With the NBA draft tonight, Eamonn and Myron met at the watercooler this morning to discuss the top college players available and what they would do with the top 10 picks, based more on what they've seen out of these players in college and less on NBA team needs.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers (Myron's Pick: Nerlens Noel)
He's just 19. Even if he needs an entire year of rehab to fully recover from a torn ACL, his ceiling is worth this slot. He led the nation in blocks prior to the injury. He was a true game-changer for a young Kentucky team. He's an amazing athlete. And he could be the missing element for a Cavs franchise that possesses young stars in Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters. I'd pick Noel here.
2. Orlando Magic (Eamonn's Pick: Victor Oladipo)
Myron! I am excited, in case the exclamation point didn't hammer that home. Three reasons: I am excited because tonight is draft night, and I love draft night. I'm excited because you're exactly right -- draft season is the one time of the year when every college hoops fan and every NBA fan can join hands, gleefully trade info on team needs versus player skills, and scream at the TV loudly together. And I'm excited because you just passed on the best player in the NBA draft, one Victor Oladipo.
We're all about the college side of things in this little mock draft of ours, so I won't dwell on what the Cavaliers need, but they're apparently determined to draft a big man. I like Noel plenty, even with the injury, because at the bare minimum he's going to be a versatile defender for years to come. But I think if you're the Cavs, and you're looking at this bad of a draft, you have to take the player with the highest possible upside. That's Oladipo.
By now everyone knows what the kid does best -- he flies up and down the floor, he makes plays at the rim, he forces steals, he guards like crazy. Fewer draftniks seem to be talking about the most important part of all of this: That's what Oladipo did when he was raw. Last season, he did all of those things better than before (his steals, blocks and offensive rebounding percentages all spiked) and in the meantime he morphed into not just a good offensive player but one of the most efficient in the country.
In 2012, as a sophomore, he shot 52.3 percent from inside the arc and 20.8 percent beyond it. In 2013, as he overtook preseason POY Cody Zeller as Indiana's brightest star, Oladipo boosted those percentages to semi-mind-boggling 64.4 and 44.1, respectively. A lot of that had to do with easy buckets on the break, but a lot of it came down to a rebuilt, reliable jump shot.
When you consider that Oladipo couldn't do any of these things just three years ago, that he was a barely recruited project at DeMatha Catholic, and when you combine his work ethic, his athleticism, his versatility and his personality into the recipe, you could argue that he is on some level both the safest and the most potentially rewarding asset in the draft. I think you have to take him, positional needs be damned. As temporary fake GM of the Orlando Magic Basketballing Organization, we thank you.
3. Washington Wizards (Myron's Pick: Trey Burke)
Well, Mr. Orlando Magic GM … I can't argue with that. The thing I love about Oladipo is that his career has not been auto-tuned. He built his game from the ground up. It's pure. As you've mentioned, he was very raw when he reached Indiana's campus. But he just kept working. And last season, he put it all together in one of the most impressive seasons in 2012-13. Let's see. A guy who can probably guard three positions, hit 3s and show up on time for practice? I'll take him.
Now this next guy might not make sense for folks who are thinking about needs and draft boards and fancy suits. But as the new Washington Wizards GM, I'm going to take Trey Burke. Yes, they have John Wall. I'm not concerned.
Bob Knight tells this story about Michael Jordan. He advised some exec (presumably from Portland) to pick MJ. That exec told him that his team needed a big man. Knight's response? "Play Jordan at center." That's how I feel about Trey Burke. Here's a Columbus native who had to leave the state of Ohio because the Buckeyes didn't pursue him. He was 84th in ESPN.com's rankings of the 2011 class. Two years later, he was the Wooden Award winner.
Why take him? Just watch the replay of The Game in the Big Dance. Yes, it's just The Game now. I don't know what got into Burke in that memorable effort against Kansas, but I'm not sure any player has reversed his team's fortunes with a similar barrage in recent NCAA tournament history. He was unstoppable. He's a proven leader. Yeah, he's undersized, but so what? He averaged 18.6 PPG, 6.7 APG and 1.6 SPG against some of the nation's best players in 2012-13. He also hit more than 80 percent of his free throws and 38 percent of his 3s. Many doubt Burke's ability to make an impact at the next level. Well, he proved a few people wrong in college, too.
