There isn’t a team in the National Basketball Association that isn’t looking to improve by taking players in the 2013 NBA draft. The goal of the draft is to get better.
But there are only a few teams that are going to get drastically better by making their selections. Some franchises need a lot of help, and by taking a top prospects, they’re bound to improve by several games in 2013-14 compared to this past season.
The draft is rapidly approaching, and most front offices are spending the last days finalizing their draft boards and narrowing it down to a few prospects who fit their needs and have the potential to make a difference right off the bat. So, which teams will improve the most by taking stars in the first round? Let’s take a look.
*Italicized players denote those that represent prospects that will improve their team the most in the 2013 NBA draft.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Nerlens Noel, C, Kentucky
Kyrie Irving needs a new best friend, and it’s looking more and more likely that Nerlens Noel will be that guy.
Cleveland desperately needs an impact big man who can score and play great defense. Noel is easily the top player in the draft and will make the Cavaliers significantly better in 2013-14 and beyond.
2. Orlando Magic: Ben McLemore, G, Kansas
The Magic had six players that averaged double figures this past season. Out of context, that sounds pretty good. But when taking a deeper look at how each of those players did, none averaged more than 17 points per game.
Orlando lacks a star that can put at least 20 points per game on the scoreboard. That’s why the Magic must take a scorer with the second overall pick in the draft.
If I have a say in the war room, I’m pushing for Kansas’ Ben McLemore. He averaged 15.9 points per game last year, as part of a very good Jayhawks team. He was a feared shooter, hitting nearly 50 percent of his shots and 42 percent from downtown.
McLemore isn’t the best fit for the Magic, considering they have Aaron Afflalo and Jameer Nelson at the two guard positions, but Orlando needs a spark. Whomever Orlando selects at No. 2 is going to improve the team immensely, but taking McLemore should give the Magic the biggest bang for their buck.
3. Washington Wizards: Otto Porter Jr., F, Georgetown
Washington has gradually been improving each year in terms of the talent it puts on the floor. John Wall is already a star in the NBA, and Bradley Beal is quickly becoming one. With a pair of great guards in place for many years to come, it’s time for the Wizards to start seeking their future big-name forward.
Washington must go with Otto Porter Jr. It’s an easy decision that’s sure to pay off very quickly.
Porter averaged 16.2 points per game last year with Georgetown, shooting 48 percent from the field and 42.2 percent from three-point land. He’s a very good rebounder and tends to limit his fouls and turnovers. He’s one of the top defenders in this year’s class, too.
What’s not to like?
4. Charlotte Bobcats: Victor Oladipo, G, Indiana
The Bobcats probably won’t be taking Trey Burke since they already have Kemba Walker, which makes the Victor Oladipo selection that much easier—since he’s a shooting guard.
Charlotte just needs a star in the making, and based on what we saw from Oladipo at Indiana, he absolutely has what it takes.
5. Phoenix Suns: Trey Burke, G, Michigan
Not one player on the Suns this past season averaged 15 points per game. Phoenix had six players averaging double figures, but the most per game was Goran Dragic at 14.7. Even though Dragic was the team’s top scorer, the Suns could do much better at the point going forward. He’s very average.
The Suns will be taking the best player on the board no matter which position the prospect plays, and that should end up being Trey Burke.
Burke just isn’t much of a fit with the teams who are selecting with the first four picks, which means that he should be available for Phoenix.
He is one of the top offensive players in the draft and can put the team on his back at any instant.
Burke has fantastic range and the potential to be the face of the franchise that Phoenix currently lacks. He is a perfect fit for the Suns, who need about as much help as any other team in the NBA.
6. New Orleans Pelicans: Anthony Bennett, F, UNLV
The Pelicans are set on forwards and centers, but since Anthony Bennett is a bit small for the small forward, he could play shooting guard New Orleans. In general, the Pelicans will likely take the best non-big man, which I think will be Bennett.
If Greivis Vasquez is gone, New Orleans could play Eric Gordon at the point, if necessary.
