Not every big name in this year’s draft class is guaranteed to be a star.
There are several top prospects who have the potential to join the likes of Sam Bowie, Darko Milicic and Greg Oden, among others. For those who don’t know, those three players were supposed to have great careers and, after being selecting by teams with top picks, they didn’t amount to anything.
Busts are very common and there are bound to be at least 10 within the first round of every draft. Throughout the entire draft, there are plenty of prospects who never pan out. It’s just the nature of the game.
So, which names should teams be on the lookout for at this year’s draft?
Here is a prediction of next Thursday’s first round, with an in-depth look at the prospects who come to the draft with the potential of being a big bust attached to them.
*Italicized draft picks are those who have huge bust potential entering the draft.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Alex Len, C, Maryland
Alex Len doesn’t have nearly the same amount of risk that Nerlens Noel does entering the draft. That’s just one reason why the Cavaliers may end up selecting him with the No. 1 pick in the draft. Jimmy Smith of the Times-Picayune reports that Len is now the likely choice:
The No. 1 pick in the draft is always under the most scrutiny. You don’t usually hear people talking about how the No. 8 pick was a huge bust. It’s nearly always the No. 1 selection. What if Len turns into Andrea Bargnani or Greg Oden instead of LeBron James or Dwight Howard?
But there’s also a large chance that Len turns out to be a bust because he’s been injured for the last few months. He suffered from a stress fracture in his ankle, but anticipates to be cleared for training camp, according to Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer. If Len doesn’t play well post-injury, Cleveland won’t be happy.
2. Orlando Magic: Ben McLemore, G, Kansas
The Magic need to take the top player on the board while taking into consideration how much risk that prospect has. Ben McLemore is a safe pick at No. 2. He’ll contribute immediately in the starting lineup, likely as the shooting guard. He could easily be the team’s top scorer in 2013-14.
3. Washington Wizards: Nerlens Noel, C, Kentucky
While many believe that Nerlens Noel could go No. 1—I agree that he could—but taking Len is much safer. A stress fracture is less to be concerned about compared to a torn ACL, which Noel suffered in February. Smith reports that Noel believes his NBA debut will come around Christmas.
We’ve seen many players come back from torn ACLs and have various successes. Some have rebounded nicely, while others, well, not so nicely. While Noel was an incredible talent in college, there’s no way to determine whether he’ll be just as effective once taking the floor in the NBA.
If Len goes first, then Noel should end up going third to Washington. The Wizards need an impact big man and will be willing to take on the risk associated with the center. Washington is all set at its guard positions and will select the best forward or center available. That will be Noel.
4. Charlotte Bobcats: Victor Oladipo, G, Indiana
Victor Oladipo is going to get to play for Michael Jordan’s team. That’s pretty cool. Charlotte is set at point guard with Kemba Walker, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is at small forward. The Bobcats need to find a good shooting guard in this year’s draft and Oladipo is definitely their guy. Charlotte would then have a good backcourt.
5. Phoenix Suns: Trey Burke, G, Michigan
The Suns are doomed if they don’t take the best player on the board at No. 5. The team lacks serious talent at nearly every position. With an abundance of ball-handlers toward the top, Trey Burke should be an easily choice. He’ll take Goran Dragic’s spot at the point and instantly be the best player on the team.
6. New Orleans Pelicans: Anthony Bennett, F, UNLV
Anthony Bennett is hoping that his production in college is enough to get him selected with one of the first picks in the draft. That’s because he hasn’t been able to work out with prospective organizations after undergoing surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff, according to Michael Lee of the Washington Post.
As Lee writes, Bennett has been limited to doing interviews. Bennett thought that he was just sleeping on his shoulder wrong and that’s why it started to bother him during the season. He expects that he should be able to take the court in August and hopes to be back even sooner, per Lee.
While Bennett was a good rebounder at UNLV, he’s valuable because he knows how to score. He shot 53.3 percent from the field and 37.5 percent from downtown. If his rotator cuff eventually restricts his accuracy, that will definitely become an issue.
The team taking him will basically enter the draft blind about his future.
7. Sacramento Kings: Otto Porter, Jr., F, Georgetown
While Otto Porter, Jr. is one of the top players in the class and could go No. 1, he will fall a few spots to the Kings at No. 7. He still has No. 1 talent, though. Sacramento could use someone other than John Salmons in the starting lineup. He could also help fill the void on the scoreboard if Tyreke Evans goes elsewhere.