You can develop talent. But you have to identify leaders. And Burke is a talented leader. We're bringing him to D.C. Somebody call Obama.
4. Charlotte Bobcats (Eamonn's Pick: Otto Porter)
Whoa! Shock pick at No. 3! Talented leaders and leading talents -- forget Obama, let's get Hans Zimmer on the phone. That was downright rousing. And I love that you're hewing so closely to the guidelines of the College Basketball Production-Only Mock Draft. Strong with you, the spirit of the Seebpomd is.
In theory, you're not at all wrong about Burke. The physical stuff (height, relative lack of athleticism, etc.) is scary for GMs, because it's the one thing they can't talk themselves into thinking their development staff can change. Burke does everything else well -- shoots, handles, guards, facilitates, finishes. Is "poor man's Kyrie Irving" a totally absurd comparison? Was Chris Paul off the athletic charts when he entered the league?
Anyway, theory is not reality, unfortunately, and there's less than zero chance of Burke becoming a Wizard, not with Wall and Brad Beal on the come-up. By all indications, Washington is locked in on Otto Porter, and from a strictly collegiate perspective, I think that's a fantastic pick. Porter's upside may not be as high, but his baseline is just as safe as Oladipo's, if not safer. He's got great size, he's built well, he moves well, he shoots well (42.2 percent from 3 last year; this meme that Porter can't shoot is kind of silly), he handles well, he passes well, and he sees the court very well. (Check out his performances against Syracuse this spring. You'll see.) And those people looking for his one elite skill? Defense, y'all. He was born to guard small forwards in the league.
These are all things the Wizards could use, both to shore up their defense and make the offense go; Porter won't need plays called for him to stay engaged. If he were to somehow fall to the Bobcats, I can't imagine why they'd take him (Michael Kidd-Gilchrist says hello). But whoever lands Porter is going to get a very solid rotation 3 at the absolute barest of minimums. He's going to be a good pro for a while, I think.
5. Phoenix Suns (Myron's Pick: Ben McLemore)
You're right about Porter. He was born to play small forward at the next level. He has the tools to help a team now. The bottom line is that the NBA title will be controlled by LeBron James & Co. for a long time. Few squads have a player who has the rare combination of size and skills to match up with James (slow down, folks … I'm not saying he's the LeBron Neutralizer or anything). That's why Porter's stock is so high. He's the big, versatile, athletic small forward that NBA execs crave now.
Some folks will focus on his 5-for-17 performance in the stunning loss to Florida Gulf Coast in the NCAA tournament. I choose to focus on the guy who helped Georgetown overcome the loss of Greg Whittington (academic issues) midway through the season. I doubt Porter falls outside the top three or four slots. He's just too good to miss.
No. 5 will be an interesting pick for the Suns. I'd go with Ben McLemore, even though he has attracted his share of naysayers. Per ESPN.com's Chad Ford, McLemore's workouts were inconsistent. Sounds exactly like his first and only season of NCAA basketball. McLemore was an amazing athlete and player for Kansas in 2012-13. Too often, however, he stepped back from big moments. He wasn't always assertive when he should have been.
No one questions his gifts. But will McLemore bring his best each night in the NBA? I think he will. And I also believe that he has the highest ceiling in the draft. He averaged 15.9 PPG. He made more than 87 percent of his free throws and 42 percent of his 3-pointers, too. McLemore might be the best player in the field in terms of raw ability. He's somewhat risky considering last season's hot and cold efforts. He's worth it, though. The 6-5 wing could evolve over time, too. He might struggle with his motor in the league. That's really the only concern about him. His abilities are undeniable. I think McLemore would be a great pick at No. 5.
6. New Orleans Pelicans (Eamonn's Pick: C.J. McCollum
I like that pick. If you're taking McLemore at No. 1 overall, you're probably really nervous. If you're taking him at No. 5? In this draft? That's kind of a no-brainer, odds-wise.
