No matter what, if you’re picking in the Top 5 of the NBA Draft, everyone connected to the team – executives, coaches, players, fans – expects a future star.
Which is why it blows my mind that Nerlens Noel seems is getting so much hype from pundits.
Yes, this is one of the weakest drafts (at the top, at least) that we’ve seen in recent memory, a group of talented players without a bonafide superstar. From that perspective, it makes sense that a big man with so much bounce would find this much hype. But athletic potential aside, whatever the scouts are seeing doesn’t make sense. His career at Kentucky was defined by incredible defense, lousy offense and an ACL tear.
That’s two huge negatives for one strong positive. And this isn’t about downplaying defense, at which Noel – who led the NCAA with 4.4 blocks per game – was superb. But consider the amount of things that have to go right for Noel to pan out and become the superstar that number one picks kind of have to become to be considered a success: getting over one of the most significant injuries an athlete can endure (the kind that might forever sap his greatest asset: pure athleticism), and developing an offensive game that looked flat, even in an unimpressive SEC. Factor that in with a 206-pound frame (hard to picture Noel going up against Marc Gasol or Tim Duncan and not laughing), and you have enough negatives to roll your eyes whenever anyone tells you that Nerlens Noel deserves the number one billing.
There’s no doubt that Noel has the talent to become a successful NBA player. But if you’re a high-picking lottery team, you have to aim higher than the rich man’s Larry Sanders.
And with that said, what follows is a mock draft of the first-5 picks in the 2013 NBA Draft. If your team was unfortunate enough to miss the playoffs, be sure to drop your .02 in the comments.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers
Ben McLemore, Kansas
While Cleveland drafted Dion Waiters fourth overall last year, the under-sized Waiters projects more as a sixth-man than a starter. Simply put, any self-respecting playoff team isn’t starting a 6’3” shooting guard.
Enter McLemore. Super-duper athletic and possessing one of the wettest shots in college basketball last season, he represents everything you want in an All-Star wing. Pairing McLemore with Kyrie Irving should provide the kind of second-star talent that a player like Kyrie needs. After that, the Cavs can use their ample cap space and the 19th, 31st and 33rd pick to fortify their already-talented roster.
And, of course, LeBron James definitely returning will pay dividends. *High-fives Cleveland bros*
2. Orlando Magic
Trey Burke, Michigan
If you’re a team like the Magic – trying desperately to re-establish your post-Dwight Howard identity – selecting the best point guard in the draft is a good place to start. Burke gets points against him for a size hovering around 6’0”, but nobody questions his ability to carry an offense, be it through facilitating or shooting. Orlando will be picking in the lottery for at least another year or two, and considering the treasure chest of wing players available in the 2014 draft, grabbing their point guard of the future seems like a smart move.
3. Washington Wizards
Nerlens Noel, Kentucky
Considering the budding John Wall-Bradley Beal backcourt in D.C., Washington seems like a team well-equipped to wait patiently while Noel develops. Best-case scenario: Noel eases into the season playing behind veterans Emeka Okafor and Nene, starts by Year 2, and provides the kind of tone-setting defense that he is capable of by Year 3, developing alongside Wall and Beal.
Fun fact: Washington finished eighth in the league in defense last year. They – theoretically – are working on the culture needed to bring the best out of Noel.
Victor Oladipo, Indiana
Something tells me that the Bobcats will be in heavy contention for the Andrew Wiggins sweepstakes. Always just out of reach of premier incoming talent, Charlotte – once again – find themselves sorting through a bunch of miss-matched parts. But Oladipo makes the most sense here. The do-it-all two can team up with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Kemba Walker to an intriguing perimeter attack. And if Kemba Walker can continue to progress… and if they get a real coach… maybe next year the Bobcats will be kind of fun to watch if you don’t have anything else going on after work.
5. Phoenix Suns
Otto Porter, Georgetown
The kind of player that becomes a staple on a good team for 10-15 years. And maybe Phoenix gets there some day. Regardless, it won’t be because Porter started playing out of his mind, and it won’t not be because Porter was a bust. At the height of his career, it’s easy to envision Porter putting up Tayshaun Prince-type numbers: 12-15 points per game, five rebounds, four assists, and great defense. Exciting? No. But most teams would be happy to pick up that type of sure thing with the fifth pick.