The playoffs are quickly winding down and the scouting combine is rapidly approaching, meaning it’s time to take another look at how the first round of the 2013 NBA draft may look.
While the May 21 draft lottery will have a direct impact on how the draft order looks and a more indirect influence on which franchises try to trade up, which organizations move down and more, it’s never too early to start getting a better idea of the big picture.
This certainly isn’t a final mock, but it’s worth checking out to see some prospects each club should be interested in come draft day on June 27.
1. Orlando Magic: Nerlens Noel, PF, Kentucky
The Magic certainly aren’t going to be as excited as they were back in 1992 or 2004 to get the first pick—which were used on Shaquille O’Neal and Dwight Howard, respectfully—but the team could get another elite big man here.
Noel is a great shot-blocker with immense athleticism and a motor that doesn’t quit, although his offensive game is extremely raw and has plenty of room for development. He’s an ideal fit next to Nikola Vucevic in the frontcourt, who is a bit more plodding and deliberate at the center position.
2. Charlotte Bobcats: Ben McLemore, SG, Kansas
If McLemore is on the board when the Bobcats pick, the organization will finally have a chance to nab a franchise scorer.
While this young man may not be the next Michael Jordan—who owns the team—he does have a high ceiling and is capable of lighting it up from anywhere on the court. He has to work on his consistency in order to become a reliable first-option for this downtrodden club.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers: Otto Porter, SF, Georgetown
Porter meshes perfectly and fills a major need for the rebuilding Cavs, as they seem to be a versatile small forward away from competing.
The Hoyas product may not be a top-tier scorer, but the youngster can play great defense, rebound well on both ends and hustle hard on every possession.
Add in the fact that he can easily hit open shots from the corner and get to the basket when needed and you are looking at the ideal piece for Cleveland in this draft.
4. Phoenix Suns: Anthony Bennett, PF, UNLV
The Suns need practically everything this summer, which is why Bennett would be the right pick here.
He is versatile enough to play either forward position consistently, as he’s able to use his strength to offset his lack of size at the 4, while he’s lengthy and agile enough to guard the 3. Bennett also has range on his jumper and slashing abilities to go to work out on the perimeter.
5. New Orleans Pelicans: Trey Burke, PG, Michigan
The Pelicans may have a solid point guard in Greivis Vasquez, but they shouldn’t pass on a chance to select a proven winner in such a weak draft.
Burke has intangibles that just can’t be taught, as he’s a great floor general on top of his top-notch scoring, facilitating and penetrating skills. The team will find a way for both Vasquez and Burke to get major minutes and impact the game in a positive way.
6. Sacramento Kings: Victor Oladipo, SG, Indiana
While the Kings’ ownership is undergoing drama and uncertainty this offseason, they could iron out those problems on the court by drafting Oladipo.
He’s a no-frills prospect that plays tough defense, shoots only when he’s open and doesn’t need the ball in his hands to help win a contest. That’s the kind of player this organization needs right now.
7. Detroit Pistons: Shabazz Muhammad, SF, UCLA
The Pistons need a swingman that can simply score the basketball.
While Muhammad’s ceiling has dropped a bit since his true age was discovered, he’s still going to be a contributor that can put the ball through the bottom of the net.
8. Washington Wizards: Alex Len, C, Maryland
Len won’t be able to participate in pre-draft activities due to ankle surgery, but the Maryland big man’s size and upside all but makes him a lock for the lottery.
The Wizards will stop his fall, as this young, rebuilding squad would be an ideal spot to employ the Maryland star’s old school low-post skills. If he pans out, the combination of John Wall, Bradley Beal and Len will combine to make a formidable “Big Three” in Washington.
9. Minnesota Timberwolves: C.J. McCollum, SG, Lehigh
Minnesota and McCollum is a match made in heaven.
This franchise has been seeking a serviceable 2 for years now and has a chance to finally secure one—at least in this mock. McCollum may be a tad undersized, but he can hit from anywhere on the court, slip past defenders with ease and dominate a game for stretches at a time.
