The 2013 NBA draft is just five weeks away and it's time to begin analyzing the best picks for every NBA team owning selections in the first round.
Although the playoff action is still very much alive, the future of the NBA landscape is on the line as franchises look to build championship contenders for years to come.
The draft is difficult to predict, but these are my predictions for the first round of the 2013 NBA draft.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers : Nerlens Noel, C, Kentucky
As long as he proves that he can come back from the gruesome knee injury that he suffered at Kentucky, Noel should be the No. 1 pick in the draft.
Already boasting strong guards in Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters, the Cavs could make their front court formidable by pairing Noel with Anderson Varejao.
Noel may still be a bit raw after just one season at Kentucky, but we know that he's an athletic shot-blocker who can immediately make a difference for any team.
Regardless, whatever team drafts the big man should be prepared to see him not return to the lineup until Christmas, according to Eric Freeman of Yahoo! Sports.
2. Orlando Magic: Trey Burke, PG, Michigan
The Magic need a new point guard, plain and simple. It's clear that Jameer Nelson isn't going to get the job done, and the best point guard in this draft is Burke, by far. He has the unique combination of size, athleticism and handles that makes scouts drool, and he can score almost at will.
He brings a deft shooting touch beyond the arc and is a skilled passer who will keep defenses honest. Few players bring more to the table than Burke in this draft, and he's going to be a star.
There is some risk here, though, as Burke had consistency issues in college and did have bouts of cold shooting, even during his stellar campaign last year. But, given the Magic's need for talent, Burke is a great fit.
3. Washington Wizards: Otto Porter, SF, Georgetown
Is there a more perfect fit for the Wizards than the athletic, scoring forward? Porter brings size and arguably the best scoring touch in this draft class to the table, and he fills a massive hole on Washington's roster. All these years of ineptitude are finally paying dividends for the Wizards, and this team would have a talented young roster with few holes if Porter was added to the fold.
4. Charlotte Bobcats: Ben McLemore, SG, Kansas
The Charlotte Bobcats have an opportunity to build a nice young backcourt by pairing Kemba Walker with former Kansas shooting guard Ben McLemore.
McLemore is an excellent three-point shooter who has drawn multiple comparisons to NBA great Ray Allen after shooting 42 percent from downtown last season.
Ranking 26th in terms of poins per game this season, the Bobcats are in need of a shooter who can put points on the scoreboard, and that's certainly what the 6'5" guard is capable of.
For a shooting guard, McLemore is a solid rebounder, and with some work on his ball handling, he would be an excellent selection for Charlotte at No. 4 overall.
5. Phoenix Suns: Victor Oladipo, SG, Indiana
While Jared Dudley shot 39 percent from three this season, the Phoenix Suns should be looking at Victor Oladipo to take over the shooting guard spot next season.
Oladipo is a physical defender and has one of the quickest first steps in this class, which allows him to breeze past defenders and finish at the rim. Furthermore, when he wasn't driving to the rim, he was shooting 44 percent from three-point territory last season.
6. New Orleans Pelicans: Alex Len, C, Maryland
Give the Pelicans credit here; they've decided to go big, and in doing so, they'll have one of the best front courts in basketball. Len is the best pure center in this draft, and while he's hurt now, his scoring touch, coupled with his size and rebounding, will be a perfect complement to Anthony Davis in the paint. If the Grizzlies' success is any indication, going big like this will be a great way to find success going forward.
He's still a little raw, but no one will fault the Pelicans for going big here.
7. Sacramento Kings: C.J. McCollum, G, Lehigh
The Sacramento Kings could look to get a big man in the first round, but with DeMarcus Cousins becoming a force in this league, I think they will look toward the dynamic C.J. McCollum.
The 6'3" guard has the scoring prowess of an NBA talent like Jamal Crawford, and he could be the type of spark that the Kings need to keep their fan base interested and their team contending.
8. Detroit Pistons: Shabazz Muhammad, SF, UCLA
Lacking a legitimate small forward, the Detroit Pistons would be wise to make Shabazz Muhammad their first pick of the 2013 NBA draft.
The Pistons ranked 22nd in points per game this season, and they watched as power forward Greg Monroe shouldered much of the offense.
I think Detroit lacks a scoring identity, which is something Muhammad certainly brings to the table. He averaged 17.9 points per game last season while shooting nearly 38 percent from three-point territory.
