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Buying or Selling Every Top 2013 1st-Round Pick as a Future NBA Star

Jonathan WassermanNBA Lead WriterOctober 21, 2016

Buying or Selling Every Top 2013 1st-Round Pick as a Future NBA Star

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    Though the 2013 NBA draft class might not produce any franchise centerpieces, there could be a few hidden stars. And you don't have to be nominated to an All-Star team to be considered a star. I'm pretty sure Stephen Curry would concur.

    I've got my eye on three specific rookies who I plan to invest in and buy as NBA stars.

Anthony Bennett, Cleveland Cavaliers

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    Buy or Sell: Selling

    Though I'm intrigued by Anthony Bennett's Larry Johnson-like upside, too much has to go right for him to get there.

    At around 6'7'', he's undersized at the 4 and lacks the skill set of your traditional small forward. We've seen recent high-pick combo forwards like Derrick Williams, Michael Beasley and Thomas Robinson struggle at times with the transition—particularly in recognizing and converting scoring opportunities in a new half-court setting.

    I like the Paul Millsap comparison for Bennett—a strong rebounder who can face the rim in the mid-range or bang down low for buckets. In terms of value, I'd expect Bennett to command a similar type of contract as well.

    You wouldn't call Millsap a star, rather a key contributor to a rotation. And I predict we'll eventually say the same about Anthony Bennett.

Victor Oladipo, Orlando Magic

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    Buy or Sell: Buying

    Victor Oladipo has more going for him than just a rapidly developing game—he's got star qualities both on and off the floor.

    A charismatic kid whose contagious hustle and electric athleticism make him incredibly easy to like, Oladipo should be a fan, locker-room and coaches favorite.

    In terms of his skill set, Oladipo is becoming a dangerous offensive threat. While he's capable of taking over a game without needing the ball, he's really improved his ability to create with it in his hands. He's added a pull-up and step-back jumper to complement his explosive attack game off the bounce.

    After watching Oladipo's gradual improvement over the past few years, I'd be crazy to bet on him tapping out now.

    If he can polish up his mid- and long-range scoring arsenal, we could be talking about one of the better two-way guards in the league some day.

     

     

Otto Porter, Washington Wizards

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    Buy or Sell: Selling

    The Wizards knew they weren't getting a star when they selected Otto Porter No. 3 overall. One of the down sides of using a pick that high on Porter is he lacked substantial upside.

    Porter projects as a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none-type of contributor. And to be a star in this league, you need at least one elite skill.

    My guess is Porter averages in that 10-to-14-point range for most of his career. He'll put up numbers that make him valuable to a team, just not a shoe company.

    I'm buying him as a solid supporting piece and selling him as a star.

     

Cody Zeller, Charlotte Bobcats

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    Buy or Sell: Buying

    I'm riding shotgun on Cody Zeller's bandwagon. Consider me a believer in the Big Handsome, who tore up summer league like a seasoned veteran.

    Zeller projects as a power forward given his ability to play 20 feet from the rim. And at 7'0'' with excellent athleticism, there's going to be plenty of 4s who struggle matching up.

    For Zeller, a lot will ride on his jumper. On the perimeter, defenders will have to play off knowing that Zeller is quick off the bounce. If he can stick that 18-footer on a regular basis, he'll be a dual threat facing the rim, the way LaMarcus Aldridge is in that mid-range area.

    A smart kid with the size of a center, the footwork of a forward, and a polished offensive game, I'm buying into Zeller becoming a star offensive player.

Alex Len, Phoenix Suns

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    Buy or Sell: Selling

    Though Alex Len played two years at Maryland, we're still just not sure who he is. While guys like Cody Zeller, Victor Oladipo, Otto Porter and Anthony Bennett were out there producing every night, Len has been someone who simply flashed potential from time to time.

    And now we're just hoping those flashes become a steady stream of production.

    Len only scored 20 points twice during his college career. Rarely was he featured in Maryland's offense, and though he shouldn't shoulder that blame, he hasn't shown enough for me to buy him as a star.

    Len is a long-term project, and long-term projects are tough to complete. He should be a viable starting center when his time comes, but I'm selling Len as a top NBA player.

     

     

     

     

     

     

Nerlens Noel, Philadelphia 76ers

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    Buy or Sell: Selling

    I've been a supporter for Nerlens Noel even after he tore his ACL. But an NBA star? A long-term starter and key part of a rotation I can work with. But you won't find any NBA centers under 235 pounds, and given Noel's slender, 219-pound frame and inability to play outside the paint, the odds are against stardom.

    The Larry Sanders model should be the one Noel looks to follow. Though he lacks the bulk of your traditional NBA 5, he uses his shot-blocking instincts and active athleticism to make plays above the rim on both sides of the ball.

    Noel can make a similar impact to Sanders if he's able to return strong from his torn ACL and maintain that bounce in his knees.

    But there's just too many ifs for me to feel comfortable investing in Noel as a star.

