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Basketball philosophy

Figuring out who goes #1 in the 2013 NBA Draft

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Fittingly in a year without a dominant #1, the #1 pick in the NBA Draft is as open for grabs as it’s been since 2006, the Andrea Bargnani year.

I’d narrow down the candidates to these 9: PG Marcus Smart, SG Ben McLemore, SG Victor Oladipo, SF Otto Porter, SG/SF Shabazz Muhammad, PF Nerlens Noel, PF Anthony Bennett, PF/C Cody Zeller, C Alex Len. That makes all the prospects in the conversation for a top 5 pick, making it near impossible one of them isn’t the top pick.

Here’s my ranking from least likely to most likely of this group:

The longshots

9. PF/C Cody Zeller – Likely to carry around a “limited upside!” label around, as ever prospect with non-dominant physical tools does. The combine won’t be a good day for him, with his short arms. He needs a huge tournament run and the right team to be picking 1st. Washington is a fit because they won’t be drafting guard, limiting their options at 1st – Cody also would add to their professionalism and win-now focus lately. New Orleans grabbing him to pair with Anthony Davis is also conceivable.

8. SG/SF Shabazz Muhammad – Not great explosiveness at the 3 and short for the position, will likely doom him. Unlikely to get a big boost from the tournament or workouts/the combine. Best chance is if a team who specifically searching for a scorer gets 1st overall – such as Detroit, Minnesota or Phoenix

7. SF Otto Porter – Like Shabazz, without dominant athleticism is likely to be labeled a lower upside player by the pundits. The biggest thing going for him is team need, as with Washington, New Orleans, Detroit, and Phoenix’s need for a franchise SF, he’d fit like a glove. Washington is the team to watch, as SF overwhelmingly is the spot they need to improve.

Fringe contenders

6. C Alex Len – Not playing in the tournament will hurt, but he makes the list on merits of being the highest ranked true C prospect. Cs have gotten so much love historically in the draft, that a team falling in love with filling that position, can’t be ruled out. Washington again is a possibility once guards are ruled out, while he’d also compliment New Orleans’ needs.

5. PF Anthony Bennett – Bennett may need a big tournament run by UNLV to get in the mix. I have a hunch he’s the type of player a team could be in love with – which is all it takes to go 1st. Charlotte is an excellent fit because of their offensive and frontcourt needs. He’s a big candidate for Washington with the liklihood they take a SF, PF or C, slimming down their choices. Sacramento may be interested in a blue chip PF after trading Thomas Robinson. If Toronto jumps to 1st, he’d also be a favorite with the financial incentive of having a Canadian star prospect.

4. PF Nerlens Noel – Hard for me to get behind Noel landing at 1st with his ACL injury. I figure the impatience and not seeing him in the workout stage, will cost him more than long term risk of his injury. Noel’s lack of offense may have costed him the 1st pick if not for his ACL anyways. Cleveland is the team to watch for Noel, as hoopsanalyst.com – the draft metrics site, who’s numbers ranked Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson 2nd in their draft years – has Noel as overwhelmingly the guy in this draft. Charlotte and Orlando are other teams with the patience to pick Noel. Noel playing beside Demarcus Cousins in Sacramento would be a great fit for him if they had the patience to take him. Toronto is so likely to draft a PF with the top pick, that he becomes a favorite.

The favorites

3. SG Ben McLemore – With McLemore the question is, will teams believe in him as a slasher enough to see him as having star upside? Or will his jumpshot orientated game, give him the label of good, but probably not great. But the biggest reason McLemore is 3rd, is I don’t see the workout stage going as well for him as the top 2 players. McLemore would be the favorite for teams that need a scorer, like Detroit, Minnesota, Phoenix. The best fit of all is likely Charlotte, who need a scorer/shooter beside Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Kemba Walker. Sacramento has enough perimeter shot takers, but could have interest.

2. SG Victor Oladipo – I see teams believing Oladipo has star potential, because with his  elite slashing and elite two way instincts, he just needs a consistent shooting game to round it out. Needing shooting is a great spot for a prospect to be, as it’s usually assumed a player can develop strongly in that area. Especially considering Oladipo is over 44% from the 3pt line this year, even if nobody entirely believes in the validity of that number, it proves the base is there for a great shooting game in the pros. And with a great perimeter shooting game, Oladipo’s upside would be nearly unlimited. Oladipo is also likely to do great in the workout stage, which favors players with “110%” motors who try to kill the prospects they’re matched up with. He also could get huge publicity from the tournament. I look for Cleveland, Charlotte, Orlando, Phoenix, Detroit, Sacramento to have heavy interest in Oladipo’s upside and fit on a winning team. The biggest thing holding me from putting him 1st, is he’ll be a 21 year old Junior by the draft, compared to the top ranked player’s 19 year old freshman status. Freshman and sophmores get a huge edge in the draft process compared to juniors and seniors, all other things equal, most of the time.

1. PG Marcus Smart – Like Oladipo he’s likely to get labeled a star upside player, because with his explosiveness, size and IQ, he’s just lacking the outside shot to complete his game. That he’s young will play well for him, in regards to whether that shooting should be expected to added. Smart also will likely compete extremely hard in the workouts, helping him gain buzz as a player with the motor, work ethic and leadership to guarantee NBA success. A big tournament would help him, but he’s been productive enough this year to maintain his buzz without it. Smart will likely be seen as having one of the highest upsides and highest floors in the draft, with his age primarily giving him the edge over Oladipo. Orlando is the best fit for him, albeit New Orleans, Phoenix, Sacramento are also fits.

For fun, here’s my gun to my head predict for whom each of the lottery teams take, if given the top pick:

Charlotte Bobcats – SG Victor Oladipo
Orlando Magic – PG Marcus Smart
New Orleans Pelicans – PG Marcus Smart
Cleveland Cavaliers – PF Nerlens Noel
Detroit Pistons – PG Marcus Smart
Phoenix Suns – PG Marcus Smart
Sacramento Kings – PG Marcus Smart
Washington Wizards – PF Anthony Bennett
Minnesota Timberwolves – SG Ben McLemore
Toronto Raptors – PF Anthony Bennett
Philadelphia 76ers – SG Victor Oladipo
Portland Trailblazers – SG Victor Oladipo
Dallas Mavericks – PG Marcus Smart
Utah Jazz – PG Marcus Smart

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Written by jr.

March 19, 2013 at 6:21 pm

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