Wednesday, June 26, 2013

2013 NBA Draft First Round Projections

Rumors have varied, but it seems the Cavaliers will select a center at #1 overall.
Question is, will they pick Nerlens Noel (left) or Alex Len (right)?
     In recent memory, the 2013 NBA Draft may be the most puzzling for scouts, analysts and general managers who study college basketball and international prospects. Many have touted this year's class of prospects as "weak" compared to previous drafts and lacking of future superstar talent. For the second time in three years, the Cleveland Cavaliers have won the top spot in the draft, but there has not been one bona fide prospect that has stood out to be the guaranteed first overall pick. The Cavaliers are still mulling who to select and have even considered trading the pick. With the draft just a day away, here are my projections for the first round of the 2013 NBA Draft. Feel free to leave a comment below!

The Mock

1. Cleveland Cavaliers - Nerlens Noel, C, Kentucky

Why Noel: The Cavaliers have exhausted as many resources as possible to figure out what to do with the top pick, and they still might not know what to do. While they could go with the "safe need" pick and select Otto Porter, I believe the Cavs select Noel because of his defensive prowess and overall potential. If Noel didn't suffer a terrible knee injury, he'd be the consensus No. 1 choice. Also, the Cavaliers have Anderson Varejao and Tyler Zeller to hold down the paint as Noel recovers. Noel is a project and could have bust written all over him, but if the Cavaliers are patient, he can develop into a potential Defensive Player of the Year caliber player.

2. Orlando Magic - Victor Oladipo, SG, Indiana

Why Oladipo: If the Magic decide to trade Arron Afflalo for Eric Bledsoe, Orlando will have a hole at shooting guard. Orlando will approach this situation in two ways -- to select either Oladipo or Kansas guard Ben McLemore. Both are freakishly athletic, but Oladipo's skill set is more polished than that of McLemore. Oladipo is much more fundamentally sound on defense and can create on offense. He is generally considered one of the "safe" picks in the draft and even ranked the top prospect by some analysts. Oladipo oozes All Star potential and should be Orlando's selection.

3. Washington Wizards - Otto Porter, SF, Georgetown

Why Porter: This projection is a tough cookie. Earlier reports were that the Wizards were determined to select Anthony Bennett, but now it seems that Porter could be the choice. Porter is the logical fit for the Wizards because he fills their gaping hole at small forward immediately and is considered -- along with Oladipo -- as the "safest" prospect in the draft. He can score, rebound, defend and handle the ball well. He has all the desirable traits a team would look for in a top prospect. Look for the Wizards to challenge for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference this season.

4. Charlotte Bobcats - Anthony Bennett, PF, UNLV

Why Bennett: He is the offensive threat that this Charlotte team desperately needs in the starting lineup. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Bismack Biyombo have shown little offensive skill this past season and guard Gerald Henderson will be a free agent this summer. Charlotte isn't exactly the hottest free agent destination, so they would be wise to select a big man with great offensive talent, such as Bennett or Alex Len, who can contribute scoring and on the glass immediately.

5. Phoenix Suns - Ben McLemore, SG, Kansas

Why McLemore: The young former Kansas phenomenon is exactly what this discrepant Suns franchise needs. He has the sweetest shooting stroke and arguably the highest ceiling of all the prospects in this year's draft. McLemore has even drawn comparisons to future Hall of Famer Ray Allen. McLemore will not reach that potential quickly, but his lanky, athletic frame is reminiscent of a shorter Paul George. McLemore's floor is probably O.J. Mayo, which isn't bad at all. McLemore has a bright future and gives Phoenix someone to be very excited about.

6. New Orleans Pelicans - Alex Len, C, Maryland

Why Len: The former Maryland Terrapin would be the perfect adversary to Anthony Davis in the future. Davis is more polished defensively and is better suited as a power forward anyway because of his long but not yet bulky frame. Len has the height (he stands at 7'1") and broadness to play center in the NBA. He has decent athleticism and much promise offensively, with a variance of post moves that are similar to those of Nets center Brook Lopez.

7. Sacramento Kings - Trey Burke, PG, Michigan

Why Burke: Trey Burke was the unquestioned leader of the Michigan Wolverines in leading them to the national championship game this past season. The Naismith Player of the Year is short, but plays with a ton of heart and has an alpha dog mentality. Under a new ownership group and coach, if the Kings select Burke to be their franchise point guard of the future, Sacramento could be on the way back to relevance.

Burke (left) and Carter-Williams (right) are the top point guards
in the 2013 NBA Draft.

8. Detroit Pistons - Michael Carter-Williams, PG, Syracuse

Why Carter-Williams: MCW brings a unique skill set to a Detroit team that is nearing its breakout. He's a 6'6" point guard that was one of the leaders in the country in assists per game. One of the knocks on Carter-Williams' game is his jump shot, but as Kawhi Leonard of the Spurs has proven, a player can develop an NBA perimeter jump shot over time. Carter-Williams is a natural point guard, which will allow Brandon Knight to move over to shooting guard. He has good potential and reminds me of a poor man's Rajon Rondo. C.J. McCollum is a popular choice to go to the Pistons, but they already have undersized combo guards in Knight and Rodney Stuckey.