10. Portland Trail Blazers: Cody Zeller, C, Indiana
The Trail Blazers are going to need to upgrade the center position and bench this summer, which are two areas that can be addressed with one selection via Zeller.
While Indiana’s big man may not have the high ceiling of these other lottery-bound power forwards and centers, he is ready to contribute immediately, runs the floor well and has a soft touch around the hoop.
11. Philadelphia 76ers: Kelly Olynyk, C, Gonzaga
Philadelphia cannot afford to pass up on a potential starting center after whiffing badly on the Andrew Bynum-Dwight Howard megatrade last summer.
Olynyk doesn’t have the immense athleticism or defensive prowess that Bynum could bring to the table, but he should be able to at least get on the floor—the most important thing—and score at a comparable level.
12. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Toronto): Rudy Gobert, C, France
While Gobert isn’t the surest thing in this draft, teams are falling in love with his big 7’1” frame and even bigger 7’9” wingspan.
Those insane measurements may have Thunder general manager Sam Presti intrigued, as he was the only GM to attend one of his games earlier in the season.
It wouldn’t be shocking to see OKC take a shot on this low-risk, high-reward prospect, as he fills a major need and won’t hurt the team too badly if he doesn’t pan out.
13. Dallas Mavericks: Dario Saric, SF, Croatia
Saric is one of the most intriguing international prospects in this year’s crop of talent, as the Croatian could become one of the best passers and an all-around star at the swingman position.
He’s young, rail-thin and still needs plenty of development hours in the gym, but the Mavs need to take a shot on his immense upside. He could be the eventual star to replace Dirk Nowitzki in Dallas.
14. Utah Jazz: Michael Carter-Williams, PG, Syracuse
Even with the Jazz likely to overhaul the frontcourt this summer, they will still need to bring in some serviceable guards to help get the ball down low and set up the bigs in scoring position.
Carter-Williams is the best passer in the class, which is why he’s a perfect fit in Utah. Throw in his 6’6” frame and upside as a defender and you are looking at a potential starter as a rookie. He’ll have to improve his handles and jumper, but that will come in time.
15. Milwaukee Bucks: Giannis Adetokunbo, SF, Greece
The “Greek Freak” is a player that could either take the NBA by storm and make a huge impact, or never make it to American shores and toil away overseas as a bust.
Because Milwaukee isn’t able to attract marquee free agents and isn’t bad enough to bottom out and get a top pick, GM John Hammond would be wise to make this risky but potentially worthwhile selection.
16. Boston Celtics: Gorgui Dieng, C, Louisville
Boston’s lack of serviceable bigs was exposed in the postseason, as only Brandon Bass and Kevin Garnett were able to log floor time against the Knicks.
That can change with the selection of Dieng, a big-game star that helped lead the Cardinals to a national championship. He has to work on his offense, but his size, rim protection and intangibles are too intriguing for the C’s to pass up on.
17. Atlanta Hawks: Mason Plumlee, PF, Duke
The Hawks would love to add a player that isn’t afraid to bang for boards, relentlessly work for extra possessions and do all the little things that winning franchises require from their bench players.
Plumlee isn’t projected to be a long-term starter or superstar, but as long as Atlanta is making playoff runs, it will need guys like him getting minutes on a nightly basis.
18. Atlanta Hawks (via Houston): Steven Adams, C, Pittsburgh
Adams is a big pivot that could change how the Hawks run their offense.
If he’s able to develop his extremely raw offensive game and somehow become a serviceable option, the team could reliably place him as the starting 5 and move Al Horford to the 4.
That would open things up for the rest of the team, although it could take years for the Pittsburgh product to ever become more than a big body that can defend.
19. Cleveland Cavaliers (via Lakers): Glen Rice Jr., SF, D-League
Expect the Cavs to flip this pick in order to move up in the draft—if they need to—or bring in a veteran piece to aid a possible playoff run in 2014.
However, if they stand pat, Rice Jr. makes perfect sense as a backup at both the SG and SF positions. He’s an elite scorer, solid rebounder and above-average passer at the swingman spot.
20. Chicago Bulls: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG, Georgia
With Derrick Rose projected to be 100 percent healthy next season, the Bulls can upgrade the off-guard spot significantly by nabbing KCP here.
