Now that the NBA All-Star Game has come and gone—as has this year's trade deadline—each team's needs are looking a bit different as the draft draws closer. Some teams will have an easy choice, but others have some long and hard thinking to do.
More importantly, the question still remains as to who the first overall pick will be this year. The prospect pool and college basketball season have been as such that no one player is completely outshining the other, and who will be taken where is anybody's guess.
The same can be said for certain teams and the needs they hope to fill this offseason. In most cases, the draft alone cannot fill a hole that a team has in one or more particular area, and GMs need to decide just what area they will seek to address in the draft and which ones will be taken care of via free agency or a trade.
Regardless of what happens, the first round of this year's draft could feature some interesting choices—albeit some unconventional ones—by various teams. In a deep prospect pool, it's hard to say just who will end up where.
But the following is my prediction for how the first round of the 2013 NBA Draft will unfold.
*Draft order is based off of NBA standings as of February 21, 2013
1. Charlotte Bobcats: Ben McLemore, SG, Kansas
The Bobcats are destined for the lottery again and if they are lucky enough to get the top pick, chances are that team owner Michael Jordan will finally make a solid decision and actually take the best player available. In this case, that player is McLemore.
The freshman is just the type of scorer that Charlotte needs to pair with point guard Kemba Walker, and his presence should definitely help the team's overall offensive attack, once he adjusts. He has the size for the position at 6'5", 195 pounds, and his average of 16.3 points and 50 percent shooting from the field is a testament to his overall potential.
Don't let the fact that almost half of his field goal attempts come from three-point range fool you (though he has shot 43 percent from there). McLemore has what it takes to be a special kind of player, and he could finally help the Bobcats crawl their way out of the cellar.
2. Orlando Magic: Shabazz Muhammad, SG, UCLA
With J.J. Redick all but certain to leave Orlando, the Magic are set to have a gaping hole at the 2. This means that if he's available, GM Rob Hennigan must select Muhammad.
Though not a particularly strong athlete, the freshman Bruin has good size for his position at 6'6", 225 pounds and has played very well this season. He has averaged 18.5 points and 5.2 rebounds per game while shooting 46 percent from the field.
Muhammad has also shot 42.5 percent from long range, but he does not incorporate his three-point shot as much as most college-level shooting guards. This young man is ready to play in the NBA, and he could help Orlando transition out of the post-Dwight Howard rebuilding phase and into a new era of contention.
3. Washington Wizards: Nerlens Noel, F/C, Kentucky
Torn ACL be damned, the Wizards need help in the middle. Of course, I mean help that isn't named Emeka Okafor or Nene.
A solid young big man is needed to get the best out of both John Wall and Bradley Beal, and Noel is that man. He has the height for the center position at 6'10", but he is a bit skinny at 228 pounds.
Just the same, it's hard to ignore his 9.5 rebounds and 4.4 blocks per game this year, making him an absolute must pick for Washington.
4. Cleveland Cavaliers: Anthony Bennett, F, UNLV
Cleveland needs an athletic presence at the 3. At 6'8", 240 pounds, Bennett plays much bigger than his actual size and has averaged 17.6 points and 8.7 rebounds while shooting 54 percent from the field for the Runnin' Rebels.
His on-ball defense is not where it should be, but keep in mind that he's not even 20 years old yet. With the right amount of coaching, time and, most important of all, patience, Bennett can become a solid small forward at the NBA level.
In Cleveland, he could easily be a viable go-to guy for Kyrie Irving as the team continues to take shape post-LeBron James.
5. Phoenix Suns: Cody Zeller, C, Indiana
The Suns have a decent center in Marcin Gortat, but he tends to play a little soft. Zeller is not much different, but he still has a much higher ceiling than the Suns' current options at the 5.
The sophomore Hoosier has posted 16.6 points and 8.1 rebounds this season, using his 7'0", 240-pound frame to be a force on the pick-and-roll, and his low-post game has improved as well.
His game outside of the paint can be hit-or-miss, but it still does not take away from the fact that he is a strong athlete with a high NBA ceiling. Thus, the defensively-poor Suns would be wise to take him if he is available when their turn comes.
6. Sacramento Kings: Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State
The Kings need a point guard that is going to do more than just try and score points. That is, they need a playmaker who will also provide an excellent defensive effort. Smart excels in both areas.
A bigger floor general at 6'4", 225 pounds, Smart is like New York Knicks' guard Iman Shumpert in that he is not a very strong scorer but can still play excellent defense. In his freshman season with the Cowboys, he has posted averages of 15 points, 5.9 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 2.9 steals per game.
