With the NBA playoffs just around the corner, it is time for many teams to devote the majority of their focus to the draft on June 27.
The NCAA tournament is underway, and there could be a few performances that alter prospect perception—for the good and bad—but most NBA teams already know where they are lacking.
Looking ahead to contract situations, aging and talent deficiencies, we can see what position(s) each NBA team should be targeting. Injuries and other events can change things, but this mock draft is based on the most likely selections as of now.
The draft lottery won't be determined until May 21, so the top-14 picks in the draft are ordered based on record as of March 21. Also, traded picks are acknowledged with the exception of some conditional swaps.
Considering the NBA season isn't over, teams that are set to relinquish picks based on making or not making the playoffs will still have their picks if their current record would place them in the playoffs.
I've spotlighted some selections that could potentially make the most impact in the first year. Those picks will feature an image.
With all the disclaimers out of the way, here is my latest first round NBA mock draft.
1. Charlotte Bobcats—SG, Ben McLemore, 6'5", 195 pounds—Kansas
The Bobcats need a star. Kemba Walker has had a nice season, and this isn't to say that McLemore would dwarf Walker's presence on the team, but the dynamic wingman would probably lead the Bobcats in scoring as a rookie.
He's almost certain to appear on his share of Sportscenter highlights because of his explosive leaping ability.
Ultimately, Charlotte needs to add the most-talented players available, and no player in this draft class has a higher ceiling than McLemore.
If the Bobcats draft him and he and Walker have success next season, it will likely prompt the Bobcats to pick up Walker's option beyond the 2013-14 season.
This could be a very exciting backcourt in Charlotte for the next five years. This is an example of McLemore at his best.
2. Orlando Magic—C, Nerlens Noel, 6'11", 215 pounds—Kentucky
Yes, Noel suffered a season-ending knee injury in his freshman year at Kentucky, and yes, he needs to add bulk for the rigors of the NBA game. But he is potentially the most dominant defensive player in the draft.
He has the ability to control games with his shot-blocking and rebounding, and that is extremely valuable.
The Magic already have Nikola Vucevic, who is averaging a double-double this season, but his presence shouldn't deter the Magic from drafting Noel.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers—SF, Otto Porter, 6'8", 210 pounds—Georgetown
Porter's consistency, versatility and clutch play have made him the top small forward prospect in the draft. He lit up Syracuse for 33 points on the road in a performance that spoke volumes.
The Cavs need a capable wingplayer in the worst way, and Porter fits the bill.
4. Detroit Pistons—PG/SG, Marcus Smart, 6'4" 200 pounds—Oklahoma State
The Pistons don't have a point guard on their roster that they are in love with. Smart's potential as a dynamic, stat-sheet stuffing leader at the 1-position is too much to pass on.
The team is building a solid young frontcourt with Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond. Drafting Smart would be just that—smart.
5. Phoenix Suns—SG/SF, Shabazz Muhammad, 6'5, 215 pounds—UCLA
Muhammad has his haters, but I'm not one of them.
Is he selfish?
Perhaps, but I also acknowledge his sincere desire to be great and his work ethic. The latter two traits combined with some maturity will spark him to become a solid player in the NBA.
As a raw 20-year-old, he's averaging 17.8 points per game, and he'll only get better from here.
The Suns need a leader, scorer and face of the franchise. Muhammad embraces and excels in the spotlight, so he is a perfect fit for the team.
6. New Orleans Hornets—SG/SF, Victor Oladipo, 6'5", 214 pounds—Indiana
The Hornets can't be putting much stock in Eric Gordon's ability to stay healthy, or his commitment to staying in New Orleans after the 2013-14 season.
Even with him the team needs help and depth on the perimeter.
Oladipo is one of the most exciting talents in the draft. He is like a cross between Leandro Barbosa and Tony Allen.
As a defender he would fit in nicely with Monty Williams' coaching style and could be a major player in the Hornets' rotation from Day 1.
7. Minnesota Timberwolves—PF/C, Cody Zeller, 7'0", 225 pounds—Indiana
If the records and draft positions hold, it could be back-to-back Hoosiers taken in the lottery.
Kevin Love has not always seemed thrilled with Wolves' management, and there's been a bevy of Love trade rumors over the past two years (Dime Magazine).
Zeller could step in as the starting power forward should the Wolves decide to deal Love. Even if they keep him, Zeller could play the center position as well.
He needs to add strength, but then again so does most of the frontcourt prospects in the draft.
His athleticism and footwork would make him a nice fit, and boy would he love playing with Ricky Rubio.
8. Washington Wizards—C, Willie Cauley-Stein, 7'0", 240 pounds—Kentucky
Kentucky had a down year and WCS is still a raw talent. But his size, athleticism and shot-blocking ability make him worth a selection here.
The Wizards up-tempo style would benefit greatly from a player who can both run the floor and start the break with a block or rebound.
9. Sacramento Kings—PG, Michael Carter-Williams, 6'5", 185 pounds—Syracuse
It is hard to determine what the Kings will do as much of their future depends on what they plan to do with DeMarcus Cousins. He's incredibly talented, but he's also disruptive, unprofessional and immature.
