With the 2013 NBA playoffs officially upon us, 14 teams are on the outside looking in and wondering what they can do to improve their odds for 2014. With that being said, those currently involved in postseason series are wondering the same thing.
The question is, which prospects will pan out as All-Stars and who will be role players at the next level?
The answer to that will define NBA franchises for the next decade. Not only will these potential All-Stars be leaders in postseason-caliber organizations, but the role players could fill in as starters or sixth men for an extended period of time.
The issue, of course, is deciphering which players will reach each plateau.
From college stars that are expected to reach that level in the NBA to the underrated crop, there's no shortage of quality players in this year's draft. While the availability of All-Stars may be more limited than one might like, the key word here is quality.
So how will the incoming rookies' respective careers play out? Let's find out.
* signals All-Star
º signals Role Player
1. Orlando Magic: Trey Burke, PG, Michigan Wolverines*
The Orlando Magic are in a strange predicament here, as Oklahoma State Cowboys point guard Marcus Smart has opted to return to school for the 2013-14 season. The Magic have a franchise center in Nikola Vucevic, thus eliminating Nerlens Noel, and a dire need for a point guard.
The questions here are endless.
Does Orlando believe Ben McLemore is a superstar? Do they believe that National Player of the Year Trey Burke is their franchise point guard? Will they trade down?
The latter option seems to be the most likely, but we'll side with the Magic going with a point guard. Jameer Nelson is 31, and the Magic have seen Maurice Harkless and Tobias Harris play outstanding basketball since the All-Star break.
Trading down seems to be the most likely option, but landing Burke would fill the Magic's biggest lead.
2. Charlotte Bobcats: Nerlens Noel, C, Kentucky Wildcats*
The Charlotte Bobcats can go in numerous directions here. They were 27th in three-point field-goal percentage and 29th in scoring defense during the 2012-13 NBA regular season.
With an abundance of three-point shooters and the scarce nature of elite defensive prospects, it's clear that center Nerlens Noel of the Kentucky WIldcats is the answer here.
If the Bobcats are to compete in the Eastern Conference, they'll need to bolster their interior defense. Noel just so happens to be an elite interior defender who thrives on athleticism, anticipation and tenacity.
With the supreme athleticism necessary to run in transition and an intimidating presence down low, Noel could complement Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to give Charlotte a potentially elite defensive tandem.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers: Otto Porter, SF, Georgetown Hoyas*
The Cleveland Cavaliers have their backcourt of the future with All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving and first-year shooting guard Dion Waiters. They also have a rising star in power forward Tristan Thompson and a 2012 first-round draft choice at center in Tyler Zeller.
Unless the Cavaliers believe Ben McLemore can play the 3, the easy pick here is Otto Porter of the Georgetown Hoyas—a future All-Star.
Porter is not an elite athlete, but he is the most polished player in this year's draft class from a fundamentals perspective. Not only does Porter possess extraordinary size and length, but he is a dominant on-ball defender, a consistent three-point shooter and a high-quality ball-handler.
Paired with Porter's ability to facilitate, he could save the Cavaliers after they ranked 25th in scoring defense, 26th in assists and 23rd in three-point field goal percentage.
4. Phoenix Suns: Ben McLemore, SG, Kansas Jayhawksº
The Phoenix Suns need help at virtually every position, but there is no greater void than that at shooting guard. Phoenix has suffered from their lack of a go-to perimeter scorer, as Shannon Brown is explosive and Jared Dudley fundamentally sound, but neither go-to material.
Ben McLemore can be that player for the Suns.
McLemore could go as high as first overall, but there's no way he falls past the Suns at this stage of the draft. Not after Phoenix ranked 28th in three-point field-goal percentage, 26th in three-point field goals made and 21st in scoring offense.
McLemore is also an intriguing athlete with the body to permit greatness defensively, thus making him the complete package for Phoenix at the 2.
5. New Orleans Pelicans: Victor Oladipo, SG, Indiana Hoosiers*
According to John Reid of The Times-Picayune, the New Orleans Pelicans will likely pursue a trade involving shooting guard Eric Gordon during the upcoming offseason. This comes after Gordon missed 97 games over a span of two years with the team.
If Gordon is on his way out, it would behoove the Pelicans to pursue VIctor Oladipo and name him as their franchise wing.
