For every NBA draft dream scenario, there are many delusions of grandeur that turn dreams into the harsh reality of facts, others that are fleeting glimpses of stardom and the occasional dreams that end up turning into nightmares.
Injuries, poor play and unrealized potential cloud the futures of every NBA draft project poised to make his mark in 2013, a sad fact if you look at the names on NBA draft lists that the casual NBA fan wouldn't know from the next Joe Schmoe on the street.
We're rooting for all 60 prospects who get drafted and the myriad of others who make NBA rosters this year that don't get the call on draft night, but the harsh reality of the league isn't always kind to certain souls destined for bust status.
Taking a pessimistic look at Thursday night's draft, here's the worst-case, nightmare scenario for every first-round prospect in a final look at my 2013 NBA mock draft. We're hoping it doesn't happen this way, but on the off chance it does, here's how it might go down.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: C Alex Len, Maryland
Len has gained steam as the No. 1 overall pick over the last few weeks, and he certainly has the skill set to take on the weight of the expectations that comes with that designation.
Concerns about Len's intensity are highlighted by the fact that he doesn't have a dominant mindset despite being the most talented player on the floor in nearly every game he played this season. A nightmare scenario for this young man would be winding up as a career backup who never fully realized his potential.
With only two years of experience at Maryland and a dominant mindset not yet part of his game, he needs to both mature quickly and avoid the nagging ankle issues that bothered him in college to also avoid comparisons to someone like Pervis Ellison.
2. Orlando Magic: SG Victor Oladipo, Indiana
Bruce Bowen was a great NBA player. Tony Allen is maybe the only current NBA player that is molded in his likeness, and both were/are great defenders who change the flow of the game with defense and timely shooting.
But you don't draft a Bowen or an Allen No. 2 overall.
Comparisons for Oladipo have been wide-ranging and encompass names like Dwyane Wade and the two guys mentioned above, but aside from career-threatening injuries, it's hard to envision a scenario in which Oladipo is a true draft bust.
His tenacity on defense and basketball IQ will translate to the NBA, and it's a beautiful thing when your nightmare is to be a defensive stopper and occasional three-point shooter as a professional.
3. Washington Wizards: SF Otto Porter Jr., Georgetown
Porter and Oladipo are as NBA-ready as they come in this draft, but could a two-year college player have already hit his peak?
Porter does a lot of things well but nothing great. That well-rounded game could come back to haunt him in the NBA, where having no glaring weaknesses is part of nearly every pro's resume. The biggest fear for Porter should be blending into the fray at a very crowded small forward position in the league.
4. Charlotte Bobcats: C Nerlens Noel, Kentucky
Noel has boom or bust written all over him, and that label won't be shed if he ends up joining Michael Jordan in Charlotte, where draft picks have gone to disappear and wash away over the past few years.
If the concerns about his revitalized ACL weren't enough, those about him being too small to handle the bigger centers in the NBA are legitimate enough to wonder if Noel is the next Dikembe Mutombo or Hasheem Thabeet. Worst-case scenario? An overly athletic version of the latter.
5. Phoenix Suns: SG Ben McLemore, Kansas
McLemore is a top-shelf athlete who has the scoring and shooting chops to outshine every shooting guard in this class.
But his passive nature and strong three-point shooting abilities could lend him to be a top-shelf Anthony Morrow instead of a player with the all-around scoring ability of the player he draws the most comparisons to (Ray Allen).
Playing in Phoenix's up-tempo offense, McLemore can't become too reliant on the three and forget about the fact that he was one of the top leapers at the combine and has the ability to expand his game enough to use that athleticism to get to the rack.
6. New Orleans Pelicans: SF Anthony Bennett, UNLV
Bennett was impressive at UNLV during his freshman season, averaging 16.1 points, 8.1 rebounds and showing the ability to stretch the floor as a 3/4 tweener in an up-tempo offense.
The nightmare? Turning into a shoot-first, defend-later player who loses the will to be better once he carves out a role as an impressive NBA starter. That nightmare is named Michael Beasley, and it still can't find a consistent role for a full NBA season.
7. Sacramento Kings: PG/SG Michael Carter-Williams, Syracuse
MCW is as athletic as they come in this draft, but his dismal 29.4 percent shooting from the outside didn't stop him from shooting three three-pointers per game at Syracuse as a sophomore.
He'll get to the cup at will when he wants and he'll also be a pesky defender when he discovers the nuances of a man-to-man defense on a full-time basis. But he'll also be a career backup and part-time contributor if his jump shot continues to plague him at the next level.
