PG, North Carolina
A lot of people disagree with our rating of Kendall Marshall, but we’ll just keep repeating ourselves until folks buy in. During this year’s NCAA Tournament run, Marshall raised his draft stock by essentially sitting on the bench and watching his team collapse versus Kansas (and almost collapse versus Ohio). Plus, seeing as his North Carolina unit was full of NBA-ready guys, you already know that Marshall can play with super-capable, ultra-talented players. The Raptors (like every other squad) need long-term stability at the point and Marshall -- the best point in this draft -- would be a smart selection.
Another thing we’ve been harping on since the midway point of the last college basketball season: John Calipari stifled Terrence Jones’ individual development for the good of Kentucky as a whole. If not for that, dude would be a top-5 prospect – no doubt about it. 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 currently plays in Detroit, but he can't help that part of how this goes.
Once again: 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.
As much as we love Kendall Marshall, that’s how on the fence we are about Damian Lillard. The problem with him is simple: 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. 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 is staying the same. Because they traded away their lone -- admittedly hobbled -- big man for the chance to play two shooting guards in the backcourt at the same time, the Bucks now need to shore up the frontcourt. Everyone knows what the deal with Perry Jones is. 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.
SF, St. John’s
It will be fascinating to see what happens with Steve Nash. It would make sense, either way, for the Suns to scout a point guard – but nobody worth taking at this spot will be left on the board. Because of that, Moe Harkless will be great for a Suns team that's a bit unsure of what direction they want to go into next year.
C, North Carolina
Here’s what great about Tyler Zeller – you know exactly what you’re getting when you draft him. The Good: he 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-level 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 and, with the uncertainty/oldness currently on the roster in the frontcourt, a youth infusion would be a good long-term investment. Zeller will be the best big man option available at this point, anyway. Either this or Jeremy Lamb to shore up the two-spot would make a lot of sense for all involved.
We admit that we’re higher on this dude than most, but that’s only because we legitimately believe 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.