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Noel still the top choice as clock inches toward Draft time

POSTED: Jun 27, 2013 1:22 PM ET

By Scott Howard-Cooper

BY Scott Howard-Cooper


Despite injury concerns, Nerlens Noel remains our favorite to go No. 1 overall in tonight's Draft.

Down to the final hours, and still sticking with Nerlens Noel for No. 1 despite the many reasonable cases built that the Cavaliers should go in a different direction. Opposing front offices see the logic, mostly because no one is pledging eternal love for Noel, but the consensus remains that the Kentucky defensive ace or Kanas' Ben McLemore are the best prospects.

That's not the only holding pattern. While there will be a lot of trade conversation as the day progresses, as always, interest in the picks is limited for the same reason teams in the mid-to-late 20s are willing to move them: the players expected to be there are not getting front offices excited. Spots are available for purchase or trade, as they have been since about February, but it's quiet so far.

That would create the increased possibility of teams using late-firsts on international prospects to keep overseas in hopes they develop beyond the projections of the players from U.S. colleges, except there are few of those realistic options. Most from overseas will either be gone by then or considered for deep into the second round.

First Round

1. Cavaliers, Nerlens Noel, Kentucky, PF, 6-11, 220

The speculation of Alex Len finishing a late charge to the top of the board is not going away. In fact, some opponents believe it to be a possibility. But many front offices still consider Noel the best prospect available, knee injury and all.

2. Magic, Ben McLemore, Kansas, SG, 6-4, 195

Orlando could be setting up for a double-step to the future: McLemore as the new starting shooting guard and the old one, Arron Afflalo, to the Clippers for Eric Bledsoe to address point guard needs and complete a backcourt overhaul.

3. Wizards, Otto Porter, Georgetown, SF, 6-8, 200

Porter is the ideal fit in position and complementary skills for several teams in the top 10, including the Cavaliers at No. 1. He just isn't the top-rated player on the board. That the Wizards are one of the rosters that could make a perfect landing spot is what will matter in the end.

4. Bobcats, Anthony Bennett, UNLV, PF, 6-7, 240

He checks more of the boxes than Alex Len and Victor Oladipo, the other best options. Bennett can deliver offense from the post or the perimeter, making him a necessary puzzle fit alongside non-scorers at center (Bismack Biyombo) and small forward (Michael Kidd-Gilchrist). And those two defensive specialists can compensate for Bennett's shortcomings on that side

5. Suns, Alex Len, Maryland, C, 7-1 255

He could go anywhere from first to sixth with two undeniable factors in his favor: Len is talented with a lot of upside remaining, and he is clearly the best center on the board in what would be a boost to anyone's stock.

6. Pelicans, Victor Oladipo, Indiana, SG, 6-5, 210

Shooting guard is not the pressing need of the moment, with Eric Gordon there. Michael Carter-Williams and Trey Burke are on the board as potential upgrades at point guard, too. But Oladipo is clearly the best player and help for a team that finished 26th in shooting defense.

7. Kings, Cody Zeller, Indiana, PF-C, 7-0, 240

Zeller gives the Kings two things they want: athleticism and stability. New GM Pete D'Alessandro wants a speed game and Zeller can play the transition game while also fitting next to DeMarcus Cousins. The big drawback is this pick doesn't address the defense, but Zeller, while not projecting as a star, has more certainty of a long career than others in that range.

8. Pistons, Trey Burke, Michigan, PG, 6-1, 175

Teams love the intangibles -- leadership, toughness, experience in big games -- of the college Player of the Year, but questions remain about small guards who lack the special level of athleticism usually needed to compensate for small stature.

9. Timberwolves, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Georgia, SG, 6-5, 205

Adding a scoring punch and finding help at shooting guard are Minnesota priorities. KCP addresses both, even as a volume scorer with ideal accuracy after a 2012-13 of 43.3 percent overall and 37.3 on 3-pointers

10. Trail Blazers, C.J. McCollum, Lehigh, PG-SG, 6-3, 190

McCollum will have to be a lead guard in the pros because of his size, but his scoring punch adds to his value and the versatility makes him a nice fit for a backcourt that needs depth, not a starting point guard.

