The 2013 NBA playoffs are in full swing, but 27 of the 30 NBA teams are already preparing for next season while we await the next league champion.
Without the emergence of a marquee player like Kyrie Irving or Anthony Davis—the last two No. 1 picks—it seems that everything is in play the Cleveland Cavaliers after winning the No. 1 pick on Tuesday night.
ESPN's Bill Simmons, for one, sees the trade market heating up for the Cavs when we reach the backstretch of the NBA playoff race:
Bill Simmons @BillSimmons
1 more fake trade: Cleveland sends 1st, 19th, 31st and 33rd pix + Tristan Thompson for Kevin "Fleeing 'Sota in 2 Years" Love... who says no?2013-5-22 14:50:43
Just like the NFL draft, early projections for the selection process will change as we move along. It's important to keep in mind that the board is always changing in the minds of NBA general managers, owners and scouts, and that nothing is set in stone until David Stern drops the mic.
That being said, here's a look at some current projections for the entire first round of the 2013 NBA draft.
For a complete look at the outstanding trades that affect the 2013 NBA draft order, click here (courtesy NBADraft.net).
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: C Nerlens Noel, Kentucky
Noel may not have finished his freshman season at Kentucky (injury), but he did more than enough during his time in Lexington for head coach John Calipari to be considered a candidate for the No. 1 pick.
In 24 career collegiate games, Noel averaged over 10 points and nine rebounds per, and added 4.4 blocks for good measure. Kentucky's NCAA tournament bid came to a screeching halt when he hit the deck and didn't return to action, and he's a valuable prospect in terms of defensive athleticism, upside and pure size.
Cleveland is in a great position to either draft Noel and make him a marquee centerpiece around Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters, or trade the pick and find a way to gather a marquee player unhappy in his current situation in the process.
Big winners of the NBA draft lottery, Cleveland is sitting pretty with this pick.
2. Orlando Magic: PG Trey Burke, Michigan
As the National Player of the Year last season, Trey Burke should be in conversation for the No. 1 pick.
He's not, though, since he's somewhat undersized and the teams near the top of the lottery all have established point guards currently in their systems.
Orlando is an intriguing spot for Burke at No. 2, though, after the Magic dropped to the second spot in the draft on Tuesday night.
With Jameer Nelson aging and the Magic moving away from his services long-term, the team might be better served adding a floor general than a center or a shooting guard with this pick, specifically because Burke is a special player.
He might have to sit for the first season, but after that, he'll be more prepared to handle the mental and physical side of the game than ever before. This is an interesting, and important, pick for the Magic for long-term success.
3. Washington Wizards: SF Otto Porter, Georgetown
Porter continues to be a consensus top-three pick in mock drafts because of his stellar campaign at Georgetown this year. He was a National Player of the Year candidate and a consensus first-team All-American when the season was over.
Averaging just over 12 points and seven rebounds per game during his career at Georgetown, Porter's smooth skills and improved three-point shot (42.2 percent in 2012-13) would fit seamlessly alongside John Wall, Bradley Beal and the rest of the Washington attack.
Porter is also a standout defender, something the Wizards currently lack on the perimeter. All eyes have been on Cleveland since the lottery on Tuesday, but Washington quietly put itself in position to leave the lottery for good, too, if Porter is still here at pick No. 3.
4. Charlotte Bobcats: SG Ben McLemore, Indiana
Ben Gordon would be foolish not to exercise his player option ($13 million) for the 2013-14 season, but that doesn't mean Michael Jordan and company have to play him.
A better option at shooting guard alongside Ramon Sessions would be Ben McLemore, the young redshirt freshman from Kansas who burst onto the scene for Bill Self in the middle of the season and helped carry Kansas to the Sweet 16.
McLemore is the closest thing to an impact shooting guard in this class, and he would be the next-best option for the Bobcats if they somehow miss on the No. 1 pick and Noel is off the board. Additionally, he would allow the new head coach to move Kemba Walker into a full-time sixth-man role on the bench—from which all parties would benefit.
Although McLemore is expected to go much higher than this, the lottery has left Orlando in a position to reevaluate what it wants to do at No. 2, and that could mean adding Burke there instead of McLemore. Washington won't take a shooting guard, and that makes McLemore a huge value pick and a no-brainer for the Bobcats, who have to be disappointed with the results of the lottery for the second year in a row.
