The NBA regular season is almost finished, which means we're just weeks away from the start of the 2013 NBA Playoffs. But more so, we're even closer to the start of the 2013 NBA draft which, for the 14 franchises across the league not in the playoffs this year, is a pretty exciting time.
As shown in the recent NCAA tournament, there's plenty of talent waiting to leave it's mark on the NBA and a stack of stars who will be huge in the years to come.
Some college stars will have a bigger impact than others, with the 30 respective franchises around the league all looking for the stars that will have the most profound impact—both next season and in the seasons to come. Read on to see which franchises should pick who in the first round and what impact those stars will have in the league next season.
1. Charlotte Bobcats: Nerlens Noel, PF/C, Kentucky
After going down with an injury during the year, Nerlens Noel should still himself go as the No. 1 pick after declaring for the draft. Which, given his talent and proven skills, is hardly a surprise.
The Charlotte Bobcats find themselves with the No. 1 pick again this year, and they would do well to default to taking the best player on the boards.
Noel could have an instant impact in a lethargic offense and might just give them some interior spark that they've been lacking for a good two years now.
2. Orlando Magic: Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State
Jameer Nelson simply is not the franchise guard to lead the Magic—that honor will fall to Marcus Smart, whom the Magic should take with their No. 2 pick.
Smart is a savvy ball-handler who has excellent vision and shooting abilities. In a franchise that is slowly starting to put together some strong pieces up front, adding him into their backcourt will have a profound impact—if only for the leadership and direction that Smart will bring to their attack.
3. Phoenix Suns: Ben McLemore, SG, Kansas
What the Phoenix Suns don't have is solid, three-point shooters, who can perform consistently and chalk up big points consistently—making Kansas' star guard Ben McLemore the perfect option for the Suns to pursue with their No. 3 overall pick.
McLemore is a dynamic scorer who could have a huge impact in Phoenix once he starts to find his feet. After all, the Suns do rank 29th in three-point field-goal percentage and 26th in three-point field goals made per game. Surely adding in McLemore can only help those numbers in the years to come.
4. Cleveland Cavaliers: Otto Porter, SF, Georgetown
The Cleveland Cavaliers will likely never get LeBron James back to town, but they can get another promising small forward in Otto Porter.
Porter's numbers at Georgetown were simply prolific last season, and much like LeBron, he can operate effectively at both ends of the court.
Anything that gives Kyrie Irving another threat to go to, or simply even attracts defensive attention to, is a good thing for the Cavaliers.
5. Detroit Pistons: Trey Burke, PG, Michigan
After watching Trey Burke in the recent NCAA tournament, there's no doubting that the Pistons will look to take him with their first-round pick this year.
The Wolverines guard is simply prolific moving the ball down court and can have a huge impact for Detroit in the years to come—especially if he can develop a relationship with Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond and the Pistons can find some more shooters to placate Burke's style.
But even still, picking up Burke in the draft this year is a big win for Detroit and one that should see instant impacts for the franchise next season.
6. New Orleans Hornets: Cody Zeller, C, Indiana
For the thought of pairing Anthony Davis with Cody Zeller, New Orleans would simply be crazy to pass up a move for the Hoosiers star with their No. 6 pick.
Zeller was Indiana's go-to player last year, and once paired with a dominant inside player in Davis, he can continue to be so again for New Orleans—especially if he can start to reach the potential he has shown in his past few months of action.
7. Sacramento Kings: Shabazz Muhammad, SF, UCLA
Shabazz Muhammad's stock might be a little up in the air after his real age was uncovered (20, not 19), but it's hard to see him falling past the No. 7 pick here, as the Sacramento Kings could desperately use his skills for years to come.
The Kings have never really recovered from their trade for John Salmons, and with the upside that Muhammad has, it's hard to see them passing here.
For a franchise that's certainly without drama, the UCLA star can also have a huge impact off the court, giving fans a reason to believe in the franchise once more—which is an impact that is invaluable to a town like Sacramento.
8. Washington Wizards: Anthony Bennett, PF, UNLV
The Washington Wizards have the strong, gritty defense that's good on the boards; they have an elite scorer who can single-handedly win games in John Wall.
