Before any selections were ever made, the 2013 NBA Draft class set itself apart from previous years simply by being anything but a sure bet. There are no superstars who distanced themselves from the rest of the group and warranted the distinction as a clear-cut first overall pick.
However, this draft is loaded with depth and players who have bright futures. Here is a recap and grades for the first round selections:
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Anthony Bennett, PF, UNLV (Grade: C)
Talk about a shocker right from the beginning with Cleveland. All signs pointed to Nerlens Noel, Alex Len, or Otto Porter. Bennett is a physical specimen and a double-double machine. The question is where does he fit? He is a bit of a tweener and Cleveland already has Tristan Thompson taking up space on the low block. Porter would have made more sense, as he is a true wing. Bennett will need to develop a consistent 3-point shot to make this pick worth it. Nonetheless, he will be a nice complement to point guard Kyrie Irving.
2. Orlando Magic: Victor Oladipo, SG, Indiana (Grade: A-)
The selection of Oladipo leads me to believe that Orlando is confident they can swing a trade for a point guard (perhaps Eric Bledsoe?). If they are able to do so, then this pick immediately becomes an “A+”. Oladipo is the best guard in the draft and is a hard worker. Already a defensive stud, expect Oladipo to flourish under the tutelage of head coach Jacque Vaughn. His shooting must improve, but if anybody is up to the challenge it’s the Indiana product. Oladipo is the latest piece in Orlando’s impressive rebuilding process.
3. Washington Wizards: Otto Porter, SF, Georgetown (Grade: A)
Washington’s front office had to be ecstatic that Porter dropped to them at number 3. This is the perfect situation for both player and team. Porter immediately slides into the wing position and now forms a dangerous trio with John Wall and Bradley Beal. For the Wizards, keeping the local college hero in the D.C. area will give the fan base much to be excited about. Porter may not have as much upside as some of the other top prospects, but he will be a consistent contributor for his entire NBA career.
4. Charlotte Bobcats: Cody Zeller, C, Indiana (Grade: D+)
Zeller was criticized way too much at Indiana. He was playing out of position as a center throughout college. In the pros, he will be a quick power forward who can run the floor. However, for the Bobcats to pass up on an opportunity to snag Nerlens Noel is simply ridiculous. Number 4 overall is a real stretch for Zeller, in terms of value. Charlotte easily could have slid back a few picks and still taken Zeller, while also adding assets. Michael Jordan’s draft night legacy lives on…that’s bad news for Zeller.
5. Phoenix Suns: Alex Len, C, Maryland (Grade: B-)
Len being taken 5th overall is a more appropriate slot, given his talent, than being taken with the top pick. He is only 20 years old, and is really just scraping the surface on his offensive skillset. For Len, the key for him to become an impact player in the league is he needs to consistently bring a physical/attacking mentality. Too often at Maryland he would disappear for large stretches and defer to the Terrapins ball handlers.
6. Philadelphia 76ers (via NO): Nerlens Noel, C, Kentucky (Grade: C)
This is a good pick for the Sixers, but they gave up a ton to make it. Philadelphia has needs at center, and bringing Noel into the fold no longer forces them to rely on Lavoy Allen. However, the Sixers had to part ways with All-Star guard Jrue Holiday. Although they will be receiving a 2014 1st-round pick (which figures to be a loaded draft), that seems like a hefty price for a player with little offensive impact. Also, what will come of the Andrew Bynum situation? In Noel, the Sixers now have their rim-protector for the next decade… assuming he recovers quickly enough from his torn ACL to get on the court and keep Philly’s fans happy.
7. Sacramento Kings: Ben McLemore, SG, Kansas (Grade: B+)
McLemore has the most upside of anyone in the draft. When he wants to be, he is a special offensive weapon. The Kansas product has the shooting stroke to be a very successful player at the next level. The question remains: does he have the mental makeup to dominate? He needs to become more assertive on a regular basis, and his ball handling is subpar. The Kings could not pass up on the opportunity to take such a gifted athlete though. Now, they must figure out how to get McLemore his fair share of shots on a roster stocked with shoot-first guards.
8. Detroit Pistons: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG, Georgia (Grade: C)
Detroit has a pressing need for a point guard. They pass on both Trey Burke and Michael Carter-Williams to select the shooting guard from Georgia. Caldwell-Pope, simply put, can fill it up. He takes, and generally makes, highly contested shots. It appears as though the Pistons are content leaving the ball handling duties to Brandon Knight, which may ultimately be a mistake. Knight would be better suited as a small 2-guard.
9. Utah Jazz (via MIN): Trey Burke, PG, Michigan (Grade: A+)
Utah was in desperate need of a point guard to build around. Bringing in the National Player of the Year certainly qualifies as filling that need. In terms of value, selecting Burke with the 9th pick couldn’t have worked out any better for the Jazz. Burke could have easily come off the board at number 2 to the Magic. What he lacks in size, the former Michigan standout makes up for with his leadership and ability to create off the dribble. He will be a crowd pleaser in Utah for many years to come.