That type of tenacity is what the Kings need in their backcourt, and Smart can provide plenty of it while also being a positive leader that is destined to make the team better. His offense will need work, but in due time, Smart could become a solid pass-first point man.
7. New Orleans Hornets/Pelicans: Otto Porter, F, Georgetown
The Hornets have a hole at small forward that needs to be filled. Nothing against Al-Farouq Aminu, but he is little more than a pest who can dunk, and his scoring game is borderline non-existent.
That isn't the case with Porter, who has posted 15.1 points and 7.7 rebounds for the Hoyas this season. The 6'8", 205-pound forward has also improved his three-point game, making 45 percent of his attempts from long-range, despite taking most of his shots either from mid-range or in the paint.
He'll need to beef up in the weight room before becoming an impact player, but his skills are undeniable, and he would be a great fit as the Hornets make the shift towards their new identity as the Pelicans.
8. Minnesota Timberwolves: Alex Len, C, Maryland
In the event that Nikola Pekovic leaves via free agency, the 'Wolves are going to need help at center. Fortunately, Maryland's Alex Len should be available at this spot.
The Ukrainian sophomore has great size at 7'1", 255 pounds, and has posted 12.4 points, eight rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game for the Terps this season. He has the frame to work the low-post and fill the void there in the event of Pekovic's departure.
Like most centers, Len is a weak free-throw shooter. Still, the rest of his game is strong and, with the proper coaching, he can become a solid center just like Pekovic, if not better.
9. Detroit Pistons: Michael Carter-Williams, PG, Syracuse
Though he is a guard, Carter-Williams is not a strong scorer. He has averaged 12.7 points per game this year, but has shot just 38 percent from the field.
However, should the Pistons take him, they won't need him to make scoring his first priority. They'll instead need him to focus on being a strong passer and elite defender. Seeing as how Carter-Williams has averaged three steals and 8.2 assists per game this year, he can fill this role perfectly in the Motor City.
Throw in that he has solid size at 6'6", 185 pounds, and he's an even better fit in Detroit.
10. Oklahoma City Thunder (from Toronto Raptors): Willie Cauley-Stein, C, Kentucky
OKC needs an upgrade at center, one that will be a marked improvement over Kendrick Perkins. Cauley-Stein already has an advantage over Perkins in that he has more size at 7'0", 244 pounds, but just how he'll perform in the NBA remains unclear.
All in all, Thunder coach Scott Brooks will need Cauley-Stein to work the low-post and be able to think fast on his feet. The freshman has posted 8.1 points and 5.4 rebounds on the season, along with 1.7 blocks, but he is still a raw talent on both ends of the court.
Oklahoma City would still be an ideal location for him, as Brooks has a knack for getting the best out of young players—just look at what he's done with Serge Ibaka. Cauley-Stein can be another one of those players, but only if GM Sam Presti takes a gamble and drafts him.
11. Philadelphia 76ers: Victor Oladipo, G/F, Indiana
The Sixers have two holes: one at shooting guard and the other at center. With the two top centers already off the board at this point, GM Tony DiLeo will opt to fill the hole at the 2 and pick up the dynamic Oladipo.
Oladipo is not the biggest player available at his position, standing just 6'5" and weighing 214 pounds, but his athleticism is off the charts. In his junior season, he has posted averages of 14 points, six rebounds and 2.4 steals while shooting an incredible 64 percent from the field.
Granted, most of his shots are high-percentage ones, but Oladipo is still a great athlete whose jump shot will develop with time and patience. Throw in that he is an excellent dunker, and it could be hard for Philly to pass him up.
12. Dallas Mavericks: Kelly Olynyk, C, Gonzaga
Blessed with great size at 7'0", 238 pounds, Olynyk is a special kind of center. Not only can he work the interior, but he also has a solid jumper. In his junior season for the Bulldogs, the Canadian has averaged 17.9 points and 6.9 rebounds per game.
Assuming that the Mavs retain head coach Rick Carlisle and his fast-paced game, Olynyk has the skill set to be a solid presence in that system. If he can find a way to stick to the inside and only use his jumper when absolutely necessary, then he can become the reliable defensive center that the team needs in order to succeed.
13. Charlotte Bobcats (from Portland Trail Blazers): Mason Plumlee, F/C, Duke
This is the part of the draft where the centers come flying off the board, and it will be Plumlee's turn at this point. Charlotte needs a reliable big man, and Plumlee's much-improved interior game will be attractive to both Michael Jordan and GM Rich Cho.
In his senior season with the Blue Devils, Plumlee has turned into a reliable go-to center that demands the ball and shows tenacity in the middle. He is averaging 17.6 points and 10.4 rebounds per game, plus 1.6 blocks, and has the build for the position at 6'10", 235 pounds.