What they don't have is another option outside of those, which is where UNLV star Anthony Bennett comes in for the Wizards in 2013. Bennett is a good athlete for his side, and brings an excellent post game to the table in addition to an excellent shooting range—all of which the Wizards will no doubt gladly take as they seek to give Wall other weapons around him.
9. Minnesota Timberwolves: Victor Oladipo, SG, Indiana
How Victor Oladipo is still on the boards at No. 9 might be a shock for the Timberwolves, but they won't have to think twice about picking him up this year.
Oladipo is a great shot-maker and has a terrific motor on him. His potential is seemingly endless with a great shooting range on him as well which, when combined with the talents already existent in Minnesota, could make for a very scary team to watch for next season.
Andrei Kirilenko and Oladipo; Ricky Rubio and Oladipo—both of those have the potential to become very lethal combinations in years to come.
10. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Toronto): Alex Len, C, Maryland
The Thunder need to find a replacement for Kendrick Perkins at the 5, and they must develop a better inside game if they're going to take down the likes of the Miami Heat in years to come.
Alex Len is one of those players who can make that happen for Oklahoma City, with his back-to-the-basket skills and post-up play potentially spectacular for the Thunder.
It might not be a big impact and it might not happen straight way, but Len to the Thunder could well shift the power balance in the NBA in a few years time if the Maryland star can develop a good relationship with Serge Ibaka inside the paint.
11. Philadelphia 76ers: Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State
The biggest question surrounding Michigan State guard Gary Harris is as to whether he will declare for the draft with his future plans still undecided.
If he does end up declaring, we may end up seeing a surprise move by the 76ers for Harris—further strengthening an already impressive backcourt tandem.
Jrue Holliday has shown to be an elite player this season, and if they can stuff their team with good shooters to complement him, the Sixers could well become an offensive threat once more. That's the impact that Harris could have in Philly, or so they'll be hoping, anyway.
12. Portland Trail Blazers: Mitch McGary, PF, Michigan
Whatever happened to the old Mitch McGary? Well, who cares really, because the one that we saw throughout March Madness has the potential to be a genuine star in his rookie season for wherever he ends up—making him a hard player to pass on if he's still on the board.
McGary has shown a presence at both ends of the court in his last eight games, and with his excellent range, can have a huge impact for whatever franchise takes him—something we could well see Portland pulling the trigger on around the No. 12 pick.
The Blazers do need help in their frontcourt, and they need depth on their bench as well. Although, at the rate that his stock is rising, don't expect McGary to sit there for too long in his NBA career.
13. Dallas Mavericks: Gorgui Dieng, C, Louisville
Gorgui Dieng did wonders for his draft stock with a championship-winning performance last year, and will have had NBA scouts thrilled with the potential that he showed at both ends of the court.
Without Tyson Chandler, Dirk Nowitzki has been forced to shoulder much of the responsibility inside on both attack and defense. That can all change, however, with the introduction of Dieng, who is a great shot-blocker and a very athletic center inside for the Mavs' guards to target.
Dieng has already shown great skills in the past few months, and in a good system, could have a big impact from the moment he starts his NBA career.
14. Utah Jazz: Michael Carter-Williams, PG, Syracuse
The Utah Jazz have developed a number of good players inside—they just need to find somebody who can truly fascinate their play in years to come, and Michael Carter-Williams fits the bill nicely.
Carter-Williams isn't the big offensive threat that some other players are in the draft (which is why he can fall this far down the boards), but he is a great playmaker, with excellent vision and timing. Moreover, he is a brilliant defender and knows how to get the job done late, as shown in Syracuse's strong run to the Final Four in March Madness recently.
Throw in an up-and-coming guard with some up-and-coming bigs and you have the makings of a very good up-an-coming team in the Utah Jazz.
15. Milwaukee Bucks: Glenn Robinson III, SF, Michigan
The Bucks don't have a whole lot going for them at small forward right now, so bringing in Glenn Robinson III could have a huge impact for the franchise.
Robinson is a great rebounder who can make big plays when needed, moving up and down the court with tremendous athleticism for a guy standing at 6'6".