7. Sacramento Kings: Shabazz Muhammad, F, UCLA
If the Kings decide to let Tyreke Evans go, they would have a major void in the middle of the court. Shabazz Muhammad is one of the top overall players in this year’s draft class and would be a great solution to Sacramento’s potential problem. He averaged 17.9 points per game with UCLA last season and has a ton of potential.
8. Detroit Pistons: C.J. McCollum, G, Lehigh
Detroit needs to figure out what’s going on with its guard positions, and if the team feels that it needs to improve going forward, C.J. McCollum should be the Pistons’ guy.
He’s a great scorer, something that the Pistons currently lack, as they have just one player averaging more than 15 points per night. McCollum could drop at least 20.
9. Minnesota Timberwolves: Alex Len, C, Maryland
Alex Len can really go anywhere in the top 10 picks, but he won’t get past the Timberwolves at No. 9. With two picks in the first round, it makes a lot more sense for Minnesota to go with a big man here.
Len has a ton of potential and could go as high as the No. 1 pick. He would be great next to Kevin Love on a nightly basis.
10. Portland Trail Blazers: Cody Zeller, C, Indiana
Portland must get someone to play next to LaMarcus Aldridge on the low block. Meyers Leonard clearly isn’t ready to start, as he averaged just 5.5 points and 3.7 rebounds in 17.5 minutes per game as a rookie.
Cody Zeller is a great presence down low who can score and play well defensively. Zeller is a great option.
11. Philadelphia 76ers: Steven Adams, C, Pittsburgh
The Andrew Bynum project never really worked out, but by adding Steven Adams, the 76ers would get a player with just as much talent, although not as much potential.
Philadelphia needs someone who can score—which isn’t Adams at all—but playing great defense next to Spencer Hawes will have to do.
12. Oklahoma City Thunder (via TOR): Giannis Adetokoubo, F, Greece
Giannis Adetokoubo isn’t going to take Kevin Durant’s spot as the starting small forward. But Adetokoubo could be a fine addition to come off the bench.
The Thunder could really use a center, but I think the three centers expected to go toward the back of the top 10 or early in the top 15 will be off the board already.
13. Dallas Mavericks: Michael Carter-Williams, G, Syracuse
The Mavericks need to get younger and also will seek someone that can play guard in the coming years.
While Michael Carter-Williams was a point guard in college, he’s big enough to play the 2 at 6'6". He’s a very good shooter who can come off the bench and score roughly 12-15 points per night as a rookie.
14. Utah Jazz: Shane Larkin, G, Miami
Gordon Hayward will be the shooting guard of the future for Utah, but the player running the point has yet to be found.
It will end up being Shane Larkin if the Jazz land him at No. 14.
He’s one of the top guards in this year’s class, as he shoots very well, is a great passer and is as quick as they come.
15. Milwaukee Bucks: Rudy Gobert, C, France
The Bucks can’t go on much longer without a true big man on the roster. Larry Sanders is not the answer, even though he nearly averaged a double-double this past season.
Rudy Gobert is absolutely enormous, sitting at 7'2" with a 7'9" wingspan. You don’t come across monsters like Gobert too often.
16. Boston Celtics: Mason Plumlee, C, Duke
With the future of Kevin Garnett in Boston in question, the Celtics need to prepare for life after KG no matter what the situation is at the time of the draft. Brandon Bass and Jared Sullinger are good forwards/centers, but Boston needs to add a true center, like Mason Plumlee.
17. Atlanta Hawks: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, G, Georgia
Atlanta enters the draft needing a shooting guard. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has to be their guy, as he’s exactly what the Hawks are looking for.
He’s a great shooter who plays outstanding defense and constantly finds the open man on the floor when he has the ball. He could come in and make a significant impact right away.
18. Atlanta Hawks (via HOU): Allen Crabbe, G, California
While the Hawks also need someone to play small forward, what they really need is someone who can score and play well defensively.
Allen Crabbe isn’t the best defensive player, but he definitely knows how to score—averaging 18.4 points per game last season.
Having depth at the guard positions is a good idea for Atlanta.
