NBA Teams with the Most at Stake in the 2013 Draft

Bryant Knox@@BryantKnoxFeatured ColumnistJune 9, 2013

NBA Teams with the Most at Stake in the 2013 Draft

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    The NBA draft is a chance for every team in the league to improve—this we already know. But while every team has something to gain, a handful of squads have been presented with make-or-break opportunities.

    The 2013 class isn't expected to be as star-studded as years past, but the lottery will still feature talent throughout. A great pick could be what helps a team turn the corner, while a bad pick could be an opportunity wasted.

    Every team gambles when it makes draft-day selections, but a select few have more to gain than others heading into the 2013-14 season. 

Charlotte Bobcats

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    There’s no nice way to put this, but the Charlotte Bobcats cannot survive at their current pace. Drafting Michael Kidd-Gilchrist in 2012 was a step in the right direction, but they need someone who can officially turn things around, giving them a glimmer of hope that they’ve found a franchise player.

    Simply put, this team can’t afford to draft a bust.

    In 2012, Charlotte was jumped in the lottery by the then-New Orleans Hornets. This time around, it was leap-frogged by both the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Washington Wizards, knocking it out of the top three altogether.

    Can the Bobcats draft a franchise-saving player with the fourth pick? While unlikely, that answer has yet to be determined.

    What we do know is that the Bobcats need a major turnaround sooner rather than later, and if they can’t make that happen, they’re looking at a steep road ahead.

Minnesota Timberwolves

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    The Minnesota Timberwolves were supposed to be a borderline playoff team entering the 2012-13 season. Injuries put a halt to that thought, but adding an NBA-ready prospect might put them back in the running.

    The talent on this roster is respectable when healthy. Ricky Rubio looks like one of the best pure passers in the game, Kevin Love is as productive as it comes, and a plethora of young players only add to the possibilities of competing down the road.

    The biggest concern for the future is keeping Love in town. If he leaves, the organization will be in flux once again, as his numbers are going to be as tough to replace as it comes.

    Finding a player who is NBA-ready has to be a priority, as the franchise needs to be improved by the time Love becomes a free agent.

Cleveland Cavaliers

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    For the second time in three years, the Cleveland Cavaliers own the first overall selection in the NBA draft. That good fortune has helped them move past LeBron James’ decision to leave, but it also puts immense pressure on them to get the pick right.

    Unlike years past, there doesn’t appear to be a consensus No. 1 pick. Nerlens Noel leads the pack in a number of mock drafts, but we’ve yet to hear any indication that the Cavs have made up their minds.

    Not having an overwhelming favorite makes this a tough pick to choose, but Cleveland also has the benefit of possessing three more picks, including one in the first round.

    With four solid picks and a hopefully healthy roster, the 2013-14 season could see a massive turnaround for the Cavs.

Washington Wizards

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    The Cleveland Cavaliers may have been the big winners of the draft lottery, but the Washington Wizards are the ones who surprised everybody.

    To begin the 2012-13 season, the team looked as if it would earn a pick in the top three based on its record. As it turned out, the return of John Wall drastically improved their look, and the play around him improved as a result.

    Despite the improved play, the Wizards still managed to jump near the top. They grabbed the third overall pick, and they have a chance to improve a roster that showed serious life during the second half of 2012-13.

    Any time a team jumps ahead of its lottery projection, you know they have a chance to take advantage. The Wizards aren’t your classic “one piece away” type of team, but they’re in a great position to turn the corner with the right addition.

Portland Trail Blazers

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    When it comes to the Portland Trail Blazers, it seems as if the draft always comes down to one question: talent or need?

    In 2012, Portland got lucky enough to kill two birds with one stone. Damian Lillard was hands-down the most talented point guard available in the draft, and it just so happened that he filled a desperate need within the organization.

    In 2013, the Blazers once again have a dilemma, but this time, there’s no one player who fits the bill in both categories. A starting center who can defend the rim is ideal, but adding talent to the bench is going to be crucial when it comes to resting starters down the stretch.

    Portland has money that it must spend during the offseason, which means free agency will likely be more telling than the draft when it comes to the team’s future. That said, you have to make the right pick in June to know where your needs lie come July.

Oklahoma City Thunder

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    Unlike the other teams on this list, the Oklahoma City Thunder are already contenders. They’re a perennial playoff presence, which is why a lottery pick could potentially benefit them more than any other team in the first 14 picks.

    We know that when this team is healthy, they’re one of the top groups in the league. However, we also know that they could have used James Harden when Russell Westbrook was lost for the season.

    If the Thunder have one thing going for them, it’s the bonus of patience. They have a core that will continue to dominate, allowing them to take a project player who may not contribute right away.

    The important thing to note is that there’s a difference between a project and a bust. Finding the right guy is something OKC has done well in the past, and if they can do it again, it will do wonders toward justifying the deal that sent Harden to the Houston Rockets.