8. Detroit Pistons: PG Trey Burke, Michigan
Undersized and lacking of the traditional point guard skill set that we've come to expect from a starting player in the NBA today (lightning-quick speed, elite ball-handling and size to compete naturally on defense), Burke is facing the odds when he joins the NBA.
The National Player of the Year in 2013, Burke has proven that he has the ability to overcome adversity against like players in college. In the NBA, though, it isn't that simple. The speed of the game, size and the skill is always faster, bigger and better than it is in the NCAA.
Burke will either thrive because he's already proven that he can, or he will crumble under the weight of the transition from college to the pros. Being a career backup who can't quite take that next step will be his fate without the necessary transition from college to NBA star.
9. Minnesota Timberwolves: SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Georgia
One of the best scorers in the SEC last year, KCP averaged over 18 points per game in his sophomore season and improved nearly every facet of his game in coming back to Georgia.
The nightmare for the lanky Caldwell-Pope would be to become too reliant on the perimeter jumper and turn into the early version of Wesley Johnson for the majority of his career.
10. Portland Trail Blazers: C/PF Cody Zeller, Indiana
Zeller might not have the raw athleticism that some of his center counterparts have, but he's no stranger to being called athletic in previews of his skill set.
What happens when that athleticism goes away, or, in layman's terms, what happens when the athleticism of the field is on par with what he used to best those in the Big Ten last season?
We know that Zeller has game, but he didn't always perform well in the "big" game. To fully realize his potential, he'll need to expand his offensive game around the basket and develop a killer mentality. If not, high-energy Tyler Hansborough with better hops would be a living nightmare for his comparison.
11. Philadelphia 76ers: C Steven Adams, Pittsburgh
Considered to be a bit of a long-term project, Steven Adams played just one year at Pitt before opting for the NBA draft. Don't let the "raw" label fool you—there's potential to be realized in this young man.
But potential doesn't win games, put fans in the stands or even cash paychecks after a certain point. Adams should be considered a top-notch center prospect, but until he sheds that "prospect" label, he's in danger of eventually being another player whose potential was never realized.
12. Oklahoma City Thunder (via TOR): C Gorgui Dieng, Louisville
Dieng has always been a valuable member of good teams at Louisville, and that's a big reason why I think he will thrive as one for the Thunder soon.
However, he's not overly impressive on offense, and his foot speed could use some work against skillful centers at the next level.
Worst case for Dieng would be a scenario in which he gets eaten alive by the strength and speed of the game and fails to grasp his time on the court. Dieng has the potential to be a starter, but that will have to be harnessed to avoid being bounced around trades.
13. Dallas Mavericks: SF Giannis Antetokounmpo, Greece
It's pretty simple with the Grecian phenom—he either realizes his potential and joins the NBA scene in a few years or wastes away in a combination of the D-League and his European roots.
It might not matter to the Mavericks, who have been looking to trade this pick for cap value or keep it and take a player not ready to come to the active roster right away.
It's unclear if we're going to have a a cool nickname for his talents or struggle to pronounce it when we revisit the draft in a few years. The latter is the nightmare moving forward.
14. Utah Jazz: PG/SG C.J. McCollum, Lehigh
McCollum likely won't fall this far in the draft, but there are always extenuating circumstances and sometimes, it the immortal words of Forrest Gump, it happens.
Still, McCollum has generated a lot of buzz as the next great mid-major star guard in the NBA, per Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports:
If he does not live up to that hype, though, he'll be a scorer that never panned out in a big-time role at the next level.
15. Milwaukee Bucks: SF Sergey Karasev, Russia
Karasev draws comparisons to some of the top shooters in the league, but it's a scary notion if his underwhelming athleticism and physical attributes are all he carries with him to the next level.
NBA-ready on his jump shot, there's not much else that Karasev can add to the table right away. If that trend continues when he comes to the league, he'll be a 12th man on the bench who comes in when the team is down by three before eventually migrating back to the other side of the globe for pro ball.
Right now, Karasev has perennial trade bait, or Rudy Fernandez, written all over him.
16. Boston Celtics: PG Dennis Schroeder, Germany
Schroeder has immense potential that can be harnessed in the right setting, which is why Boston is such a great landing spot. Rajon Rondo can mentor the young point guard and Boston can find a future starter in the process.