He'll need some time to adjust to the professional level, but there's really no reason to suggest that Plumlee won't be able to become a solid NBA center at some point, be it in his rookie season or third year in the league.
14. Phoenix Suns (from Los Angeles Lakers): Glenn Robinson III, SF, Michigan
In just one season at Michigan, Robinson III has shown that he has the talent to be something special on both the college and professional levels. He does not have much size at 6'6", 210 pounds, but he has averaged 11.3 points and 5.6 rebounds per game and plays with the drive of a much larger player.
So long as he can improve his jumper and overall offensive game, Robinson III should be able to become a solid presence at the 3 for Phoenix, be it as a top scoring option or perimeter defender.
15. Milwaukee Bucks: Trey Burke, PG, Michigan
The Bucks are going to need insurance at the point should Brandon Jennings prove to be too expensive in restricted free agency, and Trey Burke is the perfect replacement.
In his sophomore season with the Wolverines, Burke has posted averages of 18.6 points and 6.9 assists per game while shooting 49 percent from the field and 39 percent from long range. He is a bit small at 6'0", 190 pounds, but he has the score-first mentality of Jennings to go along with a more disciplined attack.
If he can bring what he's been doing at school this year to the next level, he'll provide the Milwaukee fans with plenty of electrifying offense in the near future.
16. Boston Celtics: Isaiah Austin, F/C, Baylor
The Celtics are going to need to shore up their interior defense with a young and dominant presence come draft day, and Austin is just that guy. The freshman has tremendous size at 7'1", 220 pounds and is averaging 13.4 points, 9.2 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per contest for the Bears this season.
He'll need to spend a lot of time in the weight room before he can even think of cracking a rotation and he must also work on his low-post game. He must also keep himself in the paint as opposed to on the wing, but Austin's overall potential speaks for itself. With his build and work ethic, it's hard to believe that he won't make an impact in the NBA in some way, shape or form.
17. Atlanta Hawks (from Houston Rockets): Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG, Georgia
The Hawks need a lot of help at shooting guard, and what better way to fill that void than by picking up a local product? Caldwell-Pope is from nearby Greenville, Georgia, and has solid size for the position at 6'5", 205 pounds.
In his sophomore season for the Bulldogs, Caldwell-Pope has averaged 17.7 points and 6.6 rebounds per game while shooting 45 percent from the field and 37 percent from downtown.
The only mark against him is that he's a bit overly reliant on his three-point shot, but his offensive game will develop with coaching. Once he can learn to drive the lane and create off the dribble, rather than just be a shooter, then Caldwell-Pope can easily become a top scoring option in a mold similar to that of former Atlanta Hawk Joe Johnson.
18. Atlanta Hawks: Tony Mitchell, F, North Texas
Atlanta is lucky to have back-to-back picks in this mock, and they'll use their second selection to take a pure defensive forward in Mitchell. He does not have much size at 6'8", 235 pounds, but that has not stopped the sophomore from being an interior force for the Mean Green this season.
Mitchell is averaging 13.3 points, 8.3 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game this season, and could easily become an electrifying NBA forward once his scoring game develops more. It will take time, but look for him to slowly become more and more of a factor over the next couple of seasons.
19: Utah Jazz: C.J. McCollum, G, Lehigh
We all know how much help the Jazz need at guard, and McCollum could be the answer to the team's problems there. Granted, he is more of a shooter than he is a playmaker, despite being 6'3", 200 pounds, but the latter skill can be learned.
In his senior season for the Mountain Hawks, McCollum is averaging 23.9 points per game while shooting 49.5 percent from the field and an eye-popping 52 percent from long-range. Once he can incorporate a passing game to balance out his scoring, he could easily become one of the league's top scoring point guards.
20. Utah Jazz (from Golden State Warriors): Dario Saric, F, Croatia
Like Atlanta, Utah has back-to-back picks in this mock and will use their second pick to shore up a need at forward. Saric can play both forward spots, and he has the athleticism to become something of a hybrid combination of Dirk Nowitzki and former Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko.
However, though he has solid size at 6'10", 225 pounds, fans should not expect him to make an impact until he can balance his scoring with his defense. This means patience from fans and management—and lots of it.
21. Chicago Bulls: Rudy Gobert, C, France
International prospects are hard to read, especially centers, as both the game and position are played differently overseas than they are in the NBA. Regardless of that, Gobert's 7'1", 230-pound frame makes him unique.
Should he be available when the Bulls' turn comes, GM Gar Forman would be wise to take him so as to provide Joakim Noah with an occasional break.
