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2015 Mock Draft 1.0

March Madness is upon us and that means we’ll be witnessing a lot of potential NBA players give it their all for a chance to make it to the Final Four. Here’s my early take on what the first round of the draft may look like come June, and some of the players we’ll be watching for the next three weeks.

I’ll hopefully be updating these every few weeks leading up to the draft. Feel free to ask me any draft questions, or just tell me how wrong I am on Twitter @jeff_berest

*Draft order is based on standings as of 3/17/15

**Players cannot declare for draft yet; selections based on who I believe will come out this year.

***Opinions on players are of my own, and based on what I’ve observed thus far.

  1. New York Knicks/Karl-Anthony Towns/C/Kentucky

Superstar potential on both sides of the ball. Can be an elite shot blocker, and his ability to extend the floor with his outside shot and a dominant post game is too much to pass on at #1.

  1. Minnesota Timberwolves/Jahlil Okafor/C/Duke

Polished low post game, can almost score at will and already has an NBA body. Defensive presence and free throw shooting is a concern though.

  1. Philadelphia 76ers/Emmanuel Mudiay/PG/Congo

Outstanding ball handler, tremendous size for position, incredible athleticism and dynamic speed, superstar potential. If he had a good jump shot, he’d be in contention for #1 pick.

  1. Los Angeles Lakers/D’Angelo Russell/PG/Ohio State

Smooth offensive game, lights out shooter, incredible court vision and ball handling for a combo guard. Has the looks of James Harden-“lite”. Never seems to get rattled and likes taking big shots.

  1. Orlando Magic/Stanley Johnson/SF/Arizona

Defensively talented, can lock down other team’s best player. Can get to the rim, but lacks a true shooting stroke. Has great size for an NBA forward, doesn’t play outside of his ability.

  1. Sacramento Kings/Willie Cauley-Stein/C/Kentucky

Elite rim protector and rebounder, can change game defensively. Below par offensive game, but has a decent enough touch around the rim, great hands for a big man and can run the floor.

  1. Detroit Pistons/Justice Winslow/SF/Duke

Bouncy wing player with elite athleticism, still growing as an offensive player and is inconsistent. Improving jump shot and can finish at the rim. Above average defender as well, tremendous upside potential as an NBA swingman.

  1. Denver Nuggets/Kristaps Porzingis/PF/Latvia

One of the great unknowns in this year’s class. Elite size for a PF, still proving he can shoot outside with consistency. Explosive at the rim, long arms are a defensive asset, great athleticism despite being 7’1″. Very thin frame, needs to bulk and maintain an NBA body.

  1. Atlanta Hawks (via BKN)/Mario Hezonja/SG/Croatia

Tremendous size for a shooting guard, natural scorer. Has ability to spot up for three or take it to the basket. Also has great court vision and is a willing passer. Has a reputation for being immature.

  1. Charlotte Hornets/Kelly Oubre/SF/Kansas

Long rangy wing, has size to play forward in NBA. Can be a great shooter at times. Very inconsistent at college level, game goes in and out. Has shown potential to be a defensive talent, always seems to rack up steals due to long reach.

  1. Indiana Pacers/Kevon Looney/PF/UCLA

Gifted big man who can be a tough matchup because of his tweener position. Willing and aggressive rebounder, has ability to stretch the floor with his jump shot also gets to the free throw line. Has some ball handling skills despite size. Still a raw talent, isn’t quick enough to stay with 3’s, not big enough to guard 4’s.

  1. Utah Jazz/Devin Booker/SG/Kentucky

Very gifted shooter and can score in bunches, also good size for a two guard. Defensive skills on the next level are a question mark, but does show good court vision and handles for a non-point guard.

  1. Phoenix Suns/Bobby Portis/PF/Arkansas

Big man with a great face-up game and can hit the mid-range jumper. He is also very active on the defensive end of the court, and is a solid rebounder. Very fundamentally sound, but won’t wow you with skill or athleticism.

  1. Houston Rockets (via NO)/Jerian Grant/PG/Notre Dame

Excellent size for a point guard, can get to the rim and capitalize on free throws. Also a very good shooter, has a bit of a clutch gene. Length is an asset on defense, gets in passing lanes. Brother of current 76ers’ forward Jerami Grant; father and uncle also played in NBA (Harvey & Horace Grant).

  1. Philadelphia 76ers (via MIA)/Myles Turner/C/Texas

Enormous frame and length, terrific shot blocker. Also a gifted shooter and can extend out to three point line, great pick-n-roll game. Awkward moving at times, and is very slow on the break. Footwork needs help underneath the basket. Needs to bulk up frame, but star potential is there.

  1. Boston Celtics/Trey Lyles/PF/Kentucky

Talented big man with good footwork and can hit the mid-range jumper. Also a good rebounder and smart player. Willing passer that finds open shooters.

  1. Milwaukee Bucks/Frank Kaminsky/C/Wisconsin

Great all-around offensive player, solid on the post and has range out to three point line. Can be an effective stretch four in NBA; not sure if he has toughness and rebounding ability to play center.

  1. Oklahoma City Thunder/Justin Anderson/SG/Virginia

Good shooter and can lock down opposing wing players, also has good size. Won’t wow you with athleticism but is a fundamentally sound player.

  1. Washington Wizards/Montrezl Harrell/PF/Louisville

Doesn’t have a fluid offensive game yet, still developing post moves. Lack of skill is made up for by his athleticism and being a willing and effective rebounder. Explosive player who can run the floor and provides a ton of energy.

  1. Chicago Bulls/Kris Dunn/PG/Providence

Good size for a point guard, incredible athleticism. His quick first step allows him to easily get to the rim. Has history of injuries and is sometimes prone to excessive turnovers.

  1. Toronto Raptors/Christian Wood/PF/UNLV

Great size and athleticism, terrific rebounder and shot blocker. Extremely raw talent and still developing an offensive game. Upside is there.

