Fans are often enthralled by NBA prospects who have limitless upside, but those prospects often turn out to be Kwame Brown.
Of course, for every Kwame and Robert Swift, there is a LeBron James and Dwight Howard. But while the idea of landing the NBA's next superstar is enticing, going the safest route can be just as beneficial in the long run.
With that in mind, let's take a look at the current outlook of the first round with injuries piling up—Alex Len and Anthony Bennett are the newest victims—and players' stocks swinging wildly.
1. Orlando Magic: Nerlens Noel, PF/C, Kentucky
I've had Ben McLemore here for a while, but the more I think about it, the more sense it makes for the Magic, a team that struggled to block shots last season, to go with Nerlens Noel. Heck, even if you disregard talent or team needs, NBA organizations are always far more likely to build frontcourt depth than select a shooting guard.
Should the Magic opt to pass on the alluring option of Trey Burke here, Noel would give them an ultra-athletic rim-protector and rebounder who would contrast nicely with the bruising Nikola Vucevic down low.
2. Charlotte Bobcats: Ben McLemore, SG, Kansas
The Bobcats would love to land Noel here to help remedy their current frontcourt issues—"issues" being a major understatement—but McLemore is a wonderful consolation prize.
The Kansas sharpshooter has a beautiful stroke, gaudy athleticism and can be an elite scorer at the next level. Putting him next to Kemba Walker (Gerald Henderson may or may not be back, but he will a free agent in 2014 either way) would create a truly dynamic backcourt.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers: Otto Porter, SF, Georgetown
Little explanation needed here. If the lottery plays out according to the odds, this may be the lock of the draft.
The Cavaliers need a small forward more than any other position, and All-American Otto Porter is one of the most versatile, intelligent, ready-to-play-right-away athletes in this class.
Lock it up.
4. Phoenix Suns: Victor Oladipo, SG, Indiana
The Suns need elite NBA athleticism on the perimeter. The Suns need a leader. The Suns need someone capable of injecting some heart into the struggling franchise.
Victor Oladipo can do all of these things.
The Indiana superstar may be limited offensively, although he is dangerous in the open court, but every other one of his characteristics will have teams drooling.
He has dunk-contest athleticism:
He has an NBA-ready body (6'5" and a muscular 210 pounds).
He is a menace on the defensive end, averaging 2.1 steals and 0.8 blocks to go with countless deflections and hustle plays that don't go in the box score.
Simply put, Oladipo has the physical traits that often suggest major upside, but he also has the relentless energy and hard-working brand that makes him just as safe.
5. New Orleans Pelicans: Anthony Bennett, SF/PF, UNLV
The extent of his left shoulder injury is going to frighten some people (via NBA.com's David Aldridge):
David Aldridge @daldridgetnt
Sources: UNLV forward Anthony Bennett out 4 months. Surgery on left rotator cuff tomorrow. Story up soon on http://t.co/tv9kc4RaeA2013-5-7 18:04:33
Nevertheless, the Pelicans are building toward the future and already know what they're getting in Anthony Bennett, who would have had little to prove in workouts, anyways.
He's a versatile, athletic freak of nature capable of backing down or shooting over smaller defenders and beating bigger ones off the dribble.
6. Sacramento Kings: Trey Burke, PG, Michigan
Jimmer Fredette played quite a bit of the 2 this season, Tony Douglas isn't a realistic option for the future and Isaiah Thomas would be a dangerous sixth man playing a similar role to fellow Husky Nate Robinson.
If the Kings, a franchise with a murky future, are going to take a real step forward, they need a team leader capable of carrying the team and making everyone around him better.
There's no question that player is Burke, who has out-of-the-gym range, is both electric and efficient off the pick-and-roll and is an elite distributor.
At 6'0" and just 180 pounds, Burke's ability to guard bigger defenders could be a detractor, but after an electrifying performance in the NCAA tourney, there is little doubt that college basketball's best player—more than anything else—is a winner you want on your team.
7. Detroit Pistons: Shabazz Muhammad, SF, UCLA
The Pistons have lucked out on Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond in two of the past three drafts. Now it's time to address the perimeter.
Muhammad offers less upside than many originally thought—he's an inconsistent defender, an average athlete and has shown little ability to be a playmaker off the bounce.
Nevertheless, he's a fierce competitor who can fill it up in a hurry and contribute as an important role player right away. While he may be slightly limited, he has the tools to be a dynamite scorer if the focus isn't on him.
That will happen in Detroit.
8. Washington Wizards: Alex Len, C, Maryland
Much like with Bennett, Alex Len will be out for a significant time with a shoulder injury (via The Washington Post's Alex Prewitt):
Alex Prewitt @alex_prewitt
From yesterday, Alex Len underwent successful surgery, his agency announced. Sidelined 4-6 months. http://t.co/tsgoFeO8Y6 #Terps2013-5-4 13:49:50
And much like with Bennett, NBA teams won't care—Len is a project, either way.
