Some teams and general managers have proven success with their draft plans (San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder), other teams (Minnesota Timberwolves, Sacramento Kings), not so much.
It is almost time for NBA general managers and decision makers to show us their plans again.
Two very important events in the pre-NBA draft process are upon us. The NBA Combine begins on Wednesday in Chicago, while the draft lottery takes place on May 21.
Prospects who are invited and choose to participate at the combine will have an opportunity to impress general managers and scouts.
The NBA draft lottery delivers the final pieces of the puzzle for decision makers and draft prognosticators to consider. After this event, we will know where each team will be selecting in the June 27 draft.
Until then, the lottery order is purely based on the chances each associated team has to win the top selection.
As the most woeful team during the 2012-13 season, the Orlando Magic have the best chance of getting the first pick. To be specific, Orlando has a 25 percent chance of winning the lottery.
Thus, they will be granted first selection in every mock draft up to May 21.
The following mock takes the following into consideration: predicted draft order, team needs, team tendencies and player availability.
The most logical picks are spotlighted. These picks will appear in italics and feature an image and/or a video.
1. Orlando Magic—Nerlens Noel—6'10" 228 pounds—PF/C, Kentucky
This is not a draft class with a consensus No. 1 pick. If another team winds up with the top selection, there are at least three other players who I could make a case for here.
Assuming the Magic cash in, their pick would figure to be Noel.
He's a legitimate center with great athleticism for the position. Though he's developing as an offensive player, his greatest value is on defense and as a rebounder.
It sounds similar to the profile of the man who recently left the Magic Kingdom for Los Angeles.
Noel isn't Dwight Howard, but he is a potentially dominant defensive force in the middle. The Magic lost that valuable commodity when Howard was moved.
Bringing in Noel to fill that void is logical.
In case the Magic needed another reason to make Noel the top pick, he showed he has the heart to be a solid citizen at the Kentucky Derby.
The big man took a seven-year-old leukemia patient with him to the Run for the Roses.
2. Charlotte Bobcats—Ben McLemore—6'5" 195 pounds—SG, Kansas
If the Bobcats landed the top pick, they would probably take Noel as well. But if they fall to the No. 2 spot, drafting McLemore would give Charlotte a dynamic backcourt.
Kemba Walker and McLemore would be an athletic and explosive combination. Throw in the athleticism and hustle from last year's lottery selection, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and this team is beginning to look exciting.
Solidifying the middle would be the best move, but with Noel gone in this scenario, the next best pick would be McLemore.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers—Anthony Bennett—6'8" 240 pounds—SF/PF, UNLV
Drafting Otto Porter would make sense, but because the Cavs already have a dynamic perimeter presence in Kyrie Irving, taking a player who can score inside and out seems like the better choice.
Bennett will be missing most pre-draft events because of surgery on his rotator cuff, but during his freshman season he proved he can score.
He averaged 16 points and eight rebounds per game for the Runnin Rebels. He and Irving would make a nice one-two punch.
4. Phoenix Suns—Shabazz Muhammad—6'6" 225 pounds—SF/SG, UCLA
While some may consider Muhammad at No. 4 a reach, he is the player who best fits the Suns' needs. This team needs an identity and a top-notch scorer. The only player in Muhammad's league as a pure scorer in this draft is C.J. McCollum.
As a freshman under a huge microscope, Muhammad averaged 17.9 points per game. He isn't a great ball-handler, but he's the type of player that just has a knack for scoring.
Part of that is due to his ability to get to the line consistently. He shot 5.6 free throws per game as a freshman. As his game matures, that number will increase, and so will his scoring output.
He's a future 20-point per game scorer, and that is what the Suns need.
5. New Orleans Pelicans—Trey Burke—6' 190 pounds—PG, Michigan
In my opinion, this is the biggest no-brainer in the draft.
Even if the Pelicans got the top pick in the draft, they should consider taking Burke, or trading back to a spot that allowed them to get him and other assets.
I like Greivis Vasquez as a backup, but not as a starter. Burke's poise, ball-handling and ability to shoot from distance makes him the best choice for New Orleans,
Take a look at him drain NBA three pointers with ease during a recent workout.
6. Sacramento Kings—Victor Oladipo—6'4" 215 pounds—SG, Indiana
Oladipo is physically strong and he possesses great athleticism. Even with those tangible qualities, his biggest asset to the Kings franchise would be intangible.
He comes from a solid program that preaches discipline and he brings a great attitude. The Kings' problem is not a lack of talent; their issue is chemistry and character.
