NBA Draft 2013: Safest Picks Available in First Round

Rob GoldbergFeatured ColumnistMay 21, 2013

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 29:  Mason Plumlee #5 of the Duke Blue Devils drives for a shot attempt past Adreian Payne #5 of the Michigan State Spartans during the Midwest Region Semifinal round of the 2013 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 29, 2013 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Everyone wants to draft the next big superstar, but many times the players with that level of potential turn out to be busts. For this reason, it is often better to go for a safer pick in the first round instead.

While this year's class has no sure-fire All-Stars, there are plenty of high-upside players. Guys like Nerlens Noel and Alex Len have the potential to be All-Star centers, although they could also end up struggling immensely at the next level and be out of the league in a few years.

For some teams without a lot going for them, this is absolutely worth the risk. For others that are close to contention, however, it might be smarter to know what they are going to get out of a young player.

These prospects might not end up being Hall of Famers, but they are certain to be impact players in a rotation very early in their careers.


Otto Porter, SF, Georgetown

It seems the only thing that will hold back Otto Porter from being a true superstar is his mentality.

Last season at Georgetown, the wing proved that he can fill up the stat sheet in almost every category. He can run the offense like a point guard, rebound like a forward and shoot as well as anyone in the class. Additionally, he has great length which he uses to be an excellent on-ball defender.

Porter has the size and athleticism to enter an NBA lineup and play as well as he did in college.

The problem is that he is almost too unselfish and will often pass up a shot when he should be the one with the ball. He was easily the best player on his team last season, but he rarely took over the game.

Still, if he goes to a team with talented players around him, he will help generate a lot of wins.


Mason Plumlee, C, Duke

Mason Plumlee improved a great deal in every season at Duke. By his senior year, he averaged 17.1 points and 10 rebounds per game while being a major part of a very good team.

He has excellent technique around the basket that helps him score on a consistent basis from inside of 10 feet. On defense, he is not a great shot-blocker but is always in the right spot and helps out on pick and rolls.

Additionally, Plumlee is much more athletic than people give him credit for and can finish huge dunks above the rim.

The only downside is that teams do not see much room for improvement at 23 years old with a nearly finished game. General managers would rather grab a player who could be great than one they know will be good, but Plumlee will be very good at the next level.


Victor Oladipo, SG, Indiana

Calling Victor Oladipo safe will depend highly on when he is drafted and what is expected out of him.

If he is taken with one of the top-three picks to a team that expects him to be a big-time scorer, he will not reach that level. On the other hand, he is the type of player that will be around the league for a long time.

Oladipo is the best on-ball defender in this class. He has the strength, wingspan and quickness to guard multiple positions on the floor, which will make him a valuable player for a long time. 

Offensively, the Indiana player turned himself into an excellent shooter this season and proved that he has good range when he gets an open look at the basket.

While he will not be the best player on a good team, Oladipo could be similar player to Bruce Bowen and stick around for over a decade.


Jeff Withey, C, Kansas

There are few players in this class ready to contribute immediately as much as Jeff Withey. At about 6'11", he has the size to play center and the skill to be a rotational player for a competitive team.

Withey is known as one of the best interior defenders in the class after finishing third in the nation in blocks per game last season. What he lacks in pure athleticism he makes up for in timing and experience inside.

The four-year player also learned to avoid foul trouble to allow him to stay in the game longer. This is not easy for a shot-blocker, but it is important for an NBA team looking for someone to help off the bench.

Although it is hard to imagine Withey lighting things up on the offensive end, his size and skill on defense should be enough to help a contending team win a championship.