Greivis Vasquez is suspect on defense, but the presence of Oladipo would greatly neutralize that weakness. On top of his elite defensive ability, Oladipo is also a reliable jump shooter who thrives in getting out in transition and possesses effortlessly explosive athleticism.
Oladipo has superstar upside and a starter's basement.
6. Sacramento Kings: Michael Carter-Williams, PG, Syracuse Orangeº
Regardless of what city they play in next season, the Sacramento Kings will need a franchise point guard to lead them into the future. While 5'9" Isaiah Thomas is an undeniably effective player, the Kings must find a top-tier facilitator to give their offense direction.
There's no prospect better in that regard than Michael Carter-Williams of the Syracuse Orange.
Carter-Williams stands at 6'5" and has a matching wingspan, thus displaying his defensive upside. MCW is also a terror in the passing lanes with the active hands necessary to disrupt an opponent's dribble.
After ranking third in the nation in assists per game, it's clear that Carter-Williams is more than capable of facilitating an offense, as well.
7. Detroit Pistons: Shabazz Muhammad, SF, UCLA Bruinsº
There is reason to believe that Shabazz Muhammad will pan out more as a shooting guard than a small forward. With that being said, the Detroit Pistons have voids at both position and are in dire need of a lead perimeter scorer.
Sorry Rodney Stuckey fans, but scoring in the low teens just isn't enough for a team to contend.
Muhammad is a powerful scorer who thrives in attacking off of the bounce due to his length and body control. As a player with an unquestioned motor, Muhammad will never stop giving an effort on either end of the floor.
As a strong rebounder with a strong build, Muhammad is everything Detroit could ask for in a swingman.
8. Washington Wizards: Anthony Bennett, PF, UNLV Rebelsº
After John Wall returned from injury, the Washington Wizards were 24-25 with an inexperienced perimeter and an injury-depleted interior. The numbers don't lie, as the Wizards are, in fact, a postseason-caliber team when Wall is healthy.
The next step is finding a young interior player who fits Washington's defensive-minded mentality.
Bennett may not be an elite defender, but he is a strong rebounder with a powerful build at 6'8" and 240 pounds. Bennett also has a 7'1" wingspan and electrifying athleticism, which suggests that the potential is there for elite play.
Bennett has the look of a star, but it's more likely that he ends up as a quality role player with game-changing athleticism.
9. Minnesota Timberwolves: C.J. McCollum, SG, Lehigh Mountain Hawksº
The Minnesota Timberwolves finished the 2012-13 regular season as the worst three-point shooting team in the NBA at 30.5 percent. While adding a big man could be an option here, the Timberwolves need multiple shooters to improve their team.
C.J. McCollum out of Lehigh is an excellent building block.
McCollum was a career 37.7 percent shooter from beyond the arc at Lehigh, despite being forced to create his own shot. On a team with Ricky Rubio running point, McCollum would be able to spot-up more often and shoot at a clip closer to 40 percent.
With the ability to attack the basket off of the bounce, McCollum could be the dynamic scorer Minnesota has long needed at the 2.
10. Portland Trail Blazers: Jamaal Franklin, SG, San Diego State Aztecsº
Before people jump the gun on why this player doesn't fit in this slot, it's important to note how depleted this draft class has become. Marcus Smart, Glenn Robinson III and Gary Harris are all returning to school, thus leaving the shooting guard position rather thin up top.
Seeing as the Portland Trail Blazers were dead last in second-unit scoring, going after explosive athlete Jamaal Franklin out of San Diego State is the most rational option.
Center isn't an option here, as the Blazers drafted Meyers Leonard in 2012. This eliminates Cody Zeller and Alex Len as options, thus magnifying the Blazers' need for perimeter depth.
Franklin is a dominant rebounder and a powerful slasher, thus making him the difficult but rational decision for Portland.
11. Philadelphia 76ers: Alex Len, C, Maryland Terrapinsº
Regardless of whether or not the Philadelphia 76ers re-sign Andrew Bynum, they have an undeniable need for depth at the center position. They can improve in that regard by selecting Alex Len of the Maryland Terrapins, a quality back-to-the-basket threat with facilitating abilities and a reliable face-up game.
Len appears to be more of a role player than an All-Star, but his well-rounded game would be valuable for any team. Not only is Len a versatile scorer, but he's improved as a defender and can facilitate from the high post.
