Ten burning questions for the 2013 NBA draft
As the clock ticks toward one of the most wide-open drafts in recent history, plenty of questions remain. Here's a look at 10 of them:
What will Cleveland do?
As of Tuesday night, the Cavaliers were still considering multiple options with the No. 1 pick. Multiple sources say Cleveland will go big, with either Kentucky freshman Nerlens Noel or Maryland center Alex Len the likeliest picks. Noel is the safer pick. He's a 7-foot defensive presence who reminds some scouts of a bigger version of Ben Wallace. But there is plenty of appeal in Len, a more traditional pivot with a more polished offensive game.
While the Cavs have been aggressively shopping the pick, don't expect them to deal it. Cleveland has been asking for a lot -- they reportedly made offers for Portland's LaMarcus Aldridge and Minnesota's Kevin Love in recent weeks -- and teams just don't have the zeal to acquire the top pick in what's widely considered a weak draft.
How far will Shabazz Muhammad fall?
Some mock drafts continue to have Muhammad, UCLA's polarizing forward, tumbling out of the lottery. I'm not buying it. For all of Muhammad's imperfections, there is an NBA scorer in that 6-foot-6, 222-pound frame. Muhammad has been working diligently the last two months on refining his offensive repertoire, using James Harden's game as a guide.
Teams remain antsy about Muhammad's ability to play a role, but with so much uncertainty in the first round, it is hard to envision Muhammad falling past the top 12 or 13 picks. He has had strong workouts with Sacramento (No. 7), Detroit (No. 8) and Minnesota (No. 9) in recent weeks and will be in play for those spots.
Who will be the first point guard off the board?
There continues to be a divide among GM's over which point guard has the most potential. Trey Burke is the safer pick. The reigning National Player of the Year is a proven scorer and playmaker who led Michigan deep into the NCAA tournament, playing well against top competition. There is also a sense that Burke, who plays well in the pick-and-roll, will be able to make a more immediate impact. The Magic will give Burke a look at No. 2 and rival executives believe the Pelicans are very high on Burke at No. 6.
But Michael Carter-Williams continues to be a tantalizing talent. His length (6-6) is the obvious appeal, but team executives believe he is the more natural playmaker and that his skills will evolve outside of Syracuse's system. Carter-Williams is more of a project -- his jump shot is subpar and his high dribble will need work -- but these are problems executives believe can be corrected with some work. It doesn't seem likely Carter-Williams will go higher than No. 7, to Sacramento, but Charlotte (No. 4) is a wild card. The Bobcats could surprise people with that pick.
Who is the top international talent?
Croatian forward Dario Saric's decision to opt out of the draft opened up the international field. German point guard Dennis Schroeder is loaded with potential, but sources say he has not dazzled in workouts. Russian forward Sergey Karasev is a dangerous shooter whose stock has steadily climbed the last few weeks. Ditto for Brazilian center Lucas Nogueira and Greek forward Giannis Adetokunbo. For now, I'm sticking with Schroeder as the first foreign player off the board, if for no other reason than Dallas (No. 13) and Utah (No. 14) have a need for a point guard and Schroeder, who has been compared to Rajon Rondo, could be the best available there.
Who is being undervalued?
I'm a big fan of Bucknell forward Mike Muscala. He has been one of the most productive players in college basketball the last four seasons, earning First Team All-Patriot League honors during his sophomore, junior and senior seasons and averaging 18.7 points, 11.1 rebounds, 2.4 blocks and 2.3 assists per game last season. At 6-foot-11, 239 pounds, Muscala needs to bulk up and I don't know if he has the foot speed to stay with some of the NBA's quicker power forwards. But mid-majors have yielded plenty of quality players in recent years (Stephen Curry, David West, Kenneth Faried, Damian Lillard, just to name a few) and a player as accomplished as Muscala (he was named the Patriot League's Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year last season) could easily develop into a serviceable NBA player.
Who is being overvalued?
I continue to have my doubts about Victor Oladipo. Like many, I love Oladipo's defensive skills. I think he can immediately step onto an NBA court and be a stopper at either guard spot. But his size (6-foot-4, 213 pounds) at a position dominated by 6-foot-5 and 6-foot-6 players bothers me, as does the fact that he was a poor three-point shooter for two of his three seasons at Indiana. If Oladipo was penciled into the back half of the top 10 or the teens, I'd be OK with it. But spending a top-four pick on him, as some mocks have suggested, would worry me.
Could Cody Zeller be on the rise ... again?
You remember Zeller, right? The consensus top-three pick before the start of last season whose stock plummeted when he didn't show significant improvement during his sophomore season? Well, that stock is starting to tick up. After testing extremely well at the combine, Zeller, sources say, has shown a nice touch from the perimeter during his individual workouts, one of the biggest knocks against him coming out of Indiana. I don't see any chance he gets out of the top 10 and he could go as high as No. 5 to Phoenix.
What will Oklahoma City do?
Chatter about the Thunder packaging their two first-round picks (No. 12 and No. 28) has quieted in recent weeks, but I still expect Oklahoma City to look to deal, either on draft night or in the weeks that follow. The Thunder love to stockpile young talent but at this point, how much more do they need? Jeremy Lamb is poised to join the rotation next season -- perhaps replacing Kevin Martin -- and Perry Jones could be right behind him. What the Thunder need is a veteran low-post presence, someone to take the pressure off Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook on the perimeter. The Thunder have eyed LaMarcus Aldridge in the past, though it's unclear how willing Portland is to trade him.
There is some talk Oklahoma City is looking at Steven Adams, the raw seven-footer from Pittsburgh who won't be anywhere near NBA-ready next season.
Who is Ricky Ledo?
Judging by some of the tweets and emails I have received over the last few months, Ledo is someone many are curious about. Ledo bounced around several high schools and missed all of his freshman season at Providence with academic issues, so he is something of an unknown. But he is a prototypical 2-guard with NBA range and the closer the draft gets, the more teams appear intrigued by him. I still think he goes somewhere in the 20s, but it wouldn't surprise me to see him sneak into the late teens, perhaps to a team like Atlanta, which owns two first-round picks.
Who is a second-round sleeper?
Detroit's Ray McCallum had a strong performance at the combine, with several scouts commenting he had better size (6-foot-2) and feel for the game than they expected. If McCallum was a better three-point shooter (32.3 percent last season) he would likely be a first-round pick. But a team looking for an NBA-ready backup point guard with potential could get a steal in McCallum in the second round.