NBA Mock Draft 2013: Highlighting the Surest Bets of Round One
When it comes to the NBA draft, there are teams that take risks and teams that like to play things a little more close to the vest. In the 2013 draft, we're sure to see a little bit of both.
The Cleveland Cavaliers will be the first to make their decision. Choosing Kentucky center Nerlens Noel would certainly be a risk. Even though USA Today has reported that Noel's knee injury won't affect his draft stock, the fact remains that he tore his ACL after 24 games at Kentucky and doesn't have the bulk to be considered a sure thing in the post.
However, Noel isn't indicative of every player in the 2013 draft class. There's still plenty of talent for teams to pick up that doesn't involve taking a huge risk.
Here's a look at every projected selection in this year's draft with a closer look at the surest bets to be successful on an NBA team. Note that safe picks in italics.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: C Nerlens Noel, Kentucky
The Cavaliers' brass has shown in the past that it isn't afraid to take risks. People often forget the risk that went with drafting Kyrie Irving in 2011 with the No. 1 selection because of his success since joining the Cavs, but the Duke point guard only played 11 games in a Blue Devils jersey because of injuries.
The Cavaliers took him over "safer" options and that worked out well. The Cavs also reached for Tristan Thompson at No. 4 in the same draft, and he nearly averaged a double-double this season.
This time the Cavs take a risk at No. 1 once again in Noel and hope that they find the anchor of their defense for years to come. Noel averaged 4.4 blocks per game at Kentucky.
2. Orlando Magic: SG Victor Oladipo, Indiana
The Magic are in a nice position at No. 2. Some may want to see them roll the dice on athletic scorer Ben McLemore out of Kansas, but Oladipo is one of the safest bets in the class.
At 6'4" and 213 pounds, Oladipo has the bulk to hold up throughout an NBA season, and his physical style of defense should translate to the NBA game right away. He wasn't the most explosive scorer in college, averaging 13.6 points on 59.9 percent shooting in his final season as a Hoosier, but his on-ball defense was elite and he averaged 2.2 steals.
Oladipo would step up right away and become the Magic's best perimeter defender. His offensive game may take a while to get off the ground, but his defense means that he won't be a bust.
3. Washington Wizards: SF Otto Porter, Georgetown
Porter is among the safest picks in the draft for the same reason that Oladipo is—his defense. At 6'8" Porter has the length to guard the bigger small forwards in the league and could even take on smaller fours in a pinch.
He isn't the most prolific shooter, but after working on his form, he did improve his three-point shooting from 22.6 to 42.2 percent from his freshman to sophomore seasons.
Throw in the fact that he also snagged 7.5 rebounds per game and Porter is a complete player who will at least find his way into an NBA rotation. In a class that is devoid of superstars, that's as safe as it gets.
4. Charlotte Bobcats: C Alex Len, Maryland
The Bobcats are a team that started Byron Mullens at center this season. Len comes into the draft with some red flags of his own—he can't work out for teams after surgery for a stress fracture put him out for a few months.
However, Jiimmy Smith of the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports that the Cavs are "likely" to take Len at No. 1 overall. While rumors are to be taken with a grain of salt at this time of year, it's a testament to his ability that the Cavs would even consider it.
The Bobcats wouldn't pass up on a skilled big man to take over for Mullens at center.
5. Phoenix Suns: SG Ben McLemore, Kansas
Poor Goran Doric was called upon to be everything for the Suns offensively last season. The point guard led them in points with 14.7 per game and assists with 7.4. The Suns had no true second scoring option, as Luis Scola was that man with 12.8 points per game.
That will change the second McLemore hits the court. The Jayhawks guard averaged 15.9 points per game on 49.5 percent shooting in his freshman season at Kansas. He's a near-perfect fit for the Suns.
6. New Orleans Pelicans: SF/PF Anthony Bennett, UNLV
The Pelicans have a promising young lineup with Anthony Davis and Eric Gordon in place, but the small forward position is still an area of need.
Bennett is an explosive athlete who can play in the post when needed. Obviously on a roster that has Davis, he wouldn't need to do that often, but a small-ball lineup with Bennett at power forward and Davis at center would be a good change of pace.
7. Sacramento Kings: PG Michael Carter-Williams, Syracuse
As ESPN.com's Chad Ford points out, things are going to start getting pretty unpredictable after the top six.
Like I said, there's zero consensus in draft after 1st 6 guys - Noel, Oladipo, Porter, McLemore, Len & Bennett. Wide-open after that ...— Chad Ford (@chadfordinsider) June 19, 2013
Every team values different qualities and their personnel boards will play a big role in who gets taken where. The first example of that could be Michael Carter-Williams being picked over Trey Burke at No. 7.