The Kings could take Alex Len here which would likely precipitate a Cousins' deal, but I think they'll take the best point guard prospect on the board.
I love Carter-Williams' bounce and playmaking. He's dishing out 7.8 assists per game this season. This was one of the best dunks of the year.
10. Philadelphia 76ers—PG/SG, C.J. McCollum, 6'3", 192 pounds—Lehigh
This is a pick and union that just should happen. This doesn't just make sense because McCollum hails from Lehigh, which is just a little over an hour from Philadelphia.
It also makes sense because the Sixers desperately need another scorer. They already have Jrue Holiday, and he's been great this season, but McCollum is an exceptional offensive player.
Before he went down with an injury on Jan. 5 that cost him the remainder of his senior season, he was averaging 23.9 points per game. In four years he never averaged less than 19 points.
At times the Sixers could play both Holiday and McCollum in the backcourt together, but ideally the rookie would be a great sixth man early in his career.
He certainly has some Jamal Crawford qualities to his game, and he'd be a perfect fit in Philly. Take a look at some highlights of McCollum's skills.
11. Oklahoma City Thunder (From Toronto Raptors)—C, Alex Len, 7'1", 255 pounds—Maryland
I'm not the biggest Len fan, but for what the Thunder need in the middle, he could thrive if he's selected here.
The team doesn't need a ton of help offensively, but Len does have the touch in the post to at least keep low-post defenders honest.
With the amount of attention required to handle Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, Len could operate with little pressure on most possessions.
This would be a sensible selection for the Thunder considering they lack depth in the middle.
12. Dallas Mavericks—SF/PF, Anthony Bennett - 6'7", 240 pounds—UNLV
I still really like Bennett's offensive game and athleticism, but his tock seems to have fallen a bit. He is a bit undersized for the power forward position, but he has the strength and arm length to be effective on the post.
The Mavs need to add pieces for the future, as it would seem all of their current impact players are with the team for the short term.
13. Charlotte Bobcats (From Portland Trail Blazers)—PF/C, Isaiah Austin 7'1", 220 pounds—Baylor
Austin is an intriguing prospect because of his length, athleticism and ability to make shots on the perimeter.
That said, he is rail thin, and I question if he'll ever be anything more than a stretch-4 like a more athletic Charlie Villanueva.
Even if that is his ceiling, he'd add some scoring punch for the Bobcats' second unit, and his length would be an asset on defense.
14. Utah Jazz—PG, Trey Burke 6'0", 180 pounds—Michigan
Burke may very well win National Player of the Year, but unless he engineers a deep run for Michigan in the NCAA tournament, he'll likely be a fringe lottery pick.
Despite that, he's still a solid point guard prospect that makes tons of sense for Utah. The Jazz have only Alec Burks under contract after this season at point guard, and he has never solidified himself as the man at lead guard.
Burke could be stepping into a great situation in Utah.
15. Milwaukee Bucks—C, Kelly Olynyk 7'0", 255 pounds—Gonzaga
Olynyk may be the most-skilled big man in the draft. He isn't the athlete Noel and Zeller are, but his game has the most polish.
The Bucks will lack depth at center once Samuel Dalembert and Joel Przybilla are free agents this summer, and Larry Sanders would be better suited as a power forward.
He and Olynyk would complement each other nicely.
16. Los Angeles Lakers—PF/C, Mason Plumlee - 6'11", 245 pounds—Duke
The Lakers look to be on track to keep their pick by making the playoffs.
Obviously the team's first order of business will be to re-sign Dwight Howard. Whether or not it accomplishes that goal, it could still stand to add some depth to the frontcourt.
Plumlee is a freakish leaper who plays without fear close to the basket. He has good upside and would be a nice selection and a crowd favorite at the Staples Center.
Take a look at Plumlee throwing it down.
17. Chicago Bulls—SF/SG, Glenn Robinson III, 6'6", 215 pounds—Michigan
The search for a viable shooting guard continues for the Bulls. GRIII is more of a small forward, but he's so skilled, he could play either position.
He is a bit of a gamble because he hasn't shown the type of consistency that matches his talent, but he'll be hard to pass on if he's still on the board at this point.
18. Boston Celtics—SF/PF - Dario Saric, 6'10", 225 pounds—Cibona Zegreb
With the Celtics' roster headed for transition, it would be smart for them to take an international prospect with upside, even though he may not be ready to come to the NBA just yet.
The C's have an aging core and an injured star point guard that the team has played better without. Boston was 20-23 with Rajon Rondo in the lineup, but they are 16-8 since he went down .
Because of all the moving parts, drafting someone they can shelve for a year or so is smart, at least until they know how and where he fits.
Saric is a skilled big man with great vision and overall offensive skill set. Per Sportando.net, he recently signed a four-year deal, but he has an NBA buyout option for the summer of 2014.
Here is a highlight of Saric in action.
