NBA Power Rankings: Post-2013 Draft Edition
Another year, another whirlwind of an NBA draft.
Except the 2013 edition seemed zanier than usual, didn't it? And not just because it was David Stern's last at the podium before he retires.
The lack of elite talent and the relative parity between prospects rendered the picks practically interchangeable, which set the stage for all manner of surprising selections and brain-twisting trades.
Some of which will surely shake up the basketball landscape in 2013-14. The favorites to take home the Larry O'Brien Trophy, though, haven't changed much (if at all) since the Miami Heat emerged victorious from their seven-game series against the San Antonio Spurs.
The real intrigue rests with those squads, like the Boston Celtics and the Philadelphia 76ers, who've engaged in full-on fire sales—presumably in pursuit of improved odds in next year's Andrew Wiggins sweepstakes—and those, like the Brooklyn Nets and the New Orleans Hornets, who stand to benefit most from those rebuilds in the immediate future.
The league's hierarchy is still ripe for reshuffling with free agency upcoming. But before we delve into the hoops hot stove, let's have a look at the big picture in the Association as June comes to a close.
30. Charlotte Bobcats
2013 Draft Picks: No. 4 (Cody Zeller)
The Charlotte Bobcats' selection of Cody Zeller, while perplexing at first, makes sense when you consider his outstanding athleticism and well-rounded offensive game.
And, conversely, Bismack Biyombo's almost complete lack of scoring touch.
Even with Zeller aboard, the 'Cats roster remains woefully short of any nucleus around which a winner could be built. Kemba Walker looked much improved in his second season, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist showed off some intriguing ability in his first.
Dig any further, and you'll find yourself teetering on the edge of a talent cliff—one with which head coach Steve Clifford will soon be intimately familiar.
At least until Charlotte snags some excellent real estate atop the order in the 2014 draft.
29. Phoenix Suns
2013 Draft Picks: No. 5 (Alex Len), No. 30 (Nemanja Nedovic, traded to OKC for Malcolm Lee and Archie Goodwin), No. 57 (Alex Oriakhi)
A change in front-office regimes has done little to reveal a plan of any sort for the Phoenix Suns. New general manager Ryan McDonough spent the fifth pick in the 2013 draft on Alex Len, a gifted center whose offensive talents were admittedly overshadowed by a stress fracture in his foot (bad news for any big man) and the availability of more highly regarded prospects once the Suns were on the clock.
Chances are, the Suns will need at least a year or two to suss out a blueprint for the future and another year or two after that to fill in the blanks with the proper players.
28. Philadelphia 76ers
2013 Draft Picks: No. 11 (Michael Carter-Williams), No. 35 (Glen Rice Jr., traded to Washington for Arsalan Kazemi and Nate Wolters), No. 42 (Pierre Jackson, traded with Jrue Holiday to New Orleans for Nerlens Noel and a 2014 first-round pick)
Let the Andrew Wiggins tank-a-thon begin!
The Philadelphia 76ers kicked off their pursuit of the No. 1 pick in 2014 by trading All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday to the Pelicans in exchange for Nerlens Noel, who probably won't play until December or January on account of a bum knee, and a 2014 pick.
Pairing Noel with longtime friend and former AAU teammate Michael Carter-Williams could be a solid start to a new future for the Sixers under GM Sam Hinkie. Especially now that Brett Brown, one of Gregg Popovich's most venerable disciples, has been tapped to stalk the sideline in Philly, as reported by Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News.
The pain of mediocrity will surely sting fans in the City of Brotherly Love for the time being. The Sixers apparently felt it wise to go for broke now and hope for the best, rather than linger around the muddled middle of the Eastern Conference on the strength of Holiday's game.
27. Sacramento Kings
2013 Draft Picks: No. 7 (Ben McLemore), No. 36 (Ray McCallum)
Good news: The Sacramento Kings landed arguably the most talented player in the 2013 draft in Ben McLemore.
Bad news: McLemore will arrive in California's capital rife with questions about whether or not he has the attitude and work ethic to maximize his prodigious gifts as a shooter and transition athlete.
Good news: The new regime in Sacramento should provide McLemore with much of the developmental infrastructure he needs to succeed—certainly more than the Maloofs would've.
Bad news: The Kings roster remains replete with bad apples (e.g. DeMarcus Cousins, Tyreke Evans) and ball hogs (i.e. Marcus Thornton, John Salmons, Isaiah Thomas)...