11. 76ers, Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA, SG, 6-6, 225

Muhammad is a scoring threat, with the chance to be more, and Philadelphia finished 30th in points and 22nd in shooting. If he grows out of the selfish play, Muhammad has a chance to be one of the top offensive threats of the class.

12. Thunder, Steven Adams, Pittsburgh, C, 6-11, 235

Adams continues to use team and group workouts to show more of an offensive game than most saw in the one season at Pitt. He is relatively inexperienced against top competition after growing up in New Zealand, but the aggressive, high-energy style of play coupled with the upward trajectory in his game is very appealing.

13. Mavericks, Michael Carter-Williams, Syracuse, PG, 6-5, 175

If the Mavericks keep the pick, which is a big if as they are trying to offload salaries to increase their free-agency spending power. Dallas has backcourt needs and Carter-Williams has the size and court vision of a very promising prospect, while needing to learn to hit a shot.

14. Jazz, Dennis Schroeder, Germany, PG, 6-1, 180

A breakout performance for the international team playing against the top U.S. college-bound stars at the Nike Hoop Summit in Portland in April moved the jet-like point guard from the second round to legitimate lottery possibility.

15. Bucks, Kelly Olynyk, Gonzaga, C, 7-0, 240

The Bucks could have pressing issues in the backcourt once free agency begins, but there are few choices among guards at this point. Olynyk's advanced offensive game will be a nice complement to the defensive presence of Larry Sanders and John Henson.

16. Celtics, Sergey Karasev, Russia, SF, 6-7, 205

While Mason Plumlee would be more NBA-ready, the Celtics have Jared Sullinger and Brandon Bass at power forward. Meanwhile, they also have Paul Pierce a year away from free agency, if he's not gone sooner, at small forward. Karasev has shown potential while playing big minutes in a good league in Russia as a 19-year-old.

17. Hawks, Mason Plumlee, Duke, PF, 6-11, 245

How much longer can Atlanta go nowhere fast with Josh Smith? Plumlee has the combination of a developing offensive game and already-there elite athleticism for a big man. He could go as high as late-lottery, in that Philadelphia-Oklahoma City range.

18. Hawks, Lucas Nogueira, Brazil, PF-C, 7-0, 220

The NBA has been waiting for years for the athletic 7-footer to add toughness. That it hasn't happened is a bad sign. That teams are still very interested is a good sign. He could spend another year overseas in the continued development as a shot blocker or come now as part of the big-man rotation with Al Horford.

19. Cavaliers, Giannis Adetokunbo, Greece, SF, 6-9, 215

He has a long way to go -- like Athens-to-Cleveland long -- but Adetokunbo has unique qualities that make him a worthwhile investment in the late-teens or 20s. In time, he can be a point-forward distributor and nice complementary piece to a team that also has a position need.

20. Bulls, Gorgui Dieng, Louisville, C, 6-11, 245

Dieng's size and mobility translate into a future as a shot blocker, with signs of a respectable offense. Being 23 gives him fewer years to develop and play. But it should also make him more mature and able to better fit with a team in win-now mode.

21. Jazz, Jeff Withey, Kansas, C, 7-0 235

The Jazz have hard decisions to make on free agents Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap. Withey would be a move to address that, could back up Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors and is an interior defender with four years experience at a major program.

22. Nets, Rudy Gobert, France, PF-C, 7-1, 235

Gobert had an underwhelming 2012-13 in France, but front offices see real defensive potential with his size and wingspan. They were also impressed he participated in the Chicago pre-Draft combine when a lot of others with a chance for mid-first usually bail. But not being in great shape for the early individual workouts could hurt.

23. Pacers, Glen Rice Jr., D-League, SG, 6-6, 210

The long road back for the son of the former All-Star small forward includes playing for the Rio Grande Vipers after being kicked off the team at Georgia Tech. But he's a shooter and the Pacers need people who can make baskets, especially from the perimeter.

24. Knicks, Shane Larkin, Miami, PG, 6-0, 170

The son of baseball Hall of Famer Barry Larkin would be a nice dose of athleticism at point guard, even as the backup. The size is an obvious concern, but it's not hard to find players with long careers despite going to the pros with the same doubts.