9. Minnesota Timberwolves - Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG, Georgia

Why Caldwell-Pope: KCP was the lone bright spot for a dismal Georgia team this past season and while his team suffered, Caldwell-Pope surely didn't fail to shine when in the spotlight. His incredible athleticism, long frame and proficient three point shot will help him thrive in the NBA. In Minnesota, he'll most likely step into a starting gig right away, but I expect Caldwell-Pope to have a very solid NBA career.

10. Portland Trail Blazers - C.J. McCollum, PG/SG, Lehigh

Why McCollum: Two seasons ago, McCollum led the nation in scoring average. He instantly adds a major factor to Portland's bench, which was abysmal for the most part last season. McCollum and point guard Damian Lillard are a potent, dangerous scoring tandem that will help lead Portland on a hopeful playoff run.

11. Philadelphia 76ers - Cody Zeller, C/PF, Indiana

Why Zeller: At the NBA Draft Combine, Zeller tested out in several drills extraordinarily which garnered praise that he could be the next LaMarcus Aldridge or Chris Bosh. Whether or not the mercurial Andrew Bynum returns to Philadelphia, the 76ers are in need of another big man. Cody Zeller could step in, be a leader and contribute from Day 1. This pick is a near no-brainer.

12. Oklahoma City Thunder - Steven Adams, C, Pittsburgh

Why Adams: The big man from New Zealand has one of the highest upsides of any player in this draft. He is particularly strong on defense and the glass, but at the NBA Draft Combine shocked several scouts by showing off a nice mid-range game. Adams is still a developmental project, but he could develop behind Kendrick Perkins for a season or two. Plus, the Thunder don't need him to contribute right away. Oklahoma City usually plays its cards right and this could be the steal of the draft.

13. Dallas Mavericks - Sergey Karasev, SF, Russia

Why Karasev: This Russian prospect has been a noted fit with the Mavericks as an ideal "draft and stash." Dallas may or may not trade this pick in an attempt to clear up as much salary as possible to pursue big name free agents this summer. If Dallas keeps this pick, don't be surprised if they select an international prospect to stash overseas for a season so that they have more cap room for this summer.

14. Utah Jazz - Shane Larkin, PG, Miami (FL)

Why Larkin: Utah's biggest hole this offseason is at point guard. While Larkin is oft criticized for his diminutive stature, his unbelievable athleticism makes up for his height. His athleticism is Russell Westbrook-esque and if he becomes half the player Westbrook is, Jazz fans will have large smiles across their faces.

15. Milwaukee Bucks - Shabazz Muhammad, SG/SF, UCLA

Why Muhammad: Shabazz Muhammad came into UCLA as one of the most hyped freshmen in the country and for a long period of time, was considered to be selected near the very top of this year's draft. However, over the course of the past season and pre-draft events, his stock has dramatically fallen. The biggest positive about Muhammad is his scoring prowess and great work ethic. In Milwaukee, he gives the Bucks a potential All Star and a guy who isn't afraid to have the ball in his hands at the end of a long as Brandon Jennings would be willing to pass the ball to him.

16. Boston Celtics - Dennis Schroeder, PG, Germany

Why Schroeder: The young German point guard has been up and down mock drafts, but I think Boston will be his landing spot. Rajon Rondo will be out for a good portion of the upcoming season after tearing his ACL, so Boston will need a natural point guard to fill his role. Schroeder has even drawn some comparisons to Rondo because of his elusiveness and huge hands.

17. Atlanta Hawks - Kelly Olynyk, C, Gonzaga

Why Olynyk: Hopefully the Hawks aren't hedging all of their bets that Dwight Howard will be taking his talents to A-Town, even though it looks like they might already have, but Olynyk is not a bad draft consolation. He and Al Horford would form a solid scoring duo in the paint, yet defense will be a major question if they fail to re-sign Josh Smith.

18. Atlanta Hawks - Giannis Adetokunbo, SF, Greece

Why Adetokunbo: This international man of mystery is incredibly raw and will likely need to develop overseas for at least two years, but dividends could pay off if he is developed properly. Adetokunbo is listed as a 6'9" point-forward with a supposed high amount of potential. He could be picked anywhere from 10-29 in this draft, but whichever team selects him must know that he is the definition of a long-term project. The Hawks could gamble with this pick and stash him in Europe for a couple years, because he needs to grow into his body and start playing competition better than Division III basketball.

19. Cleveland Cavaliers - Jamaal Franklin, SG, San Diego State

Why Franklin: The versatile guard plays very similar to his predecessor at San Diego State -- Kawhi Leonard. Franklin's biggest struggle is his three-point shooting, but that can be fixed over time. He is aggressive on defense, can attack the basket on offense and rebounds excellently for somebody of his size. He will be a welcome addition by head coach Mike Brown, who preaches defense.

