With the draft combine having passed and Tuesday's draft lottery having set the order for this year's picks, we're finally starting to get a sense of how things are going to play out in the 2013 NBA draft.
Of course, it won't be until next month that things begin to crystallize, and we'll be able to get something concrete about these picks. Until then, we'll be seeing a never-ending series of reports filled with smokescreens and false "promises" leaked by agents trying to drum up interest in their clients.That's the fun part of this process.
But having the draft order and talking to scouts after the combine puts analysts in a good place to determine fact from fiction with these rumblings.
The Cleveland Cavaliers' victory in the draft lottery takes names like Ben McLemore and Trey Burke completely out of consideration for the top pick. It also alleviates the concern of the Orlando Magic, who would have had to decide whether taking the most talented player in this class—Nerlens Noel—was worth alienating an already burgeoning center in Nikola Vucevic.
Those things we "know" create a domino effect, allowing the rest of the picks to almost flow like clockwork. With that in mind, here is a complete look at our latest breakdown for Round 1.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Nerlens Noel (C, Kentucky)
The ping-pong balls might have went their way, but that doesn't mean the Cavs are satisfied with getting the No. 1 pick. Sure, the scene at the draft lottery resembled a frat house. Dan Gilbert and Co. just weren't celebrating because they won the Nerlens Noel sweepstakes.
Instead, it seems they were jumping up and down at acquiring another asset. ESPN's Brian Windhorst reported the Cavs will shop around the top pick with hopes of landing another superstar to put alongside Kyrie Irving. But while we'd probably wager that this pick gets traded at this juncture, we're not getting into slippery slopes here.
If an amenable deal does not present itself, Noel will be the pick. Cleveland reportedly loves Otto Porter and for good reason. He's a near-perfect fit on the wing for Irving and Dion Waiters, two guys who need the ball to be effective.
Landing Porter at No. 3 would have been fine. Doing so at the top of the draft just isn't a realistic option. Noel is the only player in this class with superstar potential, though weighing in at 206 pounds is yet another sign it's a few years down the line until he is one.
Gilbert may want to win now. Give him a bottle or something. It's time he and the Cavs exercise patience—something never done during the LeBron James era. Noel's journey to stardom might be a slow burn, but it could be worth in the long haul.
2. Orlando Magic: Ben McLemore (G, Kansas)
If recent reports are to be believed, the Magic have already decided they're picking between two players: McLemore and Trey Burke.
The National Player of the Year in college basketball, Burke is a name who many have pegged in Orlando's direction. Jameer Nelson is only 31 years old, but the days of anyone thinking he's even a replacement-level starting point guard are over. Burke defaulted his way into the top-dog spot at point guard after Marcus Smart returned to school, making him a logical fit for the Magic.
McLemore's presence, though, makes this classic needs vs. value pick for Orlando. A prototypical shooting guard with dunk-contest athleticism and a sweet stroke from distance, McLemore is a potential All-Star in the making. He needs to be more consistent and show a little more competitive fire, but the talent is real here.
And while the Magic have two promising young wings in Tobias Harris and Moe Harkless, neither projects as a shooting guard long-term. They're not looking at a Nikola Vucevic-Nerlens Noel situation the way they would with the top pick.
McLemore should—and ultimately will—get the nod here because he has the higher upside.
3. Washington Wizards: Otto Porter (F, Georgetown)
Just abut everything nice we said about Porter in the Cleveland section can be applied to Washington. Bradley Beal isn't as ball-needy as Waiters at the 2-guard spot, but John Wall is at his best whenever he's using his prodigious speed and quickness to create shots.
Though Porter has some point-forward in him, he's often best playing off the ball. He sets good, smart screens, knows where to be spacing-wise and plays with a headiness that leaps off the film. There aren't many guys in this class you fall in love with the more you watch them. Porter is one, which is why most astute scouts didn't bat an eye when those top-pick rumors got floated.
Perhaps more importantly for Washington, Porter fits with the team's defensive identity. The Wizards were the fifth most efficient defense on a per-100 possessions basis during the regular season, thanks in large part to the presences of Emeka Okafor and Nene. Porter is an excellent wing defender who can switch on 4s without losing much.
