The 2013 NBA draft class doesn’t possess the elite talent we’re used to seeing, but that doesn’t mean teams won’t find future stars in the first round.
With few surefire top-five picks and a lot of players who could surprise in their early years in the NBA (as we’ve seen so often in recent drafts), teams will be placing a premium on making smart selections throughout the first round. Gone are the days of using late first-round picks as trade fodder and throwaway draft selections.
But the success of every draft class is also largely dependent on finding the right schematic and positional fit. With the right system and a talented coaching, any NBA prospect can exceed expectations.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at how the first round could shake out, taking into account positional needs and likely scenarios for each first-round selection.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Nerlens Noel, C, Kentucky
Despite concerns regarding Noel’s small sample size and devastating knee injury last season, Cleveland doesn’t have a lot of other options with the first selection.
With the arrival of Dion Waiters last year, the Cavs are unlikely to opt for McLemore, and apart from Georgetown forward Otto Porter, there isn’t another player in this class that should be considered a candidate for this pick.
Chris Grant may try to get creative and explore other options, but it’s more likely he goes the safe route in selecting the player with the highest upside in this draft class.
2. Orlando Magic: Ben McLemore, SG, Kansas
McLemore has the size, quickness and pure shooting ability to be a tremendous NBA 2-guard. With a quick release and smooth motion, there wasn’t a better shooter in college basketball last season, and that ability translates well to the NBA game.
3. Washington Wizards: Otto Porter, SF, Georgetown
Porter is the kind of do-it-all forward who will mesh well in Washington. With exciting young perimeter scorers in John Wall and Bradley Beal, the Wizards can opt for a player who can be the glue to hold the offense together.
The Georgetown product also plays tremendous on-ball defense and contributes in nearly every facet of the game. Without a top-tier big man available here, Washington will have a hard time passing on Porter.
4. Charlotte Bobcats: Anthony Bennett, F, UNLV
Charlotte could certainly use a dominant center with this pick, but the value in Anthony Bennett far outweighs that of a developmental big man.
The UNLV product has exceptional athleticism and size to play small forward in the NBA, but he’s also long and physical enough to develop into the power forward role in the future if needed. But regardless of where the Bobcats play him, Bennett is the best player on the board. They can’t afford to pass up talent due to positional needs.
5. Phoenix Suns: Victor Oladipo, SG, Indiana
Phoenix was one of the worst three-point shooting squads in the league last season, and finding a player like Oladipo at No. 5 should be a priority. The Indiana swingman knocked down 44.1 percent of his attempts from behind the arc in 2012-13.
6. New Orleans Pelicans: Trey Burke, PG, Michigan
With the top five players already off the board, New Orleans can take advantage of value here and select the best point guard in this draft class. Trey Burke put together an incredible season with the Wolverines, and he won’t make it much further in the first round if the Pelicans pass on him at No. 6.
7. Sacramento Kings: Shabazz Muhammad, SF, UCLA
The Kings have plenty of talent in their frontcourt (and some clutter in their backcourt), and it certainly wouldn’t hurt to add another perimeter scorer like UCLA’s Shabazz Muhammad. He has the size and shooting ability to play a swingman role in Sacramento as he develops better ability to create his own shots and play on-ball defense in the NBA.
8. Detroit Pistons: C.J. McCollum, PG/SG, Lehigh
C.J. McCollum gives the Pistons plenty of options in their backcourt, filling a position of need and allowing Brandon Knight to play off the ball at times. The Lehigh product will need some time to develop at either guard position in the NBA, but his quickness and pure shooting ability should make him a top-10 pick on draft day.
9. Minnesota Timberwolves: Cody Zeller, C, Indiana
Minnesota doesn’t have many options for a backcourt scorer with this pick. If the Timberwolves target a guard they can pair with Ricky Rubio, they may attempt to move up using their second first-round pick (No. 26) as part of a package to get their man.
But if it doesn’t move up, Minnesota’s best option may be to add another young piece to its frontcourt who can contribute at both ends of the floor.
