The 2013 NBA draft may be short on surefire All-Star prospects, but it won't be short on intrigue. With an impressive crop of big men and several dynamic scorers, there are plenty of prospective pros who can step in and make an instant impact.
In the current era of college basketball, where only one season is required, it becomes slightly more difficult to project how stars with such a modest track record will translate to the next level.
Below is a full mock of the first round, with a particular focus on the impending NBA rookies who have the most upside.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Nerlens Noel, C, Kentucky
Given the emphasis on defense that head coach Mike Brown preaches, selecting Noel makes a lot of sense in the top spot in spite of the former Wildcat standout's torn ACL.
Though the Cavaliers already have first-round picks Tristan Thompson and Tyler Zeller in the frontcourt along with the return of energetic veteran Anderson Varejao, the unique physical gifts Noel brings to the table should be too tantalizing to pass up.
After all, as Mary Schmitt Boyer and Jodie Valade of the Cleveland Plain Dealer report, GM Chris Grant took a closer look at Noel than any of his peers this past winter:
clevelanddotcom Cavs @PDcavsinsider
Kentucky coach John Calipari tells Plain Dealer that #Cavs GM Chris Grant scouted Nerlens Noel more than any other NBA GM last winter.5/22/2013, 9:01:19 PM
Noel gives the Cavs a franchise-caliber player that they desperately need, and averaged a whopping 4.4 blocks per game this past season. With another first-round selection at their disposal and two early second-round choices, they have the luxury of addressing other needs later and taking Noel at the top.
2. Orlando Magic: Trey Burke, PG, Michigan
Frequently during his sophomore season in Ann Arbor, the onus was on Burke to shoulder the scoring load—and he rarely disappointed.
Burke has all the elements to be a franchise player, and this is definitely the biggest positional need for the Magic. The other key attribute that Burke has is outside shooting, an area that Orlando must improve in after shooting just 32.9 percent from beyond the arc in 2012-13.
With such a lethal jumper and the ability to get to the rim and make good decisions, GM Rob Hennigan shouldn't pass on Burke.
3. Washington Wizards: Otto Porter Jr., SF, Georgetown
Porter's ties to the nation's capital would make him an instant fan favorite should the Wizards choose to select him.
That's not where Porter's appeal ends, though. It could be argued that the former Georgetown star is the most complete prospect in the draft. The Wizards could use a player who can do a little bit of everything on both ends of the court, and that's precisely what Porter provides.
A versatile offensive game along with elite-level defense on the wing would complement the dynamic backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal nicely.
4. Charlotte Bobcats: Ben McLemore, SG, Kansas
A strong case could be made for Victor Oladipo here, but the Bobcats should go with the shooting guard with the superior potential in McLemore.
The freshman phenom lit it up in his only season with the Jayhawks, and he also has the smooth athleticism, quickness and length to be an effective defender at the NBA level. Gerald Henderson is a restricted free agent, and McLemore is a better long-term option at the 2-guard position.
Even with a mediocre frontcourt headlined by Bismack Biyombo, selecting the best player available on a team filled with holes would be the best way to go.
McLemore has wonderful three-point range and can add an instant spark to an organization in desperate need of one. More importantly, though, he has all the skills to develop into a superstar and a franchise cornerstone in Charlotte.
5. Phoenix Suns: Anthony Bennett, PF/SF, UNLV
As can be seen above in the tape, Bennett is a physical force on the inside with the range to stretch out comfortably to the perimeter.
One intriguing possibility that the drafting of Bennett would bring is increased flexibility in the Suns' lineup. Since Bennett is capable of playing the 3 or the 4 and creating matchup problems either way, Phoenix could present a myriad of problems to opponents.
Placing Jared Dudley at shooting guard and the rotation of the Morris twins and Michael Beasley at the 3 or 4 along with Bennett would help the Suns immensely.
The hire of GM Ryan McDonough should inject life into this struggling team, because McDonough spent years in the Boston Celtics' front office. Taking someone with the ceiling of Bennett seems logical, and his status as a "'tweener" would actually be an asset for this squad.
6. New Orleans Pelicans: CJ McCollum, PG/SG, Lehigh
Perhaps it's a little early for a small-school player like McCollum—especially since he's coming off of a broken left foot. However, his recovery seems to be complete, and his blistering shooting and ability to create his own offense should solidify him as a top pick.
McCollum also registered a 38.5-inch vertical leap at the combine, per ESPN's Chad Ford (subscription required), and would give the newly named Pelicans a massive offensive boost
7. Sacramento Kings: Cody Zeller, C/PF, Indiana
Imagine the athleticism of a potential DeMarcus Cousins-Cody Zeller front line. It's a legitimate possibility in Sacramento, and Zeller would be an asset in the pick-and-roll game that gives defenses such trouble.