But Schroeder needs to catch up to the speed of the game and the demands of the defensive side of the Association quickly. Otherwise, we might be talking about his game as a mirror of Rodrigue Beaubois, and that would be a nightmare indeed.
17. Atlanta Hawks: SF Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA
It's hard to predict what kind of scoring and immediate impact that Shabazz Muhammad will have in the NBA. There's little doubt that he's physically gifted and talented enough to carry a 15-point-per-game demand as a rookie, but that's a lot of weight on one man's shoulders.
Becoming one of the league's top scorers would be nice, but it would also be a nightmare for Muhammad. He needs to expand his game on both ends to avoid being the guy that no one wants to pass to in the flow of the offense because he never passes back.
18. Atlanta Hawks (via HOU): C Rudy Gobert, France
The Frenchman has a massive wingspan (7'9") to go along with his 7'2" frame, but when it boils right down to it, those are just numbers.
Gobert will bring shot-blocking to the NBA, whether he comes to the league this year or not, but the true test of whether or not he'll be a draft bust is on offense, where he would be expected to contribute both as a screener and as finisher at the next level.
Heading back to France or not getting a shot to prove he can hang with bigger, more physical centers would be Gobert's nightmare.
19. Cleveland Cavaliers (via LAL): SF Tony Snell, New Mexico
If the Cavs stay status quo and keep both of their first-round picks (unlikely but still a possibility), finding a wing player after getting Len with the No. 1 pick will be important.
With target Karasev off the board, Cleveland lucks out and nabs Tony Snell at this point, a young man who is considered to be one of the biggest sleepers in this draft after drawing comparisons to Kawhi Leonard in the process.
But if his three-point shot doesn't catch up to his athleticism and he can't rebound with bigger forwards, Snell will not be long for the NBA world. His stats at New Mexico suggest otherwise, but Snell still faces the reality of finding an NBA shot to go with his potential to be an impact player.
20. Chicago Bulls: SG Tim Hardaway Jr., Michigan
Hardaway Jr. was a flat-out stud in the NCAA tournament, and he's been one of the players in this draft that we wouldn't be surprised to sneak up into the top 15.
But he was also wildly inconsistent playing alongside Burke and Glenn Robinson III at Michigan, NCAA tournament not withstanding.
Hardaway Jr. likely won't get a chance to start right away, so the ability to come off the bench and contribute without shooting the ball on every possession to get going will be a calling card of his early career. Many good players have been swallowed up by not being able to start, and the consistency issues of Hardaway Jr. make him a candidate to be one of those guys.
21. Utah Jazz (via GS): PF/C Kelly Olynyk, Gonzaga
Most have Olynyk as a borderline lottery pick, but it wouldn't be surprising to see better athletes taken in front of him on draft night.
Utah would be getting a good college player in Olynyk, and a player with the scoring chops to contribute right away on both offense and defense because of his high basketball IQ.
But his upside is limited and I'm not so sure his individual defense won't be an issue, either, leading us to think of Chris Kaman as a suitable comparison. Not a bad player, and the potential to average a double-double is there, but never quite realizing it or taking the next step is a serious worry for this young man.
22. Brooklyn Nets: SF/PF Tony Mitchell, North Texas
Tony Mitchell is an athletic forward who can likely play both positions at the next level. He dominated as a freshman but took the easy way out and coasted during conference play for North Texas as a sophomore.
You can't coast in the NBA. If he has success as a rookie or even worse, gets a big contract early on, what's to say he won't struggle with the consistency and drive it takes to succeed at the next level. You can't thrive on athleticism alone, and right now, Mitchell has to show his new teammates more than that on both ends to stick.
If he can, then his career will truly be unique and worthwhile. If he can't, he might win a few dunk contests before flaming out and failing to find the consistency it takes to make it.
23. Indiana Pacers: PG Pierre Jackson, Baylor
There's a lot to like about the competitive nature of Pierre Jackson, starting with his fearlessness with hitting the big shot.
But his turnover numbers in college and lack of size to contend with bigger point guards at the next level make it hard to project him as a future starter at the position or even hand him a backup job right away.
Nightmare scenario for Jackson is simple—he becomes just another D-League standout who averages 25 points per game on the farm but can't crack the rotation before flaming out and getting too old for another shot.
24. New York Knicks: SG Ricky Ledo, Providence
Ricky Ledo didn't play a minute in college last year, but his time with Providence might have been just as beneficial as any stint abroad or taking a year off would have been.
