- Anthony Bennett (Cleveland, Forward, 1st pick)
It almost seems redundant to suggest that the No.1 pick in the draft should be on everyone’s radar. However, Bennett is particularly interesting for a number of reasons. Unlike most teams picking No.1, the Cavs are clearly looking to make a run at the playoffs this year (in addition to keeping their cap space open for a certain Miami Heat superstar).
Bennett doesn’t have the ceiling of some No.1 picks of recent times, but I suspect the Cavs took him because they feel he’s the most ready to contribute at a high level from Day 1. Tweener forwards like him drafted high in recent years haven’t always had the best success rate (what up Derrick Williams?) but Bennett is a multi-skilled offensive player who could find a niche very quickly on this Cavs team, who haven’t been afraid to buck draft orthodoxy in the Chris Grant regime to some success. If he can settle in as a top supporting player to Kyrie Irving, the Cavs look very dangerous. Don’t think LeBron won’t be watching either.
- Cody Zeller (Charlotte, Power Forward/Center, 4th pick)
I don’t really need to talk too much here about MJ’s draft record – needless to say when he surprised everyone by taking Cody Zeller with the 4th pick of the draft, most of the talking heads lamented another wasted pick by the Horncats. Don’t be too sure yet. No, Zeller doesn’t have the strength to dominate inside – but how many old school, bully-their-way-to-the-basket post player forwards are there really in the league anymore? (One of the few that remain, Al Jefferson, also happens to be Zeller’s new teammate). The modern power forward is long, rangy, athletic, can finish at the rim on offense and can protect it defensively – all things Zeller can do pretty well. If he can form a pick and roll combination with Kemba Walker to compliment Big Al’s low block game, well, maybe Charlotte won’t suck for the first time in years. Playoffs are a stretch, but respectability isn’t.
- Ben McLemore (Sacramento, Shooting Guard, 7th pick)
McLemore, who was rumoured to be a top-3 pick, surprised everyone when he tumbled to No.7. The Kings’ off court future is finally settled for the first time in ages but the roster still remains a mess. I would not be surprised at all to see them make some in-season trades to try clean the roster up now they have an owner who will actually spend some money. However, DeMarcus Cousins got re-signed and the team has a good, hard nut coach in Mike Malone who will finally get them playing defense. McLemore is one of the best pure shooters to enter the draft in a while. If he can become more of a threat off the dribble and improve his defensive fundamentals, he’ll find a role on this question-filled roster which could surprise people if they find some answers.
- Trey Burke (Utah, Point Guard, 9th pick)
Burke was another draft faller who got snapped up by Minnesota with the 9th pick and immediately traded to Utah. The Jazz began a full rebuilding process this off-season, allowing Al Jefferson to walk in free agency and being on the receiving end of a Golden State salary dump. On a roster without much depth at the 1, Burke has the chance to start right away and continue the Jazz tradition of top point guards. He comes with some question marks – undersized (barely 6’0”) and not outstandingly athletic to compensate for it, you wonder how he’ll go on defense. But Burke is a modern-day PG who can score and create for his teammates in equal doses and should enjoy the chance to play big minutes and create synergy with his young teammates.
- Kelly Olynyk (Boston, Power Forward/Center, 13th pick)
Under the Law of Not Very Athletic White Forwards, every positive projection for Olynyk must compare him in some way to Kevin Love. I think this is a stretch – he doesn’t have anything close to Love’s rebounding ability, for one. What Olynyk can do is score the ball, both from the post and the perimeter. Watching his hair fly around would be enough reason to make him interesting, but once again we have a rookie who has the chance to make an immediate impact on a team with a naked desire to tank for the star-studded 2014 draft. If Olynyk can show or at least quickly develop enough smarts on defense to make up for his athletic limitations and become an efficient rebounder, he’ll have plenty of opportunity in Boston. If not, well…the fans there have the a new, hippified Brian Scalabrine.