Good news: ...Which could be where Ray McCallum, a pure point guard out of Detroit, swoops in to save the day for the Kings.
26. Orlando Magic
2013 Draft Picks: No. 2 (Victor Oladipo), No. 51 (Romero Osby)
Rob Hennigan did well to stuff the Orlando Magic's burgeoning war chest with two more hard-nosed prospects in Victor Oladipo and Romero Osby.
Oladipo was widely considered the safest bet of any of his draftmates to fashion a lengthy career for himself in the NBA. Osby isn't particularly tall or athletic for a power forward, but what he lacks in those departments, he more than makes up for in grit and toughness.
Those two will join a crew of youngsters in Orlando that currently includes Tobias Harris, Nikola Vucevic, Maurice Harkless and Andrew Nicholson, all of whom flashed considerable promise in 2012-13.
The Magic aren't devoid of quality veterans, either—not yet, anyway.
There's been some chatter about Orlando trading Arron Afflalo to the Los Angeles Clippers in exchange for Eric Bledsoe and Caron Butler, according to Ramona Shelburne, Marc Stein and Chad Ford of ESPN.com. Such a move wouldn't improve the Magic's immediate prospects for on-court success, though it would break the team down to the point where Orlando might have as good a shot as any at landing the top pick in a loaded 2014 draft.
25. Boston Celtics
2013 Draft Picks: No. 16 (Lucas Nogueira, traded with two future second-round picks to Dallas for Kelly Olynyk)
Well, that didn't take long, did it?
The Boston Celtics' fire sale, I mean. In the span of less than a week, the C's essentially sold their coach (Doc Rivers) to the Clippers for a 2015 draft pick and shipped Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry to the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for five players and three picks, as reported by ESPN.
Folks in Boston would've probably preferred a more gracious and ceremonious end to the Big Three era. You've got to hand it to Danny Ainge, though; he saw an opportunity to wipe his team's slate clean and jumped on it.
And thus begins another long, slow and ultimately painful rebuilding process in Beantown. The Celtics will stink next season in anticipation of landing a prime pick in a loaded 2014 draft, and while Rajon Rondo recovers from a torn ACL.
Though, at this rate, it'd hardly be a surprise if Rondo were wearing another uniform by the time he's ready to play, too.
24. Milwaukee Bucks
2013 Draft Picks: No. 15 (Giannis Antetokounmpo), No. 43 (Ricky Ledo, traded to Philadelphia)
If Giannis Antetokounmpo were a high school kid in the U.S., he'd probably be on his way to college after playing in the McDonald's All-America Game. Instead, the promising point forward will join the Milwaukee Bucks as something of a mystery out of Greece.
Which could be problematic if the Bucks ask too much of this kid too soon. Milwaukee's already lost Monta Ellis to the free-agent market and may soon see Brandon Jennings depart as well, despite his restricted status. Should the Bucks renounce their rights to those and refrain from retaining J.J. Redick, they'll have close to $30 million in cap space.
Not that there are many (if any) marquee free agents out there who'd want to sop up most of that for themselves. The frontcourt of Larry Sanders, John Henson and Ersan Ilyasova is a promising one, but even the best big men can only do so much without quality guards to get them the ball.
Of which the Bucks currently count zero in their employ.
23. Detroit Pistons
2013 Draft Picks: No. 8 (Kentavious Caldwell-Pope), No. 37 (Tony Mitchell), No. 56 (Peyton Siva)
The Detroit Pistons had themselves a solid draft night. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is a sharpshooter at the off-guard spot, Tony Mitchell was considered by many to be a lottery-level talent and Peyton Siva brings toughness and defensive tenacity as a potential backup guard.
Throw in another year of growth from Greg Monroe, Brandon Knight and Andre Drummond, and the Pistons should get a taste of the postseason for the first time since 2009...right?
Eh, maybe not. The East figures to be as deep as its been in a long time come next season. The Pistons, for their part, will be searching for a new identity under a retread head coach (Mo Cheeks).
Which, unfortunately, means yet another year counting ping pong balls in the Motor City.
22. Cleveland Cavaliers
2013 Draft Picks: No. 1 (Anthony Bennett), No. 19 (Sergey Karasev), No. 31 (Allen Crabbe, traded to Portland for two future second-round picks), No. 33 (Carrick Felix)
For the third year in a row, the Cleveland Cavaliers shocked the draftnik community. This time around, they did it by way of the No. 1 pick.
