Many organizations enter the 2013 NBA draft looking to select a prospect who can make an immediate impact once the season begins.
While many top prospects will end up making big contributions for the teams that draft them, only a few will be stars right off the bat. These are the players that will likely be the go-to guy late in the game when a team desperately needs a basket.
Stars are what many teams hope their draft picks will become. But those who are drafting early in this year’s draft should be confident knowing that the player that they end up taking will already be one. That’s a good thing to know and it will help make decisions later in the draft and during free agency.
Let’s take a glance at how the first round of the draft might look, while also analyzing the players that will make the smooth and short transition from college stars to NBA stars.
*Italicized picks represent prospects who will become instant stars in the NBA.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Nerlens Noel, C, Kentucky
Once Nerlens Noel is healthy—likely somewhere around midseason—he’s going to make a major difference for the Cleveland Cavaliers. There’s no doubt that if Cleveland hangs onto the No. 1 overall pick, that it’ll end up taking the player with the most potential and highest ceiling, which is Noel.
Pairing Noel with Kyrie Irving is a dream duo that can potentially turn this franchise around and prevent it from being in the NBA Draft Lottery for a long time—even though the Cavs will probably win it regardless. A dynamic pairing like Noel and Irving will give Cleveland a pair of top options for many years to come.
What the Cavaliers should look to do is compile a couple of bright young stars that will attract LeBron James to return to Cleveland. Adding Noel into the mix definitely wouldn’t hurt the team’s future proposal to The King. Even if Cleveland doesn’t get James back, Noel could end up leading this team by himself.
2. Orlando Magic: Trey Burke, G, Michigan
Trey Burke is one of the top shooters and overall players in this year’s draft class—despite his very average defense. The guard scored nearly 19 points per game for one of the top teams in the nation this year and is sure to make a big difference with whichever team he ends up with.
Orlando has yet to find someone that can lead the team. The Magic have to take the best player on the board once the Cavs take Noel with the first pick. That player, in my opinion, is Burke. Burke can turn this franchise around and won’t need a lot of help on the court to do so.
I recently stated that Burke had one of the top two chances of any player being an All-Star in 2013-14 as a rookie. Burke has a shot that can get hot in an instant. Just ask the Kansas Jayhawks. Burke can shoot the lights out and will shoot the lights out as a member of the Magic. Look for him to score at least 19 points per game next year.
3. Washington Wizards: Otto Porter, Jr., F, Georgetown
With John Wall at the point, Bradley Beal at shooting guard and Otto Porter at small forward, the Washington Wizards would have one of the top young trios in the entire league. Washington would have a versatile set of scorers who could take the team to the postseason for many years to come. This should be an easy choice for the Wizards.
4. Charlotte Bobcats: Ben McLemore, G, Kansas
Ben McLemore was the other player that I think has what it takes to be an All-Star in his first year—along with Burke—, which is one of the toughest things to do as a rookie. McLemore is a very talented player and teams will love all of the things that he brings to the table. He’s great on both sides of the ball.
At just 20 years old, McLemore has the potential to do big things next season, which I project will come with the Charlotte Bobcats. Charlotte has several needs entering this year’s draft, which means that the Bobcats can be flexible with who their top pick is. They might just end up taking the top player on the board.
I don’t think the Bobcats would take Burke if he were still on the board here because that would be straying away from Kemba Walker going forward. By taking McLemore, the Bobcats can stick with Walker and add a versatile player to go alongside of him.
5. Phoenix Suns: Victor Oladipo, G, Indiana
The Phoenix Suns are going to go with the best player on the board with the fifth pick in the draft and there’s a chance that the top prospect left is Victor Oladipo. Oladipo was a breakout star with Indiana last year and there’s no doubt that his talents will translate nicely to the NBA, and potentially with the Suns.
6. New Orleans Pelicans: C.J. McCollum, G, Lehigh
The Pelicans need someone to play point guard and there will be no better option on the board than C.J. McCollum. While he’s played shooting guard in the past, he’s a good enough passer and playmaker to play the point. New Orleans will then have a couple of solid guards, each of which has a lot of potential for the future.
