John Wall isn’t necessarily conceding anything. Sure, he is the only top-tier prospect to work out for the Wizards, the team that holds the No. 1 pick. That pretty much ends all question about whether he will be the top choice in this year’s draft — unless you’re Wall, at least.
“I am not taking anything for granted,” he said. “I want to be the No. 1 pick, of course. It’s a dream of mine, it’s a dream you always have. So, if it happens, great, but I am not going to jinx it.”
OK, we’ll say it for him: John Wall will be the No. 1 pick. Beyond that, though, there are a handful of important questions that are lingering around this year’s draft.
Do teams still consider DeMarcus Cousins a risk?
The first four picks in the draft seem pretty secure: Wall, followed by some combination of Evan Turner, power forward Derrick Favors and small forward Wesley Johnson. But if anyone is going to crash that party, it will be Cousins, a nimble, versatile true big man who was one of the most productive players in college basketball last year.
The only thing keeping Cousins from being a sure top-four pick is the persistent question about his attitude, which he has been trying to address with teams for the past month. If he was successful, he could go as high as No. 2, supplanting Turner. If not, he could go as low as No. 7 to Detroit.
“I don’t consider myself a risk,” Cousins said. “People who think that, they don’t know me.”
What about the teammates of Cousins and Wall?
There are five Kentucky Wildcats in this draft, with Cousins and Wall certain to be off the board quickly.
The suspense for folks in Lexington will begin with Patrick Patterson. He worked out for every team from Nos. 6-14 and is expected to go in the lottery. Point guard Eric Bledsoe didn’t get to play much on the ball behind Wall, but he has talent and is a likely target for the Heat at No. 18.
The wild card is reserve center Daniel Orton. Lottery teams Indiana (10) and Toronto (13) have interest in Orton, and last week, he refuted a report that he had been given a promise by the Thunder (21). Despite that denial, should Orton be on the board when Oklahoma City chooses, expect him to be the fifth UK first-rounder.
What will the Timberwolves do?
Last year, the Timberwolves put together an especially quirky draft, picking Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio, point guard Jonny Flynn and yet another point guard, Ty Lawson. They traded Lawson and were unable to get Rubio out of Europe, but Flynn was productive as a rookie. This year, the Timberwolves have three draft picks again, and more quirkiness might ensue.
“We will enter the draft open to anything,” general manager David Kahn said. “We won 15 games last year. We are rebuilding. We have to be open to anything.”
Who will pull the trigger when trade time comes?
Starting in 10 days, teams with cap space will begin their pursuit of the greatest free-agent class in NBA history — as many as eight players from this year’s All-Star Game have the option to be free agents. For those without cap space, though, the trade market on draft day will be a significant opportunity to change the roster. Some teams (Minnesota, Detroit, San Antonio) are hoping to move up in the draft. Some with high picks (Philadelphia, Golden State, the Clippers, Indiana) are willing to move down or move out of the draft altogether. There are always big moves discussed in the run-up to the draft, but this year has been particularly active.
Where will the second-round steals come from?
Last year, quite a few established college players — DeJuan Blair, Chase Budinger, Marcus Thornton — fell into the second round as teams took high-risk picks late in the first round. That could happen again.
Guys such as small forward Quincy Pondexter, point guard Sherron Collins, center Jarvis Varnado, forward Craig Brackins and small forward Damion James are proven upperclassmen who don’t have guaranteed slots in the first round. If they were to slip, they would be real bargains, ready to contribute quickly if given the chance.
PBT: The Pacers were too tough for the Knicks, but Miami is a different animal. The clubs face off in the East finals, starting Wednesday night.
Rotoworld: The Cavaliers won the draft lottery on Tuesday night, and the latest mock gives them the big man with the highest upside.
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