The 2013 NBA draft boards are getting finalized as we inch closer and closer to the moment when David Stern steps up to the podium and reveals who the Cleveland Cavaliers are selecting at No. 1.
It's a bit strange that we aren't sure what name will come out of the commissioner's mouth quite yet, as the top selection is normally predetermined well before the actual proceedings. But hey, it adds a bit of mystery and intrigue to an otherwise uninspiring draft class.
Even though this crop of players entering the NBA is admittedly weak, the 60 players who will be selected are still the future of the Association. Some of them will become stars and high-quality starters. Others will inevitably flame out and find jobs outside of basketball or start playing in lesser leagues.
It's all about identifying which player falls into which category, and that's what teams are now scrambling to finalize at the last minute.
Keep your fingers crossed that your favorite team knows what it's doing.
Vitals: 7'1", 255 pounds
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 11.9 points, 7.8 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 0.2 steals, 2.1 blocks
Even with his stress fracture preventing him from working his way up the draft boards, Alex Len has risen up into the No. 1 spot on many big boards. That's due to his interview skills and Nerlens Noel's injury.
Len may not be the most talented prospect in this class, but he has plenty of size and long-term upside. Down the road, he could put his seven-foot frame to good use on both ends of the court.
A Len-Tristan Thompson frontcourt could be a dangerous one in a couple years.
Vitals: 7'0", 206 pounds
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 10.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 2.1 steals, 4.4 blocks
The Orlando Magic don't need to draft for need at No. 2, or else they'd be taking Trey Burke to shore up the point guard position. Instead, they can draft the player they feel has the most talent.
That narrows it down to Nerlens Noel and Ben McLemore, and Noel has actually had the benefit of sitting out workouts. While he's done so, the Kansas shooting guard has struggled to perform up to his standards, and he's fallen down accordingly.
The Magic have Nikola Vucevic on the roster already, but Noel brings an element of shot-blocking prowess to a franchise utterly devoid of any talent in that department.
Vitals: 6'9", 198 pounds
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 16.2 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.8 steals, 0.9 blocks
This pick seems like it's been locked in for a while now.
Otto Porter provides the Washington Wizards with exactly what they need: a forward capable of spreading the floor and easing the scoring burden that currently rests on the shoulders of John Wall and Bradley Beal.
He has a well-rounded game that allows him to contribute both offensively and defensively, and the lanky arms will help him both disrupt passing lanes and get his own shot off just about anywhere on the court.
If you thought he was a good scorer at Geogetown, just wait until you see what he could do with Wall creating for him.
Vitals: 6'5", 189 pounds
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 15.9 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.7 blocks
If Ben McLemore falls to No. 4, the Charlotte Bobcats shouldn't even hesitate before taking him off the board.
The Kansas shooting guard is the No. 1 talent in this draft class, even if the teams drafting ahead of the Bobcats are falling in love with the centers. He has top-notch two-way potential, displaying great defensive instincts while showing off a jumper that reminds just about everyone of Ray Allen.
McLemore would be a near lock for Rookie of the Year on the Bobcats, simply because he'd be the best player on the roster and could immediately take on the go-to scoring role.
Vitals: 6'4", 213 pounds
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 13.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 2.2 steals, 0.8 blocks
The Phoenix Suns need a wing player who can help shore up the defense while putting up points. That makes Victor Oladipo the logical choice, as he's the last player occupying the upper tier of wing players.
Oladipo is viewed by some as the most talented player in this class—I'm not as convinced—simply because his offense should translate. His aggressiveness attacking the rim is praiseworthy, and it will serve him well as he becomes a slasher in the NBA. Oladipo also has a nice jumper, but we need to see a bit more consistency in that area after only one season showing off the improvement.
The Indiana product's true value lies on the defensive end, though, as he seems to be just about guaranteed of future All-Defense selections.
Vitals: 6'1", 187 pounds
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 18.6 points, 3.2 rebounds, 6.6 assists, 1.6 steals, 0.5 blocks
Trey Burke is just too much to pass up at No. 6.