25. Clippers, Jamaal Franklin, San Diego St, SG, 6-5, 205

The Clippers started Willie Green and Chauncey Billups this season, so Franklin will have the chance to make an immediate impact with explosiveness that will fit in Lob City. The key will be how fast the Mountain West Conference Player of the Year handles the transition from college small forward to the NBA backcourt.

26. Timberwolves, Tony Mitchell, North Texas, PF, 6-8, 235

Mitchell had a disappointing sophomore season and admits he did not play hard all the time, with a lot of NBA people also willing to say it for him. But it's easy to see teams falling back in like with his athleticism and toughness, and Minnesota is open to using its second first-rounder on a player who needs developing.

27. Nuggets, Allen Crabbe, California, SG, 6-6, 205

Denver needs help from behind the arc. Though he needs to get stronger, Crabbe has the size, accuracy and decent 3-point range to fit the shooting-guard mold and be an ideal role player for a team that already knows how to run.

28. Spurs, Isaiah Canaan, Murray State, PG, 6-0, 188

He is one of the most NBA-ready players of the Draft, after four years in college and particular praise from Chris Paul. A lot of teams are looking at Canaan late in the first round and early in the second as a dependable backup point guard. Shooting guard is also a possibility, with Tim Hardaway Jr.

29. Thunder, Archie Goodwin, SG, 6-5, 190

He went from being one of the top recruits in the country to a very inconsistent one-and-done college career, but the physical tools and potential will keep a lot of teams interested in a player with first-round potential.

30. Suns, Tim Hardaway Jr., Michigan, SF-SG, 6-6, 200

No killer crossover like his father, but the next generation can score, pass and is a competitor. He needs to get stronger, but will have a chance to stick as a long-term solution in Phoenix.

Second Round

31. Cavaliers, Nate Wolters, South Dakota St., PG, 6-4, 190

A smart ball handler and sharp passer with great instincts and size who has the chance to become Kyrie Irving's backup.

32. Thunder, Alex Abrines, Spain, SG, 6-5, 190

Oklahoma City is in win-now mode, had two rookies this season and will be adding another player in this lottery, barring a trade. The last thing it needs is another first-year player. Abrines can develop overseas for at least one more season.

33. Cavaliers, Ricky Ledo, Providence, SG, 6-6, 197

A risk pick because of questions about his maturity off the court, but Cleveland can afford the gamble as its fourth choice and the possible return of a good shooter.

34. Rockets, Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State, SF-PF, 6-7, 225

Thomas is a versatile scorer with good experience after three years with the Buckeyes. The question is whether he is a tweener without a position or a stretch four.

35. 76ers, Reggie Bullock, North Carolina, SG-SF, 6-7, 200

Bullock is a 3-point threat with good size in the backcourt who can also rebound and defend.

36. Kings, Tony Snell, New Mexico, SG, 6-7, 200

He becomes the latest attempt by Sacramento find someone who can hit a shot, with range to the 3-point line and the bonus of an improving, versatile defender.

37. Pistons, Mike Muscala, Bucknell, PF-C, 6-11, 230

The versatile offensive threat -- low-post skills, pick-and-pop with range -- can add to Detroit's already promising big-man arsenal of Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond.

38. Wizards, Myck Kabongo, Texas, PG, 6-3, 180

Kabongo's stock has plummeted in the last two years, but he remains one of the best true playmakers in the Draft, while needing to improve his shot.

39. Trail Blazers, James Ennis, Long Beach St, SG-SF, 6-7, 200

Ennis is a talented scorer who can rebound from the backcourt and finished in the top 10 in the Big West Conference in eight categories.

40. Trail Blazers, Nemanja Nedovic, Serbia, PG-SG, 6-3, 190

Nedovic is aggressive and athletic, can get to the rim and defend, and also an ideal stash player as Portland's third pick who can use another season or two in Europe to work on his shot and handle.

41. Grizzlies, Pierre Jackson, Baylor, PG, 5-10 ½, 175

Memphis has three choices, but all in the final 20 picks, so odds of finding real help in the Draft are not good. Jackson provides the chance for open-court speed and depth at point guard.

