Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, and LeBron James, it's time to start getting serious about the draft. For a more cursory look at this year's lottery, check out Version Alpha here.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers (from LA Clippers)-Kyrie Irving, PG, Duke
Despite my concerns regarding how important All-Star-level point guard play is to winning a championship, Irving is still easily the pick for the Cavs. The disparities between his NBA comps are pretty jarring (Draft Express has his ceiling at Deron Williams and his worst case at "Rich Man's Eric Maynor," while NBADraft.net compares him to Chris Paul...or Mike Conley), but I suppose that's to be expected when a guy only plays 11 games in college.
Alpha pick: Irving
2. Minnesota Timberwolves-Enes Kanter, C, Kentucy
The consensus says that this pick should be Derrick Williams, but David Kahn's philosophy on team-building is far from conventional. The T-Wolves are reportedly trying to peddle this pick for a veteran, but if they keep it, it wouldn't surprise me to see Kanter go here. Despite the fact that the positional logjam the drafting of Williams would create up front is of little concern to Kahn, his infatuation with Darko leads me to believe that he is most likely equally fascinated with Kanter, a mysterious highly-skilled big man from across the sea.
Alpha pick: Williams
3. Utah Jazz (from New Jersey)-Brandon Knight, PG, Kentucky
While Williams would be very tempting for the Jazz, they already have a youthful logjam at their 4 spot (Derrick Favors, Paul Millsap), and they are apparently zoned in on Knight.
Alpha pick: Knight
4. Cleveland Cavaliers-Derrick Williams, F, Arizona
This is of course a dream scenario for a Cavs fan such as myself, but if Cleveland could somehow finagle Williams and Irving, the loss of LeBron might be mitigated just a tiny bit. Williams will probably eventually end up at the 4, but, considering JJ Hickson and Antawn Jamison are two of the Cavs' best players, and that Christian Eyenga and Alonzo Gee were getting the bulk of the minutes at the 3 last season, Byron Scott would probably try Williams out at as a wing for at least his rookie season. And if Williams does end up as a tweener power forward, at least he'll have one of the best tweeners of the past 10 years in Jamison to mentor him (offensively, at least; Williams should probably just go ahead and ignore any of 'Tawn's defensive tips).
Alpha pick: Kanter
5. Toronto Raptors-Jan Vesely, PF, Czech Republic
As mentioned in Version Alpha, Vesely could give the Raptors a Tri-Tower of Andrea Bargniani, Ed Davis, and himself, with Bargniani and Vesely able to step out to three-point range, Vesely and Davis able to bang inside and clean up garbage, and Vesely able to finish athletically at the rim and disrupt shots on defense. With Amir Johnson and James Johnson providing depth, Toronto would suddenly have one of the longest front courts in the league. Of course, if Brandon Knight should fall this far, the Raps wouldn't have a single hesitation about snatching him up.
Alpha pick: Vesely
6. Washington Wizards-Chris Singleton, SF, Florida State
Singleton is probably the best defender in the draft, which is something desperately lacking for the current (or even past) Wizards roster. While Singleton lacks polish in his offensive game, Jordan Crawford and Nick Young (if he returns, restricted FA) are more than willing to take the rookie's share of shots, while John Wall should be able to exploit Singleton's athleticism and ability to finish in transition in the open court.
Alpha pick: Kawhi Leonard
7. Sacramento Kings-Kemba Walker, PG, UConn
Tyreke Evans isn't a point guard, but I'm not so sure Kemba Walker is, either. Still, it can't hurt to introduce a high-character, leader-type like Walker into a locker room bubbling with the dark personalities of Evans and DeMarcus Cousins.
Alpha pick: Walker
8. Detroit Pistons-Tristan Thomas, PF, Texas
Thomas is a high-motor guy who crashes the offensive boards with aplomb and can block shots. Considering that Greg Monroe is better suited for the high post and averaged less than a block per game last season, Thomas seems like a fitting complement to last season's #1 pick.
Alpha pick: Jordan Hamilton (to Cleveland)
9. Charlotte Bobcats-Jonas Valanciunas, C, Lithuania
In Version Alpha, I made a snarky remark regarding the fact that Valanciunas may be stuck overseas for a few years would be a big financial motivator for why the Bobcats would take him, and I still stand by that assertion. As I researched Valanciunas more, however, and considered the fact that Kwame Brown was Charlotte's starting center last season, I quickly realized that Valanciunas makes basketball-sense for MJ's team, as well.
