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David Aldridge

Ben McLemore
Ben McLemore has the star potential of a No. 1 overall pick, which may be good news for the Cavs.

It's mockable, for sure, but here's my guess at the 2013 Draft


Posted Jun 24, 2013 12:13 PM

You mean, let me understand this cause, you know maybe it's me ... but I'm funny how, I mean funny like I'm a clown, I amuse you? I make you laugh, I'm here to ... amuse you? What do you mean funny, funny how? How am I funny?

--Tommy DeVito, hoodlum, "Goodfellas"

What am I, some kind of clown? Am I here to amuse you?

This is the dumbest thing I do all year. And I spend much of the year doing really dumb things.

Every year, my bosses at NBA.com ask me when I'm going to submit a mock Draft. I try to delay them as much as possible. I mention the grout work that needs completing in the bathroom. There are the commemorative ALF stamps that I want to buy at the Post Office. The dentist insists she needs to see me, pronto, for some root canal work.

I've DVR'd "Gigli".

Eventually, though, I run out of excuses. The fact that a mock Draft -- any mock Draft -- is a) almost certain to be completely incorrect, and b) a colossal waste of everyone's collective time is of no matter. You, dear readers, can't get enough of this. You are determined to know what the lottery teams are going to do, and which team is going to buy its way into the first round, and which European players will be stashed overseas.

The reason it's going to be wrong is because there is almost no one -- no coach, no GM, no scout, and certainly no agent -- who is in any way being honest with me, or any other reporters, about their true preferences. Teams that want a certain player engage in an elaborate game of deception.

A team that covets Joe Jones, for example, but knows that Jones won't likely be on the Draft board when their time comes, has no problem spreading the most scurrilous lies about Ol' Joe to gullible members of my profession, so that he might fall to them when their time comes to pick. You know them. (The lies, not the gullible members of my profession.) I hear he's not working out well. Doesn't really go to his right. There's a medical red flag on his knee/elbow/foot. He's kind of a head case. Entourage issues. And on and on.

Agents who don't want their clients playing for a certain team for whatever reason hint at "instability" within that organization. You know, Smith and Wesson don't really get along. The coach is on his way out. They told me they don't like my guy. He's not a good fit there, anyway. And on and on.

And because everyone is lying -- not to mention that there are teams genuinely conflicted about whom to take -- you have no idea how the first 10 picks, much less the 50 that follow, are really likely to go. Nor do you have any idea what last-minute trades are being concocted, and acted upon, as you read this.

But here I am, giving it my best guesses, based on talking to execs around the league; educated guesses based on needs, team wants and the like.

Last year, I got five first-round picks right out of 30 -- a sterling success rate of 17 percent! (And I am including that I had the Celtics taking Jared Sullinger -- though I had Boston grabbing him at 22 overall instead of 21, where they actually took him.) A 17 on a test -- Quantum Physics, Driver's Ed, Name that Golden Girl -- is a failing grade. I hate failing.

But here I am, again, No. 2 pencil in hand, ready to play Carnac the Magnificent. (Kids! Ask your grandparents who Carnac was. Or Johnny Carson, for that matter. Sigh.) And as ever, my caveat: if I get your team's pick wrong, I completely disavow any responsibility. If I get your team's pick right, I will lord it over you for years to come!

