Even with less than three days to go until the 2013 NBA Draft, I remain clueless.
2013 is being called a fairly weak year in the draft, and with no sure-shot answers to the problems plaguing the lottery teams, there is no way to expertly predict the sequence at which young players will accept their team hats on Thursday night.
As a matter of fact, I probably feel more confident of predicting next year’s draft class than the one three days from now.
Still, a draft is to be conducted, and so, in my annual tradition, a draft is to be mocked.
About a month ago, the Cleveland Cavaliers won the lottery and the rights to the number one pick. The Orlando Magic, Washington Wizards, Charlotte Bobcats, and Phoenix Suns rounded up the top six. All of these teams have desperate needs to bolster their squads, and all have multiple positions where they need help.
In Kyrie Irving and John Wall, the Cavs and Wizards respectively have a couple of important pieces to build around. The rest of the top five – and many other teams in the lottery – will just about take anyone that is available.
So who is available? Every near, nearly all upcoming rookies have some question marks about their professional abilities, but this year, the questions seem to be bigger than ever.
Nerlens Noel is big and talented, but he has serious health concerns. Ben McLemore is a stupendous wing scorer reportedly has teams ‘worried’ because of his lack of preparation/maturity. Alex Len has great size and mobility, but has been inconsistent and inefficient in the post.
Otto Porter is a jack of all trades but perhaps master of none. Some scouts worry that Trey Burke’s college dominance won’t translate against more athletic NBA point guards. Cody Zeller might be a great high IQ college player but few expect him to be able to handle the intensity of the NBA.
Shabazz Muhammad was a high-school prodigy but his uneven college year saw his stock plummet. CJ McCollum showed great upside in a small sample of games, but it is that same small sample which makes teams wonder if the senior might be a risky pick.
So, with utter lack of confidence in my predictions, but full faith to defend them, here is my 2013 NBA Mock Draft of the lottery (1-14) picks:
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Nerlens Noel
Yes, I’ve heard all the noise concerning Noel’s injury status, and the fact that he hasn’t played since February, and probably won’t play his first NBA game until after the first month of the season. But in the weak draft with limited options, the Cavs will pick the only sure shot talent, even if that talent’s health isn’t so sure of a shot.
The Cavs already have Anderson Varejao and Tristan Thomas in the front-court, and as Noel recovers, he can slowly claim the starting spot for the young team.
2. Orlando Magic: Ben McLemore
Questions about his work ethic may have arisen lately, but I believe that once the regular season commences, the shooting guard from Kansas will get back to doing what he does best: play good basketball. The Magic need help in every position. In McLemore, they find a natural back-court leader and scorer to get them started.
3. Washington Wizards: Otto Porter
If we’d just counted the second half of the past season, the rapidly improving Wizards would’ve been a playoff team in the East. With John Wall, Bradley Beal, Emeka Okafor and Nene, they have a blooming roster to be optimistic about. The do-it-all small forward Porter can fit right into the starting line-up and became a good option on both ends of the floor for the Wizards.
4. Charlotte Bobcats: Alex Len
Like the Magic, the Bobcats are another team that could use help just about anywhere. Here is a team that has been in the NBA’s pits for the past two seasons and actually started Bismack Biyombo and Josh McRoberts in their frontcourt.
Enter Len: The Ukrainian may be an incomplete prospect, but at this point, so is everyone else on the Bobcats roster. Fit him in with Kemba Walker and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Charlotte could strike lucky if the big man’s potential actually pans out.
5. Phoenix Suns: Anthony Bennett
Bennett is a decent big man who can do decent things. He’s athletic and a great scorer in the post. He should be able to become a solid-but-unspectacular starter for the Suns straight away.
6. New Orleans Pelicans: Trey Burke
The Pelicans have a couple of interesting back-court players already – Eric Gordon, Greivis Vasquez, and Austin Rivers – and getting a point guard at this stage might not ideally fit their needs. But Burke was the National Player of the Year after all and took his squad to the Championship game.
The future of Gordon in New Orleans looks hazy anyways, and Rivers might not become the type or prospect that many of us envisioned. Also, many of the other talented options remaining are also backcourt players. The Pelicans might go for Burke to boost their bench and bring a winning mentality to their young team.
7. Sacramento Kigns: CJ McCollum
The clock is ticking for Tyreke Evans’ future in Sacramento. McCollum – who has been compared to Damian Lillard for being a Senior who ‘came outta nowhere’ to dominate the NBA – might be the type of mature backcourt presence that the Kings might decide to gamble on. His arrival in Sacramento’s crowded backcourt (Evans, Isiaah Thomas, Jimmer Fredette and Marcus Thornton) might signal a future trade in the works.
8. Detroit Pistons: Victor Olapido
Olapido has great body for a shooting guard and made drastic improvements last season for a strong Indiana team. Defence is his calling card, but there are questions about his ability on the offensive end that might see him drop to eighth in the draft. I don’t see him dropping any further though.
9. Minnesota Timberwolves: Shabazz Muhammed
The definite high-risk/high-reward player of the draft. Shabazz could be the biggest star of this draft class or could fizzle out to become a career backup. For the Wolves, who have a core of Ricky Rubio, Kevin Love, Pekovic, and Kirilenko, adding a shooting guard is the most glaring positional need. The Wolves will pray for health first, and then hope that all works out with their gamble on Shabazz.
10. Portland Trailblazers: Steven Adams
He’s big and he’s from New Zealand. Perhaps point guards Michael Carter-Williams and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope are better talents, but Portland already have the reigning rookie of the year in their position and could go for Adams to bolster their size.
11. Philadelphia 76ers: Michael Carter-Williams
Carter-Williams has good ability to score around the rim but is known to be quite inefficient. The low-scoring 76ers could pick him as a source of off-the-bench offense for their team.
12. Oklahoma City Thunder (Via Raptors): Cody Zeller
There are questions about Zeller’s ability as a potential star, of course, but no questions about his ability to become a smaller piece in a well-functioning team. Maybe there are other players in this draft with greater upside, but Zeller is perhaps a more complete prospect and could bring his brand of leadership to Thunder’s frontcourt, which looked in dire straits in the post-season after weak performances by Kendrick Perkins.
13. Dallas Mavericks: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
Mavericks are going to need some help in the backcourt very soon, with the possible departures of Darren Collison and OJ Mayo. Point Guard Caldwell-Pope could be the answer for this team to start getting younger as Dirk ages.
14. Utah Jazz: Shane Larkin
For any other team, I would’ve probably predicted Kelly Olynyk at this point, but Utah are more than stacked at the big man position, with Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap starting and Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter coming off the bench. This is a team that needs perimeter talents. At this point, Miami’s point guard Shane Larkin might be the best option available.