The 2013 NBA draft class, already the cause of much derision among fans and front offices, has been dealt a never-ending supply of critical blows as the Association's postseason gets underway.
Gary Harris, Mitch McGary, Marcus Smart and Glenn Robinson III—all potential lottery picks—are headed back to school next season. Commendable as it may be to see those young men continue their education and chase a national championship, their decisions have put NBA teams in an awful bind already.
The 2013 class was already seen as the worst in over a decade. Ask any scout, and they would instantly compare it to the 2000 class that developed exactly zero franchise players. Though none of the guys mentioned above are locks to become NBA All-Stars when they do leave school, losing that quartet makes this class all the more disappointing.
For those breaking down the first round, though, the decisions of Harris et al. have nearly cemented some players' draft positioning already. Though we still have plenty of time before the draft lottery results, we can still take a look at the landscape and get a good idea of where players are headed—at least for now.
With that in mind, here is a complete breakdown of the entire first round, along with some "locks" for the first 30 picks. The "locks" are presented in italics.
(Note: We're using the term "locks" loosely here. The lottery order is still yet to be determined, which will of course affect how things go down. Like all mock drafts, the order is strictly based on the 2012-13 season standings for the most part)
*All lottery odds are courtesy of the NBA (h/t ESPN's Chad Ford).
1. Orlando Magic (25 percent): Nerlens Noel (C, Kentucky)
There is a school of thought that says there is little chance that Noel winds up in Orlando. Nikola Vucevic is coming off a brilliant sophomore NBA season, having averaged a nightly 13 points and 11 rebounds and showing a burgeoning offensive game in the post. His development is integral to the Dwight Howard trade working out for the Magic over the long-term, meaning they're unlikely to alienate him by drafting another center.
It's all fair—until you look at the rest of this class. Orlando general manager Rob Hennigan comes from the Thunder, and he learned firsthand what a superstar player can do for a smaller market club. And despite the great weather and lack of state tax, the Magic have not been a marquee free agent destination since the Tracy McGrady-Grant Hill caper.
This is a team that has to draft its stars before it can reach that echelon. Noel provides the best chance at grabbing a future All-Star. His knee injury is a major risk, but that shouldn't be a deterrent for Orlando; it's not competing anytime soon either way.
2. Charlotte Bobcats (19.9 Percent): Ben McLemore (G, Kansas)
For the long-term benefit of the franchise, avoiding the top pick in this scenario is probably best for Charlotte. Noel's talent and star potential would necessitate drafting him for a franchise completely lacking in star power outside the owners' suite, but he's frankly an awful fit basketball-wise. The Bobcats already have spent their last three lottery picks on players who can't shoot from distance, two of whom are almost broken offensively (Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Bismack Biyombo).
Noel would simply be a fourth non-shooter, cramping Charlotte's spacing to almost a crippling extent.
McLemore doesn't have the ceiling of Noel, but he also doesn't have the floor. A rangy shooting guard with a ton of athleticism, McLemore is exactly the type of player the Bobcats need. He can shoot from distance, create off the dribble and take over games when his mind is fully on the court.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers (15.6 Percent): Otto Porter (F, Georgetown)
It's hard to call anything a lock at this juncture. The lottery still has to play out and the entire draft process is just beginning. But Porter heading to Cleveland is about as close as one can get at this juncture, provided that he's still available when they pick and that the Cavs don't land the No. 1 overall pick.
Porter should be everything Cleveland wants in a wing considering its past two first-round picks. Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters have the potential to develop into a deadly duo, but they're also heavy-usage players who need the ball. Porter, a 6'8" wing with jaw-dropping length, an incredible basketball IQ and strong passing ability, doesn't need the ball as much. He can work off the ball and has a strong midrange game that fits well with the Cavs' needs.
Porter can be too passive at times, which was a problem at Georgetown, but alongside two ball-dominant guards like Irving and Waiters, it shouldn't matter as much. His offensive responsibility won't be as great at first, leaving Porter to do only what he's good at.
4. Phoenix Suns (11.9 Percent): Victor Oladipo (SG, Indiana)
Phoenix has wanted an athletic 2-guard dating back to its dalliance with Eric Gordon in free agency last summer, and Oladipo is the second-best option in this class behind McLemore. His offensive game still needs a ton of work—particularly from distance—but the worst possible scenario here for the Suns is landing an All-Defense-level perimeter defender who may win a dunk contest.
With a ceiling that's unlimited in the right situation, Oladipo may develop into the star that Phoenix desperately needs to boost excitement.
