NBA Mock Draft: 2013

NBAlogoWith the finals fast approaching, teams are already preparing for the 2013 NBA draft.  As always, the draft is a crap shoot with few teams perpetually pulling out the best available player when they pick, save perhaps the Spurs and the Thunder, and this year’s draft looks to be problematic at best as many analysts feel it is one of the weakest drafts in recent memories with no clear number one pick.  Considering the needs of each team, and the available players, this is how the draft may play out, though draft day trades and free agent signing can greatly impact and change the outcome.  Keep in mind, this is not the order that I think picks should go in, but rather what I expect teams might pick depending on their individual needs.

 

1.        The Cleveland Cavaliers: Nerlens Noel

Nerlens Noel is hoping to recover from knee injury, become the top pick in the NBA draft and bring back the Hi-top fade all in one season.

Nerlens Noel is hoping to recover from knee injury, become the top pick in the NBA draft and bring back the Hi-top fade all in one season.

The Cavs have already made it abundantly clear that they are looking to move the first overall pick (something the Raptors should have done in 2006).  The consensus pick seems to be Nerlens Noel, but it seems that he is perhaps the biggest gamble in recent history.  Not only is he coming off of a major knee injury, but he is also rail thin and plays the position that requires size in the NBA: center.  It is true that Kevin Garnett has managed to dominate the front court in the NBA for almost two decades with a frame almost as thin as Noel’s, but Garnett seems to be the exception to the rule; a once in a life time player.  Couple with the thin frame, it seems Noel’s game is built on his agility and athleticism, which may be compromised due to his knee injury.  With knee problems having sidelined two of the most promising big men in the NBA today (Greg Oden and Andrew Bynum), it is understandable that the Cavs may look to move the pick, most especially since the Cavs have already had to deal with a promising center whose injuries have kept him from producing (Anderson Varejao).  It is hard to pass up on a talent like Noel, but it is equally difficult to take such a gamble with such a great opportunity.  Noel’s FG% is an very respectable .590, though his FT% is a little less respectable (it’s actually less than his FG%).  His rebounding and shot blocking numbers are simply jaw-dropping though.  Whether the Cavs keep or trade the pick, it is almost certain that Noel will go first.

 

2.       The Orlando MagicVictor Oladipa

Victor Oladipo

Victor Oladipo

Considering that the Magic are in the midst of a rebuilding process, it seems likely that they will opt to take the best available player rather than drafting the best player available at the position they most need.  The next best available players seem to be wing players, and all three can shoot the ball (Otto Porter, Ben McLemore and Victor Oladipa all shoot .420 or better from behind the arc).  Oladipa may be the best bet.  As a junior he is the oldest of the three and perhaps most NBA ready.  He has shown steady improvement over his three years in college and is shooting nearly .600 from the field.  Among the three available candidates, he has the highest steals-per-game average, despite getting the fewest minutes.  He also pulls in a respectable 6.3 boards a game, which is great for a shooting guard.

 

3.       Washington Wizards: Otto Porter

Otto Porter

Otto Porter

This seems like a no brainer.  If Oladipa or McLemore get drafted second, the Wizards will almost certainly pounce on Porter.  Having drafted Bradley Beal in last year’s draft, the Wizards likely aren’t interested in drafting another shooting guard, and with Nene Hilario and Emeka Okafor in the front court,  the Wizards may not be tempted to pick Alex Len as early as the third pick.  Porter provides two things: size and shooting.  At 6’9 he can play power forward, or create mismatches at small forward with his length and shooting.  He is a solid rebounder for a small forward, and a respectable passer for a big man (he gets more assists than turnovers, which is more than can be said for most guys who are 6’9).  The problem may be that Porter won’t be available at this point.  Though Orlando may not need him, the Magic may recognize that the Wizards do and work out a draft day deal that delivers Porter to the Wizards whilst also landing the Magic either Olapida, or McLemore, along with some other asset or assets.  I expect Porter to be wearing a Wizards uniform next year, regardless of where he’s picked in the draft.

