In just a few weeks, the NBA Draft will be here and franchises can impact their next generation with a right or wrong pick. It can be as simple as a bad fit or simply a bad player, but the Draft can turn around a team in a season.
Will that happen this year?
SLAM contributor Leigh Klein gives his likely picks for each team in the Top 10, but more importantly, who the teams should pick.
No. 1 Pick: Cleveland Cavaliers
Outlook: Pivotal year with a new front office and new coach. Cavaliers must take a significant step forward and identify their core moving forward. Is Kyrie Irving the future of this team? Is he trade bait?
The Likely Pick: Andrew Wiggins
The Cavs can’t afford a repeat of last year’s lottery, taking an injured player who struggled mightily once he was able to play (Anthony Bennett). New GM David Griffin can’t risk passing on Wiggins, and then Wiggins becomes a star. It’s the 1984 Draft all over again, the Cavaliers would be happy if Embiid became the next Olajuwon but it’s as likely he could be Sam Bowie. Therefore, choose Wiggins and hope he is the next Michael Jordan.
The Logical Pick: Joel Embiid, provided he’s healthy. The opportunity to have perhaps a great center prospect to couple with Irving would bring relevance back to Cleveland. Embiid has enormous upside with a developing offensive game and his skill set.
No 2 Pick: Milwaukee Bucks
Outlook: With a new owner in tow and a commitment to Milwaukee, the Bucks need a draw that the public will brace the harsh winter to go see. This is a team that has had multiple lottery picks and is still at square one. This pick must be a pillar to a foundation that is years away from challenging the East.
The Likely Pick: Jabari Parker
The Logical Pick: Jabari Parker. The Chicago product has been a midwest legend for years and will boast ticket sales. On the court, he can slide to the 4 complementing last year’s top pick Giannis Antetokounmpo, providing a dangerous frontcourt tandem. Hindsight is 20/20 for the Bucks who rewarded Larry Sanders last summer with a big contract extension after breakout 2012-13 season. Sanders responded with a year to forget, which included injuries and suspensions. Without $40 million committed to Sanders, Embiid may very well be their preference.
No. 3 Pick: Philadelphia 76ers
Outlook: Year 2 after the roster blow up that traded away proven assets for the restart button. The net result was a 19-win team that neared record futility in stretches. A revolving door roster with 23 players suiting up over the course of the season. Sixer guard Michael Carter-Williams was the NBA Rookie of the Year and typical for Philadelphia, is already rumored to be on the trading block. The 3-spot is a coveted spot and it would be a surprise if Philadelphia doesn’t look to deal back and pick up assets.
The Likely Pick: Dante Exum. GMs are hoping that Exum is the next Kobe Bryant. His stock has been able to soar as other guards have slid. He continues to live off last July’s World Championship play.
The Logical Pick: If he falls here, then Joel Embiid. Nerlens Noel is a great defensive player but he’s not close to the offensive weapon that Embiid is. It would take a secure GM to survive the criticism for taking a player two years in a row that plays the same position. The hope is that either Wiggins or Parker are on the board here, if it’s Embiid, look for the pick to be in play.
No. 4 Pick: Orlando Magic
Outlook: A year ago, the Magic had been rumored to want Marcus Smart with the No. 2 selection. A year has passed and now the Magic have the opportunity to select Smart and usher out former All-Star Jameer Nelson. The question is what position does Victor Oladipo play? He does not shoot it well enough to be your starting NBA 2-guard?
The Likely Pick: Julius Randle. College basketball’s most productive player, brings the type of motor that the Magic fell in love with when they selected Oladipo.
Who Logical Pick: Yep, you guessed it. If he is at No. 4 then Joel Embiid. Embiid is just what the doctor ordered for the Magic who may even swap picks with Philadelphia should Embiid still be on the board at the No. 3 spot.