Zeller has room to put on more weight and to be more assertive in the paint, but he seems like an ideal complement to Cousins. Combine the presence of those two with Jason Thompson, and the Kings suddenly have a great, young rotation up front along with Patrick Patterson.
8. Detroit Pistons: Victor Oladipo, SG, Indiana
The relentless effort and strength that Oladipo possesses as a 2-guard makes him an ideal fit in Detroit. It's a position that the Pistons lack a true prototype for, and though Oladipo is slightly undersized, he plays way bigger than his 6'4" frame suggests.
Oladipo is incredibly efficient offensively, as he shot just under 60 percent in his final collegiate season, and he's a premier, lockdown defender. All of that helps Detroit right away, and could be enough to push the squad back into playoff contention.
9. Minnesota Timberwolves: Kelly Olynyk, PF/C, Gonzaga
Locking up Nikola Pekovic is no guarantee, so the Timberwolves would be wise to purchase insurance with Olynyk, whose offensive prowess alongside Kevin Love is staggering to think about.
There aren't any top-notch perimeter shooters this early to justify the No. 9 overall pick. The fact that both he and Love can spread the floor will create all sorts of opportunities for playmaking PG Ricky Rubio to continue blossoming.
10. Portland Trail Blazers: Shabazz Muhammad, SF, UCLA
In his one year with the Bruins, the gaudy expectations were too much for Muhammad to live up to. That won't stop him from going in the Top 10 in the draft, though, and the Blazers definitely get a lot of value here.
Any shortcomings he had in his lone college season weren't due to a lack of effort. Muhammad plays extremely hard. Now that he has a massive chip on his shoulder, he has all the makings of realizing his immense potential and could even begin as a sixth man in Portland.
11. Philadelphia 76ers: Steven Adams, C, Pittsburgh
The risky Andrew Bynum acquisition yielded literally nothing for Philadelphia, leaving the center position still unsettled. Adams is a raw prospect, but has uncommon explosiveness for a seven-footer and tenacious presence on the boards provides the Sixers with an intriguing new addition.
12. Oklahoma City Thunder: Michael Carter-Williams, PG, Syracuse
Picture this: Russell Westbrook subs out of the game, and is replaced by a floor general who is a pass-first point guard with tremendous length and the size to present matchup nightmares.
Westbrook could even play the 2 with Carter-Wiliams on the floor, working off the ball and utilizing his freakish athletic ability to give the Thunder even more firepower. Sam Presti is loaded with two first-rounders again, and this is a fascinating prospective pick.
13. Dallas Mavericks: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG, Georgia
Outside shooting doesn't seem like a pressing issue for the Mavs on the surface, but Vince Carter is aging and O.J. Mayo may be gone in free agency.
That makes Caldwell-Pope a logical pick, especially due to his exceptional defense. Dallas ranked 27th in the Association in 2012-13, giving up an average of 101.7 points per contest.
14. Utah Jazz: Jamaal Franklin, SG/SF, San Diego State
The Aztecs were essentially a one-man show with Franklin leading the way in points, rebounds, assists and steals this past season. His leaping, above-the-rim style will absorb the expected blow of either Al Jefferson or Paul Millsap departing in free agency.
Point guard can be addressed with the No. 21 overall pick, but for now, the Jazz are getting a wonderful competitor and a player in Franklin who should improve his jumper and develop into a solid pro.
15. Milwaukee Bucks: Dario Saric, SF, Croatia
The 19-year-old international prodigy is 6'10" but just 223 pounds. That shouldn't be a concern since he has a ton of room to bulk up.
In ESPN expert Chad Ford's scouting report, he points out how some evaluators believe Saric may have the highest basketball IQ of anyone in the class, and has as much potential to be a special NBA player as any prospect. Considering that praise, Saric is a steal at No. 15.
16. Boston Celtics: Rudy Gobert, C, France
A wingspan of 7'9" and a standing reach of 9'7" makes the 7'2" Gobert among the most exciting entrants in this year's draft. He's also just 20 years old, which allots a world of time for his game to develop.
Gobert may become a premier paint enforcer, and anything he can add to his offensive arsenal is obviously a plus. Being brought into as strong of an organization as the Celtics will allow him to ultimately thrive.
17. Atlanta Hawks: Tony Snell, SF/SG, New Mexico
The Hawks already may have a sharpshooter of the future in John Jenkins, but if they want a superior athlete on the wing with magnificent size, a wonderful shooting touch and top-notch defense, Snell is the man to take here.
Whether Josh Smith leaves this summer or not, Snell could fill in nicely at the 3 position and give Atlanta a more dynamic offensive attack.