Son of former Bucks great Glenn Robinson Jr., GRIII is a pick that makes sense for Milwaukee this year and one that all involved can get plenty out of.
16. Boston Celtics: Kelly Olynyk, C, Gonzaga
We're not going to start with comments about this being the Celtics' last year for success, because people have been saying that for the last three years, and they've been wrong every single time. Even without Rajon Rondo, they've shown that they can still mix it with the best in the league.
However, what the Celtics do need is size with Kevin Garnett starting to hit his final years in Boston. They can't block shots and they can't seem to stop their opponents scoring at key moments—something that bringing in Gonzaga big man Kelly Olynyk would certainly help.
Olynyk doesn't have the best low-post game, but he can be a real weapon in the high-post, and a future star for the Celtics if managed correctly.
He'd have one of the best distributors in the league (Rondo) passing him the ball, and he could have a big impact for the Celtics in years to come as a result of that.
17. Phoenix Suns (via LA Lakers): Mason Plumlee, PF, Duke
Phoenix might be reaching somewhat here if it took Plumlee, but the reality is that six months ago, the Duke star was considered one of the best in the country.
What's more, he didn't do a whole lot to change that, with Ryan Kelly's injury hurting his ability to snare good rebounds and take nice shots. Once Kelly was healthy, Plumlee was back to his old ways, and he makes for a very good steal here if Phoenix can nab him with the No. 17 pick.
18. Atlanta Hawks: Dario Saric, SF, Croatia
Having declared for the draft, Dario Saric would make a great fit for Atlanta, who have been trying to add to their frontcourt for some time now, but the Hawks haven't found the right guy or the right time. However, all of that can change with the Croatian star coming into the mix for the Hawks.
Josh Smith is set to leave down, which could make Saric a day one starter depending on his upside and cohesion with the team. Saric has great passing abilities for a big man and is an excellent mover up and down the court, which should bode well for him.
Filling Smith's shoes won't be easy, but Saric definitely has the potential.
19. Chicago Bulls: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG, Georgia
The SEC Player of the Year—Kentavious Caldwell-Pope—ticks all the boxes for the Chicago Bulls—scoring, assisting and single-handedly winning games when Derrick Rose isn't available.
Caldwell-Pope is a rangy shooter who can definitely step up in the absence of Rose. Moreover, when the Bulls' superstar is healthy, he can provide a great option on catch-and-shoot plays, thus drawing some defensive attention away from Rose himself.
A rising star who could have a big future in the Windy City.
20. Atlanta Hawks (via Houston): Isaiah Austin PF, Baylor
After snaring Saric, adding in further strength to their frontcourt seems like the right move to make for Atlanta, which could see them go after Isaiah Austin.
Standing at 7', Austin has the length to be a real star for the Hawks and a great partner for Al Horford inside. Which, for a team that could well be trying to replace the outgoing Josh Smith, would go a long way to giving them some inside presence once more.
21. Utah Jazz (via Golden State): Jeff Withey, C, Kansas
Loaded with youth, the Utah Jazz will likely look to bring in a big man with their second first-round pick here, having gone small with Carter-Williams.
Jeff Withey is an interesting pick here, and it's one that the Jazz would do well to make. It would give them a good backup for Al Jefferson in the future and allow them to replace their dominant big man should he leave sometime this summer.
Moreover, Withey stays out of foul trouble and is a great presence on the defensive end which, coupled with the attacking threats already existent in their roster, could see the big man have a devastating impact on Utah next season.
22. Brooklyn Nets: Steven Adams, C, Pittsburgh
Brooklyn have Brook Lopez, but they don't have a bench. That alone should see them look for a center in the first ound of the draft this year, and whilst there's been a number of dominant centers go already, someone like Steven Adams is still more than capable of doing the job.
Adams probably should have stayed another year in college, but with his raw potential and upside, it's hard to fault him for wanting to come to the big time.
The Nets will have to be patient with Adam—especially offensively—but he just has that much talent that it's hard to pass him by this year. Look for Brooklyn to snare a potential frontcourt star if it makes a move for Adams this year.