Defensively, the Pistons were decent this season, but what they really need is a pure scorer—enter Muhammad.
9. Minnesota Timberwolves: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG, Georgia
Caldwell-Pope struggled at the combine, but there's still a lot to love about the talented shooting guard. Caldwell-Pope brings elite athleticism and an incredibly fast first step to the table, while also having great size (6'6", 205) for the position. Given how long Minnesota's been looking for a talented shooting guard (it seems like they've been looking since Kevin Garnett was here, doesn't it?) grabbing the Georgia product here makes perfect sense.
His shot is still somewhat inconsistent, but there's a lot to like, and he fills a great need for Minnesota.
10. Portland Trail Blazers: Anthony Bennett, PF, UNLV
This would be a controversial pick, but it would be one that will likely pay big dividends for Portland. Sure, they already have LaMarcus Aldridge in the paint, but Bennett is more of a pure big man than the versatile veteran.
His rotator cuff injury is a concern, but his talent is undeniable. His size, athleticism, and ball-handling will make him a potentially devastating weapon offensively, and pairing him with Aldridge and Damian Lillard will make the Blazers a very dangerous team moving forward.
11. Philadelphia 76ers: Kelly Olynyk, C, Gonzaga
After the Andrew Bynum experiment turned out to be a bust, the Philadelphia 76ers can't afford to blow it and leave the center position as the weakest spot entering next season.
Kelly Olynyk doesn't have the same level of athleticism or skills as Bynum, but the seven-footer should be able to stay healthy and put points on the board for Philly next season.
12. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Toronto Raptors): Rudy Gobert, C, France
It's difficult to find many holes in the Oklahoma City Thunder's game, but one glaring need comes from the center position.
Sure, Kendrick Perkins brings the toughness needed for a championship team, but Rudy Gobert is a seven-footer who can run the floor and excel off of pick and rolls, which could be the key to finally getting over the hump for Kevin Durant and the Thunder.
13. Dallas Mavericks: Cody Zeller, C, Indiana
While I don't think Cody Zeller is destined for a brilliant NBA career, I do think he is the type of player who can immediately make an impact as a rookie for the Dallas Mavericks.
Zeller has great size (7'0"), runs the floor well and would be an upgrade over Chris Kaman on the defensive side of the ball. On an aging roster, Zeller would bring the youth that is necessary to start building a new future in Dallas.
14. Utah Jazz: Dennis Schroeder, PG, Germany
German guard Dennis Schroeder is quickly moving up many draft boards because of his blow-by speed and ability to shoot the three-point shot.
With Mo Williams and Randy Foye continuing to age and not being able to matchup with the quicker point guards in the NBA, the Utah Jazz could use a talent like Schroeder. Look for the 19-year-old Schroeder to be a name that continues to be heard as the draft approaches.
15. Milwaukee Bucks: Mason Plumlee, C, Duke
Seeking help on the interior of their defense, I think the Milwaukee Bucks will go out and get Mason Plumlee of Duke. He is an excellent rebounder and has a nose for the ball around the rim.
The Bucks surrendered more than 100 points per game this season and should be looking to shore up their defense in order to make it back to the playoffs next season.
16. Boston Celtics: Gorgui Dieng, C, Louisville
With Kevin Garnett getting up there in age and possibly on his way out this offseason, the Boston Celtics have to keep the future in mind with the No. 16 pick.
Former Louisville center Gorgui Dieng isn't the offensive player that Garnett is, but he's a complete beast on defense and an absolute force on the glass. If Boston does draft Dieng, it'll need to look for more scoring options in free agency.
17. Atlanta Hawks: Archie Goodwin, SG, Kentucky
Despite playing just one season at Kentucky, shooting guard Archie Goodwin could draw the attention of a team like the Atlanta Hawks, who should be seeking help at the position.
I think Goodwin would be better served off the bench behind Devin Harris as a rookie, but I think Goodwin has the talent to be a starting NBA shooting guard in a few years.
18. Atlanta Hawks (via Houston Rockets): Steven Adams, C, Pittsburgh
These two mid-round picks are all about solidifying the bench and building for the future in Atlanta, especially if Josh Smith leaves via free agency.
Steven Adams would be the defensive presence that neither Al Horford nor Smith are, which would help build upon an already solid defense in Atlanta.
