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2013 NBA Mock Draft: First-Round Studs Sure to Shine Immediately

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2013 NBA Mock Draft: First-Round Studs Sure to Shine Immediately
Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

The 2013 NBA draft is one week away, thus leaving the basketball community in nothing short of restless anticipation. Without a single pick being set in stone, however, the NBA world is in a position of uncertainty like nothing else before.

The question is, which first-round draft picks are strong enough to shine immediately?

With all of this uncertainty, there's reason to believe that this year's draft class will underwhelm. With that being said, there are strong prospects in this draft class that have the potential to shine during their first year in the league.

So who are they and where will they go?

 

1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Alex Len, Maryland Terrapins

Position: Center

Age: 19

Height & Weight: 7'1", 225 pounds, 7'4" wingspan

2012-13 Season Averages

24.04 PER, 26.4 MPG, 11.9 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 1.0 APG, 2.1 BPG

 

I go against this with every fiber in my being, as Alex Len simply isn't top-pick material. Not only is he being overrated by coming in as the the most skilled big 5 in a draft with few true centers, but the risk is similar to that of drafting Nerlens Noel.

With that being said, all signs point toward Cleveland taking a gamble.

It doesn't end there.

According to Joe Kotoch of Sheridan Hoops, the Cavaliers are warming up to Len. At this point, it appears as if their top two focuses are selecting Len or drafting Nerlens Noel, which displays a sense of urgency at center.

Zydrunas Ilgauskas could be the reason for this selection.

According to sources, Cleveland has been warming to Alex Len as concerns about Nerlens Noel’s knee and whether he is the best fit longterm alongside Kyrie Irving have increased.

All season long Len has intrigued Cavs executive Zydrunas Ilgauskas with his skills, length, and upside. It appears Ilgauskas may be swaying others in Cleveland to join him on Len’s bandwagon.

Believe it or not, the reports still haven't ended.

Chad Ford of ESPN Insider reports that the Cavaliers are in fact weighing their options and have singled out Len and Noel as their top two candidates. While Ford's sources insist that no decision has been made, this feeds into the previously alluded to reports.

Even if I personally dispute this transpiring, the reports tell a different story.

 

2. Orlando Magic: Ben McLemore, Kansas Jayhawks

Position: Shooting Guard

Age: 20

Height & Weight: 6'5", 189 pounds, 6'8" wingspan

2012-13 Season Averages

24.24 PER, 15.9 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.0 SPG, 42.0% 3PT

 

According to Chad Ford of ESPN Insider, the Orlando Magic are choosing between Ben McLemore, Nerlens Noel and Victor Oladipo. Ford goes on to report that McLemore failed to amaze the Magic at his team workout, thus suggesting that another player could be the pick here.

When it comes right to it, however, McLemore is the best possible fit in Orlando.

I've labeled Victor Oladipo as the best player in this draft class for months on hand, but McLemore is exactly what the Magic need. Not only is he an intriguing athlete, but McLemore possesses the one trait that Orlando needs moving forward.

The man can shoot the basketball.

I see the intrigue with Oladipo, but the Magic are currently led by Maurice Harkless and Tobias Harris—two breakout players that struggle to shoot the three-ball. By adding McLemore to the mix, the Magic can effectively create a trio that can score both inside and out.

Add Nikola Vucevic to the mix and you have quite the strong compilation of talent.

 

3. Washington Wizards: Anthony Bennett, UNLV Rebels

Position: Power Forward

Age: 20

Height & Weight: 6'8", 240 pounds, 7'1" wingspan

2012-13 Season Averages

28.24 PER, 27.1 MPG, 16.1 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 1.0 APG, 1.2 BPG

 

The Washington Wizards have two options here, as small forward Otto Porter and power forward Anthony Bennett make the most sense. Nerlens Noel could be in the running, as well, but the Wizards are a top-10 defense in need of offensive support.

While Porter is being sold short for his upside, the Wizards' franchise player has made it clear what he wants—the team should oblige.

In April of 2013, Wall told Michael Lee of The Washington Post that he wants the Wizards to acquire a power forward that can stretch the defense with their shot. According to Eric Detweiler of The Washington Post, Wall reiterated that desire in June of 2013 when discussing the 2013 NBA draft.

So why should the Wizards listen to Wall? In 2012-13, they were 5-28 when he was sidelined by injury and 24-25 once he returned to the rotation—you placate a player of that magnitude.

Bennett fits the bill here, as his power down low, athleticism in the open court and raw shooting ability breed offensive versatility. Not only can he serve as a pick-and-pop shooter, but he can create his own shot better than most power forwards.