23. Indiana Pacers: Jamaal Franklin, SG, San Diego State
Jamaal Franklin is just one of those players that is very good at everything, without being brilliant at anything. And that's not meant to sound bad—the shooting guard is a very good player who will make a great addition to the Pacers' bench next season.
Franklin isn't the greatest shooter in the world, but he is great out wide and has excellent hands—both rebounding and assisting when needed. Combine that with some of the best inside players in the country, and Franklin could be a very big impact player off the bench next year.
24. New York Knicks: Rudy Golbert, PF, France
Age is the biggest problem for the New York Knicks at the moment, with only one player under the age of 27. Moreover, the Knicks' reserves in Rasheed Wallace, Marcus Camby and Kenyon Martin, are all older than 35 and are unlikely to be around for years to come.
France international Rudy Golbert can have a big impact, then, for the Knicks' bench next year, as he provides some much-needed life and vitality.
Golbert has a terrific wingspan and is a giant standing at 7'1".
Imagine him cleaning up anything that Carmelo Anthony misses, and it's clear why this could be a great steal for the Knicks at No. 24.
25. Los Angeles Clippers: Archie Goodwin, SG, Kentucky
L.A. is currently 25th in opponent three-point field-goal percentage and is desperately in need of someone who can defend the three-point line and make some big shots at the other end himself.
Archie Goodwin is probably a year or two away being an elite shooter from outside, but he has the mechanics to become a great scorer for the Clippers.
His athleticism makes him a tantalizing prospect to watch for, and his energy at both ends of the court should please the Clippers' coaching staff—even if he isn't the most offensively-sound player going in the draft this year. After all, that's why they have Chris Paul.
26. Minnesota Timberwolves (via Memphis): Kyle Anderson, PF, UCLA
Ricky Rubio could seriously use another threat inside, and the presence of Kyle Anderson would be a great target for him to aim for next season.
The UCLA power forward has great hands, and is excellent at snaring in rebounds. He has great vision and knowledge of the game, and in a big man's body, he could be a great player for the Timberwolves to utilize going forward in the next few years.
27. Denver Nuggets: C.J. McCollum, PG/SG, Lehigh
Those that watched the 2012 NCAA tournament and saw Lehigh stun Duke will remember just how good C.J. McCollum can be at his best. And with another year under his belt—and another year of prolific scoring to his name—the star guard will come into the draft with the potential to have a big impact for whatever team picks him up in 2013.
The Nuggets are a great team in transition and have great depth at every position. However, they do struggle in the half court, and having a player like McCollum come in—who can play either at point or shooting guard—will be a big advantage to them.
McCollum can create or he can shoot, depending on what the situation requires, and he'll definitely have a big impact in Denver as a result of that.
28. San Antonio Spurs: Matthew Dellavedova, PG/SG, St. Mary's
Manu Ginobili isn't going to be around forever, and in the disciplined system that San Antonio runs, finding the right guard to suit that style isn't easy.
However, Matthew Dellavedova—with his biggest size and great hands—is the perfect man to groom to replace Ginobili. The Australian isn't the quickest of guards, but he has great versatility and vision, and he can certainly stroke it from deep when needed.
Dellavedova, in the Spurs' screen game, could have a strong impact.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Doug McDermott, SF, Creighton
Defenses know that they need to try and stop Doug McDermott; they just haven't been able to do so, courtesy of the forward's incredible shot-making skills.
Now put that on the bench, with the likes of Serge Ibaka, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant all around him. Defenses won't know whom to cover when, and the more shooting threats that the Thunder can have on the court, the more explosive their offense can be when needed.
McDermott is also a ready-made replacement for Durant when needed, who would no doubt thrive learning the position from one of the best in the league.
30. Cleveland Cavaliers (via Miami): Sergey Karasev, SF, Russia
Maybe this is a potential trade piece from the Cavaliers. Maybe it's a great shooter who is capable of coming off the bench and helping Irving and the offense.
Karasev averages 16.1 points per game and shot 49 percent from three-point range in Eurocup play this year. He could be a dynamic threat alongside Irving, or he could be a great scorer when Irving is rested—continuing to keep the points total ticking over.
Either way, Sergey Karasev is an intriguing prospect whom the Cavs could take late in the first round here and one that they'd do well to wrap up.
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