NBA Mock Draft: Sixers go big at No. 16


NBA Mock Draft: Sixers go big at No. 16

Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Posted: 2:45 p.m.

By Sean Kane Contributor

The Cleveland Cavaliers were the big winners in Tuesday's NBA draft lottery. Thanks to a mid-season trade with the Clippers, the Cavs have the first and fourth picks in next month's draft. The last time Cleveland picked first, they took LeBron James in 2003. That same year, Carmelo Anthony (third), Chris Bosh (fourth) and Dwyane Wade (fifth) also went off the board early.

You won't find any LeBrons, Carmelos or D-Wades this year. Many NBA executives are on the record as saying this is the weakest crop of prospects in a couple of decades. Sure-fire lottery picks Jared Sullinger, Harrison Barnes, Perry Jones III and Terrence Jones are all returning to school, which only cheapened this class. But the draft must go on. With June 23 just over a month away, the Cavs are on the clock.

Here is our first mock draft (first round only):

1. Cleveland Cavaliers - Kyrie Irving (6-2, 180, PG, Duke)
The one strong point of this draft is the point guard position, and Irving is the surest bet of the bunch. The biggest knock on the 19-year-old Irving is he played just 11 games during his career at Duke because of a toe injury. Had he not gotten hurt, he likely would have been the national player of the year and even more of a lock to go No. 1 in the draft. He showed enough when he was healthy the ability to score and control the game without scoring to prove he'll be successful at the next level. Irving is a capable shooter, and while he may not have Derrick RoseJohn Wall-type explosion while going to the basket, he has no trouble getting where he wants to go. The Cavs need a point guard, and Irving is their man.

2. Minnesota Timberwolves - Derrick Williams (6-9, 240, SF, Arizona)
Williams and Irving are on a level of their own when it comes to this year's draft. They are the two elite prospects, and then there's everyone else. Williams went from a little-heralded recruit at Arizona to top draft prospect in just two years. His body and game are NBA ready he is the best athlete in this draft, and is a surprisingly good shooter for a player his size (he shot close to 57 percent from three-point range as a sophomore).

3. Utah Jazz - Enes Kanter (6-11, 260, PF, Kentucky)
The Jazz have a choice to make here. Do they take a point guard and play him in combo sets with Devin Harris? Or do they bolster an already strong frontline featuring Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson? It says here they go big, and the best post player available is Enes Kanter. Unless you've followed Turkish basketball closely, chances are you haven't seen Kanter play. He spent last season sitting on the Kentucky bench after being ruled ineligible by the NCAA. He did practice everyday with the Wildcats, but practicing and game action are far different animals. Kanter is billed as an extremely polished and athletic post player, a rare combination of size and skill.

4. Cleveland Cavaliers - Jonas Valanciunas (6-11, 240, C, Lithuania)
After getting their point guard at the top of the draft, the Cavs go big at No. 4. By all accounts, Valanciunas is the top international prospect available (Kanter notwithstanding). In the mold of most foreign big men, Valanciunas is able to get out and run the floor and is very skilled with the ball in his hands. Taking Valanciunas this high is a gamble. Cleveland can only hope he pans out as well as the last Lithuanian big man they drafted Zydrunas Ilgauskas in 1996.

5. Toronto Raptors - Brandon Knight (6-3, 185, PG, Kentucky)
If Knight gets past the Jazz at No. 3, he would be a great value pick for the Raptors here. Toronto's point guard situation is hardly stellar Jose Calderon turns 30 in September and Jerryd Bayless has yet to fulfill his potential as a 2008 lottery pick (although Bayless did produce when given big minutes in the last month of the season). Knight as a freshman was the driving force behind Kentucky's Final Four run, taking and making all the big shots for the Wildcats. He is polished beyond his years offensively, and his size gives him the edge over Kemba Walker, another point guard who will be drafted shortly.

