2014 NBA Draft: Final Xavier Thames pre-draft analysis--which team is most likely to draft him?

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODA

Xavier Thames worked out for a total of 16 NBA teams--which is most likely to call his name?

It's here, folks. The long-awaited 2014 NBA Draft is finally upon us and San Diego State basketball fans have a big reason to be excited: Xavier Thames. They also have plenty reason to be stressed and chomp down on their nails because Thames is considered a "bubble" pick--in that second round/undrafted range.

Thames will end up on an NBA team by draft night's end, whether it's as a drafted rookie or an undrafted free agent. But anyone associated with the Mountain West hopes to hear Thames' name called, so let's take a look at which teams are most likely to take him. Thames kept his pre-draft schedule busy, working out for 16 teams, so there are a lot of teams to look at. Now, pre-draft analysis is often proven to be horrendously false by about the 10th pick, but let's give it a shot.

Miami Heat (Picks No. 26 and 55)

I can't imagine the Heat are focusing a whole bunch on the 2014 NBA Draft--they've got a King to court. But their 55th pick is around the range that Thames would most likely go. The NBA D-League used to be a place where players' NBA careers died--that's not the case anymore. It's much more like the minor leagues in baseball. However, the D-League is still a death zone with the Heat, because Pat Riley isn't focused on building for the future--he wants championships right now.The Heat will draft whoever can immediately contribute to a championship team with LeBron.

As of now, point guard Norris Cole is the only Heat player under contract for next season. He's a solid, young point guard (25 years old) and the Heat organization likes him. The big boys upstairs at American Airlines Center like Mario Chalmers, too, and he told Yahoo! Sports that he wants to stay with the Heat. However, this year's NBA Finals demonstrated that point guard can a weak spot for the Heat.

How does this affect Thames? The Heat will go after a point guard. LeBron has expressed how much he likes UConn's Shabazz Napier, and ESPN's Chad Ford said on SportsCenter that the Heat are trying to trade up to get Napier before another team snags him. Clearly, the Heat are doing anything to show LeBron they want him back, and I don't think Thames is a flashy enough selection to lure LeBron. There's also a good chance the Heat will trade their picks to get a current NBA player that LeBron wants to play with.

I won't rule Thames out for the Heat, though, because if Miami doesn't trade its picks and drafts a small forward at No. 26, Thames may be its best point guard available at pick No. 55.

Milwaukee Bucks (Picks No. 2, 31, 36 and 48)

So much focus is being put on the Bucks No. 2 pick that people forget Milwaukee has three other picks. The Bucks' starting guard backcourt of Brandon Knight and O.J. Mayo will presumably return next season, but I don't see unrestricted free agent Ramon Sessions returning to a--let's face it--organization that hasn't surpassed mediocrity in a long time, and that would leave a bench guard hole that Thames could fill. Chad Ford also reports that the Bucks may be looking to deal players to secure a second lottery pick, potentially sending away Brandon Knight. If that happens, Milwaukee has yet another Thames-sized hole. So, yes, there's a pretty decent chance the Bucks will take Thames at 48.

The Bucks won't be making the playoffs any time soon, so they won't enter the draft looking for players (other than the No. 2 pick and a potential second lottery pick) to immediately contribute big-time minutes. Their second-round picks will either come off the bench as second or third strings--as of now, that's Thames. Kind of like a Cory Joseph with the San Antonio Spurs.

Chicago Bulls (Picks No. 16, 19 and 49)

Right now the Bulls are doing anything they can to attract Carmelo Anthony--in other words, they're clearing cap space so they can give Melo the big bucks he wants. The Chicago Tribune's K.C. Johnson reports that the Bulls are exploring trading their two first round picks to clear up that necessary cap space. That leaves the 49th pick as potentially the Bulls' only 2014 pick.