A center with true NBA size and impressive offensive skills, he's a player who would give the Wizards a big man for the future to pair with one of the best young backcourts in the league.
9. Minnesota Timberwolves: C.J. McCollum, PG/SG, Lehigh
Just like another certain dynamic guard from a small school at this time last year, C.J. McCollum is soaring up draft boards (via ESPN's Chad Ford):
Chad Ford @chadfordinsider
CJ McCollum also a very strong possibility for the Suns.2013-5-8 17:55:43
The Timberwolves obviously don't need another point guard, but McCollum isn't a true distributor anyways. Instead, he's a deadly shooter with limitless range who has the ball-handling skills to embarrass defenders.
Simply put, he's going to be a big-time scorer at the next level. Put him next to Ricky Rubio, and the 'Wolves become even more entertaining (and dangerous).
10. Portland Trail Blazers: Cody Zeller, PF, Indiana
J.J. Hickson is hitting free agency, meaning the Blazers would be smart to add some frontcourt depth.
Zeller left an incredibly sour taste in everyone's mouth with his final collegiate performance against Syracuse, but this is still a 7-footer who can run the court and score efficiently from all over the court.
While he must work on his strength, there is no one way someone with his type of skill set slips out of the top 10.
11. Oklahoma City Thunder (From Toronto Raptors): Rudy Gobert, C, France
There are a heap of intriguing international players in this draft, and I've got Gobert at the top of the list. He's 7'1" (with an unreal wingspan of 7'9") and has impressive mobility:
The Thunder's biggest weakness is undoubtedly at the center position (hi, Kendrick Perkins), and Gobert would help solve that for the future.
12. Philadelphia 76ers: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG, Georgia
The Sixers, who finished 26th in the NBA in offensive efficiency, need someone who can put the peach in the basket.
Caldwell-Pope, a terrific shooter and athlete with an NBA frame (6'6", 185 pounds), gives them just that.
13. Dallas Mavericks: Kelly Olynyk, C, Gonzaga
Many will dismiss Kelly Olynyk simply because he played in the WCC, but you aren't going to find many better offensive options in this draft.
At 7'0", 238 pounds, he has a back-to-the-basket game, is efficient in the pick-and-roll, has range extending out to the college three-point line and can run the floor.
His defense leaves plenty to be desired, but his offensive versatility and efficiency (third in America in points per 40 minutes, fourth in points per shot) makes him a lottery pick.
14. Utah Jazz: Michael Carter-Williams, PG, Syracuse
You won't find many prospects who are more polarizing than Michael Carter-Williams—and I'm not just talking about this year's draft.
On the positive side, he's an elite distributor (7.2 assists per game) with highlight-reel vision and has the size (6'6") and active hands (2.8 steals per game) to be a high-level defender.
On the not-so-fun side, he turned the ball over 3.4 times per contest, shot 29.4 percent from deep and consistently made some truly head-scratching decisions.
The Jazz need a point guard, though, and at this spot, he's worth it.
15. Milwaukee Bucks: Glen Rice Jr., SG, Rio Grande Valley Vipers
Remember Glen Rice Jr.? The guy who had burgeoning talent but was awfully inconsistent at Georgia Tech?
Well, he's back—and playing at a dangerously high level.
Against NBA-level talent and former elite collegiate players, Rice averaged 13.0 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 0.9 steals and 0.7 blocks in just 23.7 minutes per game with the D-League Vipers.
In the playoffs, he exploded to the tune of 25.0 points, 9.5 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 2.0 steals and 2.0 blocks. Those are some staggering averages.
There's a very real chance Milwaukee is going to need loads of help in the backcourt after free agency, and Rice's recent production—against better competition than anyone else in this draft has faced, mind you—has his stock soaring.
16. Boston Celtics: Gorgui Dieng, C, Louisville
There have been claims for a point guard with Rajon Rondo's future up in the air, but no one besides Carter-Williams really makes much sense here.
Instead, look for the Celtics to add some frontcourt depth with future Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett mulling over the possibility of retirement (for what it's worth, I don't expect him to retire this summer, but the need for depth is still apparent).
Blessed with an intriguing combination of size (6'11" with a wingspan of 7'6", 245 pounds) and athleticism, Dieng has the look of an elite rim-protector at the next level.
With a solid mid-range jumper, an improving post game and underrated passing skills, he's not just a one-way player, though.
17. Atlanta Hawks: Jeff Withey, C, Kansas
The Hawks have a slew of frontcourt players hitting free agency this summer, but with Withey, they would be getting one of the best shot-blockers in the draft and someone who can help contribute right away.
18. Atlanta Hawks (From Houston Rockets): Giannis Adetokunbo, SF, Greece
After getting a low-risk-low-ceiling player like Withey, the Hawks can afford to use this pick on the future.
There is perhaps no better pick for the future in this draft than Giannis Adetokunbo.
He's only 18 and is playing against a low level of competition in Greece, but his blend of size (6'9", 196 pounds), ball-handling, passing—which has many calling him a 6'9" point guard—and defense is something you almost never see.