6. Washington Wizards - Kawhi Leonard (6-7, 225, SF, San Diego St.)
Leonard may not be the sixth-best prospect in this draft, but he's a perfect fit for the Wizards. His specialties are rebounding and defense, and Washington was the fourth-worst rebounding team in the NBA last season and gave up the fifth most points. Leonard averaged 15.5 points and 10.5 rebounds as a sophomore for a 34-win San Diego St. team. His offensive game needs to improve; he shot just 44 percent from the field last season.

7. Sacramento Kings - Kemba Walker (6-1, 180, PG, Connecticut)
The Kings finally realized that Tyreke Evans is a lot of things, but a point guard isn't one of them. Sacramento could also use a high-character leader in its locker room. Enter Walker, who singlehandedly willed UConn to the national championship last season. He is a shoot-first point guard, so the challenge will be finding enough shots for him and Evans. But Walker is an NBA-ready talent with box office appeal, which is big for a Kings team on the brink of leaving Sacramento.

8. Detroit Pistons - Bismack Biyombo (6-9, 240, PF, Spain)
Biyombo is an unknown quantity, with the only certainties being his defense and rebounding. He is an elite level shot blocker and rebounder, with an NBA-ready body. His offensive game needs big-time work, but the Pistons will take his defense and wait for his offense. The Pistons gave up over 100 points per game last season, and they will see shades of Ben Wallace in Biyombo.

9. Charlotte Bobcats - Tristan Thompson (6-9, 225, PF, Texas)
The Bobcats' frontline needs help, and Thompson has a ton of potential here. He averaged 13 points and eight rebounds as a freshman. Thompson's frame has all the makings of a terrific rebounder and shot blocker. A lefty who is a handful to defend on the low block, he made great strides offensively during his time in Austin.

10. Milwaukee Bucks - Jan Vesely (6-11, 240, PF, Czech Republic)
The Bucks need help up front, and Vesely isn't your typical big man. He is an extremely gifted athlete who can excel on the offensive end right away. Vesely is a high-energy guy who would be a great fit coming off Milwaukee's bench. Consistency is the question mark with Vesely, who can be a bit of a tweener in terms of the small and power forward positions.

11. Golden State Warriors - Marcus Morris (6-9, 220, SF, Kansas)
The Warriors add an NBA-ready prospect in Morris with this pick. Golden State has plenty of guys that like to score and not much else. Morris has the ability to score when needed, but more importantly can rebound, defend and share the ball. The Philadelphia product improved every year at Kansas. He knows the game and made countless 'winning plays' in college. Morris doesn't need the ball to contribute, a welcomed attribute for Golden State.

12. Utah Jazz - Jimmer Fredette (6-2, 195, SG, BYU)
With their second lottery pick, the Jazz get a local boy and scoring machine in Fredette. The long range marksman was the darling of college basketball as a senior. Fredette led the nation by scoring just under 29 points per game and shot 40 percent from three. But he's not just a one-trick pony. Fredette demonstrated the ability to get to the basket, which complements his shooting stroke well. He'll also create a buzz playing in the same state where he starred collegiately. All this will help the Jazz look past Fredette's defensive shortcomings.

13. Phoenix Suns - Chris Singleton (6-9, 225, SF, Florida St.)
Singleton is considered the best perimeter defender in this draft, which is music to the Suns' ears. Phoenix gave up the second most points in the NBA last season. Taking Singleton gives them an immediate boost defensively, but they'll have to be patient for his offensive skills to evolve.

14. Houston Rockets - Alec Burks (6-6, 190, SG, Colorado)
Burks is an athletic perimeter player with skills that fit perfectly with how the high-octane Rockets like to play. His offensive game came a long way in his two seasons at Colorado; he averaged 20.5 points last season as a sophomore. Burks' jump shot needs improvement; he made just 29 percent of his three-point attempts. He is an above average rebounder with an all around game that mirrors Evan Turner.

15. Indiana Pacers - Markief Morris (6-10, 245, PF, Kansas)
The Pacers are in the market for an athletic big man who can protect the rim and run the floor. Morris fits that need perfectly. He was the less heralded Morris twin during his time at Kansas, but he thrived doing the dirty work defensively and on the glass. Morris is an excellent interior defender who averaged 8.3 rebounds as a junior.