Oladipo could be the first step towards improving both.
7. Detroit Pistons—Otto Porter—6'8" 215 pounds—SF, Georgetown
Sports Illustrated's Andy Glockner says Porter may be the surest thing in the 2013 NBA draft. It is easy to see why Glockner and others may feel that way about the 6'8" swingman.
He does everything well, but few things great.
Porter is the most complete player in the draft, but probably the least spectacular. He's not an elite athlete who finishes or plays above the rim.
He uses his long arms and solid motor to be a force on defense. Porter has also worked tirelessly to make himself a better shooter from the outside. He went from a 22 percent three-point shooter as a freshman, to a 42 percent shooter from deep as a sophomore.
He handles the ball well and has solid instincts. Because of his limited athleticism, his ceiling may be a bit lower than others.
Even with that, Porter could be an even more complete replacement for departed Pistons fan favorite, Tayshaun Prince. Motown should rejoice if he slips to them at No. 7.
8. Washington Wizards—Cody Zeller—7' 240 pounds—PF/C, Indiana
With Bradley Beal and John Wall, the Wizards backcourt is set for the time being. Adding a young athletic big like Zeller would give the team three young players to build around.
Zeller needs to get stronger to really make a big impact in the NBA. However, his ability to run the floor and finish around the basket would give the team another dimension.
9. Minnesota Timberwolves—Alex Len—7'1" 225 pounds—C, Maryland
As a needs-based selection, Len would be the pick. That said, I'm not enthused with his upside. He too is having surgery that will keep him out of pre-draft workouts, but his injury is more troubling than Bennett's.
Len's ankle is the problematic area and teams must beware of bigs with lower body injuries this early in their careers.
In addition to that, he was a bit inconsistent at Maryland. He had 23 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks against Kentucky to start the season. But he had 10 games with single-figure points and rebounds during the year.
The Wolves need a center, especially since they will probably lose Nikola Pekovic to free agency, but Len is a risky pick.
10. Portland Trail Blazers—Rudy Gobert—7'1" 220 pounds—C, France
In an effort to grab a defensive-minded center to play alongside LaMarcus Aldridge, the Blazers could go for Gobert here.
He is very raw offensively, but he's a very good athlete with crazy length and timing as a shot blocker. Per Draft Express, Gobert has a 7'9" wingspan.
Portland was 26th in the NBA in blocked shots and 21st in points allowed. If Gobert can be a strong defensive presence, it could drastically improve the Blazers' defense.
11. Philadelphia 76ers—C.J. McCollum—6'3 190 pounds—PG/SG, Lehigh
McCollum is my sleeper pick for Rookie of the Year for the 2013-14 season. Many players higher in this mock draft are the favorites, but McCollum's versatility and ability to score will shine.
The 21-year-old missed all but 12 games as a senior, but scouts know what he can do. He raised his scoring average every year he was at Lehigh. He started at 19 points per game and culminated at 23.9 points per game as a senior.
He can play either guard position, but since the 76ers already have an All-Star at point guard in Jrue Holiday, McCollum could make an impact as a sixth man.
At times, McCollum and Holiday could be a deadly scoring backcourt duo. Philly was the second-worst scoring team in the NBA, they need a player like McCollum to help them improve.
12. Oklahoma City Thunder (Toronto Raptors)—Kelly Olynyk—7' 240 pounds—C, Gonzaga
The Thunder's lack of post presence is being exposed in their series with the Memphis Grizzlies.
Russell Westbrook is out and the team is devoid of another player who can spread the floor for Kevin Durant to operate. Westbrook is coming back for the 2013-14 season, but the team could still use another scoring option.
Olynyk is the best offensive big man in the draft. He can play the pick-and-pop game, or score on the block. He isn't a spectacular rebounder or defender, but Serge Ibaka's strengths could hide Olynyk's weaknesses nicely.
13. Dallas Mavericks—Dennis Schroeder—6'2" 168 pounds—PG, Germany
Mark Cuban likes to make a splash and taking the dynamic young point guard from Germany will at least cause a ripple.
Schroeder has great quickness and appears to be a natural leader. At just under 170 pounds, he needs to get stronger; but considering the fact that he's only 19, he has time to get stronger.
Hailing from Germany, Schroeder should have some connection to the team's current star Dirk Nowitzki.
The Mavs need a player who can create off the dribble from the perimeter and possibly be the team's star moving forward.