I prefer Porter at No. 3, but when you're the worst team in the NBA without a player and a postseason contender with him, you do what you can to keep him happy.

 

4. Charlotte Bobcats: Nerlens Noel, Kentucky Wildcats

Position: Power Forward

Age: 19

Height & Weight: 7'0", 206 pounds, 7'4" wingspan

2012-13 Season Averages

27.09 PER, 10.5 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 1.6 APG, 4.4 BPG, 2.1 SPG

 

The Charlotte Bobcats need to improve their frontcourt, specifically on the offensive end of the floor. With that being said, Nerlens Noel slipping to No. 4 is unfair to the level of talent and upside this young man possesses.

Finally, the knee surgery catches up to him.

Noel projects to be the best defensive player this draft class produces, which makes him of value to any and every team. Seeing as the Bobcats were 29th in scoring defense and 27th in rebounding, they could certainly use that level of help.

As for those who view Noel as just another project player, think again.

Noel has an unbelievable motor and significantly more polished fundamentals than he's given credit for. No one knows what type of player he'll be after his well-documented knee surgery, but Noel was the star of this draft class before he went down.

Bulking up will be the key, but there's no rationale in labeling him as a bust.

 

5. Phoenix Suns: Otto Porter, Georgetown Hoyas

Position: Small Forward

Age: 20

Height & Weight: 6'9", 198 pounds, 7'2" wingspan

2012-13 Season Averages

27.88 PER, 16.2 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 2.7 APG, 1.8 SPG, 0.9 BPG, 42.2% 3PT

 

The Phoenix Suns have multiple options here, including shooting guard Victor Oladipo and small forward Otto Porter. In this instance, it simply comes down to which player is believed to be the better fit for the organization.

With the NBA community slowly realizing what I've been saying all along—Oladipo is the best player in this draft—you'd think he'd be the easy pick. Not so fast.

New Suns general manager Ryan McDonough comes from the Boston Celtics, where Paul Pierce and Jeff Green are two notable players he oversaw. It just so happens that Porter, for all of the criticism he receives, projects to be a player of a similar mold.

While he may not be an elite athlete, he's skilled in every facet of the game and seems to improve with every performance—sounds like a Celtic.

Talk of Porter having a low ceiling is truly baseless, as he went from an intriguing freshman to a world-class sophomore in the matter of a year. Furthermore, the absence of elite athleticism hardly leads to an inability to improve upon an elite skill set.

Porter will be an All-Star and Phoenix is the best place for him to go as it attempts to forget how much money it sent Michael Beasley's way.

 

6. New Orleans Pelicans: Trey Burke, Michigan Wolverines

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Position: Point Guard

Age: 20

Height & Weight: 6'1", 187 pounds, 6'6" wingspan

2012-13 Season Averages

29.76 PER, 18.6 PPG, 6.7 APG, 3.2 RPG, 1.6 SPG, 38.4% 3PT

 

Trey Burke could go No. 2 to the Orlando Magic, but after that spot, there truly isn't a rational location until No. 6. Fortunately for Burke, the team picking at No. 6 is the New Orleans Pelicans—a team that has a history of success with drafting point guards.

It doesn't hurt that Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson would already be at Burke's disposal.

Burke is the top point guard in this year's draft class, and upon deep evaluation, he possesses every gift of a franchise player. While there may be overblown concerns about his lack of elite athleticism, Burke is your quintessential two-way playmaker.

He turns defense into offense and, with the ball in his hands, there truly is no predicting what Burke is going to do.

As an offensive player, Burke is similar to Chris Paul in the sense that he keeps a tight handle on the ball and slices through defenses by playing angles. While he's not quite as explosive as Paul, he's a dangerous pick-and-roll facilitator with a gorgeous jump shot.

The fact that Burke has the rare clutch gene is intriguing enough to make this selection an easy one for New Orleans—especially since it doesn't want to trade Eric Gordon, thus ruling out Victor Oladipo.

 

7. Sacramento Kings: Victor Oladipo, Indiana Hoosiers

Position: Shooting Guard

Age: 21

Height & Weight: 6'4", 213 pounds, 6'9" wingspan

2012-13 Season Averages

29.09 PER, 28.4 MPG, 13.6 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 2.1 APG, 2.2 SPG

 

The Sacramento Kings are likely to be in the market for a point guard, as they're under new management and appear well-aware of their absence of direction on the court. With that being said, there comes a time when you look at your draft board and say, "How is he still available?"

That's what happens with Victor Oladipo.