 

4.       Charlotte BobcatsAlex Len

Alex Len

Alex Len

There are several viable options for big men that the Bobcats may draft: Alex Len, Anthony Bennett and Cody Zeller.  Statistically Bennett is similar to Michael Kidd-Gilcrest (MKG).  He could serve as a stretch 4, but may be better suited for small forward.  Either way, the Bobcats already have a player suited to that role in MKG, so a legit big to throw into the rotation with Byron Mullens and Josh McRoberts may be the best option (the Bobcats already have two point guards and two shooting guards, so drafting McLemore or Trey Burke seems unlikely).  The Bobcats may work a trade where they allow another team to pick up the player they want, but it seems likely that Len is the best option for the Bobcats.  Zeller may be an option, as he has higher percentages, but Len would likely be more comfortable with a smaller role on offense, while his size (he has an inch and fifteen pounds on Zeller), may allow him to hang with other bigs, and his shot blocking may be more enticing to the Bobcats.  Len is a legit center and could allow the Bobcats to run the floor with two 7-footers.  Though that said, considering how successful Miami has been with a small line-up, the Bobcats may be tempted to bring in Anthony Bennett as well.  If the Bobcats see Burke as a better option at the point than Walker, a big draft-day trade may happen.

 

5.       The Phoenix Suns: Ben McLemore

Ben Mclemore

Ben Mclemore

Some draft boards have the Suns picking up Trey Burke, but considering how well Goran Dragic played last year, I doubt the Suns will be interested in bringing in another point guard.  I don’t believe McLemore would be the best suited player for the Suns, but if he, or Olapida dropped to the fifth pick, I expect the Suns to pick up either of them, even if they intend on trading them afterwards.  The Suns had one of the worst records in the league last season, and so picking up the best available player regardless of position is likely their best option.  The Suns and Marcin Gortat seem to have been on questionable terms this past season, so it may be likely that they are looking to ship Gortat out and may opt to pick up Zeller as an insurance policy, but a package with McLemore and Gortat would certainly get a lot of parties interested in a deal with the Suns.  Whether it is McLemore or Oladipa that is available when the Suns get to call up the next player, I believe one of them will be putting up a Suns hat on draft day, even if they aren’t suiting up for them in the fall.  McLemore was a freshmen, but his percentages looked like that of an NBA vet, which may encourage the Magic to pick him up instead of Oladipa, in which case Oladipa will be wearing the Suns hat come draft day.

 

6.       New Orleans PelicansAnthony Bennett

Anthony Bennett

Anthony Bennett

The Hornets are doing pretty well at a couple of positions.  Greivis Vasques seems to be a promising point guard, so I think Trey Burke may not find a home in New Orleans this season, and Anthony Davis is a lock in the front court, while Ryan Anderson is great at the stretch 4.  So what could they use?  The best available player seems like a safe bet, and that will likely be Anthony Bennett.  Like Anderson, Bennett can rebound and shoot the three, which would work great in opening up the lane for Vasquez and Davis.  Some teams struggle with two big guys in the post, but since Anderson and Bennett can both shoot threes, they can spread the floor and defenses, and allow Vasques and Davis to work the pick-and-roll while making defenders who collapse on the play pay for leaving their man.  Bennett seems like the ideal fit for the Pelicans, though, depending on how the tenuous relationship with Eric Gordon goes, the Pelicans may look for a shooting guard in this year’s draft instead.

 

7.       Sacramento Kings Trey Burke

Trey Burke

Trey Burke

Last season he Kings had four point guards on their roster.  This season they have three.  Considering this is may seem unlikely that the Kings would draft another point guard, but that may be exactly what they end up doing.  Burke has a great assist-to-turnover ratio, and if he drops this low in the draft (he may go as high as second should the Magic decide they need a point guard), the Kings will have little choice but to pick him up.  His percentages right where you would hope they would be for a point guard, and considering he gets so few turnovers a game, it seems that he knows how to get the rock where it is supposed to go, and I think the Kings would be excited to see what DeMarcus Cousins could do with a better point guard running the offense.  The only problem is his size, which may not be too big of an issue since he does play point guard, but the league has been getting bigger in the back court, even as it shrinks in the front court, and 6’1 may put Burke at a disadvantage against some of the bigger point guards in the league who like to post up (fellow draftee Michael Carter-Williams plays the same position and is 5 inches taller than Burke).  Drafting Burke though would certainly mean that the Kings would finally have to give up on Jimmer Fredette and/or the undersized Isaiah Thomas.  Moving one of them would be a must.

