The 2013 NBA draft features a number of variables at the top of the board, maybe more so than in recent memory because of the lack of a clear-cut No. 1 talent.
Sure, there are guys ready and willing to contribute to NBA teams as rookies, and the overall depth of the draft is tremendous—the second round this year will be must-see TV with names like Nate Wolters, Ryan Kelly and Pierre Jackson all primed to wait for the call from a general manager.
Then again, those guys might go on Day 1.
The unpredictability of the draft is what makes it great, and mock drafts like these exist to serve that purpose. We have no clue how the first round will play out in late June, but we do have an idea of which prospects fall in line with the needs these teams have on their rosters prior to free agency.
Drafting for need is never an easy thing—it's easier in the NBA because there are only five positions to fill. In contrast, the NFL and MLB have double-digit holes to fill, making things extremely hard to predict when it comes to the big board.
Talent and long-term futures play a big role in the draft, too, and when looking at what "obvious" means with respect to these teams, it's certainly going to be a crapshoot when it comes to knowing what NBA teams are discussing right now.
In any event, here's a look at my latest mock, keeping in mind the obvious choices each team should make with respect to their roster, the big board and the long-term potential of all 30 prospects who will be taken in the first round.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: C Nerlens Noel, Kentucky
Noel's one-year stint with Kentucky is well-documented: He averaged a near double-double, swatted 4.4 shots per game and was the SEC's most dominant defender before tearing his ACL and ending his season.
For Cleveland, this is anything but a no-brainer choice—picking at No. 1 never is.
A report from The Washington Post earlier this week claimed that the Cavs were mulling the backlash of taking Georgetown product Otto Porter Jr. with this pick, a move that would finally fill the gaping hole No. 23 left when he went to Miami and changed his jersey designation to No. 6.
While Porter has the tools and the skills to be a steady defender and part-time offensive game-changer throughout his career, I would contend that Noel is a rim protector, which you won't find anywhere else in this draft.
Centers are hard to find, and Anderson Varejao has been anything but healthy as he enters the last guaranteed year of his contract. It's a tough decision, and one that could include Cleveland trading down for more value, but Noel is a quality selection either way.
2. Orlando Magic: SG Ben McLemore, Kansas
To me, the Magic have a choice between Michigan point guard Trey Burke and the man listed above, Kansas shooting guard Ben McLemore.
Both have shown the ability to single-handedly change games with their shot, while Burke is a more complete player on both ends of the floor and shows flashes of being a top-tier PG at the next level.
When it boils right down to it, though, it's all about personal preference with this pick. Magic GM Rob Hennigan is a disciple of the OKC and San Antonio way, and that includes taking players who can help your team win—regardless of whether or not there are roadblocks in the way on the roster.
Those roadblocks are Aaron Afflalo and Doron Lamb, two players who underachieved as the Magic finished with the league's worst record. McLemore, though, was a 42-percent three-point shooter in college, would fit nicely on the perimeter early in his career and could learn the ropes from veteran PG Jameer Nelson for his first couple of seasons.
Magic fans won't complain if the selection is McLemore, a guy many feels can be a long-term star in the mold of Ray Allen, especially since Noel probably won't be available.
3. Washington Wizards: SF Otto Porter Jr., Georgetown
Washington has to be scared that Cleveland might consider taking Porter with the No. 1 overall pick. There are two possibilities from that leak: One, the Cavs are seriously considering it, or two, the Cavs are making the teams with a need at the position (New Orleans, Detroit, Sacramento and Washington) aware that there's a trade to be had.
That could affect the top of the draft board immensely, but for now, we'll consider it stable enough to project Porter falling through the first two picks and landing with Washington.
With John Wall and Bradley Beal already in place, Porter would slide right in during his first season in Washington. A pesky defender with a winning mentality, the consensus first-team All-American can help the Wizards on both ends of the floor right away.
4. Charlotte Bobcats: SF/PF Anthony Bennett, UNLV
This is more obvious as trade-down territory for Charlotte than it is for the Bobcats to take a player they don't like here, especially with the top two picks (Noel and McLemore) both filling an obvious need on the Charlotte roster.
While some might contend that Bennett creates somewhat of a logjam in the small forward/power forward department, it's not as if Charlotte is just oozing with talent at all positions. Sure, Bennett and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist might have trouble co-existing at first, but in an up-tempo offense with Kemba Walker at the point, Bennett could do some serious damage with his playmaking and versatility in Charlotte.
5. Phoenix Suns: SG/SF Victor Oladipo, Indiana
In a slam-dunk pick for the Suns, Oladipo is still on the board after four picks. There's no guarantee he will be, especially if my assertions about Charlotte's notion to trade down are there, but in a perfect world, Oladipo and the Suns are a great match.
