With the 2013 NCAA tournament coming to a close, many basketball fans will begin turning an eye toward the upcoming NBA draft—especially those fans of teams not contending for the playoffs.
These young men represent hope for a number of flailing franchises across the league and could reshape the future of a slumping organization.
If a GM tabs a perfect prospect, it can have an immediate impact on his team’s fortunes. If they pick wrong, the club is often set back yet again and must continue rebuilding.
Let’s take a look at the latest projections for the first round, which includes wise picks for each NBA team that holds a draft pick.
*Order based on combination of current record and projected finish.
1. Charlotte Bobcats: Nerlens Noel, PF/C, Kentucky
The Bobcats missed out on a chance to land Anthony Davis last year, so, hopefully, they can get some lottery luck and peg Noel at No. 1 this year. These Kentucky big men bring much of the same stuff to the table, including incredible shot-blocking, tough interior defense and a non-stop motor.
While Noel is coming off surgery for a torn ACL, there is no reason he should not be considered for the top pick in this class if he’s on the path to a complete recovery.
2. Orlando Magic: Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State
Orlando has long needed a new point guard to help get this squad back on track, and it can finally get one in Smart this year.
The Pokes star has great size, above-average athleticism, a nice rebounding ability, a natural-scoring touch and a willingness to pass that makes him a perfect prospect at the PG position. He should quickly replace Jameer Nelson as the top guard in the Magic Kingdom.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers: Otto Porter, SF, Georgetown
Porter is an all-around stud who can impact every aspect of the game.
While he’s not a clutch scorer (although he did show some flashes during his time with the Hoyas), this swingman is great at getting easy buckets and taking efficient shots, rebounding well for the position, relentlessly hounding his man on defense and coming up with blocks plus steals and just doing everything else a winning team needs.
This Georgetown product is the ultimate glue guy, and that is just what the Cavs need to get out of the league’s basement.
4. Phoenix Suns: Ben McLemore, SG/SF, Kansas
McLemore was on his way to becoming a consensus top pick earlier in the season, but his constant failures and inconsistency during and just prior to March Madness hurt his stock.
Regardless, this Jayhawks product still has star potential and could wind up being a steal for Phoenix here at No. 4.
5. Detroit Pistons: Anthony Bennett, SF/PF, UNLV
Bennett is a bit of a ‘tweener by modern NBA standards, but he’s strong and skilled enough to play both positions well.
Detroit would likely use him as a 3, making their front line even more formidable and becoming one of the toughest teams to rebound and score against.
6. New Orleans Hornets: Trey Burke, PG, Michigan
Burke has guided his Wolverines to the NCAA national championship game and greatly improved his stock with each passing game. He’s on top of the world right now, and, win or lose, he should be a lock to get selected in the Top 10.
While the sophomore is only 6’0”, his flair for the dramatic, leadership qualities and intangibles—coupled with his vision, facilitating ability, scoring touch and quick hands—make him a can’t-miss pick for the Hornets.
Even with Greivis Vasquez having a career year, the Hornets should not pass up on the chance to nab Burke for their backcourt.
7. Sacramento Kings: Victor Oladipo, SG, Indiana
Oladipo may play the same position as a number of other Kings, but his ability to impact the game without the ball in his hands, hustle hard on every possession and play defense are what this club needs most.
Adding quality guys who can do the little things should be the No. 1 goal of this franchise.
8. Oklahoma City Thunder: Alex Len, C, Maryland
Len has one of the more polished post games we’ve seen of any college prospect in quite some time, but there are a lot of worries about his willingness to dominate.
If he was truly hampered by poor guard play, we should see him dominate the pre-draft workouts and soar up the big boards. If not, the 7’1” center could slip down even further toward the back of the lottery.
9. Minnesota Timberwolves: Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State
The T-Wolves direly need a shooting guard and shouldn’t pass on the chance to nab Gary Harris (if he decides to leave East Lansing after a great freshman season.)
This young man can score with the best of them and is rapidly improving in all other facets of the game.
10. Washington Wizards: Shabazz Muhammad, SF, UCLA
It was recently revealed that Muhammad is one year older than previously believed, a fact that will undoubtedly hurt his stock in the eyes of many scouts.
However, the Wizards are desperate for an elite SF and should be willing to roll the dice on someone with the upside and abilities of the Bruins star. There’s no denying this kid’s heart and hustle, which more than makes up for many of his minor shortcomings.
11. Philadelphia 76ers: Cody Zeller, C, Indiana
After the Andrew Bynum saga during the 2012-13 campaign, the ‘Sixers have to nail down a legitimate player in their frontcourt to return to playoff form.
Zeller is the most NBA-ready of the remaining prospects and should be able to immediately soak up major minutes for this club. He may not have a high ceiling or tremendous upside, but this kid has proven his ability to play and contribute at a high level.
12. Portland Trail Blazers: Michael Carter-Williams, G, Syracuse
While Damian Lillard has been huge for Portland, this team has to bolster its facilitating capabilities and upgrade the bench.
Carter-Williams is one of the best passers in this class and would get the ball moving around the court for the Blazers. If he comes off the bench for a bit, even better, as this team has one of the worst second units in the league, and it isn't likely to contend until that is addressed.
13. Dallas Mavericks: Glenn Robinson III, SF, Michigan
The Mavs have needs all over the court, so expect them to take a high-upside player who could develop into the team’s next star.
Robinson III, son of the “Big Dog”, is just the type of talent that owner Mark Cuban should be looking for. He’s a do-it-all, versatile swingman with an NBA pedigree that oozes upside. If he ever puts it all together, the Wolverines product will replace Dirk Nowitzki as the next big star in Dallas.
