Cleveland continues to give the impression it is undecided, with sources saying Noel, Alex Len, Victor Oladipo, Ben McLemore and Anthony Bennett are all possibilities. The Cavaliers aren't afraid to make an outside-the-box choice, as they showed in drafting Dion Waiters fourth last year. In addition, Cleveland continues to aggressively shop this pick, according to sources, but one executive said the Cavs "have completely overvalued it." It's looking more and more like Cleveland will keep the pick, and rival executives still expect Noel to be the guy. He's a 7-foot defensive menace who will solidify the middle, either at power forward or center, and fortify a defense that ranked last in opponents' field-goal percentage (47.6) in 2012-13.
Before we get all worked up about McLemore's poor workouts, remember this: A smart executive isn't going to put much stock in them, not after a solid college season. Several executives believe that the prototypical shooting guard has "All-Star potential." The Magic have been working the Clippers for a deal that would send Eric Bledsoe to Orlando for a packaged headlined by Arron Afflalo, but Los Angeles prefers to keep Bledsoe for now in hopes of landing a bigger offer, a source said. Afflalo has three years and $23 million left on his contract, but it will be difficult for the Magic to pass on McLemore, a Ray Allen-type shooter with superior athleticism.
There continues to be some internal debate in Washington between Porter and Anthony Bennett, but barring a deal -- a source said the Wizards are still open to moving the pick -- Porter has the inside track. Bennett and Oladipo will get some consideration here, but it would be surprising if the Wizards passed on Porter, a versatile forward with an excellent mid-range game who will slip right into a young core headlined by John Wall and Bradley Beal.
The Bobcats badly need a big man to shore up a frontcourt that ranked among the worst scoring and rebounding units in the league last season. The uber-talented Bennett will be considered strongly because, as one league executive said, "Teams are a little scared to pass him up." But two rival executives believe that Len -- a physical center who rebounds well, protects the paint (2.1 blocks) and can play with his back to the basket -- is on the rise, despite the fact that a stress fracture in his left ankle has kept him out of individual workouts. And remember this: New coach Steve Clifford has an excellent reputation when it comes to developing big men. Hall of Fame center Patrick Ewing was recently added to Clifford's staff, too.
Oladipo, despite lingering concerns about his perimeter shooting, continues to interview well and work out well. His strong performance at the combine last month was exactly what teams wanted to see. "He doesn't give you many reasons not to like him," a Western Conference executive said. Oladpio is renowned for his work ethic and teams love his athleticism and bulldog defensive mentality, attributes that should enable him to contribute right away.
An NBA source said the Pelicans plan to take the best player on the board, regardless of position. Sources also said the Pelicans really like Trey Burke, but the talented Bennett -- who has the offensive skills to play small forward -- may be too good to pass up. "He's ridiculously talented," a Western Conference general manager said. "There's a superstar in him." Bennett is an explosive athlete, has a credible back-to-the basket and face-up game and legitimate three-point range (38.3 percent last season). He's something of a tweener, but he will find a place to play.
This pick appears to be coming down to Carter-Williams or Burke. Michigan's Burke is more polished and perhaps more NBA-ready, but Carter-Williams' versatility -- he could play alongside Jimmer Fredette -- and upside could give him an edge with new general manager Pete D'Alessandro, an executive touted for his use of analytics. A source said Shabazz Muhammad had an excellent workout with the Kings earlier this month, so expect him to get some consideration here, too.
Burke could go as high as No. 2 to Orlando, so if he is here, he's a steal. There are strong indications that with their frontcourt in good shape, the Pistons want to land a point guard to develop alongside Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond. Burke would be a popular choice in Michigan, but he is also perhaps the most NBA-ready point guard in the draft. He is the kind of dynamic playmaker/scorer the Pistons need to boost an offense lacking in weapons.
Muhammad continues to be an enigma. Several executives said his workouts have been solid, if not better, and his ability to score is beyond dispute. But concerns over his ability to fit into a team concept, to be a role player, linger. The Wolves need scoring help and there is top-pick talent in Muhammad, a physical swingman with terrific reflexes and an array of moves around the rim. Muhammad told me recently that he is patterning his game after James Harden's, and if he turns out to be anywhere close to the player Harden is, he will be a steal. Sources said shooters C.J. McCollum and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope are in the mix here, too.