The Kings already have point guards Tyreke Evans and Isaiah Thomas, but neither helped in the two areas that Sacramento has lacked—defense and ball movement. Thomas averaged just 4.0 assists while Evans was more of a scoring guard.
Carter-Williams would instantly give them better defense at the position and is the pass-first point that the team needs to change its culture.
8. Detroit Pistons: PG Trey Burke, Michigan
Burke was one of college basketball's biggest stars last season, thanks to a magical run in the NCAA tournament. His court vision and ability to get in the lane made him a star at Michigan where he averaged over 18 points.
However, the thing that makes him among the surest bets in this draft class is his ability to take care of the ball.
Burke has the ability to be a superstar if he can overcome his size issues (6'1"), but the one thing he'll offer an NBA team is a point guard who can take care of the ball. He averaged just 2.2 turnovers to his 6.7 assists last season.
Even if Burke doesn't pan out as a superstar, his floor is still high as a backup point guard for the Pistons.
9. Minnesota Timberwolves: SG/PG C.J. McCollum, Lehigh
The Timberwolves are just one more piece away from having one of the best young cores in the league. Kevin Love is a bonafide star. Ricky Rubio provides excitement at the point guard position and Nikola Pekovic emerged as a promising young center last season.
What they lack right now is a player who can light up the scoreboard. Fortunately for them, that's exactly what McCollum can do.
The Lehigh guard shot 52 percent from three-point range last season and averaged 19.1 points in all four of his years in school. He's a dynamic playmaker who will give NBA defenses headaches for years to come.
Playing alongside Rubio may be a transition at first, but the success that the Golden State Warriors had with Stephen Curry and Jarrett Jack in the same backcourt give the T'Wolves a blueprint for success.
10. Portland Trail Blazers: SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Georgia
The Blazers found their point guard of the future in last year's draft in Damian Lillard. Now they need to go out and get him the weapons he needs to succeed.
That's Caldwell-Pope, the dynamic swingman who averaged 18.5 points for the Bulldogs last season.
He's a long-range sniper who can also hold his own on the defensive end of the floor. Playing alongside Lillard would set him up with plenty of opportunities to shine.
11. Philadelphia 76ers: PF Cody Zeller, Indiana
Without Andrew Bynum, the 76ers were left with little to nothing in the post. Spencer Hawes is a serviceable center, but offers little in the way of scoring and can't anchor the paint on his own.
Enter Zeller, an atheltic big who averaged more than 16 points and eight rebounds last season. The Sixers would be finding a perfect fit of need and value here.
12. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Toronto): Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA
Shabazz Muhammad is one of the most controversial prospects in this draft.
On one hand, he's an electric scorer, capable of putting points on the board in a hurry. On the other hand, he has been criticized for his selfish play and isn't the most efficient guy on the floor.
All things considered, Oklahoma City is his ideal landing spot. The Thunder are going to be looking for a player who can contribute right away and Muhammad is a good candidate to be a scorer off the bench.
A lefty who can come in and score in waves off the bench? That should sound familiar to Thunder fans. Comparing Muhammad to James Harden may be a little bit of hyperbole, but he could play as well, or better, than Kevin Martin.
13. Dallas Mavericks: PG Dennis Schroeder, Germany
ESPN's Chad Ford has reported that the Mavericks are looking to trade this pick to clear cap space. However, if they can't do find a partner, they'll be looking to take the best international prospect available.
With Dario Saric reportedly opting to forego the draft, that's Schroeder. As ESPN's Fran Franschilla tweets, he may have a little bit of Rajon Rondo in his game. After another year in Europe, the Mavs certainly wouldn't mind adding a player like that to the fold.
14. Utah Jazz: PG Shane Larkin, Miami
Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap form a great tandem down low for the Jazz. They've invested early picks in the past with Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors to back them up, too. This time, they look to add the point guard of the future in Larkin.
He's a lightning-quick point guard with the handles to limit turnovers. Mo Williams and Randy Foye have already shown what they can do, Larkin gives the Jazz a new and exciting option running the show.
15. Milwaukee Bucks: SG Jamaal Franklin, San Diego State
With USA Today reporting that Monta Ellis will be opting out of his contract, the Bucks all of a sudden have a huge hole at shooting guard. Fortunately for them, Franklin is one of the safest picks in the middle of the first round.
While extra years in college sometimes hurts a player's stock, the fact that Franklin has averaged at least 16.9 points for the Aztecs last season shows that he is consistent.
His 9.5 rebounds per game showed that he isn't afraid to mix things up in the paint either. That athleticism and consistency makes him a perfect candidate to thrive in the NBA. Franklin will be a contributor right away.
16. Boston Celtics: C Steven Adams, Pittsburgh
Danny Ainge should be tripping over his own feet to get this pick in if Adams is still on the board for the Celtics. Boston is clearly in transition mode with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett aging, but the Celtics will need a cornerstone center regardless.
