2013 NBA Mock Draft: Projecting First Round Following Conference Championships

Josh BenjaminCorrespondent IMarch 18, 2013

Conference championships are over, which means that the face of this year's NBA draft has completely changed. Stocks have risen and fallen, but just who each team will take remains completely up in the air.

One thing is certain. Guys like Shabazz Muhammad and Ben McLemore are surefire lottery picks, but what about players from smaller conferences like the Missouri Valley and Atlantic 10? They're sure to garner more consideration now that more people have taken notice.

But conference championships are just the tip of the iceberg. We've got a longer tournament to watch in the coming days, and stocks are sure to skyrocket and plummet dramatically in the next week.

For now, however, the only stock we have is from what we've seen from the conference tournaments. Based on how certain players performed there, this year's draft has gone from a seemingly weak one to one that could actually feature some top-tier talent.

*Draft order is based off of NBA standings as of March 17, 2013


1. Charlotte Bobcats: Ben McLemore, SG, Kansas

Charlotte still needs a solid scorer to complement Kemba Walker, and this freshman has the tools to be just that for the 'Cats. Blessed with great size for the 2 at 6'5", 185 pounds, he's averaging 16.4 points and 5.3 rebounds while shooting 51 percent from the field and 44 percent from long range.

McLemore's outside shot is going to make him an impact player in the league immediately, as will his ability to drive the lane. So long as he can become a better ball-handler and limit his turnovers, he'll easily take the Bobcats forward as they look to improve in the coming years.


2. Orlando Magic: Marcus Smart, G, Oklahoma State

Depending on what GM Rob Hennigan decides to do with Arron Afflalo or Jameer Nelson, if anything at all, Orlando is going to need a guard who can take the team by storm and lead them out of the Dwight Howard era.

Enter Marcus Smart, who averaged 15.4 points, 5.7 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 2.9 steals in his freshman season with the Cowboys. In the Big 12 Tournament, he averaged 19.5 points to go with 5.5 rebounds and 2.4 steals.

Before he can make any impact in the NBA, however, Smart has some work to do. He shot just 40 percent from the field due to getting a little trigger happy with his jumper, and also committed 3.3 turnovers per game. Once he can get those down and improve his shot selection, he'll do a great job helping bring Orlando back into contention.


3. Phoenix Suns: Nerlens Noel, PF/C, Kentucky

Torn ACL be damned, Nerlens Noel is the guy the Suns need manning the middle. He's a bit on the skinny side at 6'10", 228 pounds, but his 10.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 4.4 blocks per game are hard to overlook.

Regardless of what offseason moves the Suns may make pre-draft, the fact of the matter is that they need a dominant interior player who is going to be a force on both offense and defense. Noel's athleticism is great as are his shot-blocking abilities, but he must beef up a little bit and further develop his scoring game before he makes an impact in the NBA.

Fortunately for him, he has a solid basketball IQ and played well in head coach John Calipari's system at Kentucky. So long as his knee is healthy, there is little reason to believe that he won't make an impact in Phoenix.


4. Cleveland Cavaliers: Otto Porter, SF, Georgetown

Normally a center-friendly program, Otto Porter has managed to shine bright for the Hoyas this season. Despite being on the skinny side at 6'8", 205 pounds, he has averaged 16.3 points and 7.4 rebounds per game while also showing great improvement with his jump shot.

This year, Porter made 43 percent of his threes and shot 49 percent from the field.

However, what makes Porter a special prospect is that he also proved to be an excellent finisher this year, often carrying his team on his back in the second half. Seeing as how the Hoyas run the Princeton offense, which allows little in terms of scoring opportunities, one can see how unique this makes Porter.

That combined with his overall game will help him thrive on the wing in Cleveland, not to mention bring in some much-needed defense.


5. New Orleans Hornets: Shabazz Muhammad, G/F, UCLA

At 6'6", 225 pounds, Muhammad is just the spark that the Hornets need as they enter the Pelicans era. Though a freshman, he's averaging 17.8 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. Muhammad also made 45 percent of his attempts and shot 40 percent from downtown.

Though not a strong defender, this young man has what it takes to become as good a slasher as Rudy Gay and be a top wing player for New Orleans in the coming years. So long as he can ditch his me-first attitude and not be selfish, willing to learn every step of the way, he'll become a superstar and enjoy a long successful career.


6. Detroit Pistons: Anthony Bennett, SF, UNLV

Detroit is going to need an athletic small forward to help continue taking the team forward, especially now that Tayshaun Prince has been traded to Memphis, and the Pistons get just that in Bennett. He has solid size at 6'8", 240 pounds and has been excellent for the Runnin' Rebels this season.