Chicago already has Derrick Rose. Backup point guards D.J. Augustin and Kirk Hinrich are unrestricted free agents, but they both want to re-sign with Chicago. The Bulls also have guards Tony Snell and Mike James signed for 2014-15. Chicago has very little need at either guard position, and will most likely use picks on small forwards or power forwards.

Boston Celtics (Picks No. 6 and 17)

Danny Ainge is probably making 10 calls every hour right now, trying to trade up to the No. 1 picktrying to get Kevin Love, trying anything to improve his Beantown squad. However, none of that includes acquiring a second-round pick. Thames won't play in Boston.

Charlotte Hornets (Picks No. 9, 24 and 45)

Charlotte's interesting because it might be the best fit for Thames. The Hornets need guards who can shoot when Al Jefferson draws double and triple teams, and they need guards who can play the pick-and-roll with Jefferson. Well, two of Thames' biggest offensive strengths are his shooting and his pick-and-roll play. I even wrote a piece a while back about how the Hornets and Thames would form a nice marriage.

However, as I've looked more into the Hornets' roster and their free agent situation, I'm not 100 percent sure if there'd be a spot for Thames on the NBA squad. Kemba Walker has the starting job nailed down, and combo-guard Gary Neal is signed for 2014-15. Charlotte also keeps starting two-guard Gerald Henderson. That leaves Jannero Pargo and Chris Douglas-Roberts: both free agent guards. The jury's still out on Pargo and Charlotte fans want to see Douglas-Roberts back next year. Because Thames is such a good fit for Charlotte, I could see the Hornets drafting him and playing him in the D-League if they re-sign Pargo or Douglas-Roberts.

But reports also indicate that Charlotte has a chance to acquire Aaron Afflalo of the Orlando Magic--and he'd fill a guard spot that Thames could potentially fill. So, like it is with many things in life, we'll just have to wait and see.

New York Knicks (No picks)

Phil Jackson is reported to have said the Knicks could buy a draft pick, most likely to try to tip the "Carmelo scales" in their favor. Therefore, I'm left to assume New York will look to made at least a significant splash and not buy a late-second-round pick (they'd probably combine cash with a player to trade for a first-round pick). That already makes it unlikely that the Knickerbockers would draft Thames.

In fact, the New York Daily News reports that the Knicks are interested in three guards: North Carolina's P.J. Hairston, Arizona State's Jahii Carson and Syracuse's Tyler Ennis. In that same article, writer Peter Botte also reports that the Knicks traded Raymond Felton and Tyson Chandler for Jose CalderonShane Larkin and Samuel Dalembert (to clear cap space for the Carmelo pursuit). Calderon has three more years left on his contract and Larkin has one more. So, with the addition of two guards, the Knicks now have six guards under contract for 2014-15--and they're looking to draft another in the first round.

Utah Jazz (Picks No. 5 and 23)

Disappointed with the No. 5 pick, the Utah Jazz are reported to be looking to trade up to the No. 1 or No. 2 pick. In fact, Jazz Vice President of Player Personnel Walt Perrin told the The Salt Lake Tribune that Utah is looking for "franchise players" tomorrow night.  Utah has expressed no real interest in acquiring second-round picks, so I don't see Thames living in Salt Lake City next year.

Dallas Mavericks (Picks No. 34 and 51)

Think about it. The Mavs don't need a big, exciting new player in the draft. They have Monta Ellis. They have Dirk. Now they have Raymond Felton and Tyson Chandler. And they have three NBA vets--Vince CarterShawn Marion and Devin Harris--who all want to re-sign with Dallas. The Mavs will try to make big moves with free agency (like they try every year), not with the draft. Reports are already out that Dallas is pursuing the likes of Melo, Pau Gasol and Luol Deng, among others.

From the draft, Dallas needs role players who can come in, do their job, defend, play happily out of the spotlight, and grow and develop on the bench (potentially spending some time in the D-League). That's how I see Thames beginning in the NBA. He could backup Felton, Ellis and Harris. Come in, direct the offense until a starter tags him out. Make some shots. The more I think about it, the more I like the Mavericks-Thames combo. And Dallas has a pick in the 50s--where Thames would most likely go if he were to be drafted. Definitely keep an eye on pick No. 51 tomorrow.

