If Brandon Paul — projected as a second-round pick — is selected Thursday, it will mark the second straight season an Illini was picked in the draft after Meyers Leonard went 11th to Portland last season. Illinois hasn’t had players picked in consecutive years since Deron Williams (No. 3, Utah) and Luther Head (No. 24, Houston) were picked in 2005 and James Augustine (41st, Orlando) and Dee Brown (46th, Utah) in 2006. Prior to that, Frank Williams went 25th to New York in 2002, and Brian Cook was picked 24th by the Los Angeles Lakers in 2003.
Big year for Big Ten
Thursday could be a big night for the Big Ten, as three players from Jim Delany’s league are expected to be selected in the lottery (top 14 picks). It would mark the first time since the 2006 draft, the first in which high school players were not eligible, that the league would have three players picked in the lottery. Only twice in that span has the conference had at least three players selected in the first round (2007, 2008). If Michigan’s Tim Hardaway Jr. is among the first 30 picks, it would mark the second time since 2000 that four players from the league were first-round picks.
Kentucky coach John Calipari has grown accustomed to seeing his players selected high in the NBA draft during a college coaching career that includes stops at Massachusetts and Memphis. When Nerlens Noel’s name is called Thursday, he will be the 18th first-round pick coached by Calipari. Noel is projected by some to be the No. 1 pick, and if he is selected first, he will join Derrick Rose (2008), John Wall (2010) and Anthony Davis (2012) as Calipari pupils to hear their names called first. He’s also got a chance to become Calipari’s 11th player picked in the top 10.
State of affairs
Illinois State power forward Jackie Carmichael is projected as a second-round pick in this year’s draft, and if the 6-foot-9, 240-pounder is selected, he’d be the first player from a program in the state of Illinois not located in Champaign-Urbana to be picked in the draft since DePaul’s Sammy Mejia was picked 57th by Detroit in 2007. The last first-round pick from one of the 12 state school besides Illinois was Bradley’s Patrick O’Bryant, who was the ninth overall pick by Golden State in 2006.
Since taking Derrick Rose with the No. 1 pick in 2008, Chicago has yet to land another All-Star in the first round of the four drafts since taking the hometown hero. Chicago, which has the 20th pick in Thursday’s first round, has found solid role players through the draft, however. Taj Gibson, the 26th pick in 2009, has averaged 7.9 points and 6.0 rebounds in his career as a key reserve off the Bulls’ bench. Jimmy Butler, the last pick of the first round in 2011, is a budding star who averaged 13.3 points and 5.2 rebounds as a starter in this year’s playoffs.
We asked Marcus Jackson to take a stab at the first round. Warning: He’s not always right.
1. Cleveland Alex Len 7-1 C Maryland
— For the last week, rumors have circulated that the sophomore, who’s got a better offensive game than Nerlens Noel, is the likely pick here.
2. Orlando Victor Oladipo 6-5 SG Indiana
3. Washington Otto Porter 6-9 SF Georgetown
4. Charlotte Anthony Bennett 6-7 PF UNLV
5. Phoenix Ben McLemore 6-5 SG Kansas
6. New Orleans Trey Burke 6-1 PG Michigan
7. Sacramento Nerlens Noel 7-0 C Kentucky
8. Detroit C.J. McCollum 6-3 G Lehigh
— Can play either guard position, and his dynamic scoring ability reminds of Stephen Curry, who also starred at the midmajor level.
9. Minnesota Kentavious Caldwell-Pope 6-6 SG Georgia
10. Portland Steven Adams 7-0 C Pittsburgh
11. Philadelphia Cody Zeller 7-0 C Indiana
12. Oklahoma City Shabazz Muhammad 6-6 SF UCLA
13. Dallas Michael Carter-Williams 6-6 PG Syracuse
14. Utah Shane Larkin 5-11 PG Miami
— Jazz needs help in the backcourt, and Larkin established himself as an elite floor general with scoring ability during the college season and predraft workouts.
15. Milwaukee Sergey Karasev 6-7 SF Russia
16. Boston Ricky Ledo 6-6 SG Providence
17. Atlanta Kelly Olynyk 7-0 C Gonzaga
18. Atlanta Giannis Adetokoubo 6-9 SF Greece
19. Cleveland Allen Crabbe 6-6 SG California
20. Chicago Tony Snell 6-7 SF New Mexico
— All-Mountain West Conference pick is a prototypical NBA small forward and can provide depth on the wing behind Luol Deng and Jimmy Butler.
21. Utah Reggie Bullock 6-7 SF North Carolina
22. Brooklyn Mason Plumlee 7-0 C Duke
23. Indiana Rudy Gobert 7-2 C France
24. New York Dennis Schroeder 6-2 PG Germany
25. L.A. Clippers Tim Hardaway Jr. 6-6 SG Michigan
— The son of an NBA Hall of Famer impressed with his three-point shooting during the NBA combine and can be a dangerous scoring weapon at the next level.
26. Minnesota Gorgui Dieng 6-11 C Louisville
27. Denver Nate Wolters 6-5 PG South Dakota St.
28. San Antonio Isaiah Canaan 6-0 PG Murray State
29. Oklahoma City Jamaal Franklin 6-5 SG San Diego State
30. Phoenix Jeff Withey 7-0 C Kansas