  1. Cleveland Cavaliers/Sam Dekker/SF/Wisconsin

Good shooter and willing rebounder, has a tremendous basketball IQ. Can spot up or take it to the rack, also doesn’t turn the ball over. Won’t blow you away with athletic prowess, but has great size.

  1. Boston Celtics (via LAC)/Caris LeVert/SG/Michigan

Great length and size for the two guard spot. Outstanding shooter, can fill it up from deep. Still very lean and needs to add some weight. Has tools to be good defender, but it remains to be seen.

  1. San Antonio Spurs/Delon Wright/PG/Utah

Combo guard. Good shooting stroke and can also get to the rack. Has great size for a point guard, but isn’t an elite defender. Average athleticism, but is a smart player. Brother of Portland Trail Blazer Dorell Wright.

  1. Dallas Mavericks/Tyus Jones/PG/Duke

Smart point guard with very high basketball IQ. Can play distributor as well as scorer. Doesn’t have great size, and has shown he isn’t afraid of spotlight. May not have elite upside, but is a solid and reliable guard. Has trouble contending against bigger point guards.

  1. Los Angeles Lakers (via HOU)/Rondae Hollis-Jefferson/SF/Arizona

Very talented athlete and is a lockdown defender on college level. Not the greatest shooter, but his offensive game is still developing. Can get to rim and is a decent passer. Will probably be more of an asset on defense and won’t be relied on as a top three or four scoring option at next level.

  1. Portland Trail Blazers/Jakob Poetl/C/Utah

European transplant; good rebounder and rim protector. Not going to give you much on offense yet, but can defend the five. Still a raw talent, and needs to acquire a low post game.

  1. Memphis Grizzlies/R.J. Hunter/SG/Georgia State

Gifted scorer and elite shooter. Still has a very lean frame, and it’s still unknown whether he can play against better competition. Isn’t a great athlete either, defense is suspect.

  1. Brooklyn Nets (via Atlanta Hawks)/Cliff Alexander/PF/Kansas

Great rebounder, already has NBA body and is very strong. Won’t really score for you outside the paint, and doesn’t have a lot of post moves. Relies too much on physicality to beat you, which might not translate to NBA. Still has a lot of upside if he is able to score from 15 to 18 feet out.

  1. Golden State Warriors/Dakari Johnson/C/Kentucky

NBA body, has elite size and is solid defender and decent rim protector. Will be able to rebound effectively at NBA level. Won’t carry you on the offensive side of the ball, but has a surprisingly good touch around the rim.

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Salty Mock Draft 3.0

Todd Saltzberg & Jake Weiner
stern

Here is the Salty Mock Draft 3.0. It has a lot of changes and  it may be the last time you hear from me, Salty, until the 2014 draft or when the guys at DRaT want to have a college basketball feature because nobody knows college basketball quite like me. Also, if you like this stuff, go watch Bill Simmons and Jalen Rose “Job Interview” videos with some of these prospects. They’re great, and can tell you a lot about a player. The draft is Thursday!

1. Cleveland Cavaliers- Nerlens Noel (C-Kentucky)- As draft day approaches, rumors are swirling that Cleveland might not take Noel here. Regardless, nothing sounds very concrete, and Alex Len would seem to be a much bigger risk for a GM to take given the general consensus. We still expect Nerlens Noel to go first overall, although a small possibility remains that Cleveland chooses Victor Oladipo or Len.

2. Orlando Magic- Victor Oladipo (SG/SF-Indiana)- Oladipo is the least likely bust in this draft. Worst case scenario, he is a defensive stopper like Tony Allen; best case scenario he is an Andre Iguodala or Luol Deng type player. If you watch his  “job interview” video, he has a good head on his shoulders and is very humble. Oladipo gave all the right answers along with always wanting to improve his game. If any major trades happen, expect Oladipo to have been a big factor. Many teams are enamored with him and a secret GM poll had him as the #1 overall player available.

Victor Oladipo's stock is skyrocketing.
Victor Oladipo’s stock is skyrocketing.

3. Washington Wizards- Otto Porter(SF-Georgetown)- We haven’t heard much about Otto leading up to the draft, but the Wizards looked like a playoff team the second half of last year and are thus looking for someone who can contribute immediately. Porter is a big small forward who can spread the court as well as get to the rim. He can score in transition and plays tough defense. Overall, Porter is someone who is solid at everything but not great at one certain thing. While I don’t think he will ultimately be the best player in the draft class, he could win Rookie of the Year due to the immediate impact he will make.

4. Charlotte Bobcats- Anthony Bennett (PF-UNLV)- I see Bennett as the best player in this draft (and Bicky thinks I’m crazy for that), but I don’t think he will win Rookie of the Year because I don’t believe he can make the impact that Porter will given the difference in talent around them. Bennett is a power forward who can bang down low and also shoot. The Bobcats need pretty much everything, but this is a good start.

5. Phoenix Suns- CJ McCollum (PG/SG-Lehigh)- McCollum’s stock has been rising while Ben Mclemore’s stock, who I had here in the past two mock drafts, has been falling rapidly. McCollum had an injured ankle and came from a small school, so going into workouts, teams had many questions. He has proved his doubters wrong, and wants to keep proving them wrong. In his “job interview”, he compared himself to two small school players who had to prove themselves: Stephen Curry and Damian Lillard. With McCollum’s ability to score and pass, the three of them can prove the small school doubters wrong, and show late bloomers who might have not played the best competition in college can play with the big boys in the NBA.

6. New Orleans Pelicans- Alex Len (C-Maryland)- While people are talking about Noel’s torn ACL, people seem to forget Len’s stress fracture in his ankle. In his interview with Simmons and Rose, he said he played with it at Maryland after they said it was only an ankle sprain. That may have damaged the ankle. As I said before,  any injury that has to do with the leg of a big man can be tricky. Len, a competitor, will want to play. He may play sooner than he should, and we can ask Greg Oden how that turned out for him. Len could be great, but he has to be careful with how he rehabs.