Bennett is averaging 16.1 points and 8.1 boards per game this season, shooting 54 percent from the field and 38 percent from long range, but still needs to work on his jumper. It isn't bad by any means, but will definitely need to improve before he can become a top NBA talent.

Besides that, he has a great presence on the interior and should do fine work for Detroit has his game continues to develop.


7. Sacramento Kings: Victor Oladipo, G/F, Indiana

Oladipo is just 6'5", 214 pounds, but plays with the tenacity and explosive nature of someone much bigger. He has averaged 13.6 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.2 steals for the Hoosiers this season, and shot an eye-popping 60 percent from the field. Considering he's not a big man, that's amazing.

The man is a great dunker and slasher, but still needs to learn how to create off the dribble and find his own shot outside the paint. Even as he continues to develop that part of his game, he's still going to be the electrifying presence that the Kings need, be they in Sacramento or Seattle next season.


8. Minnesota Timberwolves: C.J. McCollum, G, Lehigh

This is a bit of an unconventional choice, but the 'Wolves are going to need help at guard assuming that Brandon Roy's knees continue to be an issue. Moreover, the potential hole at center appears to be on the backburner as Charley Walters of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported that "people who know" say that Nikola Pekovic will definitely be re-signed via restricted free agency.

Enter McCollum, who has been out of action since January due to a broken foot. At the time of his injury, he was averaging 23.9 points and five rebounds per game while shooting 49.5 percent from the field and 52 percent from long range for the Mountain Hawks.

He doesn't have much size at 6'3", 200 pounds, but just look at what Bradley Beal has been able to do for the Washington Wizards at 6'3", 205 pounds. McCollum could easily do that for the Timberwolves and give them a reliable go-to scorer, making their future incredibly bright.


9. Washington Wizards: Cody Zeller, C, Indiana

Nothing against Emeka Okafor, but his best days are behind him. If the Wizards are going to continue to get better, they'll need a young center like Zeller who can work the post on offense and also play a decent interior defense.

In his sophomore season, Zeller averaged 16.9 points and 8.2 points per game and shot 58 percent from the field. The only mark against him is that he's a bit slow on his feet and, as we saw in Indiana's game against Minnesota on Feb. 26, tends to get eaten alive by faster players at his position. He has a lot to work on in his transition to the NBA, but still has the size the Wizards need at 7'0", 240 pounds and can become an impact player for them with patience and faith.


10. Philadelphia 76ers: Alex Len, C, Maryland

Since the Andrew Bynum experiment seems constantly destined to fail due to the center's balky knees, Sixers GM Tony DiLeo will seek another option in the middle via the draft. Enter Len, a 7'1", 255-pound interior force who averaged 12 points, 7.9 rebounds and 1.9 blocks for the Terps this year.

Just how well he adjusts to the NBA level remains to be seen, but one thing is certain. Len has the strength and explosiveness to be a dominant center in the league. If he can take care of the ball and put on some extra muscle so that he isn't pushed around by bigger opposing players, then he could become a reliable go-to big man in the City of Brotherly Love almost immediatley.


11. Oklahoma City Thunder (from Toronto Raptors: Willie Cauley-Stein, C, Kentucky

As good as the Thunder are, center Kendrick Perkins is way too slow and nowhere near as effective in the middle as he should be. This season, he has averaged just 4.4 points and 5.9 boards per game.

Fortunately for GM Sam Presti, Cauley-Stein should still be on the board when OKC's turn comes. The seven-footer has done an excellent job as the Wildcats' explosive center this season, averaging 8.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game. At 7'0", 240 pounds, he has the size to make a name for himself in the pros.

The only problem is that when it comes to offense, Cauley-Stein has a really hard time finding his own shot. He'll have a fine point guard in Russell Westbrook helping him find it in Oklahoma City, but he really needs to refine his offensive game and not just be a defensive presence if he is going to be more than just an average big man on the NBA level.


12. Dallas Mavericks: Mason Plumlee, C, Duke

Chris Kaman has been nothing short of a disappointment defensively for Dallas this year, and the draft will be used to bring in a solid center who can play reliable defense and contribute on offense when necessary.

At 6'10", 235 pounds, Plumlee fits this mold perfectly. He averaged 17.2 points, 10.2 boards and 1.5 blocks per game in his senior season with the Blue Devils, and was also more aggressive in the post.

Once he puts on some muscle and learns to be more of a pure defensive center, Dallas' rebuilding phase could very well be short.