Cody Zeller probably should have returned for another year at Indiana, though no one could blame him for coming out early to become a top-10 pick. He still needs a lot of development, though, and it’s hard to pinpoint the position at which he’ll see most of his playing time in his formative years.
10. Portland Trail Blazers: Alex Len, C, Maryland
With J.J. Hickson potentially leaving town this offseason—and a general lack of depth at the center position—Portland has to be targeting a top-tier center with this pick. Unless a top-three guard falls to the Trail Blazers, Alex Len is an excellent choice.
11. Philadelphia 76ers: Kelly Olynyk, C, Gonzaga
With Andrew Bynum’s future in Philadelphia up in the air, the 76ers need to start planning for a replacement option should they intend to let him walk in free agency. Olynyk has the versatility to spend some time filling that void in the paint and also contribute as a mid-range shooter in a stretch role.
12. Oklahoma City Thunder: Gorgui Dieng, C, Louisville
The Kendrick Perkins experiment hasn’t gone according to plan, and Oklahoma City desperately needs another option at the position. While backcourt depth is still an issue, there isn’t much value here to select a guard at No. 12.
Louisville’s Gorgui Dieng is a tremendous defensive center who has a better offensive skill set than he’s given credit for. With consistent minutes in Oklahoma City, he could be a key contributor in its frontcourt going forward.
13. Dallas Mavericks: Jamaal Franklin, SG, San Diego State
Dallas needs to shore up its backcourt this offseason and Jamaal Franklin is an extremely intriguing option.
The San Diego State shooting guard doesn’t have a great stroke from behind the arc, but he is an incredibly gifted slasher with the quickness and speed to be a difference-maker at the NBA level. If he can develop a consistent long-range jumper early in his career, Franklin could be a steal—even in the bottom half of the lottery.
14. Utah Jazz: Dennis Schroeder, PG, Germany
Utah’s backcourt simply needs to get better this offseason. Mo Williams had a decent year in 2012-13, but he isn’t a long-term solution at the point guard position.
Dennis Schroeder hasn’t garnered the same attention as some of the top domestic guards in this class, but he’s one of the most talented pure point guards available. With incredible quickness and smooth ball-handling skills, it won’t take him long to find a starting role in the NBA.
15. Milwaukee Bucks: Michael Carter-Williams, PG, Syracuse
The last thing Milwaukee needs is another guard in its backcourt. However, Brandon Jennings, Monta Ellis and J.J. Redick may not all be around next season, and Michael Carter-Williams isn’t exactly the score-first guard the Bucks currently possess.
The Syracuse product is a terrific facilitator and leader who can bring some order to a tremendously talented scoring backcourt. Without another great option at No. 15, the Bucks would have a hard time passing on Carter-Williams, even with some clutter at the position.
16. Boston Celtics: Steven Adams, C, Pittsburgh
If Kevin Garnett isn’t around next year, the Celtics will want to have a long-term option in place at the position. Even if he returns, Boston isn’t in a position to make a title run next season and Steven Adams would be a solid developmental pick who can contribute some minutes early in his career.
17. Atlanta Hawks: Mason Plumlee, PF/C, Duke
Atlanta will likely be undergoing a major rebuild this offseason and talent makes all the difference between a successful reconstruction and years of futility.
With two picks in the middle of the first round, Danny Ferry can afford to throw positional need out the door and simply select the best players still on the board.
18. Atlanta Hawks (via Houston): Archie Goodwin, SG, Kentucky
Archie Goodwin had an inconsistent season at Kentucky, but he showed flashes of elite talent that should intrigue teams selecting in the middle and late portions of the first round.
Like many of Kentucky’s recent one-and-done prospects, Goodwin will need some time to develop at the NBA level, but Atlanta shouldn’t be in any hurry.
19. Cleveland Cavaliers (via Los Angeles Lakers): Rudy Gobert, C, France
Doubling up at the center position may seem redundant, but the Cavs aren’t without need. Anderson Varejao isn’t a true center and struggles to stay healthy year in and year out. With Noel and Rudy Gobert in the fold, Mike Brown can facilitate a frontcourt rotation that would be considerably stronger this season than it was in 2012-13.
