Breaking down the first round of the NBA Draft

Breaking down the first round of the NBA Draft

June 28, 2013, 2:00 pm
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It was a strange draft Thursday night, one in which almost all of the predictions leading up to the actual event were quickly discounted and the biggest NBA story of the evening surrounded a trade that didn't even affect any of the nervous young prospects whose futures were being announced by a sarcastic league commissioner David Stern, in his final time emceeing the proceedings.

There were surprises from the outset, and while the level of talent involved wasn't overwhelming, a lot of teams helped themselves and although the impact of the players selected can't be truly determined for years, it appears as if it's a much deeper draft than previously assumed.

Thus, giving knee-jerk reaction grades is, like mock drafts, a fool's errand, but now that the dust has settled, analyzing the potential of the first-round picks, how they fit with their new teams and the merits of the selections is another story.

1. Anthony Bennett, Cleveland Cavaliers: A crazy night started out with a big surprise, as the Cavs went for the player whom they obviously felt had the most superstar potential, but also a few question marks, such as his health concerns and positional issues. Tweener or not, Bennett, the first Canadian player drafted No. 1 overall, has an enormous upside, though it's ironic that he plays the same position of fellow Toronto-area native Tristan Thompson. Still, if Cleveland believed the UNLV power forward, expected by some observers to slide Thursday, had the most talent in the draft, it not only speeds up the team's rebuilding process, but should help make it easier for All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving to stick around when he hits free agency, which should be a bigger focus than whether or not prodigal son LeBron James ever returns.

2. Victor Oladipo, Orlando Magic: Oladipo was seen as a "safe" pick, but he should also be a tremendous influence on the Magic forming a new identity, as his competitive nature, defensive mindset and high character all help to make him a solid building block in a draft where no one player could turn things around for the franchise. His selection likely guarantees that Orlando trades veteran shooting guard Arron Afflalo and if they can get a starting point guard, the team will have its backcourt of the future, to go along with their young frontcourt talent. Oladipo probably won't put up huge numbers, but he should make a big impact.

3. Otto Porter, Washington Wizards: The first no-brainer of the evening was the Wizards keeping the former Georgetown star in D.C. to form a nice perimeter trio with guards John Wall and Bradley Beal. Porter isn't flashy, but his high basketball I.Q., defensive prowess, versatility and shooting ability will make him a nice complementary player. If Washington can get a veteran big man to be a low-post scorer, they could be a team to watch in the near future.

[MORE: Breaking down the Bulls' draft]

4. Cody Zeller, Charlotte Bobcats: Another surprising pick, Zeller doesn't project to be a dominant player, but Charlotte needs help on the interior, and his athleticism could perhaps provide a boost. Still, it's puzzling why the Bobcats didn't look to a more impactful scorer, intimidating defender or a prospect with a higher ceiling in general. Zeller has plenty of positive qualities, including more of an offensive repertoire than he displayed in college, but this choice will probably keep the team in the NBA's basement again next season, which, on the bright side, sets them up perfectly for a potentially stellar 2014 draft class.

5. Alex Len, Phoenix Suns: A traditional back-to-the-basket center with loads of potential, for a team that needs help almost everywhere, Len isn't a bad pick, but he won't necessarily make a major difference right away. The Suns opted to build for the future, which can't be argued, especially if the Maryland product evolves into a franchise big man with a varied offensive game and the ability to make his presence felt on both ends -- things the Ukraine native could be capable of one day. Len's arrival in Phoenix likely hastens the departure of veteran center Marcin Gortat, meaning that a trade for a solid veteran or more assets is another benefit of the pick.