16. Philadelphia 76ers - Kenneth Faried (6-8, 225, PF, Morehead State)
The 76ers have plenty of young building blocks for Doug Collins to work with, particularly on the perimeter. But they need a big man, an energy guy that will help them improve on the glass; they finished in the lower half of the NBA in rebounding margin last season. Rebounding was the biggest difference when the 76ers went toe-to-toe with Eastern Conference heavyweights like Orlando and Miami (in the four games they lost to the Heat in the postseason, they were beat on the glass by an average of 8.5 rebounds per game).

No one in college basketball rebounded the ball better than Faried last season he led the nation with 14.3 per game. But his skills aren't limited to the boards alone. He averaged close to 2.5 blocks last season and 17.3 points. He broke onto the national radar in Morehead State's first round upset of Louisville in the NCAA tournament, grabbing 17 rebounds and blocking the potential game-winning shot at the buzzer. With four years of college experience, Faried will be ready to contribute immediately on the 76ers' thin frontline. He won't need the ball to be a factor in the NBA; he's content protecting the rim and rebounding.

17. New York Knicks - Donatas Motiejunas (7-0, 225, PF, Lithuania)
18. Washington Wizards - Trey Thompkins (6-10, 250, PF, Georgia)
19. Charlotte Bobcats - Jordan Hamilton (6-7, 225, SG, Texas)
20. Minnesota Timberwolves - Klay Thompson (6-6, 200, SG, Washington St.)
21. Portland Trail Blazers - Reggie Jackson (6-3, 210, PG, Boston College)
22. Denver Nuggets - Tobias Harris (6-8, 225, SF, Tennessee)
23. Houston Rockers - JaJuan Johnson (6-10, 220, PF, Purdue)
24. Oklahoma City Thunder - Justin Harper (6-10, 225, PF, Richmond)
25. Boston Celtics - Tyler Honeycutt (6-8, 190, SF, UCLA)
26. Dallas Mavericks - Darius Morris (6-4, 190, PG, Michigan)
27. New Jersey Nets - Josh Selby (6-2, 180, PG, Kansas)
28. Chicago Bulls - Shelvin Mack (6-2, 215, PG, Butler)
29. San Antonio Spurs - Nolan Smith (6-3, 190, PG, Duke)
30. Chicago Bulls - Davis Bertans (6-9, 210, SF, Latvia)

Not worthy of No. 1: LSU reporter details concerns with Ben Simmons


Not worthy of No. 1: LSU reporter details concerns with Ben Simmons

So you think Ben Simmons should be picked first or second in the next month's NBA draft.

We found someone who thinks Simmons doesn't deserve to go in either spot. Someone who has seen Simmons play plenty.

It's USA Today LSU beat writer Glenn Guilbeau, who didn't mince words as a guest Thursday on TCN's Breakfast on Broad. Guilbeau didn't question Simmons' desire and motivation — "I don't think that was an issue," he said — but did express concerns with other areas. 

Several other areas.

"To me, he's more of a specialist player and a complementary player than someone who can really take over a team," Guilbeau said. "He's not a strong, inside player like a brute. A physical player. And he also does not shoot from the outside, which is amazing, but he's a great passer and a great scorer."

Complementary player? Can't take over a team? Say what? 

"I don't think he should be the first pick," Guilbeau said. "I can see him being a high first-round pick. It depends on the team he's going to. Do they have enough of the other parts of the team where he can be a facilitator and a complementary player?

"He would have to go to a team where he can flourish as a complementary player, a team that has a very good center."

The Sixers are loaded in the front court with Jahlil Okafor, Nerlens Noel and potentially Joel Embiid. But a first overall pick is not supposed to be a complementary player.

"I think you could develop him to be as good as he could be, but not be that type of star," Guilbeau said. "It's kind of strange to me. Before he ever played he was supposed to be the greatest player, and I just never saw it. I covered great players here like Shaquille O'Neal and Chris Jackson, and he just didn't change a team like those guys did."