The New Orleans Pelicans need a small forward or center above all else, but there are none worth reaching for this early in the draft-day proceedings. There's a chance they could trade down on draft day, although the class is so weak that such a move seems unlikely.
Instead, the Pelicans should draft the best floor general in this draft class and shift Greivis Vasquez over to an off-guard role. His passing skills would be negated, but Vasquez does have the size and game to thrive at shooting guard. He's done so in limited action already.
Vitals: 6'7", 239 pounds
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 16.1 points, 8.1 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 0.7 steals, 1.2 blocks
The rebounding potential of an Anthony Bennett-DeMarcus Cousins frontline is incredible. Both players are strong as oxen, and if the new management and coaching staff can convince the duo to work hard on a consistent basis, they'd be virtually unstoppable.
While the Sacramento Kings would probably like for Trey Burke to fall to them at No. 7, Bennett isn't a bad Plan B.
The undersized forward is an athletic specimen, and he already has an arsenal of moves, both of the face-up and back-to-the-basket variety, that is quite advanced for a 20-year-old prospect.
Vitals: 6'3", 197 pounds
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 23.9 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.4 steals, 0.3 blocks
If the Detroit Pistons have any concerns about pairing a combo guard with Brandon Knight after the failed Rodney Stuckey experiment, they should take solace in one thing: C.J. McCollum's worst-case scenario is better than Stuckey's best-case outlook.
Quite frankly, the Lehigh product has everything that Detroit needs.
He can play either guard spot, and his outside shooting would space the court out for a franchise that hasn't had that ability in a while. Things would open up for Knight's drives and Greg Monroe's post moves, and McCollum would ease some of the scoring burden.
The 21-year-old might not be the most popular selection on draft day, but he'd quickly become a fan favorite in the Motor City.
Vitals: 6'6", 204 pounds
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 18.5 points, 7.1 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 2.0 steals, 0.5 blocks
The Minnesota Timberwolves need size at the 2-guard spot, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope's 6'6" frame would definitely fill that void.
KCP is an incredible perimeter shooter, and has athleticism to boot. The former Georgia Bulldog should become a two-way standout if everything goes according to plan, but at the very worst, he'll become a floor-spacer who thrives on spotting up and waiting for opportunities to score points in threes.
Shabazz Muhammad is another option here, but Caldwell-Pope has moved firmly past him on most draft boards.
Vitals: 7'0", 255 pounds
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 7.2 points, 6.3 rebounds, 0.6 assists, 0.7 steals, 2.0 blocks
No. 10 is not the place to draft backcourt or frontcourt depth. Instead, it's the spot that the Portland Trail Blazers should use to solve their problems at the center position.
Drafting Steven Adams isn't tantamount to giving up on Meyers Leonard, but rather taking the high-upside prospect and doubling the chances that the center of the future is already in Rip City.
Adams may not have stood out during his freshman season at Pittsburgh, but his size and athleticism give him the talent to become one of the most impressive centers from this draft class. He's shown flashes of offensive potential, and he's already a defensive presence who could work his way into the rotation as a rookie.
Vitals: 7'0", 230 pounds
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 16.5 points, 8.1 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.0 steals, 1.3 blocks
There isn't a bigger no-brainer in this draft.
Cody Zeller has the talent of a top-five prospect, even if he failed to live up to the expectations during his sophomore season at Indiana. They were just far too lofty.
How many 7-footers can run the court like a guard, jump like an athletic small forward and show off a number of advanced offensive skills all at the same time? Players like that come few and far between, so while Zeller may legitimately be a bit soft, he's incredibly talented.
The Philadelphia 76ers need a big man, and with Nerlens Noel, Alex Len and Steven Adams off the board, Zeller is the obvious choice.
Team: NY Phantoms
Vitals: 6'2", 165 pounds
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 11.9 points, 2.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 0.9 steals, 0.0 blocks
If one of the elite centers is still on the board here, that's where the Oklahoma City Thunder will go. But there aren't any true shooting guards (Kevin Martin replacements) or standout big men that would qualify as good picks at No. 12, leaving the franchise to draft a point guard.