Alpha pick: Valanciunas
10. Milwaukee Bucks-Kawhi Leonard, SF, San Diego State
Milwaukee is one of the team's I had the hardest time making a selection for. Ultimately, it came down to who I thought would fit in with Scott Skiles best (although if the Bucks have another year like last season I don't know how much longer a player will need to worry about what Skiles wants), and a defensive-minded wing who gives max effort on every play seemed to be a nice fit. Also, Draft Express and NBADraft.net both list Milwaukee free agent Luc Richard Mbah a Moute as a comp for Leonard, so if the former should happen to depart, his replacement will already be in tow.
Alpha pick: Bismack Biyombo
11. Golden State Warriors-Bismack Biyombo, PF, Spain
If new coach Mark Jackson has any input in the Warriors' draft plans, he'll probably insist they interview players' mothers to see if any of them have ever been told "there goes that man" about their sons, and then check to see if the player's hands are down and, thus, man down. Not being privy to such knowledge regarding Jackson's involvement, however, I am just going to have to assume that the Warriors will take a gamble here on Biyombo, a pogo stick out of the Congo who blocked (nearly) every shot thrown up at this past April's Nike Hoops Summit. If Bismack can provide even a modicum of protection at the rim, the Warriors defense should be much improved over the swinging gate it's been the past, well, forever.
Alpha pick: Tristan Thomas
12. Utah Jazz-Alec Burks, SG, Colorado
Sentimentality (or perhaps cynicism, if you believe the motives derive from marketing and not hometown affection and/or basketball/Mormon purity) would have the Jazz pick The Jimmer here, but reality says that Raja Bell started 63 games at SG for the Jazz last year, and that simply will not abide. Burks provides a big (6-6), athletic 2 to team with Utah's new big, athletic point guard. Let's just hope Burks turns out better than Kirk Snyder did.
Alpha pick: The Jimmer
13. Phoenix Suns-Marcus Morris, PF, Kansas
Morris better start working on his corner threes, because there is little doubt in my mind he'll be spotted up there all day like my buddy Chad waiting for Steve Nash to find him.
Alpha pick: Marcus Morris
14. Houston Rockets-Donatus Motiejunas, C, Lithuania
This prediction is probably a whiff on my part, since I don't think Daryl Morey has ever taken a Euro, and Motiejunas just had a terrible workout Sunday (check out this vid to see one of the worst shooting displays you'll ever see). Still, the Rockets are going to need a center after the likely free agent departures of Yao Ming and Chuck Hayes, and Moteijunas does possess a rare skill-set for a seven-footer. While it seems very likely that Motiejunas will end up the next Nikoloz Tskitishvili, in such a weak draft, the Rockets might as well take the chance he ends up the next Dirk.
Alpha pick: Kenneth Faried
15. Indiana Pacers-Jimmer Fredette, PG, BYU
As long as Larry Bird is in the Pacers front office, Indiana will select a high-profile white player. That's the Pacers Promise.
16. Philadelphia 76ers-Jordan Hamilton, SF, Texas
With the Sixers reportedly shopping Andre Iguodala hard (yet again), Philly will need another player on the wing, preferably one who can consistently hit an outside shot. Hamilton is a streak shooter with way-out-there range who's gunner mentality will provide a different dynamic than the slashing, athletic do-everything wings currently residing in Doug Collins's rotation.
17. New York Knicks-Nikola Mirotic, SF, Spain
A 6-10 wing with range and the ability to put it on the floor and distribute, what would be Donnie Walsh's last pick for the Knicks strongly mirrors his first, Danillo Gallinari. Contract issues may keep Mirotic overseas for a few more seasons, or else his unique skill-set/size combination may have had him going in the top 5.
18. Washington Wizards (from Atlanta)-Klay Thompson, SG, Washington State
With Nick Young possibly departing as a free agent (or being let go as a free agent, depending on how much the Wiz like Young's gunning ways), John Wall will need a new backcourt-mate, and the 6-7 Thompson would provide a very different look from Young (or Jordan Crawford, who could also step into Young's starting role). Like Young, Thompson has tremendous range, but Thompson can also handle the ball well and is a terrific passer. Thompson would make the Washington guard rotation more flexible, allowing Wall to sit while Thompson runs the point.
