NEW YORK (Reuters) - With no consensus sure-fire star as an obvious target, Thursday’s NBA Draft has a sense of suspense about it with numerous candidates for the Cleveland Cavaliers, who own the number one pick.
“This draft is really unpredictable,” 7-foot-1 Ukrainian center Alex Len out of the University of Maryland, one of the top prospects in the draft, told reporters on Wednesday.
“You don’t have any LeBron Jamses, so it’s going to be interesting.”
Picking behind the Cavaliers will be the Orlando Magic, followed by the Washington Wizards, Charlotte Bobcats, Phoenix Suns and New Orleans Pelicans in the two-round draft conducted by the 30 teams in the National Basketball Association.
That is, if teams maintain the pecking order rather than wheel and deal their picks in draft night swapping at the Barclays Center.
The Cavs, who finished with a 24-58 record, have many needs beyond their premiere point guard Kyrie Irving.
Besides Len or shot blocking big man Nerlens Noel of Kentucky, they could use a shooting guard to team up with Irving, raising the possibility of Ben McLemore of Kansas or Indiana’s Victor Oladipo.
Small forward Otto Porto of Georgetown or Canadian Anthony Bennett of Las Vegas could also offer some scoring firepower for the young Cavaliers.
Noel, a 6-11 defensive specialist, entered last season as the top-rated collegian but his freshman year at Kentucky was curtailed by a knee injury leading to some uncertainty.
Dick Weiss, a long time former college basketball analyst for the New York Daily News now of Blue Star Media (bluestarmedia.org), predicted the draft would produce many solid NBA players, but might not yield a superstar.
“There isn’t a franchise number one pick in this draft,” Weiss told Reuters.
“Cleveland are probably deciding between Alex Len, Nerlens Noel and Anthony Bennett, who is a very mobile, small forward who played for Las Vegas in an uptempo situation who is a freak athlete.”
Oladipo, who is also an outstanding defensive player, said he was curious about who would be number one.
“There’s so many different players in the draft,” said Oladipo. “I know people are saying there’s nobody that really stands out. We just wait and see. I’m anxious, anxious to see who it’s going to be.”
Besides Len and Bennett, another international player who could be taken in the first round is 6-11 center Steven Adams of New Zealand out of the University of Pittsburgh.
Len, like many of the most fancied potential first-rounders at a round-table media opportunity on Wednesday, said it did not matter where he went in the draft though he acknowledged a touch of competitiveness about the process.
“Somewhere inside you want to be number one. You want to be the best,” said Len, who added that he would be proud to become just the seventh player from Ukraine in the NBA.
“On your competitive side, yeah. You want to be number one.”
Editing by Peter Rutherford