Minnesota Timberwolves (Picks No. 13, 40, 44 and 53)

The Timberwolves are the polar opposite of the Knicks when it comes to guards: the Knicks have too many, the T-wolves have too few. They just have Ricky Rubio, Alexey Shved, J.J. Barea (not a great backup) and a qualifying offer to Othyus Jeffers. And Barea will be a free agent after this season. Now, you may not have known that Minnesota has so many picks because you only hear about Minnesota when it comes to the Kevin Love trade. Right now, the leading contender for the K-Love sweepstakes is Golden State, but reports indicate that the Warriors are hesitant to part ways with Klay Thompson, stalling further negotiations. On the other hand, ESPN's Chad Ford said on Bill Simmons' "BS Report" podcast that he believes the deal with go through.

I haven't heard anything about Minnesota's second-round picks being involved in any trades, though, so I firmly believe the Timberwolves will keep picks 40, 44 and 53. And they most certainly will be drafting at least one point guard. If the coaches, scouts and front office liked what they saw during Thames' workout, Thames might be pick No. 44 or 53. There could be a potential problem, however: Rubio plays a defense-first style like Thames, and the front office may want to draft a backup point guard that will give opponents a different look than Rubio does.

Indiana Pacers (Pick No. 57)

George Hill is great. He's a team leader, he can drain 3-pointers all night and he plays lockdown defense. But he's not a point guard--the Pacers' loss to the Heat in the 2014 Eastern Conference Finals exposed Hill's out-of-position play as a flaw (among many other flaws...). So, with the 57th pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, the Indiana Pacers will select a point guard. No doubt.

The Pacers worked out nine guards: Michigan State's Keith Appling, Duke's Andre Dawkins, Indiana State's Jake Odum, Florida's Scottie Wilbekin, Weber State's Davion Berry, Louisville's Russ Smith, New Mexico's Kendall Williams and Thames. Think of it this way: there could be an at least one-in-nine chance Thames goes at 57.

Indiana will look to pick a pass-first, pure point guard. While Thames has shown the ability to be that type of player, he mostly played as a score-first point guard this season--the Aztecs needed him to be that kind of player. If the Pacers did their homework, they'll know that Thames can be the pure point guard they need. But that might not happen, and the Pacers could pick a point guard that they were able to see play like a pure point guard with their own eyes.

Los Angeles Clippers (Pick No. 28)

The Clippers want to trade up, according to ESPN's Ramona Shelburne. And they won't be trading up for a point guard--they're set there with Chris PaulReggie BullockJamal CrawfordJ.J. Redick, and potentially Darren Collison (if he re-signs). But even if they don't successfully acquire a higher draft pick, they still have no reason to go for a point guard, unless they're looking to develop him in the D-League. They'd most likely pick a center to back up DeAndre Jordanaccording to USA Today.

But let's look at the big "if." IF the Clippers do decide to draft a point guard, they wouldn't pick Thames; at that point in the draft, there'd simply be better point guard options, especially since Thames shot just 3-10 at the Clippers mini-combine.

Orlando Magic (Picks No. 4 and 12)

The Magic really want that No. 1 pick. According to ESPN's Jeff Goodman and Chad Ford, the Magic are offering Aaron Afflalo, the No. 4 pick and the No. 12 pick for he No. 1 overall pick. Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski also reports that the Magic may also be looking to trade Afflalo to the Bulls for a player/pick package. It seems the Magic are looking for franchise players, not a rookie role player.

Orlando will stay in the first round and pick a big-name player or two.

Sacramento Kings (Pick No. 8)

Reports indicate that the Kings are shopping the No. 8 pick. In fact, I remember hearing something on ESPN that I completely agree with: Sacramento really doesn't want the No. 8 pick. The boys in crowns have drafted a bunch of young, athletic lottery picks in the last few years--and it's gotten them very little. According to NBA.com's Scott Howard-Cooper, the Kings are fielding offers from teams to acquire a veteran for immediate impact, not a rookie to develop.

