Rookie Season Predictions for Each 2013 NBA Draft First-Round Pick
Now that we know which rookies will be playing where, it is time to predict which first-rounders will make the biggest impact in their first year.
The 2013 draft class is an idiosyncratic bunch that skews decidedly toward the weaker side. In David Stern's final draft as commissioner, he welcomed to the NBA an assortment of projects, guys with serious injury concerns and international players about to get stashed abroad for the time being.
Of the rooks who will suit up stateside, none is anything resembling a sure thing. Any team that gets solid production out of its first-round pick this season will be truly lucky for it.
That doesn't mean that these picks will never develop. Rather, it just means that they will face a longer learning curve than we're used to seeing from top prospects.
There is plenty of reason to hope that many members of the draft class of 2013 will pan out, but for now, let's keep expectations low.
Here are rookie season predictions for each of the 2013 NBA draft first-round picks.
1. SF/PF Anthony Bennett, Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cleveland Cavaliers shocked the world by picking a player most didn't expect to go No. 1, although he's someone who could conceivably make an immediate impact.
More on the shakier alternatives later, but for now, let's talk about Anthony Bennett.
He's a SF/PF tweener who can both post up and step out beyond the arc. For Cleveland—a team with limited firepower from its bigs that also started Alonzo Gee in all 82 games last season—that type of player will certainly come in handy.
However, the Cavs will also bring Bennett along slowly. At 6'7", he'll need to adjust to facing much taller defenders on the block, while his limited mobility and so-so shooting stroke will keep Cleveland from playing him big minutes on the wing.
Bennett will be a key member of Cleveland's second unit and will probably play upwards of 20 minutes per game. That will be enough to give him some valuable early experience, but it is important not to burden a prospect who will be searching for a natural fit in the pros.
2. SG Victor Oladipo, Orlando Magic
Victor Oladipo's immediate fate is directly tied to what the Orlando Magic do with Aaron Afflalo.
The incumbent shooting guard played a valuable leadership role for the Magic last season, but not an integral one.
Afflalo took the pressure off guys like Moe Harkless, Tobias Harris and Andrew Nicholson, particularly on the defensive end. If he's still in Orlando when the season starts, he'd be an ideal mentor for Oladipo, another two-way guard with a versatile offensive game.
That said, Oladipo would see fewer minutes on a team full of young swingmen if the vet sticks around.
It's clear that Afflalo is not long for the Magic now that they have drafted his successor. The 27-year-old is still a very useful trade chip, however, and it's in Orlando's best interests to move him.
If Afflalo is gone, Oladipo suddenly leaps from learning on the sideline to playing major minutes. He should also garner Rookie of the Year consideration.
3. SF Otto Porter, Jr., Washington Wizards
Otto Porter, Jr. has a tricky skill set for a rookie looking to contribute immediately, as he is a Jack of all trades but master of none.
Where Porter will make his most notable early impact is as a defensive sub. He has enough athleticism and intelligence to be productive on that end but not enough to earn him significant playing time.
That's because the Georgetown product will also be a serious liability on offense in the early goings.
His shot is fine, but he needs to be quicker, doesn't have a great game off the bounce and won't be able to beat defenders inside yet. All that leaves him with is some nifty passing skill and court vision for a player of his size, but that means little when defenses aren't afraid of him attacking the rim.
As these myriad of skills develop, Porter will get more burn and make the most of it. This year, though, he won't be around much in consequential games.
4. PF/C Cody Zeller, Charlotte Bobcats
Cody Zeller is in the awkward situation where the Charlotte Bobcats will give him plenty of tick but not the support to make the most of it.
As a star at Indiana, the youngest Zeller brother made his name by attacking from the block or off the bounce to score over helpless defenders. When those defenders weren't so feeble and decided to body up on the "Big Handsome," however, he was unable to fight through them.
In short, this scoring big is going to be reduced to a pick-and-pop specialist until he learns to beat that sort of physical defense. Until then, Zeller is going to get absolutely pummeled every time he goes to the rim.
Considering the 'Cats' other prominent interior players under contract are the offensively inept Bismack Biyombo and the totally inefficient Tyrus Thomas, Zeller won't have much help down low to take the burden off of him. He'll get his points because he'll play a lot, but it won't be pretty.
5. C Alex Len, Phoenix Suns
For an undeveloped center going to a Phoenix Suns team that could use his production as soon as possible, this is a particularly inopportune time for Alex Len to have a serious injury
The 7'1" former Maryland Terrapin from Ukraine is currently nursing a stress fracture in his ankle—something he has dealt with throughout his college years. For an athletic prospect who relies on coordination and agility, his leg issue—especially since it is a lower leg issue—is cause for concern.
Len's stress fracture will keep him out of summer league play, robbing him of that first chance to play with some future teammates and show how far along his post game is. Spending some time with Marcin Gortat will help him on both ends, though Gortat could be gone by mideseason, forcing Len to take over completely.