13. Charlotte Bobcats: Kelly Olynyk, F/C, Gonzaga

Charlotte already has a reliable guard in this draft, and their second pick will see them go for size in the form of Olynyk. At 7'0", 238 pounds, he has plenty of that.

He averaged 17.5 points and 7.2 rebounds in his senior season with the Bulldogs, but still has to improve his on-ball defense. His footwork is great and he works the post incredibly well, but the Bobcats need him to be the big man that can provide production in every way, shape and form.

That means upping his defensive effort and not relying so much on scoring.


14. Milwaukee Bucks: Trey Burke, PG, Michigan

The Bucks will have a big decision to make this summer once point man Brandon Jennings enters restricted free agency, and they should draft Burke just in case he proves to be too expensive for them to justify matching an offer.

I must say, having Burke as the starting point guard would not be bad under any circumstances. He isn't the biggest at 6'0", 190 pounds, but averaged 19.2 points, 6.7 assists and 1.6 steals his sophomore season. He also shot 40 percent from long range, easily establishing himself as a top scoring point guard.

Once he can adjust to the NBA and figure out how to use his size to his advantage, the sky is going to be the limit for this young Wolverine.


15. Utah Jazz: Michael Carter-Williams, PG, Syracuse

Extremely tall for a point man at 6'6", Carter-Williams established himself as one of the premier passers in college basketball this season. Not only did he average 7.7 assists, but his defense was also great to the tune of 2.7 steals per game. His 12 points per game was just an added bonus.

His scoring isn't his best strength, but Carter-Williams' size gives him a unique advantage against smaller guards, even if he does commit 3.5 turnovers per game. Once he can improve his ball security, his knack for finding the open man will only help as Utah enters the next chapter of its history.


16. Cleveland Cavaliers (from Los Angeles Lakers): Doug McDermott, SG, Creighton

The Cavs could use a bench shooter and spark, and McDermott is the perfect player for them to pick and place at the 2 or 3. He has the size at 6'8", 225 pounds, and posted 23.1 points and 7.5 rebounds per game his junior season with the Blue Jays.

McDermott also shot 56 percent from the field and an eye-popping 50 percent from long range. In the Missouri Valley Conference tournament, he averaged 20.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and shot 63 percent from long range.

This young man knows how to score, and should provide plenty of offense in the NBA once he learns how to be more than just a shooter and cut down his turnovers (2.5 per game in 2012-13).


17. Atlanta Hawks (from Houston Rockets): James McAdoo, F, North Carolina

Josh Smith is almost definitely going to leave the Hawks via free agency, and Atlanta will need a dynamic young forward like McAdoo to come in and take his place. McAdoo posted 7.5 rebounds and 1.5 steals on top of 14.5 points per game for the Tar Heels this season, and plays with the strength and drive of someone much bigger than 6'9", 230 pounds.

Once he can get stronger in the mid-range and not be solely an interior player, then he'll be able to help the Hawks enter the next chapter of their history as they prepare to move on from Smith.


18. Utah Jazz (from Golden State Warriors: Glenn Robinson III, SF, Michigan

Utah needs an upgrade at the 3, and Robinson III can provide that and more. He averaged 10.7 points and 5.4 rebounds in his freshman season with the Wolverines, and shot 56 percent from the field.

Robinson is going to have to improve his jumper before becoming an impact NBA player, but still is a great athlete at 6'6", 210 pounds. If he can play strong defense and continue doing great work above the rim, then that will be enough for the Jazz in his rookie season.


19. Chicago Bulls: Markel Brown, G, Oklahoma State

Chicago has a big hole to fill this draft, at shooting guard. That said, they'll look to a fine option in Oklahoma State's Markel Brown, who continued to improve in his junior season.

Brown averaged 15.3 points per game while shooting 37 percent from his threes. He may seem small for a 2-guard at 6'3", 190 pounds, but can develop into a decent shooter and scorer with the proper coaching. Should he succeed, then Derrick Rose will have a reliable go-to scorer and the Bulls' offense, currently dead last in the league, will become all the better.


20. Boston Celtics: Daro Saric, F, Croatia

Saric has good size at 6'10", 225 pounds, and has shown prowess on both sides of the floor in his native Croatia. The only issue on the NBA level is that it's unclear whether he'll be more of a defensive big man or a wing guy, a la Andrei Kirilenko.

Fortunately for Boston, it's likely going to be at least a year before he can come to the NBA, giving him plenty of time to further his development in Europe before heading to Boston and being part of the team's next generation of players.


