With the top contenders taking part in the 2013 NBA playoffs, countless prospects are studying today's stars and attempting to emulate their ever move. For 60 eligible prospects, their dreams will be realized on Thursday, June 27 at the 2013 NBA draft.
The question is, where should the contenders be looking during the first 30 picks?
When a team is competing for a title, there is often a misconception that they need not improve via the draft. The truth of the matter is, finding future pieces is equally as important as locking up your current crop of talent.
Fortunately, the upcoming NBA draft appears rich in talent—it's all about finding the right place for the skill to end up.
1. Orlando Magic: Ben McLemore, SG, Kansas Jayhawks
According to Joe Kotoch of Sheridan Hoops, the Orlando Magic "covet" Ben McLemore out of Kansas. Arron Afflalo has been a solid player, but he's battled injuries and may have reached his peak at 27 as an above-average 2.
McLemore has star potential and has been referred to as "a better version of Ray Allen" by an anonymous NBA scout (via KUSports.com).
That may be an overhyping of McLemore's ability, but it doesn't change the fact that he is a high-quality prospect. A case could be made that this class is weak, but that doesn't mean general managers should give on targeting the cream of the crop.
Drafting a point guard makes the most sense, but Orlando has a rare opportunity to pair McLemore with the super-productive Tobias Harris and Maurice Harkless in 2013.
2. Charlotte Bobcats: Nerlens Noel, C, Kentucky Wildcats
The Charlotte Bobcats have a solid perimeter tandem in point guard Kemba Walker and small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Walker quietly broke out in 2013, averaging 17.7 points and 5.7 assists, while Kidd-Gilchrist has the makings of a potentially elite on-ball defender.
The next step is for Charlotte to solidify their perimeter with a dominant rim protector.
Nerlens Noel can be that player, as he's a relatively polished product on the defensive end of the floor. His skills are not limited to athleticism, as he's instead an aggressive defender that understands the concept of anticipation.
With MKG on the perimeter and Noel down low, Charlotte would have the defensive tandem that could transform this organization.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers: Otto Porter, SF, Geogetown Hoyas
Even if the Cleveland Cavaliers were to win the draft lottery, there's a strong possibility that they would go with Otto Porter out of Georgetown. They need a small forward and Porter is one of the most well-rounded prospects you'll ever come across.
Outside of his lack of elite athleticism, there isn't much to complain about.
Porter is a smothering on-ball defender due to his combination of limitless length and extraordinary footwork. He's also a 40-plus percent three-point shooter, responsible ball-handler and high-quality facilitator.
Porter is quite similar to division foe Danny Granger, and the Cavaliers could certainly use that type of presence.
4. Phoenix Suns: Victor Oladipo, SG, Indiana Hoosiers
The Phoenix Suns could consider Anthony Bennett and Shabazz Muhammad here, as they need help at both forward positions. With that being said, they traded for Marcus Morris and seem to believe in the pairing of he and his twin brother Markieff Morris.
Believe me, it's nothing close to a downgrade to take Victor Oladipo here.
Oladipo can bring this franchise a new identity, as his defensive ability alone will be unlike anything Phoenix has seen since Shawn Marion. It just so happens that Oladipo possesses superstar potential with a sky-high basketball IQ, explosive athleticism and a well-honed skill set.
Oladipo could be anything from a perennial All-Star to a Tony Allen type of performer—both of those would be worth the pick here.
5. New Orleans Pelicans: Trey Burke, PG, Michigan Wolverines
The New Orleans Hornets get a treat here, as they land a franchise point guard that is built in an eerily similar manner to Chris Paul. Trey Burke can create his own shot, facilitate for those around him and always seems to step up in the clutch.
Greivis Vasquez is beyond serviceable as an offensive player, but Burke can be a franchise point guard.
He's not an elite on-ball defender, but Burke doesn't have very many weaknesses in his repertoire. Travis Best is a good comparison for him, as it displays the fact that Burke's abilities are of such a caliber that he can create a lengthy career.
Burke has star potential and a safe downside.