5. New Orleans Hornets (Pelicans) (8.8 Percent): Trey Burke (PG, Michigan)
The next time Trey Burke and Marcus Smart go out to dinner (if they ever do), the Michigan guard better pick up the tab. Smart's decision to stay in school undoubtedly made Burke the top point guard in this draft and a mortal lock to go somewhere in the first five or six selections.
Even if Smart was in this draft—where he would likely be taken off the board at No. 5—it's likely that New Orleans heads in this direction, anyway. Greivis Vasquez did a fantastic job shading the criticism away from Austin Rivers' possibly-worst-ever rookie season, but he's a year away from demanding a massive raise. He's probably an $8 million-plus per year player on the open market at this point, a value the Hornicans might not be willing to pay.
Meanwhile, Burke's resume doesn't need repeating. He was an all-everything superstar at Michigan who can create, distribute and beat guys off the dribble. There are questions about his size and his defensive ability, but those concerns aren't enough to pass on him here.
6. Sacramento Kings (6.3 Percent): Anthony Bennett (F, UNLV)
No matter what city they're in next season, the Kings will need help just about everywhere. Their logjam of "shoot-first-ask-questions-last" guards in the backcourt has to be pieced off, and obtaining a player who has any remote interest in playing defense would be a plus. This roster is a mess, and things are probably going to get worse before they get better under new management.
Bennett disappeared during the NCAA tournament, but he'd be a great reset button on the whole Thomas Robinson fiasco. The UNLV product is still raw underneath the basket—his post game consists almost entirely of raw power—but his motor stays running on defense and he seems like a good kid, by all accounts.
UCLA's Shabazz Muhammad is also an option here if Tyreke Evans departs, but something just tells me this franchise has had enough enigmatic guards for the time being.
7. Detroit Pistons (3.6 Percent): Shabazz Muhammad (G, UCLA)
The Pistons have compiled one of the most promising frontcourts in the league with Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond—now it's the backcourt's turn. Brandon Knight has shown flashes as a pro and he looked strong playing off the ball with Jose Calderon in the second half of the season, but Detroit is still in need of an elite perimeter scorer.
Muhammad's draft status varies depending on who you talk to. His up-and-down season at UCLA was enough for some to completely write him off, while others still see the otherworldly potential he showed in high school. Even if the real Muhammad is somewhere in the middle, that will be good enough to land a sixth man's spot in the Pistons rotation.
8. Washington Wizards (3.5 Percent): Alex Len (C, Maryland)
The Wizards would love to land anywhere where Otto Porter would be available. Porter would break their reliance on the Martell Webster-Trevor Ariza duo, the latter being more broken than the former.
However, Porter is gone in this scenario, leaving Washington with one option: go big. Emeka Okafor and Nene are vastly overpaid, with neither seeming to have much of a long-term future with the franchise (Okafor especially).
Len is in no way a sure thing, even at this point in the lottery. He's prone to long disappearances, vacillates between extremely soft and excellent at an alarming rate and still isn't much of a post defender. But with such a dearth of talent on the wings—I like Jamaal Franklin as much as the next guy, but not at No. 8—Len is the best fit.
9. Minnesota Timberwolves (1.7 Percent): Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (G, Georgia)
Caldwell-Pope wasn't a name you heard much about during the college basketball season, but that was mainly because Georgia was dreadful. A 6'5" shooting guard who did nearly everything for the Bulldogs in 2012, Caldwell-Pope should become one of the fastest-rising players up teams' draft boards come late-June.
He's an excellent defender and rebounder at his position, averaging over seven boards per game last season. Though Caldwell-Pope doesn't have dunk-contest hops or anything, he's still an above-average athlete who can handle NBA 2-guards
Most importantly, from the Timberwolves' perspective, Caldwell-Pope can shoot the lights out of a gym. He took seven threes per game last season, and they weren't Marshall Henderson fadeaway double teams, either. Equipped with a beautiful stroke from anywhere on the floor, Caldwell-Pope could instantly improve a backcourt that boasts Ricky Rubio and Alexey Shved, both dreadful jump-shooters at this point in their respective careers.
10. Portland Trail Blazers (1.1 Percent): Mason Plumlee (F, Duke)
Though there is still a bunch of time remaining between now and draft day, the Blazers are one of the league's hardest teams to figure out. They had absolutely no bench production this season, leading to heavy minutes for each of their five starters. In other words, Portland could go all-in on bench scoring with this pick and no one should bat an eyelash—even if it's at the point guard spot.
That being said, the Blazers should have an opening in their starting five with the impending departure of J.J. Hickson. Anything is possible and he could return, but you don't try trading a player midseason if you desperately want him back.