As I've said many times before, Oladipo is on top of my draft board and has legitimate superstar upside. Not only is he the top perimeter defender in this year's draft class, but he's a transition weapon and a consistent three-point shooter.

When it comes down to it, Oladipo projects to be the best player in this draft class.

Unfortunately, Oladipo drops this far due to factors out of his control and the Kings hit the absolute jackpot. Not only is Oladipo top-pick material, but his half-court game is significantly more advanced than he's given credit for.

Oladipo should go in the top five, but if he slips, Sacramento will not hesitate to pick him up.

 

8. Detroit Pistons: Michael Carter-Williams, Syracuse Orange

Rob Carr/Getty Images

Position: Point Guard

Age: 21

Height & Weight: 6'6", 184 pounds, 6'7" wingspan

2012-13 Season Averages

21.25 PER, 11.9 PPG, 7.3 APG, 4.9 RPG, 2.8 SPG

 

The Detroit Pistons have no greater void than at point guard, as their potentially elite big man tandem of Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe is facilitated with no direction. Brandon Knight and Rodney Stuckey are strong guards, but they're of a score-first mentality.

Fortunately, Syracuse Orange point guard Michael Carter-Williams is the perfect fit in Detroit.

Carter-Williams possesses elite size for the point guard position at 6'6" and 184 pounds with a 6'7" wingspan. Previously thought to be an off guard, Carter-Williams altered perceptions by proving to be an elite facilitator at 7.3 assists per game.

It doesn't hurt that Carter-Williams is the top defender at his position.

That type of two-way play is what would make Carter-Williams a starter from the opening tip. Detroit truly lacks alternate options and it would behoove the team to pair its point guard of the future with its star bigs as soon as possible.

In this scenario, Carter-Williams could be the leading facilitator and ball hawk amongst all rookies.

 

9. Minnesota Timberwolves: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Georgia Bulldogs

Position: Shooting Guard

Age: 20

Height & Weight: 6'6", 204 pounds, 6'8" wingspan

2012-13 Season Averages

27.62 PER, 18.5 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 1.8 APG, 2.0 SPG, 37.3% 3PT

 

The Minnesota Timberwolves have a strong core with the likes of point guard Ricky Rubio and power forward Kevin Love. Unfortunately, the T-Wolves lack the one breed of player that has proven to matter more now than ever before.

Shooters.

During the 2012-13 NBA regular season, Minnesota shot a league-worst 30.5 percent from three-point range. With an abundance of lead guards and a shortage of true off guards, that makes landing the 2 of its future the top priority for Minnesota.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is a fine player to gamble on.

Caldwell-Pope is a safe pick, possessing shooting ability that should translate to the next level. He's also a capable ball-handler with defensive upside, as the reigning SEC Player of the Year is one of the draft's top rebounders and a high-quality defender.

In Minnesota, it's hard to imagine it will take a long time for Caldwell-Pope to see the floor.

 

10. Portland Trail Blazers: C.J. McCollumLehigh Mountain Hawks

Position: Guard

Age: 21

Height & Weight: 6'3", 197 pounds, 6'6" wingspan

2012-13 Season Averages

33.95 PER, 23.9 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 2.9 APG, 1.4 SPG, 51.6% 3PT

 

The Portland Trail Blazers have the type of starting lineup that will compete for a postseason position for years to come. Unfortunately, they have a second unit that could hold back any caliber squad, as they ranked dead last in bench scoring during the 2012-13 regular season.

C.J. McCollum could provide an instant fix.

McCollum is a high-caliber scorer that can create off of the bounce or work off screens to find open looks along the perimeter. Most importantly, McCollum can play the lead guard in a pinch and create for others.

That type of dynamic offensive force is what Portland needs to help Will Barton and Meyers Leonard come into their own along the second unit.

McCollum appears to be an NBA-ready player, as his pure shooting ability is amongst the best in this draft class. With that being said, he is an undersized off guard and he hasn't played competitive basketball since Jan. 5.

If you had to gamble, however, McCollum would be a safe bet to be an effective rookie.


11. Philadelphia 76ers: Cody Zeller, Indiana Hoosiers 

Position: Power Forward

Age: 20

Height & Weight: 7'0", 230 pounds, 6'11" wingspan

2012-13 Season Averages

33.95 PER, 16.5 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 1.3 APG, 1.3 BPG, 1.0 SPG

 

The Philadelphia 76ers are one of the top defensive teams in the NBA, ranking ninth in scoring defense. Unfortunately, the Sixers are just as putrid offensively as they are solid defensively, ranking dead last in scoring offense.