6. Sacramento Kings: Michael Carter-Williams, PG, Syracuse Orange
The Sacramento Kings may have an abundance of point guards, but Michael Carter-Williams is simply too intriguing to pass over. Isaiah Thomas doesn't get enough credit, but Carter-Williams is 6'5" and an elite facilitating prospect.
With that blend of size and playmaking, Carter-Williams could be what Sacramento needs to find direction in their young offense.
On top of his offensive gifts, Carter-Williams is more than capable of taking over a game defensively. He's a top-tier ball hawk and has the length and lateral quickness to become an All-Defensive Team-caliber performer.
This is an easy choice here.
7. Detroit Pistons: Shabazz Muhammad, SG/SF, UCLA Bruins
The Detroit Pistons could go with C.J. McCollum out of Lehigh here, as he provides a high-quality scoring presence at shooting guard. With Shabazz Muhammad's power as a scorer and rebounder, however, Detroit goes with the UCLA product.
Positional versatility is the key here.
Muhammad can play either perimeter position and has the strength to defend the 4 in a pinch situation. Alongside players such as Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond, Muhammad's competitive nature and rebounding ability should fit in quite well.
After Detroit ranked 22nd in scoring offense, Muhammad would certainly be a welcome addition.
8. Washington Wizards: Anthony Bennett, PF, UNLV Rebels
The Washington Wizards don't have many voids on their roster, as they've drafted well and utilized free agency to build a solid squad. Once John Wall returned from injury, they proved such by going 24-25 to close out the season.
At No. 8, they take the best player available and, in the process, address what is the closest thing to a need at power forward.
Nene Hilario remains a high-quality contributor, but he's consistently injured and is now 30 years old. He can still produce and play a key role, but the Wizards must be thinking long-term here as they landed a potentially dominant force in Anthony Bennett.
With a powerful frame, impressive athleticism and three-point range, Bennett could be something special.
9. Minnesota Timberwolves: C.J. McCollum, SG, Lehigh Mountain Hawks
To put it kindly, the Minnesota Timberwolves can't shoot. They ranked dead last in three-point field goal percentage and 28th in three-point field goals made per game.
Landing C.J. McCollum would go a long way towards curing those woes.
McCollum is a supremely efficient scoring guard that can handle the ball or work off of screens for open looks. Regardless of what situation he's placed in, McCollum is a pure playmaker with deep three-point range.
Alex Len is an option here, but that hinges directly upon Nikola Pekovic's future.
10. Portland Trail Blazers: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG, Georgia Bulldogs
The Portland Trail Blazers ranked 30th in second-unit scoring during the 2012-13 NBA regular season. With this in mind, the only option here is to find a player that can score the basketball while coming off of the bench.
If they fail to address that need, it will be the same old story—a postseason-caliber starting lineup that falls victim to fatigue with the bench failing to provide any form of production.
In order to address those needs, SEC Player of the Year Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is the pick here. Jamaal Franklin is an option, but the Blazers need a player that can shoot alongside athletic dynamo Will Barton.
Portland needs second unit scorers and Caldwell-Pope can be their sixth man.
11. Philadelphia 76ers: Alex Len, C, Maryland Terrapins
The Philadelphia 76ers could address other areas of need, but there is no way around how perfect this pick is. Even if Andrew Bynum is to re-sign, the injury concerns are overwhelming and depth is not a strength on Philadelphia's roster.
Drafting Alex Len is risky, but at No. 11, there's no logical way to pass up on this opportunity.
Len is a dynamic frontcourt player, as he can defend the rim from day one and has the potential to develop into an elite playmaker from the post. Chances are Len will be one of the middle-of-the-pack bigs when it's all said and done, but that doesn't eliminate his value.
With Bynum's future in question, Len could offer the playmaking presence from the high post that Philly so desperately needs.
12. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Raptors): Cody Zeller, C, Indiana Hoosiers
If the Oklahoma City Thunder fail to select a low-post presence at this stage of the draft, they would receive a failing grade. They're an elite team, but one that relies far too heavily on their jump shooting due to their lack of an interior scorer.
