Who’s No. 3?

After Williams and Irving, who goes third depends on who gets the pick

The Pistons could select Duke standout Kyrie Irving in the upcoming draft.
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There’s better than a four-in-five chance the Pistons don’t draw into the top three when order for the June 23 draft is determined by the May 17 lottery. But you can bet Joe Dumars and his staff are doing their due diligence should they draw into the top three. They’ll know as much about the top three picks as they will about the wider pool of candidates to study should they stay at seven or slip back a spot or two.

There is a growing consensus that the top two picks are going to be Duke freshman point guard Kyrie Irving and Arizona sophomore forward Derrick Williams. That doesn’t mean it’s a slam dunk they’ll go 1-2 or 2-1 – there are certainly a few teams that would take somebody else at No. 2 if, for instance, Williams goes No. 1 and they don’t need a point guard – but let’s take a look at what the Pistons or teams slotted ahead of them would do with the No. 3 pick if Irving and Williams were off the board.

1. Minnesota – The Timberwolves go into the lottery with the best odds of landing the top pick. That still means there’s a 75 percent chance Minnesota won’t draft No. 1, according to the laws of probability, and only a 1 in 7 shot by the model of history – just three times in 21 years of the weighted lottery has the team with the best odds of winning the No. 1 pick actually done so.

The truth is, it might relieve T-wolves GM David Kahn if he got the No. 3 pick. To draft Irving would complicate roster decisions on Ricky Rubio and Jonny Flynn. Williams might make more sense, but is there room for both Williams and Michael Beasley – both 6-foot-8 combo forwards whose best attribute is scoring?

At No. 3, the logical pick for the Timberwolves would be Enes Kanter, whose skill set would nicely complement Darko Milicic and Kevin Love. But it wouldn’t be a stunner if Kahn fell for the charisma and champion’s aura of UConn’s Kemba Walker, selling him as a combo guard and big-time scorer off the bench a la Jason Terry.

2. Cleveland – The Cavs have two shots at landing a top-two pick – their own pick plus the one they got from the Clippers in the Baron Davis trade. They would love to come away from this draft with both Irving and Williams, locking up both the point guard and No. 1 scorer they need.

If the Cavs get shut out of the top two picks, though, they could go in any conceivable direction because they could use upgrades everywhere – point guard, wing, inside. And that’s where the influence of ownership will be felt. If the front office gets marching orders from Dan Gilbert that he wants the most impact next season, then Walker might be a tempting pick at No. 3. If he tells his decision-makers to make the choice that makes the most sense over the long-term, then maybe one of the two foreign big men – Kanter or Jonas Valanciunas – or Kentucky freshman point guard Brandon Knight would win out.

3. Toronto – The same rules apply to Toronto as to Cleveland. The Raptors would happily add either Irving’s point guard aplomb or Williams’ potential as a go-to scorer.

If both are gone, we know this much: Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo has not shied away from bringing international players to Toronto, and might in fact have a preference for them, driven partly by the belief that American-born players are less than enamored with the prospect of playing in Canada.

So the choice probably would come down to Kanter or Valanciunas. Kanter is considered more NBA ready, but Valanciunas might be a better long-term fit if the Raptors believe he would occupy the middle and allow them to play Andrea Bargnani at his preferred power forward spot.

4. Washington – If the Wizards got the No. 1 pick, Williams would be an easy choice. If they got the No. 2 pick and Williams were gone, they would be unlikely to take Irving – not with John Wall already on board.

What about No. 3? Kanter makes a lot of sense, filling in at power forward next to burgeoning star center JaVale McGee and allowing the Wizards to dangle the talented but erratic Andray Blatche in trade. There’s a lot of history for Blatche in Washington and a fresh start might do him good – and allow the Wizards to further distance themselves from a forgettable era.

Two other possibilities: Jan Vesely or Bismack Biyombo. Either one also could slot in next to McGee. Both are highly athletic and the Wizards might find the prospect of pairing either next to the shot-blocking McGee a step toward establishing a dominant defense, especially considering Wall’s potential as a menacing perimeter defender.

5. Sacramento – What do the Kings believe is Tyreke Evans’ future? Is he a point guard or are they better off moving him off of the ball? That could shape the way the Kings view the draft.

And if both Irving and Williams are gone and the Kings pick No. 3, it’s not too much of a stretch to think management could be enamored with the prospect of an Evans-Walker backcourt that shares playmaking responsibilities and allows each to take advantage of matchups to attack as an off-the-ball scorer.

The Kings could also decide that a big man like Kanter or Valanciunas could provide the greatest value. With Samuel Dalembert likely heading elsewhere as a free agent, the Kings could take Kanter and only ask him to provide backup minutes initially to DeMarcus Cousins.

6. Utah – If you believe in symmetry, the Jazz could go one of two ways: Vesely, compared athletically to a young Andrei Kirilenko, could replace Kirilenko, a pending free agent the Jazz might not be able to afford; or Kanter, as an inside-outside big man, could be the choice to follow in the footsteps of countryman Mehmet Okur.

But one of the point guards, Walker or Knight, could just as easily be the choice – especially if the Jazz shop Devin Harris, as has been speculated from the moment their trade with New Jersey that sent Deron Williams packing.

7. Detroit – Given the premium at the point guard position, the seeming unanimity among NBA personnel executives that Irving is the real deal, and the Pistons’ longstanding observation that Rodney Stuckey is suited to play off the ball as well as at the point, my best guess is the Pistons would take Irving with the No. 1 pick over Williams.

Would they take Williams No. 2? I’m not sure. If they’re convinced Williams will score 20 points a game just falling out of bed, then yes. If they’re not convinced he’ll develop into an elite scorer, then does he offer anything that Austin Daye, Jonas Jerebko and Charlie Villanueva don’t already?

If the Pistons think there’s a big guy in this draft that they can slide in as a starter next to Monroe, somebody who makes them a little stronger defensively and on the boards, he’s the guy. Because Kanter is generally considered more likely than Valanciunas to step in and contribute from day one, he’d probably be the pick at No. 3. It seems unlikely the Pistons would consider one of the guards that high.