5. Phoenix Suns: SG Victor Oladipo, Indiana
Phoenix moved down one spot following the events of the lottery, and that might make taking Victor Oladipo more feasible than it would have been in the No. 4 spot.
The most NBA-ready prospect in the draft, his winning mentality, hard-working nature and efficiency on both ends would be a welcome sight to the Suns, who don't have a lot of those characteristics among their current roster.
As a lock-down defender and occasional offensive spark-plug, Oladipo is a candidate to start right away at the two-guard for the Suns, and his demeanor and maturity would be a nice fit for the next head coach in the desert.
6. New Orleans Pelicans: C Alex Len, Maryland
Alex Len is a high-riser who showed flashes of brilliance in the ACC this season, and many believe he will be the best center in this draft in 10 years once he develops his game amongst professionals.
Why not New Orleans?
The Pelicans missed out on Trey Burke, Otto Porter and have a chance to draft Anthony Bennett here, but a better option might be taking Len and letting this roster really grow with a starting unit that includes Greivis Vasquez, Eric Gordon and Anthony Davis.
New Orleans made Davis its power forward of the future last season. In Len, the Pelicans could form a fearsome (if lanky) tandem in the front court that has the potential to be both defensive and offensive-minded depending on the opponent.
7. Sacramento Kings: PG/SG Michael Carter-Williams, Syracuse
The Kings, too, could flirt with the idea of Anthony Bennett here, but Tyreke Evans appears to be a full-time small forward now and the Kings don't need anymore depth at that position.
Where they do need help though is in the backcourt, where Isaiah Thomas has been great in his two seasons but depth and long-term talent are still a huge concern.
That makes MCW an automatic target for the Kings here, since he can play both guard positions, get after both guard positions on defense and stretch the floor from the outside better than almost any other player on the current roster.
8. Detroit Pistons: SF/PF Anthony Bennett, UNLV
Bennett is recovering from shoulder surgery, but that does not take away the fact that he was a top-10 prospect all season after his freshman year at UNLV, when he helped captain the Runnin' Rebels to an NCAA berth and a high seed at that.
His stat sheet—16.1 points, 8.1 rebounds, 1.2 blocks, 53.3 percent shooting—is absolutely ridiculous too, and that should make a team like Detroit salivate over the possibility of his injury making him drop down the board a few spots.
The Pistons waited patiently for Andre Drummond at No. 9 last year, and would be wise to be patient for the small forward talent that slips in this draft, too.
Although many see him growing into a role as a power forward, Josh Smith comparisons appear to be applicable here and it wouldn't be a huge stretch to plug Bennett in at small forward right away and let his versatility help Detroit's offense.
9. Minnesota Timberwolves: C Cody Zeller, Indiana
Nikola Pekovic is a free agent, and the Timberwolves might be in a precarious position this offseason after he makes a decision.
Zeller would help ease that loss, although Timberwolves fans would much rather see a wing player taken at this spot in the draft. Minnesota needs depth at wing much more than it does another center, but three high-caliber wings are gone in this mock and Zeller is still a growing prospect who could turn out to be a very good pro.
If the feeling around Minnesota is that Nikola Pekovic is headed for a new team and Kevin Love can't wait to get out in two years, the T'Wolves need to add the best player available at this spot, and that's not a wing player. It's Zeller, who fills a need and
10. Portland Trail Blazers: C/PF Kelly Olynyk, Gonzaga
Olynyk played his way into the lottery with his performance in the 2013 NCAA tournament, when he managed to get Gonzaga out of the first round when its plethora of guards were struggling mightily.
He wasn't able to get them past the Wichita State Shockers, but Olynyk is an intriguing big man who shows a nice array of post moves and is active on defense, too. Behind LaMarcus Aldridge and last year's first-round pick Meyers Leonard, Olynyk would be a nice pickup for management in Portland.
11. Philadelphia 76ers: C Steven Adams, Pittsburgh
Philadelphia has some major questions to answer this offseason, starting with whether or not it will attempt to make a run at Andrew Bynum in free agency.
Adams might be a stretch for the 76ers at this spot in the draft, but could slide right into the rotation next year with a group of guys who need some rim protection and athleticism at the center spot.