Several team executives believe Zeller could go as high as No. 5 to Phoenix. Zeller picked up some momentum from the combine, and it's unlikely he will slip out of the top 10. His tremendous athleticism and productivity in college are impressive. The Blazers are set at power forward, but with the dwindling number of power centers in the NBA, a Zeller-LaMarcus Aldridge frontcourt would have enormous offensive potential.
Picking Adams will do Philadelphia no good next season. Everyone knows Adams is a project, one who will be best served spending all of next season in the D-League getting used to the speed of an NBA game. But his workouts have general managers drooling. "If he were as good as the sum of his parts, he would be in the mix for No. 1," an Eastern Conference executive said. Philadelphia needs a big man and new general manager Sam Hinkie, a disciple of Houston's Daryl Morey who has no ties to the previous regime -- and therefore no responsibility to make the team a contender next season -- could make a play for a high-risk/higher-reward big man.
Pick acquired from Raptors via Rockets: The Thunder need low-post scoring and Olynyk is the most accomplished scoring big man in the draft. There are questions about his strength and concerns about how he will match up with bigger, more physical defenders after three years at Gonzaga. But there is no denying Olynyk's offensive skills. He has a variety of moves in the post and showcased guard-like perimeter shooting at the combine.
Let's be clear: The Mavericks are actively trying to trade this pick, and an NBA source confirmed that they would love to move Shawn Marion along with it. Caldwell-Pope made huge strides as a sophomore, surging up a few teams' draft boards late in the season. He could slide into a lineup that is expected to lose O.J. Mayo this summer.
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The Jazz badly need a point guard, and Schroeder and Shane Larkin are the best of the remaining bunch. Rumors around the league persist that Schroeder has an early first-round promise, and the Jazz make as much sense as any. An Eastern Conference scout described Schroeder as "a miniature [Rajon] Rondo." At 19, Schroeder has natural point-guard instincts, superior speed and an improving jump shot. Several teams in the 20s would love for Schroeder to fall, but don't expect him to get past too many point-guard-starved teams.
McCollum's stock has slipped with fewer teams looking at him as a point-guard prospect. "He's not Damian Lillard," a Western Conference coach said. "He just doesn't have the same instincts." With Monta Ellis headed to free agency -- and potentially pricing himself out of Milwaukee -- McCollum is a younger, cheaper alternative the Bucks can groom as Ellis' replacement. Despite missing half of last season with a foot injury, McCollum has shown during workouts that he is an NBA shooter.
Doc Rivers' departure could be the first step of a rebuilding process. Boston could use some help up front, but Franklin has slowly started to creep back up a few teams' draft boards in recent weeks. Franklin, San Diego State's leader in points, rebounds, assists and steals last season, can do a little bit of everything. He doesn't shoot three-pointers particularly well, but he plays with energy and is a solid defender.
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Worth noting here: The Hawks are exploring several options, including trading one or both picks and/or using their two first-round picks on players they can stash overseas. Scouts love Nogueira's rebounding and shot-blocking potential, as well as his ability to play in the open floor. "He runs like a deer," a Western Conference executive said. "When he puts some weight on, he's got the potential to be a starting center."
Pick acquired from Rockets: Should the Hawks let Josh Smith walk as a free agent, it will open up a hole at forward. Karasev is coveted for his versatility. He faced quality competition in the PBL, Russia's top league, and reportedly looked sharp at the Nike Hoops Summit in April. Karasev is an excellent catch-and-shoot player as well. He will be ready to play right away ... unless the Hawks persuade him to stay overseas for one more year.
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Pick acquired from Lakers: Barring a trade, the Cavs will likely look for a small forward here. Adetokunbo created a lot of buzz after a strong performance in Europe earlier this month, but there are still plenty of concerns. Adetokunbo's representatives have been telling teams he is a point guard, a position no one thinks he can play. There are also concerns about the level of competition Adetokunbo has faced -- one executive likened it to Division-III talent -- and if he is strong enough to defend NBA forwards. Still, Adetokunbo has great point-forward potential, even if he has to be stashed overseas for a year or two.
