PG, North Carolina
At the moment, most experts have Damian Lillard as the top point guard in this draft. We disagree. During this year’s NCAA Tournament run, Marshall's draft stock should have risen in everybody’s eyes just by virtue of him sitting on the bench as his team collapsed versus Kansas (and almost collapsed versus Ohio). He may not boast the jump-off-the-screen skill set that Lillard has, but he’ll be the more reliable NBA player over the course of what promises to be a lengthy career. 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.
PF, North Carolina
Over the course of just a few months, John Henson has gone from being an afterthought on this year’s loaded Tar Heels squad to being one of the most sought-after bigs in this draft. While in school, he developed a solid post game, nice moves on the block and seemingly figured out how to effectively use his athleticism (his wingspan is off the charts). His most notable weakness at the moment is that he gets pushed around a lot in the post; but if he can develop something even remotely resembling a decent jumper, he’ll instantly be able to make guys pay for shoving him away from the basket.
Popular opinion is that Austin Rivers was made a promise last week. Who that promise was made by, however, remains unknown. The Phoenix Suns seem to be the squad that everyone is suspecting at the moment, but we think it was the New Orleans Hornets. 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 (Anthony Davis), picking up its two-guard of the future will be the next logical step. 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.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: 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. 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. But we still think he isn’t as good as Marshall.
This pick is staying the same as it was in our pre-lottery mock. 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.
Everyone thinks that the Suns made a promise to Austin Rivers, but we think that they made a promise to Dion Waiters. This is another dude that’s been all over our board. At the moment, the only problem we have with him is that he lacks the consistency you would like to see from a guy his size. Whereas big guys can afford to be on and off because they’re big, perimeter players don’t have that luxury. That being said, Waiters is a baller. He plays solid defense, always has a lot of energy and boasts an NBA-ready body. If he can improve his shooting even a little bit before making the jump, he could be a huge asset right off the bat.
Folks are finally warming up to this guy, and with good reason. (OV was on the bandwagon a long time ago.) 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.
PF, Ohio State
Jared Sullinger has been all over our draft board. After checking in at the No. 6 spot last time around, we downgraded him because of a less-than-stellar Combine showing. As he confirmed there, Sullinger lacks any real athleticism or pure, raw talent, but he also undoubtedly has one of the more refined games you will come across in this draft. Kevin Love proved that looking unathletic doesn’t mean that you won’t be successful at the next level, but he’s the exception not the rule. Doug Collins will appreciate this guy’s sleeper value, but other GMs (the ones picking higher) will be hesitant to pull the trigger on him.