19. Atlanta Hawks (From Houston Rockets)—SF/PF, James Michael McAdoo, 6'9", 230 pounds—North Carolina
The Hawks may be losing Josh Smith in the offseason. They will need to add depth and athleticism to the forward position.
McAdoo is no Smith, but he is a strong, athletic prospect who is known for his ability to defend.
20. Utah Jazz (From Golden State Warriors)—C, Steven Adams, 7'0", 250 pounds—Pittsburgh
I sincerely hope Adams returns for his sophomore year, but if he doesn't, he would be a logical selection for the Jazz here.
The freshman is big and athletic, but he hasn't learned how to be a consistent factor on the college level yet. He did average two blocks per contest, but every other part of his game is erratic.
With Al Jefferson likely leaving via free agency, the Jazz will need to add depth to the frontcourt.
21. Atlanta Hawks—SF/SG, Jamaal Franklin, 6'5", 210 pounds—San Diego State
Franklin may be one of the most underrated prospects in the nation. He rebounds like a forward (9.5 per game), has tremendous athleticism and the ability to explode offensively.
The Hawks will need to add scoring from the perimeter, and Franklin could be a major surprise as a rookie.
22. Brooklyn Nets—SF/PF, Alex Poythress, 6'7", 220 pounds—Kentucky
Though his game lacks some refinement, Poythress is strong and athletic. He can be a terror on the baselines and as a cutter.
Offensively, his game reminds me of Ronnie Brewer, and that profile would make for a valuable member of the Nets' rotation.
23. New York Knicks—C, Gorgui Dieng, 6'10", 245 pounds—Louisville
Deng's effect on the defensive end is undeniable. He contests at the rim as well as any player in the draft, and he can control the glass.
Tyson Chandler has been in the NBA for 11 years, and this season his body has begun to show wear and tear.
The backup centers in Gotham are all elderly by NBA standards (Marcus Camby 39 years old and Kurt Thomas is 40).
The team needs some youth in the middle to serve as Camby's backup, and potential replacement should he miss extended time due to injury.
24. Indiana Pacers—SG, Archie Goodwin, 6'5", 195 pounds—Kentucky
The Pacers could part with Danny Granger this offseason—or the next— and slide Paul George back into the small forward position.
Lance Stephenson has been decent for the team at shooting guard, but adding an athletic, attacking player like Goodwin would be a great move.
He's still improving as a player, but he's already shown the ability to get to the rim and free-throw line consistently. As a freshman, he averaged 6.4 free throw attempts per game.
25. Los Angeles Clippers—C, Jeff Withey, 7'0", 255 pounds—Kansas
This could be a huge get for the Clippers late in the first round. The team lacks depth at center behind DeAndre "Brandon Knight Abuser" Jordan. Drafting Withey would not only add depth, but it would give the second unit a shot-blocking big.
If this happens, Withey just may sneak on to the NBA All-Rookie team in the 2013-14 season.
26. Denver Nuggets—SF, Sergey Karasev, 6'7", 205 pounds—Triumph Moscow
Denver's current 14-game win streak is almost as amazing as the Miami Heat's current run considering they don't have the marquee names on their roster.
The direction the team goes will have a lot to do with whether Andre Iguodala opts out. It seems like Denver is a good fit for him, and I can see him staying, but we don't know for sure.
The Nuggets could take Karasev, who is one of the few standout international prospects in this year's draft. He's shown the ability to score, create and attack at his current level, and he's just 20 years old.
27. Minnesota Timberwolves (From Memphis Grizzlies)—Tim Hardaway Jr., 6'5", 195 pounds—Michigan
The Wolves need shooters to spread the floor on offense. As far as spot-up shooters in this draft are concerned, Hardaway Jr. is one of the best of the bunch.
He doesn't offer much off the dribble, but he could be an asset for the Wolves because of his ability to make shots from long range.
28. Oklahoma City Thunder—SG, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, 6'6", 200 pounds—Georgia
Kevin Martin is a free agent at the end of the season, and while the Thunder may have a chance to re-sign him, taking KCP as insurance is not a bad idea.
He has shown a penchant for tough defense and playing the passing lanes. He averaged two steals per game this season, and he's an exceptional athlete. Take a look at this incredible slam from the 2011-12 season.
His game would mesh well with the Thunder.
29. San Antonio Spurs—C, Rudy Gobert, 7'1", 235 pounds—Cholet
Tim Duncan's retirement is near, and the Spurs have to prepare for that day.
Gobert reminds me a lot of Ryan Hollins. He's long, very athletic and a good shot-blocker. There is some question about the level of competition he faces, but his size and run-and-jump athleticism is undeniable.
30. Cleveland Cavaliers (From Miami Heat)—PG, Myck Kabongo, 6'2", 175 pounds—Texas
This obviously isn't a pick designed to replace Kyrie Irving, but the Cavs' point guard has had significant injuries in two of the three years of basketball he's played.
Drafting a playmaking guard like Kabongo to back up Irving only makes sense for the Cavs.
If Kabongo plays well with his opportunities, the team would have a hard time keeping him in town, but that's a bridge worth crossing should this scenario come to fruition.