7. Sacramento Kings- Michael Carter-Williams (PG-Syracuse)- The Kings could go big man here too, after DeMarcus Cousins said he wants to be traded if he doesn’t get a max deal (which he doesn’t deserve). We will see what happens. Carter-Williams has been a fast riser through his interviews and workouts. From what I’ve heard, he has an improved jump shot, which needed a lot of working on. If he can mantain a solid jump shot, along with his great passing ability and defense, he will be another great point guard in a league full of them. They could go Trey Burke here, but I think MCW’s a better fit.

8. Detroit Pistons- Ben McLemore (SG-Kansas)- I like to live tweet the NBA Draft, so follow me at @salty23 during the draft. Going back in my archive to the day of the 2011 draft, I tweeted this: “the best player in draft hasnt been taken #brandonknight”. While he hasn’t proven he is the best player in the draft, I still believe that was a great pick and he will make the third year jump a lot of players do. If McLemore slips to them, they may have struck gold for the fourth year in a row, or at the very least 3 out of 4 years, because I understand there are disagreements about Knight. With Joe Dumars playing for the bad boy Pistons, he understands you have to take chances to win. He has with the picks he’s made, and if McLemore drops this far, it will be a steal. In his interview with Simmons and Rose, he compared himself to Hall of Famer great three point shooter, Ray Allen. It shows his confidence. His game in college and workouts may have showed lack of confidence, but if he gains the killer instinct, this will be the steal of the draft.

Could McLemore be the steal of the draft?
Could McLemore be the steal of the draft?

9. Minnesota Timberwolves- Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (SG-Georgia)- Caldwell-Pope is a sharp shooter who will work will in Minnesota’s system. Minnesota seems to really like hin, from his workouts with them, and have their sights set on him if they don’t trade up for Oladipo.  He is another fast riser, as he has risen in each of the Salty Mock Drafts.

10. Portland Trail Blazers- Trey Burke (PG-Michigan)- While they have Damian Lillard, he’s more of a combo guard than a true point guard. Burke is a true point guard the Blazers can use.  Burke always plays with a chip on his shoulder as you can tell with his interview with Simmons and Rose. He is always too small, or isn’t the best, as he wasn’t the best player on his high school team, which Jared Sullinger was. He didn’t get an offer from his hometown team, Ohio State University, which fueled his fire as he beat them at Michigan. This would be a fantastic pick and a good fit.

11. Philadelphia 76ers- Cody Zeller (C-Indiana)- Because I went to college with my brother, he taught me a lot about what to do and not do as a freshman. Zeller is lucky to have two NBA brothers. I think he will be the most successful Zeller, given he is the most talented and will know what to do in the NBA both socially and mentally.

12. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Toronto)- Steven Adams (C-Pittsburgh)- Oklahoma City got this pick through the infamous James Harden trade. The Thunder have the luxury of waiting for a player to develop, and Adams is very raw since he just came from New Zealand before the season. The tremendous amount of potential he has could make him a perfect fit, especially if they amnesty Kendrick Perkins in the future. This is the definition of “high-risk, high-reward”. If it works out, the Thunder will be more dangerous than people thought they would be.

13. Dallas Mavericks- Lucas Noguiera (C-France)- As noted before, the Mavs want to trade this pick so they have cap space to sign CP3 and Dwight. If they don’t, it is suspected they will draft a player they can leave in Europe for a couple seasons. Noguiera is a big athletic center with a lot of potential. He is also a fast riser, as he wasn’t in the previous Salty Mock Drafts. If the Mavs keep this pick, he won’t be on the salary cap and can improve in France, so he comes to the United States as a force.

14. Utah Jazz- Shane Larkin (PG-Miami)-  Larkin makes up for his lack of size with quickness and the ability to find the open man. He’s a tough point guard that will not back down from opposing teams and players. Larkin could be a solid fixture for the forseeable future in Utah.

15. Milwaukee Bucks- Dennis Schroeder (PG-Germany)- The Bucks can go many ways here, as Shabazz Muhammad is slipping, but even though they made the playoffs, it looks like they are going to be rebuilding majorly. The key to winning in the NBA is having a solid point guard, unless you’re Miami and have the best player in the NBA. With Schroeder, you have a guy you can stash overseas and  develop there until they feel comfortable with what they have. If he comes, they have the point guard of the future who will be with them through their rebuilding process.

16. Boston Celtics- Shabazz Muhammad (SG-UCLA)- I don’t think even the Celtics and Danny Ainge know who their coach or roster will be come draft night. Given their current roster, Shabazz is a great value pick for a rebuilding team. If this is where Shabazz goes, it is a great fit, and will be one of the most perfect spots for him. Boston will get another lottery type player out of the lottery because he didn’t play up to his potential in college, like Jared Sullinger last year.

Shabazz could drop far on Thursday.
Shabazz could drop far on Thursday.

17. Atlanta Hawks- Jammal Franklin (SG-SD State)- Without Joe Johnson’s Contract, the Hawks have been looking for a player who can supply them instant offense and shoot. Franklin is that guy. He is quick, shoots well and draws contact. He could be a great role player alongside anyone for the Hawks. If they can sign a big time free agent, Franklin might make an immediate impact off the bench.

18. Atlanta Hawks (via Houston)- Sergey Karasev (SF-Russia)- The second of two straight picks, Karasev has been compared to Toni Kukoc, and as we Bulls fans know, who doesn’t need a Kukoc? The Hawks already have a solid core, and could add on to it another player who can come off the bench and score.

19. Cleveland Cavaliers (via the Los Angeles Lakers)- Giannis Adetokoubo (SF-Greece)- This pick will work for the Cavs, because he is very raw and will probably stay in Greece for a couple years. With the small forward spot open, it can be a very enticing place for LeBron James if he decides to come back to Cleveland. However, this way Cleveland is still covered for the future if LeBron (most likely) decides to stay in Miami.

