The 2013 NBA draft is just a few days away—Thursday at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN—and the excitement around the annual event has basketball fans everywhere at a fever pitch.
Every team picking in the first round has a need to fill on draft day, and these are the best prospect-to-team fits to look for on Thursday.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Alex Len, C, Maryland
There is no question that Nerlens Noel is still a serious option here at No. 1, but the Cleveland Cavaliers will be looking to draft with upside in mind when they take Maryland center Alex Len with the expectation that he will blossom into a dominant force at both ends of the floor.
2. Orlando Magic: Trey Burke, PG, Michigan
The Orlando Magic need a bona fide point guard who can run the offense by making smart passes and taking open shots when they present themselves. With Michigan star Trey Burke having the court vision and basketball IQ to lead an NBA team, this is a safe pick at No. 2.
3. Washington Wizards: Nerlens Noel, C, Kentucky
The Washington Wizards have a roster full of talented young players, and while Kentucky center Nerlens Noel is overcoming a serious knee surgery, his value is too great for a team building for the long haul to pass up at No. 3.
4. Charlotte Bobcats: Victor Oladipo, SG, Indiana
The Charlotte Bobcats need to draft the best player available to continue the rebuilding process, and when the shuffle at the top of the draft causes Indiana shooting guard Victor Oladipo to fall to No. 4 overall, the franchise will have the leader it has been lacking.
5. Phoenix Suns: Ben McLemore, SG, Kansas
The Phoenix Suns haven’t had a dangerous offensive weapon on the outside since Steven Nash signed in Los Angeles, but with the chance to take a potential NBA-level star in the top five with Kansas shooting guard Ben McLemore, the opportunity is too great to pass on.
6. New Orleans Pelicans: Otto Porter, SF, Georgetown
As one of the most highly touted prospects in the 2013 draft class, Georgetown’s Otto Porter is the best utility player coming out this year and is as talented in the offensive zone as he is defending his own basket. Add in the ability and size to play both forward positions, and Porter is an ideal fit for a New Orleans Pelicans team lacking serious depth.
7. Sacramento Kings: Anthony Bennett, PF/SF, UNLV
The Sacramento Kings have plenty of talented young players on their roster, but they need an on- and off-court leader like forward Anthony Bennett who will help keep all the diverse personalities on the team focused on the same goal: winning games.
8. Detroit Pistons: Michael Carter-Williams, PG, Syracuse
Syracuse point guard Michael Carter-Williams has a lot of growing to do before he is a viable threat at the NBA level, but with the Detroit Pistons in the process of a long-term rebuild, adding a promising prospect that can blossom over time is the smart move for the franchise.
9. Minnesota Timberwolves: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG, Georgia
The Minnesota Timberwolves have one of the most promising point guards in the league with Ricky Rubio, and adding a lights-out sniper like Georgia shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope would only make the already dangerous backcourt even more deadly.
10. Portland Trail Blazers: C.J. McCollum, PG/SG, Lehigh
The Portland Trail Blazers are a team predicated on hard work and each player taking responsibilities for their offensive and defensive assignments. While there are several viable options at No. 10, Lehigh guard C.J. McCollum is the kind of blue-collar player the franchise needs.
11. Philadelphia 76ers: Cody Zeller, PF/C, Indiana
The Andrew Bynum experiment was a complete failure this year, and there is a chance the big man never suits up and plays a game for the Philadelphia 76ers. While Indiana center Cody Zeller is a rough prospect who needs work, he has the attitude and work ethic to be a perfect fit in Philly.
12. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Toronto Raptors): Steven Adams, C, Pittsburgh
The Oklahoma City Thunder had to deal with Russell Westbrook going down with a knee injury this postseason, but their biggest flaw exposed in the playoffs was the need for toughness in the paint. With the chance to select a gritty post player like Pittsburgh’s Steven Adams, the Thunder will be on their way to redemption.
13. Dallas Mavericks: Giannis Antetokounmpo, SF, Greece
If the Dallas Mavericks pick at No. 13 and don’t trade the selection, the franchise will take the best European player on the board who needs time to develop across the Atlantic. With the desire to make a serious splash in free agency, expect Dallas to divert as much salary as possible.
14. Utah Jazz: Shane Larkin, PG, Miami
The Utah Jazz have lacked an elite point guard since Deron Williams left Utah for Brooklyn, but with a talented star like Miami’s Shane Larkin still available at No. 14 overall, the Jazz will find the offensive leader they have lacked.
15. Milwaukee Bucks: Kelly Olynyk, PF, Gonzaga
The Milwaukee Bucks have several key needs—the likely departure of Monta Ellis will leave a serious void at shooting guard—but with a talented two-way big man like Gonzaga’s Kelly Olynyk there at No. 15, this will be an easy pick for the smaller Bucks.
