By Jon Rothstein
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– Maryland’s Alex Len has emerged as a strong option for Cleveland with the first-overall pick, but that doesn’t mean that’s the only way the Cavs can land him. I’ve been hearing that even if Cleveland takes Nerlens Noel with the top pick, the Cavs could still make a trade with Charlotte as long as the Bobcats select Len with the fourth pick. This would set up a scenario where the two teams could swap big men, with Len winding up in Cleveland. A key thing to remember with the Cavs is that they have four picks in the top 33 (1, 19, 31, 33). There’s ammo for this team to make deals, and they’re also under the salary cap so they can make a trade and don’t have to match salaries with a player who they take back in a deal. Cleveland is determined to come out of the draft with a capable small forward, and I’m hearing per sources that Russia’s Sergey Karasev is a legitimate option at 19.
– Indiana’s Victor Oladipo has caught Orlando’s eye at No. 2, and that’s a main reason why Kansas’ Ben McLemore continues to slide. Landing spots for McLemore could be Phoenix at No. 5 or Sacramento at No. 7. If Phoenix tabs McLemore, it could affect UNLV’s Anthony Bennett. The power forward was slated to go no lower than fifth overall, but that was when Orlando was likely going to select McLemore with the second-overall pick.
– Portland is hoping beyond hope that Lehigh’s CJ McCollum is on the board when they pick at 10, per multiple sources. The Trailblazers desperately need scoring for their second unit and McCollum would be a perfect addition. If McCollum is off the board, look for Portland to take a long look at Pitt’s Steven Adams. One player that the Trailblazers won’t be selecting with the 10th pick? UCLA’s Shabazz Muhammad. I’ve been told that there’s no way Muhammad winds up in Portland.
– Michigan’s Trey Burke is in serious play for New Orleans at No. 6, per a source. The Pelicans were hoping that Len would slide to them, but now that doesn’t seem possible. Burke would give New Orleans a pure point guard, something that they could use since they already have two offensive-minded backcourt players in Austin Rivers and Eric Gordon.
– Look for Philadelphia to take a long, hard look at Indiana’s Cody Zeller at No. 11. The Sixers are still trying to find competent big men, and they’re going to need insurance in the pivot after what happened with Andrew Bynum this past season. Zeller isn’t a franchise-type big man, but he’ll be a capable reserve for the next decade. Think another Nick Collison.
– Louisville’s Gorgui Dieng could be in play for Oklahoma City at No. 12, per sources. The Thunder brass loves Dieng, but taking him that high will depend on whether or not Pitt’s Steven Adams is still on the board. I’m hearing Dieng will go anywhere from 12 to 22, and won’t last past Brooklyn (22).
– If the Jazz are to go with a point guard at No. 14, they’ll likely choose between Miami’s Shane Larkin and Germany’s Dennis Schroeder. One name, though, that could be a dark horse for Utah? Murray State’s Isaiah Canaan. The sharpshooter should go anywhere from 14 to 24.
– One of the more intriguing players in the latter part of the first round is Providence’s Ricky Ledo. Ledo never played a game for the Friars because he was academically ineligible, but he’s a lottery-level talent. If Ledo played in college this past year, people would be comparing him to Jamal Crawford — he’s that good. The skilled combo guard is getting heavy interest from several teams late in the first round. This could wind up being a pick a few years down the line that is comparable to the Pacers tabbing Lance Stephenson in the second round in 2010.
– Oklahoma City is intrigued with Syracuse’s James Southerland, per several league sources. The Thunder own the 29th and 32nd picks. Scouts are viewing Southerland as a “Kyle Korver” type that could extend defenses in the NBA. The sharpshooter could be an interesting reserve for the Thunder, and would give Oklahoma City a knockdown shooter who could play next to Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
– The best athlete in the 2013 NBA Draft? North Texas’ Tony Mitchell. And it’s not even close. The hybrid forward plays the entire game like he’s on a trampoline. We’ll have more on him on Thursday, but keep Mitchell’s name in bold print for Thursday night at Barclays Center.
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