This post was written by Goodman Sports associate Liam Ray.
NBA Draft Top 10 Picks, Part 1
Team: Cleveland Cavaliers, Pick Number 1
Team Strengths: PG
Team Needs: SG, PF, C
Projected Pick: Nerlens Noel, PF/C, Kentucky
The 2012-2013 Cleveland Cavaliers will always be remembered
as "that team that blew a 27-point lead to the Miami Heat in the middle of that
27-game win streak." And that's all people will remember about them. Their
second-year star point guard, Kyrie Irving, struggled to stay on the court.
They lost Anderson Varejao, along with his Sideshow Bob hair and the relentless
rebounding, to a torn ankle ligament just 25 games into the season. That forced
them to start the rock-slow and unskilled Tyler Zeller at center. Their
interior defense was a trainwreck and their rebounding ranked 22nd
in the league. Not a single Cavalier averaged more than .9 blocks a game.
Nerlens Noel can fix that. He's big, strong, and, most
important for the Cavs, freakishly athletic. He runs the floor well and has the
quickness and hops to be an elite shot-blocker in the NBA. The Cavs could pair
Noel at the 4 with Varejao at the 5 and see a big boost in their rebounding
numbers and a return to respectability in terms of their defense in the paint.
Kyrie Irving could try an alley-oop pass for the first time in his career
(kidding, but Noel is definitely a huge upgrade athletically from the bigs the
Cavs have now). Of course, Noel is coming back from reconstructive surgery on
his knee that prematurely ended his freshman season, and knee problems in big
men are always a red flag, but Noel has the best combination of potential and
tangible college production of any player in the draft. A franchise like the
Cavaliers needs to swing for the fences every chance they get.
Team: Orlando Magic, Pick No. 2
Team Strengths: C, SF
Team Needs: SG, PF
Projected Pick: Ben McLemore, SG, Kansas
All is not right in Disney World. The Magic traded Dwight
Howard to the Lakers before the season started and everything went downhill
from there. The Magic missed the playoffs for the first time since the
2005-2006 season, they lost more games than any team in the league, and they
didn't even get the #1 overall pick to show for it.
There are some bright spots, though. Tobias Harris looks
like he is starting to figure it out at the 3, and he can definitely score the
rock. Nikola Vucevic came out of nowhere (well, Philadelphia actually) to
average 11.9 boards a game at center. But there is no doubt the Magic need more
Ben McLemore did what few freshman at Kansas do: he started
and became a star. He is an absolutely prototypical NBA shooting guard, with
good size, tremendous athleticism, and a silky jumper. He shot 42% from
three-point range as a freshman and averaged more than 15 points a game for
Bill Self, a coach who usually doesn't give freshmen big roles on his teams.
His defense does leave a lot to be desired at this point, and there are
questions about how he will handle the sudden transition from amateur athlete
to multimillionaire NBA player given his troubled upbringing, but McLemore has
the highest ceiling in terms of scoring of anybody in the draft, and veteran PG
Jameer Nelson can help him stay focused and engaged on the court.
Team: Washington Wizards, Pick No. 3
Team Strengths: PG, SG
Team Needs: SF, C
Projected Pick: Alex Len, C, Maryland
For what seems like the thousandth time in the last few
years, the Wizards are picking in one of the top three draft slots. If John
Wall could ever stay healthy over a full season, and if Bradley Beal continues
to develop into a solid 2-guard, they might find themselves picking much later
in the 2014 Draft. Of course, they also have to make sure they nail this pick.
The Wizards struggled to score all season long, especially
their frontcourt players. They ranked 28th out of 30 teams in points
per game. John Wall needs somebody to give the ball to in the post and to run
the pick and roll with. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Alex Len.
Len showed flashes of huge potential in 2 seasons at
Maryland. He mostly came off the bench, but he dazzled scouts in his limited
minutes with his excellent footwork and highly developed back-to-the basket
game. At 7-foot-1 and 255 pounds, there is no doubt Len is big enough to bang
with NBA power forwards and centers, and he is already much more skilled than
many of them. He's also athletic enough to cut hard to the basket in pick and
rolls and finish above the rim and through contact. He would take the scoring
pressure off of John Wall and his ability to be a roll man would help keep Wall
(who frequently looked disengaged because of the poor play of his teammates)
fully involved on the court.
Picking Len will give the Wizards the chance to finally
return to relevance, and it will give them a solid, young three-man core of
Wall-Beal-Len going forward.
Team: Charlotte Bobcats, Pick No. 4
Team Strengths: PG, PF
Team Needs: SG, SF
Projected Pick: Victor Oladipo, SG/SF, Indiana
Don't let their record (2nd worst in the league)
fool you – the Charlotte Bobcats are the worst team in the NBA, and it isn't
close. 26th in the league in points per game; 27th in
rebounds per game; 29th in assists per game; and 29th in
points allowed per game. They were outscored by an average of 9.2 points per
game, more than 2 points worse than any other team, but you don't need stats to
tell you the Bobcats suck. Their best player was Kemba Walker, who would be a
nice 6th man at best for most playoff teams.
So what do the Bobcats need? A better question is what don't
they need? This is clearly going to be a lengthy rebuilding project, and the
Bobcats can start that project right by picking Victor Oladipo.
In three seasons at Indiana, Oladipo showed a terrific work
ethic and a commitment to defense. He consistently shut down opposing teams'
best perimeter scorers using fantastic lateral quickness and good length. He is
an explosive athlete who can play above the rim, something the Bobcats lack in
their guards right now. Most importantly for the Bobcats, his work ethic and
great motor make it unlikely that he will be a bust. Unfortunately for
Charlotte, MJ is calling the shots, and I'm sure he will find a way to screw
this pick up, either by reaching for a player with a high ceiling and lack of
commitment or picking a player who was great in college but doesn't have NBA
Team: Phoenix Suns, Pick No. 5
Team Strengths: PG, C
Team Needs: SF, PF
Projected Pick: Anthony Bennett, SF/PF, UNLV
The Suns finally realized there was no point in forcing
Steve Nash to waste the final years of his career playing for a Phoenix team
that was out of contention, so they traded him to LA so he could play the end
of his career for a Lakers team that is also out of contention (stings, don't it
Lakers fans?) The Suns then freefell to the worst record in the Western
Conference and the No. 5 pick in a weak draft. At least the Lakers are the ones
stuck with D'Antoni now, right?
The Suns struggled scoring the ball and keeping their
opponents from scoring. They do, however, have a solid PG-C combination in
Goran Dragic and Marcin Gortat. They need an athletic swingman to partner with
those two, and Anthony Bennett is the guy they should take.
Bennett has great athleticism and was among the most prolific
in-game dunkers in college in 2012-13. His speed and leaping ability as a power
forward would complement Gortat well, and with more and more teams playing
smaller, jump-shooting stretch 4s, his lack of size (he's 6'7") shouldn't be
too much of a problem. Additionally, Bennett's shooting ability and powerful
frame let him match up equally well with big, slow power forwards and smaller,
quicker small forwards. He can bully small forwards in the paint with easy
dunks and lay-ins, and he can drive around guys bigger than him thanks to his
speed. He's everything the Suns current forwards aren't, and Suns fans deserve
to see less of Michael Beasley and the Morris twins.