For what is now the fourth straight year, we are once again attempting the improbable, that being to come off as something of an expert on NBA Draft night.
Yes, tomorrow night is that one night a year where David Stern gets booed louder than John Cena at WrestleMania, and deputy commissioner Adam Silver still plays the hero that some of us still hope will eventually be Russ Granik once more. For those with selections, it is a chance to right the wrongs of seasons past, (see: Jordan, Michael; Wade, Dwyane; Durant, Kevin; etc.) but also potentially set your franchise back several years. (see: Bowie, Sam; Brown, Kwame; Milicic, Darko; Oden, Greg; etc.) In addition, it is also a chance to tap into gold mines that those in the college ranks got to see on a regular basis. So, without any further ado, here's how we see the first round playing out, with the hopes of potentially seeing a local kid like Momo Jones hear his name called like his former teammate Scott Machado should have a year ago:
Even with the uncertainty of this year's draft class, it's being widely speculated that the 7-1 Ukrainian will be Cleveland's choice here, making him the first Terp to be taken No. 1 overall since Joe Smith went to Golden State in 1995. A skilled shot blocker with a deft touch around the rim, Len becomes the newest piece to a young core that includes Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson in the second act of the Mike Brown era.
2) Orlando Magic: Ben McLemore (G - Kansas)
Rumor has it that the Magic are really high on Victor Oladipo, and the Indiana guard could very well be the pick in this spot. However, McLemore is much more NBA-ready despite only playing one season under Bill Self, and his combo guard ability provides the perfect complement to Jameer Nelson off the ball while simultaneously giving Orlando a much-needed scoring punch out of the backcourt at either position.
3) Washington Wizards: Otto Porter (F - Georgetown)
With John Wall and Bradley Beal already in the fold, the Wizards don't necessarily need a guard per se, despite Victor Oladipo being considered in this spot. Therefore, it comes down to Porter and Anthony Bennett, and Washington plays it safe by selecting the reigning Big East Player of the Year Porter, a lanky 6-9 wing who is already familiar with the Verizon Center from his two seasons at Georgetown, and is believed to be more pro-ready than Bennett.
4) Charlotte Bobcats: Nerlens Noel (C - Kentucky)
Still considered by some to be the best player in the draft even four months after a torn ACL prematurely ended his rookie season, Noel falls into the laps of Michael Jordan and general manager Rich Cho, and instantly becomes the centerpiece of the Charlotte frontcourt. Although still raw, Noel's defense is unparalleled among this year's draft class, and receiving tutelage from assistant coach Patrick Ewing will only help him develop faster.
5) Phoenix Suns: Victor Oladipo (G - Indiana)
Oladipo's breakout performance in last month's scouting combine is what shot him up draft boards, and the Suns would be foolish to pass on his explosive talents here. Already set for the next couple of years with Goran Dragic and Kendall Marshall at the point, Oladipo will give the platoon a solid partner that each can feed off of and make the others better.
6) New Orleans Pelicans: Anthony Bennett (F - UNLV)
Much like Nerlens Noel two spots prior, Bennett is gift-wrapped for the former Hornets, who get a clone of former franchise great Larry Johnson to join rising second-year stars Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers. Perhaps the most complete player in the nation last season, Bennett's experience in the Mountain West Conference only underscores his versatility, and will serve the Pelicans well at either of the two forward positions.
7) Sacramento Kings: Trey Burke (G - Michigan)
Burke could go as high as No. 2, but he lands with the Kings to join Jimmer Fredette in a backcourt that becomes one of the best in the NBA. The reigning Big Ten Player of the Year becomes Sacramento's best passer since Bobby Hurley, and his ball control is already better than half of the professionals at his position, giving new coach Michael Malone an offensive anchor to build around.
8) Detroit Pistons: Michael Carter-Williams (G - Syracuse)
Don't be surprised if Burke and Carter-Williams flip-flop here, as both Sacramento and Detroit are high on each player. With Jose Calderón not getting any younger, the need for a new point guard in Motown is greater than in years past, and Carter-Williams' pure ball handling allows for the Pistons to shift Brandon Knight off the ball to create more opportunities for both himself and burgeoning big men Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond.
9) Minnesota Timberwolves: C.J. McCollum (G - Lehigh)
David Kahn is no longer in charge, but the T-Wolves shake up the draft in his honor here to grab the mid-major wonder McCollum, whose scoring prowess is unrivaled. A combo guard who can run the point if he has to, McCollum will be able to flourish off the ball alongside Ricky Rubio, giving him the freedom to create his own scoring opportunities. In other words, think this year's version of Damian Lillard, only with fewer assists.