1 Needs: Small forward, size
Yes, the Cavs desperately need a small forward. Yes, the Cavs took Dion Waiters fourth overall in last year's Draft, and paired him in the backcourt with Kyrie Irving. Yes, the Cavs really need a three after passing on Harrison Barnes, or, at the least, a legit center to replace the aging Anderson Varejao, who almost certainly should be moved for additional, younger assets. But no, sorry, I never believe last-minute reports that a prospect is suddenly "slipping" because of this or that issue. Too many people have motivation to start McLemore (or any good player) on a supposed slide down the Draft board with false info. And any GM or team that passes on a player based on one or two workouts isn't worth a damn, anyway. Cavs' GM Chris Grant has always taken a chance on explosive talent rather than conventional wisdom (he took Waiters over Barnes and Tristan Thompson over Jonas Valanciunas), and McLemore, the Kansas freshman, has superstar potential. Taking him first isn't a reach, and doesn't mean he would automatically start over Waiters. But having two legit scorers to be available should Irving continue having trouble staying healthy is preferable to reaching to fill a position need, and they can always move on if things get hairy. And the Cavs need more talent if they're going to be a serious option in 2014 for the Ohio-born scorer who is now filling it up nightly for the two-time champion Heat and who will be a free agent a year from now. I am speaking, of course, of Norris Cole.


2 Needs: Athleticism
The Magic could go in a hundred directions with this pick, including trading it. But if they keep it, Noel's shot blocking and ability to run the floor would be hard to pass up, despite the obvious concerns about his lack of bulk. A big like Noel would be a good compliment to someone like Nik Vucevic, and at least begin to address Orlando's defensive deficiencies (the Magic allowed a ghastly 106.7 points per 100 possessions last season; only five teams were worse). Given that Noel probably won't play for much of next season after tearing his ACL in February (all indications are that his surgery went fine and he'll be able to make a full recovery), taking Noel might be a PR risk. But where, exactly, is Orlando going? The Magic can afford to grow as Noel grows, literally.


3 Needs: Small forward
The Wizards have loved Porter for a while, and everything about him is a natural fit -- his position, his intelligence, his work ethic, his school (which plays its home games at the Wizards' Verizon Center), and on and on. There is a chance Washington could pass on Porter for UNLV's Anthony Bennett, but Porter's a better defensive player, and that's something the Wizards finally began taking seriously last season under Randy Wittman. Besides, the Wizards already have a couple too many fours, including 2011 first-rounder Jan Vesely. Porter just makes too much sense here -- which is, of course, why it probably won't happen. Mock Draft Logic, people.


4 Needs: Scoring
Don't overthink this: Last season, only one team scored fewer points a game than Charlotte (93.4), was DFL in the league in field goal percentage (.425) and lost games by an NBA-worst average of 9.2 ppg. The Bobcats need somebody who can put the ball in the basket. Bennett may be a 'tweener, but he has explosive offensive potential no matter where he plays. Bennett and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist would have serious potential as a forward duo, each complementing the other's weaknesses. A lot of mocks have Maryland's Alex Len going here. It's just hard to see Michael Jordan going for another high pick that's not a sure thing. I'm not saying Bennett is a sure thing, just that he's closer to being one at the moment than Len.


5 Needs: Help everywhere
A rebuilding Suns team needs a few solid foundational pieces, and new GM Ryan McDonough can't afford a reach in his first Draft. Oladipo helps on both counts. Having given Goran Dragic $30 million last summer, Phoenix can't grab a point like Trey Burke here, but the two spot is another matter. Oladipo showed last season that his offensive game is developing and he's already NBA-ready defensively. The Suns need to start tightening up things there, having given up 105.7 points per 100 possessions last season. There are more than a few scouts who think Oladipo will be the better pro over McLemore.


6 Needs: Small forward
The Pelicans could use an offensive-oriented big to pair with Anthony Davis, and Len is the best -- maybe the only -- center prospect in the Draft that could turn into something special. At 255 pounds, Len would let Davis play much-needed minutes at the four, where he won't take as much of a beating. Len played extremely well against top-notch competition for the Terrapins, dominating Nerlens Noel early in the season and more than holding his own against the likes of Duke's Mason Plumlee. But he was inconsistent against lesser competition. The advanced-stats crowd will also point out that he struggled scoring in the post at Maryland, but scouts counter that Maryland's guards often failed to get him the ball in prime scoring position. This pick assumes that the Pelicans haven't given up on Austin Rivers as a point guard prospect; otherwise, Trey Burke would certainly be the pick here. My other caveat: Len's stress fracture in his ankle and subsequent surgery will keep him shelved a few more weeks. While he's supposed to be ready by the start of next season, big men and feet/ankle issues are always scary. The Pelicans already have had their fill of waiting for Eric Gordon to return from his myriad injuries.


