The 2013 NBA Finals are heating up, and so are mock drafts.
While the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs compete for the Larry O’Brien Trophy, Nerlens Noel, Victor Oladipo and Otto Porter are duking it out to hear their names called by David Stern with the first overall pick.
The Cleveland Cavaliers, and every team in the league, will send in their selection hoping that the prospect they choose will result in them trading places with the Heat—or Spurs—in a future championship.
Here is a full first-round projection of each team’s best-case scenario to make that future championship berth happen.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: C Nerlens Noel, Kentucky
Anderson Varejao turns 31 years old in September. Due to his age, he won’t be a capable starter by the time the Cavs are ready to contend for an Eastern Conference title again. They need someone better than Tyler Zeller in the middle next to the undersized 6’9”, 227-pound Tristan Thompson.
Zeller averaged the second-worst player efficiency ratio (PER) out of anyone on Cleveland who played more than 25.0 minutes per game in 2013: 11.0 (the league average is 15.0). He’s a first big off the bench at best.
Noel boasts the athleticism to make an instant impact in the NBA (a la Anthony Davis). As soon as his knee heals, he’ll significantly improve a Cavaliers defense which finished the regular season ranked 25th in points allowed per game.
2. Orlando Magic: SG Victor Oladipo, Indiana
Arron Afflalo’s scoring increased from 15.2 points per game with the Denver Nuggets to 16.5 in an expanded role with Orlando, but don’t be fooled. His play didn’t improve. After shooting at least 46.5 percent from the field and 39.8 percent from downtown his last three years in Denver, he finished 2013 shooting 43.9 percent from the field and 30.0 percent from beyond the arc.
The Magic can’t pass on the best player available, Oladipo, just because Afflalo recorded better scoring numbers most of the season than the rest of their mediocre players.
3. Washington Wizards: SF Otto Porter, Georgetown
Martell Webster is an unrestricted free agent. Trevor Ariza has been mediocre, finishing every season with a PER under 15.0, since he left the Los Angeles Lakers. Jan Vesely and Chris Singleton are en route to being major busts, both finishing their sophomore seasons with a PER under 8.0.
Porter shouldn’t struggle to start right away after a move across town. As an unselfish glue guy, he’d be an ideal fit on the perimeter next to the scoring-minded John Wall and Bradley Beal.
4. Charlotte Bobcats: PF Anthony Bennett, UNLV
Speaking of major busts, Bismack Biyombo scored fewer points per game this season than he did as a rookie, despite playing 4.2 more minutes per game. Charlotte’s frontcourt struggled so much in 2013 that it was forced to start Hakim Warrick and Josh McRoberts a total of 33 games. Neither had started more than six games, Warrick since the 2007-2008 campaign and McRoberts since 2010-2011.
Bennett has the highest ceiling in the draft out of anyone not named Nerlens Noel. Bobcats fans don’t want to hear the word “ceiling” anymore after Biyombo, but he’s the best player available.
5. Phoenix Suns: SG Ben McLemore, Kansas
Phoenix didn’t have a single player score more than 14.7 points per game this season. Jared Dudley, Shannon Brown, Michael Beasley and Wesley Johnson are all role players that the Suns hoped would be go-to wing scorers, and they couldn’t even fake it like Afflalo, all averaging less than 11.0 points per game. McLemore could immediately become the team’s leading scorer.
6. New Orleans Pelicans: C Alex Len, Maryland
Robin Lopez is a poor rebounder. He only averaged 5.6 per game last season and is more suited to come off the bench. New Orleans is also thin down low, with Jason Smith being the only serviceable reserve big. Len would instantly solve their depth issues and eventually unseat Lopez in the starting lineup next to Davis.
7. Sacramento Kings: PG Michael Carter-Williams, Syracuse
Not a single Kings player averaged more than 4.0 assists per game this season. They need a pure point guard, not another score-first one like Trey Burke to add to their collection of Tyreke Evans, Isaiah Thomas and Jimmer Fredette. Carter-Williams, who averaged 7.3 assists last year, is the better fit.
8. Detroit Pistons: PG Trey Burke, Michigan
Detroit didn’t have a perimeter player score more than 13.3 points per game in the 2012-2013 campaign. Combine that with the fact that Jose Calderon is 31 years old and an unrestricted free agent, while Brandon Knight and his 4.0 assists per would be better suited at shooting guard. Burke is the solution to all of those problems.
9. Minnesota Timberwolves: PF Cody Zeller, Indiana
If the T-Wolves didn’t already have three point guards in their rotation—Ricky Rubio, Luke Rindour and J.J. Barea—this pick would be C.J. McCollum. They do, though, so their best option is to add length with the 7’0” Zeller down low in case they lose Nikola Pekovic to free agency or Kevin Love demands a trade.
10. Portland Trail Blazers: PG C.J. McCollum, Lehigh
Eric Maynor led Portland’s bench in scoring this season with 6.9 points per game. After four years of college basketball experience, McCollum—who averaged 23.9 points per last year—is ready to provide a scoring spark as a sixth man right away.
11. Philadelphia 76ers: SF Dario Saric, Croatia
Outside of Jrue Holiday—and Andrew Bynum if he re-signs—Philadelphia doesn’t have a single player on its roster that even remotely resembles an All-Star. The 76ers have talent, but to bust through the wall that they’ve been stuck behind for years and become a legitimate title contender, they need to roll the dice on a prospect with upside. Saric fits the bill.
