The 2013 NBA draft is shaping up to be completely and utterly unpredictable.
Typically, in the days leading up to the draft, there's at least some consensus about the top few picks.
This year? Not so much.
Injuries to a handful of the top players, including Nerlens Noel, Anthony Bennett and Alex Len, have the teams with top-five picks scrambling. The Cleveland Cavaliers have been "aggressively shopping" the No. 1 pick, according to Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix, but "have completely overvalued it," said one team executive.
The lack of definitive order at the top will have a trickle-down effect throughout the rest of the first round. While conventional wisdom says the Cavaliers will ultimately draft Noel with that top pick, a curveball like Len, Bennett or Otto Porter could throw the entire draft into immediate chaos.
That leaves the potential for teams reaching on prospects nearing an all-time high.
Here, let's assume that Noel, Bennett, Len, Porter, Ben McLemore and Victor Oladipo are the top six picks (in some order). Starting with the Sacramento Kings at No. 7 overall, let's look at the five players likely to be the biggest draft-night reaches.
Michael Carter-Williams, PG, Syracuse Orange
On paper, a 6'6" sophomore point guard coming off a Final Four season sounds like a can't-miss prospect.
In practice, Michael Carter-Williams still has plenty of room to grow as a player before fulfilling the promise of being a mid-lottery pick.
On the plus side, his size should allow him to play either the 1 or the 2 in the NBA. MCW also possesses great court vision, which, combined with his height, makes him a potentially lethal point guard prospect.
To play the 2, however, he'll need to vastly improve his shooting efficiency. After knocking down seven of his 18 three-point tries as a freshman (nearly 39 percent), his three-point percentage as a sophomore dropped considerably (29 percent) as he began attempting more shots from downtown.
Carter-Williams is also good for at least a few head-scratching turnovers per game, which he'll need to cut down on if he hopes to become a longtime starting point guard in the league. He turned the ball over on 28 percent of his pick-and-roll possessions as a sophomore, according to DraftExpress, which just won't get it done in today's pick-and-roll-dependent NBA.
There's no question that Carter-Williams is teeming with potential if he can refine his jumper and decision-making abilities. With Tyreke Evans scheduled to hit restricted free agency on July 1, the Sacramento Kings may well decide to abandon ship on the Evans experiment and move to a younger, cheaper version of a player with many of the same faults.
Prediction: Drafted No. 7 overall by the Sacramento Kings
Shabazz Muhammad, SF, UCLA Bruins
Shabazz Muhammad entered his freshman season at UCLA as a presumed top-five pick in 2013.
Despite a litany of troubles over the past 12 months, some lottery team is virtually guaranteed to ignore the red flags and draft Muhammad higher than he should go.
The NCAA suspended him for three games early in the season due to impermissible benefits, but that shouldn't be considered a major ding against him. The NCAA fired Abigail Grantstein, the lead investigator in the Muhammad case, after reports surfaced about her potential prejudice playing a role in the decision to suspend him.
The main concern, instead, should be that the Los Angeles Times revealed in March that Muhammad was actually 20 years old, not 19. Up until that point, UCLA and media sources had listed him as the latter.
That revelation immediately sparked greater scrutiny of Muhammad, as his dominance in high school suddenly appeared much less impressive than it once did. His rather one-dimensional season at UCLA didn't help, as he began to look like a player who won't provide an NBA team much more than scoring.
Assuming he continues to develop the other aspects of his game beyond his scoring ability, he could well end up being a steal if he falls out of the lottery. He's got serious bust potential as a top-10 pick, however.
Given how desperately the Detroit Pistons need a scorer and a small forward capable of tying his own two shoes, don't be surprised if they end up being the ones who reach for Muhammad on draft night.
Prediction: Drafted No. 8 overall by the Detroit Pistons
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG, Georgia Bulldogs
If there's one thing the Minnesota Timberwolves need to find this offseason, it's reliable shooters. The T-Wolves ranked dead last in the NBA during the 2012-13 season in terms of three-point shooting percentage (.305), which can partially be attributed to an onslaught of injuries to their best snipers.
That's going to make Kentavious Caldwell-Pope awfully difficult to pass up with the No. 9 pick, especially if Shabazz Muhammad is already off the board.