Cody Zeller is the perfect candidate to step in and make a strong impact.

Zeller is viewed as a player with a low ceiling, but there truly is no grounds for that form of evaluation. He proved to be the most explosive athlete amongst all big men at the 2013 scouting combine, which oftentimes leads to players competing for the first overall draft choice.

Call Zeller's under-appreciation the NBA community's form of selective reasoning.

Zeller is one of the best offensive players in this draft class, pairing a very strong mid-range game with the ability to back his man down. He's also capable of putting the ball on the floor and has displayed three-point range in recent workouts.

Standing in at 7'0" and possessing elite athleticism would make any other player intriguing—for some reason, we're undervaluing just how good Zeller can be.

 

12. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Raptors): Steven Adams, Pittsburgh Panthers

Position: Center

Age: 19

Height & Weight: 7'0", 255 pounds, 7'5" wingspan

2012-13 Season Averages

22.59 PER, 23.4 MPG, 7.2 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 2.0 BPG

 

The Oklahoma City Thunder have multiple options at this stage of the draft, as they could go with an upside pick or address their absence of a franchise center. Fortunately for OKC, they kill two birds with one stone here.

Pittsburgh Panthers center Steven Adams has the body of an NBA center and the upside to become a true franchise centerpiece.

At 19, Adams is more of a project player than one who would contribute from the opening tip. With that being said, he stands at 7'0" and 255 pounds with a 7'5" wingspan and possesses intriguing touch around the basket.

As an aggressive rebounder and talented shot-blocker, the bust talk truly doesn't have a place here.

There's a chance that Adams becomes nothing more than a defensive weapon, but there is reason for the Thunder to be intrigued by his offensive potential. Not only does he have the body to work out of the post, but he has displayed the ability to finish around the basket.

With the Thunder possessing two first-round draft choices, gambling here is safer than it seems.

 

13. Cleveland Cavaliers (via Mavericks): Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA Bruins

Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Cavaliers Receive: No. 13 Pick, Vince Carter ($3,180,000)

Mavericks Receive: No. 19 Pick, C.J. Miles ($2,225,000)

Position: Guard/Forward

Age: 20

Height & Weight: 6'6", 220 pounds, 6'11" wingspan

2012-13 Season Averages

21.99 PER, 17.9 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 37.7% 3PT

 

According to Chad Ford of ESPN Insider, the Dallas Mavericks are all but certain to trade down come draft night. Their reasoning here is that the Mavericks are looking to free up cap space as they attempt to pursue a high-profile free agent.

It just so happens that the Cleveland Cavaliers are picking at No. 19 and have the pieces Dallas would prefer to trade back.

The Cavaliers use this pick to address their void at small forward, taking a calculated risk on Shabazz Muhammad. Seeing as Muhammad has the upside of a top five draft choice and is still available at No. 13, the risk is far from grand.

With news that they're targeting Alex Len, taking the best player available at No. 13 is the only rational move.

Muhammad has an NBA frame, standing at 6'6" and 220 pounds with a 6'11" wingspan. As a scorer, he attacks well off of the bounce and has a reliable stroke off of the catch.

With Cleveland also receiving sharpshooter Vince Carter, it could become a dark horse postseason contender should its squad remain healthy.

 

14. Utah Jazz: Dennis Schroeder, Germany

Position: Point Guard

Age: 19

Height & Weight: 6'2", 165 pounds, 6'8" wingspan

2012-13 Season Averages

N/A

 

The Utah Jazz would love to land a franchise point guard with either their No. 14 or No. 21 overall draft choices. While waiting until No. 21 could be a possibility, the Jazz are likely to display a sense of urgency without a lottery lock available.

For that reason, Utah will not hesitate to select Dennis Schroeder out of Germany.

Schroeder has an excellent build for a point guard at 6'2" with a 6'8" wingspan, which has some comparing him to Rajon Rondo. In terms of his playing style, however, Schroeder is quite similar to Ty Lawson.

He has blazing speed in the open court, a paralyzing hesitation move and impressive touch around the basket.

With this pick, the Jazz can feel comfortable investing in their future, as Schroeder is only 19. By pairing him with power forward Derrick Favors, center Enes Kanter and swingman Gordon Hayward, Utah could create its core for the future.

A gamble worth taking.

 

15. Milwaukee Bucks: Sergey Karasev, Russia

Position: Shooting Guard

Age: 19

Height & Weight: 6'7", 197 pounds, 6'9" wingspan

2012-13 Season Averages

N/A

 

The Milwaukee Bucks have voids across the perimeter, as their top two guards are free agents and they've yet to find an answer at small forward. While drafting at No. 15 is hardly a guarantee when it comes to finding your star of the future, they luck out here.