There aren't many teams where Porter wouldn't fit, and Washington would be more than happy to land him.
4. Charlotte Bobcats: Alex Len (C, Maryland)
Michael Jordan better hope his plan to bring back the Hornets' nickname comes with some positive lottery karma, because the Bobcats' nickname sure hasn't cut it. In the same way Jordan's franchise has become the NBA's unlovable losers on the floor, it's continually fallen short in the league's lottery system as well.
Just a year after missing out on Anthony Davis, Charlotte will likely face an untenable position at No. 4. Victor Oladipo is the best player remaining on the board in this scenario, but his long-range shooting woes would only compound the ones already on the Bobcats' roster.
Len isn't a perfect prospect by any stretch. He was consistently bullied by tougher players at Maryland, and ankle surgery has left him unable to prove himself in workouts. A true seven-footer who is comfortable in the mid-range, Len's feathery touch around the basket is his calling card. There were signs of an array of post moves at Maryland, so it will be interesting to see how he develops.
With the Bobcats already having the offensively broken Bismack Biyombo in their frontcourt, Len might provide a good contrast.
5. Phoenix Suns: Victor Oladipo (G, Indiana)
Look for the celebratory fist-bumping to commence in Phoenix's war room if Oladipo is still on the board. The Indiana product has scouts smitten after measuring bigger than expected and showing off jaw-dropping athleticism at the combine.
With many wanting to see how much Oladipo's outside shot has improved since the end of the college basketball season, what comes of his workouts will be intriguing.
There have been some NBA teams already saying he's worthy of the top overall selection, per Peegs.com's Jeff Rabjohns:
Jeff Rabjohns @JeffRabjohns
Two NBA teams tell http://t.co/KCs3UisrgZ they think Indiana's Victor Oladipo may be worth a No. 1 draft pick.5/23/2013, 7:34:37 PM
While it would take a trade for Oladipo to go No. 1, the hype is considerable. At the very worst, he's a future All-Defense selection as a perimeter menace, equipped with the lateral quickness and athleticism of a young Tony Allen. Oladipo won't get past this pick if he's still available.
6. New Orleans Pelicans: Trey Burke (G, Michigan)
The newly branded Pelicans are in an interesting spot this summer. Their roster looks very promising on paper. Anthony Davis is a star in the making, and Eric Gordon is one of the league's best young 2-guards when healthy. Also, Ryan Anderson is arguably the league's best stretch 4, and Austin Rivers serves the best Gatorade in the business.
But there are cracks in that foundation. Gordon could be on the move this summer. Greivis Vasquez—a revelation at the point guard spot this past season—is due a fat long-term contract in the next 12 months.
Other than a defensive-minded forward center, New Orleans could go anywhere with its pick—in theory. Burke gets the nod here mostly because of value.
Questions about his size and middling first step are valid, but Burke's vision and craftiness driving to the hole is something you rarely see from a 20-year-old player. He's a competitive dynamo as well, the type who could be motivated by an incumbent starter like Vasquez (and vice versa).
It's possible Burke never gets past No. 2, but the basement of his value is at No. 6.
7. Sacramento Kings: Anthony Bennett (F, UNLV)
Speaking of teams that don't know what the hell they are doing, I present you with the Sacramento Kings. Folks in California's capital finally know their team is staying, but who returns from this rotten-to-the-core roster is very much up in the air.
As such, we're just going to peg the best player available at this spot for now. Bennett's shoulder surgery will prevent him from working out for teams prior to draft day, but most already know what they're getting. At UNLV, Bennett was a bruising 4 who used his raw power to send opposing bigs to their backsides in the post.
He'll have to develop some post moves and some finesse, but his acceptable outside shooting shows he's not totally one-dimensional offensively. That being said, he's one of the most indifferent defenders I've ever watched. So there's a distinct possibility the Kings pass just because they don't want a dreadful Boogie Cousins-Bennett front line defense.
8. Detroit Pistons: Shabazz Muhammad (G, UCLA)
The Pistons have built a promising core entirely out of mid-lottery picks over these past few years, But there is still work left to be done—namely in the perimeter scoring department. Brandon Knight and Kyrie Irving obliterations aside, he is a very strong on-ball defender, but he's not a prolific enough scorer to be a 2-guard and not a good enough passer to play the point.