14. Cleveland Cavaliers: C.J. McCollum, SG, Lehigh
The Cavs could go a number of different directions here, but McCollum would serve them well coming off the bench and adding a ton of firepower to the backcourt when Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters are sitting.
McCollum may be a bit undersized for the 2, but he’s a capable ball-handler for short stretches and could man the PG position for Cleveland’s second unit, potentially making it one of the most feared benches in the league.
15. Milwaukee Bucks: Kelly Olynyk, C, Gonzaga
The Bucks are likely going to have to part with a guard or two in free agency, but there is too much value being passed up on if Olynyk remains on the board past No. 15.
This ‘Zags big man can stretch defenses with his dynamic abilities on the offensive end, although he has to continue to improve his footwork and athleticism to match opposing centers on the other end.
16. Boston Celtics: Jamaal Franklin, SG, San Diego State
This banged-up Boston team needs to inject youth and athleticism into its roster.
Perhaps the best way to do this would be drafting Franklin, a SG product who can jump out of the gym and has a motor that won’t quit. While his jumper isn’t much of a weapon right now, there’s not too much else to knock on this kid’s game.
17. Utah Jazz: Dario Saric, SF, Croatia
More than anything, Utah needs to find a serviceable PG. However, there aren’t any lurking this late in the first round, meaning the team will need to find one in free agency and concentrate on maximizing value with its two picks.
Saric is a high-upside prospect who may be a few years from becoming NBA-ready, but could take the league by force when he finally is. A team like the Jazz can afford to develop him overseas, making this is a nice match.
18. Atlanta Hawks: Mason Plumlee, PF, Duke
One of the main problems with Atlanta is it sometimes lacks direction and looks listless out on the court.
If Plumlee were on the floor, that wouldn’t ever happen. This high-energy forward never gives up on a play, is constantly moving his feet and talking on defense and is doing everything in his power to get extra possessions for his team.
19. Chicago Bulls: Archie Goodwin, SG, Kentucky
Goodwin is extremely raw, but the upside is there, and the young man could form a solid duo with Derrick Rose in the Chicago backcourt.
While the Bulls don’t really have the time to develop a prospect, they should make an exception for this Kentucky product. He’s one of the best athletes we’ve seen in a long time and could eventually contribute at a high level—especially on the defensive end—for a championship team.
20. Atlanta Hawks: Alex Poythress, SF, Kentucky
The Hawks nabbed a tenacious defender, hard-worker and blue-collar garbage man with their first draft pick, opening the door for them to swing for the fences with this one.
Poythress is a maddeningly talented player who just doesn’t seem to want to put it all together. He’s prone to mental lapses, terrible defense and other bad habits that hold him back. However, his combination of size, raw skill, athleticism and upside make him one of the most intriguing players in this class.
21. Utah Jazz: Isaiah Austin, PF, Baylor
Austin is a super high-upside player, as the seven-footer has the skills and body weight of a prototypical swingman.
If he’s able to add some bulk to handle 4s and 5s defensively and get into the paint, this Bears product could look like quite a steal at No. 21. He’s certainly a gamble, but Utah can afford to roll the dice.
22. Brooklyn Nets: Rudy Gobert, PF/C, France
This big man has immense size and an even longer wingspan, but he's still incredibly raw and unproven against American talent.
The upside and potential are definitely present with Gobert, but only a deeper team—such as Brooklyn—will likely give him a look.
23. New York Knicks: Jeff Withey, C, Kansas
The Knicks' aging frontcourt rotation direly needs to add some youthful pieces that are ready to contribute right away. That adequately describes Withey, a senior Jayhawks star who can block shots and protect the rim with ease.
24. Indiana Pacers: Tim Hardaway Jr., SG, Michigan
Indiana may be loaded all over the court, but it could do worse than add a dynamic scorer with unlimited range at No. 24. Hardaway Jr. has made a name for himself by making big shots and stretching the floor for the Wolverines and could continue that in the NBA with the Pacers.
25. Los Angeles Clippers: Patric Young, C, Florida
Young is a freakish athlete who makes perfect sense coming off the bench for a young, run-and-gun squad. If Lob City selects this Florida star, he should be appearing in plenty of highlight clips soon enough.
26. Minnesota Timberwolves: James Michael McAdoo, PF, UNC
McAdoo killed his stock with poor play this season, but is still a legit first-round pick. The T’Wolves are in the market for a versatile forward and could take him off the board here.
27. Denver Nuggets: Doug McDermott, SF, Creighton
The Nuggets are hurting with Danilo Gallinari out with a torn ACL, so they need to make sure they have backup plans in place next season.
McDermott is a smooth scorer who may not be as versatile as Gallo, but could easily step in and put points on the board right away.
28. Oklahoma City Thunder: Tony Mitchell, SF, North Texas
Mitchell had an awful season with the Mean Green, but his raw talents are still there, and he could have been playing down to the level of competition at North Texas.
That’s a lot to gamble on with a first-round pick, but he’s well worth it for a deep team like OKC this late.
29: San Antonio Spurs: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG, Georgia
The Spurs love to add shooters to space the floor around their stars, making a sniper like Caldwell-Pope a no-brainer and a huge value selection.
30. Phoenix Suns: Gorgui Dieng, C, Louisville
Phoenix gets another versatile big man who has been instrumental in the Cardinals run to the NCAA national title game. Dieng is a great athlete and shot-blocker who could help shore up the Suns’ flimsy frontcourt.