The Cavs passed on a handful of other less-than-sure-fire prospects, including Nerlens Noel, to select UNLV forward Anthony Bennett to...ummm...challenge Tristan Thompson, a fellow Canadian, for playing time at power forward?
It's tough to tell exactly what Cleveland was going for with this pick—even tougher when factoring in the Cavs' desire to sneak into the postseason in 2014. The rest of the core is pretty good, though, assuming Kyrie Irving stays healthy.
And if Mike Brown can convince the Cavs to play a lick of defense, they could turn out to be a competitive club after all.
21. Toronto Raptors
2013 Draft Picks: None
Masai Ujiri, the new GM of the Toronto Raptors, has his work cut out for him. He's charged with turning the Raptors into playoff contenders in time for the spring of 2014, with no cap space of which to speak and Andrea Bargnani's contract still to offload.
Ujiri worked his fair share of miracles while in the Denver Nuggets' front office, but this order seems particularly tall. Luckily, Toronto already has some solid pieces in place, between Rudy Gay, Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas. You could do worse than fashioning a starting lineup out of those five guys.
As some teams in the Eastern Conference surely will—just not enough to ensure that the Raps snap their post-Chris Bosh playoff drought.
20. New Orleans Pelicans
2013 Draft Picks: No. 6 (Nerlens Noel, traded with a 2014 first-round pick to Philadelphia for Jrue Holiday and Pierre Jackson)
The New Orleans Pelicans could've had themselves a shot-blocking, Kentucky-bred frontcourt for the future (if not for the ages) had they held on to Nerlens Noel, who fell into their collective lap at No. 6.
Instead, they flipped Noel and a 2014 first-rounder to the Philadelphia 76ers to acquire Jrue Holiday in arguably the most shocking development of the 2013 draft outside of the Brooklyn-Boston blockbuster. In Holiday, the Hornets now have an All-Star point guard on whom they can hang their hat—even more so if Eric Gordon can ever stay healthy.
It's unclear what this move means for Greivis Vasquez, who had himself a breakout season in 2012-13. The Pelicans will presumably use Vasquez's expiring contract to add another piece to their already impressive core of Holiday, Gordon, Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson.
That'll still leave New Orleans at least a year away from a return to the playoffs, though that beats the two- or three-year wait they would've otherwise had in store while waiting for Noel's knee to heal and his body to bulk up.
19. Los Angeles Lakers
2013 Draft Picks: No. 48 (Ryan Kelly)
It's time for the Los Angeles Lakers to stop kidding themselves and start preparing for a rebuild.
Dwight Howard's not staying, no matter how many desperate billboards they put up around town. Kobe Bryant will be back, but he'll be a step or two slower after rupturing his Achilles. Steve Nash isn't the same guy he was even a year ago with the Phoenix Suns. Pau Gasol can still play, but he might mean more to L.A. for what he can net in a trade, especially given the Lakers' lack of salary-cap flexibility.
If the archrival Celtics can resign themselves to a lost season or two, then surely the Lakers could do the same.
At least until 2014, when the Purple and Gold will be flush with cap room with which to lure a marquee free agent or two.
18. Dallas Mavericks
2013 Draft Picks: No. 13 (Kelly Olynyk, traded to Boston for Lucas Nogueira and two future second-round picks), No. 44 (Mike Muscala, traded with Nogueira and Jared Cunningham to Atlanta for Shane Larkin)
The Dallas Mavericks are in the Dwight Howard sweepstakes for the time being.
At least, until Howard decides that Houston is the place for him, in which case, the Mavs will be perfectly positioned to sign...Andrew Bynum?
That's about where Mark Cuban's master plan to roll over his team's cap space from year to year has landed the Mavs. The Mavs will be a competitive outfit so long as Dirk Nowitzki is healthy and playing at or near an All-Star level.
But a playoff appearance seems a bit much to ask of Big D without a major addition via free agency.
17. Atlanta Hawks
2013 Draft Picks: No. 17 (Dennis Schroeder), No. 18 (Shane Larkin, traded to Dallas for Jared Cunningham, Lucas Nogueira and Mike Muscala), No. 47 (Raul Neto), No. 50 (James Ennis, traded to Miami for a future second-round pick)
All signs point to the Atlanta Hawks slipping toward the nether regions of the Eastern Conference. Their chances of keeping Josh Smith seem slim, though not as slim as their odds of landing Chris Paul or Dwight Howard, much less both. Jeff Teague could be gone via restricted free agency, and Lou Williams will be working his way back from a torn ACL.