After knocking down just over 30 percent of his 214 three-point attempts as a freshman, Caldwell-Pope began living up to his reputation as a deadly shooter during his sophomore year with the Georgia Bulldogs. He drained 84 of his 225 three-point tries in the 2012-13 season (37.3 percent) while averaging over 18 points per game.
While a number of scouts told ESPN.com's Chad Ford that they saw Caldwell-Pope as a second-round pick earlier this spring (subscription required), he's been soaring up draft boards since the end of the 2012-13 season. The Timberwolves are reportedly "enamored" with Caldwell-Pope, according to Ford, after having a great workout in Minnesota.
It's always dangerous for teams to put too much stock into one workout, however. Drafting based on need instead of choosing the best player available also often tends to be a losing proposition, as those BPA prospects could always be flipped later for other assets.
If Carter-Williams goes seventh in the draft and Muhammad goes eighth, Trey Burke would still be on the board when the Timberwolves' pick rolls around. While Ricky Rubio's presence on the roster gives Minnesota no immediate need for a point guard, the T-Wolves would have to ignore the best-player-available strategy to choose Caldwell-Pope over Burke.
Prediction: Drafted No. 9 overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves
Kelly Olynyk, C, Gonzaga Bulldogs
With the No. 12 overall pick, the Oklahoma City Thunder will likely face a conundrum: go with an established big man like Kelly Olynyk or opt for someone who's more of a project, such as Steven Adams?
While Adams has been shooting up teams' draft boards in recent weeks, the Thunder ultimately may prefer to opt for a "safer" player like Olynyk. He has a much lower ceiling than Adams, but a considerably higher floor too.
The Gonzaga Bulldog exploded onto the scene as a junior in 2012-13 after failing to make much of an impact as a freshman or sophomore. After averaging only 5.8 points and 3.8 rebounds per game as a sophomore during the 2010-11 season, Olynyk opted to redshirt the next year to work on his game while maintaining an extra year of eligibility.
That decision ended up proving wise for the seven-footer, as he began bulking up and refining his ability to score in the post. When he came back for the 2012-13 season, Olynyk wasn't simply glued to the three-point line as he was during his first two seasons in college. He averaged 17.8 points and 7.3 rebounds per game for the 32-3 Bulldogs, demonstrating an ability to score from anywhere on the floor.
His strength and rebounding ability remain a concern for any team that hopes to slot him as a 5, but at this point in the draft process, he's more projected to be a stretch 4 in the NBA.
With Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka locked up long term, however, the Thunder have the luxury of waiting and developing a prospect who's more rough around the edges than Olynyk. Adams could end up being a significantly better fit as Kendrick Perkins' heir apparent in Oklahoma City, but the Thunder's win-now mentality and their experience with big-man draft busts could sway the the team toward Olynyk instead.
Prediction: Drafted No. 12 overall by the Oklahoma City Thunder
Shane Larkin, PG, Miami Hurricanes
Once you get into the middle of the first round in the 2013 NBA draft, there will be no shortage of relatively similar options from which teams will be forced to choose. They'll all have their respective warts; it's up to each team to determine how detrimental those warts could become.
For Shane Larkin, his diminutive frame (5'11", 170 pounds, with a 5'10.75" wingspan) will be his biggest bugaboo on draft night.
While Chris Paul and Ty Lawson come to mind as two six-feet-or-shorter point guards who have been able to carve out a stable niche in the NBA, Larkin will likely have a much tougher time doing so. That lack of size will make him a major liability on defense, which means he'll need to be paired with a stellar shot-blocking big man to have any chance of staying on the court for 30-plus minutes per night.
On the bright side, he proved fully capable of anchoring a high-level offense during his sophomore season with the Miami Hurricanes. He averaged 14.5 points, 4.6 assists and 3.8 rebounds per game for the 'Canes in 2012-13 while shooting nearly 48 percent from the field and over 40 percent from three-point range.
According to DraftExpress, Larkin produced more combined points on pick-and-rolls (for himself and his teammates) than any other draft prospect, averaging 14.3 points per game in such situations. His scoring ability will do him wonders in the league, as teams won't be able to dare him to beat them with his jumper while packing the paint.
With the Milwaukee Bucks facing the potential loss of both members of their starting backcourt from 2012-13 (Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis), they'll need to think small in the draft. At this point, it's just a question of whether replacing an undersized backcourt with an even smaller point guard is the right way to go for Milwaukee.
Prediction: Drafted No. 15 overall by the Milwaukee Bucks