10) Portland Trail Blazers: Kelly Olynyk (C - Gonzaga)
Yes, the Blazers drafted Meyers Leonard last year, but Olynyk is primed to continue his breakout success from last season at the next level, and gets to stay in the Pacific Northwest to do it. A little bit of everything on both sides of the ball, the seven-footer will give Portland an imposing interior duo alongside LaMarcus Aldridge that will push the one-time threats of the Western Conference back into postseason contention.
11) Philadelphia 76ers: Cody Zeller (C - Indiana)
Assuming the rumor of Orlando taking him second overall is merely just a smoke screen, Zeller fits in right around the end of the lottery, and falls to the Sixers, who scoop him up in an attempt to recover from the Andrew Bynum debacle. Philly can also go for a guard here, but with Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner already entrenched in the backcourt, Zeller; or any other big for that matter, is the safe pick.
12) Oklahoma City Thunder: Gorgui Dieng (C - Louisville)
College basketball insider Jon Rothstein mentioned this as a possibility recently, and after hitting the Andre Drummond and Austin Rivers picks to perfection last year, we'll take Jon's word for it once again here. Coming from a Rick Pitino defense, Dieng provides instant credibility on that side of the ball, and when he's on all cylinders on offense, he'll average a double-double per night, especially with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook at the controls for the Thunder.
13) Dallas Mavericks: Shabazz Muhammad (G - UCLA)
Mark Cuban has expressed a desire to trade this pick, but with Muhammad; once considered a lock at No. 1 during the regular season, still on the board, he gets yet another steal in Big D. With O.J. Mayo expected to leave via free agency and Shawn Marion nearing retirement, Muhammad can step into the Mavs' offense right away and provide both continuity and a second option behind Dirk Nowitzki.
14) Utah Jazz: Shane Larkin (G - Miami)
The Jazz have needed a point guard desperately since trading Deron Williams, and unless they move up to draft Burke or Carter-Williams, Larkin could be their guy. The son of Hall of Fame shortstop Barry, Shane has proven to be more than just a famous surname after guiding Jim Larranaga's Hurricanes to the program's first-ever Sweet 16, and although he may not immediately follow in the footsteps of John Stockton and Williams before him, he's still an upgrade at the hub of the wheel.
15) Milwaukee Bucks: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (G - Georgia)
The Bucks will most likely look for a pure shooter to learn under Monta Ellis, and Caldwell-Pope fits that mold after a sensational campaign for Mark Fox's Bulldogs in which he became one of the most feared players in the SEC. He could be off the board in this spot, and Milwaukee could also go for C.J. McCollum if he's still around.
16) Boston Celtics: Jamaal Franklin (G - San Diego State)
The next Kawhi Leonard, just a little smaller. That's Franklin in a nutshell, as he; like most highly regarded Mountain West prospects, are too versatile for their own good sometimes. This jack-of-all-trades reputation makes him a perfect fit for Boston, where he can learn from the aging Paul Pierce and Jason Terry while also contributing at the point as Rajon Rondo recovers from a torn ACL.
17) Atlanta Hawks: Lucas Nogueira (C - Brazil)
Don't be surprised if Atlanta stashes both of their first-round picks overseas. Nogueira, a seven-footer, looks like a center but plays like a point guard. In other words, he's got the body of fellow countryman Tiago Splitter, but the instincts of Tony Parker.
18) Atlanta Hawks: Glen Rice Jr. (F - Georgia Tech)
Friend of the website David Menze, who covers the Hawks for Soaring Down South, has been on top of this potential selection for weeks, and Rice would get to stay in the Peachtree City if it happens. The son of a prolific outside shooter, Glen Jr. has more of an inside game, and if thrust into the right situation, will make everyone forget about his father's infamous tryst with Sarah Palin.
19) Cleveland Cavaliers: Sergey Karasev (F - Russia)
Cleveland will most likely look for a swingman with their second pick, and based on preliminary scouting reports, Karasev may not even need to be stashed, as most feel he can contribute right away. At 6-7 and 200 pounds, he can slide in between Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson to give the Cavs a formidable wing for the first time in the post-LeBron era. Described by Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix as a catch-and-shoot player, Karasev seems like he has a little Andrei Kirilenko in him, which is not a bad way to start your pro career.
20) Chicago Bulls: Mason Plumlee (F - Duke)
Addition by subtraction for the Bulls here, who will use Plumlee to replace their aging ex-Blue Devil Carlos Boozer, who has become an amnesty candidate. An Indiana product, Plumlee gets to play relatively close to home in Chicago, not to mention match up against older brother Miles, who plays for the division rival Pacers.