You'd think a team with the best player in the nation would have fared better than LSU, which finished last season a disappointing 19-14. The Tigers were crushed by Texas A&M in the SEC Tournament, 71-38, failed to make the NCAA Tournament and declined an NIT bid. In the loss to the Aggies, Simmons had 10 points, 12 rebounds and four fouls in 31 minutes.

The 6-foot-10, 225-pound Simmons averaged 19.2 points, 11.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists for LSU and hit 56.0 percent from the field. Gaudy numbers and all team highs. But he was just 1 for 3 from three, and that's a major concern given that he's being projected at almost every position but center.

"I just was surprised -- he didn't even try to shoot from the outside," Guilbeau said. "That would be the normal attribute that a player like him would have because he's a guard. He's basically a guard who can't shoot. Most of them can shoot. That's what I thought was really missing, and it hurt the team at times.

"In my mind, either you can dominate inside like a Shaquille O'Neal, or you can do all the other things, but all the other things has to include shooting from the outside, and he doesn't do that. I'd rather have Buddy [Hield]."

If there's one thing Hield can do — and let's just assume Guilbeau misspoke when he said "Guiled" — it's shoot. And the Sixers certainly need a shooter. But obviously it would be a major shock if they took Hield. 

It will be important for Simmons to develop an outside shot, and it might be more important for him to play under a quality head coach. Guilbeau wasn't praiseworthy of LSU's Johnny Jones, whose Tigers improved in each of his first three seasons as head coach before Simmons' arrival.

LSU won 19 games in 2013, 20 in 2014 and 22 in 2015 — and reached the NCAA Tournament.

"It's going to depend on the coach he gets too," Guilbeau said. "I would say he's never really had a great X and O coach yet in his career. He was on a team that had quite a few players last year, and they didn't do too well. So maybe it will be different depending on what team he goes to. He didn't play under Coach K or anything like that."

For more discussion on the topic, watch Thursday's edition of Lunch Break.


Gonzo: Examining possible Jahlil Okafor trade destinations


Gonzo: Examining possible Jahlil Okafor trade destinations

The lottery is over. The NBA draft is still roughly a month away. The playoffs are funneling toward the finals. Free agency hasn’t begun. That means it’s trade speculation season for hoop heads.

Not surprisingly, the 76ers have been mentioned as potential trade partners for sundry teams. That’s what happens when you have the first overall pick in the upcoming draft, a bunch of picks in subsequent seasons, and a clogged frontcourt with too many ill-fitting but tradable pieces. The Sixers are said to “covet” an additional high pick in this year’s draft. Add that to the belief that the Sixers are high on Nerlens Noel for assorted reasons, and it’s easy to understand why Jahlil Okafor’s name keeps popping up these days.

Okafor was second among all rookies in scoring and he led the Sixers in that category. He was also a liability on defense and, too often, a ball-movement killer on offense. Still, he’s worth something on the trade market. He’s the rare expendable frontcourt redundancy that could return real value. In theory. The potential problem is identifying a team that wants Okafor and has something the Sixers desire in exchange.

Let’s go through the NBA. We can eliminate some teams right away for various reasons: because they’re at the top of the NBA food chain and wouldn’t want a young guy when they’re trying to win now; because they already have a big man or big men; because they don’t play a style suited to Okafor’s game; because they don’t have much to give the Sixers in return. You could apply one or several of those to the following organizations: Cleveland, Toronto, Miami, Charlotte, Washington, Indiana, Detroit, New York, Brooklyn, Golden State, OKC, San Antonio, Clippers, Memphis, Houston, Utah, Sacramento, New Orleans and Minnesota.

Anything is possible. This isn’t scientific. Crazy/unexpected/lopsided trades happen. (Shouts to Vlade and Vivek.) Perhaps a trade materializes with one of those teams, it’s just that those destinations don’t seem likely. Moving on.