20. Chicago Bulls- Mason Plumlee (C-Duke)- With Derrick Rose returning, Chicago’s biggest issue to be addressed in the draft is the lack of backup bigs past Taj Gibson. Plumlee is a winner and that is what the Bulls look for in their draft picks. He will fit very well in the system, giving Noah rest he needs without hurting the team like Nazr Mohammed. As the second big off the bench, he can make an immediate impact for the Bulls.

21. Utah Jazz- Kelly Olynyk (C-Gonzaga)- The big lengthy Canadian hasn’t impressed very well in workouts. To succeed in the NBA, he will need to gain muscle. He is a player who was smart to come out, because his stock wouldn’t be higher later. He will be an energy player off the bench in the NBA who can body up and get some boards. However, until he gains muscle, he will be beaten up by the likes of Dwight Howard and Roy Hibbert.

22. Brooklyn Nets- Tony Mitchell (SF/PF-North Texas)- Mitchell is a very interesting case. He has always had potential and if he came out after his freshman year he could have been a lottery pick. He had a sophomore slump, but declared for the draft anyway. He is a tough player on offense and defense. For a team like the Nets who can take a risk, this could be a great pick and put them closer to the list of contenders for the Larry O’Brien trophy.

23. Indiana Pacers- Rudy Gobert (PF/C)- If Rudy comes straight to the US, he can spell David West and Roy Hibbert and give the Pacers some solid backup minutes. He has a very solid defensive game, but his offense needs a lot of work. Learning from Hibbert, who came into the league as a major project, and West could be very beneficial and turn Rudy into a great player.

24. New York Knicks- Gorgui Dieng (PF/C-Louisville)- Other than Tyson Chandler, the Knicks don’t have many players who play elite defense. Adding Dieng to the team will make them better defensively and they can pair him up with Chandler. Dieng can make an instant impact with the Knicks, who struggled to protect the rim without Chandler.

25. Los Angeles Clippers- Tim Hardaway Jr (SG/SF-Michigan)- If the Clippers keep this pick, it would be hard to see them pass on Hardaway Jr. He is a sharp shooter who will see a lot of open looks as he did with Michigan. Also, as he will most likely come off the bench, this will add to one of the deepest teams in the NBA, and will be an instant impact. With new coach Doc Rivers and this pick, the Clippers are going to be a force to reckon with in the Western Conference next season.

26. Minnesota Timberwolves (via Memphis Grizzlies)- Jeff Withey (C-Kansas)- Assuming Minnesota is able to resign Nikola Pekovic, Withey would make a great backup. Withey plays great D and is an elite shot blocker. He could be an ideal fit next to the offensive minded Kevin Love.

27. Denver Nuggets- Allen Crabbe (SG-Cal)- Crabbe can shoot lights out. As a bench player for a team starved for shooting like the Nuggets, he can make an immediate impact. With athletes and players that demand a defense’s attention, Crabbe can come off Denver’s bench immediately and make some three pointers.

28. San Antonio Spurs- Grant Jerrett (PF-Arizona)- This is another stretch for the Spurs with a little bit of Arizona homerisim from me. However, from what I hear from reliable sources, Jerrett has been having unbelievable pre-draft workouts and really improving his stock. A rumor I heard is that he might have a first round promise. Jerrett has a lot of potential and should have stayed in college at least one more year. He is a typical Spurs player. A big man who can spread the floor, he won’t produce right away, but he can learn from the greatest power forward of all time.

29. Oklahoma City Thunder- Ricky Ledo (SG-Providence)- While he isn’t James Harden, Ledo can help heal the wounds that trading Harden left for Thunder fans. With Ledo not qualifying academically for the Friars last year, nobody saw him play. There is a reason though that people were talking about the Friars being back on the map and why Ledo was the 21st ranked recruit in the country. Ledo is a scorer. He can do a lot with the ball in his hands, and will be considered a steal if the Thunder take him.

30. Phoenix Suns- CJ Leslie (SF/PF-NC State)- Leslie is a very good athlete who can get to the rim at will. He can handle the ball well for his position and is very strong. He could be a top talent in this draft, but when the going gets tough, Leslie tends to disappear and get aggravated. For a team like the Suns that have a lot of rebuilding to do, this could be a very good pick at the end of the round, considering his potential. If he is able to be able to play through the tough times, this could be a nice addition to Phoenix’s rebuilding process.

Make sure you stay tuned in to our 2013 NBA Draft coverage! In addition to the Salty Mocks, check out this manifesto by one of our guest contributors.

As always, make sure you follow us on twitter @DRosesAndThorns!

Salty Mock Draft 2.0

Todd Saltzberg & Jake Weiner

FILE: NBA Commissioner David Stern To Retire In 2014

With the NBA Finals wrapping up and the NBA Draft fast approaching, we’re checking back in with our second mock draft. While the 2014 draft is looking like the true prize, there are plenty of difference makers available this season that can help out teams right away. Dario Saric has withdrawn from the 2013 NBA Draft and is not included in this mock draft.

1. Cleveland Cavaliers- Nerlens Noel (C-Kentucky)- The (lack of) star power in this draft is on display with the projected top pick rehabbing an ACL tear. Noel is a great defender and rebounder, but his offensive game and strength need a lot of work because he will be going up against bigger and better players. I think Noel lacks the strength to be an elite NBA player, but Cleveland has long-term solutions at three positions in Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson. With Miami struggling and LeBron James approaching free agency rapidly, this pick makes the most sense for the Cavs if they don’t trade it. In addition, Cleveland could let Noel take the whole year off to rehab his knee, increasing their odds at 2014′s number one pick and true prize: Andrew Wiggins.

Has Victor Oladipo received a promise from Orlando?
Has Victor Oladipo received a promise from Orlando?

2. Orlando Magic- Victor Oladipo (SG/SF-Indiana)- Oladipo declined an invite to the facility of his hometown Washington Wizards, fueling speculation that he’s received a promise from the Magic. On the other hand, Orlando has also worked out Ben McLemore in the last week–either one could  go here. You can’t teach work ethic and athleticism, two of Oladipo’s biggest strengths along with being quick and an amazing defender. Although he shot lights out his last year at Indiana, he will need to improve his jump shot in the NBA. Oladipo is a good fit for the rebuilding Magic, who want to build a core that can grow together into a playoff squad.