Whether as Bynum's backup or a future starter, Len would provide valuable depth to a weak frontcourt in Philadelphia.
12. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Raptors): Cody Zeller, C, Indiana Hoosiersº
The Oklahoma City Thunder are an elite team that has just about everything. The one glaring weakness for the Thunder, however, is their inability to dump it down low to a player in the post.
Cody Zeller of the Indiana Hoosiers can be their cure-all.
Zeller has his fair share of critics, but no one has been able to question his motor or will to win. Paired with his non-stop effort, Zeller is also a mobile player that runs the floor well in transition and finishes around the basket with both hands.
Zeller must bulk up and improve his low-post game, but he's improved in every area from his freshman to sophomore season.
13. Dallas Mavericks: Gorgui Dieng, C, Louisville Cardinals*
The Dallas Mavericks simply haven't been the same team since center Tyson Chandler departed. While Chris Kaman was serviceable and Brandan Wright supremely efficient, neither were comparable to Chandler in terms of their defensive presence or energy.
Gorgui Dieng is.
Dieng, the defensive anchor of the national champion Louisville Cardinals, is a dominant interior defender with an underrated offensive game. Not only is Dieng a dominant shot-blocker, but his athleticism is met by an underrated low-post game.
Whether he's passing out of the high post or blocking a slashing scorer's crafty layup, Dieng can be the franchise center that Dallas has lacked since Chandler left.
14. Utah Jazz: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG, Georgia Bulldogsº
The Utah Jazz are a significantly improved perimeter team, going from the 27th ranked three-point shooting team in 2011-12 to eighth in 2012-13. That phenomenal improvement can be accredited to the arrival of Mo Williams and Randy Foye.
The Jazz must now bolster their perimeter by complementing Sixth Man of the Year candidate Gordon Hayward with another young sharpshooter.
SEC Player of the Year Kentavious Caldwell-Pope fits that bill, with deep three-point range and a smooth stroke. Caldwell-Pope is also an extraordinary rebounder, 7.1 per game, despite standing at 6'5".
Paired with active hands on defense and above-average facilitating abilities, Caldwell-Pope could be a first-year contributor for Utah.
15. Milwaukee Bucks: Dario Saric, SF, Croatiaº
With Glenn Robinson III returning to school, the Milwaukee Bucks' search for a small forward rages on. In order to fill that void, expect Milwaukee to go international as they evaluate the likes of Giannis Adetokunbo of Greece and Dario Saric of Croatia.
While Adetokunbo is rising fast, he's not yet eclipsed Saric's year-long star status—for now, Saric is the pick.
Saric has great size for his position, standing at 6'10" with a 6'11" wingspan. He's a skilled player that handles the ball well, sees the court like a point guard and spreads the ball around with impressive precision.
Saric's jump shot and lack of bulk are concerning, but both of those are improvable skills for the 19-year-old swingman.
16. Boston Celtics: Jeff Withey, C, Kansas Jayhawksº
Many are getting caught up in Danny Ainge's reported scouting of Greek small forward Giannis Adetokunbo (via Sheridan Hoops). With that being said, the Celtics have a devastating need for a rim-protecting center.
They won't hesitate to take Jeff Withey out of Kansas if he's on the board and Gorgui Dieng is not.
Withey has proved to be one of the most decorated shot-blockers of his generation, helping lead the Kansas Jayhawks to significant NCAA tournament success due to his interior prowess. Withey is also an improving option in the low post on offense.
The Celtics have holes to fill, but none are quite as significant as their lack of a dominant shot-blocker.
17. Atlanta Hawks: Steven Adams, C, Pittsburgh Panthersº
The Atlanta Hawks could go elsewhere with this pick, but the two teams drafting behind them are in the market for a center. Seeing as the Hawks are looking for a player at that very position, they're unlikely to risk waiting until pick No. 20.
It now comes down to a matter of picking between Kelly Olynyk and Steven Adams.
Adams has the capacity to be a dominant shot-blocker with a well-built frame at 7'0" and 240 pounds. At 19, the product of New Zealand certainly has time to bulk up even more and hone his already impressive skills.
Coming off of a season in which he averaged 7.2 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.0 blocks in 23.4 minutes, Adams' numbers, playing style and upside match what Atlanta needs to move Al Horford to his natural position at the 4.