By drafting Cody Zeller, that could all change.
Zeller wouldn't be needed for routinely dominant performances, but instead for spot opportunities in which he backs down his man. This will help collapse the opposing defense and create space for slashers to enter the lane.
Zeller's upside is debatable, but he'll be nothing short of a serviceable offensive player in the NBA
13. Dallas Mavericks: Dennis Schroeder, PG, Germany
The Dallas Mavericks need a point guard and have a strong history of picking out stars from Germany. Those two factors add up to one thing, as the Mavs take a gamble on German point guard Dennis Schroeder.
One that should play out quite well.
Schroeder's playing style is similar to Denver Nuggets floor general Ty Lawson, as he possesses blazing speed and a paralyzing hesitation move. In terms of his physical makeup, however, Schroeder is nearly identical to Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo.
He stands at 6'2" with a 6'7" wingspan—intrigued yet?
14. Utah Jazz: Dario Saric, SF, Croatia
Dario Saric is, arguably, the top international prospect available during the 2013 NBA draft. He's a skilled swingman with extraordinary size at 6'10" and boasts an equally as impressive 6'11" wingspan.
That size and skill makes him the perfect candidate to step in as the Utah Jazz's small forward of the future.
Saric is a quality three-point shooter that can space the floor, but needs to set his feet more often. Fortunately, Saric would be joining a team that works from the interior outward and thus creates openings for spot-up scoring.
Due to Utah's lack of a defined facilitator, Saric certainly fits the bill of what they need.
15. Milwaukee Bucks: Giannis Adetokunbo, SF, Greece
The Milwaukee Bucks are preparing to face a relatively major roster overhaul during the upcoming period of free agency. Brandon Jennings is a restricted free agent, but both Monta Ellis and J.J. Redick could be lost.
No matter who departs, Milwaukee needs a small forward.
Giannis Adetokunbo of Greece has been gaining steam lately, as the 6'9" point forward has awe-inspiring physical gifts. With intriguing facilitating abilities, Adetokunbo could step in as a playmaking swingman relatively early in his NBA career.
Alongside Brandon Jennings, who is capable of playing off of the ball, Adetokunbo could be the young star Milwaukee needs to put it all together.
16. Boston Celtics: Gorgui Dieng, C, Louisville Cardinals
The Boston Celtics may have exited during the first round of the 2013 NBA playoffs, but with point guard Rajon Rondo, they remain a legitimate postseason threat. Unfortunately, Boston is weak in the one area that made them so great in recent seasons.
They cannot protect the rim.
Jeff Withey out of Kansas is an option here, but Gorgui Dieng from Louisville is the player with the higher upside. The drop off in terms of rim protection is minimal, and Dieng is a better rebounder on both ends of the floor and is an underrated passer and offensive product.
After Boston ranked 29th in rebounding, they certainly need his help here.
17. Atlanta Hawks: Jeff Withey, C, Kansas Jayhawks
The Atlanta Hawks have an All-Star caliber power forward in Al Horford that has been playing out of position at the 5. Even after he was moved back to the 4, Horford struggled to lead the Hawks due to the lack of a reliable rim protector on defense.
Josh Smith is a defensive playmaker, but landing Jeff Withey is what would provide Atlanta with a defensive anchor.
Withey is an experienced and polished prospect that could start as a rookie. The transition could be difficult due to the pace of the game, but in a half-court set, Withey can be an effective player on both ends of the floor.
The Hawks have a quality core and mountains of cap space, and landing a rim-protecting center could be the first step towards making the next step.
18. Chicago Bulls: Kelly Olynyk, C, Gonzaga Bulldogs
The Chicago Bulls have seen countless players go down to injury, but few absences have been felt as harshly as that of departed center Omer Asik. Without his presence behind Joakim Noah, the Bulls second unit lacks the high-energy performance that Asik routinely provided.
Consider Kelly Olynyk to be a perfect replacement for Asik with a higher upside.