Ben McLemore, Sacramento Kings

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    Buy or Sell: Buying

    Ben McLemore was my top prospect on the board entering the 2013 draft, and my opinion hasn't changed following it.

    I'm buying McLemore as a star in this league once he settles in a few years down the road. A dynamic athlete who can soar above traffic or light it up from 27 feet away, McLemore showed a much-improved in-between game this summer. We saw him separating on the perimeter and creating his own shot at will—something he didn't have the freedom to do at Kansas. 

    With a flawless jump shot, ideal physical tools, and a dangerous scoring arsenal in place, McLemore has All-Star potential if he's able to put it all together.

     

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Detroit Pistons

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    Buy or Sell: Selling

    Unless Kentavious Caldwell-Pope dramatically expands his shot creativity, I wouldn't bet on him being more than a complementary scorer.

    He took 225 threes last season and only 205 two-pointers. Caldwell-Pope is strictly a perimeter scorer—and you won't find too many shooting guards who live or die by the jumper and produce every-night results.

    Caldwell-Pope projects as a guy you surround go-to scorers with. He's a shot-maker in the half court and finisher in transition. 

    But without the ability to consistently create high-percentage shots, Caldwell-Pope won't reach star status.

     

Trey Burke, Utah Jazz

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    Buy or Sell: Selling

    If summer league was any indication of how Trey Burke's game translates to the pros, consider me a seller.

    Heading into the draft, the biggest criticism surrounding Burke was his lack of elite athleticism and upward explosiveness. And it showed in Orlando, where he only shot 24 percent from the floor after struggling to separate from defenders.

    Burke's ceiling was never a point of attraction for NBA teams. This is likely a reason why Orlando—a team in need of a future point guard—passed on Burke at No. 2.

    I'm not giving up on Burke before his career even starts, but I can't buy him as a star.

C.J. McCollum, Portland Trail Blazers

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    Buy or Sell: Selling

    One day, C.J. McCollum will be considered of the NBA's more dangerous scorers—just not in a go-to role.

    McCollum's game is built for a sixth-man role—he lacks the size to start at the 2 and the instincts of a true point guard. But McCollum can certainly light it up and spark a team off the bench.

    He's a guy who can carry a second unit and be sprinkled in with the first. McCollum should be one of the better players from this class, but I'm not sure he can be relied on as a starting, go-to option.

Michael Carter-Williams, Philadelphia 76ers

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    Buy or Sell: Selling

    The upside is there, I just don't think he hits it.

    A crafty playmaker off the dribble, Carter-Williams' strengths center around his ability to break down defenses and set up teammates.

    But his decision-making at times can be brutal, and that's not always a fixable flaw. Carter-Williams was tied for the most turnovers in the country last season, not to mention having field-goal and three-point percentages under 40 and 30 percent, respectively.

    A guard like Greivis Vasquez averaged nine assists a game, but nobody recognizes him as one of the better point guards in the league. And Carter-Williams reminds me of Vasquez—a sizable point guard who can create for teammates but is ultimately barred from stardom due to offensive inefficiency.

     

Steven Adams, Oklahoma City Thunder

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    Buy or Sell: Selling

    Steven Adams is phenomenal athlete and physical specimen at 7'0'' with a 7'4'' wingspan and strong upper body. But he's not much of a basketball player.

    Even the self-aware Adams will admit he's a long-term project. But the Thunder didn't bring in Adams to pose as a go-to scorer in the post. His role as a pro will be to protect the rim and score around it. Adams projects as an easy-bucket guy on offense who can make plays above the cylinder on both sides of the ball.

    I think he eventually lands a starting job, but I'd be shocked if he was ever more than a 10-point-per-game scorer.

     

Kelly Olynyk, Boston Celtics

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    Buy or Sell: Selling

    This was a tough one, as Kelly Olynyk looked every bit of the real deal this summer. While I think he's got the talent to be a really strong offensive player, his inability to control the glass or protect the rim hurts his value as a center.

    I wouldn't be surprised to see Olynyk average close to 20 points a game some time down the road. But so did Andrea Bargnani, another 7-footer who excels on the perimeter yet sports career averages of 4.8 boards and 0.9 blocks per game—and that kills his value.

    Olynyk's lack of athleticism and strength really limit his two-way upside, even though he's capable of taking over offensively.

    I'll buy Olynyk as a quality starting center, but not an NBA star.

Shabazz Muhammad, Minnesota Timberwolves

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    Buy or Sell: Selling

    I just don't see Shabazz Muhammad's game translating very well to the NBA level.

    An undersized small forward without that signature athleticism, Muhammad isn't much of a rebounder and averaged less than one assist per game at UCLA.

    The Wolves drafted him for his ability to generate offense. However, his inability to create off the dribble could limit him as a scorer in the pros. He's a promising spot-up shooter and finisher in the lane, but he's not a guy you'd give the ball and watch him go to work.

    Muhammad projects as a one-dimensional, complementary scorer who's bound to struggle with consistency and defense.

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