8. Detroit Pistons: C.J. McCollum, G, Lehigh
Detroit may lose both its point guards, Jose Calderon and Will Bynum, in free agency this summer and the Pistons need to ensure that they have guy in place just in case that happens. McCollum will provide a ton of scoring and should play well alongside of Brandon Knight. He should be able to help turn the franchise around.
9. Minnesota Timberwolves: Shabazz Muhammad, F, UCLA
Shabazz Muhammad would be a good fit with the Timberwolves. I wrote why the other day, but here’s why: Minnesota needs a scorer to play small forward. Not many players on the roster can put up 20 points per night outside of Kevin Love, who’s not always healthy. Muhammad is more than capable of doing that.
10. Portland Trailblazers: Steven Adams, C, Pittsburgh
Steven Adams will be J.J. Hickson’s replacement. Hickson is a free agent this summer, and by selecting Adams, Portland wouldn’t need to worry about re-signing him to a large contract. Adding Adams to a frontcourt of Nicolas Batum and LaMarcus Aldridge is a smart idea that’s bound to pay immediate dividends.
11. Philadelphia 76ers: Cody Zeller, C, Indiana
The 76ers could go in a variety of directions with their top pick in the draft. Cody Zeller would be ready to start in the NBA, but Philly has Spencer Hawes and Thaddeus Young. Zeller could take Young’s spot, but that seems unlikely since he’s played well. Zeller could be the guy after Hawes hits the market following next season.
12. Oklahoma City Thunder (via TOR): Giannis Adetokunbo, F, Greece
The Thunder should start planning for life after Kendrick Perkins. While Perkins is a good option at center now, there’s no question that Serge Ibaka is the future big man. Then, Oklahoma City could use a pair of forwards—obviously Kevin Durant would be one of them. Giannis Adetokunbo needs some development, but could be other.
13. Dallas Mavericks: Shane Larkin, G, Miami
While the Mavs might not hang on to this pick, Shane Larkin is the type of player who may cause Dallas to have a change of heart. Darren Collison is a restricted free agent, and if Dallas feels that he’s going to sign an offer sheet that is too large to match, Larkin is the obviously pick. The Mavs need to play the safe card at No. 13.
14. Utah Jazz: Michael Carter-Williams, G, Syracuse
Both of Utah’s staring guards from last year are going to hit the free-agent market and Michael Carter-Williams would relieve some of the pressure to fill the voids. In fact, Gordon Hayward is the only starter virtually guaranteed to be back. Carter-Williams would be a nice fit with the Jazz as the starting point guard.
15. Milwaukee Bucks: Rudy Gobert, C, France
Rudy Gobert is one of the top international prospects in this year’s draft class. He could end up being a bust while never taking the court for an NBA team. But, how? Well, for one, there’s no guarantee that Gobert plays a game in the United States after getting drafted.
International prospects have the opportunity to stay overseas if they or their team wants. American prospects don’t really have that option. The point is: Not all prospects come to the NBA right away. Ricky Rubio didn’t come to the Minnesota Timberwolves for a few seasons after they took him in 2009.
The other main issue is that it’s tough to project how Gobert will translate to the NBA. While Gobert is a big guy, he’s far from a lock to be productive after taking the court in America. He might end up being just as good, but the talent in France isn’t the same as the talent that’s here. That could be a cause for concern.
16. Boston Celtics: Mason Plumlee, C, Duke
The Celtics are going to be forced to start rebuilding. They could end up needing a new coach and a starting small forward and big man. Brandon Bass and Jared Sullinger should be a good tandem down low, but it’d be better with someone like Mason Plumlee in the mix. He’s a piece Boston could build around.
17. Atlanta Hawks: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, G, Georgia
Devin Harris might not be back in 2013-14 and that means Atlanta will need a starting shooting guard. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is the perfect guard to fill that potential void. He’s an elite shooter who can make a shot from nearly any spot on the floor. He is a no-brainer if he’s still on the board at No. 17.
18. Atlanta Hawks (via HOU): Allen Crabbe, G, California
Back-to-back guards? Yes, that’s what the Hawks should do. There’s a very real chance that Atlanta loses a ton of talent to free agency. Atlanta has nine players who could sign elsewhere this summer and the Hawks only have the opportunity to match two of the contracts. There could be a void at both guard positions.