Phoenix needs help on the wing in both positions, and Oladipo provides that and more to whomever takes over the Suns' job next year. His field-goal percentage, work ethic, winning mentality and ability to improve on offense make him a candidate to be the steal of this draft at some point down the line.
6. New Orleans Pelicans: PG Trey Burke, Michigan
New Orleans is all the buzz right now because of the talent accrued over the past few seasons. Sure, Chris Paul is gone, but in his place are Anthony Davis, Eric Gordon and whoever becomes this pick.
Trey Burke might not make sense if you're a believer in the Greivis Vasquez movement, but talent at the point guard position is imperative for success in the NBA these days. Without it, teams perish in the playoffs.
Burke is a game-changer of epic proportions, as Michigan's deep run to the NCAA tournament final proved this year. Whether or not he's the opening-game starter is irrelevant—you don't let talent like this continue to slip down the board when you're a team like New Orleans.
7. Sacramento Kings: C Cody Zeller, Indiana
The Kings have an established front court with DeMarcus Cousins and Jason Thompson, but depth behind those two starters is thin, and the team deals with rumors about Cousins nearly every week when he's not on his best behavior.
Zeller brings energy, solid post defense and the ability to grow into a strong starting center in the NBA to the Kings. He might even push Cousins to fix his attitude problems before the Kings decide he's better served in another uniform next year.
8. Detroit Pistons: PG/SG Michael Carter-Williams, Syracuse
Carter-Williams has legitimate shooting guard size (6'6") in a point guard body. Playing in the 2-3 zone at Syracuse, he excelled in full-court situations, leading the fast break and getting deflections that turned into easy baskets.
Can he make the transition to on-ball defender at the next level?
His intangibles say yes, but you never know with college prospects these days. However, MCW is an automatic candidate to start and at the very least come off the bench for the Pistons, who will have found four starters in the first round in the last four seasons if they can wrangle another with this pick.
9. Minnesota Timberwolves: C Alex Len, Maryland
If Alex Len is still on the board at No. 9, I'd be very surprised, to say the least, that he wouldn't have been the subject of a trade with a team looking to add a marquee center to the mix.
As such, Minnesota is in no position to turn away talent at the position, and with two first-round picks, the T'Wolves can afford to gamble with a big man early as long as they find a rotation guy with the second pick in the round.
Len is an intriguing talent who performed well in stretches this year in the ACC, and if he puts it all together, he could turn out to be the best center taken in this draft.
10. Portland Trail Blazers: PG/SG C.J. McCollum, Lehigh
Portland lacks depth behind a group of starters who are likely set in stone next year, so all five positions are really in play here when it comes to management looking at talent in this draft.
C.J. McCollum lit it up in college, getting better each year at Lehigh and finishing his college career by averaging nearly 24 points per game on 49.5 percent shooting before injuries finished his time in the NCAA.
With the Blazers in a sixth-man role, McCollum could both provide depth and a scoring punch that the team lacked last season—Portland finished dead-last in bench scoring with just 18.5 points per game off the pine last year (via hoopsstats.com).
11. Philadelphia 76ers: C Rudy Gobert, France
This might seem high for the 7'2" French phenom, but Rudy Gobert is a guy who you should study early and often before the draft commences here in the next month or so.
Gobert has a huge wingspan, works well in pick-and-roll situations, is a shot-blocker that the 76ers could use around the rim and has tons of room for improvement. The kicker: Gobert is still very raw, so it might be a couple of years before you see him anywhere near double-double status.
Philadelphia can't approach the offseason like Andrew Bynum is returning because he, like every other free agent, will test the waters. Grabbing Gobert and letting him develop alongside All-Star Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner will help the 76ers build for the future.
12. Oklahoma City Thunder (via TOR): C Gorgui Dieng, Louisville
It's understood that this is a very high projection for the 6'11" center from the Louisville Cardinals, but the Thunder are in a position where they are playing with house money with this pick.
Oklahoma City has accrued so much stored talent and draft picks that they can take players who fill a need right now—regardless of pre-draft rankings or the rest of the board. Dieng is no different, and as a shot-blocker around the rim, he won't require the ball to make an impact in a two-man-heavy offense in OKC.
13. Dallas Mavericks: SG/SF Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA
The Mavs are already on record as saying that the No. 13 pick is trade bait for those looking to move up or buy into the first round. Dallas wants to make a run at Dwight Howard in free agency, and this pick holds a cap value of roughly $1.6 million that Donnie Nelson wants to shed.
If they do decide to stand pat, though, UCLA's Shabazz Muhammad provides the Mavs with something they severely lack—playmaking. Though his time in college was anything but without controversy, Muhammad averaged over 18 points per game and showed stretches of being unguardable with the Bruins.