18. Chicago Bulls: Kelly Olynyk, C, Gonzaga Bulldogsº
While the absence of Derrick Rose has stolen headlines, the Chicago Bulls are a significantly weaker team in 2013 than in previous seasons for more reasons than his injury. One of the primary reasons Chicago has struggled with consistency is the loss of Omer Asik.
In order to replace him, the Bulls get one of the best energy players available in Gonzaga big man Kelly Olynyk.
Olynyk has a non-stop motor and a rapidly developing game, which permits his becoming a high-quality role player. In a defensive-minded system that lacks offensive firepower, Olynyk would be welcomed for his energy and mobility on offense.
As for the Bulls' need for a shooting guard, Jimmy Butler's recent rise in production should be encouraging enough to avoid utilizing the draft for such a void.
19. Cleveland Cavaliers (via Suns, from Heat): Isaiah Austin, PF/C, Baylor Bearsº
The Cleveland Cavaliers addressed their greatest need by drafting small forward Otto Porter with their first selection. They must now target a big man to serve as the long-term replacement for Anderson Varejao, who simply cannot stay healthy.
Athletic dynamo Isaiah Austin can be that player.
At 7'0" tall with a 7'3" wingspan, Austin has the size necessary to thrive at the next level. While his lack of muscle is a concern, Austin has the frame to permit the addition of muscle.
In his current state, Austin is already an explosive athlete that thrives on defense and possesses three-point range on his jump shot—low risk, high reward.
20. Atlanta Hawks (via Rockets): Archie Goodwin, SG, Kentucky Wildcatsº
The Atlanta Hawks landed a center with their first pick, thus enabling Al Horford to shift to his natural position of power forward. They must now target the perimeter, where they will be run thin due to free agency.
With Lou Williams coming off of a torn ACL and John Jenkins a spot-up shooter with limited ball skills, Atlanta makes the wise move of landing a powerful slasher.
Archie Goodwin and the Kentucky Wildcats may have struggled, but the upside is there for the former to thrive in the NBA. At 6'5", Goodwin has the size and strength to attack off of the dribble and the body control to finish in traffic.
With a respected motor, Goodwin has legitimate All-Star upside.
21. Utah Jazz (via Warriors): Mason Plumlee, PF, Duke Blue Devilsº
The Utah Jazz have two high-quality frontcourt pairings in Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson, as well as Derrick Favors with Enes Kanter. With Millsap and Jefferson poised to become free agents, Utah is likely to prepare for the worst-case scenario.
In doing so, they'll be chomping at the bit to land Mason Plumlee out of Duke.
Plumlee could go in the lottery, although the need for a power forward is rather limited in comparison to that of centers. In a small-ball era of the NBA, Plumlee could play the 5 in flex situations, although it's unclear if a team will pick him over a more natural center.
For Utah, they'll benefit greatly from his positional versatility as he backs up the young but rising Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter.
22. Brooklyn Nets: Giannis Adetokunbo, SF, Greeceº
The Brooklyn Nets are a team with star power and extraordinary depth at virtually every position. For that reason, the Nets can experiment here and land the prospect that they deem most intriguing.
Giannis Adetokunbo out of Greece is that player.
Adetokunbo is a 6'9" point forward who handles the ball and passes as well as a point guard. At 18, Adetokunbo also has youth on his size as he looks to develop bulk and improve his foot speed should he pan out as a genuine point guard.
The Nets may find better value here, but they're a team that will look towards the future in the draft—this is a bright future pick.
23. Indiana Pacers: Rudy Gobert, PF/C, Franceº
Rudy Gobert out of France is one of the most intriguing physical specimens in the history of the NBA draft. For those that don't believe that to be true, let me know the next time you find a 7'1" big man with a 7'9" wingspan.
Although bulk is not a word used to describe Gobert, his size and length are intriguing enough for the Indiana Pacers to pull the trigger here.
The Pacers have an All-NBA caliber contributor at power forward in David West. While West is set to become a free agent, the Pacers' team success should be enough to bring him back.
In order to provide depth at the 4, the Pacers must accept the risk of landing a project player with a gigantic wingspan.
24. New York Knicks: Reggie Bullock, SF, North Carolina Tar Heelsº
It's no secret that the New York Knicks' offense is predicated on their ability to make the three-point shot with consistency. In 2012-13, the Knicks led the league in three-point field goals made while ranking fourth in three-point field-goal percentage.