As one executive told SI.com this week, "Imagine if Tom Thibodeau could get Mitchell to play hard every day?" Chicago would love to amnesty Carlos Boozer and the $32.1 million remaining on his deal, particularly with Taj Gibson beginning a four-year, $38 million extension next season. Mitchell is enigmatic, but he is a 6-foot-9, 236-pound man-child with undeniable inside-out skills and tantalizing talent (he compares himself to Denver's Kenneth Faried) that could make him worth the risk.
Several league executives believe Plumlee's low ceiling has hurt his stock in recent weeks. But with Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap headed to free agency, the Jazz could use some insurance up front. Plumlee is an athletic 7-footer with good hands and a knack for finishing around the rim. He's also considered a highly intelligent big man who should adapt well to a reserve role backing up Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors.
Dieng continues to be all over boards, as concerns about his limited offensive potential are causing his stock to fluctuate. Brooklyn doesn't need any more offense from the pivot; what it needs is defense, which Dieng can provide. The 23-year-old was the Big East Defensive Player of the Year after averaging 2.5 blocks and 9.4 rebounds. He's also a strong passer with a decent mid-range jump shot, and Dieng is regarded by scouts as one of the best screen men in the draft.
Larkin is getting some looks from teams in the late lottery, but it says here that his size will keep him in the 20s. Still, Larkin is a phenomenal athlete -- he topped the combine in the three-quarter-court sprint (3.08 seconds) and vertical leap (44 inches) -- and an excellent ball handler who projects to play well in the pick-and-roll. George Hill has been steady for Indiana, but the postseason exposed the Pacers' need for a more dynamic point guard. Larkin has that potential.
The Knicks desperately need young, active big men to protect an aging front line and replace it down the road. Withey is a skilled defender who is athletic enough to play either power spot. He doesn't create much offense for himself, but he can finish around the rim, which is all the Knicks, heavy with scorers, need him to do.
Someone in the first round will take a flyer on Gobert, and with DeAndre Jordan on the trading block, the Clippers are in a position to do so. Gobert is impossibly long at 7-2 with a 7-8½ wingspan and a 9-7 standing reach, both combine records. He didn't show much offensively at the combine, though, and has struggled in workouts amid concerns about his lack of post moves and slender frame.
Pick acquired from Memphis: The Wolves badly need perimeter scoring -- they finished last in three-point shooting percentage (30.5) in 2012-13 -- and Ledo brings that. There are legitimate concerns about his maturity (Ledo missed all of last season because of academic issues after bouncing around several high schools), and executives have told me that they fear how outside influences will affect his career. But the kid can shoot. Several executives from teams picking higher like Ledo, so he could be off the board here. If he isn't, Minnesota should snap him up.
It's unclear whether new general manager Tim Connelly will want to pay what it takes to keep free-agent swingman Andre Iguodala. If Iguodala walks, Rice will be ready to step in. He isn't the three-point shooter his father was, but Rice Jr. is coming off a very productive season in the D-League, where he did a lot to repair a reputation that was battered at Georgia Tech.
With the Spurs on the look-out for a potential replacement for Manu Ginobili, Snell could be a sleeper. He can catch and shoot and create offense off the dribble, and is expected to be a strong defender. Snell was uneven for the Lobos last season, but he has looked good in individual workouts and could be worth a flyer for a team that can allow him to develop next season.
The Thunder have the second pick in the second round, too, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see them grab Muscala, an offensively gifted big man with an accomplished college résumé, with one of them. Muscala is a little light and isn't especially athletic. But he can make the perimeter jump shot and was an excellent rebounder in college. If Muscala had not laid an egg in the NCAA tournament opener against Butler, it's likely he would be solidly entrenched in the back of the first round.
Pick acquired from Miami: Crabbe has legitimate NBA range. His three-point percentage last season was his lowest in three seasons at Cal, but he shot well at the combine, has good size for his position and has shown an ability to use screens well. Questions remain about whether Crabbe can develop into a complete NBA player, but scouts love that he played big minutes each season at Cal.
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