3. Washington Wizards- Otto Porter (SF-Georgetown)- The Wizards looked like a playoff team the second half of last year and are thus looking for someone who can contribute immediately. Porter is a big small forward who can spread the court as well as get to the rim. He can score in transition and plays tough defense. Overall, Porter is someone who is solid at everything but not great at one certain thing. While I don’t think he will ultimately be the best player in the draft class, he could win Rookie of the Year due to the immediate impact he will make.

4. Charlotte Bobcats- Anthony Bennett (PF-UNLV)- I see Bennett as the best player in this draft (and Bicky thinks I’m crazy for that), but I don’t think he will win Rookie of the Year because I don’t believe he can make the impact that Porter will given the difference in talent around them. Bennett is a power forward who can bang down low and also shoot. The Bobcats need pretty much everything, but this is a good start.

5. Phoenix Suns- Ben McLemore (SG-Kansas)- A star in college, I have doubts about McLemore in the NBA. He’s a great shooter who plays hard, but when the going gets tough he disappears. That will happen a lot more on a team like Phoenix against the more difficult competition of the NBA. We’ll see how he adjusts, but you have to take a player like McLemore here because of his tremendous upside and All-Star potential. Phoenix would gladly take either McLemore or Oladipo here if one drops.

Alex Len could go as high as #1 overall.
Alex Len could go as high as #1 overall.

6. New Orleans Pelicans- Alex Len (C-Maryland)- Len has created a ton of buzz in the last few days with rumors that the Cavs are considering him at #1. Clearly, no one really knows what to think of Len. He has a whole lot of potential on both ends of the court but he recently had ankle surgery. If we know anything about basketball players and leg injuries, it’s that they are often very tricky and recurring. Len looks like the biggest risk/reward scenario in the draft. He could conceivably be the best player or the biggest bust.

7. Sacramento Kings- Trey Burke (PG-Michigan)- A small quick point guard, Burke would have been lauded as a number one pick if he was a couple of inches taller. He’s been compared to Chris Paul, which in my opinion is unfair and a little outrageous. I do believe that his toughness, on display during March Madness, will make up for his size. Burke may never be a true star, but he has strong leadership skills and the ability to make the players around him better.

8. Detroit Pistons- Shabazz Muhammad (SF-UCLA)- Muhammad really benefits from fellow forward Dario Saric dropping out of this year’s draft. On the right team, Shabazz could be a star—a poor man’s Carmelo Anthony—and I think the Pistons are the right team for him. The big problem he has is he can only create plays with the ball in his hand. He can often score at will, but he also plays poor defense. Muhammad is one of the few players who can make a difference right away and bring the Pistons to the next level.

9. Minnesota Timberwolves- CJ McCollum (PG/SG-Lehigh)- McCollum has one of the fastest growing stocks based on his workouts. Because he went to a small school and finished the season injured, it’s not surprsing that McCollum’s workouts have teams buzzing. Minnesota is a great fit for a combo guard who can spell Rubio but also play with him. If they don’t trade up for Oladipo or McLemore, then McCollum is the best fit for Minnesota’s backcourt.

10. Portland Trail Blazers- Kelly Olynyk (C-Gonzaga)- Another ugly longhaired player coming out of Gonzaga who I believe will be a bust. The Trail Blazers need a center, and Olynyk could fit with them well. He is a grinder, who next to LaMarcus Aldridge might do well scoring . He also is a team player, as he redshirted his junior year to improve and benefitted a lot. He went from an unknown to a potential lottery pick.

11. Philadelphia 76ers- Cody Zeller (PF/C-Indiana)- Zeller has range and a decent post game. The Sixer’s new GM has said Andrew Bynum is “just another free agent”, so that trade was a bust as they lost a productive year from Andre Iguodala for nothing. They will need a replacement for Bynum, and Zeller will be a good pick here for them, even if he’s not the franchise center they thought they had. Zeller could go higher as his workouts have had several teams talking.

12. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Toronto)- Steven Adams (C-Pittsburgh)-  Oklahoma City got this pick through the infamous James Harden trade. The Thunder have the luxury of waiting for a player to develop, and Adams is very raw since he just came from New Zealand before the season. The tremendous amount of potential he has could make him a perfect fit, especially if they amnesty Kendrick Perkins in the future. This is the definition of “high-risk, high-reward”. If it works out, the Thunder will be more dangerous than people thought they would be.

13. Dallas Mavericks- Michael Carter Williams (PG-Syracuse)- Everybody says the Mavs will trade this pick to clear up cap space for CP3/Dwight Howard free agency. This would be a good place to trade into for teams needing a point guard. Carter Williams is a big point guard with tremendous passing ability, quickness and defense. He can’t score very well, but if he doesn’t shoot his team out of games he will be able to succeed in the NBA.

14. Utah Jazz- Shane Larkin (PG-Miami)-  Larkin makes up for his lack of size with quickness and the ability to find the open man. He’s a tough point guard that will not back down from opposing teams and players. Larkin could be a solid fixture for the forseeable future in Utah.

Is Dennis Schroeder the new face of the Bucks' backcourt?
Is Dennis Schroeder the new face of the Bucks’ backcourt?

15. Milwaukee Bucks- Dennis Schroeder (PG-Germany)- With Monta Ellis entering free agency and Brandon Jennings thinking he should get paid like Tony Parker, the Bucks could be in need of a point guard. We don’t know much about the German, but from watching videos and hearing about him he seems to be a quick guard who can shoot and pass. He’s young and raw, and isn’t as strong as most NBA players, but could improve and be very solid in Milwaukee’s backcourt.

16. Boston Celtics- Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (SG-Georgia)- The Celtics really missed having a shooter like Ray Allen last year. While it’s impossible to replace a Hall of Fame talent like Allen, Caldwell-Pope’s college stats resemble a similar type player. He has the potential to be a source of instant offense for Boston who you almost certainly wouldn’t leave open from deep.

