Ranking the Biggest Projects of the 2013 NBA Draft Class

Alec NathanFeatured ColumnistJune 30, 2013

Ranking the Biggest Projects of the 2013 NBA Draft Class

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    Throughout a process in which there was no consensus No. 1 pick and plenty of variation among draft boards, the 2013 NBA draft was one in which teams selected prospects based on upside. 

    Philadelphia 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie succinctly summed up that philosophy, saying, via CBS3 Philly's Spike Eskin, “The job is not to pick the best players in the past, but who the best players will be in the future. Those are often the same, but not always."

    While Hinkie's stance may seem a bit obvious, that thought is one that guides the draft processes of countless teams throughout the Association. 

    Although potential is often a significant determinant in selecting future talent, this year's class had more than its fair share of raw prospects. Projects require patience and a great deal of effort, but in time they can prove to be franchise-changing pieces if developed correctly. 

Honorable Mention: Nerlens Noel

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    Defensively, Nerlens Noel is as polished as they come at 19 years old. The newest member of the Philadelphia 76ers averaged 4.4 blocks and 2.1 steals per game last season at Kentucky and departed with SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors in tow. 

    It's on the offensive end where Noel will need to improve dramatically if he's to live up to the hype. If you've watched Noel, then you're well aware that his offensive production is highly dependent on dunks, lobs and putbacks. Noel's not particularly adept at creating his own shot, especially when it comes to conventional post-ups. 

    Some of that has to do with Noel's lack of bulk (listed at 206 pounds by DraftExpress), but there will be plenty of time for the No. 6 overall pick to add muscle to his frame as he rehabs from a torn ACL. 

    There's also the matter of Noel's free-throw shooting. Converting on just 52.9 percent of his attempts from the charity stripe during his freshman season at Kentucky, Noel remains a serious liability at the line. 

Honorable Mention: Alex Len

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    At 7'1'' and 255 pounds, Alex Len is more NBA-ready in the size department than Nerlens NoelHowever, unlike Noel, Len doesn't possess great speed or top-flight athleticism. 

    Len's adjustment to the pros won't be easy, as his repertoire of offensive moves is limited. In the post, Len is often slow and deliberate with his moves. Going up against NBA bigs, Len is going to need to become more decisive and confident in his decisions when facing and posting up. 

    And while Len has the size to be a solid defender in the pro ranks, his foot speed is noticeably slow in spots on tape. 

    The good news for Len is this: On a team like the Phoenix Suns who are in no rush to win right away, he'll have plenty of time to develop and tweak his game. 

6. Ricky Ledo

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    Ricky Ledo is an unknown commodity entering his rookie season with the Dallas Mavericks. He didn't step on the court for the Providence Friars in what was supposed to be his freshman campaign, which helps explains his drop to No. 43 overall in the 2013 draft. 

    Considered a talented scorer and handler of the ball, Ledo shouldn't have a hard time getting up shots. The real task for Ledo will be finding playing time. Since he is largely unproven, he will need to show out in a big way in summer league and in practice to gain Rick Carlisle's trust.  

    In addition to proving his worth offensively, Ledo needs to be committed defensively in order to receive consideration for consistent playing time on a veteran squad like the Mavs. If Ledo can find a way to hang his hat on defense, then he'll be on the right track. 

5. Lucas Nogueira

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    The Atlanta Hawks went with an international flavor in the 2013 draft, selecting Brazil's Lucas Nogueira and Germany's Dennis Schroeder with back-to-back picks in the first round. 

    Examining the two prospects, Nogueira is far and away the bigger project. A raw 7-footer with fantastic length (7'6'' wingspan, per DraftExpress), Nogueira has the physical gifts to compete in the NBA. 

    But at 20 years old, Nogueira is simply an athlete with good defensive instincts and an incredibly limited offensive game. 

    Getting acquainted with strong NBA centers and power forwards is going to be a real challenge for Nogueira, and the physicality that welcomes him in the pros will be none too pleasant. 

    In watching Nogueira, I can't help but see similarities between his game and Samuel Dalembert's. Like Dalembert, Nogueira is a lanky shot-blocker who oftentimes looks uncomfortable and out of place on the offensive end. 

    If Nogueira can transform himself into a strong defensive specialist, the Hawks will have done well.

4. Archie Goodwin

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    Archie Goodwin is an enormously talented guard out of Kentucky whose athleticism and size should serve him well with the Phoenix Suns. 

    Although he's a strong ball-handler, Goodwin projects as a shooting guard in the pros, possessing a 6'5'' frame. There's just one problem: Goodwin isn't a particularly adept shooter. 

    Goodwin thrives attacking the basket with a full head of steam, but his jumper needs a considerable amount of work. 

    With a raw shot, Goodwin shot 44 percent from the field and 26.6 percent from three during his freshman season at Kentucky. 

    Needing to polish his mechanics before he becomes a reliable shooting guard, Goodwin has a difficult road ahead of him. 

3. Giannis Antetokounmpo

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    At 18 years old, Giannis Antetokounmpo was thought to be a draft-and-stash candidate who would develop his game and his body overseas before coming to the NBA. 

    Interestingly enough, the Milwaukee Bucks wasted no time making their intentions regarding Antetokounmpo clear. According to a tweet from Fox Sports Wisconsin's Andrew Gruman, the Bucks plan on bringing the Greek prospect over immediately. 

    There's no denying that Antetokounmpo possesses remarkable talent. But at 6'9'' and 196 pounds, it's hard to imagine Antetokounmpo not getting bullied by stronger wings during the early stages of his career. 

    The Bucks are in need of athletic perimeter players, but throwing Antetokounmpo into the fire at this young age could be detrimental to his confidence. 

2. Steven Adams

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    Like every center with upside in this year's draft class, Steven Adams' offensive skill set will need to expand markedly for the 7-footer out of Pittsburgh to live up to expectations as the No. 12 overall pick. 

    Fortunately, the Oklahoma City Thunder were in a position to pick the best talent available. They didn't need to concern themselves with instant production thanks to the established presences of Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins and Nick Collison in the frontcourt. 

    What makes Adams such an intriguing prospect is that he's a sturdy 7-footerunlike Noel and Nogueirawho runs the floor exceptionally well. 

    Adams is the opposite of a plodding low-post center, but he will need to implement some low-post concepts to be an effective rotational player for the Thunder. 

1. Rudy Gobert

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    Part of the Utah Jazz's draft-day haul that included Michigan point guard Trey Burke, French center Rudy Gobert faces a massive learning curve in the NBA. 

    Gobert's physical gifts—which include a 7'2'' frame, 7'9'' wingspan and 9'7'' standing reach, per DraftExpress—make him this draft's most intriguing project. 

    The Jazz are at risk of losing both Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap in free agency, which made adding size through the draft a must. 

    Gobert has size, but boy is he raw. Like many of the centers drafted with high upside, Gobert's offensive game is in need of some serious fine-tuning.

    The French big averaged 8.4 points per game last season with Cholet Basket in France, and he did so on 71.4 percent shooting. But that percentage is indicative of Gobert's offensive limitations, not his true abilities.

    At 21 years old, Gobert's offensive game is confined to dunks and the simplest high-percentage looks. While he could prove to be a solid defensive contributor, Gobert will need to bulk up from 238 pounds to capably bang with opposing big men down in the post.