20. Chicago Bulls - Tim Hardaway Jr., SG, Michigan

Why Hardaway Jr.: The Michigan guard fills the Bulls' longstanding hole at shooting guard for the short and long-term future. He has great length and range and will be counted on to hit the perimeter jumper. His consistency on defense is a question mark, but if anybody could get the most out of his players, it's Tom Thibodeau. Hardaway Jr., like his father before him, should have a solid, productive NBA career.

21. Utah Jazz - Mason Plumlee, C/PF, Duke

Why Plumlee: After selecting a franchise point guard at #14, the Jazz need some size to neutralize the likely departures of Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap. Young big men Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter can fill in for those two, but Plumlee will be needed as an athlete off the bench. You can never have enough size in the NBA.

22. Brooklyn Nets - Gorgui Dieng, C, Louisville

Why Dieng: The Senegalese-born center is exactly who the Nets need in the draft. At Louisville, Dieng was the defensive menace in the paint that surely was a big reason why the Cardinals won the NCAA Championship this past season. At Louisville, Dieng averaged nearly a double-double in points and rebounds and led the Big East with over three blocks per game. He's the defensive stopper the Nets are looking for behind Brook Lopez. Also, if he falls to the Nets, it's unlikely that he slides past Brooklyn.

Dieng was instrumental to Louisville's success and is heralded
as an impressive, spectacular defensive stopper.

23. Indiana Pacers - Tony Mitchell, PF, North Texas

Why Mitchell: This hybrid forward had an underwhelming season at North Texas, but tested out well at the NBA Draft Combine, which should help him maintain his first-round stock. David West is likely to stay in Indiana, but there are rumblings that fan favorite Danny Granger might be traded. Mitchell is a high-energy, athletic body who could contribute right away off the bench and maybe start in the distant future. Indiana's small market and team chemistry would be a great setting for Mitchell.

24. New York Knicks - Jeff Withey, C, Kansas

Why Withey: This former Jayhawk fits the Knicks best because of his defense in the paint. He should not be asked to start because of his still-developing offensive repertoire, but he provides a reliable, intelligent backup to Tyson Chandler, who he has modeled his game after.

25. Los Angeles Clippers - Glen Rice Jr., SF, NBDL

Why Rice Jr.: The former Georgia Tech product is intriguing in many ways, but most of all because he's taken a different approach by playing in the D-League before going into the draft. He fills a need for the Clippers on the wing and should be able to contribute right away. In what is considered a weak draft, Rice Jr.'s developed learning curve in the D-League will help him thrive early on. For a Clippers team with championship aspirations, this could be a very beneficial move for "Lob City."

26. Minnesota Timberwolves - Allen Crabbe, SG, California

Why Crabbe: Yes, I projected Minnesota to take a shooting guard early, but if anyone remembers the 2009 NBA Draft, the Timberwolves do draft multiple players at a specific position. Crabbe comes in as a prodigious shooter that can be a sixth man right away. He and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope shall fill the Timberwolves' hole at shooting guard for years to come.

27. Denver Nuggets - Isaiah Canaan, PG, Murray State

Why Canaan: The Murray State point guard fell a bit off the map this year after his team failed to duplicate their collective, impressive performance of two seasons ago when they made a run to the NCAA Tournament. However, that doesn't take away the fact that Canaan is a skilled player. He is a score-first point guard, but can develop into a Jameer Nelson-type player.

28. San Antonio Spurs - Rudy Gobert, C/PF, France

Why Gobert: This is the perfect fit for the Spurs, who boast at least 1/4 of the French national team on their roster. Along with fellow Frenchmen Tony Parker, Boris Diaw and Nando De Colo, Gobert should be able to adjust better and easier. He fills a hole if Tiago Splitter decides to sign elsewhere in free agency and would have one of the best mentors of all time in Tim Duncan. Also, Gregg Popovich is a pretty good coach, so that helps too.

29. Oklahoma City Thunder - Lucas Nogueira, C, Brazil

Why Nogueira: Known as "Bebe," this extremely athletic Brazilian would fall into a great scenario with the Thunder. The Thunder don't really need this pick and it's no surprise that they are trying to trade this pick to secure a higher slot in the draft. But, if they do end up keeping this selection, Nogueira is a good choice. He is a developmental project and the Thunder don't really "need" him right now, so he will be able to hone his skills and talent for a year or two in Brazil before he comes over to the NBA. Another smart move by the Thunder.

30. Phoenix Suns - Mike Muscala, PF/C, Bucknell

Why Muscala: The former Bison averaged a double-double this past season in leading his team to the NCAA Tournament. His talent offensively is undeniable and while some suggest he needs to bulk up, he'll have at least one season to develop behind Marcin Gortat. Muscala could end up becoming one of the "steals" of this year's draft.

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