Though Knight was better once Jose Calderon came over to take over most of the ball-handling duties, Joe Dumars still needs to find someone who could develop into a 20-point scorer. For all of the fuss about Muhammad and overzealous hatred of this young man, he's arguably the player best-equipped to score right now at the NBA level.
Muhammad has a strong NBA body and enough athleticism and strength to finish around the basket. And while he'll probably never be a superstar, that will be more than good enough for Detroit at No. 8.
9. Minnesota Timberwolves: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (G, Georgia)
Caldwell-Pope didn't wow scouts the way I expected him to at the combine, but it seems he's found his way into the top-10 regardless. The sweet-shooting guard has been a player I've touted since this process began—a potential two-way player who will almost welcome a reduced responsibility after carrying the world at Georgia.
Minnesota has long been an ideal fit from both sides. The Timberwolves shot a league-worst 30.5 percent from distance last season. Folks can say Ricky Rubio has a developing outside shot until they're blue in the face, but until he actually starts showing it, I'm not buying it.
Caldwell-Pope could fit alongside Rubio in the starting lineup or help Alexey Shved carry the bench units. Either way, the less Shved and Rubio are on the floor next season, the better.
10. Portland Trail Blazers: Cody Zeller (F-C, Indiana)
I'm not one to go all crazy over Zeller's impressive athletic performance at the combine. He's No. 8 on my prospect board at the moment and has fluctuated somewhere between Nos. 7-10 throughout this process. During the college basketball season, I found myself becoming a Zeller detractor because of the top-five hype, but now that he's on the fringes of the top 10, we might have gone too far.
Oladipo, while the better NBA prospect, was never the best basketball player on last year's Indiana team. The Hoosiers went how Zeller did, making it no surprise when they were eliminated in a game against Syracuse where he was dreadful.
Portland won't expect him to carry the same load—only to provide desperately needed frontcourt depth with J.J. Hickson hitting free agency. With Zeller pushing his own bandwagon to power forward, his versatility would be welcomed by a Blazers bench in need of warm bodies.
11. Philadelphia 76ers: C.J. McCollum (G, Lehigh)
The Sixers were a bottom-10 team in just about every meaningful offensive category during the regular season, and they can't be feeling like too hot of a free-agent destination at the moment. Jrue Holiday is the only blue chipper on the roster, the remaining positions being filled by guys slightly above replacement value—an injured Andrew Bynum and the terrible Nick Young.
Philly can go a long way toward eradicating the Young problem and its scoring woes by landing McCollum. A local kid who played his college ball at nearby Lehigh, McCollum has identified himself as a Sixers fan and openly said he hoped to play in Philadelphia.
Considering what McCollum brings to the table—elite dribble-drive game, excellent quickness and an improving outside shot—and what the Sixers need ("we'll take scoring, pleeez"), this is a perfect fit.
12. Oklahoma City Thunder: Steven Adams (C, Pittsburgh)
There aren't many teams in this lottery that I can justify them taking Adams. Though his combination of size, athleticism and toughness is intriguing, showing increased touch against air at the combine isn't all that inspirational. Adams is raw—so raw that he probably shouldn't be a part of an NBA rotation for at least a full season.
Essentially, he'll be a redshirt rookie next season—and that's probably a good thing.
The Thunder are the one team in a position to take that redshirt. Oklahoma City walks into its offseason needing an eventual replacement for Kendrick Perkins in the middle (now would be great) and microwave scoring off the bench. Size is available in this scenario, and Adams is the likeliest to turn into a home run.
Even if it's a big-time risk, Sam Presti is going to have to gamble here if he hopes to land anything substantial for the James Harden deal.
13. Dallas Mavericks: Dario Saric (F, Croatia)
The Mavs are going to shop this pick hard. They don't want any unnecessary cap holds for an impending run at Dwight Howard, so that means cutting all expenditures deemed unnecessary. In this case, that means auctioning off a potential future asset for the hefty sum of "whatever we can get." It's not exactly the most responsible way to run a franchise, but I get the logic.