Hypothetically, the Kings could get a second-round pick as part of a trade package to pick up that veteran. It seems plausible, then, that Sacramento's front-office would use that pick to draft a veteran college player ready to immediately fill a role.

The Kings have four guards under contract for next season, so it wouldn't hurt to have another. Thames is a hometown, Sacramento product from Pleasant Grove High School. He dreamed of wearing a Sacramento Kings jersey as a kid, and I could see the Kings front office saying, "Hey, we need a four-year college role player. Why not get a local player fans could get excited about?"


Houston Rockets (Picks No. 25 and 42)

I agree with USA Today's Asi Joseph: the Rockets need a perimeter player who can shoot the 3-ball and play great perimeter defense.

Rockets, meet Mr. Thames: a four-year college vet who can shoot like crazy and can defend even better. However, Joseph thinks the Rockets may opt for an NBA veteran to fill that role, as NBA rookies often struggle defensively.

According to Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix, Houston is fielding offers for the 25th pick to clear cap space for LeBron and Melo, although it seems like nothing serious is on the table. But there's been no mention of the 42nd pick. If Thames impressed at his Rockets workout, he just might be too good of a match for their needs to pass over.

Detroit Pistons (Pick No. 38)

A while back I looked on an NBADraft.net mock draft that pegged Thames going 38th to the Pistons. That site has since dropped Thames off its draft board.

Who knows if the site is correct in predicting Thames will go undrafted, but I firmly believe it was wrong slotting him to the Pistons. Sure, Detroit could use another guard: Chauncey Billups will retire if the organization doesn't pick up his club option, Rodney Stuckey said he and the Pistons aren't on the same page, and the Pistons are banking on two sophomore guards to produce (Peyton Siva and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope). But Detroit needs a backup center even more.

Andre Drummond, the future of this Pistons franchise, was the only pure center listed on the 2013-14 lineup. If he goes down, Detroit has nobody to take his spot. I'd think Detroit would want a legitimate backup center to reduce Drummond's workload so he can have a longer career.

ESPN's Marc Stein reports that the Pistons may deal Josh Smith to the Kings in a trade package that would include Sacramento's No. 8 pick, but we'll see if that comes to fruition. Even if that trade does work out, the Pistons won't take Thames at 8.

Brooklyn Nets (No picks)

According to Bleacher Report, Nets GM Billy King wants to trade for a first-round pick. However, as Bleacher Report featured columnist Walker Harrison writes, the Nets don't have the trading blocks to get a first-round pick. The Nets can deal bench players like Marcus Thornton and Marquis Teague, and they can also give their trade partner $2 million in cash. But those pieces will only get Brooklyn a second-round pick from somebody like the Philadelphia 76ers.

But, hey: that's when Thames would be picked--and Deron Williams isn't getting any younger.

Shaun Livingston is a two-guard and the Nets had no real backup-point-guard success this year. So if they get a pick, I once again agree with USA Today's Abi Joseph: the Nets will look for a point guard in the second round.

If Thames performed well at the Nets' workout, he might be their guy. Thames has expressed that Joe Johnson is his favorite NBA player, so that'd be a wonderful opportunity for the former Aztec to play alongside someone he looks up to on the basketball court.

Here are my top 10 most likely Xavier-Thames-draft scenarios:

1. Indiana Pacers

Pick No. 57

2. Minnesota Timberwolves

Pick No. 53

3. Dallas Mavericks

Pick No. 51

4. Charlotte Hornets

Pick No. 45

5. Milwaukee Bucks

Pick No. 49

6. Sacramento Kings

Trade

7. Minnesota Timberwolves

Pick No. 44

8. Miami Heat

Pick No. 55

9. Houston Rockets

Pick No. 42

10. Brooklyn Nets

Trade

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