21) Utah Jazz: Rudy Gobert (C - France)
Gobert does not necessarily have to be stashed, and Utah can use a big man to join Enes Kanter since Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson may be on the way out. The only "true" seven-footer in the draft, the 7-2 Frenchman can alter shots with the flick of a wrist, thanks to a 92 1/2-inch wingspan that will make Jay Bilas gush over his potential.
22) Brooklyn Nets: Jeff Withey (C - Kansas)
New head coach Jason Kidd already has mounds of offense as he takes command in Brooklyn. Now, he just needs some proven commodities on the other side of the ball, and who better to start with than one of the nation's leading shot blockers last season? Withey will provide the perfect complement to Brook Lopez in the paint, and can be just as effective with the ball in his hands too as the Nets assert themselves as one of the teams to watch next year.
23) Indiana Pacers: Dennis Schroeder (G - Germany)
The last time the Pacers had a German import, it worked out pretty well, as Detlef Schrempf joined Reggie Miller, Rik Smits and company to keep Indiana at the top of the Eastern Conference throughout the early 1990s. Schroeder isn't Schrempf, but what he does bring to the table is a quick, pass-first game that is still developing on the shooting end. With George Hill still in the fold, Schroeder can even be stashed if need be until he is NBA-ready.
24) New York Knicks: Allen Crabbe (G - California)
Arguably one of the best pure shooters in the draft, and this year's John Jenkins, Crabbe would be a major steal for the beleaguered Knicks if they can get him here. Being that Raymond Felton is declining alongside the enigmatic J.R. Smith, Mike Woodson can use a knock-down shooter to score the points that Carmelo Anthony will leave on the table, and the long and freakishly talented Crabbe can pick up the pieces there while also clamping down on the perimeter.
25) Los Angeles Clippers: Mike Muscala (C - Bucknell)
Who would have thought two Patriot League players would be first-round draft picks? Anyway, Muscala provides insurance should Los Angeles ship DeAndre Jordan off, either to Boston or anywhere else for that matter. A double-double per night player, Muscala will take the pressure off of Blake Griffin while also being able to withstand the bigger and more bruising competition he'll be up against, which should make new Clips coach Doc Rivers smile with pride.
26) Minnesota Timberwolves: Steven Adams (C - Pittsburgh)
Most college basketball fans know Adams shouldn't have left Pitt after one year, but his raw talent is still enough to get the New Zealander into the first round, even if Minnesota will likely send him to the NBDL with Kevin Love not giving up his starting spot anytime soon. Adams may be soft from a professional perspective, but will be better served going to a team who will take its time bringing him along.
27) Denver Nuggets: Tim Hardaway Jr. (G - Michigan)
This pick will likely dictate what happens to Andre Iguodala long-term, but even if Denver's All-Star wing stays, Hardaway steps in as his backup to keep the offensive flow at the same high level between Ty Lawson and Danilo Gallinari. Hardaway could go a few spots earlier to Atlanta, but will likely fall into the twenties, where the Nuggets will be happy to scoop him up.
28) San Antonio Spurs: Tony Snell (G - New Mexico)
After his disastrous Game 7 against the Heat, it's clear that Manu Ginobili doesn't have much time left, so Gregg Popovich will enable him to help mentor one of his replacements in Snell, who becomes the latest player who will instantly fit the San Antonio system, much like his Mountain West compatriot Kawhi Leonard. A swingman who can shoot, facilitate and defend, Snell is the total package. If you don't believe us, just ask Sports Illustrated's Andy Glockner.
29) Oklahoma City Thunder: Ricky Ledo (G - Providence)
If Oklahoma City goes for a shooter like Shabazz Muhammad or C.J. McCollum if either are available at No. 12, then the pick here will likely be spent on a big man, but if they go for the big first, then Ledo is a solid selection here. Despite never being able to play for Ed Cooley at Providence due to eligibility issues, he remains a lethal shooter that will be OKC's replacement for James Harden, albeit a year later.
30) Phoenix Suns: Deshaun Thomas (F - Ohio State)
Phoenix brings down the curtain on David Stern's NBA Draft career with a potential steal in the fundamentally sound Thomas, who is every bit as strong on the defensive side as he is on the offensive end. A consummate pro's pro, Thomas is not afraid to bump and bang all game long, and will always find a way to fill the box score, something the Suns would appreciate alongside Luis Scola.