Schroeder could be that guy.
14. Utah Jazz—Mason Plumlee—6'11" 240 pounds—PF/C, Duke
Utah's needs a point guard; but unless they trade up to take Burke, McCollum or Schroeder, they could miss out on the top guys.
In this scenario, the team could address a depth issue in the frontcourt. Both Al Jefferson and Paul Milsap are free agents this offseason.
Plumlee's length and athleticism would be great paired with Derrick Favors and/or Enes Kanter.
15. Milwaukee Bucks—Gorgui Dieng—6'11" 236 pounds—C/PF, Louisville
Who the team hires at head coach will likely play a role in this selection. No matter the choice for the sidelines, addressing frontcourt depth and defense should be a priority.
Dieng would bolster the team in both areas.
He is one of the best interior defenders in the draft and the Bucks are likely "losing" Samuel Dalembert to free agency. Dieng could step in and play significant minutes with Larry Sanders or behind him.
16. Boston Celtics—Jeff Withey—7' 240 pounds—C, Kansas
Even if this doesn't happen, general manager Danny Ainge has to start thinking about the future in the middle. The Celtics will probably continue to build their team around defense—especially if Doc Rivers is coming back—and that is Withey's specialty.
The big man from Kansas is on Dieng's level as an interior defender.
17. Atlanta Hawks—Jamaal Franklin—6'5" 200 pounds—SG/SF, San Diego State
Expect the Hawks to go full bore after Chris Paul and Dwight Howard at midnight on July 1. If they get their targets, the entire NBA landscape will change.
If they don't, the Hawks will be put into the mix with the rest of the teams not named Miami Heat or Oklahoma City Thunder.
Because the Hawks have so many free agents, it is hard to determine what direction they will move without CP3 and D12. That usually means taking the best player available.
In this case, it would be San Diego State's Franklin. He is actually my favorite swingman prospect in the draft.
Because of his great athleticism, motor and work ethic, he may have the highest ceiling. He doesn't shoot it well yet, but the jump shot is perhaps the easiest skill to improve.
18. Atlanta Hawks (From Houston Rockets)—Giannis Adetokunbo—6'9, 196 pounds—SF/PF, Greece
If there was an award for most mysteriously intriguing prospect in the draft, Adetokunbo would win it hands down.
The very versatile 18-year-old from Greece, who is of Nigerian descent, has a reported 7'3" wing span, enormous hands and great ball-handling skills.
No matter what the Hawks do in free agency, a player like Adetokunbo is interesting enough to consider at No. 18.
19. Cleveland Cavaliers—Kentavious Caldwell-Pope—6'5" 205 pounds—SG, Georgia
Every team can use a three-point gunner and a solid perimeter defender off the bench. KCP gives you a little a both.
He averaged 18.5 points, seven rebounds and shot 37 percent from three-point range in the 2012-13 season. He has tremendous bounce which allows him to finish with flair at the rim.
As a demon in the passing lanes, KCP also averaged two steals per game. The Cavs may infuriate the Chicago Bulls by taking KCP just a pick before them, but he fits nicely as a sixth man or a starter to complement Irving.
Perhaps drafting him transforms Dion Waiters into a sixth man? Either way, KCP would potentially be an excellent addition to the Cavs' roster.
20. Chicago Bulls—Reggie Bullock—6'7" 205 pounds—SG/SF, North Carolina
With Franklin and KCP potentially off the board, the Bulls could be missing out on their top targets.
The team needs another perimeter scorer badly. Jimmy Butler's development eases the pain a bit, but the Bulls would be wise to still target the 2-guard position in the draft.
Bullock is one of the best shooters in the draft. He made 43.6 percent of his threes in 2012-13 and he has great size for either wing position.
The 22-year-old would be a solid pick for the Bulls at No. 20.
21. Utah Jazz—(From Warriors)—Michael Carter-Williams—6'6" 185 pounds—PG, Syracuse
The only point guard the Jazz have under contract is Alec Burks. They have to add depth here at the very least.
MCW's ceiling is fairly high because of his ability to handle, his athleticism and size. His biggest issue is his shooting, he made just 29.4 percent of his threes in 2013-14.
Developing a dependable jump shot is paramount. If he does, he could be one of the better players in the draft.
22. Brooklyn Nets—Sergey Karasev—6'7" 205 pounds—SF, Russia
At point guard and center, the Nets have players they can build around in Deron Williams and Brook Lopez. Joe Johnson makes a ton of cash and he's a solid scorer, but he'll never live up to his massive contract.