42. 76ers, Trevor Mbakwe, Minnesota, PF, 6-8, 235

His history of knee problems and age (24) are drawbacks, but Mbakwe has a chance to stick as a rebounding specialist and a shot blocker with a wide wingspan.

43. Bucks, Erick Green, Virginia Tech, PG, 6-3, 185

Green led the nation in scoring as a senior while helping his Draft stock with improvements as a distributor to show he can be more than an undersized shooting guard.

44. Mavericks, Lorenzo Brown, North Carolina St, PG, 6-5, 190

Brown was one of the best transition point guards in the country, and his size combined with vision makes him an intriguing second-rounder.

45. Trail Blazers, Richard Howell, North Carolina St, PF, 6-7 ½, 250

Howell uses toughness and strength inside to control the boards, especially on the offensive glass, despite being slightly undersized.

46. Jazz, Livio Jean-Charles, France, SF-PF, 6-9, 220

An athletic combo forward who excels in the open court and had a very good showing at the Nike Hoop Summit, he lacks strength and a consistent shot.

47. Hawks, C.J. Leslie, North Carolina St, PF, 6-9, 210

Leslie used his athleticism well in college to finish in the top eight in the Atlantic Coast Conference in rebounding and scoring, but 210-pound power forwards are generally appetizer plates in the NBA.

48. Lakers, Andre Roberson, Colorado, SF 6-7, 205

Not merely the Pacific 12 Conference Defensive Player of the Year, Roberson was one of the best defenders in the country with NBA-level athleticism and rebounding.

49. Bulls, Marko Todorovic, Montenegro, C, 6-11, 240

He is clearly not ready for the NBA, after being unable to stay in the rotation with his Barcelona club in 2012-13, but a mix of size and agility, with some decent skills, makes Todorovic an intriguing prospect.

50. Hawks, Phil Pressey, Missouri, PG, 5-11 ½, 177

While size is an obvious drawback, Pressey is an excellent passer with vision and instincts.

51. Magic, B.J. Young, Arkansas, SG, 6-3 ½, 180

Young is an attacking guard who can score when he gets to the rim but has an inconsistent jumper.

52. Timberwolves, Bojan Dubljevic, Montenegro, PF, 6-9, 240

Playing below the rim with limited athleticism means he could have a difficult transition to the NBA, but range as a shooter at that size and ability to play pick-and-roll also means he is worth a long look.

53. Pacers, Matthew Dellavedova, St. Mary's, PG, 6-4, 190

Being a pick-and-roll specialist made the Australian a candidate for the NBA and good showings at group workouts boosted his chances for the second round.

54.Wizards, Solomon Hill, Arizona, SF, 6-7, 225

Hill helped himself by going from a tough player who could score inside to adding a jump shot and becoming more versatile in addition to smart and hard-working.

55. Grizzlies, Colton Iverson, Colorado St, C, 7-0, 262

Iverson is a true center, unlike a lot of the other bigs on the board, who will make a team if his rebounding production translates from college to the pros.

56. Pistons, Ray McCallum, Detroit, PG, 6-2, 191

It's not just a local pick. McCallum makes good decisions with the ball and can get to the basket.

57. Suns, Ryan Kelly, Duke, PF, 7-0, 228

Kelly can play tough inside as a shot blocker and also step out to the 3-point line to hit shots. Two foot surgeries in a little more than a year are a concern.

58. Spurs, Jackie Carmichael, Illinois State, PF, 6-9, 241

Carmichael is a blue-collar hopeful -- rebounding, shot blocking, work ethic -- trying to make a big jump from Illinois State.

59. Timberwolves, Seth Curry, Duke, SG, 6-3, 180

The brother of Stephen and son of Dell is, naturally, a shooter. That fits with Minnesota's desire to get better on the perimeter.

60. Grizzlies, Kenny Kadji, Miami, PF, 6-10, 241

Being 25 years old means there isn't much room to develop, but getting anything from a player picked late in the second round is a bonus and Kadji is a fit as a stretch four with the ability to hit all the way out to the arc.

Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.
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