18. Atlanta Hawks: Mason Plumlee, PF/C, Duke
General manager Danny Ferry decides to give the Hawks another big man that can run in the frontcourt. Plumlee is aggressive on the boards. He would complement Al Horford nicely to give the NBA's 23rd-ranked rebounding team much-needed size.
19. Cleveland Cavaliers: Sergey Karasev, SF, Russia
As mentioned before, the Cavs have two early second-round picks to play with, and could even trade back into the first round for a third choice. Having spot-up shooters will be key for slashers like Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters, and Karasev provides just that.
In terms of getting to the hoop, the Russian teenager can do that as well despite average quickness. Cleveland needs as many offensive creators as it can pick up, hence this selection.
20. Chicago Bulls: Jeff Withey, C, Kansas
It's possible that Withey could fall lower than this, but he fits head coach Tom Thibodeau's style so well. There isn't a viable backup behind Joakim Noah, and Withey has the shot-blocking skills and enough of an offensive game to benefit from the return of superstar PG Derrick Rose.
21. Utah Jazz: Shane Larkin, PG, Miami (FL)
This is where the Jazz find their point guard of the future. Larkin is a superb athlete with range and playmaking ability that is comparable to any of his counterparts. The concern is lack of size, but the Jazz have plenty of that as it is.
22. Brooklyn Nets: Dennis Schroeder, PG, Germany
Beyond Deron Williams, there isn't much depth at the point guard position in Brooklyn. For a slower paced team, Schroeder brings unique speed and the basketball instincts to thrive in the open court to give the Nets a tempo-changer and game-breaker off the bench for the future.
23. Indiana Pacers: Allen Crabbe, SG, California
The lack of a go-to scorer has plagued the Pacers, and Crabbe is the type of lights-out shooter the team would love to grab at this stage. The former Bears star is a threat from beyond the arc as well as from mid-range, and gives the Pacers even more help on the glass.
24. New York Knicks: Reggie Bullock, SF, North Carolina
With prolific three-point shooting ability, excellent rebounding for his position and devastating ability in the open court, there are few players who would spark the Knicks more than Bullock at this point.
That could put the undersized Iman Shumpert at the 2, or even have Bullock create mismatches at that position with his size. Either way, the Knicks heavily rely on the three, and to continue thriving in that regard, Bullock is a logical solution.
25. Los Angeles Clippers: Isaiah Canaan, PG, Murray State
Eric Bledsoe presents a lot of value in the trade market, and the Clippers may sell high on him if they can grab a guard like Canaan in the draft.
The numbers in his senior season don't stack up as favorably to his junior campaign, but that's more attributable to the larger role Canaan undertook for the Racers. He is a great shooter and is the type of undersized scoring point guard that Bledsoe has effectively been in LA.
26. Minnesota Timberwolves: Glen Rice Jr., SF/SG, Georgia Tech
The NBA's worst three-point shooting team from this past season gets a big lift from Rice, who thrived in the NBA Developmental League with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.
In the final series that Rice played leading them to the championship, he dominated, averaging 29 points, 11.5 rebounds, four assists, three steals and 3.5 blocked shots. Rice is devastating from downtown and an ideal player to create spacing in Minnesota.
27. Denver Nuggets: Tim Hardaway Jr., SG, Michigan
Sam Amico of FOX Sports Ohio documents how Hardaway remedied his relatively disappointing NCAA tournament with an extraordinary combine—both on and off the court:
Sam Amico @AmicoHoops
Not only did Michigan G Tim Hardaway Jr kill it in drills, but source at NBA Draft Combine said he interviewed best with teams. Stock rising5/17/2013, 8:17:30 PM
With that, it's possible that Hardaway goes much higher. Should he fall to Denver at No. 27 overall, though, his value at this point could make him one of the best selections of the entire draft.
28. San Antonio Spurs: Gorgui Dieng, C, Louisville
The Big East Defensive Player of the Year hails from a national championship winner, and bolsters the Spurs' rotation of bigs, which frequently starts Tiago Splitter and sports an aging Tim Duncan. Both should strap Dieng with valuable mentorship and get his career off to a strong start, assuming Splitter re-signs.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Tony Mitchell, PF, North Texas
Serge Ibaka's jumper is much improved, and Nick Colison is solid. However, Mitchell would give the Thunder an entirely new element at power forward with his three-point range and aggressive but finessed play around the rim.
A struggling sophomore season caused Mitchell to admittedly not get up for games. In the winning environment in Oklahoma City, he should reach the high level of play he maintained as a freshman.
30. Phoenix Suns: Lucas Noguiera, C, Brazil
At only 6'11" and 218 pounds, perhaps Noguiera takes another year before making a substantial impact in Phoenix. The wait could be worth it though, because Noguiera is the shot-blocking defensive presence the Suns should covet as they continue to rebuild.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!