When Russell Westbrook went down, Reggie Jackson performed admirably. He's just not a good fit for the roster because he doesn't bring the facilitating skills needed when Westbrook sits/gets hurt. Plus, Jackson has played well enough that he'll be seeking more money—something general manager Sam Presti can't give him—in the near future.
Dennis Schroeder is the best floor general left on the board, and he's also the rare international prospect who's immediately ready to compete at a high level. For the Thunder, who expect to compete for a championship, that readiness is necessary.
Vitals: 6'6", 184 pounds
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 11.9 points, 4.9 rebounds, 7.3 assists, 2.8 steals, 0.5 blocks
The Dallas Mavericks have three options here: draft a point guard, select a center or trade the pick.
Trading down in the draft is certainly a strong possibility, but drafting a floor general is far more likely than taking a big man. Kelly Olynyk is the top center left on the board, and having both the Gonzaga product and Dirk Nowitzki on the court would be rather redundant.
Point guard it is.
Personally, I'm a bigger fan of Shane Larkin than Michael Carter-Williams, but the consensus opinion is that the lanky point guard from Syracuse is the more highly sought-after option.
Vitals: 5'11", 171 pounds
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 14.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 2.0 steals, 0.1 blocks
The diminutive point guard is the only option left on the board for the Utah Jazz, who need help at that position far more than any other.
With Alec Burks (SG), Gordon Hayward (SF), Derrick Favors (PF), Enes Kanter (C) already on the roster, the time for adding depth comes later in this draft. Point guard is the priority.
Larkin may only be 5'11", but he's blindingly quick and can jump as well as anyone in this class, including Ben McLemore. Plus, if Utah decides to draft a different floor general, it would be looking to reach for a prospect and use a lottery selection on a player expected to be drafted in the second round.
Vitals: 6'6", 222 pounds
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 17.9 points, 5.2 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.1 blocks
Due to the pending free agencies of Brandon Jennings, Monta Ellis and J.J. Redick, the Milwaukee Bucks need to select a backcourt member and ease some of the pressure on general manager John Hammond.
Shabazz Muhammad may be a natural small forward, but he has a skill-set that allows him to play at the 2 with ease.
Reaching for Jamaal Franklin is a possibility here, but Muhammad is an option with much higher upside. He's an incredible scorer and has defensive potential if he can focus on that end of the court. Franklin's game may be more well rounded, but he's not the elite scorer the UCLA product could be.
Vitals: 6'9", 196 pounds
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 9.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 0.7 steals, 1.0 blocks
At some point, a team is going to take a flier on the high-risk, high-reward prospect from Greece named Giannis Adetokunbo.
The Boston Celtics fit the billing as a team willing to do so because they're expected to start moving into rebuilding mode following the transfer of Doc Rivers to the Los Angeles Clippers. They can afford to let Adetokunbo develop without worrying about selecting a prospect who's ready to make a large contribution as a rookie.
Adetokunbo is raw and undeveloped, but there's a reason he flew up the draft boards. 6'9" forwards with ball skills conducive to running the point are hard to come by, especially when they're also blessed with this much athletic talent.
Vitals: 7'0", 234 pounds
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 18.1 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 0.7 steals, 1.1 blocks
The Atlanta Hawks could literally do anything with this pick. They could draft any position, especially because Al Horford can play either power forward or center. They could trade just this pack or package it and the next one. They could make a draft-and-stash selection.
Anything could happen.
Kelly Olynyk makes the most sense at No. 17, though.
He and Horford would form a dynamic offensive duo, and the Florida product could help mask the 22-year-old's defensive deficiencies by shifting over to cover the opposing team's best frontcourt member.
The face-up game and ball skills of Olynyk make him almost certain to find some level of success in the NBA, even if he doesn't have the defense or toughness necessary to become a star.
Vitals: 6'7", 197 pounds
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 18.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.2 blocks
Sergey Karasev, much like Dennis Schroeder, is another rare international prospect whose game allows him to compete in the NBA from Day 1.
After drafting Kelly Olynyk at No. 17, the Atlanta Hawks need to take a wing player or guard at No. 18, and Karasev is the prospect du jour.