19. Cleveland Cavaliers (From Miami Heat, Swap With Los Angeles Lakers): Mason Plumlee, PF, Duke
I originally had Mason Plumlee much higher than this, but after replacing him at one spot, he began to fall simply because of team need.
As such, this could turn out as a steal for the Cavs.
Plumlee doesn't have a high ceiling, and he's never going to be a star, but as an uber-athletic big man who can run the floor and rebound, he has the ability to immediately fill an important role off the bench.
20. Chicago Bulls: Jamaal Franklin, SG, San Diego State
Jimmy Butler has emerged as a clear-cut starter for Chicago, but Richard Hamilton and Marco Belinelli could both be out the door when free agency hits.
Not only does Franklin add backcourt depth, but he's a versatile athlete (led San Diego State in points, rebounds, assists and steals per game, and was second in blocks) who can be a great defender at the next level.
21. Utah Jazz (From Golden State Warriors): Steven Adams, C, Pittsburgh
Steven Adams is undoubtedly a project (he played just 23.4 minutes per game with Pittsburgh), but he is a good rebounder, strong defender and has the potential to be a legitimate factor on offense.
The Jazz already have lots of depth in the frontcourt, but Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap are both set to hit free agency.
22. Brooklyn Nets: Dario Saric, SF, Croatia
The Nets have next to nothing (Jerry Stackhouse, Andray Blatche) scheduled to come off the books for the 2013-14 season, so expect this pick to be used on an international player who likely won't take up a roster spot right away.
Dario Saric is made in the mold of the modern NBA small forward (tall, long, can handle the ball), but at 19, he could use another year of seasoning overseas or in the D-league.
23. Indiana Pacers: Shane Larkin, PG, Miami
Yes, Shane Larkin is undersized.
But he's an electric, athletic playmaker who makes those around him better, shoots a deadly percentage from three (40.6 percent) and plays stingy defense (2.0 steals per game).
The Pacers will need a replacement for D.J. Augustin should he leave this summer, and Larkin is the perfect fit for Indiana's tough makeup.
24. New York Knicks: Dennis Schroeder, PG, Germany
The Knicks are in an interesting situation. They don't really have many holes in the roster, but they also have a very old team. In terms of position, they need nothing, but at the same time, need everything.
That makes Schroeder the perfect fit. He may not make the NBA roster right away, but as he proved at the Nike Hoop Summit, his quickness, playmaking ability and shooting are all spectacular:
25. Los Angeles Clippers: Tony Mitchell, PF, North Texas
Tony Mitchell has a lot of work to do to reverse his dreadful season at North Texas, but pre-draft individual workouts will cater to his impressive physical traits.
The former 5-star recruit is one of the most impressive athletes in this class, and with the right coaching and direction, he has the talent to make this pick look like a steal.
26. Minnesota Timberwolves (From Memphis Grizzlies): Lucas Nogueira, C, Brazil
If the Timberwolves take McCollum with their first pick, they'll likely use this selection on a big man. Their frontcourt depth isn't terrible, but there is always the possibility Nikola Pekovic departs via free agency.
Lucas Nogueira, a big man with terrific size, athleticism and shot-blocking ability, is the highest-ranked big man on my board here.
This is a little bit of a stretch for the long-term project, so there's also the possibility this pick will be put on the trading block.
27. Denver Nuggets: Allen Crabbe, SG, California
The Nuggets, who finished the season as the league's fifth-worst three-point shooting team, seriously need someone who can consistently knock down the open shot.
They could fill that role via free agency, but Allen Crabbe would serve as a cheaper fix.
Crabbe took a step back this season and shot just 34.8 percent from beyond the arc, but that came after two straight 40-percent seasons. Don't let his junior numbers fool you—he is a dangerous shooter with extremely deep range.
28. San Antonio Spurs: Sergey Karasev, SF, Russia
It certainly wouldn't be outside of San Antonio's wheelhouse to select an international player, and Karasev is another one who impressed at the Nike Hoop Summit.
The Russian small forward is absolutely deadly from the outside, and even at 19, he has shown a good feel for the game and impressive maturity. If that doesn't sound like a classic late-first-round Spurs pick, I'm not sure what does.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Erick Green, PG/SG, Virginia Tech
There aren't many players with the skill set to better fill the role of Kevin Martin, who is hitting free agency this summer.
Erick Green was part of an atrocious Virginia Tech squad that gave him little help this year, yet he still managed to lead America in scoring with 25.0 points per game. He can shoot (47.5 percent from the field, 1.9 treys made per game), and he can take defenders off the dribble (8.3 free-throw attempts per game).
Bring him off the bench for an explosive Thunder squad, and he should have little trouble making a similar impact.
30. Phoenix Suns (From Los Angeles Lakers): Ricardo Ledo, SG, Providence
The Suns already took Oladipo in this mock, but don't be surprised if they use this pick on someone who can fill it up, regardless of position.
Ricky Ledo played precisely zero games at the collegiate level because of academic problems, but he remains one of the most naturally talented scorers in this draft.