No. 5 Pick: Utah Jazz
Outlook: The post-Jerry Sloan era continues to be an issue for the once Playoff stalwarts. There continues to be young promise on this team which has been singing that tune for a while as they usher out stars like Al Jefferson (Deron Williams before that) for other teams to make the jump into the Playoffs. Gordon Haywood is the next Jazz superstar. Trey Burke was productive as a rookie. It makes for an interesting backcourt moving forward if you believe that Burke can handle the starter role for 82 games.
The Likely Pick: Finally! Joel Embiid. The Jazz will stop Embiid’s slide and figure out how he and Derrick Favors could co-exist. Just make it happen.
The Logical Pick: Marcus Smart. Smart would give the Jazz roster flexibility and a power guard to threaten the defensive interior. This would put Burke as the backup unless the Jazz decide to play Burke and Smart together with Haywood at the small forward.
No. 6 Pick: Boston Celtics
Outlook: This will start a critical 12-month period for the Celtics to determine a core and utilize significant cap room to make a significant title push for the 2015-16 season. The first decision that Danny Ainge must make concerns Rajon Rondo and this Draft can show the Celtics’ hand with this coveted selection.
The Likley Pick: Marcus Smart. This will signify the impending end of the Rajon Rondo era
The Logical Pick: Noah Vonleh. The local kid comes home…The Haverhill, MA, product showed flashes at Indiana and scored off the charts at the NBA Combine with his height, wingspan and athleticism.
No. 7 Pick: Los Angeles Lakers
Outlook: Los Angeles made a lot of headlines for the wrong reasons this basketball season. The Lakers hit rock bottom and it cost Mike D’Antoni his job despite the injuries the team had to battle through. Aging superstar Kobe Bryant, is signed and hopes to have more in the tank after missing virtually the entire season. Bryant’s contract won’t allow for the restart the Lakers need.
The Likely Pick: Noah Vonleh
The Logical Pick: Noah Vonleh. The Lakers seem to be ready for life without Pau Gasol, the unrestricted free agent who will be difficult to replace. Vonleh is athletic and skilled and may be a cornerstone to build a future around.
No. 8 Pick: Sacramento Kings
Outlook: Year 2 begins of the Mike Malone/Pete D’Alessandro era in Sac-Town. The Kings transformed their roster in 2013 by keeping just four players from the prior year. The gambled on Rudy Gay and now, after proving he was worthy of trading the assets they traded, they must convince him to stay. DeMarcus Cousins remains the team’s best asset and biggest concern. At times Cousins shows he is the best center in the NBA and then without warning can have a colossal meltdown.
The Likely Pick: Aaron Gordon
The Logical Pick: Aaron Gordon. Gordon is an unfinished prospect, but he’s a terrific transition player, who will be a standout perimeter defender and he will be a fan favorite. The Kings are searching for a face of the franchise and are unwilling to claim Cousins as the guy. Enter Gordon who is from nearby San Jose.
No. 9 Pick: Charlotte Hornets
Outlook: The Hornets took a step in the right direction returning to the Playoffs. Al Jefferson was everything one could ask out of a free-agent signing and Kemba Walker continues to evolve and round into All-Star caliber form.
The Likely Pick: Doug McDermott. Michael Jordan likes players who have had college success. He believes in it. Look for McBuckets to get the call here with Kidd-Gilchrist being capable of covering his defensive deficiencies.
The Logical Pick: Dario Saric. NBA scouts have had an eye on Saric for the past five years and now the day has come where Saric is in the Draft and playing his best basketball. He possesses much of the skill set that a year ago Charlotte was enamored with in selecting Cody Zeller. Saric could very well be Europe’s next superstar with proven success on the pro level.
No. 10 Pick: Philadelpia 76ers
Outlook: With the earlier selection of Exum to solidify the backcourt, the Sixers look toward their frontcourt needs.
The Likely Pick: Dario Saric
The Logical Pick: Dario Saric. Flexible and skilled, could fit in nicely with Noel and Young in the frontcourt.
Leigh Klein was formerly on staff at Texas and Rhode Island and now owns Five-