7 Needs: Point guard
Look, Isaiah Thomas played very well for Sacramento at the point last season. His PER of 17.58 was higher than All-Star Jrue Holliday's, or Damian Lillard's. But their teams won more games than the Kings. Burke would finally end the Kings' years-long search for a floor general, allowing Thomas to do what he does best -- come off the bench firing, changing tempo and pushing the ball. And if that means Tyreke Evans, a restricted free agent to be, winds up going elsewhere ... well, where exactly have the Kings been going with him? Burke wasn't consistently good in the NCAA Tournament, but when he was on, he was often great.


8 Needs: Wing depth
Joe Dumars has shown over the years that he's not afraid to gamble (Darko Milicic, Andre Drummond) with lottery picks if he believes in the upside of the player. Muhammad, who left UCLA after one season, certainly has talent. Just a year ago, he was being touted as a possible top pick overall, and one so-so season with the Bruins doesn't cancel that potential. He is a flat-out scorer who could compliment the Pistons' inside duo of Greg Monroe and Drummond. The question is whether Muhammad can score and get his shot off in the pros when he's playing against men who are just as big and as strong.


9 Needs: Shooting guard
KCP is a safe pick for a team that has to replace Brandon Roy. He can score (Caldwell-Pope finished in double figures in every game last season) and has become a more reliable shooter. The Wolves desperately need that as they were last in 3-point percentage last season. With Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love on the floor, a two like KCP should find himself getting open, makeable jumpers.


10 Needs: Center
"Cousin" LaMarcus Aldridge made it clear last year: He needs some help in the middle. The incumbent center, J.J. Hickson, was just too light in the cakes (h/t Fred Carter) to handle the center spot on a nightly basis. But GM Neil Olshey will have to work his free-agent magic to fill that spot; McCollum's too talented. The two-time Patriot League Player of the Year can play both guard spots, can score, and can pass, and he doesn't turn the ball over. His college career PER of 29.08 ranks him 17th all-time on the NCAA list, according to basketball-reference.com. A three-guard rotation of Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard, Wes Matthews and McCollum could be lethal at times next season. Add Nicolas Batum at the three, Aldridge at the four, and whomever Olshey can get at the five (he chased Roy Hibbert last offseason), and Portland could be back in business very soon.


11 Needs: Power forward, center
The guess here is that new GM Sam Hinkie, with a stats-oriented background from Houston, will find Zeller more than solid enough to take here (his college PER of 29.8 last season was 14th in the country). Zeller's rehabbed himself after a poor NCAA tournament with some strong workouts, and his ability to run the floor and finish in transition would give All-Star Jrue Holiday some legit options when he wants to push the ball. Zeller isn't going to bang inside at the NBA level, but his face-up game is capable of being productive in the pros.


12 Needs: Depth
While teams all around them play small ball, the Thunder have continued to draft and sign big men who can help protect the rim. Hasheem Thabeet got his look last season; Gobert's ludicrous 7-foot-8 wingspan would follow in that tradition. He is a long-term offensive project, but he could impact an NBA game now at the other end of the floor. GM Sam Presti has the luxury of being patient with young players like Gobert, who'll turn 21 the day before the Draft. OKC certainly doesn't need more scoring, anyway.


13 Needs: Point guard
Dallas has told everyone who'll listen that the pick is available, so that the Mavs can clear maximum cap space to take a run at free agents like Dwight Howard July 1. So, assuming the Mavs are picking for someone else, we'll give them Carter-Williams, who helped lead Syracuse to the Final Four and who has a chance to develop further at the next level. The 6-foot-7 Williams would be an excellent point guard prospect for the Mavericks if they change their minds and decide to keep the pick. He's an outstanding passer who many scouts view as the rookie with the most upside at his position.


