With the Finals behind us, the basketball world turns its attention to Thursday's NBA Draft. It's been one marked by uncertainty, with more questions than answers surrounding many of the top prospects.
As a result, projecting the first round requires even more guesswork than usual. There could be a number of trades on draft night, as many teams at the end of the lottery have openly talked about moving their pick.
On the other end of the spectrum, there are several trying to move back into the first round. For those near the luxury tax threshold, the draft is one of the few ways they can add talent to their roster.
With the new CBA in effect, every team in the league, from the Heat to the Bobcats, needs young contributors on cost-controlled contracts. In our final mock of the year, we'll take a stab at projecting the first round that will have ramifications for years to come.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers -- Alex Len (Scouting report)
Cleveland has traditionally been one of the most tight-lipped teams in the pre-draft process. In the last few years, few had them on either Tristan Thompson or Dion Waiters in the Top 5. As a result, while most have them projected to take a center, there's always the possibility they could make a wild-card selection.
If they are set on picking a center, I think Len will be the choice. In my opinion, not only is Len the better prospect than Nerlens Noel, but he's the better fit with Tristan Thompson up front. The decision may come down to the opinion of the Cavs' doctors, since neither player has been healthy enough to work out with the team.
2. Orlando Magic -- Nerlens Noel (Scouting report)
During the season, Orlando was widely linked to Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart. Taking him at No. 2 would have been a great fit of team need and BPA, but he made the somewhat surprising decision to stay in school. With Smart gone, the Magic have been one of the most active teams in trade rumors.
If Noel slips past Cleveland, he may be too much of a value to pass up at No. 2, even if Orlando doesn't intend on keeping him. They need as many assets as possible at this stage in the rebuilding process and there could be a number of teams looking to trade up if Noel starts falling.
3. Washington Wizards -- Anthony Bennett (Scouting report)
This pick will likely come down to either Bennett or Otto Porter, the top two forwards in this year's draft class. Porter is the safer pick, a local kid from Georgetown with the type of polished, fundamentally sound game that coaches will love.
However, with John Wall and Bradley Beal already in the fold, can Washington justify another top-3 pick on a perimeter player? Wall has already gone on record saying the team needs a pick-and-pop 4. Bennett has the skill set and upside to be a great fit next to their backcourt of the future.
4. Charlotte Bobcats/Hornets -- Ben McLemore (Scouting report)
It's been a painfully slow rebuilding process in Charlotte, and this year's pick probably won't substantially accelerate that. They've been rumored to be looking to move out of the lottery, but any of the veterans they could acquire with the No. 4 pick wouldn't move the needle all that much either.
Instead, they'll likely continue the slow but steady process of accumulating starting-caliber players in the draft. McLemore, a safe pick with a considerable amount of upside, would give them their shooting guard of the future to play next to Kemba Walker and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
5. Phoenix Suns -- Victor Oladipo (Scouting report)
The one nice thing about hitting bottom is that you have nowhere to go but up. New general manager Ryan McDonough has the benefit of a clean slate in Phoenix, since there isn't a single young building block on the team's roster right now. He can sit back and draft the No. 5 pick and be happy with whoever falls to him.
Oladipo would be a nice fit, not only because the Suns have one of the worst wing rotations in the NBA, but because his work ethic could start to change the culture there. If the Suns make Marcin Gortat and Goran Dragic available, they could be one of the more active teams come draft night.
6. New Orleans Pelicans -- Otto Porter (Scouting report)
In this scenario, New Orleans would be hard-pressed to pass up on Porter, who has received some No. 1 overall pick talk. He gives them a small forward of the future, perhaps their weakest position last season. If they took a guard with this pick, it would likely mean giving up on Austin Rivers.
7. Sacramento Kings -- Trey Burke (Scouting report)
The Kings could go in a lot of different directions at No. 7, depending on what new management thinks of DeMarcus Cousins and Tyreke Evans. Burke, a no-nonsense point guard who can get everyone involved and space the floor, would be one last chance at making the mercurial duo work in Sacramento.
8. Detroit Pistons -- C.J. McCollum (Scouting report)
If Detroit is building around Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond, shooting will be a priority. McCollum is a combo guard who would make Brandon Knight somewhat redundant, but he might be the best shooter in this year's draft.
9. Minnesota Timberwolves -- Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (Scouting report)
Minnesota is another team that desperately needs outside shooting. With Kevin Love's free agency inching ever closer, they can't afford to wait too long on a project in the draft. Caldwell-Pope would give them an athletic shooter who can spot up off Love and Ricky Rubio.
10. Portland Trail Blazers -- Cody Zeller (Scouting report)
Rumors about Portland dealing this pick to Phoenix for Marcin Gortat make a lot of sense for both teams. If the Blazers end up keeping the pick, Zeller would be a nice pick to bolster their frontcourt depth, since he could conceivably play with both LaMarcus Aldridge and Meyers Leonard.
11. Philadelphia 76ers -- Steven Adams (Scouting report)
Philadelphia is one of the real wild cards in this draft process, especially since this will be Sam Hinkie's first time in charge. They could go in a number of different directions here. Adams, a raw freshman center, would be a swing for the fences, which might not be a bad idea for a team caught in the mediocrity treadmill.
12. Oklahoma City Thunder -- Giannis Adetokunbo (Scouting report)
A few months ago, few had even heard of Adetokunbo. A raw 18-year-old from Greece, he has as much talent as anyone in the draft, but he's several years from coming over to the U.S. Oklahoma City would probably rather take him at No. 29, but he may not be on the board when they're picking again.