  17. Atlanta Hawks- Jammal Franklin (SG-SD State)- Without Joe Johnson’s Contract, the Hawks have been looking for a player who can supply them instant offense and shoot. Franklin is that guy. He is quick, shoots well and draws contact. He could be a great role player alongside anyone for the Hawks. If they can sign a big time free agent, Franklin might make an immediate impact off the bench.

18. Atlanta Hawks (via Houston)- Sergey Karasev (SF-Russia)- The second of two straight picks, Karasev has been compared to Toni Kukoc, and as we Bulls fans know, who doesn’t need a Kukoc? The Hawks already have a solid core, and could add on to it another player who can come off the bench and score.

19. Cleveland Cavaliers (via Los Angeles Lakers)- Giannis Adetokoubo (SF-Greece)- Another foreigner with tremendous upside. He is a 6’9” forward who can handle the ball and shoot. If he went to college in the states, people would be drooling over him; he can guard any position on the court. The big problem with him is he needs to bulk up to be able to go against the big men of the NBA.

"I'm better than Nazr Mohammed. I promise."
“I’m better than Nazr Mohammed. I promise.”

20. Chicago Bulls- Mason Plumlee (C-Duke)- With Derrick Rose returning, Chicago’s biggest issue to be addressed in the draft is the lack of backup bigs past Taj Gibson. Plumlee is a winner and that is what the Bulls look for in their draft picks. He will fit very well in the system, giving Noah rest he needs without hurting the team like Nazr Mohammed. As the second big off the bench, he can make an immediate impact for the Bulls.

21. Utah Jazz- Rudy Gobert (PF/C-France)- Rudy is someone who could stay in France to develop but would also benefit backing up Favors and Kanter for a year (Millsap and Jefferson are pricey free agents). He plays tremendous defense, but has no offensive game and is very raw. Gobert could ease into a useful role for Utah.

22. Brooklyn Nets- Tony Mitchell (SF/PF-North Texas)- Mitchell is a very interesting case. He has always had potential and if he came out after his freshman year he could have been a lottery pick. He had a sophomore slump, but declared for the draft anyway. He is a tough player on offense and defense. For a team like the Nets who can take a risk, this could be a great pick and put them closer to the list of contenders for the Larry O’Brien trophy.

23. Indiana Pacers- Gorgui Dieng (C-Louisville)- The Pacers have basically no bench, with Tyler Hansborough and Ian Mahinmi as their first two bigs. Roy Hibbert is one of the best centers in the league but he can’t play all 48 minutes. Dieng is one of the best defensive big men in the draft and will be a great backup, making an immediate impact for the Pacers’ bench.

24. New York Knicks- Tim Hardaway Jr. (SG-Michigan)- Hardaway starred in a fast-paced offensive system at Michigan that would carry over well to the Knicks. He could be a valuable sixth man if J.R. Smith decides not to come back to New York.

25. Los Angeles Clippers- Ricky Ledo (SG-Providence)- This pick obviously depends on what trades and signings the Clips make. Ledo has a lot of talent but could have gone much higher had he qualified to actually play at Providence. One knock against him is that he can’t do much without the ball in his hands, but this amazing athlete should fit in well with the high flying Clippers.

26. Minnesota Timberwolves (via Memphis Grizzlies)- Jeff Withey (C-Kansas)- Assuming Minnesota is able to resign Nikola Pekovic, Withey would make a great backup. Withey plays great D and is an elite shot blocker. He could be an ideal fit next to the offensive minded Kevin Love.

27. Denver Nuggets- Allen Crabbe (SG-Cal)- Crabbe can shoot lights out. As a bench player for a team starved for shooting like the Nuggets, he can make an immediate impact. With athletes and players that demand a defense’s attention, Crabbe can come off Denver’s bench immediately and make some three pointers.

28. San Antonio Spurs- Mike Muscala (PF-Bucknell)- This could be a stretch here, but without much depth at the position, the Spurs are going to need a power forward for when Duncan retires soon. Muscala dominated the Patriot League, averaging a double double. He can play well on both sides of the court and pass. He won’t be expected to play immediately, but will learn from the best power forward of all time in Tim Duncan.

29. Oklahoma City Thunder- Archie Goodwin (SG-Kentucky)- Goodwin is very athletic and probably should have stayed another year or two at Kentucky, but as weird as it sounds, his draft stock could be at it’s highest now in a weaker draft. He is quick and can get to the basket, but can’t shoot. If he can get a reliable jump shot, Goodwin can become a very solid NBA player.

30. Phoenix Suns- CJ Leslie (SF/PF-NC State)- Leslie is a very good athlete who can get to the rim at will. He can handle the ball well for his position and is very strong. He could be a top talent in this draft, but when the going gets tough, Leslie tends to disappear and get aggravated. For a team like the Suns that have a lot of rebuilding to do, this could be a very good pick at the end of the round, considering his potential. If he is able to be able to play through the tough times, this could be a nice addition to Phoenix’s rebuilding process

Salty Mock Draft 1.0

Todd Saltzberg & Jake Weiner

With the NBA Draft around the corner, I’m excited to see how these prospects develop into NBA players. While the draft doesn’t have much star power, I think it has a lot of depth. There are a lot of players who can be a 3rd or 4th starter on teams and glue guys who will help their team in other ways. Without further ado, here is my mock draft. If you like this mock, or even not, follow me on twitter @salty23. I need followers.

Nerlens Noel at Kentucky
Nerlens Noel at Kentucky

1. Cleveland Cavaliers– Nerlens Noel (C-Kentucky)- The (lack of) star power in this draft is on display with the projected top pick rehabbing an ACL tear. Noel is a great defender and rebounder, but his offensive game and strength need a lot of work because he will be going up against bigger and better players. I think Noel lacks the strength to be an elite NBA player, but Cleveland has long-term solutions at three positions in Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson. With LeBron James approaching free agency rapidly, this pick makes the most sense for the Cavs if they don’t trade it. In addition, Cleveland could let Noel take the whole year off to rehab his knee, increasing their odds at 2014’s number one pick and true prize: Andrew Wiggins.

