The 2013 NBA draft probably won't be able to be properly judged for several years as many of the picks were based on upside and long-term potential. With that said, a handful of prospects landed in ideal situations and have an opportunity to make whoever selected them look smart from jump street.
A lot of that has to do with getting immediate playing time, but there are clearly some players in this draft who are more NBA-ready than others. Guys like Alex Len, Steven Adams, Giannis Antetokounmpo and a host of others may not come into their own for several years. Others will simply click from Day 1 and transition smoothly to the NBA.
Here are three exciting drafts picks who will reaffirm their lofty statuses and help their respective teams improve during the 2013-14 season.
If not for the fact that the Cleveland Cavaliers took UNLV forward Anthony Bennett No. 1 overall, the Charlotte Bobcats' selection of Indiana big man Cody Zeller at No. 4 would have easily been the biggest surprise of the first round. Zeller was expected to be taken somewhere within in the top 10, but very few observers anticipated him jumping into the top five. The Bobcats obviously saw something they liked, though, and didn't hesitate to nab him.
Zeller put up excellent numbers last season with the Hoosiers as he averaged 16.5 points and over eight rebounds per game while shooting over 56 percent from the field. Zeller received some criticism last season as Indiana failed to live up to lofty expectations, but that certainly wasn't his fault. Charlotte obviously wasn't concerned with that, and even though many were shocked by the pick, Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports is reporting that one NBA executive thought Zeller would be taken higher than expected.
An NBA executive expected Indiana F-C Cody Zeller to go high because of athleticism and his toughness that was stronger than his brothers.— Marc J. Spears (@SpearsNBAYahoo) June 28, 2013
Even if Zeller isn't the perfect prospect, he is a seven-footer who runs the floor incredibly well. There aren't many players like that at the NBA level, so he'll give opposing defenses some problems. The Bobcats are clearly trying build a team that is big and athletic as they took Michael Kidd-Gilchrist last year. Charlotte has pretty much nothing on its roster, so look for Zeller to get starter minutes and perhaps average close to a double-double as a rookie.
When Kansas shooting guard Ben McLemore declared for the NBA draft, there was plenty of chatter about him potentially being the No. 1 overall selection. That didn't happen, though, as he surprisingly took a bit of a tumble before the Sacramento Kings gleefully snapped him up at No. 7. There are definitely question marks about McLemore's work ethic, consistency and ability to deliver in the clutch, but his talent is limitless.
McLemore's performance last season shouldn't be discounted as he came to Kansas and was the Jayhawks' best offensive player as a freshman. He averaged a shade under 16 points per game along with five rebounds per contest, while shooting almost 50 percent from the field and 42 percent from beyond the arc. That type of proficient shooting should serve him well at the next level. It was also nice to see McLemore's comments after being drafted as he intends to enter the league with a chip on his shoulder, according to Henry Abbott of ESPN.
Ben McLemore: "I can definitely say I come in with a chip on my shoulder. ... I can be an alpha dog and take over games."— Henry Abbott (@TrueHoop) June 28, 2013
The Kings appear to be a team in transition as Tyreke Evans is a free agent and he may very well sign elsewhere. If that is the case, McLemore would likely be a starter from the get-go. He'll need an adjustment period in order to get acclimated to the NBA, but at some point his pure ability and instincts will take over. Even if he struggles with consistency, McLemore should be a big scoring threat for Sacramento next season.
Which NBA rookie will make the biggest impact next season?
Point guard Trey Burke led Michigan to the national championship game this past season and won the Wooden Award as the best player in college basketball. Despite those accolades, he slipped in the draft until the Minnesota Timberwolves selected him at No. 9. His stint with the T'Wolves was short-lived though, as he was eventually dealt to the Utah Jazz in exchange for Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng, according to the Associated Press. Burke was likely a bit surprised at first, but he landed in an ideal situation.
The Jazz have an abundance of frontcourt players with Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, although Jefferson and Millsap are free agents. What Utah doesn't have, however, is a competent point guard. Burke will change that as he can truly do it all. He is an exceptional scorer who can shoot and drive to the hoop, and he is also an excellent passer. According to CBS Sports, NBA writer Gary Parrish believes he will be the Rookie of the Year next season.
Those are lofty expectations, but it's tough to argue with them. The Jazz have literally nothing at guard, so he will be pressed into action right away. There is no reason to think that he'll fail because he made huge strides between his freshman and sophomore seasons at Michigan. Provided Burke continues to develop as a playmaker and protects the ball at the next level, he should be an excellent player.
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