Sam Smith's mock draft: Irving at No. 1
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Duke’s Kyrie Irving appears like he’ll be the No. 1 overall pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft. Unless, he isn’t, of course.
Actually, it does seem the top two picks are set, as Irving seems finally to be the Cavaliers' choice. The Timberwolves with the No. 2 pick seem like they can’t make a deal that satisfies them and likely will select Arizona’s Derrick Williams.
While there have been a large number of top players rumored in potential trades, like Andre Iguodala, Monta Ellis, Tony Parker, Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, Richard Jefferson, Steve Nash, Paul Millsap and Josh Smith, there may not be many significant deals. That’s because the NBA reportedly is warning teams that the new collective bargaining agreement could vastly change the financial landscape. It seems to be having something of a chilling effect on potential big trades.
That isn’t to say there won’t be some deals, and it seems there may be some changes among some of the top lottery teams. One of the most intriguing, albeit complex, scenarios going around has the Jazz, Cavs and Wizards with the Nos. 3, 4 and 6 picks exchanging spots.
The Jazz with No. 3 have expressed interest in both Turkey’s Enes Kanter and Kentucky guard Brandon Knight. The Jazz supposedly has been somewhat disappointed in the development of Derrick Favors from the big trade with New Jersey for Deron Williams. So they could take Kanter and then hope local favorite Jimmer Fredette is available when they have No. 12. But the Jazz has Al Jefferson and Favors and does want a point guard. Although Irving is going No. 1, I’ve talked to some personnel experts who rate Knight higher.
If the Jazz take Kanter, then the Cavs would certainly let Knight go by after taking Irving at No. 1. The consensus seems to be they’d pick Lithuanian center Jonas Valanciunas, who will stay in Europe at least one more year.
The Wizards with the No. 6, pick, meanwhile, have been rumored to also be pursuing Kanter. Washington also has No. 18 and has been trying to combine the picks to move up a few slots to get Kanter. The Wizards also like Jan Vesely of the Czech Republic, but would more like to find a replacement for the erratic Andray Blatche.
Washington had been one of the teams trying to trade with Minnesota, but to no avail. The thinking is they move to deal with Utah instead since Minnesota won’t take Kanter. Washington then gives Utah Nos. 6 and 18 for No. 3. Washington takes Kanter, and then Utah trades with Cleveland to get No. 4 to take Knight with something, maybe No. 32 from Cleveland, and the Cavs get Nos. 6 and 18. Then the Cavs can take the international player not ready to come to the NBA and still have another first rounder. The Jazz get the guy they wanted at No. 3 with something added and Washington gets its guy.
So what is going to happen? This draft is a tough one because it lacks great talent and potential All-Star players. So it does become less a best player available draft, as many are, than a fill your need draft because the talent level is fairly equal, meaning not great, once you get past the top 10. So you may as well select someone who can fit your team since you aren’t hunting for great talents who can make your team and find a spot.
Here’s one look at how it might go:
1. Cavaliers: Kyrie Irving, Duke, guard, 6-2, 180. Point guard rated 1 or 1a with Kentucky’s Knight. Not a super athlete, but player who runs a team well.
2. Timberwolves: Derrick Williams, Arizona, forward, 6-8, 240. This is where the action has been with all the trade talk, though they seem to have settled on Williams, an athlete whom many teams have as their top prospect in this draft. If I were the Cavs I’d have taken him and gotten one of the point guards at No. 4. Unless the Cavs make that deal to get another first, I think they’ve messed up the draft.
3. Jazz: Enes Kanter, Turkey, center/forward, 6-10, 255. I still think some deal is possible as the Jazz really like Knight and aren’t very high on Devin Harris. They could move one of their bigs, like Millsap, Favors or Al Jefferson, for a point guard. But I think there’s still the chance they get Knight and another pick in the deal with Washington.
4. Cavaliers: Jonas Valanciunas, Lithuania, center, 7-0, 230. They would not take Knight because they took Irving. Will someone want to move up for Knight? They’d love for the Jazz to pass on Kanter and would take him. But Utah doesn’t want to do that. The Jazz made a bid to get Nos. 2 and 3 to take Knight and Kanter using Favors. Washington could trade in here with Nos. 6 and 18, which the Cavs would do and take Valanciunas with No. 6. But Washington would only do so if Kanter were there. So this is the place to watch Thursday for predraft movement. If the Jazz take Knight and Cleveland gets Kanter it’s a home run for the Cavs.
