The NBA Draft is over and now the rookies have settled onto their teams. Now it’s time to predict what kind of impact they will have on the team that drafted them. In a class that was considered weak by many, the draft ended up being one of the more exciting and unpredictable ones in recent memory. There was a surprise at almost every turn in the lottery and it all started with the very first pick.
No. 1 Pick – Cleveland Cavaliers – Anthony Bennett (UNLV)
Easily one of the biggest surprises of the draft, Bennett was taken first overall and the Canadian native became one of twelve international players taken in the first round. The pick was an interesting one for the Cavaliers as they already have their four-man of the future in Tristan Thompson who played very well this past season, averaging almost a double-double (11.7 and 9.4) without the veteran help of bigman Anderson Varejao for most of the season.
Bennett could be moved to the three, but that would require him to lose some weight and extend his range to beyond the arch. He plays more like a power forward, but his height and inability to defend the four will make it hard for him to play the position. However, if he works on his game during Summer League play, he should be fine and can just be an aggressive rebounding three.
No. 2 Pick – Orlando Magic – Victor Oladipo (Indiana)
Oladipo was one of the few picks that didn’t surprise in this draft as he was taken second after the Magic had hinted they were going to take him once Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart decided to go to back to school. Many experts believe that he is similar to Dwyane Wade in how he plays, but mostly for his perceived lack of shooting ability. However, taking a look at his sophomore stats, he was a much-improved shooter. He shot about 60% from the field and 44.1% from downtown and even had 6.3 boards a game from the 2-spot.
He will surely start right away at shooting guard and the Magic are trying him out at point during Summer League just to see if they can’t convert him or give him some Jameer Nelson relief minutes. They have been shopping guard Aaron Afflalo to no avail, but with the amount of trades seen during this moratorium period, one has to believe that will eventually find a new home for him and his bad contract ($7.5 million due this year). Las Vegas has just released their odds for Rookie of the Year and Oladipo has been given the best chance at +350.
His defensive prowess is what really intrigued Magic GM Rob Hennigan, and Hennigan hopes that the young and impressionable team will take on that tough-nosed personality. Oladipo is widely considered to be the best defensive guard in this draft and he will have the chance to prove it this coming season.
No. 3 Pick – Washington Wizards – Otto Porter
Otto Porter was arguably the most NBA-ready player in this draft and was picked by most people to go at this spot. He will have the chance to prove his readiness and worth in Washington straight away. Porter should get the start over perennial journeyman Trevor Ariza from the beginning. He shot 48% from the field and 42.2% from beyond the arch while rebounding at a 7.5 clip per game in his one year at Georgetown.
He has good height for the small forward position, but like most of these prospects, he will have to put on some more weight to be able to play with NBA-caliber players. However, he is a very active defender and will definitely help this team become more serous on that end of the floor. The Wizards should improve this season, but not enough to get out of the draft lottery.
No. 4 Pick – Charlotte Bobcats – Cody Zeller
This was definitely one of the bigger surprises as none of the experts had Zeller going until later in the lottery and some even had him sliding down to the 20’s. This was a humongous reach for the Bobcats, but let’s not blame it on owner Michael Jordan. He was actually against this move and made it very clear that he did not endorse the pick. Zeller will have a lot to prove if he wants to make GM Rich Cho’s decision look like a good one. The Bobcats helped Zeller a little bit by going out and signing Al Jefferson to a three-year deal.
Jefferson should help Zeller develop his game and become even more effective than he was from 15 feet and out at Indiana. Bismack Biyombo might find himself on the trading block if he can’t conjure up some more offense because Zeller can get up and down the floor in transition, which will always help a team that doesn’t have any real system of offense. Steve Clifford was just hired as the coach and it is still unclear what kind of offense he will run, but he should definitely look to get his young guns involved as well as getting Jefferson touches in the post.
Zeller isn’t quite where he needs to be defensively, but can learn from both Biyombo and Jefferson in that regard. He will have to bulk up his 7-foot frame to about 255 or 260 pounds if he doesn’t want to experience the growing pains of the NBA like Anthony Davis did. It would also help him defend the post better and keep guys off the glass, but he needs to make sure he doesn’t lose his speed. That and his athleticism is what catapulted him to the four-spot in this draft.
No. 5 Pick – Phoenix Suns – Alex Len
This pick was one of the more intriguing ones as Nerlens Noel was still available and the Suns still decided to go with a guy many people considered to be more offensively gifted. Nobody really knows for sure because he only played one year at Maryland and the guards he played with weren’t really good enough to get him the ball consistently. What we do know is that he is a legitimate 7-footer and has good size at 255 pounds. He is a decent rebounder with room to improve and is athletic for someone with his frame..
Len comes into an interesting situation where Marcin Gortat is the starting center that came into his own once he left Orlando. Gortat has one more year on his contract, is 29, and is due about 7.7 million dollars this season, which means he could become trade bait and an expiring contract to eventually make Len the starting center. A recent three-way trade brings Eric Bledsoe to the Suns, while getting rid of Jared Dudley (and his contract where he was due 12.75 million over the next 3 years). Bledsoe will start alongside Goran Dragic, a proven commodity, and Channing Frye will likely start at the three spot, allowing Len to create a twin towers scheme with Gortat.