12. Oklahoma City Thunder: C Steven Adams, Pittsburgh
Kendrick Perkins finished the season with a PER of 8.2. OKC needs to find a new backup for Serge Ibaka. Adams is raw, but the Thunder are talented enough that they don’t need a rookie to contribute right away anyway.
13. Dallas Mavericks: SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Georgia
If O.J. Mayo leaves in free agency, Dallas would need a new shooting guard capable of putting the ball in the basket. No Mav outside of Mayo and Dirk Nowitzki averaged more than 13.4 points per game last season. Caldwell-Pope averaged 18.5.
14. Utah Jazz: PG Shane Larkin, Miami
Mo Williams, Randy Foye, Jamaal Tinsley and Earl Watson are all unrestricted free agents. Even if they're re-signed, none of them is the future at point guard in Utah. Larkin, who averaged 14.5 points and 4.6 assists per game while shooting 40.6 percent from downtown, would be just that.
15. Milwaukee Bucks: PG Dennis Schroeder, Germany
Brandon Jennings is a restricted free agent, and Monte Ellis can opt out of his contract. Unless the Bucks are confident in their ability to lock up both of them long term, they need to draft a point guard, because Ish Smith and his 2.4 career points per game is the only other one on the roster.
16. Boston Celtics: SF Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA
Paul Pierce turns 36 years old in October and is an unrestricted free agent next summer. Even if Danny Ainge doesn’t trade him before the deadline, Boston needs to identify his successor. Muhammad is arguably the top pure scorer in the draft, so his one-dimensionality would be worth the risk to keep the Celtics contending.
17. Atlanta Hawks: SG Jamaal Franklin, San Diego State
Kyle Korver is an unrestricted free agent. John Jenkins is undersized at 6’4” and is a subpar athlete. He isn’t anything more than a scoring spark off the bench, so Atlanta needs to attempt to find its future starting shooting guard.
18. Atlanta Hawks: C Mason Plumlee, Duke
Josh Smith is also an unrestricted free agent. If he leaves, that’d leave Al Horford as the only Hawk big who scored more than 6.6 points per game this season. The 23-year-old Plumlee is pro-ready and he averaged 17.1 per game as a senior at Duke.
19. Cleveland Cavaliers: SF Glen Rice Jr., Georgia Tech
Dan Gilbert passed on the more highly touted Jonas Valanciunas, who wouldn’t have been able to play in Cleveland for another year, for Tristan Thompson in 2011. There are better prospects than Rice, but Gilbert wants to win now and the 22-year-old with D-League experience gives the Cavs the best chance to do that at No. 19.
20. Chicago Bulls: SG Reggie Bullock, North Carolina
Nate Robinson and Marco Belinelli are unrestricted free agents. That leaves Richard Hamilton and his 9.8 points per game this season and Kirk Hinrich and his 7.7 as the only serviceable guards on the roster besides Derrick Rose. At 22 years old, Bullock is experienced enough to earn playing time on a contender like Chicago.
21. Utah Jazz: PF Kelly Olynyk, Gonzaga
Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson will become unrestricted free agents this summer. Even if Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors are the Jazz future down low, they need a backup. Olynyk, who possesses three-point range, could provide Utah with a younger version of Mehmet Okur.
22. Brooklyn Nets: C Rudy Gobert, France
Reggie Evans started 56 games for the Nets last season and averaged 4.5 points per game. They need to upgrade their frontcourt. The 7’2” Gobert possesses the potential to provide Brooklyn with a dominant twin-tower pairing with Brook Lopez.
23. Indiana Pacers: SG Sergey Karasev, Russia
Not a single player on the Pacers bench averaged more than 7.0 points per game. They need a scoring boost, and if Karasev couldn’t provide it right away, he would in the future.
24. New York Knicks: SG Allen Crabbe, California
J.R. Smith scored 18.1 points per game this season for the Knicks. If he were to opt out and leave them, his departure would create a huge need for someone capable of putting the ball in the basket. Crabbe, who averaged 18.4 points per last year, does that well.
25. Los Angeles Clippers: PF Tony Mitchell, North Texas
Lamar Odom and Ronny Turiaf combined for a total 5.9 points in 30.5 minutes of action per game in the 2012-2013 campaign. Los Angeles can get more production out of those minutes.
26. Minnesota Timberwolves: SG Ricardo Ledo, Providence
Not a single Timberwolves player shot at least 35.0 percent from downtown this season. Ledo is a phenomenal shooter. He just couldn’t show that ability off last season because the NCAA ruled him ineligible.
27. Denver Nuggets: SF Giannis Antetokounmpo, Greece
Denver is arguably the deepest team in the NBA. It should just draft a high-ceiling player it can stash overseas like Antetokounmpo because of that.
28. San Antonio Spurs: C Lucas Nogueira, Brazil
Tim Duncan is 37 years old, while Tiago Splitter and Dejuan Blair will be unrestricted free agent this summer. San Antonio is desperate for length, which the 7’0” Nogueira possesses.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: C Gorgui Dieng, Louisville
With no real needs, the Thunder can feel free to double up on big men. Nick Collision turns 33 years old in October and won’t be effective forever.
30. Phoenix Suns: C Jeff Withey, Kansas
Luis Scola is 33 years old, while Jermaine O’Neal is 34 and an unrestricted free agent. Withey would provide the Suns with much-needed depth and a more-than-serviceable backup for Marcin Gortat.
David Daniels is a breaking news writer at Bleacher Report and a news editor at Wade-O Radio.
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