10. Portland Trail Blazers: CJ McCollum, SG, Lehigh (Grade: A)
This is a very solid pick by the Trail Blazers. McCollum burst onto the national scene after his Lehigh squad upset Duke in the NCAA tournament. A foot injury limited him to just 12 games this past season, but health concerns are not an issue moving forward. McCollum is the best pure scorer in this draft. Portland is already set in the backcourt with Damian Lillard and Wesley Matthews. McCollum will be an excellent option off the bench and in small lineups. Without having to move draft spots, Portland immensely upgrades their atrocious collection of reserves.
11. Philadelphia 76ers: Michael Carter-Williams, PG, Syracuse (Grade: C+)
Philadelphia gets its ball handler of the future in Carter-Williams. Physically, there isn’t a point guard in the draft with more potential. Carter-Williams’ size (6-6) allows him to see over defenders and effectively get to the rim. He needs to solve his turnover issues, as he is loose with the basketball at times. Shooting is also a real weakness for the Syracuse product but is something that can be corrected. Carter-Williams will instantly be compared to the player he is replacing in Holiday. This selection gets a lower grade because Philadelphia is substituting an unproven offensive commodity for an All-Star guard.
12. Oklahoma City Thunder: Steven Adams, C, Pittsburgh (Grade: D)
The Thunder ultimately parlayed the best young shooting guard in basketball (James Harden) into Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, a few picks, and now Adams. To say the Rockets won that trade would be an understatement. Adams is a high-risk commodity. He looked completely lost at times in Big East competition during his only college season, and 12th overall is a reach for his services. The physical tools are there, but the Pittsburgh center is still a ways away from being a real contributor. Oklahoma City can afford to let Adams develop, in hopes that he becomes a strong interior partner for Serge Ibaka. However, the Thunder have gotten little help in the “here and now” from the Harden trade.
13. Boston Celtics (via DAL): Kelly Olynyk, C, Gonzaga (Grade: B+)
This is a great pick for the Celtics, but it doesn’t appear as though they needed to move up to get Olynyk. He likely would have been available in their original position at number 16. There are questions about how Olynyk’s athletic ability will translate to the pros, given the competition he played against at Gonzaga. Rajon Rondo will enjoy setting up the big 7-footer off screens. With reports that Kevin Garnett is being shipped off to the Nets, Olynyk can step right in and become a scoring threat for the Celtics.
14. Minnesota Timberwolves (via UTAH): Shabazz Muhammad, SF, UCLA (Grade: B+)
This is the perfect spot for Muhammad to come off the board. Anything inside the top 10 picks would have been a real reach for a player who can’t dribble with his right hand and is athletically challenged. Muhammad comes with a ton of baggage surrounding his recruitment and actual age. Fair or not, he was never able to live up to the hype at UCLA. Nonetheless, the T-Wolves need a scorer at shooting guard. Muhammad fills that need and will make a nice pairing with Ricky Rubio.
15. Milwaukee Bucks: Giannis Antetokounmpo, SF, Greece (Grade: C)
The prospect from Greece is the youngest player in the entire draft. He is a relative mystery, and it is believed that he played against weak competition far too often. He isn’t ready to compete at the NBA level at this time, and is a player Milwaukee would want to keep overseas to develop. However, Antetokounmpo has no desire to do that and wants to play in the NBA immediately. At 6-9, he is an excellent passer and runs the floor well. This pick could pay dividends for the Bucks down the road if he is given the time to mature.
16. Atlanta Hawks (via DAL via BOS): Lucas Nogueira, C, Brazil (Grade: B)
Nogueira is extremely thin, but is a menace around the rim. The kid known as “BeBe” has a huge wingspan (7-6) and loves to use his length to get easy tip-ins. He is a bit of a project, but Atlanta has the perfect player for Nogueira to learn under in Al Horford. The Brazilian will be a factor at some point for Atlanta, especially on the defensive end.
17. Atlanta Hawks: Dennis Schroeder, PG, Germany (Grade: B)
Schroeder is an extremely intriguing prospect. He is only 19 years old and is lightning quick with the basketball in his hands. Atlanta already has Jeff Teague, but Schroeder will be a great complement in the backcourt. He is still raw offensively, but uses his defense pressure to create turnovers and get easy baskets. If there is one thing Atlanta likes to do, it’s run the fast break.
18. Dallas Mavericks (via ATL): Shane Larkin, PG, Miami (Grade: A+)
Larkin’s only real knock is something he has no control over. He is generously listed at 6-0, but is more likely around 5-10/5-11 in height. Miami’s surprise season coincided with Larkin leading the way offensively for the Hurricane. He can do just about anything he wants with the basketball in hands, and has great range on his jumper. The Mavericks knocked this pick out of the park, and Larkin will thrive under head coach Rick Carlisle. Don’t be surprised if he becomes the starter at the point during his rookie season.
19. Cleveland Cavaliers: Sergey Karasev, SF, Russia (Grade: B+)
The Cavaliers needed help on the wing, and in Karasev they get an excellent fit for that need. The Russian is a very good shooter and is a willing passer. He has a high basketball IQ for such a young prospect (19 years old). The biggest question about Karasev is if he will come to the NBA immediately or remain overseas. This pick becomes an “A” if Karasev suits up for Cleveland in the fall.
