NBA Mock Draft: Bulls thinking big?

NBA Mock Draft: Bulls thinking big?
May 23, 2013, 5:15 pm
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The thing about mock drafts is that when the real thing happens, nobody remembers how right or wrong they were.

With that knowledge, this writer has submitted one for neither praise or ridicule, based on the results of Tuesday night's NBA draft lottery.

Since nobody, not even the team's selecting, know exactly what they plan to do in more than a month, these picks are made best on team needs and the ability of the available players.

This year, more than most, there isn't a huge difference in the perceived future impacts of players regarded as lottery-bound and those who are considered mid-to-late round choices.

Still, there's plenty of quality talent available, if not at the superstar level, even beyond the 30 prospects listed here, which is a nice way of warning readers not to get too worked up about these projections, as the workout and interview process, as well free-agency preparations, will surely change things leading up to the draft.

1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Nerlens Noel, Kentucky
As lucky as Cleveland is for getting its second top pick in three years, the Cavs are even luckier that veteran Anderson Varejao's final season under contract and a general lack of expectations means they can afford to bring the shot-blocking Noel along slowly while he recovers from ACL surgery, though conspiracy theories about league MVP LeBron James one day returning to his home state as a free agent should be tempered by concern about All-Star Kyrie Irving eventually leaving if the team doesn't drastically improve by the time his rookie deal is up.

2. Orlando Magic: Ben McLemore, Kansas
Incumbent shooting guard Arron Afflalo is the Magic's best returning player, but McLemore's talent and the lure of him developing into an alpha-dog scorer for a team with some talented young pieces is simply too appealing for Orlando to not take the athletic shooter.

3. Washington Wizards: Otto Porter, Georgetown
Porter shouldn't have to relocate if Cleveland passes on him, though Washington could have suitors for the pick with New Orleans, Sacramento and Detroit also desperately needing help at small forward, but pairing the former Hoya with the promising backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal is too much to pass up.

4. Charlotte Hornets: Anthony Bennett, UNLV
Despite Bennett's injury history and concern about him being undersized to play power forward, the Canadian's powerful frame and inside-outside game gives the Hornets an interior scoring anchor not unlike Charlotte's first superstar, Larry Johnson.

5. Phoenix Suns: Victor Oladipo, Indiana
The Suns have issues when it comes to talent and overall approach to the game, things that the hard-nosed Oladipo can help fix, as his relentlessness and two-way game, as well as considerable upside, can be a major part of rebuilding Phoenix's foundation.

[MORE: Bulls draft position could be better than expected]

6. New Orleans Pelicans: Trey Burke, Michigan
Burke's leadership, playmaking, scoring ability and overall floor-general qualities overwhelm his lack of size and explosiveness, which could give New Orleans an inside-outside duo for years to come with last year's top overall pick Anthony Davis, though as good as the college player of the year is, the lack of consideration to current point guard Greivis Vasquez's breakout season is puzzling.

7. Sacramento Kings: Alex Len, Maryland
Although Len had an uneven two-year college career, some believe he could be better than Noel, and if he's available when the Kings are selecting, the true center's potential on both ends of the court could help Sacramento form a formidable post tandem with DeMarcus Cousins or allow the team to trade the talented big man.

8. Detroit Pistons: Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA
Muhammad came under heavy scrutiny both on and off the court during his freshman campaign, but while he might not be the superstar some projected him to be out of high school or have ideal physical attributes for either wing position, he is a natural scorer and would help the Pistons' perimeter attack.

9. Minnesota Timberwolves: C.J. McCollum, Lehigh
Assuming he lasts this long, McCollum doesn't initially appear to be a great fit for Minnesota, but the combo guard's perimeter marksmanship could pair well with Ricky Rubio's supreme passing skills in a smallish backcourt that would at least target the team's shooting woes.

10. Portland Trail Blazers: Rudy Gobert, France
Portland's biggest need is in the middle and while Gobert isn't anything close to a finished product, his remarkable wingspan alone is the type of characteristic that tantalizes team executives, based on visions of the future, in which he would provide All-Star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge with some desired inside help.

11. Philadelphia 76ers: Cody Zeller, Indiana
Once considered the top prospect in college basketball, Zeller's stock slipped throughout the season, but observers were impressed with his athletic-testing results, if not his measurements, and on a Sixers team lacking quality size, if he can be an energy player that flourishes in transition, there's a niche for him.

12. Oklahoma City Thunder: Steven Adams, Pittsburgh
Adams is extremely raw, but his size and natural physical attributes are worth taking a chance on for a team that doesn't have an urgent need to rush him along, especially as Oklahoma City and its D-League affiliate continue to function as an incubator for high-potential youngsters with little college experience.

13. Dallas Mavericks: Michael Carter-Williams, Syracuse
Dallas has a lot of holes to fill and a rookie certainly won't address all of them, but the playmaking ability of Carter-Williams, who has great size for a floor general, is a start, and if his jumper improves, his future is even brighter.

14. Utah Jazz: Dario Saric, Croatia
With the first of its two first-round picks, it wouldn't be a mistake for Utah to swing for the fences and if the talented Saric, who has uncanny ball skills for his size, is still around, he'd bring a different skill set than any player presently on the Jazz roster.