If by some weird stroke of fate Dallas has to make this selection, Saric will be the pick. He's just 19 years old, has a veteran's feel for the game on offense and can work out his kinks (free-throw shooting and defense) overseas for the next couple seasons. That way Dallas doesn't have to pay him a dime and gets to keep its asset.
14. Utah Jazz: Michael Carter-Williams (G, Syracuse)
Speaking of "everybody wins" scenarios, Carter-Williams might not view Salt Lake City as his idea of a good time, but the Jazz's point guard situation is one of the worst in the league. Mo Williams—who is still living off that time LeBron James made him an All-Star—and Randy Foye will both hit free agency.
It's questionable whether either will be back. Even if one of the duo does return, Utah hopes it's in a backup capacity.
Carter-Williams could make that dream a reality. Though he's not the most NBA-ready prospect in this draft—it's called a jump shot, Michael—Carter-Williams possesses an almost limitless potential. His court vision at 6'6" is the type you dream about, and he has the lateral quickness and athleticism to defend both guard positions.
Even if it's a rough transition, which I suspect it will be, Carter-Williams' best bet at making it in the league could be for a team to throw him into the fire immediately.
15. Milwaukee Bucks: Kelly Olynyk (C, Gonzaga)
The fit in this scenario is perfect for Milwaukee. Already equipped with arguably the league's best interior defender in Larry Sanders, Olynyk would provide almost a polar opposite of his theoretical teammate. Scouts' knock on Olynyk is that he's not tough, struggles against bigger defenders with his back to the basket and isn't a rim protector.
Well, Sanders is all of those things, and he's also still pretty broken in the areas where Olynyk excels. The Grizzlies have proven that you can win with two elite big men who know how to play with one another. There's no comparing a potential Olynyk-Sanders pairing to Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, but Milwaukee could have a burgeoning facsimile when all is said and done.
16. Boston Celtics: Mason Plumlee (F, Duke)
The murky future of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in Boston make this a pick difficult to discern. Boston doesn't seem like it wants to blow things up and start all over again. Danny Ainge would seemingly rather retool and build around Rajon Rondo, Jeff Green and a third player to see where that takes them.
If that's the case, then the Celtics have to address their abhorrent rebounding and athleticism down on the low block. Garnett, even if he returns, is mostly a spot-up shooter on offense and has become increasingly unable to have big-time rebounding games.
Plumlee is an instant contributor who could help in both of those departments. He's an athletic marvel when on the floor, able to leap up for an offensive rebound at a moment's notice and send it down with a thunderous jam. And while most will focus on the untapped resource of his offensive potential, Plumlee's high-energy style could help mix things up for a Celtics team that looked lifeless at points last season.
17. Atlanta Hawks: Dennis Schroeder (PG, Germany)
18. Atlanta Hawks (via Houston Rockets): Gorgui Dieng (C, Louisville)
Much like any other team with significant cap space, the Hawks have become fixated on landing either Chris Paul or Dwight Howard—and perhaps both. With news that Howard has "considered" coming back to his hometown while thinking about his future, the Hawks may choose to punt these picks elsewhere and focus on keeping their cap room.
By mid-June, I have a feeling Atlanta will know it has little chance of landing Howard or Paul.
Assuming they're out of the D12 running, Danny Ferry needs to make the most of these picks and do so in a semi-traditional fashion. When the Celtics had back-to-back picks a year ago, they went with a boom-or-bust guy (Fab Melo) and one they felt would instantly contribute (Jared Sullinger).
Atlanta could do something similar here with Schroeder and Dieng. A German-born point guard, Schroeder has been flying up draft boards after impressing at the Nike Hoop Summit.
Though there are some basketball IQ kinks that need worked out and he's not much of a passer, Schroeder is nothing short of lethal with the ball in his hands. He has possibly the quickest first step in this class and has ridiculous length that makes him interesting to project as a defender.
Dieng is more of a sure thing. He's still raw offensively—other than his smarts passing the ball out of the post—but he is a top-shelf rebounder and shot-blocker who—at the very least—will give you 15-20 good minutes a night.
19. Cleveland Cavaliers (via Los Angeles Lakers): Jamaal Franklin (G-F, San Diego State)
As with all of the Cleveland picks, we're not sure the Cavs will be picking here on draft night. But if they are, the team's revamp into a league-average defensive club could be completed in June if Franklin is on the board.
