The Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA Draft Lottery again on Tuesday night for the second time in three years.
The Cavs being able to select first gives them another valuable young piece that can help them continue the rebuilding process that has been underway with Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters. The Orlando Magic, the statistical favorite to win the top pick, fell to No. 2 while the Washington Wizards went from being expected to draft 8th to drafting third.
Rounding out the top five is Charlotte and Phoenix. Each of these teams has specific needs and the projected draft order doesn’t necessarily reflect the type of player that each of these franchises needs to pick up. With that in mind, here is a look at the draft order and who I think each of the top five teams in the draft should select.
1. CLEVELAND- The Cavs have a strong center in Anderson Varejao and another seven footer on the roster in Tyler Zeller. Drafting a center with the first pick would only be smart if you knew that you could get something decent in exchange in a Varejao trade, but there isn’t a center that can make an immediate impact available in the draft to replace him.
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The closest thing out there to a potentially impactful big man is Kentucky stand out Nerlens Noel who is recovering from a major ACL tear and won’t be back for the start of the season. Rather than selecting a player who needs to see major changes to his body and is really nothing more than a project for the first few months of the season until he can come in as a backup, the Cavs should look to address one of their weakest areas on the floor, the small forward position.
It’s a selection that would surprise everyone, but create some competition in the Cavs lineup at a position that Alonzo Gee has filled only serviceably. The best small forward in this draft class is Georgetown’s Otto Porter, who would be a good fit with Irving and the Cleveland guards. He is solid in transition and has decent mid range game, but it’s his activity off the ball that Irving would enjoy most. As a point guard who gets to the hoop, Irving needs a guy at the small forward spot who presents a significant scoring threat and will stretch the defense out to create space for him to operate. As I said before, no one is expecting this selection, but it would be a pick that can make the Cavs better now. A halfway decent big man that they can train will be available in the second round, it’s not worth wasting their top pick on.
2. ORLANDO-The Magic will be bummed to have lost out on the top pick, but it will take some of the pressure of general manager Rob Hennigan to select Noel. The fact is, the Magic have a good center in Nikola Vucevic that they are developing already, so why select Noel when he’s a guy that probably wouldn’t start for you for at least two years. The No.2 pick in the draft is more valuable than that and considering the team’s shortcomings at the point guard position, finding a backup to the often lackluster Jameer Nelson should take priority.
The top rated point guard in the draft is Michigan’s Trey Burke, a good fit for Magic head coach Jacque Vaughn who tends to bring out a competitive desire in his players. Burke already plays like a mad man and could quickly become a favorite of Vaughn’s, a coach who has a knack for developing players.
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Mock drafts have Orlando taking Ben McLemore, a selection that just doesn’t make much sense considering the fact that Orlando has Aaron Afflalo on the books, who had the most productive season of his career yet last year. E’Twaun Moore and Doron Lamb also seem like viable candidates for development under Vaughn at the two guard spot, choosing McLemore just adds more depth at a position that they don’t really need it.
WASHINGTON-The Wizards came alive and seemed to have taken themselves out of a top five draft pick after the return of John Wall, but now the former Kentucky man will get some help from another top draft prospect. If the Wizards are smart, they’ll look to take on a big man who can replace Emeka Okafor after his contract expires next season and that man is Nerlens Noel.
Probably the best big man in the draft, the 6-foot-11 inch center needs time to return from his injury and pack on some valuable pounds that can help him compete in the paint. He isn’t necessarily a starting center right away, but Washington doesn’t need him to be as he can come in behind Okafor. This will give him a chance to develop and maybe even steal the starting role by season’s end, depending on how well he can mesh with Wall.
The Wizards have a very talented backcourt, but they now have to add quality young players to their front court now. While they could use some help at the small forward position, the Wizards are good enough to compete on a nightly basis with what they have if Wall is healthy. They can find a serviceable small forward in free agency much easier than they can pick up a center, so looking forward to the future with Noel is probably the smartest thing they can do at this time.
CHARLOTTE-Where do we begin? The Bobcats need a lot, but mostly they need a player who can help them make sense of their lineup. There is already plenty of young talent in place in Charlotte with Kemba Walker, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and shot blocking center Bismack Biyombo, but the team could use some help at the power forward position where they are noticeably weak.
Unfortunately for the Bobcats, this is a poor class for power forwards with UNLV’s 6-foot-7 inch Anthony Bennett being the best option. The closest NBA comparison you can make to Bennett is Jason Maxiell, so needless to say he doesn’t address any of Charlotte’s problems long term. The result will be Charlotte taking the best of what is available.
If either is still there, Charlotte should select Ben McLemore out of Kansas or Victor Oladipo from Indiana. This gives them cover at the two guard position should they successfully unload Ben Gordon’s massive contract, but if not, they can use either as a trade chip. The worst case scenario is that they have a talented young two guard in a league that is pretty short of talent at the position.
PHOENIX-Rather than look at what the Suns need, you have to try to narrow it down the other way and examine what they don’t need. For starters, the Suns have more power forwards than they know what to do with, so they’ll be relieved to see that this draft class doesn’t offer much in the way of tempting options there.
They have decent small forwards in Jared Dudley and Michael Beasley and they have a good defensive two guard in PJ Tucker and one that can score in Shannon Brown. But the Suns are thin when it comes to backups for Goran Dragic and Marcin Gortat. There is a general belief that Trey Burke would still be on the board for the Suns to select and if turns out that this is true, that should be their clear selection. If not, and they have go down the list, it gets pretty tough to say who they go with.
They could draft a big man, but taking either Indiana’s Cody Zeller or Maryland’s Alex Len leaves them with two guys who need to pack on weight if they’re not going to get pushed around. There will be a period of a few years where you hope they are settling into NBA life, but the whole thing could blow up in the Suns face if they turn out to be busts. A safer bet if Burke isn’t available is to look down the draft order and steal a guard like Lehigh’s CJ McCollum or Syracuse’s Michael Carter-Williams.