The 2013 NBA draft is just two days away, so front offices are going to have to make decisions in short order to shape the immediate and future fortune of their respective franchises.
Considering this isn't the strongest class in recent memory, even more is at stake to ensure the development of teams. In other words, it will be harder for the poorer squads to make a significant jump without some fortune and top-notch evaluation to nail their picks.
Here is a mock of Thursday's first-round action in Brooklyn, New York, with a focus on those who fit their prospective teams best.
Note: Free agent information obtained via ESPN.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Nerlens Noel, C/PF, Kentucky
The torn ACL is a substantial concern, especially for a big man. Noel, though, has said that the teams right at the top of the draft are not concerned about his health, per HOOPSWORLD.com's Alex Kennedy:
One could argue that Georgetown's Otto Porter Jr. may be a better fit in terms of positional need, but the Cavaliers are at least considering the possibility of giving up two early second-round picks to acquire Boston Celtics All-Star Paul Pierce (h/t The Boston Globe's Baxter Holmes).
This isn't exactly a forward-thinking move by Cleveland GM Chris Grant in the long term. However, if the belief really is that the team is one No. 1 pick and Pierce from being a factor in the playoff hunt, it makes sense.
Noel will be a cornerstone for years to come for the Cavs' frontcourt, and under defensive-minded head coach Mike Brown, he has the potential to accelerate his development.
2. Orlando Magic: Victor Oladipo, SG, Indiana
The relentless aggression Oladipo brings to both ends of the floor combined with his tremendous work ethic has him in prime position to go No. 2 overall.
This team needs a shot in the arm defensively, and even when his typically efficient shooting self isn't scoring, Oladipo can impact the game without the ball in his hands.
3. Washington Wizards: Otto Porter Jr., SF, Georgetown
If Porter's ex-Hoyas coach John Thompson III's assessment is any indication, it seems Porter is destined for a bright NBA future (h/t CBS Sports' Jon Rothstein):
Not only is the fit great since Porter played his college ball in the D.C. area—it also fits what the Wizards would ideally want in a draft pick.
The dynamic tandem of John Wall and Bradley Beal on the perimeter would be rounded out nicely with Porter aboard. Porter can create his own offense if need be, but it won't be as necessary with those dynamic guards alongside him.
What's great about Porter—similarly to Oladipo in a way—is that he doesn't need to have the ball in his hands to have a massive impact.
Unlike Oladipo in a good way, though, Porter rarely turns it over and almost always makes the proper, smart play with the ball. It would be quite the fun trio to watch in Washington, and it would give Wizards fans hope for the foreseeable future if Porter were taken here.
4. Charlotte Bobcats: Anthony Bennett, PF, UNLV
Help is desperately needed in the Bobcats' frontcourt, and Bennett provides that certainly from an offensive standpoint.
Bismack Biyombo and Tyrus Thomas may be the only ones returning to that line, with Byron Mullens as a restricted free agent and DeSagana Diop and Josh McRoberts hitting the open market. Bennett is a solid, needs-based fit, but he's raw and will struggle mightily on this hapless team.
5. Phoenix Suns: Ben McLemore, SG, Kansas
Shooters are direly needed in Phoenix, and it's hard to find many better—if any—than McLemore in this class.
McLemore dealt wonderfully with sky-high expectations for the most part last year. Considering the changes the Suns are undergoing with new head coach Jeff Hornacek and GM Ryan McDonough, taking the best player available at this point is wise. That player is McLemore at No. 5.
Shannon Brown isn't a true 2-guard, and neither was impending unrestricted free agent Wesley Johnson, who should be safely considered a bust at this point.
In that context, McLemore provides part of the antidote to the Suns' woes and should shine as a rookie even in shouldering a double-digit scoring load.
6. New Orleans Pelicans: Alex Len, C, Maryland
Something about Len is frightening in terms of choosing him so high in the draft. It's almost as though he's a de facto top-six pick.
The good news is that he'll likely thrive alongside Anthony Davis for years to come, and the Pelicans can utilize Len's length and athleticism to spread the floor and try to get second-year guard Austin Rivers' career off the ground.
7. Sacramento Kings: Trey Burke, PG, Michigan
Although he isn't the most athletic offensive-minded point guard on the level of some of the NBA's elite, there's no doubting Burke's instincts, basketball IQ, vision and the fact that he can light it up.
Burke's shot and craftiness at the rim should give the Kings a boost and also help DeMarcus Cousins reach his potential. It would also bring some direction and clarity to a crowded backcourt.