22. Brooklyn Nets: James McAdoo, F, North Carolina
The Nets could definitely use a solid pest off the bench, and McAdoo has the build at 6'9", 230 pounds to be just that. In his sophomore season with the Tar Heels, he is averaging 14.7 points and 8.3 rebounds to go along with 1.5 steals per game.
The biggest mark against this young man is his poor free throw shooting (57 percent). Since he's likely going to be driving the lane on offense and getting fouled quite a bit, he'll have to improve that.
Other than that, though, McAdoo is a strong defender with decent NBA potential.
23. Indiana Pacers: Allen Crabbe, SG, California
Though Paul George has stepped up as a star, it wouldn't hurt the Pacers to have a solid shooting guard in the lineup with him. Crabbe is just that, having averaged 19.8 points and 5.7 rebounds while shooting 36 percent from long range this season.
Crabbe has size for the shooting guard position at 6'6", 210 pounds, but he still needs to learn how to mix up his offensive game and not be just another college scorer who couldn't cut it in the NBA. Once he can diversify his attack, the sky will be the limit for him.
24. Denver Nuggets: Archie Goodwin, SG, Kentucky
Should Andre Iguodala leave via free agency, the Nuggets will need to fill a hole at shooting guard. Goodwin is a solid option, but only if team management realizes that he is a project player.
Goodwin is averaging 13.7 points per game for the Wildcats this season, but he has a lot of work to do regarding his jump shot. Once he can improve that aspect of his game and not rely so heavily on driving the lane, then he'll be able to make an impact in Denver.
25. New York Knicks: C.J. Leslie, F, North Carolina State
The Knicks need young perimeter defense that isn't going to regularly wind up on the trainer's table with bumps and bruises, and Leslie is the perfect man to fill this void. He has the size for such a role at 6'9", 200 pounds, and could be quite the pest once he spends some time in the weight room.
Leslie has also averaged 15.7 points and 7.7 rebounds for the Wolfpack this year, along with a block per game as well. Once he can learn head coach Mike Woodson's defensive schemes, he'll be a welcome presence on the perimeter as the Knicks look to get back among the Eastern Conference's elite.
26. Minnesota Timberwolves (from Memphis Grizzlies): DeShaun Thomas, SF, Ohio State
The Timberwolves could use a spark off the bench, and Thomas is the clear answer in terms of filling this role. He has posted averages of 20.1 points and six rebounds per game for the Buckeyes in his junior season, and has also shot 38 percent from long range.
Just how many minutes he'll receive as a rookie remains to be seen, but the fact of the matter is that Minnesota needs some extra spunk to help complement the stars in the starting rotation. Throw Thomas into the mix, and the team becomes all the more deep.
27. Los Angeles Clippers: Tim Hardaway Jr., G, Michigan
"Lob City," aka the Los Angeles Clippers, are all about two things: high-scoring offense and in-your-face dunking. Hardaway provides both of those and is averaging 15.2 points per game in his junior season at Michigan. This year, he has shown marked improvement in his long-range game, shooting 41 percent from beyond the arc.
Throw in that he can do great work above the rim, and he's a perfect fit for the Clippers.
28. Oklahoma City Thunder: Jeff Withey, C, Kansas
In continuing the makeover at center, Oklahoma City would be wise to take a chance on Withey. His offensive game is never going to be particularly strong on the NBA level, despite his averaging 13.4 points for the Jayhawks this season, but that's not what the Thunder need him to do.
Withey is already a solid rebounder, as evidenced by his 8.6 boards per game. But even more impressive is the fact that Withey has also posted an astounding average of 4.0 blocks per game this year, and he'll be asked to use his 7'0", 235-pound body to man the paint with authority and provide plenty of interior defense as the Thunder seek to continue improving.
29. Cleveland Cavaliers (from Miami Heat): Isaiah Canaan, PG, Murray State
Miami has a solid point guard in Mario Chalmers, but he's little more than a shooter and a pest. Granted, LeBron James handles most of the playmaking duties, but it wouldn't hurt the Heat to have a true point man running the offense from time to time.
Enter Canaan, who has averaged 21.2 points and 4.2 assists his senior season with the Eagles. His 1.5 steals are a testament to his strong defense, and his scoring and playmaking abilities could make the Heat all the more dangerous in the Eastern Conference.
30. San Antonio Spurs: Lucas Nogueira, C, Brazil
In the event that Tiago Splitter leaves for another team in free agency, Spurs GM R.C. Buford would be wise to draft some frontcourt help. Nogueira has the size for center at 7'0", 220 pounds, and could slowly be turned into a solid option in the middle under the collective tutelage of veteran Tim Duncan and head coach Gregg Popovich.
He's only 20 years old and still has much to learn, but Nogueira is definitely a solid choice for San Antonio and any other squad this late in the draft.