2. Orlando Magic– Victor Oladipo (SG/SF-Indiana)- You can’t teach work ethic and athleticism, two of Oladipo’s biggest strengths along with being quick and an amazing defender. He will need to improve his jump shot in the NBA, but he has a lot of time to work on that. Oladipo is a good fit for the rebuilding Magic, who want to build a core that can grow together into a playoff squad.

3. Washington Wizards– Otto Porter (SF-Georgetown)- This year’s draft is key for the Wizards as they could be ready to take the next step and make the playoffs with the right pick. Porter is a great fit with young talents John Wall and Bradley Beal. He is a big small forward who can spread the court as well as get to the rim. Porter can score in transition and plays tough defense. Overall, Porter is someone who is solid at everything, but not great at one certain thing. While I don’t think he will ultimately be the best player in the draft class, I think he will win Rookie of the Year due to the immediate impact he will make.

4. Charlotte Bobcats– Anthony Bennett (PF-UNLV)- I see Bennett as the best player in this draft (and Bicky thinks I’m crazy for that), but I don’t think he will win Rookie of the Year because I don’t believe he can make the impact that Porter will because of the difference in talent around them. Bennett is a power forward who can bang down low and also shoot. The Bobcats need pretty much everything, but this is a good start.

5. Phoenix Suns– Ben McLemore (SG-Kansas)- A star in college, I have doubts about McLemore in the NBA. He’s a great shooter who plays hard, but when the going gets tough he disappears. That will happen a lot more on a team like Phoenix against the more difficult competition of the NBA. We’ll see how he adjusts, but you have to take a player like McLemore here because of his tremendous upside and All-Star potential.

6. New Orleans Pelicans– Alex Len (C-Maryland)- No one really knows what to think of Len. He has a whole lot of potential on both ends of the court, but he has recently had ankle surgery. If we know anything about basketball players and leg injuries, it’s that they are often very tricky and recurring. Personally, I think Len is out of the NBA in 5 years, but when a true center is on the board, you have to pick him over other amazing talents, right Portland?

Trey Burke proved his toughness with clutch play in the NCAA tournament.
Trey Burke proved his toughness with clutch play in the NCAA tournament.

7. Sacramento Kings– Trey Burke (PG-Michigan)- A small quick point guard, Burke would have been lauded as a number one pick if he was a couple of inches taller. He’s been compared to Chris Paul, which in my opinion is unfair and a little outrageous. I do believe that his toughness, on display during March Madness, will make up for his size. Burke may not be CP3, but he’ll be a solid NBA player.

8. Detroit Pistons– Shabazz Muhammad (SF-UCLA)- Two out of the past three drafts, the Pistons have capitalized on a player with high upside dropping to them. Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond look like a formidable force going forward. Shabazz was once the number one recruit in the country for his class and talked about as a #1 pick. On the right team, Shabazz could be a star—a poor man’s Carmelo Anthony—and I think the Pistons are the right team for him. The big problem he has is he can only create plays with the ball in his hand. When he does make plays, he can score at will, but he also plays poor defense. Muhammad is one of the few players who can make a difference right away and bring the Pistons to the next level.

9. Minnesota Timberwolves– Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (SG-Georgia)- The T-Wolves really need a shooting guard, and while Pope is a reach, he is the best shooting guard available by far. Because he went to Georgia, you may have not heard of him as much but he is a great shooter and could beat a team based on that alone. I could also see the Wolves trading up for Oladipo or McLemore to get a shooting guard who can do more, but I believe if they keep this pick Pope will be the choice.

10. Portland Trail Blazers– Kelly Olynyk (C-Gonzaga)- Another ugly longhaired player coming out of Gonzaga who will be a bust, I believe. The Trail Blazers need a center, and Olynyk could fit with them well. He is a grinder, who next to LaMarcus Aldridge might do well scoring points. He also is a team player, as he redshirted his junior year to improve and benefitted a lot. He went from an unknown to a lottery pick.

11. Philadelphia 76ers– Cody Zeller (PF/C-Indiana)- Zeller has range and a decent post game. The Sixer’s new GM has said Andrew Bynum is “just another free agent”, so that trade was a bust as they lost a productive year from Andre Iguodala for nothing. They will need a replacement for Bynum, and Zeller will be a good pick here for them, even if he’s not the franchise center they thought they had.

12. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Toronto)– Steven Adams (C-Pittsburgh)- The Thunder have the luxury of waiting for a player to develop, and Adams is very raw since he just came from New Zealand before the season. The tremendous amount of potential he has could make him a perfect fit, especially if they amnesty Kendrick Perkins in the future. This is the definition of “high-risk, high-reward”. If it works out, the Thunder will be more dangerous than people thought they would be and MAYBE the Harden trade won’t be such a robbery.

This year's Damian Lillard?
Is CJ McCollum this year’s Damian Lillard?

13. Dallas Mavericks– CJ McCollum (PG/SG-Lehigh)- Everybody says the Mavs will trade this pick to clear up cap space for CP3/Dwight Howard free agency. I believe whoever trades for this pick takes McCollum. Everyone is looking for the next Damian Lillard. Before he got hurt, McCollum was having a great season, and of course everybody remembers Lehigh beating Duke as a 15 seed. McCollum is small, but can score at will, and I for one am excited to see how his game transitions into the NBA.

14. Utah Jazz– Michael Carter Williams (PG-Syracuse)- Carter Williams is a big point guard with tremendous passing ability, quickness and defense. He can’t score very well, but if he doesn’t shoot his team out of games he will be able to succeed in the NBA. The Jazz will be lucky to get him here as they have been looking for a franchise PG since Deron Williams left. MCW could be elite and is a steal here.