19. Cleveland Cavaliers (via LAL): Kelly Olynyk, F, Gonzaga
If Len isn’t able to play to start the year, Kelly Olynyk would be a good person to have on the roster. Tristan Thompson would play center and Cleveland could slot Olynyk in at power forward. When Len returns, Olynyk becomes the first big man off the bench. He could be an early candidate for Sixth Man of the Year.
20. Chicago Bulls: Jamaal Franklin, G, San Diego St.
The Bulls will need a good backup guard to play behind Derrick Rose next season. Nate Robinson, who played a big role with Chicago this past season, is an unrestricted free agent. Aside from him, the Bulls don’t have a clear-cut backup point guard. Jamaal Franklin is more of a shooting guard but did play the point a lot at San Diego State.
21. Utah Jazz: Gorgui Dieng, C, Louisville
The Jazz could be in a bunch of trouble if they fail to bring Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson back. Utah should take a big man just in case those two decide to sign elsewhere this summer. Gorgui Dieng seems to make the most sense. He needs to work on his offensive game, but, in general, is a good option down low.
22. Brooklyn Nets: Glen Rice, Jr., G, NBA D-League
Glen Rice, Jr. will likely be the only prospect in this year’s class to get drafted despite not playing in college or overseas this past season. Rice, as many know, hopes to get drafted out of the NBA D-League. He was kicked off of the Georgia Tech team and has played in the D-League ever since.
Rice averaged 13.0 points and 6.2 rebounds per game this past season in the D-League and will hope that his play there and in college, and his personality will get him drafted. Rice was an average guard back in college, and while he’s been good since, he isn’t going up against the top talent in the nation.
Rice has been playing against players who didn’t get drafted or those who just aren’t good enough for the NBA but hope to be in the future. Rice will likely get the chance at an NBA roster spot in the coming months but all eyes will be looking to see how smooth the transition is.
Can a D-League player make an impact at the next level?
23. Indiana Pacers: Dennis Schroeder, G, Germany
The Pacers would have no need to bring D.J. Augustin back to Indiana if they end up taking Dennis Schroeder with the 23rd pick in the draft. Schroeder would be a nice addition to a Pacers team that has a lot of future promise. He would likely back up George Hill at the point and Paul George at shooting guard.
24. New York Knicks: Tim Hardaway, Jr., G, Michigan
For the first time in a while, we’ll hear the New York faithful cheering when the Knicks make their first-round draft pick. Tim Hardaway, Jr. is a well-known player, who will immediately make an impact in New York. Jason Kidd is gone and J.R. Smith might be too. The Knicks will need help at the guard positions.
25. Los Angeles Clippers: Jeff Withey, C, Kansas
The Clippers probably aren’t going to end up with Kevin Garnett on their roster for next season. That likely means that Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan will again be starters on the low block in Los Angeles. Jeff Withey would be the perfect backup option for the Clippers behind those two stars.
26. Minnesota Timberwolves (via MEM): Reggie Bullock, G, UNC
Depending on who stays and who goes this offseason, the Timberwolves will need a lot of help. If Minnesota can’t land Muhammad or a guard with its first pick, expect the Timberwolves to take a guard here. Bullock is a good shooter who could compete for the starting job at shooting guard.
27. Denver Nuggets: Sergey Karasev, G, Russia
There’s a chance that Sergey Karasev doesn’t come over to play in the NBA next season. Denver should be willing to take that chance. The Nuggets already have Ty Lawson and Evan Fournier—and Corey Brewer too, if he re-signs. If Karasev stays in Russia for a while, it’s not the end of the world for Denver.
28. San Antonio Spurs: Pierre Jackson, G, Baylor
The Spurs might not have Gary Neal on the roster next year and that’ll mean that they'll need someone to back up Tony Parker. Parker is getting extremely worn down and injuries may become more prevalent. Pierre Jackson played well at Baylor and would do wonders after being Parker’s understudy.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Archie Goodwin, G, Kentucky
Archie Goodwin needs to add a bit of strength but should be a solid backup guard for the first few years of his career. He can back up Kevin Martin and Russell Westbrook while he continues to develop. He has the potential to be a starter in the future, primarily because he’s a fantastic shooter.
30. Phoenix Suns (via MIA): Ricardo Ledo, G, Providence
The Suns will need another guard, whether they take one with their lottery pick or not. Ricky Ledo has been rising up the boards in the last few days even though he never played a game at Providence. Ledo played at four different high schools in five years and the NCAA ruled him ineligible for the 2012-13 season.