The twists and turns of a 'volatile' draft
CBSSports.com NBA Insider Ken Berger looks at how team executives, scouts and agents view the top half of the first round in Thursday night's potentially volatile NBA draft.
UPDATED 3:09 p.m. ET
NEW YORK -- At the top of a draft that one team executive called "the most volatile I've seen in 10 years," the only certainty on Thursday night will be uncertainty.
Buckle up. The 2013 NBA Draft is going to be one to remember.
It won't be memorable in a Greg Oden or Kevin Durant sort of way. But it might just go down as one of the most unpredictable.
Most teams I've been in contact with over the past few days have some variation of the following players going 1-5: Alex Len, Nerlens Noel, Otto Porter, Ben McLemore and Victor Oladipo. And those are in no particular order, because the order changes every time you speak with a new team.
Roughly speaking, here's the latest on how executives, scouts, agents and others in the know think the lottery picks (1-14) will unfold:
has invested significant time in fielding trade offers for the No. 1 pick, if the Cavs keep it, there are two schools of thought: 1.) they're deciding between Len and Noel, and 2.) all of that is a smokescreen and the guy they really want is Porter. Personally, I'd lean toward the latter: Porter or trade the pick.
love Oladipo. But if Noel is on the board, some rival teams believe Orlando will take him or McLemore. Noel is a raw talent who'd have a chance to develop as the Magic continue their slow, deliberate rebuild under GM Rob Hennigan. If they go with Oladipo, some execs feel they'll pull the plug on the possibility of trading
Los Angeles Clippers
after the draft for
. Though Orlando would like to get off the $23.3 million that Afflalo has left on his contract over the next three years, they'd need his shooting if they picked Oladipo. Taking McLemore would essentially green-light a post-draft Afflalo trade. Also, coach Jacque Vaughn might be partial to a fellow Kansas product.
- If the Cavs don't take Porter, teams believe the
will take him here. If they can't get Porter or McLemore, there's a belief that Washington would go with Len, whom they had an extensive look at in their backyard at Maryland.
- The fourth pick is the first spot where I've detected significant interest in Indiana's Cody Zeller, a safe, reliable pick for Charlotte. Other than Porter, sources say the
view the two Indiana players -- Zeller and Oladipo -- as the most NBA-ready prospects in the draft. Also, there are misperceptions about Zeller's value because he played as a back-to-the-basket five in college but would be a floor-spacing, face-up four in the NBA. "He's a better passer than people think; he can put it on the floor better than people think, and he can shoot it better than people think," one talent evaluator said of Zeller.
- If Oladipo is still available, it could be back-to-back Hoosiers with the Suns grabbing him at No. 5. It's worth noting that Oladipo did not work out for the two teams behind Phoenix, the Pelicans and Kings. Teams believe the Suns also would consider Anthony Bennett or Trey Burke here, and Len or Noel if either one slides.
- With the sixth pick, the Burke watch begins in earnest for New Orleans -- with Len being a possibility if he slides that far.
- Teams are having difficulty getting a read on which direction the Kings will go with a new front office (Pete D'Alessandro and Mike Bratz) and new coach (Michael Malone) in place. The Kings had C.J. McCollum in for a second workout this week, and they like McCollum and Michael Carter-Williams. Some teams believe Sacramento also has genuine interest in Shabazz Muhammad. The seventh pick could open the window for Muhammad, the most polarizing player in the draft.
- With the eighth pick, the
also like McCollum and Zeller, if they're still available, and also have Carter-Williams and Muhammad on their list. Some teams also believe that Burke or Bennett would be possibilities here.
are hoping Oladipo falls to No. 9, but he probably won't. If not, this is another possible landing spot for Muhammad, and it's the beginning of interest in Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
- With the 10th pick, the
Portland Trail Blazers
like Carter-Williams, McCollum and Zeller. If none are available, some teams think Steven Adams could be Portland's pick.
- There's a consensus that the
have zeroed in on Zeller at No. 11, but he could be gone. With one talent evaluator saying this week he's identified only 2-3 legitimate lottery picks in this draft, this is where the trade jockeying and bailout plans will begin to percolate.
- For the
Oklahoma City Thunder
at No. 12, teams believe Adams or Kelly Olynyk would fill a need for size. OKC also has been linked with Giannis Adetokunbo of Greece and Sergey Karasev of Russia. Whether GM Sam Presti has the appetite to move up to get one of them remains to be seen.
- At No. 13, the
are one of the teams that has shown the most interest in Muhammad. But Dallas also has several trade-down scenarios in play and might opt for an international player to stash overseas to preserve cap space for a run at free agent
- Teams believe Utah Jazz will go point guard with the 14th pick. Assuming McCollum and Carter-Williams are off the board, this could be the landing spot for Shane Larkin.
After the lottery picks are off the board, a new round of intrigue begins with the Milwaukee Bucks at No. 15. If Milwaukee takes a point guard, it would tip the Bucks' hand as to their level of anxiety about retaining restricted free agent Brandon Jennings . There's a growing belief among teams that Jennings' market won't be as strong as he hoped and that Milwaukee might have the leverage to force him to play out the year on his qualifying offer. But if they go with a point guard, teams believe it'll be Larkin or Dennis Schroeder. The Bucks might also opt for a stash player, like Adetokunbo, if he's still on the board.
Back with more updates on the bottom half of the first round as they develop.
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