6. Nerlens Noel, Philadelphia 76ers: The consensus favorite to be the top pick, Noel inexplicably dropped. He was drafted by the Pelicans and subsequently traded to the Sixers, along with a top-five protected 2014 first-round selection, for All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday and the 42nd overall pick, Baylor's Pierre Jackson, instantly dashing hopes of a shot-blocking tandem with fellow Kentucky product Anthony Davis. Noel's presence represents a fresh start for Philadelphia under new general manager Sam Hinkie and with free-agent center Andrew Bynum unlikely to return, Noel will be the man in the middle after he recovers from an ACL injury. There will be considerable debate about whether Noel was worth trading Holiday, but his unique defensive ability is considered a game-changer, and if he builds up his body and gains a semblance of offense acumen, the argument could be turned around.

7. Ben McLemore, Sacramento Kings: McLemore was another prospect not expected to drop so far, and the guard-heavy Kings might not be the ideal landing spot, but it's hard to pass on a player with his talent. The ex-Kansas star was dogged by questions about his assertiveness, but nobody questions his picture-perfect jumper and elite athleticism, the aspects of his game that many observers believe make him the player in the class with the highest ceiling. Sacramento now has to decide what to do with impending restricted free agent Tyreke Evans, as McLemore plays the same position.

[RELATED: How the rest of the Central Division drafted]

8. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Detroit Pistons: By picking Caldwell-Pope, one would have to believe that by bypassing the top point guards in the draft, all of whom were still available, the Pistons made a commitment to young point guard Brandon Knight -- who some consider more of a shooting guard -- that he is Detroit's floor general of the future. Caldwell-Pope went under the radar during the college season because he played for a mediocre Georgia squad, but he's a pure scorer with both solid athleticism and outside-shooting ability. Under new head coach Maurice Cheeks, Detroit now appears has its backcourt set, in addition to the promising young big-man duo of Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond.

9. Trey Burke, Utah Jazz: Acquired by trade with Minnesota, Burke immediately addresses Utah's point-guard needs, as veteran Mo Williams will likely depart in free agency. The former Michigan floor general's size has been questioned, but his ability to distribute, score and operate in pick-and-roll situations makes him a perfect fit. When his heart, toughness and winning track record are factored into the equation, the Jazz seem to have made an astute choice.

10. C.J. McCollum, Portland Trail Blazers: Arguably the most NBA-ready guard prospect in the draft, McCollum could either play alongside fellow mid-major product and reigning Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard or backup veteran shooting guard Wesley Matthews and an instant-offense sixth man. Either way, Portland added some offensive firepower and while the Blazers still have issues to address on the interior, it's difficult to quibble with the pick, given McCollum's talent. If the team is going in a run-and-gun, offensive-oriented direction, the selection makes a lot of sense, especially if a veteran center can be acquired through a trade or free agency.

11. Michael Carter-Williams, Philadelphia 76ers: With the aforementioned Holiday's departure, Carter-Williams becomes the Sixers' new point guard of the future. The Syracuse product has great size and excellent playmaking ability, but must improve his outside jumper, reduce his turnovers and get stronger in order to reach his potential. It's hard to say whether or not Carter-Williams will ever get to the same level as Holiday, but from a pure point guard standpoint, he has more of a pass-first nature. If he can play a part in fellow draftee Noel even coming close to hitting his ceiling, this will be looked at as a smart move, though there will certainly be some growing pains, especially if Philadelphia doesn't bring in a veteran to ease his rookie journey.

12. Steven Adams, Oklahoma City Thunder: Purely a pick for the future, Oklahoma City continues to stockpile young prospects with high risk-reward potential. Adams, a native of New Zealand, didn't show much during his lone season at Pittsburgh, but undoubtedly has high-level tools, including a rugged physique and good athleticism. That said, he's probably years away from being able to contribute in the NBA, but if he ever does, it will be another feather in the cap of the Thunder's front office.

13. Kelly Olynyk, Boston Celtics: Boston had more important things to worry about Thursday, like trading future Hall of Famers Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to Brooklyn, but still found time to make a swap with Dallas to select Olynyk, a native of Canada. The Gonzaga product, arguably the most offensive-talented big man in the draft, becomes part of the Celtics' rebuilding process and should find ample playing time early in his career. If his scoring ability translates to the next level and he can improve as a rebounder and defender, he could be a solid pro.