Phoenix is bad enough and the 2014 draft class is good enough that such a premature trial by fire could be bearable. Len shouldn't actually start providing useful minutes until about March, but don't be surprised if the Suns throw him out there even sooner.
6. C Nerlens Noel, Philadelphia 76ers
It took an unanticipated slide and a surprise trade, but Nerlens Noel is improbably a member of the Philadelphia 76ers.
Philly will reap the benefits of the one-time consensus top pick when he returns from a torn ACL around Christmas. Then the Sixers will receive their first glance at how a 218-pound center coming off severe knee surgery with no offensive technique functions at the NBA level.
With his elite leaping ability and devastating quickness for a man of his size, Noel will be able to make some impact with his finesse. His weak-side shot-blocking should translate immediately, as long as he doesn't get sealed out too often.
But unless the Sixers replace Thaddeus Young with a true power forward or center to play alongside Noel, his defense won't even be a major asset this season. Even if his health holds up, he's still a role player right now.
7. SG Ben McLemore, Sacramento Kings
Ben McLemore's first season could go a number of ways.
Either his sharpshooting and his play off the dribble will allow him to make an immediate impact for the Sacramento Kings, or his unassertiveness will force him to the periphery of a disjointed, polarized team. Some combination of the two is also possible.
The many Kings combo guards will help take some pressure off of the rook, and McLemore is one of the few players who could actually be helped by the pernicious influence of a gunner like Marcus Thornton.
If there's one knock on McLemore, it's that he sleeps through some games and doesn't take over as often as he really could. On Sacramento, though, he'll receive enough playing time to be a difference-maker and secure himself even more burn if his play warrants it.
He'll have to be aggressive and willing to shoot to earn his reward, but McLemore has the talent to win Rookie of the Year honors. However, a poor attitude could force him to spend much of the year on the bench.
8. SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Detroit Pistons
Projecting as an athlete who can knock down threes and defend either wing position, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has a pretty safe future with the Detroit Pistons.
Unfortunately, his present team lacks an established point guard, meaning his offensive touches will be scarce in his rookie season.
At least KCP is a solid shot-maker. He can play off the bounce and knock down mid-range jumpers if an offensive possession breaks down—something that is bound to happen with Brandon Knight still running the point.
Detroit should, by no means, trust KCP with that responsibility, though.
The ideal situation would involve the Pistons acquiring a big point guard like Greivis Vasquez from the Pelicans, allowing them to shift Knight to shooting guard and KCP to the second unit.
Still, Caldwell-Pope will get upwards of 20 minutes per night, giving him the playing time to insert his name into the conversation for Rookie of the Year.
He was considered a cut below the top-tier of prospects this year, but he will surely outperform some guys that were drafted ahead of him.
9. PG Trey Burke, Utah Jazz
In yet another transaction-related surprise, the Utah Jazz picked up the prospect that is most likely to start from day one.
When the Jazz traded up to the ninth pick to nab Trey Burke, the Jazz finally found their answer at point guard. They haven't had someone capable of leading their backcourt since Deron Williams left town.
Burke has just the style of play to suit an up-and-coming team. He is equally happy working the ball low to Derrick Favors, hitting Gordon Hayward on the wing or taking it to the hole himself and finishing.
With a developing roster and no mentor figure ahead of him at his position, Burke is the most likely player in this class to make good on a starting spot. That means he has to be considered the front-runner for the Rookie of the Year award.
10. SG/PG C.J. McCollum, Portland Trail Blazers
Call it the influence of small-ball offenses and the desire to have multiple ball-handlers on the floor because the Portland Trail Blazers already drafted someone very similar to C.J. McCollum last year.
Playing with reigning ROY-winner Damian Lillard will certainly aid the Lehigh product's development, but it won't necessarily lead to production from him this season.
McCollum will give Portland some nice continuity off the bench, though, allowing the Blazers to play with a tall, explosive point guard even when Lillard sits. It's also possible they'll play in the same lineups this coming season, but that could be more of a long-term development.
Ultimately, Lillard's presence means McCollum will have to settle for second unit duty for now. He'll have his moments of nice play off the bench, but he won't leave a substantial mark quite yet.
11. PG Michael Carter-Williams, Philadelphia 76ers
The Sixers added gobs of length to their roster with Noel and Michael Carter-Williams.
Measuring in at 6'6", Carter-Williams has marked advantages over most point guards due to his ability to see the court and force turnovers. He also has nice burst for his size, giving him the ability to penetrate, even against smaller defenders.
There is also the very real possibility that MCW doesn't work out in the pros. While lacking the scoring punch of a combo guard, he might not be quick enough to contain the NBA's best point men, and he doesn't have a reliable-enough jumper to exploit his height advantage.
