By Jon Rothstein
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1. IS THE 2013 NBA DRAFT AS WEAK AS PEOPLE ARE MAKING IT OUT TO BE?
At the top? Yes. There are NO franchise players in this draft. Usually, the team that wins the lottery throws a party. We’re guessing that probably wasn’t the case on Tuesday night in Times Square when the Cleveland Cavaliers got the top overall pick. The 2013 NBA Draft will be filled with role players and reserves. If you’re looking to change the tune of a franchise with one single selection, this is the wrong year.
2. WHO SUFFERS THE MOST FROM THE LACK OF FRANCHISE-TYPE TALENT AT THE TOP?
Without question, it’s the general managers. Having a high selection in the lottery isn’t just an avenue for a franchise to add one of the best players in college basketball. It’s also a major chip that can be used to acquire veteran players that will have an immediate impact next season. Remember, the Boston Celtics traded the fifth-overall pick in 2007 plus other players to land Ray Allen from Seattle. That move was a precursor to the trade for Kevin Garnett later that summer, which ultimately led to Boston winning the 2008 NBA title. We’re not sure if a similar deal is possible this year.
3. WHO WOULD WE TAKE AS THE TOP OVERALL PICK?
Nerlens Noel. Sure, the Kentucky big man is limited offensively and coming off an ACL tear, but he’s still a game-changing shot blocker and has an unbelievable desire to get better. At just under 7-foot-0, Noel is a legitimate NBA center, and that’s something that is a rarity in today’s NBA. The big man averaged 10.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 4.4 blocks per game at Kentucky before he got injured in February. We see Noel as someone who could be capable of eventually resembling what Dikembe Mutombo was when he first got into the league with the Denver Nuggets. Noel’s offensive game needs work and he could also add some mass, but he’s still the best prospect on the board.
4. WHICH PLAYER IS THE MOST KNOWN COMMODITY?
Georgetown’s Otto Porter. Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said earlier this year that Porter should be the top overall pick in the draft, and was the “best all-around player to ever play in the Big East”. The Hoyas’ talented 6-foot-8 forward does a little bit of everything and can dominate a game without scoring. Porter won’t be a star at the next level, but in the right situation he could have an impact next season. Several NBA GMs have told me that if a veteran team traded up to get Porter, he could have a similar impact to what we’re seeing with Kawhi Leonard right now with the San Antonio Spurs.
5. WHERE IS THE STRENGTH OF THIS DRAFT?
The latter part of the first round and beyond. After the first 15-18 picks, there are several players who could help a team in a certain role. Yes, there’s no franchise-type talent in this draft, but there’s several players who could be vital pieces to a team’s puzzle down the road. A player who someone takes in the second round could wind up being just as productive as a player that another team took at 12 or 13 overall. It’s that type of year.
TEAM TO WATCH: PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS
Blazers general manager Neil Olshey struck gold 11 months ago when he drafted NBA Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard sixth overall. What will he do for an encore? Portland drafts 10th, but also has three second-round picks (39, 40, 45) and could look to trade up or down. We know one thing — the Blazers will be very active on June 27th.
MOST INTRIGUING PLAYER: UNLV’S ANTHONY BENNETT
Runnin’ Rebels coach Dave Rice has regularly compared Bennett to former UNLV star Larry Johnson, and it’s hard not to like the comparison. Like Johnson, Bennett is an explosive athlete and built like a blacksmith. The biggest key for Bennett at the next level? Developing a reliable three-point shot from NBA range. In his one season in college, Bennett was impressive from behind the arc, making 37.5 percent of his three-point shots. He’ll need to continue that in the NBA to have a chance of being a really productive player at the next level.
A NAME TO REMEMBER THAT YOU MAY HAVE NEVER HEARD OF
Norvel Pelle. Who is Pelle? The former No. 1 ranked center in the Class of 2011 who initially committed to St. John’s didn’t qualify and never played college basketball. While Pelle hasn’t played a minute as a collegiate athlete, he’s still 6-foot-11 and is a tenacious rim protector. He may be worth a late second-round pick.
FIVE LATE FIRST-ROUND GEMS
1. TIM HARDAWAY JR., MICHIGAN
2. ALLEN CRABBE, CAL
3. ISAIAH CANAAN, MURRAY STATE
4. JAMES SOUTHERLAND, SYRACUSE
5. LORENZO BROWN, NC STATE
FIVE WORTHY SECOND-ROUND GAMBLES
1. RICARDO LEDO, PROVIDENCE
2. ARCHIE GOODWIN, KENTUCKY
3. SOLOMON HILL, ARIZONA
4. REGGIE BULLOCK, NORTH CAROLINA
5. DEWAYNE DEDMON, USC
EARLY MOCK DRAFT (LOTTERY VERSION)
1. CLEVELAND – NERLENS NOEL, KENTUCKY
2. ORLANDO – TREY BURKE, MICHIGAN
3. WASHINGTON – ALEX LEN, MARYLAND
4. CHARLOTTE – BEN MCLEMORE, KANSAS
5. PHOENIX – OTTO PORTER, GEORGETOWN
6. NEW ORLEANS – VICTOR OLADIPO, INDIANA
7. SACRAMENTO – ANTHONY BENNETT, UNLV
8. DETROIT – C.J. MCCOLLUM, LEHIGH
9. MINNESOTA – SHABAZZ MUHAMMAD, UCLA
10. PORTLAND – KENTAVIOUS CALDWELL-POPE, GEORGIA
11. PHILADELPHIA – CODY ZELLER, INDIANA
12. OKLAHOMA CITY – RUDY GOBERT, FRANCE
13. DALLAS – MICHAEL CARTER-WILLIAMS, SYRACUSE
14. UTAH – DENNIS SCHROEDER, GERMANY
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