5. Raptors: Brandon Knight, Kentucky, guard, 6-3, 185. Their dream is for him to fall here as they don’t want to start Jose Calderon and want to have a more uptempo, defensive style under new coach Dwane Casey.
6. Wizards: Jan Vesely, Czech Republic, forward, 6-10, 240. A player with what they like to now call a big motor, the kind of hard worker the Wizards don’t have other than John Wall. Although they’ve continued to pursue Kanter.
7. Kings: Kemba Walker, Connecticut, guard, 6-1, 172. This is the first place college star Jimmer Fredette could go, though Walker is rated higher. They want to get Tyreke Evans off the ball and this could give them an explosive backcourt. Though Jimmer could work playing off the ball with Evans and Evans able to defend the bigger guard.
8. Pistons: Tristan Thompson, Texas, forward, 6-8, 225. Relentless and tough player who’ll battle inside as they need size and interior strength with their overloaded backcourt.
9. Bobcats: Kawhi Leonard, San Diego State, forward, 6-7, 225. Smallish and not a great offensive player. But a tremendous competitor and regarded by some teams as a top three or four talent in this draft. Kind of their new Gerald Wallace. Described as Ron Artest without the issues.
10. Bucks: Klay Thompson, Washington State, guard, 6-6, 200. Regarded as the draft’s best shooting guard. They’ll let Michael Redd go and are in desperate need of scoring and someone to space the floor with mostly slashers.
11. Warriors: Marcus Morris, Kansas, forward, 6-9, 235. A rock solid forward who can play some small forward as well. They need some toughness inside. Or anywhere.
12. Jazz: Jimmer Fredette, Brigham Young, guard, 6-2, 190. This is the Jazz fans’ dream scenario as they had more media at his workouts than their last playoff game. You hear they’d like to avoid all the pressure of having to play the local kid, which they would if they take Knight. Then there’s no way they also take Fredette and you can’t blame them. The talent is not good enough to pass on him here and take the next best guy. So it’s why I still can see Knight going at No. 3 in some scenario which I cannot figure out yet. If Fredette gets past the Jazz the Suns likely would take him at No. 13, which would make the Jazz look worse if they pass on him without taking a better point guard.
13. Suns: Markieff Morris, Kansas, forward, 6-10, 245. A lot like Marcus, though not quite as fundamentally solid. Maybe the similarity is being a twin. The Suns have again decided they need more defense, which was what Terry Porter heard. Morris will play that game, so it’s a start.
14. Rockets: Nikola Vucevic, USC, center, 6-10, 260. They’ve been all over the place trying to make moves, as they often are, as they also have No. 23. They’ve been trying for Kanter as well, so they’ll take the best center left as Vucevic has made the strongest late run up draft boards.
15. Pacers: Alec Burks, Colorado, guard, 6-6, 195. They’ve been looking for shooting and liked Fredette as well. Burks had been considered the top shooting guard in the draft along with Thompson.
16. 76ers: Bismack Biyombo, Congo, center/forward, 6-9, 245. He’s your next Ben Wallace type with little offense and a potential rebounding and shot blocking machine. Raw, which is an issue for a team wanting to make a jump now. But he’s got the defensive interior potential they lack and is hard to come by.
17. Knicks: Iman Shumpert, Georgia Tech, guard, 6-5, 212. Strong, big point guard with great athletic gifts who has tended to be somewhat erratic. Teams have him rated all over from mid first to low second.
18. Wizards: Chris Singleton, Florida State, forward, 6-9, 220. A big, defensive presence who is talented enough to guard multiple positions. They need to rebuild their team with guys who’ll work and be committed and he’s a good continuation of that.
19. Bobcats: Jordan Hamilton, Texas, guard/forward, 6-7, 220. A wing player who can score and is potentially a great shooter from distance. Maybe can be the guy Adam Morrison was not.
20. Timberwolves: Marshon Brooks, Providence, guard, 6-5, 200. A shooting guard to go with Ricky Rubio and No. 2 pick Williams in the uptempo, Suns kind of style they want to pursue. Rubio needs a scorer to play with. Brooks is a talent and just needs to develop more spot up game.