What Carter-Williams needs is a scoring point guard to join him in the backcourt, allowing the rookie to both handle the ball but defend shooting guards. Until Philly gets one of those, he'll have limited effectiveness, even if he starts.
12. C Steven Adams, Oklahoma City Thunder
Picking in the late lottery was a luxury for the Oklahoma City Thunder, who will not ask for any immediate return from Steven Adams.
The center from New Zealand flashed some enticing raw ability in his only year at Pittsburgh, but he lacks both technique and instincts. For a contender, such a player is useless, but he could certainly help replenish the roster in a couple years.
Expect Adams to see considerably more time in the D-League than the NBA, as he's a non-factor at the moment.
13. PF/C Kelly Olynyk, Boston Celtics
While nowhere near as exciting as Ben McLemore, Kelly Olynyk has a similar disparity between his floor and ceiling.
At his worst, Olynyk won't be able to body up against NBA bigs, nor will he have the quickness to drive past them to score. On the other hand, if he can provide just serviceable defense and stick as a pick-and-roll scorer, he'll be around for a good amount of time.
Even then, Olynyk would be a rotational scoring center, but he will not be a starter, unless a team is having issues. In the meantime, he'll give the Boston Celtics some points and some fouls off the bench next year.
14. SF Shabazz Muhammad, Minnesota Timberwolves
The Minnesota Timberwolves desperately need shooters this season, and Shabazz Muhammad can help with that.
While he lacks the athleticism to create his own shot at this point in his development, he can spot up and knock down threes to space the floor for Ricky Rubio to drive and for Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic (if he is re-signed) to set up on the block.
Muhammad's length will come in handy on the defensive end, but that's about the extent of his ability to contribute right now. He'll be in the back of the Wolves rotation, but he'll get run.
15. SF Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks
The Milwaukee Bucks landed a rangy, explosive forward in Giannis Antetokounmpo, but he won't be ready to come to the NBA quite yet.
Just 18 years old and with tons of raw talent, Antetokounmpo will attempt to refine his game in his time abroad. We'll see how well he can use it when he finally leaves Greece.
16. PF/C Lucas Nogueira, Atlanta Hawks
The NBA's draft-night darling won't be playing here for a while, either.
Lucas Nogueira won fans over with his incredible afro, but "Bebe" has the potential to become an interior defensive force. If the Atlanta Hawks become a team that forces turnovers by the time he arrives, he could be a nice finisher in transition, too.
For now, Bebe will stay in Brazil. His impact on the Hawks is multiple years away.
17. PG Dennis Schroeder, Atlanta Hawks
By the time Bebe reaches Atlanta, a tall, scoring point guard should be joining him.
Dennis Schroeder is a German prospect with the body of a Rajon Rondo but without the pass-first approach. All the tools are there right now, but not the efficiency, which will take some more time to develop.
So the Hawks will get nothing out of their first-round picks this year, but they're going to get a heavy influx of young talent in a couple years.
18. Shane Larkin, Dallas Mavericks
A collegiate favorite and the son of a Hall of Fame baseball player, Shane Larkin won't live up to the hype in the pros.
At just 5'10", Larkin is going to be shorter than the man he's guarding unless he's matched up against Nate Robinson. Larkin can make up for it with his quickness and efficient play on both ends, but he's destined for a backup role due to his size.
Unless he develops Ty Lawson's speed or Robinson's scoring ability, Larkin will be nothing more than a serviceable point guard off the bench. Dallas could still use him regardless.
19. SG/SF Sergey Karasev, Cleveland Cavaliers
Though the Cavs could choose to stash Sergey Karasev in Russia for a few seasons, the No. 19 overall pick believes that he's ready for the NBA now.
Karasev already has experience with the Russian Olympic team and is the son of a coach, giving him more savvy than your average 19-year-old. He can hit threes, knows how to move the ball and is a willing defender and rebounder, despite his slight frame.
He can slip in and make Cleveland's second unit guys better next year, or he can marinate in Europe for another year. The Cavs are getting a good value with Karasev either way.
20. SF Tony Snell, Chicago Bulls
Tony Snell can't do much in the NBA right now, but he can provide some floor spacing off the bench.
Though consistency was at times an issue for him in college, Snell is a knockdown shooter who has the physical traits to develop into a capable wing defender with work.
For a Chicago Bulls team that was sorely lacking three-point shooting last season, this is a nice acquisition. Snell won't factor heavily in their plans in 2013-14, but he will be useful on a situational basis.
21. C Gorgui Dieng, Minnesota Timberwolves
Given his mental and physical approach to defense, Gorgui Dieng was always going to be a handy defensive sub.
Unlike many shot-blockers, Dieng has enough bulk to hold up in man defense as well as when punishing from the weak side. On the other end, he is effective at moving without the ball and passing from the post, dimensions that allow him to stay on the court even when he's not scoring himself.
