Wednesday, May 22, 2013 | 2 a.m.
- Rebels basketball adds class of 2015 guard to list of scholarship offers
- UNLV’s Moser says he will transfer to Oregon
- Anthony Bennett needs shoulder surgery; draft stock not expected to slide
- UNLV headlines the field at 2013 Las Vegas Classic
- LDS missionary eager to begin UNLV basketball career
- Proposed Thomas & Mack Center upgrades could cost $60 million
- All UNLV men's basketball coverage
The next time he’s interviewed on national TV, Anthony Bennett will likely be without an arm sling, the better to pick up and put on the official NBA Draft hat of the team that selects him June 27 in New York City.
Bennett was in New York on Tuesday along with a couple of other prospects for the NBA Draft lottery, which determined the order for the top 14 picks in the draft. Every team that didn’t make the playoffs had a chance to get the top pick, but for the second time in three years, that distinction went to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
That top spot is expected to go to a big man currently recovering from an injury, just not the one from UNLV. Still, Bennett may not last past the top five for reasons he explained to ESPN reporter Heather Cox on the telecast.
“I think my versatility, I can play inside-out,” Bennett said. “And just being a great teammate.”
Saying his rehab from shoulder surgery is “going well,” Bennett will likely be the first Rebel taken in the lottery since Marcus Banks in 2003. And the former Findlay Prep Pilot will likely have some local company in former crosstown rival Shabazz Muhammad, the Bishop Gorman grad who could still go in the top 10.
With the draft order set, here’s a quick look at needs of the teams in the top 10 and their general interest level in one of Las Vegas’ former stars. Note: For purposes of this analysis, Bennett is a top 5 prospect and Muhammad a top 10, meaning 1-5 are only looking at Bennett and 6-10 would take him if available.
1. CLEVELAND CAVALIERS
2012-13 record: 24-58
Biggest need: Anything except point guard. Kyrie Irving is a legitimate star, which leaves the Cavaliers with the task of bringing in pieces to help him. Their best bet is probably an athletic, scoring wing who takes some attention away from Irving. Short of that, a big man with some rebounding prowess would help, too.
Bennett interest level: Low. This draft isn’t considered to have a definite game changer but most agree the closest thing is Kentucky freshman Nerlens Noel. He’s all but assured to go as the top pick despite the ACL tear that prematurely ended his season. However, that can be taken as a good sign that teams aren’t likely to dock Bennett because of his shoulder injury.
2. ORLANDO MAGIC
2012-13 record: 20-62
Biggest need: Coming into the lottery with the best chance (25 percent) of getting the top pick, it’s obvious the Magic have plenty to work on. There’s no position they wouldn’t mind upgrading, so they will likely just go with the best available.
Bennett interest level: Low. The general consensus seems to be the Magic wanted Ben McLemore of Kansas no matter where they were drafting, so that seems like a perfect match at this spot. The Magic also could go with Michigan’s Trey Burke.
3. WASHINGTON WIZARDS
2012-13 record: 29-53
Biggest need: Backcourt. John Wall, Bradley Beal and …? Fill in the right name there and the Wizards could be a force for years to come. While they could certainly stand to get younger on the interior, too, putting another talented guard, preferably one who can create his own shots, in the backcourt with Wall/Beal seems like a recipe for success.
Bennett interest level: High. This is where things will start to get interesting. Victor Oladipo and Otto Porter Jr. both make a lot of sense as guys to fill out that backcourt, as do Burke/McLemore. But if the Wizards decide to improve the front court, it will likely be Bennett.
4. CHARLOTTE BOBCATS
2012-13 record: 21-61
Biggest need: Wings and bigs. The Bobcats have young perimeter talent with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Kemba Walker, so a versatile power forward or spot-up shooter seems right up their alley.
Bennett interest level: High. Bennett’s shoulder surgery will keep him out of all predraft workouts, which could turn out to be a blessing or a curse. It leaves only his one year of college tape to judge from while others could win over a franchise between now and the draft. The Bobcats are definitely interested, so it will be interesting to see if someone else catches their eye.
5. PHOENIX SUNS
2012-13 record: 25-57
Biggest need: Probably anything except point guard. Goran Dragic had a good season and the Suns spent their first pick, No. 13 overall, last year on another point guard, little-used Kendall Marshall. So while that position isn’t as sure a thing as Irving in Cleveland, it’s still the best Phoenix has got. Elsewhere on the roster there are plenty of places to upgrade, because a lot of the rotation seems to function better as reserves than starters.
Bennett interest level: High. Bennett is a souped-up version of the Morris twins, both of whom play in Phoenix. Add that with the Suns’ reputation as having the best medical training staff in the league and this could be a great match.
6. NEW ORLEANS PELICANS
2012-13 record: 27-55
Biggest need: Wing. While 2012 top pick Anthony Davis’ rookie season was far from amazing, the Pelicans are set for now with shot-blocking big men. They have a shooting guard in Eric Gordon and a point guard in Austin Rivers, though the latter’s rookie year was far from inspiring. Still, probably the best way to try to build around what they have is adding a slashing wing.
Muhammad interest level: Medium. He fits what they’re looking for, but so do a lot of other guys. The main question is going to be if New Orleans wants to go with a high risk/high reward guy like Muhammad or someone they deem more of a sure thing.
7. SACRAMENTO KINGS
2012-13 record: 28-54
Biggest need: High character guard. Whoever comes into Sacramento is stepping into DeMarcus Cousins’ world, which is likely a terrifying thought for a general manager trying to project how his draftee will transition to life in the NBA. Pairing another top-level big man with Cousins is an interesting idea, although it would have to be someone who works well with but doesn’t overwhelm him. Easier would be adding a shooting guard to be what Jimmer Fredette was supposed to be and complement Tyreke Evans.
Muhammad interest level: Low. If one of the top-level guards slips through this far, expect the Kings to snatch him up.
8. DETROIT PISTONS
2012-13 record: 29-53
Biggest need: Outside shooting. With Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe anchoring the interior, the Pistons look like they could be one shooter away from the 2014 playoffs. Brandon Knight is good but not great, so the pick could be somebody along that same mold or a guy who can space the floor with spot-up 3-pointers.
Muhammad interest level: Low. Detroit is in the market for someone with a better outside shot than Muhammad has shown. Lehigh guard C.J. McCallum makes sense.
9. MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES
2012-13 record: 31-51
Biggest need: Wing. The worst 3-point shooting team in the league, Minnesota will improve next season simply by staying healthy. But it could take a huge step forward by fixing those shooting woes while also getting full seasons from forward Kevin Love and point guard Ricky Rubio.
Muhammad interest level: High. The Timberwolves are one of the few teams in the lottery that could afford to let a guy develop. And when you have that luxury, it’s easier to take a shot on someone who could turn out to be a star. Expect to hear a lot about Muhammad in Minnesota over the next month.
10. PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS
2012-13 record: 33-49
Biggest need: Front court. Like a lot of these teams, the Trail Blazers could use an upgrade across the board, but all indications are they’re going to take a shot with one of the 7-footers who will be on the board at this stage.
Muhammad interest level: Low. Indiana’s Cody Zeller, Gonzaga’s Kelly Olynyk and Rudy Gobert of France are all in the mix here, so long as they’re all still on the board.
Picks 11-14, in order: Philadelphia, Oklahoma City, Dallas and Utah.