Assuming Philly avoids the Bynum issue altogether, getting depth in the frontcourt has to be priority No. 1 this offseason, following finding a replacement for Doug Collins in the head coach's seat.
12. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Toronto Raptors): PG/SG C.J. McCollum, Lehigh
An injury ruined McCollum's senior season at Lehigh, but the four-year Patriot League standout won't have his draft stock affected because of it.
He was on a record pace through 12 games in the 2012-13 season, shooting over 49 percent from the field and 51 percent from deep. McCollum is a true scorer who might take some time adjusting to the strength and speed of the NBA game, but he can flat put the ball in the basket.
The Thunder own Toronto's pick here (via Houston) following the James Harden trade and would be wise to find some guard depth after the events of the 2013 NBA playoffs (Russell Westbrook injury). Derek Fisher won't be around forever, and McCollum is a mid-major standout who would thrive in a learning role for a couple of seasons.
13. Dallas Mavericks: SF Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA
Sources already have the Mavericks looking to trade the No. 13 pick for a run at Dwight Howard this offseason (via ESPN), since the team needs all the help it can get in the cap space department and the pick holds a value of just over $1.6 million.
However, Dallas needs NBA-ready prospects on both ends, and Muhammad at No. 13 wouldn't be a stretch at all.
One of the most electrifying players in the NCAA last season, Muhammad lost favor with scouts because he was anything but an established passer and pouted during stretches last year when he didn't get the ball.
At the NBA scouting combine, he was one of the few lottery picks to participate in drills, largely because he wants to prove he can be the kind of All-Star caliber player we all thought he was when he entered the college ranks last season.
If there's one thing Dallas needs, whether or not Dwight Howard comes aboard, is scoring punch from the wing. Muhammad provides that and can grow into a bigger role as a distributor as his career progresses.
14. Utah Jazz: C Gorgui Dieng, Louisville
Utah is in an unstable position with both Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap, and might not feel comfortable handing the reigns over to both Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter full-time.
Expect one of the two between Jefferson and Millsap to find employment elsewhere next season, leaving a hole in Utah's formidable four-man frontcourt rotation.
Enter Dieng, who established himself as a capable passer, a decent finisher around the rim and a defensive presence for the national champions this season. Behind Kanter, he would be a great fit in a city that loves guys with abilities like his.
15. Milwaukee Bucks: SF/PF Dario Saric, Croatia
The buzz round Milwaukee is one that's full of questions, starting with the head coach and coming back to star point guard Brandon Jennings (restricted free agent).
My best guess is that Jennings re-ups with the Bucks to avoid staying in town for another four seasons, giving Milwaukee cap space to re-sign J.J. Redick to a long-term deal. If that indeed does happen, the Bucks won't have to reach for a guard at this spot.
Enter Saric, a prospect from Croatia that scouts have been raving about. He's played point guard for his team, has a nice three-point stroke and a high basketball IQ—things Milwaukee would love to have in its locker room next season.
16. Boston Celtics: C/PF Mason Plumlee, Duke
The Celtics need to start prepping for the future. Kevin Garnett won't be around forever, and Jared Sullinger should benefit from that end game next season.
However, adding depth down low should be a major emphasis for the C's this offseason, and getting Plumlee at this spot would be a nice coup. He's a high-motor, athletic-centered big man who can have stretches of brilliance, and that makes Boston a nice fit for his blue-collar game.
17. Atlanta Hawks: C Rudy Gobert, France
Atlanta has been dying to move Al Horford to power forward for the past three seasons, but so far no center has emerged to helped it accomplish that goal.
One way to attack the problem would be to draft a center with one of the next two picks. Not many have heard about Gobert in that category, but if you haven't, now's your chance (via B/R's Jonathan Wasserman):
Jonathan Wasserman @NBADraftWass
Here's link to Rudy Gobert's website http://t.co/gEuQdrxtAU Actually lots of good video on it. Check it out if you're unfamiliar.2013-4-30 15:05:18
Gobert is a 7'1", 230-pound center from France who looks really good on tape. He shows a nice presence around the rim and is fierce in the shot-blocking department. But he is undersized for an NBA center and needs to add some weight to avoid being demolished inside by bigger guys.
Sliding Al Horford to the four-spot and leaving Gobert to develop around him would be a nice start for Atlanta, who has more roster spots to fill than players under contract for 2013-14.