7. Sacramento Kings: Michael Carter-Williams, G, Syracuse
The Kings have a lot of guards that still need to prove themselves at the NBA level. Michael Carter-Williams would be able to step into the starting role right away and help turn Sacramento around. He’s one of the top guard prospects in this year’s class and with the Kings needing someone at the point and at the two, he makes plenty of sense.
8. Detroit Pistons: Anthony Bennett, F, UNLV
With just one pick in the first round, the Detroit Pistons need to make a smart choice as they have several needs that must be addressed. While the Pistons don’t necessarily need another power forward, Anthony Bennett has a fair enough shot to play small forward. He has too much talent to pass on with the eighth pick.
9. Minnesota Timberwolves: Alex Len, C, Maryland
Minnesota needs to find a big man to play center while Kevin Love plays power forward. It will alleviate a lot of pressure off of Love if the Timberwolves can do so. Minnesota also needs a shooting guard, but with Len on the board here, it makes sense to take him. He has one of the highest upsides of any player in the class.
10. Portland Trailblazers: Cody Zeller, C, Indiana
If Cody Zeller is still on the board when Portland picks at No. 10, the Blazers should absolutely take him. Even though the Blazers already have quite a bit of depth on the low post, more is better. Can you imagine the group of Zeller, LaMarcus Aldridge, Meyers Leonard and J.J. Hickson? Hickson might not be back, but if he is, that’s quite the foursome.
11. Philadelphia 76ers: Shabazz Muhammad, F, UCLA
The Philadelphia 76ers have one major need and it’s a need that can be aided by a player at any position. Philly needs someone that can put at least 20 points on the board on a nightly basis. Shabazz Muhammad averaged 17.8 points per game with UCLA last season, and he is also good on the boards. He can definitely solve the 76ers’ problem.
12. Oklahoma City Thunder (via TOR): Steven Adams, C, Pittsburgh
The Thunder are fortunate enough to have two picks in the first round, via a trade, and they should look to add a big man. While Oklahoma City is all set down low for now, Steven Adams would be a fantastic backup for Serge Ibaka. He could come off the bench and there wouldn’t be much of a drop-off in terms of talent.
13. Dallas Mavericks: Dario Saric, F, Croatia
I think that a lot of teams are going to be afraid to select Dario Saric because it seems unclear as to whether he’ll sign and play right away. He might not even stay in the draft, according to Chad Ford of ESPN. But if he does, Dallas might take a chance on him. Even if he stays in Croatia, the Mavs are winners because they won’t lose cap space.
14. Utah Jazz: Shane Larkin, G, Miami
A guard or a center will do just fine for the Utah Jazz with the No. 14 pick in the draft. Larkin is a very smart player who makes crisp passes and knows how to score. He could turn into a Deron Williams-like player with some experience and development. He will turn into a solid starter in the future, that’s for sure.
15. Milwaukee Bucks: Giannis Adetokoubo, F, Greece
The Milwaukee Bucks enter the draft with about three positions on their minds: shooting guard, power forward and center. Giannis Adetokoubo can play power forward with ease. While being just a tad too small to play center, he still could if he had to. Getting taken at No. 15 may be a little early, but he is a good fit for the Bucks.
16. Boston Celtics: Mason Plumlee, C, Duke
If Kevin Garnett isn’t with the Boston Celtics next season then they’re going to need to find someone that can play on the low block with Jared Sullinger and Brandon Bass. I don’t think Fab Melo or any other big man on the roster is the answer. Mason Plumlee is a powerful guy that is very smart on the court. Boston needs him badly.
17. Atlanta Hawks: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, G, Georgia
The Atlanta Hawks need either a shooting guard or a small forward with their top pick and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is a guy that can play either position. He is a fantastic scorer that could end up going a little earlier in the first round. But if the Hawks are on the clock and he’s still available, taking him is a no-brainer.
18. Atlanta Hawks (via HOU): Allen Crabbe, G, California
The reason I have the Hawks taking a shooting guard with their second consecutive pick is because either could end up playing small forward. Both Allen Crabbe and Caldwell-Pope are 6-foot-6 and shoot well enough to play the position. I think that the duo will work out nicely and put a lot of points on the board for Atlanta.