 

8.       Detroit PistonsC.J. McCollum

C.J. McCollum

C.J. McCollum

I am a Detroit fan, so I am especially interested in what goes on here.  A couple seasons back I was really hoping the Pistons would pick up Klay Thompson.  They didn’t.  But the Pistons have performed well in the draft in recent years.  If Burke were available for Detroit, I would be eager for them to pick him up, but I doubt that he will be since some have Burke going as high as second overall.  What Detroit picks I think will depend on what they have planned for the offseason.  If they plan on keeping Jose Calderon, a point guard will not be a priority.  If they lose Calderon, Michael Carter-Williams (MCW) may be an option.  Should Len or Zeller drop to the eighth overall pick, I would hope the Pistons would pick up one of the two though.  They have the most trade value, and even though Detroit already has Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond in the front court, it would be nice to be able to rotate three big guys like that in and out of the game.  The other option would be to draft the MCW, biggest point guard since Penny Hardaway, even though his percentages are awfully low, or pick up another undersized shooting guard in C.J. McCollum, whose percentages are jaw-dropping.  Both picks come with their own set of problems, but if the Pistons have solid rim protection, they could afford to grab McCollum.  Considering their need for a shooting guard that can actually shoot, I expect the Pistons to take a gamble on McCollum.  Wade is 6’3 and he is perhaps the best shooting guard in the league, I’m sure McCollum could compete at that height as well.

 

9.       Minnesota TimberwolvesCody Zeller

Cody Zeller

Cody Zeller

The T-Wolves need a shooting guard, so why would the pick Cody Zeller?  Because he is one of the most tradable players in the draft, coupled with the fact that there will be some legit options for shooting guards in the free agent market this offseason, and Minnesota will be an ideal destination because they are in a position where they could really content with the addition of a player like Kevin Martin or O.J. Mayo.  If they can’t lure a shooting guard via free agency, they should be able to land one with the promise of a big man like Zeller.  They may trade up to pick up McLemore, or Olidipa, or they may trade for an established shooting guard.  Cody Zeller, if available, will likely be the best available player, even if they are already set with great players in the starting front court.  Zeller will give the T-Wolves their best options for rounding out their roster in the offseason because he can shoot the ball and rebound, and every team in the league wants a 7-footer than can do those two things.

 

10.   Portland Trailblazers: Rudy Gobert

Rudy Gobert

Rudy Gobert

Who is Rudy Gobert?  I don’t know, but I do know that he is 7’2 and that the Trailblazers are set at every position in the starting line-up.  In recent year the Trailblazers have raided the European market for players like Nicolas Batum and Rudy Fernandez, while past rosters have featured great European talent like Arvydas Sabonis.  I think it likely that the Trailblazers won’t mind taking a gamble on guy with Gobert’s size, especially considering that the starting line-up they have is young and improving.  It is fair to expect Batum and Damian Lillard to improve, and Hickson, if he stays, is really a center in a power forward’s body, so adding a 7-footer like Gobert could give the Trailblazers some options in the front court rotation.  If Gobert turns out to be a project, that is fine, because the Trailblazers have the personal to compensate for that, and with some shrewd offseason free-agent signings, the Trailblazers, who were really only lacking depth this season, should be able to make some drastic improvements without breaking the bank.

 

11.   Philadelphia 76ers: Kelly Olynyk

Kelly Olynyk

Kelly Olynyk

The 76ers are a good team.  Better than their record suggests.  They seem to have viable options at every position and I’m not sure that any available options in this draft will make them better at a given position outside that of center.  With Andrew Bynum out of the line-up for the entire season, the 76ers took a huge hit. Whether they choose to take another gamble on Bynum or not, the 76ers will desperately need either an insurance policy or an alternate plan and Olynyk would serve as a perfect option for either.  Olynyk is a junior, so he’s had three seasons in college and has improved in each of them.  His FG% is disgustingly high, and he’s grabbing close to 8 rebounds a game with only 26 minutes a game.  His FT% is great for a big man, and he can get a block or two and pop out for a three pointer as well, which means teams could run the high pick-and-roll with him and have him roll out instead of in; a great option to have on the offensive end.  Many have Olynyk dropping to 13th or 14th in the draft, but a guy his size with his percentages may likely not even be available for the 76ers.  If he is, he is likely their best bet, though if the Trailblazers pick him up first, the 76ers may have little recourse but to take a gamble on Rudy Gobert.

