When you watch him play, Jones has all of the physical traits necessary for success at the next level. He’s lengthy, has good hands, can run the floor, has a relatively solid shooting touch and seems to be developing a good post game. Unfortunately, there are big questions about his attitude and consistency. Plus, he will undoubtedly get eaten alive by NBA big men when tries to D up on them. The Cavs need a legitimate big, though, so they’ll take a chance on Jones’ development continuing and, perhaps even expanding, to the defensive end.
9. Utah Jazz: Kendall Marshall
PG, North Carolina
No player in recent memory has boosted his draft stock as much by not playing as Marshall did during the NCAA Tournament. On a team full of NBA-ready lottery picks, this guy proved to be the key to making North Carolina run the way it ran for most of 2011-12. The Jazz need a point guard, and Marshall is clearly a difference-maker. Perfect match.
10. Milwaukee Bucks: Cody Zeller
While the Brandon Jennings-Monta Ellis backcourt is certainly intriguing, making it happen cost the Bucks a center. Over the course of his freshman campaign, Zeller slowly but surely morphed into the Big Ten’s second best big man behind Sullinger. This kid has good hands, good feet and already seems like he’ll be a much more impactful offensive player at the next level than his brother. What sort of defense Zeller will play in the NBA largely depends on how his body develops, but this could be a legitimate steal for the Bucks if he comes out this year and they’re able to land him.
Update: Staying in school.
11. Portland Trail Blazers: Damian Lillard
PG, Weber St.
The Blazers need a long-term solution at point guard, and Lillard’s skills should translate really well at the next level. He’s a good ball-handler, solid scorer, has nice length for his size and plays quality defense. There are some questions about how great he is at leading an offense but, in recent years, the point guard position has evolved past just being about that.
12. New Orleans Hornets: Austin Rivers
Given Eric Gordon’s questionable status heading into next season and the fact that this team will pick up Robinson with its earlier pick, Rivers would make a lot of sense here. There are mixed reviews on just how successful Doc’s son was at the collegiate level, but the kid’s talent is undeniable. Really, his game is far more geared towards the pro ranks than what he was doing at Duke, anyway. With Chris Paul now a distant memory, the Hornets need a new star to market their team around.
13. Utah Jazz: Harrison Barnes
SF, North Carolina
Barnes watched his draft stock take a serious hit in the NCAA tournament, but it’s hard to just disregard everything we’ve seen from him during his time at North Carolina. This guy can score in just about every way imaginable, and while he clearly needs a quality point guard more than anyone may have originally anticipated, players that can score are always able to get some burn in the NBA. The Jazz need a consistent scoring punch, so either Barnes or Lamb would make the most sense with this pick.
14. Phoenix Suns: James McAdoo
PF, North Carolina
McAdoo’s athleticism is still surprisingly underrated, and it’s really fun to fantasize about what Steve Nash would be able to do with him – assuming Nash doesn’t skedaddle to Miami, obviously. There are some questions about how he’ll do at the next level given his size, but based on everything we’ve seen from the talented youngster at North Carolina, his basketball IQ and natural instinct will compensate for any height shortcomings. As is the case with any college reserve from a deep team making the jump to the NBA, though, finding the right situation will be key to McAdoo’s development.
15. Houston Rockets: Tyler Zeller
C, North Carolina
Zeller wasn’t even the most gifted big man in his family this year, but he tries hard and has a necessary NBA trait that can’t be taught: size. On an absolutely stacked college team full of NBA-level players Zeller mostly played his role, and he played it consistently. He plays strong in the middle and has good hands, but he still needs to develop some semblance of a refined post game. Whereas you can get by on effort and energy in college, all that changes when you’re going against pro bigs. Zeller is a smart defender, but it remains to be seen if he has what it takes athletically to stop NBA guys without landing into foul trouble.