Sergey Karasev is rocketing up draft boards and Milwaukee is the perfect place for him to land.

Karasev is a strong ball-handler that can take his man off of the bounce or work off of screens to create open looks. While his pure shooting ability is overrated, he does have the upside to be an elite jump shooter.

At 19, there's certainly time for him to reach that potential.

For a Bucks team that has nothing short of uncertainty moving forward, finding a skilled wing to complement its explosive interior is a key. Not only can Karasev serve as a crafty scorer, but his ability to run the pick-and-roll is intriguing for a team that has invested in Larry Sanders and John Henson.

The Bucks are wide open at No. 15, but Karasev makes the most sense.

 

16. Boston Celtics: Gorgui Dieng, Louisville Cardinals 

Position: Center

Age: 23

Height & Weight: 6'11", 230 pounds, 7'4" wingspan

2012-13 Season Averages

23.60 PER, 9.8 PPG, 9.4 RPG, 2.0 APG, 2.5 BPG, 1.3 SPG

 

The Boston Celtics have been involved in trade talks to send Kevin Garnett to the Los Angeles Clippers in exchange for DeAndre Jordan and draft choices. Even if they are to call the deal off, one thing is clear.

Boston is well-aware of its need for a rim protector.

Garnett remains one of the better low-post defenders in the game, but at 37, there isn't much explosiveness left in his legs. This left the Celtics without the shot-blocking presence that Garnett had been in the past, with Brandon Bass and Jared Sullinger doing little to help in that regard.

There are players higher on the average draft board, but no player fits what Boston needs better than Gorgui Dieng.

Dieng is an elite shot-blocking prospect, using his 7'4" wingspan and explosive leaping ability to protect the rim from all attempts inside of the paint. Dieng can also step out to blitz the pick-and-roll and displays the ability to defend the pick-and-roll.

With the ever-important ability to rebound—something Boston struggles to do—Dieng could be the answer in Boston.

 

17. Atlanta Hawks: Jamaal Franklin, San Diego State Aztecs

Position: Shooting Guard

Age: 21

Height & Weight: 6'5", 191 pounds, 6'11" wingspan

2012-13 Season Averages

23.87 PER, 17.0 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 3.3 APG, 1.6 SPG, 0.8 BPG

 

The Atlanta Hawks are under a new head coach, as long-time San Antonio Spurs assistant Mike Budenholzer makes the transition to the Eastern Conference. With back-to-back selections, that presents the Hawks with the opportunity to build in the manner Budenholzer envisions.

After witnessing Kawhi Leonard's transformation into one of the NBA's rising stars, Budenholzer will set his sights on another San Diego State product.

Jamaal Franklin is one of the most versatile players in the nation, which fits into what the Hawks need most. With the likes of Al Horford and Lou Williams in place, Franklin would fit in both as a defender and transition threat on offense.

As for how versatile Franklin is, he led San Diego State—an NCAA tournament squad—in scoring, rebounding, assists and steals per game.

On top of being a dynamic player, Franklin is one of the most explosive athletes in recent memory. Not only can he explode for highlight reel dunks, but Franklin is able to get into passing lanes and crash the boards at a higher rate than most perimeter players.

Sounds like Leonard, doesn't it?

 

18. Atlanta Hawks (via Rockets): Giannis Antetokounmpo, Greece

Position: Point Forward

Age: 18

Height & Weight: 6'9" & 215 pounds

2012-13 Season Averages

N/A

 

The Atlanta Hawks have back-to-back first-round draft choices, which gives them the versatility to take a gamble. The Hawks do just that at No. 18, as they look overseas for a big man that could serve as their interior presence of the future.

With Rudy Gobert steadily falling down draft boards and Giannis Antetokounmpo rising, the Greek point forward gets the nod here.

Antetokounmpo is easily the most overrated player in this draft class, as fans have fallen in love with his YouTube highlights without knowing the truth about his game. NBA general managers, meanwhile, are gaining interest due to his breakout performances against a low level of competition in Europe.

According to Chad Ford of ESPN Insider, however, Antetokounmpo "won't get past the Hawks."

This is yet another selection that I cannot endorse, but it's also one that needs little explanation. Not only can Antetokounmpo play as a point forward, but he has excellent size and handles the ball well.

There's little rhyme or reason to selecting Antetokounmpo in the first round, but the reports are what they are.

