Welcome to the latest edition of The “Buzz”: Basketball Roundtable. We pose several basketball related questions to our panel of life-long NBA fans for their candid opinions. We invite anyone to participate by answering the same questions in the “Comments” section at the bottom of this article. This week our panel consists of Matt Fish (of “Fish on Sports”), Jordan Leung and Kaine Elmy.
1) The Cleveland Cavaliers and Orlando Magic are both rumored to be shopping their draft picks, first and second overall in the Draft respectively. What type of a deal do you think these teams could get for their picks that makes sense for all involved?
Matt – I don’t really know if they’d get anything that significant back, given the potential risk involved with many of the prospects in this year’s draft. Nerlens Noel, who is seen by many as a lock to drafted by the Cavs at #1, is coming off a serious ACL injury and, for much upside as he has, rumblings of an Oden-esque situation aren’t that unrealistic either. As for the Magic, it’ll either be Otto Porter or Ben McLemore, both of whom are tantalizing big men but Orlando needs an upgrade in the front court to go either their glut of wing players. If I had to choose one, I say Orlando packages the second pick and Jameer Nelson for some decent big men.
Jordan -Cavaliers should look to pick up a player who either needs a bigger role (Favors, Kanters) or is on underachieving team (Cousins, Love). Cousins would be the more intriguing prospect because his head has never been screwed on right, and he’s been playing in a terrible situation his whole career. The Cavaliers are actually able to contend if they get another solid NBA player and give another year of development, so trading the first pick would not be a terrible option. Only thing they must keep in mind is that 2014 is the year Irving’s contract expires, and also the year LeBron becomes a free agent again, so Cleveland better watch those salaries.
For the Magic, the only option would be to pick the best player available, whoever is left on board, regardless of position.
2) Will this year have more or fewer trades on draft day than normal?
Matt – This year will feature more trades than last year, especially considering the questions marks about some mid-level prospects’ potential. Don’t be surprised if Philadelphia’s pick at #11 or OKC’s at #12 are moved on draft night.
Jordan – Considering there were virtually no noteworthy trades on last draft day, we can definitely expect some more trades this year. I think a lot of teams will be pretty active to get their team in shape for the potential Chris Paul/Dwight Howard sweepstakes, so expect a couple salary dumps and trades for expiring contracts. I also would not be surprised if the Celtics end up breaking up their core, because it might finally be that time.
3) There is no consensus number 1 this year, though many like Nerlens Noel, without regard to what team is drafting, who is the best player available?
Matt – Potential-wise, it’s probably Noel, who, if healthy and able to make an impact next year, could be a smaller version of Anthony Davis down the middle. In terms of NBA readiness, keep an eye on Maryland center Alex Len. He’s athletic, defensively sound and can also hit the mid-range jumper. He could be a steal for a team slotted in the #8 to #10 range.
Jordan – The three guys who I think will rise above the rest are (in no particular order): Trey Burke, Ben McLemore, and Anthony Bennett.
Trey Burke has shown the ability to play at a big stage, reaching the championship game. He won pretty much every player of the year and led the NCAA in Win Shares, a stat that has some merit to it. He played in one of the two toughest conferences in the nation, while leading that conference in assists. Michigan led the Big Ten in 3-point attempts, and all these indicate a successful NBA point guard to me. Doubters of Burke like to cite Jameer Nelson and DJ Augustin, players of similar builds and equal college success, but there’s something about Burke that I think makes him a little better.
McLemore is highly touted as one of the better shooters and overall prospects of the draft, and would translate a lot better to the game than the other top wing prospects with his good size and athleticism. He’s reported to have a great work ethic and is highly coachable, which makes him a great prospect, definitely worth the first pick.
Anthony Bennett is one of the more intriguing prospects of this draft. Some people may be deterred by him being a relative undersized power forward, measuring out somewhere between 6’7 and 6’8, but if there’s anything that Dwyane Wade has taught, it’s that your playing size is a lot more important than your physical height. Bennett’s 7’1 wingspan effectively makes him a 6’10 power forward. The way scouts have been talking about him are very reminiscent of how people talked about Damian Lillard and Paul George – players that scouts recognized could be the best player of the draft, but were looked over by general managers who didn’t have the balls to draft them higher.
4) Where does Shabazz Muhammad Go?
Matt – This is a question stumping many GMs around the league at this very moment. At one point, his draft rankings was higher than Noel’s, but inconsistency and “attitude” questions are abound after a just-OK year at UCLA. Don’t be surprised if the Sacramento Kings, known for their unpredictable prospect pipeline, pick him up.
Jordan – Shabazz’s story is reminiscent of Harrison Barnes. Both players were highly anticipated and were considered top picks a few years leading up the draft, had their draft stock hurt by disappointing college seasons. Shabazz is still a good prospect. I don’t have a mock draft up yet, but I can honestly see him slipping to the 12th spot where the Thunder will pick him up to replace Harden. Or a team with terrible management might pick him up early. It’s one or the other.
5) Who is your sleeper pick in this draft that no one is talking about enough?
Matt – He’s projected to go in the Top 5, but Victor Oladipo might turn out to be the best player from this draft in a few years. He can shoot, he can run the floor and he can also morph into a lockdown defender. Phoenix might be able to scoop him up at #5 and, paired with Goran Dragic, that might be something to see.
Jordan – Gorgui Dieng. Although he is not going to be anything too special in the NBA, I don’t see how he isn’t going to stick around in this league for a while. A big man with good size and strength, shot blocking, and rebounding instincts? Sounds like a highly coveted backup big man/possible starter to me.
Thanks for reading. Don’t forget to follow the panel on Twitter – @giordun @aFishCalledMatt @KaineElmy. While you’re at it, give the site a follow too –@lastwordonsport.
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