 

12.   Oklahoma City Thunder:   Michael Carter-Williams

Michael-Carter-Williams

Michael-Carter-Williams

The Thunder are in a unique situation in that they are a contender with a lottery pick.  This doesn’t happen often.  The Lakers picked up James Worthy in a similar situation, the Celtics picked up Len Bias and the Pistons picked up Darko Milicic.  Two of those situations had bad outcomes, but one lead to the Lakers earning three championships.  The Thunder have a great starting line-up, and if they can keep Kevin Martin, won’t need a shooting guard.   If this past offseason taught the Thunder anything, it is that they need a legit back-up at the point guard position.  So what options will they have?  Burke will likely be gone by this point in the draft, so that will not be an option.  This may leave the Thunder contemplating bringing Michael Carter-Williams on board.  It is true that Williams percentages are awful, but they can be improved.  What is unique about Williams is his size.  At 6’6 he would be the biggest point guard in the NBA, and his assist-to-turnover ratio is already better than many point guards in the NBA. Opposing point guards won’t be able to post-up on him.  If his percentages can be brought up, he could be a franchise calibre player, but that is a big if.  If not, coaching can limit his shot selection and he could serve as a great back-up that creates match-up problems for opposing teams.  Rajon Rondo has earned two trips to the NBA finals and a ring without much of a jumper (though his shrewd shot selection has garnered him a respectable FG%).  If a big man is left on the board by the time OKC is making their pick, they may want to explore that option as well, as they could address their point guard issue in free agency and amnesty or trade Kendrick Perkins with a legit option in the middle.  OKC is a destination for ring-chasers, and there will be some viable options at point guard in the offseason, so MCW, while an option, is not yet a dire necessity.

 

13.   Dallas MavericksMason Plumlee

Mason Plimlee: If this is his war face, I'm not sure that Sergent Hartman would be impressed.

Mason Plimlee: If this is his war face, I’m not sure that Sergent Hartman would be impressed.

What don’t the Mavericks need?  Mayo may be on his way out after a stellar season that will earn him some money, and the Mavericks will be hoping to save cap space to run at Chris Paul and Dwight Howard.  Small forward and power forward are the only positions they have starters locked in for next season, so it seems like Dallas is free to pick the best available player regardless of position.  There are a couple European players available.  Small forward Dario Saric and point guard Dennis Schroeder, but I expect the Mavericks to pass on them.  On paper the best option may be Mason Plumlee.  Plumlee has a great pedigree.  He is well coached and coming from one of the best programs in the college sports in Duke.  Players that come from Duke often have great fundamentals, and that can be huge for any team and help keep a player in the league for a long time.  Carlos Boozer had the same pedigree and fell to the second round and proved that people should not overlook products from this program.  I expect that Plumlee’s college career may be overlooked by some who are weary as to why a player in today’s market would stay all four years in college.  Such a strategy actually seems to hurt a player’s draft position, but there is perhaps no player who is as NBA ready in this draft as Plumlee, even if he doesn’t have the highest potential.  Considering that last season was the first year the NBA did not have a 20/10 player, one might assume teams would be anxious to draft a player like Plumlee who nearly posted a 20/10 season in college.  He has showed marked improvements in each college season and it is fair to expect continued improvement in his NBA career.  Seems like the best fit to me, even if the Mavericks already have a power forward.  If Elton Brand is staying in Dallas though, the Mavericks may want to look at picking up shooting guard Kentavius Caldwell-Pope, who is a strong rebounder for his position and a decent three-point shooter.

 

14.   The Utah JazzDennis Schroeder

It’s going to be hard to guess who the Jazz pick up in the draft this year.  What they need is a point guard, so it is likely that they will get one of those.  Burke would be ideal, but he will likely be long gone before Utah picks.  With Paul Milsap and Al Jefferson on contract years, the Jazz may work a sign-and-trade for the like of Burkes, or another point guard already playing in the NBA.  What it is clear is that they don’t need is a power forward or center.  I expect they may take a look at Kentavius Caldwell-Pope and European point guard Dennis Schroeder, with Schroeder being the more likely option.  I’d pick up Steven Adams first if his FT% wasn’t so woeful simply because it seems clear that either or both Milsap and Jefferson won’t be around next season and Adams’ shot blocking is impressive (one of few college players to get less fouls than blocks).  Gorgui Dieng may also be an option if the Jazz trust Mo Williams at the point and feel like they can make the upgrade they need at the point via free agency, but with few mock drafts placing any point guards other than Burke and Carter-Williams in the first round, it seems Schroeder will be the only option available to Utah if they wish to draft a point guard with their first-round pick.

 

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