On the eve of the NBA Draft, there’s a lot of anticipation about where certain players will land heading into the summer — both via the draft and the inevitable trades that will make Thursday one of the more exciting days of the year for fans. There are tons of mock drafts floating around, so we’ve sorted it all out for you. In our lottery edition mock draft, here’s how we see it unfolding:
1. Cleveland Cavaliers — Nerlens Noel
School: Kentucky Age: 19 Ht/Wt: 7’0 219 Position: C
Cleveland has reportedly been shopping this pick. Still, Noel may be a project but he’s the type of player every team wants: a young, defensive-oriented big man. There’s a reason Greg Oden was taken ahead of Kevin Durant. It’s not set in stone, but there’s a 90 percent chance Noel is the selection, regardless of the team picking.
2. Orlando Magic — Ben McLemore
School: Kansas Age: 20 Ht/Wt: 6’5 189 Position: SG
Victory Oladipo is the popular choice here, and justifiably. Yet despite the risks and obvious question marks surrounding McLemore, he has the highest upside of any wing in the draft. He may be the only player in the class with legitimate All-Star potential. Whether he reaches it or not is entirely up to where he lands and how the team coaches him up.
3. Washington Wizards — Otto Porter, Jr.
School: Georgetown Age: 20 Ht/Wt: 6’8 198 Position: SF
A hot rumor is that, despite his D.C. connection and the obvious fit, Washington is strongly considering UNLV’s Anthony Bennett. But the Wizards have always looked for ways to sell tickets while remaining competitive, and selecting Porter certainly plays into that ideology. Additionally, with Nene in the post and a healthy backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal, taking the most NBA-ready player in the draft helps them make an immediate playoff push.
4. Charlotte Bobcats — Alex Len
School: Maryland Age: 19 Ht/Wt: 7’1 225 Position: C
Oladipo would be a nice fit here (alongside Michael Kidd-Gilchrist) despite the fact that the Bobcats need big bodies up front. It’s unlikely to happen, though, unless Charlotte ships out one of its many guards. Len, on the other hand, can step in and play a role defensively, and could eventually develop into a nice two-way player. In time, he could be a very good pro in the right situation.
5. Phoenix Suns — Victor Oladipo
School: Indiana Age: 21 Ht/Wt: 6’4 213 Position: SG
This is probably Oladipo’s backstop, but it’s also perhaps the best situation for him. He’d be able to start immediately for the Suns, providing them with the fearless, nard-nosed athlete on the wings that they’ve lacked in recent years. Oladipo slides because of his age and questions about his ceiling, but he’s a player that could make an quick impact in his rookie year.
6. New Orleans Pelicans — Trey Burke
School: Michigan Age: 20 Ht/Wt: 6’1 187 Position: PG
Burke was the best player in college basketball this past season and could provide the next piece to the young core being assembled in New Orleans. Think Anthony Davis, Eric Gordon (when healthy), Ryan Anderson and Burke playing together. Some worry about Burke’s average athleticism and relatively small size, which are the only reasons he’s going sixth, not first.
7. Sacramento Kings — Anthony Bennett
School: UNLV Age: 20 Ht/Wt: 6’8 240 Position: PF
C.J. McCollum is a candidate here, but the Kings already swung and missed on an undersized shooting guard that they thought could play the point when they drafted Jimmer Fredette two years ago. In fairness, McCollum is a much different player — yet he shares many of the same weaknesses that have limited Jimmer. Bennett is a risk, but the Kings do need a power forward and the UNLV product could be good value here.
9. Detroit Pistons — Michael Carter-Williams
School: Syracuse Age: 21 Ht/Wt: 6’6 184 Position: PG
At this point in the draft, the potential rewards outweigh the risks. Carter-Williams is a 6-foot-6 pure point guard. Repeat that last sentence to yourself. You can count on one hand how many of those have come around over the last decade. Allowing Brandon Knight to slide off the ball, where he’s more comfortable, makes this an easy one.
9. Minnesota Timberwolves — Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
School: Georgia Age: 20 Ht/Wt: 6’6 204 Position: SG
With Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love, the Timberwolves need floor spacers, and Caldwell-Pope fits the bill. With his athletic ability, he can also attack the rim and defend, providing Minnesota with a multi-dimensional wing they’ve lacked in for some time.
11. Portland Trailblazers — C.J. McCollum
School: Lehigh Age: 21 Ht/Wt: 6’3 197 Position: SG
McCollum’s stock has risen quite a bit thanks in part to the success of players such as Stephen Curry and Damon Lillard — small college scoring guards who’ve made a seamless transition to point in the NBA. The problem with McCollum is that he’s not quite the shooter Curry is and isn’t as skilled with the ball in his hands as Lillard. Still, there’s a lot of potential there.
11. Philadelphia 76ers — Cody Zeller
School: Indiana Age: 20 Ht/Wt: 7’0 230 Position: PF
The Sixers had to give up Nikola Vucevic in the trade for Andrew Bynum and missed out on a breakout year from the second-year 7-footer. Zeller is a similar player and, as he moves to the power forward spot, has a chance to play a similar role Vucevic would have played in Philadelphia. He could very easily end up as one of the top five players in this class.
12. Oklahoma City Thunder — Steven Adams
School: Pittsburgh Age: 19 Ht/Wt: 7’0 255 Position: C
Few players have more upside than Adams, who can already step in and help a playoff team defensively, much like Tiago Splitter did for the Spurs as a rookie. Splitter hasn’t developed into a solid two-way player yet, and Adams will have similar struggle early on. Still, the Thunder don’t need scorers, just rim protectors, and Adams is one of the best in this class.
13. Dallas Mavericks — Shabazz Muhammad
School: UCLA Age: 20 Ht/Wt: 6’6 222 Position: SF
In a draft some are calling the weakest since 2000, there’s a spot in the lottery for a scorer like Muhammad. He comes with some baggage, sure, but his obviously abilities outweigh the risks, much like they have for Indiana Pacers guard Lance Stephenson. If Muhammad makes it out of the lottery, teams will regret it later.
14. Utah Jazz — Sergey Karasev
From: Russia Age: 19 Ht/Wt: 6’7 197 Position: SG
Karasev might be the most skilled wing in the draft, depending on whom you ask. The problem is that scouts are weary of international players why haven’t scouted thoroughly and aren’t sure how his game will translate. He can shoot the ball and do a little bit of everything (except defend), and could be one of the more NBA-ready players available. And at 19, he has upside, too.