19. Charlotte Bobcats (from New Orleans via Portland)-Markieff Morris, PF, Kansas
Markieff is more of a banger than his brother, but don't get him confused with Michael Ruffin. The "other" Morris can score, just not quite as well as his brother. In fact, I bet Markieff would be more highly regarded as a prospect if Marcus wasn't his twin.
20. Minnesota Timberwolves (from Memphis via Utah)-Tobias Harris, F, Tennessee
After passing on Derrick Williams at #2, the T-Wolves get the lesser version of him in Harris. Harris is more of an all-around player than Williams--especially when it comes to handling the ball--but lacks Williams's athleticism and explosive potential (by which I mean Williams's potential to explode for a monster game, not his potential to blow up career-wise).
21. Portland Trailblazers-Kenneth Faried, PF, Morehead State
Faried is a different type of player than the kind that usually litters the Blazers' roster, but a front court of Marcus Camby, Gerald Wallace, and Faried should snag every shot that doesn't drop through the bottom of the net. I personally love Faried and hope the Cavs can figure out a way to get him to Cleveland.
22. Denver Nuggets-JuJuan Johnson, PF, Purdue
Johnson is more athlete and length at this point right now, best at blocking shots and running the floor, which should fit right in with the post-Melo Nuggets.
23. Houston Rockets (from Orlando via Phoenix)-Reggie Jackson, PG, Boston College
Although Kyle Lowry emerged as a viable NBA point guard last season (after the Rockets matched the offer sheet Lowry signed with the Cavs), Jackson is a value pick who should be able to parlay his tremendous athleticism and size into a career as a dynamo third guard. If he can develop his jumper, he may even become a 6-4 version of J.J. Barea, which is a pretty scary thought.
24. Oklahoma City Thunder-Jeremy Tyler, PF/C, International
Tyler joins Cole Aldrich and former Buckeye Byron Mullens as the next product of the Thunder's annual search for an offensive center. Mullens is a bust, and Aldrich (18 games played this past season, none in the playoffs) appears headed that way. Tyler was a highly-regarded recruit coming out of high school who played overseas in lieu of college due to apparent character issues. At #24, in a weak draft, and with a rotation with no room for a low-end rookie anyway, OKC can afford to take a flyer on the talented but troubled Tyler.
25. Boston Celtics-Marshon Brooks, SG, Providence
Brooks can provide the perimeter bench scoring from the wing that the Celtics were sorely missing last season. At 6-5, Brooks also has the size to potentially team with the diminutive Rajon Rondo in a future, post-Ray Allen backcourt.
26. Dallas Mavericks-Nikola Vucevic, C, USC
A seven-footer with 3-point range, Vucevic has the potential to be the next Mehmet Okur and would provide a different look from Tyson Chandler off of Rick Carlisle's bench.
27. New Jersey Nets (from LA Lakers)-Josh Selby, PG, Kansas
Selby has lottery potential but showed very little of it during his freshman season at Kansas. The Nets of course already have Deron Williams at the point, but perhaps a season working behind one of the top 3 PGs in the league will help Selby see the light and reach his potential, which would be nice insurance for the possible departure of Williams.
28. Chicago Bulls (from Miami via Toronto)-Nolan Smith, G, Duke
The Bulls need a backup PG (C.J. Watson is not the answer), and Smith showed the ability to run the point when Kyrie Irving went down. Smith also fits the Bulls trend of drafting guys out of winning college programs (dating back to 2002: Jay Williams, Duke; Kirk Hinrich, Kansas; Ben Gordon, UConn; Tyrus Thomas, LSU [the year they went to the Final Four]; Joakim Noah, Florida; Derrick Rose, Memphis).
29. San Antonio Spurs-Tyler Honeycutt, SF, UCLA
Honeycutt fits exactly what the Spurs look for in their wings: lockdown defensive capabilities paired with the ability to hit an open 3. Honeycutt can do more on offense than just stand in the corner, but in the Spurs' system, he won't have to.
30. Chicago Bulls-Davis Bertans, SF, Latvia
Bertans can hit shots from across the street from the gym, with a quick release, which is exactly what the Bulls were lacking this past season. If he can hold his own defensively, Bertans could find his way into Tom Thibodeau's rotation this season.