Drafting Nerlens Noel at No. 1

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Nerlens Noel has the ability to develop into a great player, but he has too many red flags to be a No. 1 pick. That’s especially true while the Cleveland Cavaliers, the same team that rosters Anderson Varejao and Tristan Thompson, are holding on to the first selection.

The Kentucky big man weighs in at only 206 pounds, and he’s working with one leg. He could become the first top pick in recent memory to hobble across the stage and shake David Stern’s hand, rather than stride across the floor to do so.

Despite what Adrian Peterson has led us to believe, ACLs don’t always heal properly. It’s no guarantee that he regains his former level of athleticism, and that’s what Noel’s stock is built upon.

He’s not an offensive threat, and if his springiness goes, so, too, does his defensive value. Noel isn’t a particularly patient shot-blocker. While he has great instincts, he relies mostly on his ability to elevate early and often.

There are better options out there, even for the Cavs. If they don’t trade down, Otto Porter and Ben McLemore would both be better selections.


Orlando Magic Passing Up on Trey Burke

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When Trey Burke develops into the clear-cut best point guard from this draft class, the Orlando Magic will look back and rue the day they decided not to use the No. 2 pick on him.

More than anything else, the Magic need a point guard. They have all the other positions covered to varying degrees, but it’s increasingly clear that Jameer Nelson is not the floor general of the future.

Burke would be.

The Michigan product has an inordinate level of confidence, and he can affect the outcome of games both with his passing and his scoring. If you don’t see at least a little bit of Chris Paul in him, you’re probably watching the wrong Trey Burke.

Right now, it looks like Burke will fall to the Sacramento Kings at No. 7, and there’s a slight chance he could drop ever further. The Cleveland Cavaliers, Washington Wizards, Charlotte Bobcats, Phoenix Suns and New Orleans Pelicans don’t need a point guard.

The Magic do.

And yet they probably aren’t going to select the best one in the class.


Letting Shabazz Muhammad Slip Too Far

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Shabazz Muhammad is far too talented to fall down to the Minnesota Timberwolves at No. 9. Despite that, it seems as though that’s the earliest spot we can expect the UCLA one-and-done to go.

Remember, it was only a year ago that Cody Zeller and Muhammad were battling it out for the top spot on most boards. The swingman came into college with a lot of hype and had a solid season, although he failed to meet expectations.

Now, red flags seem to surround this prospect, and they mask just how much talent he possesses.

Muhammad has all the physical tools you could ask for—maybe a bit more athleticism would be nice—and he has a true scorer’s mentality. Sure, his effort was questionable and his defense sometimes lacking, but he has plenty of time to grow out of it.

The 20-year-old might actually be motivated once he gets to the professional level. He knew that UCLA was going nowhere during his freshman season, and he also was quite aware that he’d be a lottery pick no matter what happened.

The mental aspects of his game do concern me, but those are the ones that can sometimes be turned around quite quickly.


Ditto for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope


The fact that Kentavious Caldwell-Pope isn’t universally viewed as a lock for the top 10 is somewhat shocking. It’s also something that teams are going to regret as they select prospects who won’t have as much success at the next level.

KCP’s stats are already gaudy, but they could have been all the more impressive.

Although he nearly put up 20 points per game, Caldwell-Pope easily could have done more if he’d had a second scorer to help him out during his Georgia career. The rest of the Bulldogs’ roster was absolutely inept, so the shooting guard was the subject of far too much defensive pressure.

Caldwell-Pope has a smooth shooting stroke with a quick release, and he’s deadly accurate. He’s the type of player who can truly spread out a defense because his man absolutely has to respect his ability to knock down catch-and-shoot attempts.

Additionally, the Georgia product has sneaky athleticism that allows him to play well above the rim, and he has the tools to develop into a lockdown defender.

There’s a lot to like here, and much of it has gone tragically unnoticed.


The Order of Point Guards Taken in the Teens

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Once we reach the tail end of the lottery, expect the point guards to come flowing off the board.

The Dallas Mavericks (No. 13), Utah Jazz (No. 14) and Milwaukee Bucks (No. 15) all have major needs at point guard, so we could very well see three floor generals selected in a row. That would knock the entire second tier of 1-guards off the board.

Trey Burke occupies the first tier by himself, unless you consider C.J. McCollum a point guard. In that case, the top tier would have two occupants.

Falling below them are Michael Carter-Williams, Dennis Schroeder and Shane Larkin. The third tier—one made up of Isaiah Canaan, Nate Wolters, Pierre Jackson, Lorenzo Brown and, if you consider him a 1, Erick Green—won’t start coming off the board until the late 20s or early 30s. But Carter-Williams, Schroeder and Larkin should all be gone by pick No. 15.

The problem is the order in which they’ll be taken.

Schroeder has the most upside and looks like he could develop into a more athletic version of Rajon Rondo. Larkin should be next, and MCW should be the third taken. A lot of people out there like the Syracuse product because of his length, but his defense benefited from the ‘Cuse system and he wasn’t exactly an offensive powerhouse.

Obviously, my opinion isn’t affecting the draft proceedings because most mock drafts are showing that they’ll come off the board in the reverse order.

The mock drafts don’t show this, but the Bucks will be the happiest team out there if that’s the case.