14. Shabazz Muhammad, Minnesota Timberwolves: Part of the trade with Utah, Muhammad has his detractors, but nobody can say that the ex-UCLA swingman can't produce points. The southpaw will have to round out his game by improving as a defender and ballhandler, but Minnesota needed help on the wing and playing with point guard Ricky Rubio, he should get lots of easy opportunities. Muhammad isn't exactly the outside shooter the Timberwolves could have used, but he was the best-available prospect on the board.

[MORE: NBA Draft tracker: Pick-by-pick]

15. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks: A point-forward type from Greece and of Nigerian descent, Antetokounmpo is fluid, athletic, skilled and extremely inexperienced. It could take several seasons for him to make his presence felt, if ever, but Milwaukee apparently believed the gamble was worthwhile. The Bucks have more immediate concerns, such as the free-agent statuses of guards Brandon Jennings, Monta Ellis and J.J. Redick, but the franchise chose to take a long-term approach in the draft that might not pay off for years.

16. Lucas Nogueira, Atlanta Hawks: Nogueira, a native of Brazil, has been on the radar of NBA teams for a few years now and the shot-blocking center has a big upside if he can get stronger and add some offensive polish. Acquired via trade, Atlanta is clearly looking ahead to the future with this pick, as well as potentially getting some financial flexibility for free agency if they keep Nogueira overseas for another season or two. Whenever he does debut for the Hawks, Nogueira will be a project, albeit a talented one.

17. Dennis Schroeder, Atlanta Hawks: Another international selection, Schroeder is an athletic playmaker with work to do on both his body and shooting. A potential draft-and-stash candidate, the native of Germany could eventually become the backup to young point guard Jeff Teague -- a free agent this summer -- or inherit the Hawks' starting job in time. With San Antonio Spurs products Danny Ferry, the team's general manager, and new head coach Mike Budzenholzer, anything is possible in Atlanta when it comes to foreign draft picks.

18. Shane Larkin, Dallas Mavericks: Larkin, acquired through a trade, is the son of Hall of Fame baseball shortstop Barry Larkin, but at least for the time being, it appears the he could be the Mavs' starting point guard of the future. The quick Miami product can both shoot from long range or get to the rim and despite his diminutive frame, he's also one of the more athletic players at his position in the draft. It's no secret that Dallas will be extremely active in free agency this summer, but Larkin could be a big part of the team's future.

19. Sergey Karasev, Cleveland Cavaliers: A Russian sharpshooter, Karasev is considered one of the more NBA-ready international prospects in the draft. With good size for the wing, he gives the aforementioned Irving another outside weapon to pass to and should have an immediate opportunity to crack Cleveland's rotation. Unlike a lot of other overseas products in the draft, expect Karasev to not only play in the league next season, but be a factor for the Cavs.

20. Tony Snell, Chicago Bulls: Read about him here.

21. Gorgui Dieng, Minnesota Timberwolves: Dieng would be solid choice for just about any team in this draft range, but for the Timberwolves, who acquired the Louisville product through a trade, he gives them a shot-blocking presence that's sorely needed. The native of Senegal is also an underrated offensive player, but on a Minnesota team that has talent inside yet lacks athleticism, his length and defensive acumen should provide immediate dividends. The fact that Dieng won the national championship doesn't hurt, but more significantly, he's used to playing a specific role, which won't greatly differ in the NBA.

22. Mason Plumlee, Brooklyn Nets: Things worked out nicely for both Plumlee and the Nets, who could use an injection of youth to balance the addition of veterans Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, as well as improved post depth. Capable of playing behind both All-Star center Brook Lopez and Garnett, the athletic Plumlee will be tutored in toughness by the future Hall of Famer and if he learns his lessons well, it will pay off for him in the long run. Plumlee's acquisition makes the status of free-agent backup Andray Blatche uncertain moving forward, but the Duke product's upside makes that a risk worth taking for Brooklyn.

