No. 6 – New Orleans Pelicans – Nerlens Noel (Kentucky)
The “Block Party” featuring Noel and current center Anthony Davis was over before it ever began in New Orleans after the Pelicans drafted Noel and then promptly traded him to Philadelphia for Jrue Holiday and Pierre Jackson, the 42nd overall pick. New Orleans fans were surely hoping for a twin-tower look the likes of which the league hasn’t seen since Tim Duncan and David Robinson joined forces in 1997. However, management must have figured they were fine with just Davis seeing as how they traded away former Pelicans big man Robin Lopez as well.
The 76ers are without their only all-star but got a foundational building block in Noel, although he is a bit of a project. Noel is most likely not going to injure himself bowling like former Sixers big man Andrew Bynum did last season, so that’s a pretty big upside as compared to last year’s center. Noel says he will make it back by November to play as he is ahead of schedule for the rehab of his ACL. Once Noel starts playing, he should make an immediate impact and become the anchor of that defense. He will have to put in a lot of work on the offensive end to become a two-way player, but he will make his presence felt on the defensive end of the floor.
The most puzzling thing about this trade is that New Orleans gave the 76ers a first round pick that is only protected for picks 1-3. New Orleans will almost surely be in the lottery again and they should have had more foresight to recognize that they needed better protection on that pick. It will be interesting to see what happens to them since they jettisoned Greivis Vasquez and added Tyreke Evans, who has no real position or particularly strength in any one skill on the court.
No. 7 Pick – Sacramento Kings – Ben McLemore (Kansas)
Sending away Tyreke Evans means the Kings needed another scorer besides DeMarcus Cousins and they got one in McLemore. He has a smooth stroke and is one of the better, if not the best, shooter in this draft. Isaiah Thomas is a player the Kings really like, can play point guard and has proven he can do it on a consistent basis. This should relieve McLemore of any pressure to produce big right away.
The two should be a very potent duo and, if Cousins can ever mature, then those three players should be very good for a Kings team that hasn’t been watchable since Rick Adelman was the coach and Chris Webber was running with Jason Williams and Mike Bibby in the early 2000’s.
No. 8 Pick – Detroit Pistons – Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (Georgia)
This was an underrated pick and smooth move by the Pistons. They got a player who has proven he can handle an enormous offensive load and is a mature basketball player. At Georgia he was a facilitator as a shooting guard and was the only scoring option on a bad team. He was in a difficult situation in Athens, but he made the most of it and showed NBA scouts why he deserved to get picked in the lottery. He shot about 37% from beyond the arch (and that was with taking seven of those kinds of shots a game) and 43% from the field (a result of carrying the load).
Caldwell-Pope will be a great guard to pair with Brandon Knight in Detroit. Now Knight doesn’t have to get shuffled between the guard positions and will have a better opportunity to improve on his shooting from last season. This is a good, young team with those two guards, 19-year-old forward Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe and the recently acquired Josh Smith, who could potentially play at the 3-spot for a huge line-up.
Caldwell-Pope should be a name to look for in the box score and on the highlight reels as he could really help this team come back from their post-championship depression. He won’t average as many points as he did in college (18.5), but he will become a big contributor and bring the right attitude every time he steps in the gym.
No. 9 Pick – Utah Jazz (via Timberwolves) – Trey Burke (Michigan)
The Timberwolves made the pick for the Jazz and they wanted Burke. They desperately needed a point guard and got one of the best in this draft. Burke showed off all his talent at Michigan and is definitely the scorer Utah needs. He’s a little small at 6 feet flat, but is doesn’t matter if he gets to the rim and finds the open man as he did on his way to 6.7 assists per game in his sophomore season. Burke improved dramatically in almost every statistical category from his freshman to sophomore campaigns and will likely continue to improve for the Jazz. He shot 38.4% from downtown and a nice 46.3% from the field overall. He had 1.6 steals per game to go along with his high assist number and shot about 80% from the free throw line.
He will be paired with Enes Kanter, Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward and Alec Burks to start the season and will most likely become the leader of the youth movement in Utah. They did bring in veterans Richard Jefferson, Andris Beidrins, and Brandon Rush, but those contracts will expire after next season and that will allow the Jazz a lot of financial flexibility while giving them an opportunity to extend their own guys and search for better free agents.
No. 10 Pick – Portland Trail Blazers – C.J. McCollum (Lehigh)
Portland didn’t do anything fancy or surprising as it used its pick on the big guard from a small school. The biggest knock against him is that he played in the Patriot League and is actually only the second player (after Adonal Foyle from Colgate) out of the conference to play in the NBA.
McCollum averaged about 24 points a game and about 50% from the field as a guard. He shot 51.6% from triple land and 48.5% inside the ark. An outside shooting higher than all other shooting percentages indicates McCollum is a bona fide scorer and can help reigning Rookie of the Year, Damian Lillard, in the backcourt. McCollum should start right away, but the Blazers still need a couple more floor spacers and one more good back-up big man to really compete. However, this pick is certainly one in the right direction on top of adding Lopez to the starting line-up. Earl Watson and Dorrell Wright were also brought in to solidify the bench and help with depth issues they had last year as they fell apart late in the season and missed out on the playoffs.