An offensive standout with one of the smoothest jumpers in this draft class, the 19-year-old is also one of those valuable players who sticks to his role. He rarely makes mistakes, simply because he knows his limits as well as he understands his strengths.
The Hawks could either roster him during the 2013-14 season, or they could let him spend one more year developing overseas.
School: San Diego State
Vitals: 6'5", 191 pounds
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 16.6 points, 9.4 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.6 steals, 0.8 blocks
Versatility is the name of the game for Jamaal Franklin. He may be a natural shooting guard, but he has the size and athletic ability to capably line up at the 3 unless going against a team that refuses to play small ball.
Can you imagine a Cleveland lineup featuring Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Franklin, Tristan Thompson and Alex Len? Cavs fans are currently salivating.
Whether you ask Franklin to crash the boards, play shut-down defense or function as a high scorer, the San Diego State standout can certainly fill the role.
Vitals: 6'11", 230 pounds
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 9.8 points, 9.4 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.3 steals, 2.5 blocks
The Chicago Bulls missed Omer Asik during the 2012-13 season. Joakim Noah is one of the best defensive players in the league, but he can't play 48 minutes per game, and there's inevitably a drop-off in rim protection when he rests.
Finding a backup center is a priority for the Bulls, and Gorgui Dieng is exactly what they're looking for with the No. 20 pick.
Under Noah's tutelage and absorbing Tom Thibodeau's defensive genius, Dieng would learn how to control his aggression and make the all-important transition from shot-blocker to stud interior defender. He's a solid value pick outside the teens, but only if he lands in the right situation.
Vitals: 7'0", 238 pounds
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 17.1 points, 9.9 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.0 steals, 1.4 blocks
After drafting Shane Larkin earlier in the night, the Utah Jazz need to spend their second first-round pick on depth. They could do so at any position, but Mason Plumlee is too much of a value to pass up at No. 21.
The Duke product is a great athlete who runs the court well and thrives finishing plays in transition. He can make an impact both offensively and defensively, and while he doesn't have the upside to become a star, he doesn't need to be one.
Plumlee projects out as the prototypical first big off the bench, and that's exactly what the Jazz need if they choose to hand the starting reins over to Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors over the offseason.
Vitals: 6'6", 185 pounds
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 14.2 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.5 blocks
The Brooklyn Nets eventually need to replace Joe Johnson and Gerald Wallace, and Tim Hardaway Jr. would be a great understudy for the next few seasons.
The former Michigan Wolverine has displayed a number of impressive tools, particularly on the offensive end. He can crash to the rim and use his athleticism, drain jumpers from the outside or thrive with his mid-range game.
Problem is, he can't usually put all the tools together into one toolbox. As soon as one gets put in, another gets pushed out.
Expanding his toolbox, something that comes from good coaching (here's looking at you, Kidd) and getting time to develop, is crucial for Hardaway Jr.'s long-term potential.
Vitals: 7'2", 238 pounds
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 8.4 points, 5.4 rebounds, 0.4 assists, 0.7 steals, 1.9 blocks
With Tyler Hansbrough hitting free agency and Ian Mahinmi proving ineffective during his first season with the Indiana Pacers, the franchise that tested the future champions can spend its first-round pick on a big man.
Rudy Gobert is nowhere near ready to contribute to a team in the Association, but his unprecedented 7'8.5" wingspan and boundless stores of athleticism give everyone hope that he'll eventually turn into a stellar big man. The Frenchman must get stronger and work on his skills, but he's only 20 years old.
Indiana could also choose to draft a shooting guard that can help off the bench, but it would be too big a reach for any NBA-ready ones at this stage of the draft.
Vitals: 6'6", 197 pounds
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: N/A
Doesn't Ricky Ledo just feel like a New York Knicks pick?
The Knicks love surprising people during the draft, taking the potential diamond in the rough and hoping it doesn't lose its luster. That's where Ledo enters the equation.