As a replacement for O.J. Mayo and a sidekick for Dirk Nowitzki, Muhammad makes a lot of short- and long-term sense.
14. Utah Jazz: PG Shane Larkin, Miami
Shane Larkin has been here at No. 14 for quite some time on my mocks, and he'll remain there unless we have someone crash the top 13 picks over the next few weeks for good.
Impressing scouts and team personnel during the NBA combine, Larkin's decision to leave Miami would look mighty fine if he wound up as a lottery pick on a team in dire need of point guard help after last season.
He could take over Tyrone Corbin's offense right away, and if the Jazz are able to sign a veteran to push him out of the gate, there might not be much turnover with the team's current post-heavy lineup.
15. Milwaukee Bucks: SG/SF Tony Snell, New Mexico
With J.J. Redick, Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings all facing some sort of free agency, getting backcourt help for the Bucks has to be a priority out of the gate.
Tony Snell is a 6'7" G/F in the mold of San Antonio forward Kawhi Leonard, and the Bucks would hope he could bring a similar impact during his rookie season with the team. Snell is a rugged defender and shoots the three-pointer well (39 percent in 2012-13), making him an ideal fit with this current assortment of players.
16. Boston Celtics: C/PF Kelly Olynyk, Gonzaga
There's no guarantee that Olynyk, who was one of college basketball's best players during the 2012-13 season, will drop this far to the C's, but if he does, it's hard to see Boston passing on his services.
He had a breakout season last year, averaging over 17 points and seven rebounds as Gonzaga finished the regular season atop the AP Top 25 poll. That success didn't translate to the Big Dance, but Olynyk's individual performances did, and he's a first-round lock because of it.
Alongside or in replacing Kevin Garnett, Olynyk makes sense for the C's as they continue to hover right around the will-they-or-won't-they category when it comes to rebuilding.
17. Atlanta Hawks: PG Dennis Schroeder, Germany
I like Schroeder as an alternative to Olynyk when Boston is on the clock, but the Hawks will have no problem with the young German point guard dropping to No. 17 during the first of two Atlanta picks.
A smooth, quick guard who has drawn comparisons to Mavs PG Darren Collison, Schroeder has the potential to be a quality backup his first couple of seasons while he grows into the game and cuts down on the turnover problem that plagued him abroad.
The Hawks have Jeff Teague, but the Devin Harris experiment is likely over, and the team expects Louis Williams to contribute in more of a combo-guard role when he returns from injury at the start of the next season.
Schroeder provides depth at the point and a nice piece to build on behind Teague as both would grow together on the Atlanta roster.
18. Atlanta Hawks (via HOU): C/PF Mason Plumlee, Duke
Mason Plumlee doesn't turn any heads because he's not an accomplished scorer or the best defender at his position, but he brings an energy, knowledge and relentless nature on the glass that is unmatched when on the court.
That kind of effort would fit perfectly with Atlanta.
Al Horford could move to the power forward position if the Hawks get a center in the draft or manage to lure D12 to town, and even with a guy like Howard in the fold, the Hawks would still be a prime candidate to add size and depth for next year.
19. Cleveland Cavaliers (via LAL): SF Giannis Antetokoumpo, Greece
Antetokoumpo is a guy who was given a first-round promise, according to ESPN's Chad Ford, and the Cavaliers are a team that makes sense after getting Noel with the top pick in the draft.
Type this kid's name into Google later if you are among those who already have not done so—his highlights are incredible to watch, partially because he's playing against low-level competition and partially because he's a physical freak who plays point guard for his team despite being nearly 6'10".
His body type reminds us of Kevin Durant, and his skills do too, making the Cavaliers an ideal fit for his services, with a clear need for scoring punch at small forward after the events of the last couple of seasons.
20. Chicago Bulls: SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Georgia
Caldwell-Pope could very well be the first true shooting guard taken after McLemore comes off the board, and if he is, there are very little who would complain that he's being over-drafted as long as that pick isn't in the top 10.
Averaging over 18 points during his second and final season with the Bulldogs, KCP improved on his shooting both from the field and from the perimeter, two areas of his game that had scouts worried after a solid freshman campaign.
The Bulls, maybe in need of one now more than ever, can get a starting-caliber guard to come off their bench behind Jimmy Butler next year with this guy on board. If Marco Belinelli leaves for greener pastures, the Bulls will need help here, and KCP makes sense at No. 20.
21. Utah Jazz (via GS): SF Dario Saric, Croatia
There are some mocks who have Saric going as high as No. 10 to the Trail Blazers. This mock isn't among that school of thought, but things can quickly change in a draft like this because there are very few marquee small forwards that have declared.
As it is, though, the run on centers and guards over the last few picks wouldn't be surprising, either, with some of the team needs that have popped up over the season.