At this point, Al Horford is all that stands between the Hawks and utter mediocrity, and even he might prove to be expendable at some point.
The Hawks are far from destitute at the moment and may have landed themselves a gem in German point guard Dennis Schroeder. Just don't peg Atlanta for anything better than a seventh or eighth seed in the East next season, if that.
16. Utah Jazz
2013 Draft Picks: No. 14 (Shabazz Muhammad, traded to Minnesota for Trey Burke), No. 21 (Gorgui Dieng, traded to Minnesota for Trey Burke), No. 46 (Erick Green, traded with cash considerations to Denver for Rudy Gobert)
If the Blazers do indeed dump LaMarcus Aldridge—which is a possibility, according to Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com—look for the Utah Jazz to slide ever so surreptitiously into the playoff picture out West.
Assuming, of course, that the Jazz take care of their own urgent business on the free-agency front. Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap and Mo Williams are all bound for free agency.
Though, interestingly enough, Utah could field a somewhat competitive team even without those three. The Jazz have been grooming Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter to take over for Big Al and Millsap up front, and they will now have the freakishly long Rudy Gobert to stash overseas. Furthermore, the acquisition of Trey Burke gives Utah the young point guard it's sought since trading Deron Williams to the Nets.
Of course, the Jazz have the requisite financial flexibility to bring some of their free agents back and, perhaps, pull another quality piece or two off the market. The pressure will be on Tyrone Corbin to get this team back into the playoff hunt, though he'll have the support of Utah's front office to get the job done.
15. Portland Trail Blazers
2013 Draft Picks: No. 10 (C.J. McCollum), No. 39 (Jeff Withey), No. 40 (Grant Jerrett, traded to OKC for cash considerations), No. 45 (Marko Todorovic)
The Portland Trail Blazers would love to snap their playoff drought at two seasons. They'd be hard-pressed to do so, though, if LaMarcus Aldridge forces his way out of Rip City, as Jason Quick of The Oregonian recently reported could be the case.
If the Blazers are compelled to make such a move between now and the start of the 2013-14 season, they should be able to fetch a nice return for Aldridge, who ranks as one of the NBA's elite pick-and-pop bigs.
Still, losing LaMarcus would inevitably stunt the growth of a Portland team that already sports a solid core of Nicolas Batum, Wesley Matthews and Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard. The additions of C.J. McCollum and Allen Crabbe, both scoring guards, and Jeff Withey, a shot-swatting specialist, should strengthen what was the league's least effective bench last season.
But without their resident All-Star, the Blazers will more than likely have to brace themselves for yet another trip to the draft lottery.
14. Washington Wizards
2013 Draft Picks: No. 3 (Otto Porter Jr.), No. 38 (Nate Wolters, traded to Philadelphia for Glen Rice Jr.), No. 54 (Arsalan Kazemi, traded to Philadelphia for Glen Rice Jr.)
For the first time since Gilbert Arenas brandished a firearm in the locker room, the Washington Wizards have their eyes fixed squarely on a playoff spot. John Wall and Bradley Beal showed boatloads of promise while playing together (however sparsely) last season.
Nene and Emeka Okafor provide ample size, toughness and productivity up front. Otto Porter Jr., a product of nearby Georgetown, has the makings of a solid addition at small forward, even if it's only as a backup behind Martell Webster.
The key for the Wizards will be health. Wall, Beal and Nene combined to miss 80 games in 2012-13. The former two proved to be an excellent tandem but were only healthy enough to play together on 25 occasions.
So long as Washington's offense (dead last in efficiency) catches up to its defense (eighth in efficiency) to some degree, the Wizards should finally extricate themselves from the perennial gridlock of the lottery.
If only folks on Capitol Hill could do the same...
13. Denver Nuggets
2013 Draft Pick: No. 27 (Rudy Gobert, traded to Utah for Erick Green and cash considerations)
The summer's barely begun, but it's already shaping up to be a regrettable one for the Denver Nuggets.
First, they allowed general manager Masai Ujiri to fill the same position with the Toronto Raptors. Then, they fired George Karl, the reigning Coach of the Year, and watched as Andre Iguodala opted out of the final year of his contract.
All the while, Danilo Gallinari continues his slow, steady rehabilitation from a torn ACL.