19. Cleveland Cavaliers (via LAL): Kelly Olynyk, C, Gonzaga
Here is why the Cavs should take another big man in the first round: Noel isn’t going to be healthy to start the season. Once Noel returns, the Cavs will have him, Tristan Thompson and Kelly Olynyk to rotate on the low block. That will be a formidable trio for Cleveland to use on a nightly basis. It will be one of the best trios in the NBA.
20. Chicago Bulls: Jamaal Franklin, G, San Diego St.
Could Jamaal Franklin eventually take over for Derrick Rose? If not, it would make sense for the Chicago Bulls to play him alongside Rose at shooting guard. He is a 6-foot-5 guard that knows how to shoot and also crashes the boards very well, averaging 9.5 rebounds per game this past season. The Bulls will like that.
21. Utah Jazz: Dennis Schroeder, G, Germany
Utah will either go with a guard or a center with its second pick in the first round—meaning whichever the Jazz doesn’t go with in their first pick. But I actually think that they might double up on guards. I have Larkin going to Utah earlier and Dennis Schroeder could work out as well, especially if he doesn’t come to the United States right away.
22. Brooklyn Nets: Glen Rice, Jr., G, NBA D-League
The Brooklyn Nets desperately need a prospect who can come in and shoot the ball well. They can’t afford to have another guy that’s just going to be average from the field and average from downtown. Jason Kidd is going to need someone that can score and score often. Glen Rice, Jr. fits that profile well, if you ask me.
23. Indiana Pacers: Rudy Gobert, F, France
Rudy Gobert is definitely going to be a project for whichever team decides to draft him, but he does have solid upside. The Indiana Pacers are set for the most part on the low block, which means that they won’t have to rush Gobert. Instead, they can let him come off the bench for the first couple of seasons in order to gain experience.
24. New York Knicks: Gorgui Dieng, C, Louisville
Most Knicks fans might not know who Gorgui Dieng is, but he’s going to be the center in New York for many years to come. Tyson Chandler has shown that he can’t be consistent and the Knicks don’t have much of a future plan at center. They have some players with potential, but Dieng will be better than all of them.
25. Los Angeles Clippers: Jeff Withey, C, Kansas
DeAndre Jordan is no doubt the center for the Clippers for several years ahead, but Los Angeles really lacks a strong player to come off the bench to replace him. It would be wise of the Clippers to take Jeff Withey if he’s available. He makes things very difficult for those trying to score and with experience, he could be a great player.
26. Minnesota Timberwolves (via MEM): Sergey Karasev, G, Russia
Sergey Karasev could end up being one of the best players to come out of this draft down the line, but for now, he’s a late-round pick. Minnesota will have already picked up a big man earlier in the draft and this pick should be spent on someone who can back Ricky Rubio up for the next few years. Karasev makes sense here.
27. Denver Nuggets: Reggie Bullock, G, UNC
Denver will look to use its late pick on someone that can either play shooting guard or small forward. Reggie Bullock primarily played the two at UNC, but at 6-foot-7, there aren’t many people that are questioning whether he can play the three or not. He can also turn into a guy who scores around 12-14 points per night.
28. San Antonio Spurs: Tim Hardaway, Jr., G, Michigan
The Spurs are old and the front office needs to starting planning for the future—meaning it’s unsafe for Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili to be on the court. Adding a guard late in the first round isn’t a bad idea and Tim Hardaway, Jr. is someone that can come in, learn from the best and replicate it in the future.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Archie Goodwin, G, Kentucky
Archie Goodwin still needs to develop a bit, but he does have a lot of potential. If he shows that he can run the Oklahoma City offense without much of a learning curve, he could be the eventual replacement for Russell Westbrook or Kevin Martin. He just needs to get a little bit bigger and take smart shots and he’ll be fine.
30. Phoenix Suns (via MIA): Pierre Jackson, G, Baylor
Despite the fact that I have Phoenix taking Oladipo with its top pick in the draft, I think it’s still a good decision to go with Pierre Jackson here. Jackson can come off the bench as a key role player in his rookie season, and the Suns can then decide what they want to do with him in Year 2, depending on how he plays.