21. Trail Blazers: Reggie Jackson, Boston College, guard, 6-3, 210. They’ll be looking to replace Andre Miller at some point. Probably the strongest and most physical of the point guards toward the bottom of the first round. He didn’t work out after minor knee surgery, which probably kept him from going higher.
22. Nuggets: Kenneth Faried, Morehead State, forward, 6-8, 225. They acquired a lot of skill players from the Anthony trade, but need some bulk. He’s undersized, but a rebounder. Sort of a Paul Millsap guy, though without much offense yet.
23. Rockets: Donatas Montiejunas, Lithuania, center/forward, 7-0, 220. Very skilled offensive oriented big man who can score and shoot. The cliché European big who shoots outside, but a guy many projected in the lottery.
24. Thunder: Kyle Singler, Duke, forward, 6-8, 230. The hot rumor on draft eve had the Bulls taking Singler, which obviously is still possible as picks beyond the 20’s become so uncertain. The Thunder like the Bulls want solid guys from good programs who will work hard, which describes Singler.
25. Celtics: Norris Cole, Cleveland State, guard, 6-2, 170. They don’t have anyone behind Rajon Rondo and might trade him at some point to shake things up. Cole is somewhat like Rondo but with a shot in that he’s small but tough with athletic ability and a will to defend.
26. Mavericks: Davis Bertans, Latvia, forward, 6-8, 210. A good player to leave in Europe as they have payroll enough. A top shooting prospect who is said to have been the best shooter there since Dirk.
27. Nets: Nolan Smith, Duke, guard, 6-2, 185. Not that they don’t feel they can keep Deron Williams, but just in case. Smith can play some two as well and it’s vital to have more than one player to make a play, as the Bulls know. A smart, ready to play worker is the kind of guy for Avery Johnson.
28. Bulls: Nikola Mirotic, forward, Montenegro, 6-10, 220. The Bulls made it clear they aren’t bringing in three rookies, so they have to stash someone. He’s potentially a good one, though Dallas might scoop him up earlier. He’s a versatile, all around player who’s smart and unselfish but under contract for two or three more years. Then maybe the Bulls take Bertans.
29. Spurs: Shelvin Mack, Butler, guard, 6-3, 215. A hard playing, tough all around guard who can score and make shots. They still could move Tony Parker. He can fill in and complement what they have.
30. Bulls: JaJuan Johnson, Purdue, forward, 6-10, 220. An active, athletic big man who can replace Taj Gibson if they want to make a move for a shooting guard, which they won’t get in this draft. Senior who’ll be more ready to contribute sooner.
43. Bulls. Cory Joseph, Texas, guard, 6-3, 185. You can never tell who’ll be available as you get deep into the second round. But this freshman would be worth it. He’s got good size and shooting ability for a point guard and can develop. You figure he won’t expect to play right away and looks like he could be a really good three point shooter.
A further word on the Bulls draft. They’re committed to adding only two players to the team, so there’ll be an international player somewhere. There hasn’t been much opportunity to move up as teams basically want either Omer Asik or Gibson. I’d want to hang onto Gibson for a potential trade for a veteran shooting guard. Plus, you’re not getting into the lottery, where only perhaps Klay Thompson is good enough to become a starting shooting guard within maybe a year.
I can see if he’s here in the second round the Bulls going for Marquette’s Jimmy Butler, a player in the hard working mold of Marquette guys who teams like. Although the Bulls have a dozen or more players on their list, the ones I’ve mentioned are among the few I think really would work. Point guard Diante Garrett, who played for former Bull Fred Hoiberg at Iowa State, also is a good future point guard prospect as the Bulls need someone long term to backup Derrick Rose.
I think if the Duke guys, Smith and/or Singler fall to No. 30, they’re possible, though I personally think Purdue’s Johnson is a much wiser choice. Others they’re believed to be considering include Justin Harper of Richmond, Charles Jenkins of Hofstra, Chandler Parsons of Florida, Malcolm Lee of UCLA and Travis Leslie of Georgia. We’ll know soon. But it doesn’t appear this draft will much affect the fate and future of the team.