18. Atlanta Hawks (via Houston Rockets): SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Georgia
With only John Jenkins officially under salary for next season at the shooting guard position, the Hawks could also benefit from adding some young talent to the mix.
Caldwell-Pope was an SEC standout last season for the Bulldogs, averaging over 18 points a game and adding seven rebounds and two steals for good measure. At 6'5", he has prototypical 2-guard size and would be a high-upside pick for a team looking for guard help.
19. Cleveland Cavaliers (via L.A. Lakers): SF Glen Rice Jr., Rio Grande Valley Vipers
If you didn't recognize Rice Jr.'s college, that's because it isn't one—the Rio Grande Valley Vipers are in the NBA D-league.
That doesn't make Rice any less of a first-round prospect.
As noted by Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress, Rice has proven there is more than one path to the NBA by being the MVP of the D-league finals this year and following in his father's path to the big time.
After a less-than-cordial marriage between Rice Jr. and Georgia Tech, he elected to go to the D-league, where he found himself in a position to dominate the competition as the playoffs inched closer. He did just that, helping the Vipers to a D-league title and earning first-round respect in the process.
Cleveland can afford to take a chance with this pick after getting Noel in the No. 1 spot, and adding a small forward is key to the depth this team wants for the 2013-14 season.
20. Chicago Bulls: SG Tim Hardaway Jr., Michigan
Hardaway Jr. might be a stretch at No. 20, but he's a qualified player here, no less. He had a nice tournament for John Beilein in the NCAA tournament and was a deadly shooter from deep when Burke was penetrating and kicking.
Who does that remind you of?
If you said Derrick Rose attacking the basket and then finding open shooters, you'd be correct. Chicago has proven this season it can do more with less and need players who are coachable, love to play defense and have a knack for timely scoring.
With a dad that did all three, Hardaway Jr. has a leg up on some other qualified shooting guards at this spot (Isaiah Cannon, Allen Crabbe, Jamaal Franklin) and would help Chicago reload at the position.
21. Utah Jazz (via Golden State Warriors): PG Dennis Schroeder, Germany
Dennis Schroeder might not be a name you know (as with the many international prospects in this draft), but as a point guard, there are few better coming to the States this year.
NBADraft.net compares Schroeder to Darren Collison of the Dallas Mavericks, and with a huge wingspan and the ability to get to the basket at will, that might be an apt comparison.
Utah is dying for a long-term playmaker at the point, and Schroeder's ability to attack the rim and find open teammates in transition makes him an intriguing prospect for a team looking to add a point guard to the mix.
22. Brooklyn Nets: SF Sergey Karasev, Russia
Karasev is another high-riser in this draft, and there are those (Gery Woelfel among them) who think he might be a lottery pick when things are all said and done:
Gery Woelfel @GeryWoelfel
Draft's fastest riser? Sergey Karasev. Two NBA execs told me they project him as a lottery pick.2013-5-3 19:18:12
As it is, Karasev has a chance to be a first-round pick at the very least. A lefty with a sweet shooting stroke who is also an established passer, the Russian forward has a high basketball IQ and would be a great pick if he's going to get a chance to play early.
He might very well get that chance in Brooklyn, where basketball IQ and good passing aren't exactly the team's strong suits. The Nets have gambled with international prospects in the past, and getting Karasev here would sound like a steal if you believe Woelfel and other scouts.
23. Indiana Pacers: SG Erick Green, Virginia Tech
The best thing about Erick Green? He got better in each of his four years at Virginia Tech.
Not every prospect can say that, but Green ended his college career as the nation's leading scorer and impressed people enough to earn at least some consideration as a first-round pick this June.
Somewhat undersized, Green's 25 points per game this season were no fluke—he shot the ball well (47.5 percent from the field, 38.9 from three) and got to the free-throw line eight times a game. He's a proven scorer from a power conference (ACC) and would fit well on a team looking for a spark off the bench.
Indiana could be just that team. The Pacers' second unit has been nothing to write home about this season—they get it done on defense. Green would have a "green" light on offense for Frank Vogel and could help open things up when Paul George and George Hill aren't on the court.
24. New York Knicks: PG Shane Larkin, Miami
Speaking of stellar guards, Shane Larkin of Miami announced his decision to enter the draft before the deadline, somewhat surprising considering the success that he and Miami failed to achieve in the NCAA tournament.