14 Needs: Point guard, frontcourt depth
With GM Dennis Lindsey -- who learned his craft in San Antonio and Houston -- the Jazz are certainly not going to be afraid to continue drafting international players. The 19-year-old Schroeder has come on strong in the last two months and is being touted by some as a can't-miss prospect. There have been rumors for weeks that someone near the mid-point of the first round has promised Schroeder they'd take him. But even if that team isn't Utah, he makes sense for the Jazz considering Mo Williams is entering free agency. If they take Schroeder, the Jazz wouldn't have to use free-agent dollars on a veteran point and could get on with the business of re-signing either Al Jefferson or Paul Millsap.


15 Needs: Backcourt, frontcourt size/depth
The Bucks' starting backcourt from last season -- Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings -- is in flux (Ellis opted out of the last year of his deal, making him an unrestricted free agent; Jennings will be a restricted free agent after Milwaukee declined to give him an extension last fall). So the Bucks need to solidify themselves in at least one of the two positions, and Canaan would do just that. He impressed several teams at the Chicago pre-Draft camp in his interviews, and could be the best shooting point guard in the Draft.


16 Needs: Center
Here are Danny Ainge's last few first-round picks in the Draft: 2012: Jared Sullinger (Ohio State) and Fab Melo (Syracuse); 2011: MarShon Brooks (Providence); 2010: Avery Bradley (Texas); 2008 (no first-rounder in '09): J.R. Giddens (New Mexico); 2007: Jeff Green (Georgetown) and 2006: Randy Foye (Villanova). Sense a pattern? All big-time programs with proven players. Plumlee is also a known quantity who can give Boston some insurance up front in case Sullinger's back issues are chronic. Would it shock me if Ainge went for a shooter like an Allen Crabbe here? No, it wouldn't.


17 Needs: Small forward, frontcourt size
Speaking of whom, Crabbe is the closest thing in this Draft to Klay Thompson, and the Hawks, with back-to-back picks, can address their big man needs next. Crabbe can fill it up and he can probably play some three, and GM Danny Ferry wants players who can play multiple positions. There are questions about Crabbe's consistency, but new coach Mike Budenholzer needs talent. They'll be a player in free agency, to be sure, and address some of those needs. With Lou Williams coming off an ACL tear, Atlanta must find someone who can shoot.


18 Needs: Frontcourt depth
Olynyk, highly productive for the Bulldogs, would be badly needed insurance in case free agent Josh Smith doesn't come back. He's more likely to play four in the pros than five, but if he is able to spell Al Horford for a few minutes per night he would be worth his first-round price. And Olynyk, who led the nation in PER last season, can hit the college 3-pointer pretty consistently. He isn't a stretch four by any means, but he isn't without perimeter skills.


19 Needs: Youth, frontcourt size
The one constant with Cleveland's picks of late is that they're all athletic, and if Adams is as athletic as he's shown in postseason workouts for teams and in Chicago, he would be a strong pickup this late, giving the Cavs a real alternative in case they want to move Anderson Varejao. But it would not be a shock if the Cavs moved this pick for other potential goodies.


20 Needs: Scoring
Rice has taken a circuitous route to the NBA, and he's kept himself out of trouble since several incidents at Georgia Tech led the school to ask him to leave. He put the ball in the basket in the D-League, and playing with All-Stars like Joakim Noah, Luol Deng and Derrick Rose in Chicago will continue his chances to fill it up. Jimmy Butler became the Bulls' starter at the two in the playoffs, but after him, there's playing time available as Marco Bellinelli is a free agent and Rip Hamilton is on his way out.


21 Needs: Backup center/forward
With Jefferson's and Millsap's futures both uncertain, Utah has to make contingencies in the frontcourt. A shot-blocker extraordinaire like Withey would be, at the worst, a strong backup to Jefferson or Enes Kanter, whichever one is starting for the Jazz next season.