21. Atlanta Hawks: Tim Hardaway Jr., SG, Michigan

Atlanta will use its second pick to fill a hole at the 2, which Hardaway Jr. could fill perfectly. The man is streaky and needs to learn how to be more than just a shooter and dunker before becoming a reliable NBA player, but has the size at 6'6", 205 pounds to become a solid shooting guard.

Once he can improve his ability to find his own shot and not try and shoot his way out of a bad game, he can definitely become a solid starting guard or bench scorer on the professional level.


22. Brooklyn Nets: Rudy Gobert, C, France

The Nets may have some issues, but none that need fixing immediately. The team is deep from top to bottom, so they'll use the draft to pick a guy who probably won't be ready for the NBA for at least a year, like 7'1" Rudy Gobert.

The man has averaged 8.2 points and 4.9 rebounds in France this season, and could easily prove to be a solid body off the bench once the team can bring him to the United States.


23. New York Knicks: Tony Mitchell, F, North Texas

Mitchell isn't the biggest of players at 6'8", 235 pounds, but his numbers his sophomore season suggest otherwise. He posted 13 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game for the Mean Green this season, refusing to back down from any battle on defense.

The Knicks could use a lot of help on defense, and Mitchell can provide that almost immediately. He still needs to develop his scoring game, but that can come with coaching. Should New York draft him, defense must be the name of his game.


24. Indiana Pacers: Isaiah Austin, F/C, Baylor

The Pacers already have a great deal of size in the frontcourt thanks to 7'2" Roy Hibbert, but let's not forget that power forward David West is likely to leave via free agency this summer. In drafting Austin, Indiana would be setting itself up for a potential twin towers presence, as the freshman is 7'1", 220 pounds and can play both center and power forward, especially with his jump shot.

The only problem is that Austin is skinny and will need to bulk up before he can even come close to making an impact in the NBA. He'll fill out, but also must improve his interior offense before becoming complete.

Otherwise, he fits perfectly into the Pacers' pesky defense.


25. Denver Nuggets: Gorgui Dieng, C, Louisville

Depending on what the Nuggets decide to do with Javale McGee, if anything, the team will likely seek a strong interior defender who can be fully focused all of the time and not just some of the time.

Dieng was just that for Louisville this season, averaging 10 points to go with 9.9 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game. He has great size at 6'11", 245 pounds and though a raw talent, will have a great coach in George Karl helping him develop into a reliable defensive big man.


26. Minnesota Timberwolves (from Memphis Grizzlies): Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG, Georgia

A pure shooter, Caldwell-Pope is someone who can easily provide Minnesota with some help at shooting guard. He averaged 18.5 points and 7.1 rebounds per game his sophomore season with the Bulldogs, and he shot 37 percent from long range. At 6'5", 205 pounds, he has the size for the 2 and could easily be one of the sleepers of the draft.

Be it as a starter or bench player, expect him to make an immediate impact in Minnesota.


27. Los Angeles Clippers: DeShaun Thomas, SF, Ohio State

Caron Butler's contract will expire at the end of next season, so the Clippers would be wise to take on a small forward who can score points, and well. Thomas led Ohio State with 19.6 points and 6.2 rebounds per game this season, and also shot 44 percent from the field and 35 percent from long range.

He has some developing to do before becoming an NBA regular, but that's what his rookie season will be for. In time, he could become a solid shooter and scorer within Lob City.


28. Oklahoma City Thunder: Archie Goodwin, SG, Kentucky

The Thunder are deep, but it never hurts to have another guard who can slash to the hoop well and spot up for the occasional jumper. Goodwin can do both of those things and has solid size at 6'4", 198 pounds.

He won't average 14 points per game like has for the Wildcats this season, but in time could become a solid bench player in head coach Scott Brooks' rotation.


29. San Antonio Spurs: Jeff Withey, C, Kansas

The Spurs could lose Tiago Splitter to free agency this summer, and should have a young center on the roster just in case he walks. Withey has great size at 7'0", 235 pounds and also was third in the nation with 3.8 blocks per game.

He's raw and will need to work on his athleticism, but Gregg Popovich will see to that. In time, Withey can easily become a solid presence for the Spurs.


30. Phoenix Suns (from Miami Heat): Lucas Nogueira, C, Brazil

At 7'0", 220 pounds, Nogueira has the size to be a great NBA defender, which the Suns could use. Unfortunately, he plays a soft game and will need a couple of years to develop.

Given how the Suns have a crowded frontcourt, Nogueira will have plenty of time to work on his game both in practice and in the D-League as Phoenix prepares to keep on moving forward.


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