16. Boston Celtics: Shabazz Muhammad, SF, UCLA
The Boston Celtics already have one of the best passing point guards in the NBA in Rajon Rondo, and with UCLA small forward Shabazz Muhammad better suited as a shooting guard at the next level, the Boston Celtics would be an ideal fit for a player who struggles to find his own shots.
17. Atlanta Hawks: Mason Plumlee, PF/C, Duke
There is a chance that power forward Josh Smith walks away this year via free agency, and with the future in mind, the Atlanta Hawks will look for another big man in Duke center/forward Mason Plumlee as the possible answer.
18. Atlanta Hawks (via Houston Rockets): Jamaal Franklin, SG, San Diego State
The Atlanta Hawks were exposed for the team’s lack of depth at guard last year during the postseason when injuries were rampant, and selecting a long-term solution like San Diego State’s Jamaal Franklin is the right move at No. 18.
19. Cleveland Cavaliers (via Los Angeles Lakers): Sergey Karasev, SF, Russia
The Cleveland Cavaliers love Russian small forward Sergey Karasev and will do whatever it takes to draft him, and that includes reportedly trading up to No. 13 overall with the Dallas Mavericks to get him.
20. Chicago Bulls: Tim Hardaway Jr., SG, Michigan
The Chicago Bulls have looked for an elite shooting guard to pair with Derrick Rose in the backcourt for the last three years. If Michigan standout Tim Hardaway Jr. is there at No. 20, the franchise will have the compliment it has been searching for.
21. Utah Jazz (via Golden State Warriors): Jeff Withey, C, Kansas
With veteran Al Jefferson possibly leaving via free agency this offseason, the need for another center is one of the team’s top priorities heading into the draft. When Kansas center Jeff Withey falls to No. 21, the Jazz will snag the rough prospect and develop him into a blue-collar workhorse.
22. Brooklyn Nets: Gorgui Dieng, C, Louisville
The Brooklyn Nets need another big man to couple with Brook Lopez. While the franchise would love to throw its hat in the mix for Dwight Howard in free agency, they will have to draft Louisville center Gorgui Dieng because the team will not have the money to make a splash this offseason.
23. Indiana Pacers: Tony Mitchell, PF, North Texas
The Indiana Pacers proved that the team is one of the most underrated groups in the NBA when they took the Miami Heat to their limit, and adding a player with as much grit and toughness as North Texas power forward Tony Mitchell—not to mention an ability to defend and score with the best of them—will only make the future brighter in Indiana.
24. New York Knicks: Dennis Schroeder, PG, Germany
The New York Knicks need serious depth at the guard positions, and while German point guard Dennis Schroeder is still a very rough prospect, the franchise will be able to afford him the chance to grow as a player with a role off the bench.
25. Los Angeles Clippers: Nate Wolters, PG/SG, South Dakota State
The Los Angeles Clippers already have one of the most talented point guards in the entire league in Chris Paul, but with a player who has as much basketball smarts as South Dakota State’s Nate Wolters, the franchise would be wise to continue adding fundamentally sound players.
26. Minnesota Timberwolves (via Memphis Grizzlies): Rudy Gobert, C, France
The need in the low post for the Minnesota Timberwolves is obvious every time a player comes darting through the lane for an easy basket, and adding a prospect with as much upside as French center Rudy Gobert is the right pick.
27. Denver Nuggets: Alex Abrines, SG, Spain
The Denver Nuggets will be going through a few years of transition as they begin to infuse the roster with new talent, and with that in mind, the franchise will select Spanish shooting guard Alex Abrines and stash him away in Europe until he is ready to debut.
28. San Antonio Spurs: Ricky Ledo, SG, Providence
After losing in the NBA Finals to the Heat, the San Antonio Spurs need to take a hard look at the makeup of the roster and realize a player like Manu Ginobili is at the end of his career. Selecting a talented shooting guard like Providence’s Ricky Ledo is the smart move for the future of the team.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Lucas Nogueira, C, Brazil
The Oklahoma City Thunder were exposed in the postseason for the team’s lack of depth in the low post, and when international prospect Lucas Nogueira falls all the way to No. 29, the franchise will take the Brazilian big man with long-term intentions.
30. Phoenix Suns (via Miami Heat): Glen Rice Jr., SG, D-League
While there is baggage that comes with shooting guard Glen Rice Jr. after getting kicked off the Georgia Tech basketball team, there is no denying how dominant he was in the D-League last year. At No. 30, the Phoenix Suns couldn’t ask for a better player.
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