20. Chicago Bulls: Tony Snell, SF, New Mexico (Grade: B+)
The Bulls were exposed at the shooting guard position during the playoffs. Richard Hamilton’s best days have past. Jimmy Butler has a promising future, but may ultimately take over at small forward for Luol Deng down the road. In Snell, the Bulls get a player who can guard multiple positions and is a threat from beyond the arc. The biggest concern with Snell is his aggressiveness, or lack thereof, on offense. With the Bulls, he can focus on playing solid defense and not have to worry about carrying the scoring load.
21. Minnesota Timberwolves (via UTAH): Gorgui Dieng, C, Louisville (Grade: A-)
Minnesota got great value from both of their selections in the first round. Dieng’s age (23) is a bit of concern, meaning his ceiling may be limited. Nonetheless, he does two things really well that set him apart from other big men: his passing and jump shooting from the high post. The Timberwolves will view those skills as an added bonus though, as Dieng will be expected to guard the rim and give Kevin Love some rebounding help.
22. Brooklyn Nets: Mason Plumlee, PF, Duke (Grade: B-)
Plumlee will give the Nets some much-desired athleticism in the frontcourt. Brook Lopez is a great weapon offensively, but rebounds like someone who is 6 inches shorter than his actual height. Plumlee will not be expected to do much more than run the floor for easy layups and rebound at will. He is already 23 years old, so he probably isn’t going to get much better skill-wise. However, Plumlee will immediately be an upgrade from Kris Humphries for Brooklyn.
23. Indiana Pacers: Solomon Hill, SF, Arizona (Grade: D)
Indiana really reached with this pick. They could have easily gotten Hill somewhere in the second round. The Pacers needed help in the backcourt in some form. Tim Hardaway and Allen Crabbe were both available for the taking. Hill is a lot like Draymond Green, who was selected last year by the Warriors in the second round. He does all the little things for a team to win. However, spending a first round pick on that type of a player is a still a reach no matter how you spin it.
24. New York Knicks: Tim Hardaway Jr., SG, Michigan (Grade: B)
And with the next pick, New York selects the younger Hardaway. J.R. Smith is a free agent, and there is no guarantee he re-signs. Hardaway is an excellent 3-point shooter. The Knicks love players that can stretch the defense, and the former Michigan guard will do that well. Hardaway is also a solid defender when he wants to be. In order to break into New York’s rotation, he will need to be able to do more than just shoot.
25. Los Angeles Clippers: Reggie Bullock, SG/SF, North Carolina (Grade: A-)
The name of Bullock’s game is his marksmanship. He is a deadeye shooter from downtown. Matt Barnes and Lamar Odom are both free agents. The Clippers biggest weakness in the playoffs was an inability to consistently stretch defenses with a 3-point threat. Bullock does that as well as any player in this draft. He can also guard multiple positions with his length. Playing alongside Chris Paul will give Bullock tons of uncontested jump shots...more often than not, he knocks them down.
26. Oklahoma City Thunder (via GS via MIN): Andre Roberson, SF/PF, Colorado (Grade: C-)
Another puzzling pick for the Thunder. Roberson is the definition of a tweener. He is really doesn’t have any offensive skills to hang his hat on, and can’t get his own shot. The one thing that he does do well is rebound. Roberson will give the Thunder another wing defender, and his motor never runs low. He is a high-energy player, but just doesn’t fit Oklahoma City’s need for a scoring guard.
27. Utah Jazz (via DEN): Rudy Gobert, C, France (Grade: B)
Being able to get Gobert at this point of the first round is a low-risk, high-reward move by the Jazz. They already have two frontline pieces of the future in Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors. Gobert registered the largest wingspan in combine history (7-9), but has little offensive game to speak of. He’s about as raw as it gets, but he’s such a big body that Utah can afford to take a flyer on him and hope his skill catches up to his size.
28. San Antonio Spurs: Livio Jean-Charles, PF, France (Grade: B+)
The Spurs take a French prospect with this pick, but not the one I expected with Gobert off the board. Jean-Charles is a freak athlete and plays extremely hard. He really struggles with his ball handling, but that can be developed. In typical San Antonio fashion, they will stash Jean-Charles overseas for several years and will reap the benefits in the long-term.
29. Phoenix Suns (via GS): Archie Goodwin, SG, Kentucky (Grade: F)
I understand the Suns thought process, but they will not be seeing any return with this pick for at least a few years. Goodwin is erratic with the ball in his hands, and that’s putting it kindly. He really struggled with his jump shot in his lone season at Kentucky. There is no denying the potential and athleticism for Goodwin, so this selection is one to keep an eye on for the future. However, the Suns need all the immediate help they can get, and Goodwin isn’t going to provide it. Allen Crabbe would have been the better choice.
30. Golden State Warriors (via PHO): Nemanja Nedovic, SG, Serbia (Grade: C)
The Warriors have the ability to take a flyer with this pick, given the strength of their backcourt already. Nedovic is a candidate to be stashed overseas. Golden State would have been better served looking for another wing to spell Harrison Barnes at times. Leaving Jamal Franklin on the board and going with Nedovic is a head scratcher.