With the NBA draft less than three weeks away, The Juice Online presents its first-annual mock draft. Here’s how we project the top 10:
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: F/C Nerlens Noel, Kentucky
The Cavs could certainly use some more front court depth to develop alongside young guns Tyler Zeller (taken in the 2012 draft) and Tristan Thompson (2011). Noel is the top prospect in the draft, and averaged 4.4 blocks per game in college before tearing his ACL. Reports say that Noel’s knee will not be an issue.
2. Orlando Magic: SG Ben McLemore, Kansas
Year one of the post-Dwight Howard era ended in a 20-62 season. The Magic have a talented center in Nikola Vucevic and a logjam in forwards, so they will likely draft a guard to help Arron Affalo in the backcourt. McLemore averaged 15.9 ppg, shooting 49 percent from the field and 42 percent from 3 while leading the Jayhawks to the Sweet 16.
3. Washington Wizards: SF Otto Porter, Jr., Georgetown
With Trevor Ariza coming off one of the worst years of his professional career (9.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg), the Wizards should stay local and draft the Hoyas’ Porter. While Porter is slight for an NBA forward (198 lbs), he can spread the floor, having knocked down 42 percent of his 3s in his super-sophomore season at Georgetown.
4. Charlotte Bobcats: SG Victor Oladipo, Indiana
Ben Gordon averaged just 11.2 ppg on 35 percent shooting from downtown and his contract has been an albatross for the Bobcats. Enter Oladipo, who is a lockdown perimeter defender, and can provide offense (13.6 ppg on 59 percent shooting) when needed.
5. Phoenix Suns: PF Anthony Bennett, UNLV
The Suns need help up and down their roster, and Bennett is the best player available here. Luis Scola, who finished second on the team last season at 12.8 ppg, isn’t part of Phoenix’s long term plans, and Bennett could easily find playing time early in his career.
6. New Orleans Pelicans: PG Trey Burke, Michigan
New Orleans used a lottery pick on Austin Rivers last season, and Rivers struggled mightily. He finished the season averaging 6.2 ppg and 2.1 apg. Taking Burke here would be tantamount to taking a mulligan.
7. Sacramento Kings: PG Michael Carter-Williams, Syracuse
The good news for the Kings was that they finished 10th in the NBA at 100.2 ppg. The bad news is that no one bothered to play at the other end, and they gave up 105.1 ppg, 30th in the NBA. They also didn’t share the ball, as their 20.8 assists dropped them to 25th in the league. This seemingly is a good fit for Carter-Williams, a pure point guard with a lanky 6-6 frame.
8. Detroit Pistons: SG Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA
The Pistons averaged an anemic 94.9 ppg last year, and desperately need backcourt scoring. Muhammad poured in 17.9 ppg for the Bruins, and would pair nicely with point guard Brandon Knight.
9. Minnesota Timberwolves: SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Georgia
Speaking of teams in need of scoring from their backcourt, the Timberwolves would do well to draft Caldwell-Pope. While Caldwell-Pope isn’t exactly a brand name in this year’s draft, he can shoot the rock (37 percent from downtown) and has good size (6’5″, 205 lbs).
10. Portland Trail Blazers: C Alex Len, Maryland
The Trail Blazers need size in their front court, and they don’t get much bigger than the 7-1, 225 lbs Len. He can rebound, score and defend, which Portland definitely needs alongside Meyers Leonard.