious hole for the Thunder is Kevin Martin expiring (as is his $12.5 million salary). Jeremy Lamb has some time to develop, and Thabo Sefolosha's game complements Durant and Russell Westbrook nicely. They have no holes to fill, so I think they're going to go after one of the biggest risk/upside guys in the draft. Crabbe is a shooter who carried a lot of the load at Cal - obviously he shouldn't be carrying the load of an NBA team right out of the gate. But give him some minutes with the Westbrook and Durant (who are going to draw most of the focus from defenses) and there is no reason he shouldn't be able to fill Martin's shoes (or share them with Lamb).