The NBA draft lottery was held last night, with the Cleveland Cavaliers claiming the top pick for the second time in three years. The team with the best statistical chance of getting the #1 overall pick, the Orlando Magic, had to settle for second. The Washington Wizards, with the 8th best odds, snagged the third pick.
The last time the Cavs were awarded the top pick, they selected former Orange player Dion Waiters' current back court running mate Kyrie Irving. On the clock again, there's not really a clear-cut selection. Former Kentucky Wildcat Nerlens Noel has long been the presumed #1 overall pick, even after tearing his ACL back on February 12th. There have been some rumblings, though, that Noel's health might scare away some teams. Cleveland GM Chris Grant even went so far as to say that he'd consider trading the top pick, something that hasn't been done in 20 years.
Most Syracuse fans, though, will be focused on the latter half of the draft lottery. Orange sophomore point guard Michael Carter-Williams is expected to be taken somewhere between 10 and 20. Now that the first round draft order has largely been decided, how have MCW's prospects changed? Let's take a look.
Any discussion of potential draft position had to include two factors: positional comparisons and team needs. Not all point guards are built the same and the differences between them will determine whether one player or another best the needs of a team.
There was a time when Marcus Smart was considered hands down the best PG prospect in the 2013 draft. Smart, though, withdrew his name, leaving the title of best PG up for grabs. There are a couple of college player who will challenge MCW for that title. We all know about Michigan's Trey Burke, who is probably the most skilled PG in the draft. Miami Hurricane's lead guard Shane Larkin looks poised to move up draft boards after besting all other point guards in most of the athletic drills during the NBA combine. And then there's Dennis Schroeder, a prospect out of Germany, who has come on of late as well. All three of these players have the games, and bodies, of traditional point guards, small and quick, with the ability to knock down a jump shot to help keep defenses honest.
Speaking of being honest, anyone who isn't kidding themselves knows that teams interested in MCW aren't looking at his jumper (or lack thereof) or even so much at his play making ability. They're looking at his size. MCW's unique blend of size and vision makes him an intriguing prospect, despite reports that NBA scouts are sharply divided in their opinions.
Which brings us to team needs. Not all teams need a point guard. Not all teams need a point guard with MCW's unique attributes. Now that the draft order is pretty much set, it's easier to see who might be available to teams in need of a lead guard, and what those teams will be looking for. Part of this is based on this nice piece about lottery team needs based on advanced stats. Part is my own analysis of team needs. I won't go through each lottery team, simply teams in need of guards.
Orlando Magic- 2nd overall. The Magic could use a PG, or even a combo guard. Assuming, though, that Nerlens Noel does indeed go #1 overall, former Kansas Jayhawk Ben McLemore will be available here. Even if he's not a true PG, there's no chance the Magic pass him up.
Charlotte Bobcats- 4th overall. Syracuse players have had a nice run with the 4th pick. Wes Johnson went there in 2010 and Dion Waiters was selected 4th in last year's draft. I mentioned in my pick-by-pick analysis that I think this could be a good spot for MCW. The Bobcats (soon to be Hornets again), could use an upgrade at PG and a big point like MCW could allow them to use their smaller 2-guards without giving up a mismatch on defense. Plus, one of MCW's strengths is that he's a good perimeter defender. The Bobcats were the worst defensive team in the league last season, so they'll be looking for someone to do the dirty work. As good as MCW is, though, Victor Olidipo is probably better. Most mock drafts have him going here, and I'm inclined to agree.
Sacramento Kings- 7th overall. This is the spot where most mocks have the first PG being taken, with Trey Burke being that player. As I noted in my previous breakdown, it makes sense and I think that, perhaps, MCW is a better choice than Burke. The only true PG the Kings have is the diminutive, if stellar, Isiah Thomas who was a second round pick and is still on his dirt-cheap rookie deal. I'm not sure if they need another 5'11" PG in the mix. And it t makes sense for the financially strapped and recently sold Kings to try to jettison some of their more expensive back court players (Tyreke Evans, Jimmer Fredette) in favor of cheaper options. I still think MCW has a great chance of going here, but it depends on the approach of the new ownership. Are they going to make a play to try to win right away? If so, MCW probably isn't the player they want. But if they're going to take the long view and look toward what could be in two or three seasons, then MCW's enormous potential might appeal to them.
Oklahoma City Thunder- 12th overall (via Toronto Raptors)- This pick is really a wildcard, since it's essentially a bonus pick for the Fightin' Kevin Durants. They're in need of interior scoring and, as such, DraftExpress has Kelly Olnyk going here. On the other hand, it <em>is</em> pretty much a free pick, so the Thunder can afford to take a player that might not actually play for them right away. NBADraft.net has the aforementioned German prospect Dennis Schroeder in this spot. Schroeder is only 19 and playing with a German club. Perhaps the Thunder take him and leave him in Europe for a season or two, letting him develop while someone else pays his salary. It's certainly a cheaper alternative to taking MCW and paying him to play very little, if at all, behind Russell Westbrook. As much as I'd love to see MCW get to be part of such an outstanding organization, if OKC is looking for a PG at all (which I doubt) I'd say that Schroeder is the guy.
Dallas Mavericks- 13th overall. This is where MCW started and he hasn't really moved at all. If he's available here, I don't see how he gets by the Mavs. They need a PG. 13 is probably about right for the risk/reward factor. MCW could blow up to be a star, but if he doesn't, the 13th pick isn't so high that Mark Cuban would kick himself for it. And MCW could benefit by having a couple seasons where the crunch-time offense is, "Get the ball to Dirk". Dallas also is weak on the boards and in transition defense, both of which are areas that MCW can help right away. This is pretty much as close as you can get to a perfect match among team, draft position and player.
So, is MCW slipping? Not really. Even though we know more now than we did a month ago, it's still early in the draft process. There's still another month to go. Some pundits, citing MCW's age and shooting woes, project him to fall out of the lottery altogether, but I really don't see that happening. Even as late as 13 or 14, teams still draft on potential. MCW has that in spades. The rest is up to him, to work his way up the board.
*Bonus Coverage*- Both DraftExpress and NBADraft.net have Allen Crabbe going 25th to the Los Angeles Clippers. Keep an eye out, because if Crabbe heats up, Cal can get right back in this.