In poring over At the Hive's coverage of 2012 draft last night, my eyes were drawn towards this rather hilarious-in-hindsight piece -- my final mock from Draft Day 2012 attempting to guess what would happen over the first 10 picks. 60% of my predictions were wrong, which means only one thing: let's do it again!
With the latest rumors in mind and in the spirit of Getting Things Wrong, off we go:
The Cleveland Cavaliers Select Nerlens Noel With the 1st Pick
Some reports from last night -- most notable of which is that of Chris Mannix, who has a spotty record -- have Alex Len #1 on Cleveland's board. The Cavaliers have already tried to trade this pick away to most every team in the league, including New Orleans, but as far as we know, nobody's even come close to biting.
That partially speaks to how weak the very top of this draft appears to be; players 1 through 5 or possibly 6 belong to essentially one tier. That's not hugely different from a year ago, but of course Anthony Davis stood in a tier of his own. Noel, between his damaged growth plate, January injury, and lesser offensive abilities and feel for the game, simply isn't at that level. At the same time, Cleveland passing on a defensive prospect of his magnitude -- between his exceptional steals and blocks rate, low foul rate, and explosive help ability -- in favor of one that struggled as a freshman (a typically strong indicator of future success) and didn't blow people away as a sophomore in Alex Len would be very unwise.
The Orlando Magic Select Victor Oladipo With the 2nd Pick
Ben McLemore's star has fallen considerably over the last week, with some suggesting he may be a realistic possibility for New Orleans at #6.
In conjunction with the proposed Eric Bledsoe-for-Arron Afflalo trade rumored to be in the works, the acquisition of a shooting guard -- McLemore or Oladipo -- would seem to make a ton of sense. I'd feel more comfortable slotting Trey Burke into this spot if we'd gotten even a single report about GMs praising his workouts or combine drills, but the rise in stock I expected to see coming simply never arrived. Oladipo meanwhile has held steady; Charlotte took a defense-first wing with the 2nd overall pick last year, and Orlando could repeat it in 2013.
The Washington Wizards Select Otto Porter With the 3rd Pick
I don't understand teams bumping up guys that play in their geographic vicinities, or rather, I understand it but think it's relatively nonsensical. Thankfully for Washington, Porter's a pretty fantastic player in his own right.
He's arguably the best talent on the board, and he fits a need position; you can make a strong case that there's no way Anthony Bennett can guard the 3 in the NBA anyway. And so I'll go ahead and do exactly that.
The Charlotte Bobcats Select Alex Len With the 4th Pick
If Noel, Oladipo, and Porter do indeed go 1-2-3, Charlotte looks like they'll have to make a decision between Ben McLemore, Alex Len, and Cody Zeller, who, Marc Stein reported yesterday, interests GM Rich Cho greatly. (And, for what it's worth, I very much hope for Charlotte's sake that all the inane trade rumors swirling around Michael Kidd-Gilchrist are as real as FakeBlock).
But it really just feels too high for Zeller here; a couple teams in the 8-15 range, most notably Minnesota, are rumored to want into the top 5. If Charlotte really wants Zeller more than anyone else, it might make more sense to move down into his projected range, grab a couple assets, and then nab him. But who knows.
In any case, I'm rolling with Len over McLemore. He'd make a great offensive target for break-out sophomore Kemba Walker, can likely slot in nicely on defense alongside Bismack Biyombo, and has generally maintained strong projections by most draft mockers where McLemore hasn't.
The Phoenix Suns Select Ben McLemore With the 5th Pick
I can see Phoenix going to any position with this pick save point guard, and even that's easily in play if they opt to move a couple pieces around today. I don't think McLemore's the best player available on the board here, but perception-wise, he probably is.
As recently as a week ago, he was being floated as a possibility at #1, though most of that is undoubtedly due to the insane amount of posturing the Cavaliers did this week. I'll certainly be ecstatic if Cleveland never has another #1 pick again.
The New Orleans Pelicans Select Trey Burke with the 6th Pick
With the board configured this way, it'd likely come down to Trey Burke, Anthony Bennett, and C.J. McCollum.
I'm inclined to toss out McCollum immediately; he worked out for Phoenix and Sacramento, picking at #5 and #7, but New Orleans showed no interest in bringing him in at all despite Monty Williams' professed interest in Damian Lillard a year ago and McCollum's ostensible similarities. Part of this, I hope, is the team's recognition that McCollum is unlikely to come close to the point guard Lillard has become. I see him faring decently as a primarily off, combo guard, but New Orleans already has two of those on the roster, one terrible, one broken.
Bennett doesn't make sense positionally to me either. He's too flat footed to guard 3s; he can barely keep it together against 4s. As a big, his only real position is the same one New Orleans' two best players currently play. And so while I'm still not really sure what's going on with his top-6 guarantee, I'm willing to file that under "NBA player's agent does his job" for now.
I'd ordinarily be extremely wary of ruling out not one, but two players over need/fit issues, but I legitimately think Trey Burke is the best player of the three. McCollum gets some additional hype because of the Lillard/small school scoring star comparison, but Burke was clearly the better statistical point guard while facing hilariously superior opposition all season en route to sweeping every national player of the year award.
Burke-Bennett's a bit closer, and I do think Bennett's going to be a strong offensive player as a pro. His defense seals it for me though; he's putrid on that end, and while hiding a mediocre defensive point guard can be done (Michigan finished top-30 nationally on defense this year), hiding a glaringly poor power forward in the pros is another story entirely and especially so in Monty Williams' strong side wing overload/weak side big, and blended-zone schemes.
The Rest of the Draft
I think whoever drafts Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (maybe Minnesota?) may very well outdo whoever drafts Ben McLemore, Shane Larkin's going to make a fine backup point guard in a couple years, we're probably going to hear about Dario Saric once more before we hear again from Giannis Adetokunbo after today, and Gorgiu Dieng and Arsalan Kazemi are going to be great defensive additions to a couple smart teams picking at the back end of today.
Of course the next time New Orleans buys a pick will be the first, so we'll have to settle for sitting this one out post-#6 barring the Benson draft era beginning a bit differently than expected.