Though he spent many of his collegiate days playing out of position and thus unable to develop an outside shot, Franklin is one of this class's toughest defenders. He brings everything he has to the floor on a nightly basis, whether that be taking a team's best player on defense or exploding to the hole for a dunk on offense.
A year from now, Franklin might turn into a Kawhi Leonard-like asset if he works on knocking down corner threes.
20. Chicago Bulls: Glen Rice Jr. (G, NBA D-League)
Let's try to get through this one Twitter style: Name me a coach more equipped than Tom Thibodeau to handle a player like Rice—a mercurial talent who put it together in the D-League. You can't.
(OK, maybe that was a bit more than 140 characters. Free refunds will be given out at the end of the column.)
21. Utah Jazz (via Golden State Warriors): Rudy Gobert (F, France)
The measurements on Gobert's freakish length came back positively: He's 7'2" in shoes with nearly a 7'9" wingspan and 9.75-inch hand length.
But everything else came up a little short at the combine. His athleticism numbers were shockingly awful, as he had a maximum vertical of 29 inches. That's not very good, even for someone of Gobert's freakish strength.
So maybe the French JaVale McGee comparisons were a little off. But Gobert has the length to make up for a lot of his athletic deficiencies, which should still make him a lock for Round 1.
Utah, with Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap hitting free agency, should be in the market for a big with its second pick. The Jazz won't invest another lottery pick inside with Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter on the board, and adding Gobert to the mix would be a menacing defensive threesome to throw at opposing teams.
Plus, who wouldn't be entertained by seeing the Jazz take the two freakishly long players in this draft with Gobert and Carter-Williams?
22. Brooklyn Nets: Tony Snell (F, New Mexico)
Snell's time at New Mexico was filled with frustration for anyone who wished he would develop into a consistent offensive force. Though he had the length, athleticism and shooting prowess to become a real scoring threat with the Lobos, Snell was better known as the enigma who could never put it together consistently.
When he left school a year early, some thought it would be a one-way ticket to Europe. But after his scintillating display at the scouting combine—knocking down shots and showing off strong athleticism—Snell has some first-round buzz.
That being said, Brooklyn is one of only a few places where Snell makes sense at this juncture. The Nets need a wing player who can help space the floor and spell Joe Johnson and Gerald Wallace, something the versatile Snell has the size to do.
If Brooklyn passes, it could punch Snell's ticket to Round 2.
23. Indiana Pacers: Shane Larkin (G, Miami)
If you think the Pacers are putting one hell of a scare into the defending champion Miami Heat now, just think what they could do with any competency off the bench. Indiana's bench scored a whopping five points in its Game 2 victory over Miami on Friday—a figure that's indicative of just how bad management has miscalculated its offseason additions.
The return of Danny Granger next season will help as will someone like Larkin—if he's available. Though the Miami standout is a bit small in the backcourt, the Pacers lived with D.J. Augustin all season long. And I would venture to say Frank Vogel would trade Augustin for Larkin in about one-third of a second
A fiery competitor on both ends of the floor, Larkin impressed with his athleticism at the combine. His 44-inch vertical leap was the second-highest ever recorded at the event, and he ran a blazingly fast 3.08 seconds in the three-quarter court sprint.
That performance was enough to make him a rising name on most boards, so it'll be interesting to how high his stock soars in the coming weeks.
24. New York Knicks: Jeff Withey (C, Kansas)
After watching him get manhandled by Roy Hibbert for six games in the Eastern Conference semifinals, Knicks fans are on red alert in their Tyson Chandler decline meter. New York cannot subsist as a serious contender next season without Chandler at something resembling 100 percent, even if he's not a Defensive Player of the Year candidate.
Kenyon Martin did a brilliant job picking up minutes and slack from Chandler in the playoffs, but he's not a long-term solution. Asking Martin to play extended minutes as a top backup is an awfully tall task for someone who turns 36 in December.
Withey could instantly step in and lessen the load on all involved. The four-year Kansas standout won't ever be a star. He probably won't even be an NBA starter, except when subbing in for an injured veteran. But he's an instant contributor who plays rock-solid defense and won't back down against any of the league's best bigs.