Olynyk has made tremendous strides in the course of one season, going from a non-factor to one of the top players in the nation. In that time, he's developed both hands when scoring around the basket and is now a threat while running in transition.
He's not going to win any awards defensively, but Olynyk's energy could be a true difference-maker for Chicago at the 5.
19. Cleveland Cavaliers (via Suns, from Heat): Rudy Gobert, PF/C, France
This one may take fans by surprise, but the Cleveland Cavaliers can afford to wait on a project player at center. Tristan Thompson is developing as a power forward, Anderson Varejao is an elite rebounder and Tyler Zeller was drafted just last year.
By selecting Rudy Gobert, the Cavaliers now have a big man with a 7'9" wingspan waiting in the wings—intriguing, to say the least.
Gobert is in dire need of adding bulk to his frame, but the physical tools are still there. He has magnificent size and length and displays explosive leaping ability to go with it.
Gobert has All-Star upside and the length to be a rim-protecting big man for years to come—that's exactly what Cleveland needs.
20. Atlanta Hawks (via Rockets): Jamaal Franklin, SG/SF, San Diego State Aztecs
After witnessing former San Diego State star Kawhi Leonard thrive with the San Antonio Spurs, Atlanta Hawks general manager Danny Ferry bites on Jamaal Franklin here. Both men were tantalizing athletes with well-rounded skill sets and a weak jump shot coming out of college.
Can Franklin follow in Leonard's footsteps and put it all together?
Even if Franklin is to lack a jump shot throughout his career, he's such a well-rounded player that he's still of great use. Not only is he an explosive athlete, but he's a powerful player that rebounds at an elite level and takes on every responsibility for his team.
Atlanta needs a lockdown perimeter defender and Franklin certainly has the potential to become just that.
21. Utah Jazz (via Warriors): Mason Plumlee, PF/C, Duke Blue Devils
The Utah Jazz have a promising young interior with top-five picks Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter. They also have free agents in Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson, thus leaving a need for interior depth.
Until they acquire such a player via free agency, there is no way they let Mason Plumlee slip past them at No. 21.
Plumlee has great size for the power forward position and the mobility necessary to run in transition. He can also work out of the half court, as he's a proficient scorer with both hands when close to the basket.
Free agency could change this pick, but until that time comes, Plumlee is the best way to go.
22. Brooklyn Nets: Tony Snell, SF, New Mexico Lobos
The Brooklyn Nets may trade down here, as they need a power forward and there aren't too many rational options at this stage of the draft. If they do stay, however, they'll likely create perimeter depth with a lack of 4s available.
Tony Snell out of New Mexico appears to be the most logical choice.
This might be a reach, but the Nets collapsed during the 2013 NBA playoffs due to their inability to generate consistent offense. Snell could improve the squad in that regard, as he is a lethal catch-and-shoot scorer from all over the floor.
The fact that he stands at 6'7" with noteworthy length suggests that the potential is there for elite defensive play. With this in mind, who better to mentor him than Gerald Wallace?
23. Indiana Pacers: Allen Crabbe, SG, California Golden Bears
The Indiana Pacers love rugged defenders that are willing to get their hands dirty. Whether that requires them to dive onto the floor or play their man with physicality, the Pacers have created a successful system.
California shooting guard Allen Crabbe would fit right in.
Crabbe has good size for the position at 6'6" and 210 pounds. In terms of his skill set, Crabbe handles the ball well and has limitless range on his jump shot.
As a physical defender that crashes the boards well, the Pacers would be hard-pressed to let Crabbe slip by.
24. New York Knicks: Steven Adams, C, Pittsburgh Panthers
The New York Knicks get a gift here, as the abundance of big men and the balance of needs leads to Steven Adams dropping down draft boards. Adams, an established shot-blocker with an NBA body and youth on his side, could be the Knicks' long-term answer at the 5.
Seeing as he's standing at 7'0" and 240 pounds at the age of 19, the physical upside is certainly there.
Adams works hard on the glass, blocks shots with consistency and has made significant strides offensively as the season has progressed. By the time the draft rolls around, there is a strong possibility that he cracks the lottery.