Ledo practiced with the team, but that lack of experience actually under the bright lights might have cost him a chance to polish his game enough and become anything more than just another talented guy with a wasted opportunity.
He needs the right system and coaching to stay on track, and even though I think New York provides that, the uncertainty of basically going from high school to the NBA just isn't around anymore. If Ledo can't tread water through the first couple of seasons, he might start a see-saw between the NBA and the D-League that will never be fully balanced in favor of the former.
25. Los Angeles Clippers: PG Shane Larkin, Miami
The Clippers have been knee-deep in rumors this entire offseason, and one of them is that Eric Bledsoe will be heading for Orlando in the coming days, as noted by ESPN's Arash Markazi:
The Clippers are discussing trading Eric Bledsoe and Caron Butler to the Magic for Aaron Afflalo. http://t.co/H6Wt8MiE3c— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) June 26, 2013
That leaves a gaping hole at backup point guard, one that Shane Larkin could fill in nicely for the Clippers. There are other needs on the roster to fill, granted, but Larkin is a top-notch prospect and slipping to No. 25 would likely make him attractive to the Clips.
But the fear in a town like L.A. is that the bright lights and expectations to contribute and live up to his strong season in college would be overwhelming. Not a big guard, in his nightmare, Larkin would also be faced with the possibility of never taking over a starting job unless he left L.A.
26. Minnesota Timberwolves (via MEM): PF/C Mason Plumlee, Duke
The T'Wolves addressed shooting guard with pick No. 9, and getting Mason Plumlee this late in the first round would qualify as a steal.
That being said, there's nothing overly impressive about Plumlee's game; the Duke forward is another player in this draft with a high motor and does a little bit of everything well.
I think he will have a long NBA career, but that career likely won't include a starting job anytime soon. There's no doubt the middle Plumlee brother is talented, but is he talented enough to realize his potential sooner than later, or will he become another Duke big-man bust?
27. Denver Nuggets: SG Reggie Bullock, North Carolina
Bullock lit the world on fire from the outside during his junior season at UNC, shooting the three-pointer at a 43.6 percent clip.
But concerns about his game range from the idea that he rarely tries to attack the paint despite having the athleticism to do so, that he plays a finesse game despite having the body to bang with other forwards and that his ball-handling could use some serious work.
Hopefully Bullock becomes more than a three-point shooter and part-time defensive standout at the next level, because those guys don't last very long at all. Developing better offense and playing stronger will be heavy emphasis points in his first few seasons.
28. San Antonio Spurs: C Lucas Nogueira, Brazil
Nogueira is the perfect draft-and-stash guy in the 2013 draft, largely because he's a few years away from being ready to contribute on a full-time basis and he's in a good situation abroad.
The nightmare for Nogueira would be the timing of his exit from Europe and arrival in the U.S. being at the wrong time. In other words, when he's "ready" to contribute in the NBA, will the team he's playing for have space for his game, or will his game have even translated?
Lucky for Nogueira, San Antonio rarely makes mistakes like that.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: SG Jamaal Franklin, San Diego State
Oklahoma City is facing the reality of losing Kevin Martin in free agency this year, one of the best sixth men in the league last season.
Martin shot the ball well from deep, and Jamaal Franklin is just the opposite. He's a stellar athlete and deserves recognition for being one of the best in this class, but abysmal shooting marks (41.1 from the field, 27.2 from the three-point line) are troubling indeed.
We've seen college standouts like Dominique Jones fail without a consistent jumper, despite the fact that they have all the skills to attack the rim like D-Wade. Franklin needs to get in the gym or the clank of the rim will be his nightmare.
30. Phoenix Suns (via MIA): C Jeff Withey, Kansas
Withey is the last prospect taken in the first round in our mock, and his reputation as a shot-blocker and game-changer on defense has earned him enough recognition in four years at Kansas to fill a role in the NBA game on paper.
But Withey hasn't had to do much on offense in college, and his raw physical attributes do not lend him as being one of the best prospects in terms of being able to defend quicker, smarter centers on a consistent basis.
Career backup/spot starter isn't a cut to Withey because that's where I feel his future lies, but being a whipping post for better centers as he fails to add strength and develop would be the troubling projection for this young man.
It's never fun to take a look at the negative side of things. Positives and what these kids do well is always a better topic, but sometimes the negatives are what help teams make a decision. We wish all the prospects well in their NBA ventures, but unfortunately, that isn't always realistic.
Follow Ethan Grant (@DowntownEG) on Twitter.