8. Detroit Pistons: Michael Carter-Williams, PG, Syracuse
There isn't much not to like about Carter-Williams outside of his jump shot. That's not necessarily a bad thing, because his length and incredible decision-making allow him to wreak havoc on both ends of the court.
In his latest mock draft, ESPN's Chad Ford notes that the Pistons think Brandon Knight is more suited for the 2, and thus Detroit should draft a point guard. With Burke off the board at this point, Carter-Wiliams becomes the clear choice.
And he would be even if Burke were still around. Carter-Williams has the size of a shooting guard at 6'6", while Knight is very undersized.
The two could switch up in man-to-man scenarios on defense while each creates his own mismatches on offense. It's a jagged puzzle to put together, yet it could wind up being a perfect fit.
9. Minnesota Timberwolves: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG, Georgia
The former Bulldog standout didn't have the greatest supporting cast in college, but he's being hailed as a phenomenal shooter after making a pedestrian 43.3 percent of his shots from the field.
That includes a 37 percent clip from three-point range. It's not bad, but whether that is really going to help the poor beyond-the-arc shooting of the Timberwolves is another matter entirely.
10. Portland Trail Blazers: Shabazz Muhammad, SF, UCLA
This is an interesting time in the draft, so the Blazers could go with a player in Muhammad who has a ton of upside but didn't quite live up to expectations with the Bruins.
Still, Muhammad has a great work ethic and competitive fire, and if he's able to develop around players like Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge, he could become an All-Star eventually.
11. Philadelphia 76ers: Cody Zeller, C/PF, Indiana
That whole Andrew Bynum acquisition didn't work out for Philly to say the least. Thus, it's time for the Sixers to look for some new building blocks up front beginning with Zeller.
Although he isn't the most physically intimidating presence on the interior, the ability Zeller has to stretch the floor could make him a seven-foot matchup nightmare at the 4. If he packs on weight, he could even play center and be very effective.
12. Oklahoma City Thunder: Lucas Nogueira, C, Brazil
If anyone at the top of the draft can afford to stash an overseas player away for the time being, it's Oklahoma City. Nogueira has plenty of time to grow his offensive game, but he's already a wonderful shot-blocking presence, and it wouldn't be surprising to see GM Sam Presti take a flier here.
13. Dallas Mavericks: Shane Larkin, PG, Miami (FL)
Being the catalyst for an unprecedentedly successful Hurricanes season gives Larkin a lot of credibility from a leadership standpoint. It also helps that he's superbly athletic, which offsets concerns about his slight stature.
Larkin would be a significant spark for the Mavs, who are definitely lacking at the point guard position. It's almost a lock that this selection will be traded, but point guard makes sense if Dallas keeps it.
14. Utah Jazz: Jamaal Franklin, SG/SF, San Diego State
Even if Franklin's jumper is still a bit of a work in progress, the Jazz need someone not only to fill the potential rebounding void if either Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap or both leave. Rather, they will also need someone to defend well on the perimeter regardless of that duo's fate.
Franklin is extremely strong, gives his maximum and is very versatile. It's precisely the type of "glue guy" so to speak Utah needs to once again be a factor in the West.
15. Milwaukee Bucks: Giannis Antetokounmpo, SF, Greece
If the future of the small forward position in Milwaukee is Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Mike Dunleavy, there is a serious problem.
Antetokounmpo is no guarantee to be the remedy in that regard, and he may not have either Brandon Jennings nor Monta Ellis to play alongside him. Still, the 18-year-old Greek is not to be underestimated, as he's more of a point forward and potential game-breaker if he reaches his ceiling.
16. Boston Celtics: Steven Adams, C, Pittsburgh
GM Danny Ainge has a lot of rebuilding to do, and if this team is to continue having a defensive-oriented identity, there may not be a better player to pick up than Adams.
Offensively, Adams is totally raw, but he amazingly already has the size of a seven-foot NBA big man with a thick 255-pound frame. With Jared Sullinger and Rajon Rondo coming back, perhaps Adams can make an impact in his rookie year.
17. Atlanta Hawks: Tony Snell, SF/SG, New Mexico
The problem with the Hawks' current roster is that there are a lot of talented guards, but none of them are particularly tall. Snell is wiry and lengthy and has a seven-foot wingspan.
There aren't many 2-guards like that, and he's also a great shooter. That should more than make up for Kyle Korver's loss, though Snell's consistency is a bit of a concern.
18. Atlanta Hawks: Mason Plumlee, PF/C, Duke
Plumlee teaming with Al Horford would be extremely fun to watch, and a great use of the Hawks' second first-round choice back-to-back.