In the maybe category, we have teams that are rebuilding, teams that need a shakeup, teams that are still on the rise, teams that love to tinker and teams that are wholly unpredictable. They include Atlanta, Chicago, Orlando, Milwaukee, Portland, and Dallas. We’ll take them in order.

The Hawks are in danger of losing Al Horford in free agency this summer, and Paul Millsap is a free agent next year. Maybe there’s a deal variation that lands the Sixers Jeff Teague (UFA in 2017) or Dennis Schroder (RFA in 2017). Chicago is a mess. The Bulls really need a makeover, but beyond Jimmy Butler, who would be tough (if not impossible to pry away), not sure what they have that might make the Sixers weak in the knees. Orlando has potential in its backcourt, which the Sixers need. Victor Oladipo or Mario Hezonja would look excellent in a Sixers uniform, but would Okafor fit with Nikola Vucevic? Probably not. Not sure Okafor fits in Milwaukee, either. Giannis Antetokounmpo is the guy there, and they have Jabari Parker. Plus adding Okafor means somehow getting rid of Greg Monroe (he’s not a free agent until next offseason). Portland made the playoffs this year in surprising fashion. They’re on the rise again. They could use an upgrade in the paint for sure, but it doesn’t appear they have the picks/players to offer in return. (No, they’re not giving up CJ McCollum.) Dallas is a wild card. Mark Cuban is unknowable.

That leaves four teams that might be the best bets: Boston, Lakers, Phoenix and Denver. According to excellent long-time NBA reporter David Aldridge, who wrote the piece about the Sixers' coveting thy neighbor’s high first-rounder, “trading Okafor would be the easiest and best way for Philly to get another high first-round pick.” He’s right about that. The Lakers pick second. Boston picks third (along with 16 and 23). Phoenix is fourth (along with 13 and 28). Denver is seventh (along with 15 and 19).

As Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak admitted in the aforementioned Aldridge piece, the Lakers “need a player in the frontcourt.” Meanwhile, they have Jordan Clarkson (RFA) in the backcourt, along with D’Angelo Russell and Lou Williams. Would they be willing to flip Russell for Okafor? Or the second pick for Okafor? Those deals make sense for the Sixers. They make somewhat less sense for the Lakers considering L.A. could just stay put at two and plug in whichever player the Sixers don’t take. Much simpler for them. Smarter, too.

Denver and Phoenix both have multiple first-round picks in this draft and rosters that need alteration. But both also have big men in place that might make those maneuvers complicated. Like Okafor, Nikola Jokic was named All-Rookie first team for the Nuggets. Alex Len hasn’t been nearly as good for Phoenix, but he was a first-round pick a few years ago. Okafor wouldn’t fit very well with either of them, which probably means getting creative to work with those teams.

That brings us to the most popular theory: Okafor to Boston. There were rumors that the Celtics wanted him at the trade deadline. Even without additional parts, the third pick might be enough for the Sixers to do a deal. Boston also has a cache of other current and future picks to work with, along with some players it could throw in as sweeteners. I get why dealing with Boston makes sense for the Sixers, but does Okafor make the Celtics legitimate contenders in the Eastern Conference? He’s not a rim protector or a monster rebounder, he needs the ball on offense to make an impact, and his defense would probably make Brad Stevens' head explode. I’m not so sure it’s as obvious from Boston’s end as it is from Philly’s view. And yet the Celtics have to do something. Maybe they talk themselves into Okafor.

Admittedly, that’s a super-simplified, cursory look at the situation. The Sixers only need to find one taker. With the draft and free agency approaching and the salary cap set to jump significantly, it’s about to be NBA silly season. There’s always lots of movement. The guess here is that the Sixers unload Okafor during the pending madness. It makes too much sense from their perspective, though maybe there aren’t as many clear-cut potential trade partners as it seemed.

NBA Playoffs: Cavs respond to destroy Raptors in Game 5


NBA Playoffs: Cavs respond to destroy Raptors in Game 5


CLEVELAND -- Back home, the Cavaliers were not hospitable.