Plumlee has the potential to rise or take a steep fall in the draft, depending on how he performs in workouts. But for now, his high motor, athleticism and defensive intensity make him a strong fit for the Blazers here, even if there are more talented players on the board.
11. Philadelphia 76ers (0.8 Percent): C.J. McCollum (G, Lehigh)
Anyone remember last offseason when the Sixers essentially made a Lou Williams for Nick Young swap during free agency because they didn't want to give the former a multi-year deal? Well...let's just say that move didn't pan out. Young was nothing short of dreadful this season, and his return for 2013-14 is questionable. (Spoiler Alert: He won't.)
Drafting McCollum is a chance to right that wrong by reinvigorating that sixth man spot. He missed almost his entire senior season after suffering a left foot injury, but is reportedly back at full speed (h/t ESPN). Full speed is key for McCollum because that's the youngster's calling card. He torched Duke in the 2012 NCAA tournament by beating Blue Devils defenders off the dribble, forcing them to sag off and then knocking down jumpers in their faces.
Damian Lillard has been used as McCollum's best comparison, but the former Lehigh star isn't quite there as a passer. That being said, it's possible that he'll become a better scorer in the NBA.
12. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Toronto Raptors) (0.7 Percent): Michael Carter-Williams (PG, Syracuse)
Some will shout from the mountaintops for OKC to go big here, and for good reason. Kendrick Perkins is arguably the starting center on the "NBA's Most Overpaid Team," having long-since abandoned any hope of developing a league-average offensive game. And with guys like Cody Zeller—who already has more polish offensively than Perk—on the board, it's an understandable rationale.
Sam Presti doesn't think inside that box. He isn't going to take a player simply because it fits a theoretical need. (Smart people have been shouting "go small" to Scott Brooks for two years for a reason, folks.)
In Carter-Williams, Presti would be getting something that OKC does need: a potential star. With Jeremy Lamb having spent his entire season off playing in the D-League, it's very possible that this pick is the Thunder's only acquisition of long-term note in the James Harden trade.
Carter-Williams needs some polish on his shot and he needs some work on his decision making—hey, wait a minute, where have I heard that before? (Cranes neck directly at Russell Westbrook.)
I'm being facetious, but the Thunder wouldn't pass on Carter-Williams' potential here.
13. Dallas Mavericks (0.6 Percent): Cody Zeller (C, Indiana)
There may be dreams of Dwight Howard in Mark Cuban's head, but the reality is that D12 is probably staying in Los Angeles. And with the Mavericks again having a pile of expiring contracts staring them in the face, this summer will again beg the question of whether it's time to rebuild in Dallas.
Having missed the playoffs for the first time during Cuban's ownership, that answer looks more like "yes" than ever before. Zeller isn't a chip who will become the centerpiece of the next Mavericks dynasty, but he is an undervalued seven-footer. The things scouts liked about him—polish in the post, offensive awareness, burgeoning midrange game, etc.—are still there; he just didn't develop into the superstar many expected him to become as a sophomore.
At the end of the lottery in this draft, though, Dallas could do a whole lot worse.
14. Utah Jazz (0.5 Percent): Jamaal Frankin (G-F, San Diego State)
The Jazz's search for a point guard may be the NBA's worst-kept secret at this point. Gordon Hayward was running pick-and-rolls for them during the second half of the season—and he was surprisingly good at it—but having a top-shelf spot-up shooter posing as a de-facto point guard won't work going forward.
With the team likely making a heavy shift toward youth this offseason—Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson are both free-agents this summer—Utah would love to land its point guard of the future to go with Hayward, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter.
Unfortunately, this scenario leaves them with little choice for settling for the next best thing. Franklin did a bit of everything at San Diego State last season, with the exception of shooting outside. He's got a surprisingly strong dribble-drive game for someone who's 6'6", and his powerful athleticism allows him to soar over lesser defenders.
Franklin is mostly viewed as a non-lottery pick, but don't be surprised if he becomes a lock as the process moves along.
15. Milwaukee Bucks: Dario Saric (SF, Croatia)
The Bucks don't have a long track record for cultivating overseas talent, but they would be nothing short of thrilled to see Saric available outside the lottery. Though his jumper still needs some work and he's only an average athlete, Saric has some real star potential if he is developed properly. At 6'10", he has fantastic handles, so much so that you'll often see him leading a fast break.
Milwaukee heads into the playoffs with a ton of questions about its 2013-14 roster. It's possible that the Bucks will lose their entire backcourt this offseason, and taking an American guaranteed to come over next season may become a necessity. But until we have a better handle on the situation, Saric will do just fine in this spot.