20. Chicago Bulls: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG, Georgia
Derrick Rose’s absence highlighted Chicago’s need for added depth in its backcourt. Nate Robinson and Kirk Hinrich did their best to fill the void, but even with Rose on the floor, the Bulls could use another perimeter scoring threat who can lighten the load.
21. Utah Jazz: Tim Hardaway Jr., SG, Michigan
At 6’6”, Tim Hardaway Jr. has ideal size for an NBA 2-guard. Mix in an ever-improving long-range jumper and above-average defensive skills and you have a player who could make a huge splash in his formative years, especially as a late first-round pick.
22. Brooklyn Nets: Shane Larkin, PG, Miami
Shane Larkin’s size (5’11”) may scare away some teams looking for a point guard in this draft class. He has the athleticism and leadership skills to be a good NBA player, but questions remain about his ability to guard some of the league’s biggest point guards.
23. Indiana Pacers: Tony Mitchell, PF, North Texas
North Texas’ Tony Mitchell is an interesting prospect for several reasons. He’s going to have a hard time finding an immediate fit at a position in the NBA, but he has the athleticism and versatility to play either power forward or small forward at the next level.
Given Indiana’s lack of need at nearly every position, it can afford to gamble on a player with Mitchell’s upside, especially if it intends to use him in a developmental role early in his career.
24. New York Knicks: Dario Saric, F, Croatia
New York could select just about anyone at No. 25. With very few holes to fill and a ton of potential options this late in the first round, anything goes.
Glen Grunwald may choose to play the value game, though, especially if a talent like Dario Saric is still on the board. The Croatian needs some work at the defensive end, but he has uncommon athleticism for his size and possesses a deadly jumpshot that will be hard to defend at the NBA level.
25. Los Angeles Clippers: Tony Snell, SG, New Mexico
New Mexico shooting guard Tony Snell has been a fast riser this offseason, considered by some to be a candidate for a selection just outside the lottery.
While he isn’t quite polished enough to warrant a selection that early in the draft, he does have all the physical tools to develop into a terrific NBA guard. In Los Angeles, he’ll have an opportunity to hone some of those skills without being asked to contribute a lot of minutes in his formative years.
26. Minnesota Timberwolves (via Memphis): Deshaun Thomas, SF, Ohio State
If the Timberwolves don’t use this pick to move up at the top of the first round, expect a perimeter scorer to come off the board here. Minnesota has a lot of talent in place, but it still lacks the kind of scorers who can take full advantage of Ricky Rubio’s ability to open up the floor.
27. Denver Nuggets: Giannis Adetokoubo, SF, Greece
The loss of Danilo Gallinari for part of next season will force the Nuggets to explore other options in replacing his production. That won’t be an easy task late in the first round, but Giannis Adetokoubo is an intriguing option. He’s a long, athletic forward with terrific touch from behind the arc and the athleticism to move around at both ends of the floor.
28. San Antonio Spurs: Jeff Withey, C, Kansas
Tim Duncan is still playing at an extremely high level, but he won’t be around forever. When the Big Fundamental’s time is done in San Antonio, the Spurs need to make sure they have the right pieces in place.
Jeff Withey may not fall this far, but he’s a bit of a one-dimensional player at this point. Given a year or two to play behind Duncan, he’ll have a good chance to improve on his offensive game without the pressure of being an immediate starter at the center position.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Sergey Karasev, SG/SF, Russia
With a big man already locked up, Oklahoma City can turn its attention to another perimeter scorer with massive upside. Sergey Karasev has a ton of potential, and his length and athleticism should make him an extremely intriguing option for any team picking in the 20s on draft day.
30. Phoenix Suns (via Miami): C.J. Leslie, PF, N.C. State
It’s difficult to find a true impact player this late in the first round. While Phoenix has a lot of holes to fill (and still needs some consistent offensive production), it could do a lot worse than C.J. Leslie.
The forward is a tough, gritty defender who can have an immediate impact at the defensive end. He still needs some work in refining his offensive game, but this is a solid pick for a Suns team in need of a physical presence in the paint.
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