15. Milwaukee Bucks– Dennis Schroeder (PG-Germany)- With the Bucks appearing to try and keep Monta Ellis instead of Brandon Jennings, they need a point guard. We don’t know much about the German, but watching videos and hearing about him, he seems to be a quick point guard who can shoot and pass. He’s young and raw, and isn’t as strong as most NBA players, but could improve and be very solid next to Ellis.

16. Boston Celtics– Rudy Gobert (PF/C-France)- Another foreign player, Gobert is 7’2” with long arms and raw, but he isn’t going to play a lot right away. He plays tremendous defense and a guy by the name of Kevin Garnett would likely be his mentor. He can learn from a future Hall of Famer at the tail end of his career and slowly work his way into NBA minutes. If KG takes him in, Gobert could really be solid.

17. Atlanta Hawks– Jammal Franklin (SG-SD State)- Without Joe Johnson’s Contract, the Hawks have been looking for a player who can supply them instant offense and shoot. Franklin is that guy. He is quick, shoots well and draws contact. He could be a great role player alongside anyone for the Hawks. If they can sign a big time free agent, Franklin might make an immediate impact off the bench.

18. Atlanta Hawks (via Houston)– Sergey Karasev (SF-Russia)- The second of two straight picks, Karasev has been compared to Toni Kukoc, and as we Bulls fans know, who doesn’t need a Kukoc? The Hawks already have a solid core, and could add on to it another player who can come off the bench and score.

19. Cleveland Cavaliers (via Los Angeles Lakers)– Giannis Adetokoubo (SF-Greece)- Another foreigner with tremendous upside. He is a 6’9” forward who can handle the ball and shoot. If he went to college in the states, people would be drooling over him—he can guard any position on the court. The big problem with him is he needs to bulk up to be able to go against the big men of the NBA.

Mason Plumlee's toughness would be welcomed in Chicago.
Mason Plumlee’s toughness would be welcomed in Chicago.

20. Chicago Bulls– Mason Plumlee (C-Duke)- We all know the Bulls really need a back up center after letting Omer Asik walk, and old man Nazr Mohammed won’t cut it. Plumlee is a winner and that is what the Bulls look for in their draft picks. He will fit very well in the system, giving Noah rest he needs without hurting the team like Nazr Mohammed. As the second big off the bench, he can make an immediate impact for the Bulls.

21. Utah Jazz– Tim Hardaway Jr. (SG-Michigan)- The Jazz are in a tough spot, because they have to decide on resigning Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson, and the roster could look very different depending on the outcome. Regardless, Hardaway will fit in well there as the shooter he proved to be in college. He is a hard worker and should succeed as a great role player in the NBA.

22. Brooklyn Nets– Tony Mitchell (SF/PF-North Texas)- Mitchell is a very interesting case. He has always had potential and if he came out after his freshman year he could have been a lottery pick. He had a sophomore slump, but declared for the draft anyway. He is a tough player on offense and defense. For a team like the Nets who can take a risk, this could be a great pick and put them closer to the list of contenders for the Larry O’Brien trophy.

23. Indiana Pacers– Gorgui Dieng (C-Louisville)- The Pacers have basically no bench, with Tyler Hansborough and Ian Mahinmi as their first two bigs. Roy Hibbert is one of the best centers in the league but he can’t play all 48 minutes. Dieng is one of the best defensive centers in the draft and will be a great backup, making an immediate impact for the Pacers’ bench.

24. New York Knicks– Reggie Bullock (SG/SF-UNC)- The Knicks are a run and gun team, often without much defense (especially when Tyson Chandler is banged up). Reggie Bullock is a run and gun player who is a perfect fit for the Knicks, especially with the possibility of JR Smith leaving via free agency. If that happens, Bullock could possibly take the Sixth Man of the Year’s role and make an impact.

25. Los Angeles Clippers– Shane Larkin (PG-Miami)- The Clippers have to prepare for Eric Bledsoe’s departure if Chris Paul himself doesn’t decide to leave. Larkin would be a very solid backup in either scenario. A solid leader, he came onto the scene at Miami this year and is very tough and quick, even though he is very small. Realistically, the Clippers are drafting him hoping he will be a backup, but he could be a reliable starter in the NBA—throwing oops to Blake Griffin always makes your job a little easier.

26. Minnesota Timberwolves (via Memphis Grizzlies)-Deshaun Thomas (SF-Ohio State)-He may be a tweener in the NBA, but his ability to shoot and find ways to score will be big. With Derrick Williams possibly on the way out, Thomas can replace him with much less pressure on him, considering he would be the 26th pick and not the 2nd. Thomas can give some good bench minutes and would be great value here.

27. Denver Nuggets– Allen Crabbe (SG-Cal)- Crabbe can shoot lights out. As a bench player for a team starved for shooting like the Nuggets, he can make an immediate impact. With athletes and players that demand a defense’s attention, Crabbe can come off Denver’s bench immediately and make some three pointers.

28. San Antonio Spurs– Mike Muscala (PF-Bucknell)- This could be a stretch here, but without much depth at the position, the Spurs are going to need a power forward for when Duncan retires soon. Muscala dominated the Patriot League, averaging a double double. He can play well on both sides on the court and can pass. He won’t be expected to play immediately, but will learn from the best power forward of all time in Tim Duncan.

29. Oklahoma City Thunder– Archie Goodwin (SG-Kentucky)- Goodwin is very athletic and probably should have stayed another year or two at Kentucky, but as weird as it sounds, his draft stock could be at it’s highest now in a weaker draft. He is quick and can get to the basket, but can’t shoot. If he can get a reliable jump shot, Goodwin can become a very solid NBA player.

30. Phoenix Suns– CJ Leslie (SF/PF-NC State)- Leslie is a very good athlete who can get to the rim at will. He can handle the ball well for his position and is very strong. He could be a top talent in this draft, but when the going gets tough, Leslie tends to disappear and get aggravated. For a team like the Suns that have a lot of rebuilding to do, this could be a very good pick at the end of the round, considering his potential. If he is able to be able to play through the tough times, this could be a nice addition to Phoenix’s rebuilding process.