As the long march toward the Finals continues onward, more and more fans are looking forward to the upcoming 2013 NBA draft.
While this isn’t an elite class loaded with talent from top to bottom, there are a handful of promising prospects that could wind up becoming stars in the league.
Let’s take a look at some of these players in our latest first-round mock draft.
1. Orlando Magic: Trey Burke, PG, Michigan
Don’t sleep on Burke becoming the top pick in this draft.
He may not possess the ideal size of a prototypical point guard, but he’s a proven winner that loves to facilitate as much as score, fills a major position of need and has all the intangibles required to aid this rebuilding franchise.
2. Charlotte Bobcats: Nerlens Noel, C, Kentucky
After missing out on Anthony Davis in 2012, the Bobcats will finally land a shot-blocking big man with a motor.
Noel is extremely raw on the offensive end, but he’s an incredible athlete that works hard on every possession and will only get better with time. He may not make an All-Star appearance in his rookie year, but the Wildcats star has a bright future.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers: Otto Porter, SF, Georgetown
The Cavs already have a superstar in Kyrie Irving and a legit second option with Dion Waiters, leaving the door open for Porter to fill the organization’s hole at the small forward position.
He’s clearly not a franchise scorer, but the Hoyas product is great at knocking down open shots, defending the opposition’s top perimeter option, crashing the boards and hustling hard on every position.
4. Phoenix Suns: Ben McLemore, SG, Kansas
McLemore is arguably the top scorer in this class, but he’s prone to long stretches of cold, inefficient shooting and lackadaisical efforts.
However, when he turns it on, the Jayhawks freshman can light it up from anywhere on the court and get buckets at will. His upside as a scorer that can carry a team is too much for the point-starved Suns to pass at No. 4.
5. New Orleans Hornets: Alex Len, C, Maryland
With Greivis Vasquez emerging as a star point guard for the organization, the future Pelicans would be wise to look for a big man to compliment Anthony Davis.
Len has elite size and a promising low-post game. He doesn’t rely on athleticism like Davis to score, but rather employs a variety of old-school moves that would make Kevin McHale proud.
6. Sacramento Kings: Shabazz Muhammad, SF, UCLA
The Kings desperately need some production from the wing, but Muhammad is a boom-or-bust prospect here.
His upside is limited due to the discovery of his true, 20-year-old age, and his ability to make an impact without the ball in his hands is questionable.
7. Detroit Pistons: Anthony Bennett, PF, UNLV
Bennett’s tweener status makes him an ideal prospect for the Pistons. He has the strength to play down low, the quickness to guard opposing SFs and a shooting stroke that extends out to the three-point line.
They could use him in the frontcourt with Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond, or stick him out on the wing. Regardless of where he lines up, Bennett’s presence would be a huge boost and add even more size to this roster.
8. Washington Wizards: Giannis Adetokunbo, SF, Greece
The “Greek Freek” has been quickly rising up draft boards for his immense promise and upside.
He’s an unknown international man of mystery, much as Bismack Biyombo was in the 2011 draft. Due to the weak class, it’s completely plausible that a team like Washington takes a huge gamble on him—hoping to land a potential star swingman in the lottery. If the Wizards strike out, it’s not a huge loss.
9. Minnesota Timberwolves: Victor Oladipo, SG, Indiana
Oladipo is the shooting guard that the T’Wolves desperately need.
The organization has been searching high and low for a serviceable backcourt mate for Ricky Rubio and could finally find a defensive-oriented stopper and efficient shooter in this Hoosiers star.
10. Portland Trail Blazers: Cody Zeller, C, Indiana
Despite a poor finish to the 2012-13 campaign, the Blazers are on the cusp of contending. They need to fortify their bench in order to make a playoff push next season, which is why this selection makes perfect sense.
Zeller has NBA-ready height and finishing abilities around the rim, while also capable of running the court like a gazelle. He may never blossom into a star, but he should be able to make a positive impact early on.
11. Philadelphia 76ers: Kelly Olynyk, C, Gonzaga
After the Andrew Bynum debacle in 2012-13, the Sixers have to nab a center that they can rely on to get buckets and take pressure off Jrue Holiday in the backcourt.
There are concerns about Olynyk’s athleticism and lack of defensive prowess, but he’s able to score with his back to basket and facing up with equal efficiency. He should soak significant minutes in his rookie campaign and aid this franchise’s return to prominence.
12. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Toronto): Dario Saric, SF, Croatia
The Thunder are loaded with talent, affording them the luxury of taking a high-upside prospect that they can develop overseas or in the D-League for the next few seasons.
Saric is a young Croatian star with point forward skills and a good feel for the game. He’s not quite ready to make the leap to the Association, but could be a solid contributor down the line in OKC.
13. Dallas Mavericks: C.J. McCollum, SG, Lehigh
The Mavs are likely going to rebuild through free agency this summer, but they can nab a high-volume scoring guard with a lot of upside here at No. 13.
McCollum projects as either a 1 or undersized 2 and should be a true asset—especially coming off the bench. He isn’t afraid to fire it up from anywhere on the court and has been a big-time shot-maker during his collegiate career.
14. Utah Jazz: Michael Carter-Williams, PG, Syracuse
The lack of serviceable guard play hindered the Jazz in 2012-13, as they had the rare problem of too many solid bigs and no guards to consistently feed them in the post or get them open looks.