25. L.A. Clippers: Tim Hardaway, Jr. (G, Michigan)
To paraphrase the great Mike Singletary, the Clippers need winners. They need players who actually give a damn, who won't lead a mutiny against Chris Paul and have enough collegiate experience they won't need to be spoon-fed the NBA lifestyle.
And most importantly, they need players who can knock down spot-up jumpers. Tim Hardaway, Jr. fits all that criteria and could instantly slide into the back half of Los Angeles' rotation.
26. Minnesota Timberwolves: Giannis Antetokounmpo (G-F, Greece)
There are some scouts who are sold on Antetokounmpo to the point they say he has one of the highest upsides in this draft. I'm not one of those analysts. He's playing against the second division in Greece, which has about all the competitiveness of a local YMCA league game.
And while Antetokoumpo was impressive in the limited amount of film I've seen from those games, there's just nothing there that denotes first-round ability for me yet.
Apparently at least one NBA team disagrees. Antetokounmpo receiving a promise could be a smokescreen thrown up by his management, but the hype surrounding his name has been considerable enough to make it plausible.
Minnesota is one of a select few Round 1 teams where he would make sense at. The team has pushed for more international faces since bringing Ricky Rubio over and have had a decent amount of success. Antetokounmpo will stay overseas for at least a year, anyway, so it's no harm no foul if he decides to stay there forever.
27. Denver Nuggets: Allen Crabbe (G, California)
The Nuggets don't know who will be running their front office at this juncture, so they might want to figure that out before making any rash decisions. But whether it's Masai Ujiri or an underling of the NBA's Executive of the Year, this draft's top priority has to be landing a cheap player who can shoot from distance.
Enter Allen Crabbe. While it seems he's more interested in, I dunno, the LPGA than he is in playing defense on a basketball court, Crabbe is arguably this draft's best pure shooter. He put on a show at the combine, knocking down 72 percent of his shots—a number that was among the leaders at all positions.
If he's on the board and Denver doesn't want to go draft-and-stash, Crabbe seems like an obvious fit.
28. San Antonio Spurs: Sergey Karasev (G, Russia)
The Spurs' penchant for plucking international prospects is legendary. Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Tiago Splitter are all integral parts of a team that's likely headed to the NBA Finals, and they are also all international players San Antonio plucked later than their ultimate values.
Karasev might never even match Splitter's NBA success, but he has a very good shot. Though not gifted athletically in the same way as other tantalizing Euros, Karasev is arguably the smartest and most skilled. He's a craftsman around the basket, making up for his mediocre athleticism with an array of finishes that remind me a bit of a young Manu on film.
They're obviously not in the same conversations at this juncture. But with Ginobili showing signs of creakiness in these playoffs, Karasev could become San Antonio's long-term replacement option.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Isaiah Canaan (G, Murray State)
In this scenario, the entire draft works out perfectly for the Thunder. They get a long-term project in Adams with their top selection, and Canaan has steal-of-the-draft potential.
A scoring machine for each of the past two seasons at Murray State, Canaan's excellence as a senior was overshadowed by his team's mediocrity. He scored 21.8 points per game while launching an absurd 8.2 three-pointers per game, making 37 percent of those attempts.
Life was a nightly struggle for Canaan to get shots off, as defenses tailored their entire plans around stopping him. And NBA teams have begun noticing his interesting game.
It's possible that Canaan winds up impressing a team enough to vault even higher. But for now, Oklahoma City would be thrilled to land him.
30. Phoenix Suns (via Miami Heat): Pierre Jackson (G, Baylor)
In the same vein as the Thunder, Phoenix is in desperate need of bench scoring—or rather, any scoring whatsoever. The Suns would be ecstatic to land Oladipo, but all involved understand that he's still developing on the offensive end. There won't be many (if any) 25-point nights out of the Indiana product his rookie season.
Strangely, I can't say the same thing about Jackson. He'd be small for an NBA point guard, but Jackson has the instant-offense gene that makes him attractive late in the first round. The former Baylor product is also a freakish athlete, making teams wonder whether they could land their own non-headcase version of Nate Robinson.
At No. 30 and with little else on the board, Phoenix would be wise to find out.
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