Just how unpredictable is this year’s NBA draft?
The Cleveland Cavaliers, owners of the No. 1 pick in tonight’s draft, are still mulling their choice.
Some NBA officials contend the Cavs will select Kentucky center Nerlens Noel, while others think it’ll be Kansas shooting guard Ben McLemore or Maryland center Alex Len or Georgetown small forward Otto Porter.
With so much uncertainty surrounding the top pick, imagine trying to figure out the remaining 29 first-round selections. With that in mind, let’s give it a whirl:
1. CLEVELAND — If the Cavs play it safe, they take Porter. If they opt for need, they take Len or Noel. PICK: Noel.
2. ORLANDO — The Magic covet a point guard but there isn’t one worthy of being chosen this high. So they’ll probably trade Arron Afflalo for a point guard — perhaps Eric Bledsoe of the L.A. Clippers — and draft a shooting guard like McLemore or Indiana’s Victor Oladipo. PICK: Oladipo.
3. WASHINGTON — The Wizards will not only get better on the court but their ticket sales will get a significant bump after taking a local favorite. PICK: Porter.
4. CHARLOTTE — The bumbling Bobcats need a star attraction in the worst way. PICK: McLemore.
5. PHOENIX — The Suns would be ecstatic if Noel fell to them but that’s unlikely. PICK: Anthony Bennett of UNLV.
6. NEW ORLEANS — Robin Lopez isn’t the answer at center. PICK: Len.
7. SACRAMENTO — The Kings are intrigued by UCLA small forward Shabazz Muhammad, but are lacking a top-line point guard like Syracuse’s Michael Carter-Williams, Lehigh’s C.J. McCollum or Michigan’s Trey Burke. PICK: Carter-Williams.
8. DETROIT — Muhammad or Russian Sergey Karasev would be a nice upgrade at small forward, but Pistons also need a point guard, especially if Jose Calderon bolts in free agency. PICK: Burke.
9. MINNESOTA — It’s no secret the T-Wolves have made acquiring a shooting guard a priority and will get one in the draft or free agency. PICK: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope of Georgia.
10. PORTLAND — The Blazers could use another big like Indiana’s Cody Zeller or Pittsburgh’s Steven Adams, but may opt to find a running mate for last season’s NBA Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard. PICK: McCollum.
11. PHILADELPHIA — With Andrew Bynum’s future in serious doubt, the 76ers’ primary focus is shoring up the center spot. They should have some nice choices with Adams, Zeller and Brazil’s Lucas Nogueira. PICK: Zeller.
12. OKLAHOMA CITY (from Toronto via Houston) — The Thunder are seeking upfront depth and may pluck whoever slides from the group of Zeller, Adams and Nogueira. PICK: Adams.
13. DALLAS — The Mavs definitely could use a center like Gonzaga’s Kelly Olynyk or Norgueira but they are more receptive to trading this pick — perhaps to Cleveland — to create more salary-cap space to pursue impending free agents Dwight Howard and/or Josh Smith. PICK: Karasev.
14. UTAH — With Mo Williams’ expected departure in free agency, the Jazz hone in on a point guard like Miami’s Shane Larkin or Germany’s John Schroeder. A center like Nogueira would also help replace the expected departure of Al Jefferson. PICK: Schroeder.
15. MILWAUKEE — Caldwell-Pope is believed to be the Bucks’ prime target with Karasev next in line. There are also whispers the Bucks have keen interest in 18-year-old Giannis Adetokunbo, a gifted 6-9 small forward from Greece who has played against inferior competition. Other potential Bucks picks are Muhammad (an explosive scorer who has been dogged by some off-court issues), Larkin (athletic but small at 5-10), Schroeder (talented but inexperienced) and shooting guards Jamaal Franklin of San Diego State (versatile and tough but suspect shooter) and Allen Crabbe of California (basically a perimeter shooter). PICK: MUHAMMAD.
16. BOSTON — With Father Time catching up to Kevin Garnett, the Celtics have to bolster their frontcourt. PICK: Olynyk.
17. ATLANTA — With back-to-back picks, the Hawks have a variety of options and could roll the dice on Adetokunbo. PICK: Franklin.
18. ATLANTA (from Houston via Brooklyn) — See No. 17. PICK: Center Gorgui Dieng of Louisville.
19. CLEVELAND (from L.A. Lakers) — If the Cavs opt for Noel with the top pick, they’ll likely hone in on a wing player like Franklin or Adetokunbo. PICK: Adetokunbo.
20. CHICAGO — The Bulls’ main objective this offseason is obtaining a shooting guard, although Dieng and Larkin would be hard to pass on if they were still on the board. Among the shooting candidates are Franklin, Michigan’s Tim Hardaway Jr., and Crabbe. PICK: Hardaway Jr.
21. UTAH (from Golden State via Brooklyn) — Besides losing Jefferson, the Jazz may lose Paul Millsap in free agency, meaning they could use a frontcourt player. PICK: Duke center Mason Plumlee.
22. BROOKLYN — Backup point guard C.J. Watson is free-agent bound, so they may look for his replacement here. PICK: Larkin.
23. INDIANA — The Pacers are shaky at the two-guard spot and either Hardaway Jr. or Reggie Bullock of North Carolina would be a sound pick. But Pacers could use another big as well like Frenchman Rudy Gobert. PICK: Bullock.
24. NEW YORK — The Knicks could use some frontcourt toughness and versatility. PICK: Forward Tony Mitchell of North Texas.
25. L.A. CLIPPERS — The Clippers could use a wing player like Tony Snell of New Mexico, Bullock or Adetokunbo. PICK: Snell.
26. MINNESOTA (from Memphis via Houston) — The T-wolves are size-challenged in the frontcourt and could use another center like Nogueira, if he falls, or Gobert. PICK: Nogueira.
27. DENVER — A combo guard like Spaniard Alex Abrines or vastly-underrated Isaiah Canaan of Murray State would help the Nuggets’ backcourt cause. PICK: Abrines.
28. SAN ANTONIO — The Spurs have flourished with foreign players and Abrines has to be of interest. However, Tim Duncan is nearing the finish line of his brilliant career, so the Spurs look for his eventual replacement and consider Jeff Withey of Kansas or Gobert. PICK: Gobert.
29. OKLAHOMA CITY — The Thunder might add another wing player here like Snell, Abrines, Providence’s Ricky Ledo or Cal’s Crabbe. PICK: Crabbe.
30. PHOENIX (from Miami via L.A. Lakers & Cleveland) — The Suns are lacking a lot of things, especially a shooter like Ledo or Crabbe, or a center like Bucknell’s Mike Muscala or Withey. PICK: Ledo.