16. Boston Celtics: Kelly Olynyk (C, Gonzaga)
Olynyk is one of the more intriguing prospects in this entire class. Bursting out as a junior, seemingly out of nowhere, the seven-footer morphed from an also-ran on the back of Gonzaga's rotation to the Bulldogs' top talent, by far. He's a versatile scorer who can stretch out to the college three-point line and has shown an increasingly strong array of post moves.
Boston won't be happy with his development as a rebounder at first, which is a weakness that the Celtics need to address this offseason. Gorgui Dieng probably fits what they are looking for better, and he is available in this scenario. But does Boston really want to take another chance on an older big with no offensive game?
17. Atlanta Hawks: Gorgui Dieng (C, Louisville)
18. Atlanta Hawks (via Houston Rockets): Glen Rice Jr. (G, NBA D-League)
Non-lottery teams are almost always hard to project. Team motivations vary as the draft moves along, which oftentimes leads to curious decisions like drafting a Euro who may never make the trip stateside.
Atlanta is a complete wild card in June, but for a completely different reason. A roster filled with expiring contracts is readying itself to disperse into the open market, leaving general manager Danny Ferry with two options: go for gold in free agency or start the rebuilding process now. The Hawks will make a play for hometown boy Dwight Howard, but we'll probably have a sense of his leanings by draft day.
As such, the Hawks are hard to predict. If they're hoarding cap space, they very well could jettison one of these picks for cash and then punt the other on a Euro. In the interest of keeping things not-awful for the greater Atlanta area, let's just assume that Ferry will keep both picks and go for the gusto here.
Dieng, though not attractive to Boston, could be a nice fit with the Hawks. Al Horford is a tough, vastly underrated big who has developed into a star offensively over time, equipped with a nifty array of post moves. He could help Dieng solve his woes down in the post, and these two could turn into a fearsome duo down low.
As for Rice, it's hard to ignore his struggles at Georgia Tech, but he's been nothing short of great in the D-League this season. He's scoring at will, grabbing rebounds and doing everything that made him a top-flight recruit. At this point, Rice has probably played his way into a first-round pick, and the Hawks are probably the top end of his ceiling.
19. Cleveland Cavaliers (via Los Angeles Lakers): Steven Adams (C, Pittsburgh)
It might be a little hasty to completely give up on the Tyler Zeller project, but it's pretty safe to say that he'll probably never make an All-Defensive team. With Anderson Varejao's status with the club consistently up in the air—especially now that Tristan Thompson has emerged—the Cavs could be looking for a replacement with their second pick.
Adams didn't exactly wow scouts during his freshman season at Pitt. His offensive repertoire is basically "jump," and shooting 44.3 percent at the free-throw line is never good. Still, Adams averaged two blocks per game in 23 minutes a night, has an impeccable motor and should develop into a mid-rotation defensive stopper if nothing else.
20. Chicago Bulls: Isaiah Austin (F, Baylor)
The Bulls hit a home run last season with Jimmy Butler, so why not go for the grand slam here in Austin? Though still raw in a multitude of areas, there is arguably no player with a better combination of size and skill in this entire draft than Austin.
An athletic seven-footer, almost in a JaVale McGee mold (pre-bulk) defensively, Austin can swat shots and defend on the ball brilliantly when motivated. What makes Austin potentially special, though, is his ability to run and stretch the floor with his jumpers. Assuming Derrick Rose comes back fully healthy next season, Austin could be scampering up the floor right along side him, throwing down thunderous jams.
If he realizes his potential, a frontline of Austin and Joakim Noah could frighten opposing teams for years to come.
21. Utah Jazz (via Golden State Warriors): Shane Larkin (G, Miami)
We've mentioned Utah's need for a point guard already in this space, and Larkin provides good enough value at this point. There are some questions about his size—5'11" might even be a little generous—but he's a hard-nosed, tough kid who can create off the dribble and plays with a chip on his shoulder.
22. Brooklyn Nets: Rudy Gobert (F, France)
Cap-strapped seemingly from now until the Barclays Center's lease ends, draft picks matter more to Brooklyn than anyone realizes. The NBA's new collective bargaining agreement puts heavy restrictions on the moves luxury tax teams can make, putting the Nets in a situation where they'll need to hit a home run on draft day in order to seriously contend for a title.
Gobert needs a ton of work in the post and probably has a peak of a replacement-level offensive player. Brooklyn is starting Reggie Evans in a playoff series. So the team would gravel on the ground for anything resembling replacement-level offense at the 4, just so long as that player isn't Kris Humphries.