23. Solomon Hill, Indiana Pacers: A surprise choice, Hill was regarded as a second-round prospect by most observers, but the Arizona product's toughness fits well with the Pacers. Hill is a versatile wing who can knock down shots from long range and has solid ball skills, so if he can defend opposing small forwards in the NBA, Indiana could have got a steal. For a team in need of bench help, Hill was a solid pick who has the potential to contribute immediately.

24. Tim Hardaway Jr., New York Knicks: With reigning Sixth Man of the Year recently opting out of his contract to hit free agency, Hardaway could eventually be a new source of instant offense off the bench. After seeing his father's heated battles with the Knicks when he played for the Miami Heat, Hardaway understands the pressure of playing in New York. Although he's not quite a knockdown shooter and needs to improve various aspects of his game, he has potential to become a versatile, high-energy role player. While he might not be a major contributor initially, he does add some much-needed youth to an aging roster.

25. Reggie Bullock, Los Angeles Clippers: A "3-and-D" guy, Bullock is frequently compared to fellow North Carolina product Danny Green, who had a breakout series in the NBA Finals for the Spurs. Bullock isn't overly athletic and needs to add diversity to his offensive game, but he has some toughness, plays defense and can make outside shots, though he isn't an elite shooter. The Clippers can use some solid role players, particularly with the ability to stretch the floor, to surround the likes of All-Star Blake Griffin and free agent point guard Chris Paul, who is likely to remain in L.A. now that Doc Rivers is the coach. But Bullock faces an uphill battle in becoming a rotation player.

[RELATED: Bulls select Erik Murphy in second round]

26. Andre Roberson, Oklahoma City Thunder: Thought by many observers to be a second-round prospect, the Thunder surprisingly took Roberson far earlier than where he was expected to be drafted. The Colorado product was an elite rebounder and defender in college, but never became a consistent scoring threat. Still, the athletic forward could fill a niche as a hustling role player for a talented Oklahoma City team that doesn't have much to lose by gambling on his upside.

27. Rudy Gobert, Utah Jazz: Equipped with a freakishly long wingspan, Gobert is much more of a project than a player at this stage of his career. The French center is an adept shot-blocker, but currently brings little else to the table, except for the promise that he could add strength and develop into some type of offensive contributor. Since he could be potentially stashed overseas and monitored by the Jazz for a few more seasons, this isn't a bad pick for Utah, as Gobert was projected to be drafted much higher.

28. Livio Jean-Charles, San Antonio Spurs: A French forward whose stock rose with a breakout performance against American high-school stars in the Nike Hoop Summit all-star game this spring, Jean-Charles will almost certainly remain in Europe in the short term. An athletic and active player, the Spurs' track record for developing international talent is as such that this pick will get the benefit of the doubt for the time being. Regardless of his eventual impact, Jean-Charles provides San Antonio with some financial flexibility in the present.

29. Archie Goodwin, Phoenix Suns: Goodwin was believed by most observers to be a second-round prospect after a shaky freshman season at Kentucky and reports of him slipping through the pre-draft process. A scorer with length and athleticism, the guard needs a lot of work on his jumpers and frame, but his potential is enough that Phoenix felt he was worthy of trading for. The rebuilding Suns will be patient with Goodwin and if he makes progress, he'll have a chance to be a part of the team's future in the backcourt.

30. Nemanja Nedovic, Golden State Warriors: Billed as the "European Derrick Rose," the explosive guard isn't nearly as talented as the Bulls' superstar, but does possess some similar qualities, namely his ability to get to the basket. Golden State traded to get Nedovic and while it's hard to imagine him immediately stepping into the Warriors' lineup, even if stays overseas for more seasoning, he at least has the potential to one day be an NBA rotation player. In the present, however, he gives the up-and-coming team the chance to get some money off their books.