 

19. Dallas Mavericks (via Cavaliers): Shane Larkin, Miami Hurricanes

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Cavaliers Receive: No. 13 Pick, Vince Carter ($3,180,000)

Mavericks Receive: No. 19 Pick, C.J. Miles ($2,225,000)

Position: Point Guard

Age: 20

Height & Weight: 6'0", 171 pounds, 5'11" wingspan

2012-13 Season Averages

22.40 PER, 14.5 PPG, 4.6 APG, 3.8 RPG, 2.0 SPG, 40.6% 3PT

 

The Dallas Mavericks traded down to create cap space as they look to target a big name in free agency. At No. 19, however, they will make an actual selection.

That pick goes to Shane Larkin out of Miami.

The Mavericks need a franchise point guard, and even if Larkin fails to reach that potential, he's still a solid option. Not only is he dynamic offensively, but Larkin is one of the top perimeter defenders in the nation.

With explosive athleticism and active hands, Larkin could make an immediate impact defensively.

On the offensive end of the floor, Larkin pairs an automatic jump shot with the ability to run the pick-and-roll. For a Mavericks team that still runs its offense through Dirk Nowitzki, finding a player to run the perimeter is critical during the forthcoming offseason.

Even if they are to acquire a point guard via free agency, the Mavericks need to get younger and create depth at the position—Larkin could help either as a reserve or future starter.

 

20. Chicago Bulls: Kelly Olynyk, Gonzaga Bulldogs

Position: Power Forward/Center

Age: 22

Height & Weight: 7'0", 234 pounds, 6'10" wingspan

2012-13 Season Averages

36.57 PER, 26.4 MPG, 17.8 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 1.7 APG, 1.1 BPG

 

The Chicago Bulls need depth at center and a shooter that can provide an offensive spark coming off of the bench. Fortunately for general manager Gar Forman, there is a big man that can provide both of those contributions.

Gonzaga star and supremely efficient big man Kelly Olynyk.

Olynyk is a two-way player that gives an unquestioned effort, proving to have one of the most revered motors in all of college basketball. Not only does this enable Olynyk to win the hustle plays, but it creates scoring opportunities.

Since Omer Asik signed with the Houston Rockets, the Bulls have experienced a void in terms of that type of opportunistic play.

The difference between Olynyk and Asik is that the Gonzaga star is, arguably, the most skilled offensive big man in the draft. Not only does he have a very strong jump shot, but he thrives in the open court and has developed his post game.

The Bulls could go for a shooter, but the value is too tremendous here.

 

21. Utah Jazz (via Warriors): Reggie Bullock, North Carolina Tar Heels

Position: Guard/Forward

Age: 22

Height & Weight: 6'7", 200 pounds, 6'9" wingspan

2012-13 Season Averages

24.13 PER, 13.9 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 2.9 APG, 1.3 SPG, 43.6% 3PT

 

The Utah Jazz landed Dennis Schroeder at No. 14, thus investing in their future at the point guard position. At No. 21, they target what's next on their list of needs by bringing in one of the top shooters in the nation.

North Carolina swingman Reggie Bullock.

Bullock fits what the Jazz need most, as he's the type of consistent three-point shooter that could complement Gordon Hayward in the long term. Not only does he have a quick release with excellent form, but Bullock stands at 6'7" with a 6'9" wingspan.

Rising over defenders simply is not an issue.

Beyond his shooting, Bullock crashes the boards well for his position and displays defensive upside. Offensively, he handles the ball and facilitates at a strong level for his position.

There is significant upside here, with the best case comparison being Brooklyn Nets shooting guard Joe Johnson.

 

22. Brooklyn Nets: Mason Plumlee, Duke Blue Devils

Position: Power Forward/Center

Age: 23

Height & Weight: 7'0", 238 pounds, 6'11" wingspan

2012-13 Season Averages

26.48 PER, 17.1 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 1.9 APG, 1.4 BPG, 1.0 SPG

 

The Brooklyn Nets have one of the best paper rosters in the NBA, with stars and depth at virtually every position. If there's one area on their roster that they could stand to improve, however, it's at power forward.

Reggie Evans can rebound and center Brook Lopez can score, but neither have combined the two traits—it's time to find a player who can.

Mason Plumlee may not be viewed as a star, but he doesn't need to make an All-NBA team to be effective. Not only is he one of the better athletes in this draft class, but he stands at 7'0" and scores both in the half court and in transition.

Paired with the ability to rebound and pass out of the post, Plumlee could be an all-around contributor on a postseason team.