There's no need for the good folks of the Mile High City to despair, though. Tim Connelly and Brian Shaw both appear capable of replacing Ujiri and Karl, respectively. Ty Lawson is an All-Star in the making, with Kenneth Faried and Wilson Chandler to flank him.
There will be no No. 3 seeds in Denver's immediate future, though an 11th straight playoff appearance should be well within the Nuggets' wheelhouse.
12. Minnesota Timberwolves
2013 Draft Picks: No. 14 (Trey Burke, traded to Utah for Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng), No. 26 (Andre Roberson, traded to OKC for a 2014 second-round pick and cash considerations), No. 52 (Lorenzo Brown), No. 59 (Bojan Dubljevic)
Health is the name of the game for the Minnesota Timberwolves. A promising 2012-13 season was torn asunder by injuries to nearly every player of consequence on the roster, including major setbacks to Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio. Those two should be fit and ready to go in 2013-14.
Who joins them in Minny remains a matter of some speculation. Nikola Pekovic is due a substantial payday as a restricted free agent. Andrei Kirilenko could opt to return to the market after a strong performance in his first season back from Russia.
But you could do worse than starting your team with Love and Rubio, and between Alexey Shved, Shabazz Muhammad and Lorenzo Brown, the T-Wolves have three promising prospects to fill the rest of the backcourt. That should finally spell the end of a playoff drought in Minny dating back to 2004, when Kevin Garnett was the MVP of the league.
11. Golden State Warriors
2013 Draft Picks: No. 26 (Andre Roberson, bought from Minnesota, traded to OKC for the 29th pick, which was then swapped to Phoenix for Nemanja Nedovic)
The Golden State Warriors were smart to snap up a pick in this year's draft. Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry are both ticketed for free agency and figure to find themselves beyond the Warriors' price range.
Which is too bad, for folks in the Bay Area and basketball fans in general. Both were standout contributors off the bench for the Dubs—especially Jack, who established himself as one of the Golden State's go-to guys in the clutch.
That being said, the future is still bright for Warriors. Stephen Curry appears ticketed for superstardom, Klay Thompson is a superb shooter in his own right, and Harrison Barnes blew up as an undersized stretch 4 during the Warriors' run to the second round.
Having David Lee and Andrew Bogut healthy will be key to the Warriors' hopes of improvement in 2013-14, as will whatever wheeling and dealing GM Bob Myers does to restock his team's reserves beyond acquiring Nemanja Nedovic.
But so long as the "Splash Brothers" keep hitting their shots, the Warriors will be a tough out in the West.
10. New York Knicks
2013 Draft Picks: No. 24 (Tim Hardaway Jr.)
Tim Hardaway Jr. probably won't be the five-time All-Star that his dad was, but he doesn't need to be. The New York Knicks will likely look to Hardaway the Younger to provide some semblance of the scoring that J.R. Smith, a free agent-to-be, once accounted for off the bench.
The Knicks will need as much if they're to build on their run from 2012-13. Even with Smith off the books, New York figures to find itself right around the luxury-tax line—with just eight players under contract for next season.
The picture doesn't grow any rosier when you factor in that Amar'e Stoudemire is no longer a reliable contributor (and is practically untradeable), Tyson Chandler looks like he's in the midst of his career twilight and Marcus Camby will be 40 come March of 2014.
It's not all doom and gloom for the Knicks, though. They still count Carmelo Anthony in their employ. As long as that's still the case, the Knicks will have a shot to win on any given night.
9. Brooklyn Nets
2013 Draft Picks: No. 22 (Mason Plumlee)
The Brooklyn Nets aren't winning the Eastern Conference next season, even with Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry coming over from the Boston Celtics, as reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. That's just the reality of sharing a bracket with the Miami Heat in this day and age.
But adding two future Hall of Famers—and a former Sixth Man of the Year—to a lineup that already features Deron Williams, Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson will certainly up the Nets' ceiling to some extent.
Not to mention what it'll do to their luxury-tax bill. The Nets could owe upward of $80 million in taxes alone, now that their payroll will approach $100 million.
But if there's anything we've learned about the Nets under Russian billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov, it's that money is no object when it comes to the pursuit of on-court success. On paper, Brooklyn has the pieces to top 50 wins for the first time since 2001-02.
In reality? That remains to be seen, though the Lakers taught us all plenty about the perils of compiling an expensive roster full of aging and injury-prone All-Stars this past season.