Gobert isn't an instant contributor, and he may not even come over stateside in a year or two. His upside is just too high to pass on for Brooklyn in this scenario, though.
23. Indiana Pacers: Myck Kabongo (G, Texas)
Kabongo's entire collegiate experience couldn't have gone worse had he tried. He slogged through an unimpressive freshman season, calling into question his highly touted recruitment, and then got suspended for much of his sophomore campaign. Getting nipped for a plane ticket and free workout isn't going to call Kabongo's character into question because he's a fantastic kid by all accounts.
However, he'll be clinging onto his first-round livelihood heading into pre-draft workout period. Scouts haven't gotten to see much of him over the past calendar year, and what they have seen has been "meh," to say the least. Kabongo's game is better suited to the more open-court style of the NBA so he should reclaim some of his glory, but he's definitely a player to watch in the coming months.
24. New York Knicks: Jeff Withey (C, Kansas)
The Knicks tried protecting their backline behind Tyson Chandler with a bunch of guys nearing their Social Security this season. You'll be surprised to hear that it didn't work. Withey is a bit one-dimensional and is probably too old to develop into anything other than a very good backup center in the NBA, but that's just fine with New York. He would instantly slip in behind Chandler in the rotation, as he is the type of smart, mature instant contributor that a contender like the Knicks would want here.
25. LA Clippers: Sergey Karasev (G, Russia)
Barring the Clippers seeing a player that really strikes their fancy, they're one of the more likely draft-and-stash candidates in the back-half of the first round. They already have so much depth on the roster that it's almost suffocating. And while some of those players won't return next season, developing a rookie is a tertiary concern for this franchise.
Karasev, assuming he ever does come over stateside, could be a really nice player in the NBA. He's been really good this season over in Russia and is marvelous to watch in the open-court on tape. He can finish at the rim or make some pretty nifty passes to cutting big men with ease.
26. Minnesota Timberwolves: Tony Mitchell (F, North Texas)
They aren't overly similar players, but one could very easily draw comparisons between Mitchell and Thunder forward Perry Jones III. Like Jones, Mitchell came back to school for his sophomore season with the express purpose of cementing himself in the lottery. Like Jones, Mitchell did little to help his cause a second time through in college, and he instead left even more questions about his professional viability.
At this late point in the first round, his potential would be too much to pass up for the Timberwolves. Andrei Kirilenko has an opt-out clause in his contract that could make him an unrestricted free-agent this summer, a key development for Minnesota's immediate future. If Kirilenko decides to cash in on his stellar season,though, the Timberwolves will have to pay big to keep him and possibly sacrifice their ability to retain a young player down the line.
Mitchell could be seem as long-term insurance for the eventual Kirilenko departure—even if AK47 does stick with the T-Wolves in 2013-14, his contract expires after the season.
27. Denver Nuggets: Doug McDermott (F, Creighton)
This would be little more than the definition of a need pick, folks. The Nuggets are one of the league's least proficient three-point shooting teams, especially with Danilo Gallinari's immediate future up in the air due to injury. McDermott is so smooth beyond the arc and such a smart player that George Karl would probably sign him today for the NBA playoffs this season if he could.
McDermott won't be much more than a long-range shooter as a pro, but that suits Denver just fine.
28. San Antonio Spurs: B.J. Young (G, Arkansas)
It's a sobering reality that Manu Ginobili is on his last legs as an NBA contributor. His stats have gone precipitously down in each of the past few seasons with injuries piling on top of more ailments that has created a player who is Manu Ginobili in name only. He's essentially a very good backup point guard at this juncture, but he is not someone who can carry the Spurs' second unit.
Young can never replace Ginobili, but he can do something about those second unit woes. The Arkansas product is a mess defensively, yet his offensive game is so thrilling that it makes him well worth the risk this late in the first round. You aren't going to find many guys whose ceiling is a 20-point scorer this late in the draft, and Young is one of that minuscule percentile.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Lucas Nogueira (C, Brazil)
Not only do the Thunder get their much-needed long-term fill at center here, but they also won't have to pay him for a couple of years. Nogueira is a burgeoning athletic talent who could dominate in the paint someday in the NBA and has been on teams' radars since 2010. He'll likely stay over in Spain with his professional team for at least one more season to develop, which won't bother OKC because it already took an instant contributor at No. 12.
30. Phoenix Suns (via Miami Heat): Pierre Jackson (G, Baylor)
Let's end this on a simple note: Jackson can light up the scoreboard. End of story.