NBA Draft Preview: Top 5 picks, and who Knicks, Nets are eyeing
Although Thursday’s NBA Draft does not appear to be stocked with tons of superstar talent, there are several experienced college players who could step in and quickly fill roles. While the outlook is not ideal for lottery teams, those picking later — including the Knicks (No. 17) and the Nets (No. 27) — should land decent value. Here’s a look at what the top five picks may hold, as well as who the local teams may be eyeing.
No. 1 (Cleveland Cavaliers)
Kyrie Irving, point guard, 6-foot-3, freshman, Duke
The Cavs have two picks in the top four to rebuild their post-LeBron franchise, and Irving is the highest-upside player at a position whose importance in the NBA is on the rise.
No. 2 (Minnesota Timberwolves)
Derrick Williams, forward, 6-foot-8, sophomore, Arizona
With much of Minnesota’s scoring coming from the low post, the athletic Williams would help the T-Wolves spread the floor while maintaining a big lineup.
No. 3 (Utah Jazz)
Brandon Knight, point guard, 6-foot-3, freshman, Kentucky
Utah obtained this pick from the Nets for Deron Williams, and they’ll nab this clutch-shooting point guard to become his replacement.
No. 4 (Cleveland)
Enes Kanter, forward/center, 6-foot-11, age 19, Turkey
Kanter’s size and athleticism impressed scouts at the Combine. He lacks quality experience, but Cleveland can afford to gamble its extra pick on this big man’s upside.
No. 5 (Toronto Raptors)
Kemba Walker, point guard, 6-foot-1, junior, Connecticut
Though the Raptors need rebounding, what they lack is a player fans can get excited about. They may opt for the undersized, overachieving UConn star.
No. 17 (Knicks)
The Knicks’ lack of depth was exposed when they were swept by Boston in the first round of the playoffs. Fortunately, that gives them flexibility to draft the best available player.
New York’s biggest need is at shooting guard, making Klay Thompson an intriguing target. The 6-foot-7 junior from Washington State (and son of former NBA player Mychal Thompson) is arguably the draft’s purest and most NBA-ready shooter, which may result in his name being called well before No. 17. Another possibility is Alec Burks, a 6-foot-6 sophomore from Colorado who fits better into coach Mike D’Antoni’s transition offense but lacks NBA 3-point range. Perhaps the most likely to be available is Big East product Marshon Brooks, a 6-foot-5 senior from Providence who is an all-around scorer.
Alternatively, the Knicks may go for frontcourt help, opting for one of Kansas’ twins – Marcus and Markieff Morris. Of the two juniors, the 6-foot-8 Marcus is the better scorer, while the bulkier 6-foot-9 Markieff is a better rebounder. Should the Knicks desire a truly relentless rebounder, they might choose 6-foot-7 Morehead State senior Kenneth Faried. The Newark native led the nation with 14.3 rpg and could become the player the Knicks once envisioned Renaldo Balkman to be.
No. 27 (Nets)
With the Nets expected to be active in the free-agent market, they could go any number of ways in the draft. Like the Knicks, they could use depth at almost every position.
The Nets would welcome some help at small forward, and might be happy to see 6-foot-8 UCLA sophomore swingman Tyler Honeycutt land in their lap. He’s the most athletic and highest-upside player who might be available this late in the first round, though he’s a bit wiry and his game lacks polish. A beefier alternative would be 6-foot-8 Tennessee freshman Tobias Harris, who played power forward in college and may need time to adjust to small forward, his likely NBA position. The safer pick could be Kyle Singler, Duke’s all-time minutes played leader (4,887). The 6-foot-9 Singler is NBA-ready but has questionable upside following a disappointing senior year.
The Nets could also go small or big. With Deron Williams no slam dunk to re-sign after this season, the team might take a chance on 6-foot-5 Michigan sophomore Darius Morris, a playmaking point guard with limited shooting range. Duke senior Nolan Smith, 6-foot-3, is another option — he can score but needs to improve his passing. General Manager Billy King could also select someone to spell Brook Lopez, such as 6-foot-11 USC junior Nikola Vucevic, who averaged a double-double last season in Pac-10 play.