8. Houston Rockets
2013 Draft Picks: No. 34 (Isaiah Canaan)
The Houston Rockets' high ranking here is largely contingent on Dwight Howard taking his talents to southeast Texas this summer. Adding Howard to a nucleus that currently includes James Harden, Chandler Parson, Omer Asik and oodles of options at GM Daryl Morey's disposal would put the Rockets well ahead of schedule in their rebuilding process for the second time in as many years.
Such a blockbuster signing would require the Rockets to clear some more cap room first. They've been shopping Thomas Robinson for some time, as reported by Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle, and, according to Mark Deeks of ShamSports.com, are trying to find takers for Jeremy Lin now that Patrick Beverley has proven himself a superior option at the point.
The addition of Isaiah Canaan, a scoring guard perfectly suited for reserve duty, may well accelerate that shopping process.
If/when Dwight lands in Houston, the Rockets could potentially put together a supercharged version of those Orlando Magic teams that blended Dwight's interior talents with voluminous outside shooting on the way to Eastern Conference contention.
Not bad for a team that snuck into the 2013 playoffs as the eighth seed in the loaded Western Conference.
7. Chicago Bulls
2013 Draft Picks: No. 20 (Tony Snell), No. 49 (Erik Murphy)
The return of a healthy Derrick Rose should make all the difference for the Chicago Bulls.
They should hope so, anyway. The Bulls are already knee deep in luxury-tax penalties, with a payroll approaching $78 million.
And that's with 10 players under contract—not including key reserves, like Nate Robinson and Marco Belinelli, from last season.
All of which is to say, the Bulls will more than likely go to battle next season with pretty much the same crew from 2012-13, with Rose sprinkled in liberally and draftees Tony Snell and Erik Murphy getting occasional looks on the perimeter. That's a formidable formula for success, considering how well Chicago fared in Rose's absence.
Because winning 45 games, a playoff series and a road game against the Miami Heat is nothing to snub your nose at, especially when factoring in the myriad other injuries that plagued the Bulls all year. This team will be as tough an out as any in 2014 if everyone is relatively fit.
Which is code for, "...if Tom Thibodeau doesn't run his key players into the ground."
6. Los Angeles Clippers
2013 Draft Pick: No. 25
As far as talent is concerned, the Los Angeles Clippers were already on the cusp of title contention this past season. They owned the best record in the league at the halfway mark, finished with a franchise-record 56 wins, claimed their first-ever division crown and ranked among the top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency.
All the Clippers needed was a semi-competent coach—and, perhaps, a bona fide shooting guard—to complete a puzzle to which Chris Paul and Blake Griffin contributed plenty of sparkle.
L.A.'s already taken care of the first part by "prying" Doc Rivers from the Boston Celtics in exchange for a first-round pick. Rivers' arrival should all but seal Paul's future with the Clippers via free agency this summer.
And with all the whispers of the Clips shopping Eric Bledsoe, from Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports (among others), it would seem that L.A. is on the proper track to finding a steady backcourt buddy for CP3. Reggie Bullock, L.A.'s latest draftee, probably isn't starting caliber, though he could be valuable as another "Three and D" swingman who can spread the floor with his crisp perimeter shooting.
Assuming the Clippers take care of business at the off-guard spot to some extent, they'll be well positioned to own more than just the marquee at the Staples Center next season.
But, then again, these are the Clippers we're talking about. Positive assumptions are practically combustible when wearing that cursed jersey.
5. Memphis Grizzlies
2013 Draft Picks: No. 41 (Jamaal Franklin), No. 55 (Joffrey Lauvergne), No. 60 (Janis Timma)
The Memphis Grizzlies did well to tap Dave Joerger as their next head coach. In Joerger, the Grizzlies can now count as their leader a rising star in the coaching profession who's already intimately familiar with the capabilities of this roster from his days serving as an assistant under Lionel Hollins.
That doesn't mean that the Joerger hire will turn out to be a slam dunk. Nor does it mean that Memphis doesn't have other concerns to address.
Tony Allen will be a free agent once the calendar turns to July, and though it makes basketball sense for the Grizzlies to bring him back, Memphis' cost-conscious ownership and front office may not be willing to put the team's payroll so close to luxury-tax territory.
Jamaal Franklin could offset the loss of Allen to some extent, though he won't see any help in that regard from Memphis' two draft-and-stash picks from the tail end of the second round.