Adams is one of the best prospects in this draft, but the need for right-now prospects pushes him into New York's lap.
25. Los Angeles Clippers: Archie Goodwin, SG, Kentucky Wildcats
The Los Angeles Clippers were believed to be a title contender, but fell apart during their first-round series against the Memphis Grizzlies. When it came down to it, L.A.'s biggest deficiency was their lack of players who could create their own shot.
Outside of Chris Paul and Jamal Crawford, L.A. looked helpless in the half court.
In order to improve their chances of competing, the Clippers land Archie Goodwin out of Kentucky in this scenario. Not only would this provide them with an intriguing prospect, but a player that can create his own shot.
Goodwin could end up being one of the top shooting guards in this year's class, and picking him at No. 25 is as low-risk as possible.
26. Minnesota Timberwolves (via Grizzlies): Sergey Karasev, SG, Russia
The Minnesota Timberwolves landed a quality shooting guard that can space the floor with his shooting in C.J. McCollum. When you rank last in three-point field goal percentage, however, landing one shooter isn't enough.
Russian shooting guard Sergey Karasev can help in that regard.
Karasev is an aggressive scorer who thrives in taking his man off of the dribble and finishing in the paint. With that being said, Karasev has improved his three-point shot and can be effective when his feet are set.
With Ricky Rubio running point, the 6'7" shooting guard would certainly have opportunities to score in catch-and-shoot scenarios.
27. Denver Nuggets: Erick Green, PG, Virginia Tech Hokies
The Denver Nuggets need to add depth at the point guard position. They also need to improve their three-point shooting, as they ranked 25th in three-point field goal percentage in 2012-13.
They can kill two birds with one stone by drafting Erick Green out of Virginia Tech.
Green was the leading scorer in NCAA Division I basketball, achieving the feat with efficiency. Not only was Green able to shoot the lights out, but he could slow it down and attack off of the pick-and-roll as well.
Denver is all about instant offense and their need for the three-ball can be minimized by acquiring Green's services.
28. San Antonio Spurs: Alex Abrines, SG, Spain
The San Antonio Spurs are well-aware of the fact that Manu Ginobili's regular-season availability will be limited if he does re-sign with the team this offseason. Gregg Popovich prefers to rest his stars when possible, as winning a title is the goal for this franchise every single season.
With Ginobili turning 36 in July, however, it's not just about finding a player to step in for playing time—it's about finding an heir apparent.
With this in mind, the Spurs would be wise to target Alex Abrines to step in as the long-term replacement. Abrines handles the ball well, can shoot from deep three-point range and has the quickness to attack the lane.
If anyone can help Abrines put it all together, it's the Spurs' system-oriented squad and Manu Ginobili.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Deshaun Thomas, SF, Ohio State Buckeyes
If Russell Westbrook's injury has taught us anything, it's that the Oklahoma City Thunder lack scoring depth. They have just two other players on the roster that can create their own shot, and that has placed OKC in a difficult situation during the postseason.
The only logical move here is to find a player who can improve the Thunder's shaky second unit and become a key offensive contributor.
The Thunder came in at 21st in bench scoring per game, which is why Deshaun Thomas is the choice here. Not only can he step in as a floor-spacing shooter, but he's strong enough to take the ball to the hole.
Most importantly, Thomas has positional versatility and thrives as a scorer with his back to the basket.
30. Phoenix Suns (via Cavs, from Lakers): Reggie Bullock, SF, North Carolina Tar Heels
The Phoenix Suns improved their weak perimeter by drafting the defensive-minded Victor Oladipo. Their next step is to build their perimeter, starting with addressing their 28th-ranked three-point shooting.
Where better to look than to Reggie Bullock out of North Carolina?
Bullock is a lethal three-point shooter with the size and frame to add a significant amount of muscle. He's also versatile enough to play the 2, which presents the opportunity for the Suns to use him with the second unit or starters.
At No. 30, you won't find a better value pick than this—it just so happens that Bullock is of the perfect design for Phoenix's needs.