Things start to get pretty weird in this draft pretty quickly. I don't know what the Hornets have planned as a franchise, but in terms of the players we like the most, I really like C.J. McCollum. Good size, combo guard skills with plenty of scoring, deeply under-the-radar so us college guys can enjoy being in-the-know. He's got all the tools. Plus, I don't know how sold I am on Anthony Bennett. In fact I'm pretty sure I'm not sold. Where do you stand there?
7. Sacramento Kings (Myron's Pick: Michael Carter-Williams
Well, I think Anthony Bennett is an athletic freak. I'm just not sure if there's a lot more than that within his game. Yet. That's why I can't take him here. (Great pick with McCollum. He should thank Steph Curry. That's who NBA execs want him to be.)
I think Carter-Williams is a good pickup at No. 7. He's still raw. And the turnovers are an issue (3.4 per game in 2012-13). But he's young, big, athletic, quick and agile. In a draft that seems to lack a future superstar, I think you take the kid who has as much upside as anyone on the board. That's the last time I'll use the word "upside."
8. Detroit Pistons (Eamonn's Pick: Anthony Bennett)
Two picks later, here I am taking Bennett. Why the sudden reversal? Because you took one of the few players in the draft that I'd be genuinely excited about taking (along with Oladipo, McCollum and Porter). For a guy with so much size, Carter-Williams is a legitimate point guard. He's a real-deal passer, not just some dude who is tall and can dribble pretty well. Crucial difference.
Anyway, I'll go with Bennett here. Just too much talent to pass up. I think he might take a year or two to figure out exactly what he is in the league -- whether he's going to work primarily out of the post or whether he's a huge small forward working from the wing inward -- but the fact that he appears to have the ability to do both is what's especially impressive, and makes him so worth taking. And for the Pistons, if he slipped this far? Putting him in alongside Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe? Yes please.
9. Minnesota Timberwolves (Myron's Pick: Alex Len)
You know what? That's why I used the word "yet" with Bennett. It's not as though anyone can say "that's a horrible pick" when you're talking about a kid who will probably play Colossus in the next "X-Men" movie. He has range and he has so much potential. And that Detroit lineup you just threw out there? I'm scared of it. I mean, seriously scared. That's not fair.
I guess it's fitting that I pick for the Timberwolves. There's a lot of buzz about Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, but there's no way the franchise could pass on a kid who could be the No. 1 pick. The T-Wolves need a lot of things. Some more size inside is on that list as they sort out the future of Nikola Pekovic.
Len is a 7-1 project who had some highlights with Maryland last season, but he also had his share of lows, too. But he's 7-1. And the T-Wolves love European players. European anything, really. They would snatch him up here. Maybe he'll be a bust. But there are a bunch of 7-footers who were "busts" but played in the NBA for many years. He'd have to be the guy, right?
10. Portland Trail Blazers (Eamonn's Pick: Cody Zeller)
I don't know what the Timberwolves are doing. Do they need a center? Does Kevin Love get veto power over every roster move, in the hopes that he'll stick around? Are the T-Wolves going to draft Trevor Mbakwe in the second round? Would that be the greatest thing ever? I have lots of questions.
Anyway, our final pick in this little exercise is last year's preseason player of the year, one Mr. Cody Zeller. I like Zeller's pro prospects in the same way I like Porter's (if to a slightly less optimistic extent): He's athletic, he runs the floor, he draws fouls, he can shoot a little bit, he's going to be able to set screens and hit 15-foot jumpers for the next 10-12 years and probably make a lot of money doing so. Is he a center in the NBA? No. Is he a franchise player? Probably not. But I do think he will be a very solid 4 who brings some unique skills to the table but does pretty much everything well.
Really, that's the theme of this draft. I think you either go all the way and take a swing and hope you find a star, or you focus on one of the handful of players who are something close to guaranteed rotation players.
And with that, our little mock draft exercise concludes. Thanks, Myron. If Mbakwe doesn't go to Minnesota, I hope your Bucks get him. (Sorry. Couldn't resist.)