The Georgia product is a great shooter with range from anywhere in the gym, plus he possesses the athleticism required to defend in coach Tom Thibodeau’s defensive scheme.
21. Utah Jazz (via Golden State): Sergey Karasev, SF, Russia
Because of Carter-Williams'—the Jazz’s pick earlier in this mock—inability to shoot, the team should look to bring in a marksman with its second first-round pick.
Karasev is the best on the board, as he’s capable of knocking down shots consistently in Russia, which is a skill that will translate seamlessly to the NBA.
22. Brooklyn Nets: Jeff Withey, C, Kansas
With Withey, the Nets have the opportunity bring in another big body to bolster their rebounding, defensive presence and rim-protecting skills in the frontcourt—especially when Reggie Evans sits.
This Kansas star may never become an offensive force, but his other skills are developed enough to be a 15-minute-per-night guy right off the bat.
23. Indiana Pacers: Alex Abrines, SG, Spain
The Pacers are a strong squad with plenty of depth at each position, which is why they could likely flip this selection for future/cash considerations or tab an international player to stash overseas.
Abrines would be the top guy in the latter scenario, as the Spanish shooting guard has tons of upside and could end up bringing lottery player-type production to the table.
24. New York Knicks: Tim Hardaway Jr., SG, Michigan
With J.R. Smith catching a lot of flak for his exploits and questionable decision-making during the playoffs, it’ll be interesting to see if New York even wants him back as a free agent this summer.
If he walks away, the Knicks should explore replacing his production with Hardaway Jr. The Michigan star helped lead the Wolverines to the national title game with his long-range gunning and fearless scoring abilities, which would make him a fan favorite in the Big Apple.
25. Minnesota Timberwolves (via Memphis): Jamaal Franklin, SG, San Diego State
With the T-Wolves grabbing their SG in McCollum earlier on in this mock, they’ll add an insurance policy and long-term project with Franklin.
The San Diego State stud is one of the better athletes in the class, but he has to hone his jumper into a more reliable weapon before he can become a big-minute player in the league.
26. Los Angeles Clippers: Dennis Schroeder, PG, Germany
Speaking of insurance policies, the Clips direly need to add one at the PG spot. With Chris Paul and Chauncey Billups hitting free agency and Eric Bledsoe constantly subjected to trade rumors, the position could change drastically this summer.
Schroeder would help the ease the loss of any of these stars, as the German guard is a great athlete that can drive the lane, dish to open teammates and finish around the rim with ease.
27. Denver Nuggets: Tony Mitchell, PF, North Texas
The Nugs are another deep team that don’t have much need for a rotation player at this juncture, but could develop a potential star in the D-League or at the end of the bench.
Mitchell hasn’t panned out as a scorer, but he’s a capable defender at both forward spots and a solid rebounder.
28. San Antonio Spurs: Allen Crabbe, SG, California
Crabbe is the type of shooter that helps the Spurs bury teams from beyond the arc.
He’d be able to free himself up off screens for open looks and patiently wait in the corner to consistently hit game-changing treys after his man leaves to provide help.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Myck Kabongo, PG, Texas
Kabongo is the type of backup PG the Thunder need in case Russell Westbrook goes down again.
He’s athletic, great at handling the ball and willing to pass before anything, which would insure the offense wouldn’t stagnate. With Kevin Durant struggling to do everything during the 2013 postseason, this pick makes perfect sense.
30. Phoenix Suns (via Miami): Lucas Noguiera, C, Brazil
The Suns will go big again here, this time taking the best player on the board in Noguiera.
He’s a bit inconsistent, but he can be downright dominant on the boards and working offensively in the low-post.
Don’t forget to catch the 2013 NBA Draft Combine action on Thursday, May 16 and Friday, May 17. The event will be broadcast both days from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. ET on ESPNU and 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. ET on ESPN 2.
For reairs of the NBA combine, NBATV will be airing Day 1 coverage on Saturday, May 18 at noon ET. Day 2 replays will be Sunday May 19 at noon ET.
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