Saric is a prototypical European small forward, a capable passer and a good shooter who can thrive with the ball in his hands. If he can mature quickly and grow into a starting role, a team like Utah just might have a steal on its hands.
22. Brooklyn Nets: C Steven Adams, Pittsburgh
With very little depth behind Brook Lopez, this is an easy choice for the Nets. Adams is a bit of a project after just one season in college, but he would be learning from one of the best offensive centers in the NBA if he joined up with Brooklyn.
23. Indiana Pacers: PG/SG Lorenzo Brown, North Carolina State
It's becoming clear over the course of the 2013 NBA playoffs that depth is an issue for the upstart Pacers. The starting lineup has gotten it done so far, but without Danny Granger or a capable shooting guard to play behind Lance Stephenson, Indiana will have earned its stripes if it can knock off Miami in the Eastern Conference Finals with very little depth.
Adding to that assertion, D.J. Augustin is hitting free agency this summer and might not be asked back. Even if he is, picking up an NBA-ready guy like Lorenzo Brown, who led the ACC in assists with 7.2 per game and was among the league leaders in steals, is a perfect fit to add depth to the mix.
George Hill played off the ball in San Antonio and has done that in Indiana, too, so adding another point guard to help solve some of those shooting guard woes is a great start. If Danny Granger can get healthy and the Pacers decide to keep him—look out.
Rookie Orlando Johnson also has a year under his belt, making it likely the Pacers attack the point guard position with pick No. 23.
24. New York Knicks: C Jeff Withey, Kansas
The Knicks are committed to Tyson Chandler at center, but behind him, who is the team turning to if Chandler is forced to miss more time over the next two seasons?
The razor-thin Knicks relied on Kenyon Martin as an enforcer at the rim, and it cost them against Indiana. If the Knicks can add some young depth here, it would take pressure off both the defense and Chandler to avoid playing physical, which is when he's at his best.
Jeff Withey is an established shot-blocker who has big-time experience with Kansas in college. He's an ideal fit as a backup to start his career behind a center who could teach him the ropes over the first few years of his career.
25. Los Angeles Clippers: SF Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State
Los Angeles is in a position where Caron Butler is in the last year of his contract and Matt Barnes is already going to be a free agent. The Clippers can't afford to rely on Grant Hill to stay healthy at the 3 spot behind Butler, so drafting a small forward would make sense.
Deshaun Thomas is another player with big-time experience over the course of his career with the Buckeyes. He can flat-out score the ball, and even though it isn't always pretty, Thomas would add a punch off the bench that L.A. lacks outside of Jamal Crawford.
26. Minnesota Timberwolves (via MEM): SG Jamaal Franklin, San Diego State
With Len already drafted by the Wolves, the team can turn this Memphis pick into an instant contributor by taking the best shooting guard still available when the clock places them on the board again in Round 1.
Franklin's shooting percentage is a major concern for teams, but his athleticism and ability to get to the free-throw line make him an attractive pick for teams lacking both at the next level. If Franklin can push his three-point percentage closer to the 33-percent mark he had over his first two years in college, he'll be a nice addition to the lineup up North.
27. Denver Nuggets: SG Allen Crabbe, California
Denver is facing free agency for two guys at shooting guard if Andre Iguodala and Corey Brewer both decide it's time to fly the coop.
If that does end up being the case, Denver can replace that production by taking a shooting guard at No. 27 who can really light it up. Crabbe shot close to 45 percent from the field and 38 percent from the three-point line for most of his collegiate career, and he averaged 18.4 points in his final season with Cal.
28. San Antonio Spurs: SF Sergey Karasev, Russia
A left-handed small forward who figures to be in the mix alongside Saric for some early-round looks, Karasev looks like a perfect fit with the San Antonio Spurs.
He has a high basketball IQ, he's ready to come over next season, and after watching Manu Ginobili struggle with injuries for most of the regular season, having a 6'7" replacement in waiting isn't a bad move at all for the Spurs in this draft.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: PG/SG Erick Green, Virginia Tech
Erick Green lead the nation in scoring in 2012-13. Wouldn't it just be like the Thunder to scoop him up in the draft this year?
The 6'3" guard had a coming-out party during the ACC season, and with Kevin Martin facing free agency, it might be prudent for the Thunder to find some scoring punch in the guard department. No one was better at scoring in college last year than Green, and he fills a need with OKC's original pick.
30. Phoenix Suns (via MIA): C Lucas Nogueira, Brazil
The Suns can either choose to address the guard position again here with another shooting guard, or look inside for help as Marcin Gortat is only under contract for one more season.
Nogueira is a lanky, raw center from Brazil who will be a rim protector for whatever team decides to bring him on board next season. In the mold of Samuel Dalembert, the Suns could do a lot worse with the 30th pick and can protect themselves from Gortat's free agency with another center to add depth.
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