They rudely roughed up the Raptors again.

LeBron James scored 23 points then sat the fourth quarter, Kevin Love scored 25, and Cleveland unleashed tenacious defense on Toronto to regain control of the Eastern Conference finals with a 116-78 rout of the Raptors in Game 5 on Wednesday night.

On their court in front of 20,000-plus screaming fans following two straight losses in Canada, the Cavs opened a 34-point lead in the first half and never slowed while taking a 3-2 series lead.

They can clinch their second straight conference title and trip to the NBA Finals with a win in Game 6 on Friday night in Toronto.

"We ought to be able to transfer that on Friday," James said. "Playing in that beast of an arena that we're going to we got to be composed, we got to be tough and we got to be sharp."

The Raptors, who came in with momentum and confidence after winning Games 3 and 4, left Quicken Loans Arena shaken and one loss from having their deepest playoff run stopped.

"They kicked our butts, bottom line," Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. "That's been all three ballgames."

James had eight assists and six rebounds in 31 minutes before checking out late in the third quarter with the Cavs up 37. He spent the fourth quarter resting on the bench while Cleveland's reserves finished the romp.

Kyrie Irving added 23 points and he, James and Love outscored the Raptors 43-34 in the first half. Cleveland has won its three games in the series by a combined 88 points.

"They are a different team here," Casey said. "We came in here with a chance to do something special and we didn't get it done. They pushed us around and took what they wanted."

DeMar DeRozan scored 14 points and Kyle Lowry had 13 for the Raptors, who were overwhelmed from the start. Bismack Biyombo had just four rebounds after getting 40 the past two games. The only positive for Toronto was center Jonas Valanciunas, who returned after missing eight straight games with a sprained right ankle. He scored nine points in 18 minutes.

Playing defense as if every possession was the game's last, Cleveland held Toronto to 34 points in the opening half while building a 31-point halftime lead -- the largest in conference finals history. Since their expansion arrival in 1993, the Raptors had never been down by 30 before in any game -- regular or postseason -- at halftime but they have rarely seen a defense like this either.

The Cavs were all over the court, swarming and stifling DeRozan and Lowry, who combined for 67 points in Game 4.

A courtside doctor might have stopped this one in the first half.

Love found his shooting touch after it went missing during the lost weekend in Toronto, where he went just 5 of 23 and was benched for the fourth quarter of Game 4. He finished 8 of 10 from the field, a confidence-boosting performance that should temporarily quiet his critics.

"Kevin Love being Kevin Love," Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said. "He had two bad shooting games and we made a big deal out of it. Nothing he does amazes me. We gotta keep him aggressive all the time."

The Cavs made a point of getting Love the ball right away and he responded by making all four field goal attempts, dropping a 3 late in the first quarter that pushed the Cavs to a 37-19 lead.

"He was just locked in," James said. "We saw that and just wanted to keep giving him the ball. The easiest one he had tonight, he missed."

Cleveland's onslaught continued in the second quarter, and when James got free for an easy two-handed dunk, Cavs fans could relax and begin making TV viewing plans for Friday.

These looked more like the Cavaliers who opened the postseason with 10 straight wins, obliterated the Raptors by a combined 50 points in Games 1 and 2 and given a chance to beat whomever survived in the West.

Center of attention
Valanciunas hadn't played since May 7. He scored two quick baskets in the first quarter when the Raptors were still close.

Raptors: Dropped to 2-7 on the road in this postseason. ... Played a game every other day since April 29, going 7-7. . Biyombo and Valanciunas are the only teammates with at least 120 rebounds this postseason.

Cavaliers: Trumped their 31-point win in Game 1, which was the previous most lopsided playoff victory in team history. ... James played in his 191st career postseason game, moving him ahead of Magic Johnson for 12th place on the all-time list. ... James (1,320) is tied with Kobe Bryant (1,320) for the second-most free throws in postseason history. Michael Jordan made 1,463. ... Improved to 7-0 at home in these playoffs.

Up next
Game 6 is Friday night in Toronto.