15. Milwaukee Bucks: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Georgia
The Bucks have decisions to make this offseason regarding Brandon Jennings, Monta Ellis and J.J. Redick, their trio of veteran free-agent guards, but no matter who stays and who goes, additional perimeter scoring is a must and while Caldwell-Pope went largely under the radar due to playing for a subpar team, his blend of outside shooting, size and athleticism could help Milwaukee right away.

[MORE: An early Bulls free agency preview]

16. Boston Celtics: Mason Plumlee, Duke
If Plumlee lasts this long, his experience, size and athleticism will be hard to pass up for a Celtics team that will be without Kevin Garnett sooner than later, as the big man probably won't be a star but projects as long-term rotation player who can be paired with likes of Jeff Green and Jared Sullinger.

17. Atlanta Hawks: Jamaal Franklin, San Diego State
Franklin's outside jumper is a weakness, but his defense, rebounding, ability to score in the paint and, most of all, motor more than make up for it, and on a Hawks squad in transition, he could become a valuable role player, regardless of what other pieces come and go.

18. Atlanta Hawks: Gorgui Dieng, Louisville
With Josh Smith likely to leave his hometown in free agency, Dieng would allow Al Horford to finally play his natural position of power forward, and along with his shot-blocking and rebounding prowess, the NCAA title-winner is an excellent screener, good passer from the high post and can knock down mid-range jumpers.

19. Cleveland Cavaliers: Glen Rice Jr., D-League
After showing brief flashes of potential at Georgia Tech before being dismissed for off-the-court issues, Rice tore up the D-League in the second half of the season, helping his team win a championship, and while he doesn't quite have his father's sweet shooting stroke, he established himself as an athletic, slashing wing scorer who could help on the interior, something the Cavs could use.

20. Chicago Bulls: Jeff Withey, Kansas
Dieng might be the better fit because of his overlooked offensive tools, but the Bulls shouldn't be too disappointed if they end up with Withey, a prodigious shot-blocking force and solid team defender. And despite the fact that he has some offensive limitations, his experience gives him a chance to make an impact off the bench as a rookie for a team that prioritizes defense.

21. Utah Jazz: Shane Larkin, Miami
The son of baseball legend Barry Larkin is on the small side but was off the charts in recent athletic testing, which, combined with his shooting range and playmaking ability, gives the Jazz a chance to acquire their point guard of the future.

22. Brooklyn Nets: Tony Mitchell, North Texas
Mitchell has lottery talent, and though his stock slipped after an inconsistent season, his explosive power, if properly developed, would give the often-lethargic Nets some much-needed juice on the interior alongside All-Star center Brook Lopez.

23. Indiana Pacers: Dennis Schroeder, Germany
Rumors are flying that the Rajon Rondo-style floor general has a promise from a team with a higher pick, such as Utah or Boston, but in the event that it's not the case, Schroeder's speed and playmaking would be a nice complement off the bench to Pacers starter George Hill.

24. New York Knicks: Allen Crabbe, California
The pure-shooting Crabbe measured well and surprised observers in athletic testing, sparking visions of a two-way platoon with defensive stopper Iman Shumpert and another perimeter scoring option aside from Carmelo Anthony, which would be a priority if Sixth Man of the Year J.R. Smith departs New York over the summer.

25. Los Angeles Clippers: Kelly Olynyk, Gonzaga
Olynyk could easily go much higher, but it wouldn't be a surprise to see the skilled, perimeter-oriented big man drop due to his preference for finesse over being physical, though his combination of size and what he brings to the table offensively would give the athletic Clippers a new dimension.

[RELATED: Cavaliers awarded first pick in 2013 NBA draft]

26. Minnesota Timberwolves: Tim Hardaway Jr., Michigan
Hardaway's outside shooting, underrated explosiveness and solid size for his position would all benefit the Wolves, who need help in all of the aforementioned areas.

27. Denver Nuggets: Reggie Bullock, North Carolina
Bullock might not have more upside than current young Nuggets wing reserves like Evan Fournier and Quincy Miller, but he has a niche as a "3-and-D" guy. On a team that needs shooting and could lose defensive-minded veteran swingmen Andre Iguodala and Corey Brewer to free agency, he makes sense, especially with fellow former Tar Heel George Karl on the sidelines.

28. San Antonio Spurs: Lucas Nogueira, Brazil
With Hall of Famer Tim Duncan and fellow Brazilian Tiago Splitter around, the spindly shot-blocker wouldn't lack for mentoring, and with the Spurs' history valuing international prospects with long-term potential, it just feels right, particularly if no impact rotation player is still on the board.

29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Greece
This point-forward type is completely unproven after playing against weak competition but has undeniable physical tools, making him an ideal "draft-and-stash" candidate for another team that doesn't hesitate to select overseas talent, as well as having a roster that doesn't have much room to add young talents, including previous first-round picks that logged time in the D-League this season.

30. Phoenix Suns: C.J. Leslie, North Carolina State
Leslie is somewhat of a tweener, but his athleticism and versatility could make him a solid pro in the right situation. And with Phoenix's myriad woes, they could do a lot worse than the best available player, given his potential.