22 Needs: Power forward
Dieng showed a much-improved offensive game for the national champions last season, skills that he would need if he were to go to Brooklyn. The Nets couldn't get much production from power forwards Reggie Evans or Kris Humphries last season. Dieng played center at Louisville, but he's probably going to have to play some four in the pros. Even if he spends more time at center, though, he'd be a nice backup for All-Star Brook Lopez.


23 Needs: Point guard
The East finals showed the Pacers' deficiencies with the ball, and Larkin would be a logical choice to challenge D.J. Augustin as George Hill's backup. Larkin dramatically improved his assist totals as a sophomore for the Hurricanes in leading them to the Sweet 16. That kind of improvement is going to be necessary for him to make the jump to the pros successfully as his size is going to make him vulnerable to attack.


24 Needs: Frontcourt depth
Mitchell is a tough, physical player who would be a rarity on the Knicks -- a player under 35. A double-double machine at North Texas, he should thrive in the pros if he plays on a team that goes up tempo and pushes the ball -- the Knicks' MO for most of last season. Playing behind Carmelo Anthony, or J.R. Smith -- if he's still around -- Mitchell would have a chance to be an impact player right away in New York.


25 Needs: Shooting & scoring
With Chauncey Billups a free agent, and Jamal Crawford more valuable coming off the bench, the Clips will be on the lookout for a potential starter at the two. Franklin is a smart hedge. His workout schedule was truncated because of an ankle injury, but his body of work and toughness make him a good prospect. He's a couple of inches shorter than Kawhi Leonard, the Spurs' star who played ahead of him at SDSU -- and Franklin could well have a Leonard-like impact down the road in L.A. playing with Chris Paul and Blake Griffin that Leonard has made in San Antonio playing alongside Tim Duncan and Tony Parker.


26 Needs: Overall depth
The Wolves can get some insurance in case Andrei Kirilenko opts out of the last year of his contract with Karasev, the 19-year-old swingman from Russia who was good enough to be on that country's Olympic team last year in London. He can shoot it, and with countryman Alexey Shved already on the roster, Karasev's adjustment to the NBA would go easier in Minnesota than in other places.


27 Needs: Frontcourt depth
With Andre Iguodala opting out, the Nuggets become a prime candidate to move this pick and its guaranteed money to give the team more flexibility to re-sign its star forward. Operating on the "best player available" theory, we'll give the Nuggets -- or, whoever -- Hardaway, who competes, defends and will have some superior scoring nights. If Denver keeps the pick, Hardaway would fit right in.


28 Needs: Backcourt depth
Bullock can stroke it, and a team that may have to make a hard decision on Manu Ginobili this summer -- Ginobili is a free agent who'll be 36 on opening night next season -- might be in the market for a guard. Besides, the Spurs have had success in recent years with North Carolina wings, if Danny Green's success is any indication.


29 Needs: Shooting guard depth
Ledo never actually played any college basketball, having been declared ineligible by the NCAA. But like Kentucky's Enes Kanter -- who the NCAA didn't allow to play for the Wildcats, yet whom was still taken third overall by Utah in 2011 -- Ledo impressed NBA scouts who saw him practice with the Friars last season. Thabo Sefolosha has established himself as the starter at the two for OKC, and Kevin Martin played well for long stretches off the bench in the James Harden role. But Martin is a free agent, and just in case it starts to get a little too expensive for OKC's tastes to re-sign him, having an alternative wouldn't be a bad idea.


30 Needs: Size, future depth
The Suns can afford to wait on the 18-year-old Adetokunbo, who has a lot of talent but is going to need a few years to get his body and game up to NBA standards. Eventually, the 6-foot-9 Adetokunbo could play some point forward, if some scouts' projections of his skills turn out to bear fruit.

Longtime NBA reporter and columnist David Aldridge is an analyst for TNT. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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