This team needs more scorers to spread the floor for Lopez and Williams. The Bulls packed the middle against them and the Nets didn't have the shooters to make them pay.
Karasev is one of the best bombers in the draft. He doesn't have great athleticism, but as far as catch-and-shoot players go, he may be the best available.
23. Indiana Pacers—Shane Larkin—5'11" 178 pounds—PG, Miami
George Hill has played well, but he is the only point guard the team will have under contract at season's end. Adding depth here is a smart move.
Larkin waited a while to declare for the draft to weigh all his options, but decided to declare. His leadership ability, natural point guard instincts and outside shooting make him a good fit for the Pacers.
24. New York Knicks—Steven Adams—7' 250 pounds—C, Pittsburgh
The Knicks would probably prefer Dieng or Withey, but Adams is a big, athletic player who would at least add depth in the middle.
New York is ancient in the middle and durability has become a concern for Tyson Chandler.
Adams is very raw, but if he could provide 10 to 15 minutes off the bench while learning from Chandler, it would be a plus for the Knicks.
25. Los Angeles Clippers—Lucas Nogueira—6'11" 215 pounds—PF/C, Brazil
Re-signing Chris Paul will determine how successful the Clippers' offseason has been. If they don't bring him back, the team will slip considerably in the standings.
Even if they can't agree on terms with Paul, the Clips still need to add depth in the middle. DeAndre Jordan is the only true center on the roster.
Nogueira is a defensive-minded, active body player in the mold of Anderson Varejao. He would be a smart pick for the Clips this late in the first round.
26. Minnesota Timberwolves (From the Memphis Grizzlies)—Archie Goodwin—6’4” 195 pounds—SG, Kentucky
Goodwin's first step is his ticket to the NBA. He has the ability to beat defenders off the dribble with this consistently. It is the biggest reason he averaged 6.2 free throw attempts per game as a freshman.
He is coming out about a year too early, but he has the athletic ability to grab a team's eye.
As a wing player playing with Ricky Rubio, Goodwin would need to improve his shooting. However, his ability to run the floor and finish would be an asset.
27. Denver Nuggets—Dario Saric—6'10" 225 pounds—SF/PF, Croatia
The Nuggets will go hard to re-sign Andre Igoudala. He was the heart and soul of their team this past season.
As a means of covering themselves in the event Iggy moves on, the Nuggets could take Saric. They have entirely different skill sets, but Saric's shooting and passing ability could give the Nuggets another potential matchup problem, a la Danilo Gallinari.
28. San Antonio Spurs—James Ennis—6'7" 210 pounds—SF/SG, Long Beach State
Ennis is one of the biggest risers on draft boards. He has excellent athleticism with a track and field background. He cleared 6'11" in the high jump.
Ennis improved his outside shot a great deal last season. In 2012-13, he made 35 percent of his threes and was a force on the defensive end.
The Spurs have become masters of finding gems late in the draft. Ennis could be the next guy who fits the description.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder—Glen Rice Jr.—6'6" 200 pounds—SG, Georgia Tech
The Thunder could lose Kevin Martin to free agency. If they do, they may have a need for a bench scorer.
He has seemingly found his way and the 21-year-old has been excelling in the D-League ever since. He averaged 14.5 points and shot 37.9 percent from three-point range for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers in the regular season.
Rice Jr. really cranked things up in the playoffs. He increased his scoring to 25 points per game and also pulled down 9.5 rebounds.
He is the son of former three-time NBA All-Star Glen Rice Sr. and has a similar skill set.
The younger Rice has a bit more rise than his dad, but in the NBA, he'd primarily be a spot-up shooter/slasher. That is a skill set the Thunder could use if they lose Martin.
30. Phoenix Suns (From the Miami Heat)—Nate Wolters—6'4" 195 pounds—PG, South Dakota
Wolters is not a great athlete, but he has excellent size for the point guard position. He also has a feel for the game that you can't teach.
He demonstrated the ability to put up big scoring numbers in college. He averaged 22.5 points per game as a senior. Though he has some playmaking abilities, he looks to be more of a scoring lead guard.
While the Suns may not think a player like him is an ideal fit at the point, Wolters would certainly be worth a look for the Suns with the last pick in the first round.
Don’t forget to catch the 2013 NBA Draft Combine action on Thursday, May 16th and Friday, May 17th.
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 12pm ET. Day 2 replays will be Sunday May 19th at 12pm ET.
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