Seeing as the Knicks have just one player under 27, it's fair to say that finding a three-point marksman with youth and athleticism on his side is a top priority.
For the Knicks, they won't find a better fit than Reggie Bullock out of the University of North Carolina. Bullock stands at 6'6" with a powerful frame that will allow him to bulk up and become a rotational regular.
After shooting 43.6 percent from beyond the arc in 2012-13, there's no question that Bullock can shoot.
25. Minnesota Timberwolves (via Grizzlies): Sergey Karasev, SG, Russia*
Sergey Karasev is a similar player to Alexey Shved by way of his uncanny ability to penetrate off of the dribble and create plays for his teammates. Karasev, a lefty, is also a dynamic playmaker with the ball in his hands.
Perhaps most impressively, Karasev is shooting 49 percent from beyond the arc in Eurocup play.
Karasev's ability to shoot the three-ball is the clincher here, as the 6'7" off guard with a 6'9" wingspan fits Minnesota's general profile. He can handle the ball, facilitate and attack off of the bounce, much like the T-Wolves' countless other guards.
The key, of course, is that Karasev can shoot.
26. Los Angeles Clippers: Allen Crabbe, SG, California Golden Bearsº
The Los Angeles Clippers are a deep team that thrives on elite guard play from players such as Chris Paul, Jamal Crawford, Chauncey Billups, Eric Bledsoe and Willie Green. While the options are present, the Clippers lack a true shooting guard.
By adding in-state product Allen Crabbe, that would no longer be an issue.
At 6'6", Crabbe has the size necessary to play the 2 with efficiency and, potentially, dominance. He's a physical defender, a quality ball-handler and a reliable shooter with deep three-point range.
Crabbe can lead your team in scoring or lock down the opposition's best playmaker—that's something that L.A. simply cannot refuse.
27. Denver Nuggets: Erick Green, PG, Virginia Tech Hokiesº
The Denver Nuggets are one of the most powerful offenses in the NBA. They led the NBA in scoring offense, ranked fifth in field-goal percentage and third in assists per game.
Oddly enough, the Nuggets were also 25th in three-point field-goal percentage.
While Andre Miller may be turning heads with his play at 37, we can't fool ourselves into thinking that 37 is young. The Nuggets need a long-term replacement for Miller, which calls for the nation's leading scorer, Erick Green.
Not only can Green facilitate at a high rate, but he has quality size at 6'3" and shoots the three-ball well both off of the bounce and catch.
28. San Antonio Spurs: Matthew Dellavedova, PG, Saint Mary's Gaelsº
The San Antonio Spurs remain legitimate NBA championship contenders, but they must continue to add perimeter depth via the draft. While Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green have been undeniably effective players, the Spurs cannot become complacent.
Most specifically, they must acknowledge that Manu Ginobili can be elite but is approaching the end of the line—it's time to find his replacement.
In order to do so, the Spurs draft Matthew Dellavedova out of Saint Mary's in this scenario. Not only is Dellavedova a pick-and-roll maestro, but at 6'4", Dellavedova has the size to work either guard position.
With international experience, the Australian combo guard would be the perfect replacement for Ginobili.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Lorenzo Brown, PG, North Carolina State Wolfpack*
The Oklahoma City Thunder are set at virtually every position after landing a center earlier in this scenario. They can now go for the player whom they believe to be the best available or most intriguing.
At 6'5", point guard Lorenzo Brown fits the bill.
Reggie Jackson has proved to be a viable backup, but the Thunder can never have too much depth at the point guard position. They witnessed Eric Maynor go down with an injury and thus required the services of Derek Fisher, whom they were lucky to find in free agency.
By landing Brown, the Thunder improve their backcourt and acquire a player who could be an impact player at the next level.
30. Phoenix Suns (via Cavs, from Lakers): Deshaun Thomas, SF, Ohio State Buckeyesº
The Phoenix Suns made it clear what style of small forward they're looking for by signing Michael Beasley. Unfortunately, Beasley's consistency and motor has been questioned routinely and his efficiency has thus suffered.
With this in mind, expect the Suns to target a player of a similar mold: Deshaun Thomas out of Ohio State.
Thomas is a dynamic scorer with a powerful frame and intriguing physical gifts. He's a load in the post, as he's active with his shoulders and feet, but can also spread it out with his three-point shooting.
Being able to take it off of the dribble and crash the boards makes Thomas all the more intriguing.