PG, North Carolina
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: at this year’s NCAA Tournament Kendall Marshall did the impossible. Somehow, he raised his draft stock by getting hurt and not playing. Basically, by sitting out and watching his team collapse versus Kansas (and almost collapse versus Ohio), this guy proved that he was the piece of the offense that made everything run smoothly. And seeing as this year’s North Carolina team was full of NBA-ready guys, you can also make the point that Marshall already knows how to play with super-capable, pro-ready talent. The Raptors need long-term stability at the point and Marshall -- the best point in this draft -- would be a smart selection.
John Calipari definitely stifled Terrence Jones’ individual development for the good of Kentucky this year, and that’s what ultimately took him out of the top five. Talent-wise, there is no doubt that Jones is a top-five guy, though. Between his offensive repertoire and his natural physical gifts, it’s tough to imagine him not having an immediate impact at the next level. It would probably be better for him if he landed with a slightly more stable franchise than the one that current plays in Detroit, but he can't help that part of how this goes.
Regardless of what happens with Eric Gordon, he will not be the face of this newly-purchased franchise. Seeing as New Orleans will have already added some size by this point in the draft, picking up its two-guard of the future will be the next logical step. Austin Rivers will be the Hornets' marketable superstar right off the bat, and his NBA-ready, mildly-selfish game is far better suited for the pro ranks than it was for college.
PG, Weber St.
Here is the problem with Damian Lillard: he doesn’t fit into the “classic one-guard” mold. However, in this day and age of Derrick Rose, Kyrie Irving and John Wall-type points, the position may have evolved past that anyway. Lillard is a good ball handler, knows how to the score and has surprisingly good length. He can also D up with the best at his position, and the hope will be that he can develop into something of a more classic point guard over his first few years in the pros. The Blazers need a long-term solution at the one, though, and Lillard should be able to provide some instant offense from the getgo while they figure out how to best use him.
This pick remains the same as last time. Because they traded away their lone big man for the chance to play two shooting guards in the backcourt at the same time, the Bucks now need to shore the frontcourt. Everyone knows what the deal with Perry Jones is by now. He’s got good length, a solid shooting touch, nice hands and a very, very questionable attitude. He also isn’t great defensively – something that a lot of bigs coming out of college and into the big leagues can relate to. This is a classic high-risk, high-reward pick.
C, North Carolina
The Good: Tyler Zeller brings size, an unflappable presence in the middle and non-stop energy to the table every single time he takes the court. The Bad: he doesn’t have an NBA post game yet, may or may not be able to defend pro bigs and wasn’t even the most talented center in his own family this past season. Houston loves its bigs. Zeller will be the best big man option available at this point. Either this or Jeremy Lamb to shore up the two-spot would make a lot of sense for all involved.
Meyers Leonard could end up being the steal of the first round when it's all said and done. He knows how to play with his back to the basket, has good footwork and is great at making the best possible use of his massive size. If this guy develops even a little bit of an attitude, he could be an absolute force in the NBA within just a few years.