The 2013 NBA draft is just hours away, and although it is considered to be a rather weak bunch of prospects, it is nevertheless a critical time for every franchise—especially those who are struggling—to add key contributors for the future.
If the draft shakes out as some front offices hope, there are several players that stand out as particularly hot commodities with regard to their potential as instant impact rookies.
Below is a mock of the entire first round, with a focus on the picks that are the most intriguing fits with their prospective squads.
Note: Free agency information is courtesy of ESPN.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Nerlens Noel, C/PF, Kentucky
In terms of upside, it's hard to argue there's anyone in this draft with more of it than Noel, who showed immense improvement throughout his only college season before tearing his ACL.
Rehired head coach Mike Brown built his formerly successful Cavaliers teams around LeBron James, sure, but also around a defensive identity. Given Noel's athleticism, natural instincts and effectiveness as a shot-blocker, he would be a dream come true for a coach like Brown.
There is the assertion that the Cavs need more scoring, which is true in a sense. That's what having three more of the first 33 picks are for.
Noel's focus and forte will never be offense, yet he's flashed the ability to be effective. With the slashing ability of Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters, how much will he really have to do?
As long as the Cavaliers can pick up effective outside shooters the rest of the way, the frontcourt rotation of Noel, Anderson Varejao, Tristan Thompson and Tyler Zeller bodes well for the future.
2. Orlando Magic: Victor Oladipo, SG, Indiana
It's hard to call this pick particularly sexy, even though it seems Oladipo still has some room to grow after the big jump he took as a junior for the Hoosiers. The perimeter defense he brings to the table is tantalizing, but he's not the type of difference-maker to change the Magic's fortunes by himself.
3. Washington Wizards: Otto Porter Jr., SF, Georgetown
The simple fact that Porter played for the Hoyas in college would make him an immediate Wizards fan favorite. Beyond that, Porter makes sense from a basketball standpoint, too.
Especially with Martell Webster and Trevor Ariza set to be unrestricted free agents on July 1, small forward is going to be the obvious position of need in Washington.
Porter doesn't need to have the ball in his hands to make a difference on offense, and he can create on his own from the outside or by getting into the paint. A perimeter trio featuring him, John Wall and Bradley Beal seems formidable.
The Charlotte Observer's Rick Bonnell has had it confirmed from multiple sources that Porter is very unlikely to slip past this pick, too:
All signs are pointing to Porter remaining in D.C.—and likely filling in the hole in the Wizards' starting five in his first year in the Association.
4. Charlotte Bobcats: Ben McLemore, SG, Kansas
I don't know what is aesthetically pleasing in Charlotte right now. Would McLemore really make that much of a difference? Sure, he's an incredible talent, a great shooter and the best, safest player available at this juncture. It will take far more for the Bobcats to turn things around, though.
5. Phoenix Suns: Anthony Bennett, PF, UNLV
The Suns were a terrible three-point shooting team this past season in being the cellar-dweller of the Western Conference, but passing on a unique talent such as Bennett seems illogical.
New GM Ryan McDonough will be fortunate to have Bennett fall into his lap. Although the former UNLV star is a bit of a 'tweener as a 6'7" power forward, it could actually be a blessing in disguise given Phoenix's current personnel.
Bennett can drain shots from beyond the arc and also effectively operate in the paint—serving as a more dynamic, hard-rebounding stretch 4 in a smaller lineup.
Even plugging Bennett in as a small forward would slide Jared Dudley over to shooting guard, and the starting five would suddenly be Goran Dragic at point, Dudley and Bennett on the wing sporting awesome size, and then Marcin Gortat and Luis Scola down low.
That sounds like a promising start for head coach Jeff Hornacek to work with—and the Suns still have another first-rounder at their disposal.
6. New Orleans Pelicans: Alex Len, C, Maryland
Placing an offensive talent like Len alongside a defensive stopper like Anthony Davis would give the Pelicans a wonderful frontcourt. The critical factor is whether Austin Rivers recovers from his awful rookie campaign and if New Orleans holds onto Greivis Vasquez.
7. Sacramento Kings: Michael Carter-Williams, PG, Syracuse
It's a crowded backcourt in Sacramento, but Carter-Williams brings too much to the Kings to pass up. Carter-Williams is a magnificent defender, a pass-first point guard and someone who could be invaluable to talented center DeMarcus Cousins' growth.
8. Detroit Pistons: Trey Burke, PG, Michigan
The frontcourt of the future is set with Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe, so building the backcourt is a wise idea. Burke was the best player in college basketball this past season and would form a dynamic tandem with Brandon Knight.
9. Minnesota Timberwolves: Steven Adams, C, Pittsburgh
In the event that Nikola Pekovic flees in free agency, insurance is necessary up front for Minnesota—especially with regard to defense. Adams already weighs over 250 pounds as a teenage seven-footer and can hone his offensive skills over time while emerging as a shutdown paint presence.
10. Portland Trail Blazers: Shabazz Muhammad, SF, UCLA
The concept of teaming a hard-working, dynamic scorer with reigning NBA Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard makes the idea of this pick sexy. What Muhammad has to do is improve his arsenal of moves and the versatility of his offensive game and overcome a disappointing year with the Bruins.
11. Philadelphia 76ers: Cody Zeller, C/PF, Indiana
With Andrew Bynum never even taking the court in Philly, the team needs size up front. Zeller may not be physical, but he's a great stretch 4 that would provide much needed offensive firepower for the Sixers, who ranked dead last with 90.2 points per game in 2012-13.
12. Oklahoma City Thunder: C.J. McCollum, PG/SG, Lehigh
Imagine a combo guard like McCollum taking over the second unit behind Russell Westbrook—or even playing alongside him eventually—and maintaining a level of greatness to Oklahoma City's offense. McCollum is beyond sexy at this stage and would be electric with the Thunder's supporting cast.