At worst, Plumlee is a skilled big man that the Nets can use in a second-unit role for years to come. At best, he pans out as a starter and pairs his explosiveness with his fundamentals to become a tough defensive assignment.

Plumlee could go as many as 10 picks higher, so at No. 22, this is a steal.

 

23. Indiana Pacers: Rudy Gobert, France

Position: Power Forward

Age: 20

Height & Weight: 7'2", 238 pounds, 7'9" wingspan

2012-13 Season Averages

N/A

 

The Indiana Pacers are a team with an elite starting lineup and a growing history of postseason success. While there is no question that the Pacers need a point guard that can run the show, it's hard to imagine Indiana using the 23rd overall draft choice to fill that void.

Instead, the Pacers will likely target the best player available.

Rudy Gobert has risk written all over him, as the only thing going for him at this stage is size and length. He didn't test as well as some expected from an athletic standpoint and his overall game is unpolished, to say the least.

With that being said, he's a 20-year-old power forward that stands at 7'2" with a 7'9" wingspan—that's what you call intrigue.

The Pacers make this move based off of their long-term need at power forward and their flexibility due to their current core of players. With most of their damage set to be done via free agency, the draft is a place where Indiana can target the future.

Gobert certainly fits the bill for a player the Pacers like to have on their team—long and full of energy.

 

24. New York Knicks: Ricardo Ledo, Providence Friars

Position: Shooting Guard

Age: 20

Height & Weight: 6'6", 197 pounds, 6'7" wingspan

2012-13 Season Averages

N/A

 

According to Marc Berman of The New York Post, New York Knicks small forward Carmelo Anthony wants the team to add another scorer. This comes after J.R. Smith faltered during the postseason, 'Melo stepped up and the Knicks were eliminated during the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Who better to add than one of the best pure scorers in this draft class?

Ricardo Ledo may have sat out the entire 2012-13 college basketball season, but had he played, he would have been a lottery pick. Not only does he have an excellent build, but he handles the ball well and projects to be an elite jump shooter.

All in all, Ledo has the upside to be a player similar to Smith—the 2013 Sixth Man of the Year.

This pick has become all but a necessity due to the retirement of Jason Kidd, as the Knicks lack the ball-handling shooter that expanded their offense in 2012-13. Seeing as New York fell apart at the first hint of Smith's disappearance, it's fair to say that finding a player to light up the scoreboard is a key.

For a Knicks team with just one player under 27, the 20-year-old Ledo is the best case scenario.

 

25. Los Angeles Clippers: Allen Crabbe, California Golden Bears

Position: Shooting Guard

Age: 21

Height & Weight: 6'6", 197 pounds, 6'11" wingspan

2012-13 Season Averages

23.07 PER, 18.4 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 2.6 APG, 1.1 SPG

 

The Los Angeles Clippers need two specific breeds of players, as they currently lack three-point shooters and a low-post threat. With Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan both making significant strides in the latter form, expect L.A. to target a shooter.

Local product Allen Crabbe certainly fits the bill.

Crabbe has an NBA body at 6'6" with a 6'11" wingspan, which aids L.A. in drafting a true shooting guard. Not only will this help it place size on the floor defensively, but it will open things up offensively, as well.

Crabbe's ability to shoot the basketball is the key in that sense.

Crabbe can handle the ball and create his own shot or distribute the basketball. With that being said, his greatest strength is his ability to score, as he can shoot from any distance on the floor.

That's something L.A. desperately needs if it''s going to become a legitimate title contender.

 

26. Minnesota Timberwolves (via Grizzlies): Lucas Nogueira, Brazil

Position: Center

Age: 20

Height & Weight: 6'11", 218 pounds, 7'6" wingspan

2012-13 Season Averages

N/A

 

The Minnesota Timberwolves found their starting shooting guard earlier in this draft, landing Kentavious Caldwell-Pope out of Georgia. With its second of two first-round draft choices, Minnesota must now address its void in the middle.

There are players that could make a more immediate impact, but no one remaining in this draft has as much upside as Lucas Nogueira out of Brazil.

The T-Wolves may re-sign Nikola Pekovic, but even if they do, there is a glaring void when it comes to protecting the rim. Neither Pekovic nor Kevin Love thrive on that end, which makes this selection all the more critical.

Nogueira has the upside to be one of the league's top shot-blockers, and that makes this pick something of a steal.

Unlike many other international players in this draft class, Nogueira has been playing against an elite brand of European competition. In his time with Asefa Estudiantes, Nogueira has improved his motor, work ethic and two-way fundamentals.

The 6'11" center with a 7'6" wingspan is now one of the top shot-blockers in the world.