Adams could go as high as the top-10 and it wouldn't be a surprise. The Celtics would be getting a good value here.
17. Atlanta Hawks: SG/SF Sergey Karasev, Russia
Outside of Josh Smith, the Hawks had very few options that score on the perimeter. Karasev can play both positions on the wing and has the court vision and passing skills to be a valuable facilitator. That's certainly a more dynamic option than Kyle Korver.
18. Atlanta Hawks (from Houston via Brooklyn): PF Tony Mitchell, North Texas
According to Jeff Schultz and Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Constitution-Journal, there's a good chance that the Hawks are looking to replace Josh Smith. Mitchell is a power forward with the explosive athleticism of a small forward.
He needs to develop a better mid-range game to maximize his effectiveness, but his upside as a rebounder and athlete make him an enticing option and the ideal replacement for Smith.
19. Cleveland Cavaliers (from Los Angeles): SG/SF Glenn Rice, Jr., NBA D-League
If the Cavs go with Noel first, they'll need to secure someone who can play right away on the wing. It's the one glaring weakness in the lineup without a long-term solution. Glenn Rice Jr. has been phenomenal in the D-league and should continue his maturation with Cleveland.
20. Chicago Bulls: C Gorgui Dieng, Louisville
Two things are always welcome on an NBA bench—hustle and defense. Dieng provides both. Fans and GM's love to get caught up in upside this late into the first round, but Dieng is a reliable option off the bench with experience in anchoring a high-caliber defense at Louisville.
The Bulls should take Dieng and continue to boast one of the toughest teams in the league.
21. Utah Jazz (from Golden State via Brooklyn): SG Ricardo Ledo, Providence
Ricardo Ledo, who was the No. 6 prospect in college basketball recruiting, but wasn't eligible to play for Providence last season. However, that hasn't stopped him from rising up team's draft boards. Here the Jazz get a high-ceiling player to develop on the wing alongside Larkin.
22. Brooklyn Nets: PF Rudy Gobert, France
Brook Lopez needs a long-term solution at the four position. Gobert is 7'2" with good athleticism and could be the perfect running mate.
23. Indiana Pacers: C Mason Plumlee, Duke
The Pacers would really benefit from a backup point guard at this point, but there's simply none that fit the bill. Plumlee is probably the best player on the board. He's a polished seven-footer who could slide to the four to play alongside Hibbert when necessary.
24. New York Knicks: C Lucas Nogueira, Brazil
The Tyson Chandler of old isn't going to walk through that door anytime soon. The Knicks have few options behind him and desperately need that anchor on defense to balance out their strong offense. Nogueira won't be able to do that already, but has the athleticism and shot-blocking to take over the role eventually.
25. Los Angeles Clippers: C Jeff Withey, Kansas
The Clippers' No. 1 need this offseason (besides bringing back Chris Paul) is toughness. The Clippers were bullied by the Grizzlies in the playoffs and were led in rebounds by DeAndre Jordan at 6.3 per game last season. Withey, a gutsy, hustle player who averaged 3.9 blocks last season is a perfect talent/need fit late in the first round for the Clippers.
26. Minnesota Timberwolves (from Memphis via Houston): SF Giannis Adetokunbo, Greece
The T'Wolves have shown in the past that they love to draft European players. Adetokunbo could be the next in line. He has the size to defend big threes in the NBA, and the handles to play a point forward role on offense. It may take a few years for him to develop, but his offensive versatility will be an asset.
27. Denver Nuggets: SG Tim Hardaway, Jr., Michigan
Andre Iguodala is opting out of his contract, according to ESPN. That leaves the Nuggets with a hole to fill at shooting guard. Hardaway Jr. is an excellent slasher and averaged right around 14.0 points in each of his three years at Michigan. He won't be Iguodala right away, but he should give the Nuggets a spark off the bench.
28. San Antonio Spurs: PF/C Mike Muscala, Bucknell
Contrary to popular belief Tim Duncan won't be around forever (although he's making it seem like he might). Muscala is as polished a scorer in the low post as there is in this class, as he averaged 18.7 points last season. If he can take some pointers from Duncan, he'll be a valuable asset to the team for years to come.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: SG Alex Abrines, Spain
Finding a prospect who can come in and play important minutes for the Thunder will be a difficult task at this juncture for the Thunder. Here, they take a draft-and-stash guard in Abrines. It won't pay off in the immediate future, but he could be the answer off the bench if Muhammad fails to impress.
30. Phoenix Suns (from Miami via L.A. and Cleveland): SF Tony Snell, New Mexico
The Suns continue to build their perimeter. Snell is an impressive combination of a player with an improving three-point shot (39.5 percent), athleticism and defense. He plays like a poor man's Kawhi Leonard and would challenge for rotational minutes right away.
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