As a double-double machine at Duke, Plumlee would bring a necessary presence on the boards while allowing Horford and him to change up spots and get favorable matchups based on personnel. That's because either can play the 4 or 5.
19. Cleveland Cavaliers: Sergey Karasev, SF, Russia
It's almost like the Cavs have the same style of player occupying both starting spots in the backcourt—only Kyrie Irving does everything substantially better than Dion Waiters.
Such wouldn't be the case with Karasev, who could plug in at the 3 and even play point guard at times, allowing Irving and Waiters to move off the ball and foster great ball movement. That will be key under Brown, who isn't known for his offensive prowess in coaching.
20. Chicago Bulls: Tim Hardaway Jr., SG, Michigan
Something needs to be done about the Bulls' lack of scoring. Even with Derrick Rose's return, an upgrade is needed in that regard.
Enter Hardaway, who can stroke the ball from distance and explosively take opponents off the dribble and all the way to the rim for a thunderous dunk. Should he have the chance to be teamed with Rose, it would be hard to account for both of them.
21. Utah Jazz: Rudy Gobert, C, France
As mentioned before briefly, Jefferson and Millsap may be on the way out. Thus, Gobert is a logical choice because of his upside.
Gobert sports a 7'9" wingspan that would eventually allow the Jazz to have a dominating presence in the paint. The fact that the Frenchman is refined even in the slightest on offense is a great sign. Once he develops a post game, he really could be special.
22. Brooklyn Nets: Dennis Schroeder, PG, Germany
Weight is a big issue for the 165-pounder, but game isn't. Shroeder could instantly inject life into the Nets' rotation with his wonderful speed and flashy style.
Learning under new head coach Jason Kidd—a future Hall of Fame point guard—and All-Star PG Deron Williams would be among the best things to happen to Schroeder on Thursday. And it just might.
23. Indiana Pacers: Allen Crabbe, SG, California
A go-to option on the outside is key for the Pacers to have any hope of pushing the Miami Heat next season in the East. Crabbe is a sharp shooter from downtown with a solid mid-range game and could plug in as an instant starter even as a later first-round pick.
24. New York Knicks: Reggie Bullock, SF, North Carolina
Scoring is necessary for the Knicks outside of Carmelo Anthony, and Bullock comes from a big-time program where he was awfully good at that.
Bullock can drain threes and be a nightmare to handle in the open court. Should he be utilized at the 2 or the 3, he would present problems to opponents and also give Mike Woodson more lineup flexibility.
25. Los Angeles Clippers: Isaiah Canaan, PG, Murray State
The numbers weren't as good for Canaan as a senior, but he does have four solid years of experience for a strong mid-major Racers program. The stage won't be too big for him—unless, of course, L.A. somehow loses both Paul and Bledsoe.
26. Minnesota Timberwolves: Glen Rice Jr., SF/SG, Georgia Tech
Even more shooting help arrives in Minnesota with this choice. Rice has been in the D-League, but has been tearing it up. He led the Rio Grande Vipers to the championship, averaging 29 points, 11.5 rebounds, four assists, three steals and 3.5 blocks in the final series.
That's pretty good for facing just-below-NBA-level competition, so it shouldn't cause him to slide out of Round 1.
27. Denver Nuggets: Kelly Olynyk, C/PF, Gonzaga
The whole frontcourt fiasco with Kosta Koufos starting can't carry on much longer, can it? Denver would be wise to get a rich man's version of Koufos in Olynyk, who actually has great range and is just all-around better in every way than the current Nuggets starter.
28. San Antonio Spurs: Gorgui Dieng, C, Louisville
Experienced, championship-winning players tend to attract the Spurs. While it may dissuade others from choosing Dieng earlier, this is an organization that knows what it's doing.
Tiago Splitter is the best option at center right now, but if Dieng catches on to Gregg Popovich's system quickly, he could suddenly find himself in the starting five to start the 2013-14 season.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Pierre Jackson, PG, Baylor
The unrelated Reggie Jackson didn't fare too badly filling in for Russell Westbrook, but this Pierre Jackson could be a legitimate X-factor for Oklahoma City's second unit.
It's unclear when Derek Fisher's body will break down, so it wouldn't be a bad idea to nab some insurance for this position.
30. Phoenix Suns: Tony Mitchell, PF, North Texas
With the considerable drop-off in production from his promising freshman campaign, it's not surprising that Mitchell's stock is hurting a little bit. That shouldn't discourage the Suns, though.
Mitchell had a tough time getting up for games last season as he admitted, but a refreshing environment and new scene in Phoenix to be a part of building something special may snap him out of that. If it does, watch out.
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