 

27. Denver Nuggets: Glen Rice Jr., NBA D-League

Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Position: Guard/Forward

Age: 22

Height & Weight: 6'6", 211 pounds, 6'9" wingspan

2012-13 Season Averages

N/A

 

The Denver Nuggets have an opportunity to make a splash at No. 27, selecting NBA D-League product Glen Rice Jr. While this may not be the sexy pick, it's the one that addresses two of Denver's greatest needs.

The Nuggets can't shoot the three and they haven't yet grasped the importance of defense—Rice Jr. can help in both areas.

A case could be made that Rice Jr. is the best perimeter defender in this draft outside of Victor Oladipo and Otto Porter. Not only is he a supreme athlete, but he stands at 6'6" and 211 pounds with a 6'9" wingspan.

Regardless of which perimeter position he plays, Rice Jr. can use his quickness and build to make an impact.

Offensively, Rice Jr. is a menace in the open court, which suggests that he could fit seamlessly into Denver's style of play. Most important of all, however, is the fact that he's a consistent three-point shooter.

That's something Denver simply doesn't have right now.


28. San Antonio Spurs: Jeff Withey, Kansas Jayhawks

Position: Center

Age: 23

Height & Weight: 7'0", 222 pounds, 7'2" wingspan

2012-13 Season Averages

27.23 PER, 13.7 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 3.9 BPG

 

The San Antonio Spurs could go in a variety of directions here, as they're an aging team with the personnel to contend. For that reason, they could go for an instant fix or find one of their usual draft-and-stash players.

This may go against what the Spurs often choose to do, but their interior defense is in need of an upgrade.

Jeff Withey out of Kansas is an experienced player that appears to be as NBA-ready as any in this draft class. While he could stand to bulk up, Withey uses his length, footwork and anticipation to block shots at an elite rate.

Having that type of player on the floor when Tim Duncan is resting would be an extraordinary boost to San Antonio's second unit.

As it presently stands, the Spurs turn to Tiago Splitter and Boris Diaw for those duties. For perspective, the two combined for an average of 1.2 blocks per game.

Withey should block more than that as a rookie.

 

29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Mike MuscalaBucknell Bison

Position: Center

Age: 21

Height & Weight: 6'11", 230 pounds, 7'1" wingspan

2012-13 Season Averages

36.34 PER, 18.7 PPG, 11.1 RPG, 2.3 APG, 2.4 BPG

 

Regardless of what the Oklahoma City Thunder do at No. 12, it's hard to imagine their passing over Mike Muscala at No. 29. Not only is Muscala a skilled big man, but he's a two-way force that is NBA-ready.

Seeing as they opted to go with more of a project player in Stephen Adams, finding a player that can provide 15-to-20 minutes at the center spot is important.

Kendrick Perkins is one of the top defensive players in the NBA, but offensively, he's all but irrelevant. That has never been more apparent than in Oklahoma City's up-tempo offense, as it thrives on pushing the pace and creating open looks in transition.

Unfortunately, the Thunder lack a low-post presence on the offensive end of the floor—Muscala can change that.

The former Bucknell star works well out of the post, finishing with both hands and displaying a strong hook shot. While facing up, Muscala has range out to the three-point range with a smooth jump shot.

Muscala is also one of the top rebounders and shot-blockers in this draft class, which suggests his two-way ability could help him carve out an immediate role in Oklahoma City.


30. Phoenix Suns (via Cavs, from Lakers): Tim Hardaway Jr., Michigan Wolverines

Position: Shooting Guard

Age: 21

Height & Weight: 6'6", 199 pounds, 6'7" wingspan

2012-13 Season Averages

18.05 PER, 14.5 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 2.4 APG, 37.4% 3PT

 

The Phoenix Suns made a difficult decision earlier in this draft, addressing their perimeter by going with Otto Porter. While that pick may have a positive impact on their near and distant future, they still have a void to fill at shooting guard.

Enter Tim Hardaway Jr.

Hardaway Jr. is not the star that some fans have attempted to make him, but he projects to be a consistent rotational option. Not only has he drastically improved his jump shot, but Hardaway Jr. became a significantly better ball handler during his junior season.

Those are two traits Phoenix could certainly use.

Hardaway Jr. has the potential of a Sixth Man of the Year candidate, as he can score in bunches. With defensive potential that hinges upon his focus level, there's also the possibility that Hardaway Jr. enters a starting lineup.

Nothing is certain, but Hardaway Jr. has a safe skill set that he can rely upon for NBA success—it's all about developin

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