Carter-Williams and his elite facilitating ability, 6’6” frame and defensive tendencies would be a perfect fit out in Salt Lake City.
15. Milwaukee Bucks: Jamaal Franklin, SG, San Diego State
The Bucks backcourt is likely going to see some big changes in the next two offseasons, as J.J. Redick, Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis could all hit the open market.
It would be wise of the front office to plan for that and start bringing in some contingency options, such as San Diego State’s Franklin—one of the most athletic players in the draft that is a jump shot away from being a contributor.
16. Boston Celtics: Gorgui Dieng, C, Louisville
With Kevin Garnett’s age and Jared Sullinger’s injury problems, the C’s can’t afford not to select a big man in this draft.
Dieng is the best on the board, as he is a proven winner that guided the Cardinals to a national championship. He’s a bit raw offensively, but his rim-protecting skills and athleticism should help Boston during its rebuilding effort in the near future.
17. Atlanta Hawks: Mason Plumlee, PF, Duke
If the Hawks lose Josh Smith in free agency, they’ll have to bring in someone who could replace some of what he brings to the table.
Plumlee is a high-energy, blue-collar player that rebounds, defends and brings a ton of intensity every minute he is out on the floor.
18. Atlanta Hawks (via Houston): Steven Adams, C, Pittsburgh
If the Hawks added a big like Adams into the fold, they could slide Al Horford back to his natural power forward position when he’s on the court.
Unfortunately, Adams isn’t ready to make an impact in the NBA and might have to endure a stint in the D-League before he develops the offensive skills to not be a liability for this organization.
19. Cleveland Cavaliers (via Lakers): Glen Rice Jr., SF, D-League
With Porter selected to start at the 3, the Cavs can select a backup and potential sixth man in Rio Grande Valley Vipers star Glen Rice.
He has an NBA pedigree and sweet shooting skills, but character issues are a concern for this young man.
20. Chicago Bulls: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG, Georgia
The Bulls backcourt could be greatly improved with the presence of Caldwell-Pope and the return of Derrick Rose in 2013-14.
Caldwell-Pope is an elite three-point shooter with the athleticism and length required to successfully play defense in Tom Thibodeau’s system. That’s truly all the Bulls need at the 2.
21. Utah Jazz (via Golden State): Sergey Karasev, SF, Russia
Karasev is quickly rising up draft boards as an international sniper that is also adept at coming off screens to take open shots and set up his teammates with smart passes.
While the Jazz aren’t traditionally a three-ball happy team, the league is shifting toward efficient shots from the corner and wide-open looks from beyond the arc. They’ll need to find a shooter like this at some point—Why not now?
22. Brooklyn Nets: Livio Jean-Charles, PF, France
The Nets have to find a serviceable scoring power forward to complement Reggie Evans.
Jean-Charles has the most upside with his decent height, long wingspan, amazing athleticism and accurate mid-range jumper. He’s able to go into the post and play with his back to the basket, which separates him from many other international stars.
23. Indiana Pacers: Tim Hardaway Jr., SG, Michigan
Hardaway Jr. is the type of long-range gunner the Pacers need to breathe some life into the bench unit.
He may not be a great ball-handler or creator off the bounce, but Hardaway Jr. is a streaky shooter that can knock down the three in bunches.
24. New York Knicks: Jeff Withey, C, Kansas
The Knicks have to get younger in the frontcourt if they are going to make continued playoff runs and challenge the Heat for the Eastern Conference crown.
Withey isn’t an offensive force, but he’s tall and capable of protecting the rim with his great shot-blocking skills, which is exactly what the Knickerbockers need.
25. Minnesota Timberwolves (via Memphis): Archie Goodwin, SG, Kentucky
Goodwin will provide insurance at the 2 for this organization, which has drafted Oladipo earlier in the mock.
He’s a bouncy player with incredible athleticism, but isn’t much of a shooter and often plays with reckless abandon. Those latter two areas must be improved upon if this young man is going to get NBA minutes.
26. Los Angeles Clippers: Dennis Schroeder, PG, Germany
With Eric Bledsoe drawing much interest from teams as trade bait, the Clips should start developing another backup PG.
At the very least, Schroeder is a high-upside insurance option in case Chris Paul leaves town. The German is adept at knifing into the paint and scoring, but he’s a facilitator at heart.
27. Denver Nuggets: Rudy Gobert, C, France
With the Nuggets having plenty of serviceable players on the active roster, it makes sense for them to stash an international prospect overseas until he’s ready to make the leap.
Gobert is notable for his size and wingspan, but is raw in every other aspect of the game.
28. San Antonio Spurs: Allen Crabbe, SG, California
Crabbe is a lights-out shooter that can curl off screens and fire away from long-range.
The Cal star is not going to be asked to carry the load in San Antonio and will benefit from all the open looks his teammates generate and Gregg Popovich’s play-calling will afford him.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Tony Mitchell, PF, North Texas
The Thunder can develop Mitchell in the D-League, as this high-upside forward has to define his position and work on his scoring ability for a bit longer.
Regardless, his athleticism is tremendous and his ceiling is higher than most prospects in the first round.
30. Phoenix Suns (via Miami): DeShaun Thomas, SF, Ohio State
The Big Ten’s top scorer should help the Suns put points on the board next season.
He’s a solid shooter and tough player, but as a prospect he must work on his motor. If he gets motivated, Thomas will be an asset.