In any case, the Grizzlies' current crop of talent—with Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph and Mike Conley as the principals—is still formidable enough to make some serious noise in the Western Conference. Another floor-spreading shooter or two would do wonders to free up Memphis' stodgy offense.
Which, in truth, doesn't need to score at an elite rate, so long as the Grizzlies' physical defense continues to grind its opponents into a fine pulp.
4. Indiana Pacers
2013 Draft Picks: No. 23 (Solomon Hill), No. 53 (Colton Iverson, traded to Boston for cash considerations)
For the first time since Reggie Miller was last seen slinging three-pointers in an NBA game, the Indiana Pacers are well within striking distance of title contention.
Which, along with lingering health concerns, helps to explain Larry Bird's return to the front office after a one-year hiatus. Larry Legend is largely responsible for building the Pacers' squad that pushed the Heat to seven games, with Paul George, Lance Stephenson, Roy Hibbert, David West and George Hill all joining the team on Bird's watch.
Indy's objectives for the summer are simple, at least in name: re-sign West, add a big body and a ball-handling guard to the bench and pray for Danny Granger's health. Solomon Hill doesn't address any one of those in particular, though he could develop into a solid jack-of-all-trades type in the Circle City.
Assuming the rest of those tasks are completed by summer's end, the Pacers will be as formidable an opponent as Miami will face in the Eastern Conference next season.
3. San Antonio Spurs
2013 Draft Picks: No. 28 (Livio Jean-Charles), No. 58 (Deshaun Thomas)
Another year, another overseas stash job for the San Antonio Spurs. They'll let Livio Jean-Charles bide his time abroad before so much as clearing a spot for him on the roster stateside.
The Spurs were already in plum position to make yet another strong push through the Association in 2013-14. The core four of Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green are all still under contract. Manu Ginobili figures to return at a rate that will be far more reasonable to San Antonio's fairly flexible financial situation.
All of which leaves the Spurs with a deep roster and ample room with which to attract a quality free agent or two.
That is, assuming they don't tie up all of their money in new contracts for Tiago Splitter and Gary Neal, both of whom are bound for the market come July 1.
And both of whom are more or less replaceable, at least as far as pure productivity is concerned. With Parker in the midst of his prime and Leonard looking like a future All-Star on the rise, look for the Spurs to extend their run of postseason success for at least another year.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder
2013 Draft Picks: No. 12 (Steven Adams), No. 29 (Archie Goodwin, traded to Golden State for Andre Roberson), No. 32 (Alex Abrines)
The Oklahoma City Thunder's way-too-early primacy out West has very little to do with the selections of Steven Adams and Archie Goodwin, though Adams' size and Goodwin's ability to attack off the dribble don't figure to harm the cause in the Sooner State.
So long as Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are healthy, the Thunder will be in prime position to reclaim their conference crown and contend for a title. Such is the benefit of employing two of the 10 best basketball players on planet Earth on the same squad.
If not for Westbrook's knee knock with Patrick Beverley in the first round of the 2013 playoffs, OKC might well have been the team taking lumps from the defending champs in the recently completed finals.
Instead, the Thunder were left to wonder what would've been had Russ been around, and/or had GM Sam Presti not punted James Harden to the Houston Rockets prior to the season, and/or had Scott Brooks shown any creativity or foresight in concocting an offense whose efficacy isn't entirely reliant on the talents of its two superstars.
But, again, these points might all be moot right about now had Westbrook not been in the wrong place at the wrong time.
1. Miami Heat
2013 Draft Picks: None (traded a future second-round pick to Atlanta for James Ennis)
The Miami Heat remain on the NBA's mountaintop, even after emerging from the 2013 draft with only the 50th pick (James Ennis) in a weak class.
Miami's primacy is more than justified, though. Any team that's won two titles in a row, been to three straight NBA Finals and employs the best player in the world (and one of the greatest of all time) in LeBron James deserves the benefit of the doubt.
There'd been some chatter about the Heat "needing" to shop one of their Big Three (Chris Bosh, anyone?) to ease the team's financial burden a bit while refreshing the roster after three grueling seasons together. But, realistically, Miami isn't going to get a worthwhile return on Bosh or Dwyane Wade, especially after the uneven postseasons through which they both persevered.
If nothing else, there's no need to mess with success. The Heat may be far from perfect on the whole, but their way of doing things clearly works—and has since that sensational summer of 2010. Any attempt to shake things up at this stage of the game would be foolhardy, to say the least.
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