19. Cleveland Cavaliers (via LAL): Kelly Olynyk, F, Gonzaga
I like the idea of having three good players on the low block for the Cavs. Having Noel, Tristan Thompson and Kelly Olynyk on the roster would give Cleveland a lot of options on the court, which all would contribute toward scoring a lot of points and playing great defense. The Cavs would have one of the top big-man trios in the NBA.
20. Chicago Bulls: Jamaal Franklin, G, San Diego St.
Chicago could either go with someone to complement Derrick Rose or a prospect who can eventually take over for Joakim Noah. Taking Jamaal Franklin solves the first issue. He isn’t the best shooter in the draft, but he puts points on the board and is a great rebounder for a guard. Last year, he averaged 9.5 boards per game.
21. Utah Jazz: Gorgui Dieng, C, Louisville
The Jazz need two players in this year’s draft: one that’s a guard and another that’s a big man. Since I filled the first need earlier in the first round, taking a center here makes the most sense.
Gorgui Dieng should be available at No. 21, and even though he doesn’t have much of an offensive presence, his defense speaks for itself.
22. Brooklyn Nets: Glen Rice Jr., G, NBA D-League
Glen Rice Jr. has done his time in the D-League and is ready for a chance in the NBA. He was a fine scorer back with Georgia Tech, and Jason Kidd and the Nets need someone other than Joe Johnson that can put points up on the board. Rice would compliment Johnson and Deron Williams very nicely.
23. Indiana Pacers: Dennis Schroeder, G, Germany
Dennis Schroeder might not drop to the Pacers at No. 23, but if he does, Indiana needs to snag him.
If D.J. Augustin decides to test his options on the free-agent market, the Pacers will need another point guard to back up George Hills. Schroeder is still a bit raw, but would be a solid role player off the bench.
24. New York Knicks: Tim Hardaway Jr., G, Michigan
Tim Hardaway Jr., would be a nice replacement for Jason Kidd, who played 27 minutes per game this past year for New York. Hardaway will contribute many more points than the six Kidd did in 2012-13, and he will be a good addition to an improving roster. He can come off the bench and score at least 10 points.
25. Los Angeles Clippers: Jeff Withey, C, Kansas
I’m a big fan of adding Jeff Withey into the mix down low for the Clippers. Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan are obviously the two starting big men, but Los Angeles doesn’t have a clear-cut center who can come off the bench and play a bunch of minutes. Withey would be a fantastic selection for the Clippers.
26. Minnesota Timberwolves (via MEM): Sergey Karasev, G, Russia
Ricky Rubio is clearly the future point guard of the Timberwolves, but who the other guard is a question that’s still left to be answered.
Sergey Karasev can play a couple of positions, and he’s very smart on the floor despite being just 19 years old.
The Russia native may be just as good of a passer as Rubio is.
27. Denver Nuggets: Reggie Bullock, G, UNC
The Nuggets have a bunch of guards on the roster, but which will be with the team going forward is certainly up for debate.
Is Andre Iguodala going to stay for 2013-14? If not, Denver will need to find another scorer to play with Ty Lawson and Wilson Chandler.
Reggie Bullock could end up being that guy.
28. San Antonio Spurs: Pierre Jackson, G, Baylor
The Spurs have had several young players emerge through the postseason, which could alter the team’s strategy at the draft. Gary Neal might be the point guard of the future, but a guy like Pierre Jackson could come off the bench like players such as Cory Joseph and Patty Mills did this past year.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Archie Goodwin, G, Kentucky
Archie Goodwin has a lot of potential and should be an improvement over the other guards that the Thunder currently employ.
He’s very good at moving the ball around the floor and is more of a pass-first player. He can still shoot very well, in the chance that he decides not to pass Kevin Durant the ball.
30. Phoenix Suns (via MIA): Erick Green, G, Virginia Tech
Erick Green is one of the players quickly moving up my draft board, and I think he’ll sneak into the first round, even though he really only has second-round talent.
He is a very good scorer and shooter that I think will contribute nicely off the bench for the Suns.
Phoenix could use another solid guard.