19. Cleveland Cavaliers (via Los Angeles Lakers): Tony Snell, G/F, New Mexico
At 6'7", Tony Snell is a 'tweener who could play the 2 or the 3 in the NBA. On a team like the Cleveland Cavaliers, who already have Dion Waiters and possibly Otto Porter (in my mock, anyway), Snell would come off the bench in his first season.
He's an excellent shooter from downtown (.390) and was durable in his three seasons at New Mexico.
20. Chicago Bulls: Allen Crabbe, SG, California
Regardless of Derrick Rose's status for the future, the Chicago Bulls need another guard who can put points on the board.
Pairing a scoring talent like Allen Crabbe with an elite point guard in Rose and a budding Jimmy Butler could make the Bulls an extremely dangerous team in the postseason.
21. Utah Jazz (via Golden State Warriors): Tim Hardaway Jr., SG, Michigan
Gordon Hayward had himself an excellent season shooting the three ball for the Utah Jazz, but the franchise should be looking to get more athletic at the shooting guard position.
During his time at Michigan, Tim Hardaway Jr. showed the ability to attack the rim and knock down outside shots, which could go well with an interior offense of Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap.
22. Brooklyn Nets: Dario Saric, F, Croatia
The Nets franchise is no stranger to taking international players, and I think they will do it again in 2013 with the first-round selection of Croatian forward Sario Saric.
Saric can play both the 3 and the 4, and with Gerald Wallace being one of the most inconsistent players for Brooklyn this season, the Nets should be looking to add a forward to combat the lack of scoring from Wallace and Reggie Evans.
23. Indiana Pacers: Shane Larkin, PG, Miami
If Shane Larkin falls this far, the Indiana Pacers absolutely have to take him.
Behind George Hill, the Pacers don't have much depth at the point guard position, which is where Larkin comes in. He's more of a scorer than a facilitator, but Larkin was a leader at Miami and looks to be an excellent NBA prospect.
24. New York Knicks: Lorenzo Brown, PG, North Carolina State
If the New York Knicks are smart and draft Lorenzo Brown out of N.C. State, he'd be the best passer and facilitator for New York next season.
Raymond Felton averaged just 5.5 assists per game this season, and going off of Carmelo Anthony's style of play, the Knicks need more unselfish players who can pass the ball and create shots for their teammates.
25. Los Angeles Clippers: Deshaun Thomas, SF, Ohio State
Deshaun Thomas was one of the best scorers in college basketball last season, averaging close to 20 points and collecting nearly six rebounds per game.
After a disappointing ending to their season, the Los Angeles Clippers need more options on offense besides Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and Jamal Crawford, which is why I like Thomas to the Clippers.
26. Minnesota Timberwolves (via Memphis Grizzlies): Tony Mitchell, PF, North Texas
After injuries sidelined Kevin Love for most of the 2012-13 season, the Minnesota Timberwolves would be smart to look for a suitable backup to pair with Derrick Williams as depth at the power forward position.
The 6'8" forward has the ability to knock down threes and rebound the basketball effectively, as he averaged 8.5 boards last season.
27. Denver Nuggets: C.J. Leslie, PF, North Carolina State
The Denver Nuggets have plenty of speedy guards and shooters to break down a defense, but what they really need is another physical specimen in the paint to pair with Kenneth Faried.
C.J. Leslie is the type of player who shows up on both sides of the ball and has three years of experience playing at N.C. State.
28. San Antonio Spurs: James Ennis, SG/SF, Long Beach State
I'll never doubt Manu Ginobili or say that he's getting too old to perform at a high level, but the San Antonio Spurs should go out and get a shooter like James Ennis.
San Antonio already has a future playmaker in Kawhi Leonard, and I think the combination of Danny Green and Ennis could be a nice fit for the Spurs in the future.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Jamaal Franklin, SG, San Diego State
Already boasting a dynamic scoring offense, the Thunder can take it a step further by drafting Jamaal Franklin, a junior guard who averaged 17 points and 9.5 rebounds as a 6'5" shooting guard last season.
I like the Thunder to address their big-man need early in the draft and take care of bench depth with their later pick in the first round.
30. Phoenix Suns (via Miami Heat): Jeff Withey, C, Kansas
Looking for depth behind Marcin Gortat, I think the Phoenix Suns will take Kansas' Jeff Withey as the last pick of the first round.
Withey is a force on defense, averaging 3.9 blocks per game last season, which is something Phoenix could use after allowing nearly 102 points per game this season.
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