13. Dallas Mavericks: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG, Georgia
O.J. Mayo is hitting the open market, so if he doesn't come back, Caldwell-Pope would be a nice fill-in. He is an exceptional on-ball defender with lights-out shooting ability and prototypical size for an NBA 2-guard. Caldwell-Pope isn't a surefire All-Star, though.
14. Utah Jazz: Lucas Noguiera, C, Brazil
This could be more of a developmental pick, but if Al Jefferson does walk in free agency, it would give the Jazz a shot-blocker and wonderfully athletic defensive presence inside. Jefferson, let's just say, isn't known for his defense.
15. Milwaukee Bucks: Giannis Adetokoubo, SF, Greece
With the threat of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis leaving as free agents, the logical option would be to pick up not only more size, but a small forward who can run the point. The 18-year-old Adetokoubo can do just that. When he adds more muscle, he could be downright scary.
16. Boston Celtics: Tony Snell, SF/SG, New Mexico
The big decision on Paul Pierce is looming, and the Celtics also have a plethora of smaller guards in the backcourt. Snell is an excellent catch-and-shoot player and could become a wonderful piece to GM Danny Ainge's rebuilding puzzle.
17. Atlanta Hawks: Sergey Karasev, SF, Russia
Acuity and passing are two assets most 19-year-old small forwards don't have in bunches, but such is the case with Karasev. He's also a solid shooter and could even play the 2, which would give the Hawks more size and flexibility.
18. Atlanta Hawks: Mason Plumlee, PF/C, Duke
The prospective pairing of Plumlee and Al Horford up front for Atlanta is intriguing. If GM Danny Ferry can somehow get Josh Smith back, the bigger lineup would be a nice change-up to the perimeter-oriented Hawks of 2012-13.
19. Cleveland Cavaliers: Reggie Bullock, SF, North Carolina
The 3 still hasn't been addressed, and there aren't many better options at this point to do so than Bullock—a great three-point shooter and sizable wing player who would thrive in Mike Brown's defensive system.
20. Chicago Bulls: Rudy Gobert, C, France
The 7'9" wingspan alone is enough to justify this pick for a defensive-minded coach such as Tom Thibodeau, but the ceiling Gobert has seems limitless.
If Gobert can fine-tune his post game and add more weight, this could be a massive steal for Chicago. It's an ideal time for a bit of a risk anyway, since the current nucleus can compete for a title with Derrick Rose returning.
21. Utah Jazz: Shane Larkin, PG, Miami (FL)
The picks of Dennis Schroeder and Larkin could be flopped here, but the ex-Hurricanes star is a bit more polished and makes up for the lack of size he has with fantastic agility and basketball savvy.
Utah has the luxury of waiting for Larkin at this stage, and he presents great value at No. 21 for a position of such dire need.
22. Brooklyn Nets: Dennis Schroeder, PG, Germany
The depth behind Deron Williams is relatively non-existent. Schroeder is still a project and needs to put size on his 165-pound frame, but he has the floor vision, passing and phenomenal quickness to be a force with new head coach and prolific point guard Jason Kidd as a mentor.
23. Indiana Pacers: Allen Crabbe, SG, California
Roy Hibbert continues to improve in the post, David West is always a force and Paul George should only get better offensively, too. However, a scoring 2-guard is necessary for the Pacers to truly contend with the Miami Heat, and Crabbe at least has the promise to provide that.
24. New York Knicks: Glen Rice Jr., SF/SG, Georgia Tech
For the past year, Rice has been in the NBA Developmental League, but has lit it up in leading the Rio Grande Valley Vipers to the championship.
Per NBA.com, Rice averaged 29 points, 11.5 rebounds, four assists, three steals and 3.5 blocked shots per game in those finals, and can shoot the heck out of the ball. If J.R. Smith leaves the Big Apple, Rice could be the sixth man of the future.
25. Los Angeles Clippers: Isaiah Canaan, PG, Murray State
The hiring of head coach Doc Rivers should ensure Chris Paul's return, but it also makes it less likely that Eric Bledsoe will be back for backup point guard duties given his value. Canaan is an ideal candidate to fill that potential void.
26. Minnesota Timberwolves: Tim Hardaway Jr., SG, Michigan
Shooting help is necessary for the Timberwolves, and it also helps that Hardaway has the size to play the 3 in smaller lineups if need be. Hardaway may be a late first-rounder, but don't be shocked to see him make a big contribution if Minnesota is fortunate enough to land him.
27. Denver Nuggets: Jamaal Franklin, SG/SF, San Diego State
Andre Iguodala is hitting the open market, and Franklin is a somewhat similar style of player but with better rebounding ability. Franklin carried the load for the Aztecs in every facet, and as a complementary piece in Denver, he should thrive right away.
28. San Antonio Spurs: Gorgui Dieng, C, Louisville
A national champion and Big East Defensive Player of the Year accolade should attract the Spurs, especially since Tiago Splitter is an unrestricted free agent, and Dieng could be an upgrade in the future.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Tony Mitchell, PF, North Texas
The Thunder need some more scoring from the frontcourt, which is precisely what Mitchell provides. It would be interesting to see how he and Kevin Durant would operate together on offense in a "small" lineup with Mitchell or Durant at the 3 or 4.
30. Phoenix Suns: Ricardo Ledo, SG, Providence
So it is a little disconcerting that Ledo was held out for his entire year with the Friars, but he's a top-notch perimeter shooter that the Suns definitely need. A bench role would be perfect for him in his first year, and he could even get significant minutes in the rotation.
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