Ledo may not have played a single second of college basketball, but he practiced with Providence and stayed in playing shape throughout the year. He's a fantastic scorer—at least he was in high school—and he can both spot up from the perimeter or create his own looks off the bounce.
The 20-year-old's main asset is his long-term upside, but he already has a shooting stroke that would let him take some of the scoring pressure off Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith, assuming the latter returns to Madison Square Garden after opting out of his contract.
School: New Mexico
Vitals: 6'7", 198 pounds
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 12.5 points, 2.6 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.5 blocks
The Los Angeles Clippers need to find help on the wing, as Doc Rivers can't help solve a lack of personnel.
Tony Snell is a natural small forward, but he also has the ball-handling skill to capably play a little bit of shooting guard. He's a versatile player who can contribute across the board and stuff the stat sheet, although he's still a bit too raw to have a large role.
The former Lobo has been a steady riser up the boards, and it's now tough to envision him falling past the Clippers at No. 25.
Team: Estudiantes Madrid
Vitals: 7'0", 220 pounds
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 5.4 points, 3.4 rebounds, 0.3 assists, 0.5 steals, 1.1 blocks
The Minnesota Timberwolves have already taken Kentavious Caldwell-Pope at No. 9, so the focus now rests on finding a backup big man. Lucas Nogueira is easily the best choice, as he's a talent enticing enough that he could force some team to take a flier in the teens.
Bebe, as he's commonly called, is an athletic 7-footer who thrives running the floor and protecting the rim. He'd be a nice infusion of athleticism off the bench, as both Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic are more suited for power games than playing well above the rim.
Nogueira has loads of long-term potential, and playing behind two quality bigs would serve him well at the start of his career.
Vitals: 6'6", 197 pounds
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 18.4 points, 6.1 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.1 steals, 0.7 blocks
Remember the game in which the Denver Nuggets were utterly incapable of hitting outside shots and relied almost completely on attacking the rim with relentless abandon?
Oh wait...that was pretty much the entire season.
Allen Crabbe would help the team take a step in the right direction, adding a great deal of outside shooting from the 2-guard spot. And after Andre Iguodala opted out of his contract, finding a shooting guard is now a priority because he could serve as an insurance policy in case Iggy doesn't eventually re-sign.
The 21-year-old from California isn't a particularly great athlete or defender, but he'd do wonders spacing the court for a team that struggles to do exactly that.
Vitals: 6'11", 230 pounds
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 18.9 points, 11.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 0.5 steals, 2.3 blocks
If there's any organization that can ensure the transition from Bucknell to the NBA is a successful one for Mike Muscala, it's the San Antonio Spurs. I'm pretty sure there's a clause in the CBA that says all of their draft picks are required to pan out.
Muscala is an analytic dream. He's a fantastic rebounder and a great scorer with a bevy of moves, but it's important to take the numbers with a caveat.
The 21-year-old was bigger than everyone he played against, and that won't be the case in the Association. Muscala must develop a certain degree of toughness or else he's going to go from pushing around players to being the one who gets pushed around.
Vitals: 7'0", 222 pounds
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 13.7 points, 8.5 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 0.8 steals, 3.9 blocks
After drafting a point guard with their lottery pick, the Oklahoma City Thunder can focus on finding a center with their second pick of the first round. Ideally, they land a defensive one who can ease some of the pressure on Serge Ibaka.
Can you imagine the shot-blocking prowess of a Jeff Withey-Ibaka frontcourt?
I'll leave you with that thought in your head.
School: North Carolina
Vitals: 6'7", 200 pounds
2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 13.9 points, 6.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.3 blocks
The Phoenix Suns have already taken one wing player in this draft, but Victor Oladipo is best suited at shooting guard. Now it's time to find a small forward, and Reggie Bullock is the best on the board.
Talent-wise, the North Carolina product should go much earlier than No. 30, but none of the teams drafting behind the Los Angeles Clippers need a small forward. That's why the Suns should have the ability to greedily snatch him up.
Bullock doesn't have remarkably high upside, but he's a great glue guy who can do all the little things. He's one of the more self-aware players in this draft class, and that gives him a fairly high floor, even if the ceiling isn't that elevated.