With a frontcourt of Kevin Love and likely Nikola Pekovic, Dieng will be very useful not only for defense, but also for depth. He won't dominate the box score, but he will contribute.
22. PF/C Mason Plumlee, Brooklyn Nets
Mason Plumlee is going to do two things and two things only: jump and run the floor.
For an ancient team like the Brooklyn Nets, that youthful energy is vital. It's not like Plumlee can replace Brook Lopez or Kevin Garnett when one leaves the floor, but he brings a different style of forward play to the table and forces opponents to adapt.
As a change-of-pace guy, Plumlee is in a good place, and don't be surprised if his All-Star teammates help him polish his game as the season progresses.
23. SF Solomon Hill, Indiana Pacers
For a physical team like the Indiana Pacers, Solomon Hill fits right in while providing some range.
He's a scrappy small forward that is willing to play down a position and defend inside when he has to, but his shot also extends out beyond the three-point line. That means Indy can space the floor offensively while continuing to bang around defensively when Hill is on the floor.
Hill will surely get playing time for the depth-needy Pacers. He'll knock down some threes and play some tough defense. It's not much, but it's just what Indy needs.
24. SG Tim Hardaway, Jr., New York Knicks
On a team struggling to keep its players in free agency, Tim Hardaway, Jr. helps the New York Knicks maintain the status quo.
Though J.R. Smith is likely gone and Jason Kidd is now coaching the Nets, Hardaway can make up for their absence by hitting three-pointers and defending both wing positions. Though he's not adept at creating his own shots inside the arc, all the Knicks need him to do is to run off screens and convert efficiently.
The Knicks can't afford to be picky with their depth. As long as Hardaway is putting in the work on both ends, he'll get his time and hit his threes.
25. SG/SF Reggie Bullock, Los Angeles Clippers
Defense and threes are so valuable in today's NBA, and that's exactly what Reggie Bullock provides the Los Angeles Clippers.
He has the physicality to contain the stronger swingmen and keep them from driving, which will allow him to step into Matt Barnes' open role and contribute on a contender. Then all he has to do is spot up in the corner and capitalize when the defense tries to collapse on Blake Griffin and Chris Paul.
Bullock displayed all of these abilities while at North Carolina. If they can translate just as well to the pros, he'll slide right into the Clippers' main rotation.
26. SF/PF Andre Roberson, Oklahoma City Thunder
Unlike Adams, Andre Roberson could get some time for OKC next season, though it will be at the very back of the rotation.
Any player with a little bit of ability who is willing to grind out possessions will get a shot to play. Roberson is just 6'7", but he rebounds tenaciously, making him an interesting backup for Kevin Durant.
Though he possesses none of Durant's offensive skill, his brute style of play will be a jarring transition for opponents. Roberson would only be good for a few minutes per game this way, but it's a good start for his career on a great team.
27. C Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz
Though the Jazz already have Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter in their young frontcourt, they added another big in the form of Rudy Gobert.
The 7'2" Frenchman with the crazy 7'9" wingspan still needs to bulk up and develop some fluidity and variety in his offensive game. Those are tasks that will be better tackled abroad, though, so Utah will stash Gobert overseas for at least a couple years.
At that point, Utah might have room in its lineup for Gobert. For now, though, it's a non-issue.
28. Livio Jean-Charles, San Antonio Spurs
Livio Jean-Charles is 6'9" with a 7'2" wingspan, a finesse small forward in a power forward's body. In short, he's a raw athlete just begging for the San Antonio Spurs to let him develop for a while overseas.
We've seen the Spurs do this time and time again. This draft pick was much more for 2016 than it was for 2013. Expect Jean-Charles to make it stateside someday, but not anytime soon.
29. SG Archie Goodwin, Phoenix Suns
On the lowly Suns, Archie Goodwin has the potential to legitimately break out as a rookie. It would just be very unlikely.
Phoenix drafted Goodwin purely for talent's sake. In his only season at Kentucky, he occasionally dominated with his athleticism and body control, but he has no technique to support it and often looks entirely lost in his own gifted skin.
If the Suns coaching staff can get through to Goodwin early on, he can rise as high as the starting lineup for this team. That said, he's even more likely to be marooned at the back of Phoenix's rotation trying to make sense of his skills.
30. PG/SG Nemanja Nedovic, Golden State Warriors
In a draft that set the record for the most international players selected in the first round, it's only fitting we end with one.
Serbian guard Nemanja Nedovic projects as a combo guard who can blow by defenders with his athleticism, but his jumper is a major work-in-progress and his passing instincts are not ready for the NBA yet.
So the Golden State Warriors will give Nedovic a year or two to tinker with his game. They'll reap no rewards from the 2013 first-rounder yet, but they have reason to be hopeful.