By Charles F. Gardner Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Milwaukee Bucks beat writer Charles F. Gardner gives his predictions for the first round of the NBA draft, which begins at 4:30 p.m. today and will be televised by ESPN.
1. CLEVELAND CAVALIERS
Nerlens Noel, 7-0, 206, C, Kentucky, 18
The Cavaliers have been shopping the No. 1 pick and there is no consensus player at the top. But if Cleveland keeps the pick, the athleticism and long defensive reach of Noel finally convinces the Cavaliers.
2. ORLANDO MAGIC
Victor Oladipo, 6-4, 213, SG, Indiana, 20
Concerns remain about Oladipo’s perimeter shooting. But balance that against his work ethic, strong defense and ability to contribute right away, and it’s easy to see why he is a coveted player.
3. WASHINGTON WIZARDS
Otto Porter, 6-9, 198, SF, Georgetown, 20
Trade speculation has surrounded this pick but the Wizards will be hard-pressed to pass on Porter, who is plenty familiar with the Verizon Center after playing for the Hoyas.
4. CHARLOTTE BOBCATS
Alex Len, 7-1, 225, C, Maryland, 19
Len has been on the rise recently despite a stress fracture in his left ankle that has kept him from working out. New Bobcats coach Steve Clifford worked with Dwight Howard in Orlando and Los Angeles and can develop big men.
5. PHOENIX SUNS
Anthony Bennett, 6-7, 239, PF, UNLV, 20
He has the offensive skills to play small forward but the body type of a power forward. The Suns are looking to bolster their frontcourt under new GM Ryan McDonough.
6. NEW ORLEANS PELICANS
Ben McLemore, 6-5, 189, SG, Kansas, 20
His workouts have been inconsistent but he’s a true shooting guard who can fill it up. The Pelicans are looking for the best player on the board and he fits the description.
7. SACRAMENTO KINGS
Shabazz Muhammad, 6-6, 222, SF, UCLA, 20
Muhammad could plummet or he could stay in the top 10 if a team really likes him. A new management team in Sacramento will be making its first big decision.
8. DETROIT PISTONS
Trey Burke, 6-1, 187, PG, Michigan, 20
The Pistons have young front-court players in Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond, so adding a point guard makes sense. And getting the former Wolverines standout will be a popular choice in Detroit.
9. MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, 6-6, 204, SG, Georgia, 20
New team president Flip Saunders likes the Georgia sophomore, who could provide some needed perimeter scoring punch to complement point guard Ricky Rubio and power forward Kevin Love.
10. PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS
Cody Zeller, 7-0, 230, PF/C, Indiana, 20
Zeller helped himself with a strong performance at the draft combine in Chicago in mid-May. He could team with LaMarcus Aldridge to give the Trail Blazers a strong front-court tandem.
11. PHILADELPHIA 76ERS
Steven Adams, 7-0, 255, C, Pittsburgh, 19
It could be a risky pick for new GM Sam Hinkle, but the 76ers need a big man. And Adams is young with a chance to be very good.
12. OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
Kelly Olynyk, 7-0, 234, C, Gonzaga, 22
He’s an accomplished low-post scorer with a sophisticated offensive game that includes a good perimeter shot.
13. DALLAS MAVERICKS
Michael Carter-Williams, 6-6, 185, PG, Syracuse, 21
He could go much higher, to Sacramento or Detroit, for instance. His size and status as a true point guard are appealing, although the Mavs have been trying to trade their pick.
14. UTAH JAZZ
C.J. McCollum, 6-3, 197, SG, Lehigh, 21
McCollum will be the first player from Lehigh to be drafted and has drawn comparisons to Portland’s Damian Lillard, who went from mid-major Weber State to rookie of the year. Utah needs a point guard and would love to get McCollum.
15. MILWAUKEE BUCKS
Shane Larkin, 6-0, 171, PG, Miami, 20
With Brandon Jennings’ return uncertain, Larkin is an excellent athlete who can excel in the pick-and-roll game. If this is the Bucks’ pick, they will look to improve the wing positions in free agency.
16. BOSTON CELTICS
Dennis Schroeder, 6-2, 165, PG, Germany, 19
Schroeder was said to have a first-round promise. It would be fitting for the young German star to play behind Rajon Rondo, the point guard he grew up trying to emulate.
17. ATLANTA HAWKS
Sergey Karasev, 6-7, 197, SF, Russia, 19
Karasev returned to Moscow earlier this month, prompting talk he had received a guarantee from a team in the first round. He could come to the NBA or stay in Russia for one more year.
18. ATLANTA HAWKS
Giannis Adetokunbo, 6-9, 215, SF, Greece, 18
This is a player the Hawks can stash overseas for another year or two. He excelled at the EuroCamp in Treviso, Italy, earlier this month but has not faced strong competition yet.
19. CLEVELAND CAVALIERS
Tony Snell, 6-7, 198, SG, New Mexico, 21
The Cavaliers like Karasev and may try to trade up to acquire him, but if not they will look for another shooter here. Snell has been rising in the draft process.
20. CHICAGO BULLS
Allan Crabbe, 6-6, 197, SG, California, 21
The Bulls could use some shooters to surround Derrick Rose as he returns to the lineup after missing all of last season with his knee injury. Crabbe can shoot and will have to play defense under coach Tom Thibodeau.
21. UTAH JAZZ
Mason Plumlee, 7-1, 238, C, Duke, 23
The Jazz could be losing big men Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap in free agency, so Plumlee could fill a need as a backup for Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors.
22. BROOKLYN NETS
Gorgui Dieng, 6-11, 230, C, Louisville, 23
Dieng could help bolster the interior defense for new Nets coach Jason Kidd.
23. INDIANA PACERS
Isaiah Canaan, 6-2, 188, PG, Murray State, 22
The Pacers need point guard help behind George Hill and Canaan will provide a strong option as a scorer and ball handler.
24. NEW YORK KNICKS
Jamaal Franklin, 6-5, 191, SG, San Diego State, 21
Franklin is too good to pass up if he’s still on the board. His defense and energy fit on a Knicks team that already has plenty of scoring.
25. LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS
Tim Hardaway Jr., 6-6, 191, SG, Michigan, 21
Hardaway provides a scorer to help bolster the Clippers bench as they retool under coach Doc Rivers.
26. MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES
Ricky Ledo, 6-7, 197, SG, Providence, 20
Ledo is confident in his abilities despite not playing his freshman year at Providence due to academic issues. He is a good perimeter shooter, an area of need for Minnesota.
27. DENVER NUGGETS
Glen Rice Jr., 6-6, 211, SG, Rio Grande Valley, 22
Rice has taken the right steps to repair his image after a checkered career at Georgia Tech. He sat on the bench in the D-League before making his mark late in the season. And he can shoot.
28. SAN ANTONIO SPURS
Lucas Nogueira, 7-0, 220, C, Brazil, 20
The Spurs could add Nogueira to a Brazilian tandem with Tiago Splitter, or as a replacement if Splitter is traded.
29. OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
Jeff Withey, 7-1, 222, C, Kansas, 23
Withey is a good defender and can play power forward or center. He can provide some muscle to help Kevin Durant.
30. PHOENIX SUNS
Tony Mitchell, 6-9, 236, PF, North Texas, 21
The Knicks like Mitchell, but if he drops this far the Suns may have to take a chance on his size and athletic talent.