As they say, though, you have to strike while the iron is hot.
Larkin is doing just that by entering the NBA draft. The Knicks are among a large group of teams looking to get younger and faster at guard, largely because Jason Kidd and Pablo Prigioni aren't going to be around forever.
Larkin would know his role on this team and could help get the ball to both Amar'e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler when Carmelo Anthony isn't on the floor. He can score a little bit too and would be a high-quality backup when some of the Knicks' aging stars unlace 'em for good.
25. Los Angeles Clippers: SF Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State
While No. 25 might seem like a stretch for some regarding Deshaun Thomas, I see a player who's versatility would be huge to a team like Los Angeles.
The Clippers picked up Lamar Odom last offseason, but that deal quietly proved that Lamar is no longer a big-time contributor. From a versatility standpoint, Thomas can play two positions (3-4), guard three (2-3-4) and was Ohio State's leading scorer the last two seasons.
He's also consistent—Thomas scored in double figures in all 37 of Ohio State's games this season. Alongside a young core, Thomas would allow the Clippers to play small in stretches without losing defense and play big to pack a punch.
26. Minnesota Timberwolves (via Memphis Grizzlies): SG Allen Crabbe, California
Allen Crabbe averaged over 18 points per game last season for Cal, helped the Golden Bears pull off an upset in the second round of the NCAA tournament and quietly has the size (6'6", 210 pounds) to play both wing positions at the next level.
Music to Minnesota's ears, no doubt.
Jon Rothstein is among those who see Crabbe as a hot commodity at the bottom of the first round:
Jon Rothstein @JonRothstein
Have talked to several NBA GMs who view Cal's Allen Crabbe as a late first-round sleeper. 2G size at 6-6. Great range. Can score.2013-5-8 12:55:35
Minnesota needs help at guard with the Brandon Roy experiment now a dud and the team being forced to use four guys that are all really point guards (J.J. Barea, Luke Ridnour, Ricky Rubio, Alexey Shved) in two-guard tandems this season.
Expect to hear Crabbe's name a lot over the next two months.
27. Denver Nuggets: PG/SG Lorenzo Brown, North Carolina State
Although Andre Miller's heroics are never-ending, the Nuggets will eventually have to replace him in the lineup.
Brown is a guy who could step in right away and help accomplish that task, as he had a quality college career for the Wolfpack and led the ACC in assists during his final season with NC State.
He also has good size and versatility, something Denver seems to breed on its roster these days. There aren't many holes on the Nuggets, and Brown would help plug one that hasn't even sprung yet—see Miller's 2013 postseason for proof.
28. San Antonio Spurs: C Lucas Nogueira, Brazil
The Spurs love foreign talent, and a guy who is a late-round sleeper in the first round is Lucas Nogueira of Brazil.
The young center has reminded folks of NBA standouts such as Marcus Camby and Samuel Dalembert during the process, meaning he is likely going to project as a high-quality post defender capable of protecting the rim with little offensive bonus.
The Spurs don't often miss on international talent, so we'll see if their evaluation of a guy like Nogueira is on-point with maybe making him a project center to use when Tim Duncan is no more.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: SF/PF Tony Mitchell, North Texas
The Thunder have a luxury of riches with two picks in the first round, and they take a chance on Tony Mitchell from North Texas in this mock.
Mitchell hurt his draft stock by going back to a mid-major school and failing to dominate in his sophomore season. He doesn't really have a position in the NBA yet and lacks some of the technical aspects that NBA prospects bring to the table.
However, when you're a team like the Thunder who have Jeremy Lamb and Perry Jones developing behind an already-loaded roster, there's little room to argue with anything they do in the draft. Mitchell fits in the project category and could spend a couple years in the D-league polishing his game.
30. Phoenix Suns (via Miami Heat): SF Tony Snell, New Mexico
There's no guarantee Snell falls this far, since he measured with a wide wingspan at the combine and is considered an interesting player in the mold of Kawhi Leonard at the next level.
However, the Suns already addressed the shooting guard position and can do the same at small forward with Snell, who instantly helps the Suns get better on defense, too.
Phoenix could choose to get a big here, but not many are still available with a first-round grade, and finding more depth on the wing has to be a concern after Michael Beasley and Wesley Johnson aren't exactly lighting the world on fire on either end of the floor.
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