13. Dallas Mavericks -- Michael Carter-Williams (Scouting report)
There aren't many players who would make Dallas keep this pick, but Carter-Williams could be one of them. While the 6'6 point guard is one of the most polarizing players in this year's draft, the Mavericks are reportedly extremely high on him. After all, Mike James was their starter last year.
14. Utah Jazz -- Dennis Schroeder (Scouting report)
Schroeder's stock has fluctuated wildly over the last few months. A dominant showing at the Hoop Summit boosted him into the lottery, but lackluster workouts have him slipping in the last few weeks. Either way, his size and shooting at the point guard position is a great fit for a Jazz team that wants to play in the half-court.
15. Milwaukee Bucks -- Shabazz Muhammad (Scouting report)
Before the season started, many had Shabazz as a candidate for the No. 1 overall pick. Now, he may have fallen out of the lottery due to concerns about his athleticism and one-dimensional game. Milwaukee would be hoping that Shabazz is the last in a long line of Ben Howland-coached players to outperform their draft spot.
16. Boston Celtics -- Tony Mitchell (Scouting report)
Danny Ainge has never been afraid of rolling the dice in the draft and Mitchell has the most talent of any player left on the board. With the Doc Rivers saga finally over, Boston doesn't have much to lose in terms of developing a raw young player like Mitchell.
17. Atlanta Hawks -- Mason Plumlee (Scouting report)
As a 23-year-old senior, Plumlee may not have much upside left, but he should be able to contribute right away for Atlanta. He has the length, athleticism and finishing ability to run the pick-and-roll with Jeff Teague and be a nice complement to Al Horford up front.
18. Atlanta Hawks -- Rudy Gobert (Scouting report)
Atlanta isn't likely to keep both first-round picks, not when they're trying to save cap space in order to make a big splash in free agency this summer. Gobert, a preposterously long 7'2 shot-blocker, is a polarizing prospect, but at least one team will probably be willing to take him off the Hawks' hands.
19. Cleveland Cavaliers -- Sergey Karasev (Scouting report)
Karasev has been linked to Cleveland for months. After not participating in the combine, he shut down his workouts, with many pointing to the Cavs as the team who promised him. Of course, that probably means they have no interest in the 19-year-old Russian, but his shooting ability would be a nice fit there.
20. Chicago Bulls -- Gorgui Dieng (Scouting report)
Chicago's defense is built around waves of long and athletic big men protecting the paint. Dieng could slide right into the role behind Joakim Noah created by Omer Asik's departure for Houston last summer. He's also a surprisingly effective mid-range shooter, allowing him to contribute on both sides of the ball.
21. Utah Jazz -- Lucas Nogueira (Scouting report)
The No. 21 will be Utah's sixth first-round pick in the last six years, so they're likely to use it on an international player they can keep overseas for a while. Nogueira is a 20-year-old seven-footer with a lot of athleticism, but he'll need to add some weight and improve his offensive game before he comes over.
22. Brooklyn Nets -- Shane Larkin (Scouting report)
Larkin has a lot of fans in NBA front offices. He's a shooter with a lot of athleticism who can run the pick-and-roll, but will his size prevent him from being a starter at the next level? He would give the Nets some punch coming off the bench and would make a lot of sense backing up Deron Williams.
23. Indiana Pacers -- Kelly Olynyk (Scouting report)
Olynyk has a ton of offensive talent for a seven-footer, but questions about his defense and athleticism have left his draft stock somewhat up in the air. Nevertheless, he would be a great value for an Indiana team who gave Ian Mahinmi and Tyler Hansbrough a lot of minutes last season.
24. New York Knicks -- Ricky Ledo (Scouting report)
It's almost impossible to predict where Ledo will be taken, since his draft stock will be determined almost entirely by his pre-draft workouts. He was academically ineligible in his only season at college, but many see him as one of the most talented players in the draft.
25. Los Angeles Clippers -- Jamaal Franklin (Scouting report)
Franklin's jumper is a work in progress, but he's a versatile player who should be be able to help the Clippers bench right away. In a best-case scenario, he could follow in Kawhi Leonard's footsteps as a San Diego State product who outperforms his draft spot.
26. Minnesota Timberwolves -- Jeff Withey (Scouting report)
Minnesota is expected to make a big push to re-sign Nikola Pekovic, but they need some insurance up front if they are outbid. While Withey is a fairly limited offensive player, he could provide some shot-blocking to protect Love and Rubio.
27. Denver Nuggets -- Reggie Bullock (Scouting report)
Given the turnover in the Denver front office this season, it's no surprise they are interested in moving out of the first round. Bullock, a pure shooter with the size and athleticism to hold his own defensively on the perimeter, will draw some interest for teams looking to find a cheap contributor who can play right away.
28. San Antonio Spurs -- Allen Crabbe (Scouting report)
Three-point shooting has become the backbone of the Spurs' attack. Crabbe, a pure shooter with more size than either Danny Green or Gary Neal, could find his way into the San Antonio rotation early.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder -- Jackie Carmichael (Scouting report)
Oklahoma City has always placed a high value on their draft picks. If they gamble on someone like Adetokunbo early, they'll be looking to find a contributor at the end of the first round. Carmichael may never be a starter, but he should have a long career in the mold of a Nick Collison as a versatile frontcourt reserve.
30. Phoenix Suns -- Archie Goodwin (Scouting report)
Phoenix doesn't have much to lose with this pick, so they'll probably be looking for a low-risk, high-reward selection like Goodwin. He's an extremely athletic shooting guard with an elite first step who's still only 18 years old. There's nothing wrong with rolling the dice at the end of the first round.