Sam Smith’s 2013 mock draft

With the 2013 NBA Draft in Brooklyn on Thursday, Sam Smith of shares his picks for how the first round will play out. He sees UNLV forward Anthony Bennett as the first overall pick, currently held by Cleveland, and predicts the Bulls will take L

It’s not a strong NBA Draft Thursday and not a decisive NBA team making the first selection. That’s making this the most difficult draft in recent memory to handicap, which at least should make it good TV.

And the winner is…

What do you do if you are the Cleveland Cavaliers with the first pick in the NBA Draft with no available player projected to have potential star talent, an owner who declared the team is ready to make the playoffs and an intrinsic value to the No. 1 pick which suggests substantial worth? Even if this year there really isn’t.

2013 NBA Draft

So you have the Cavs making all sorts of unrealistic proposals to trade the pick, which they’ll probably end up retaining. Compounding all this is the supposed greatest upside talent, Nerlens Noel, coming off ACL surgery after prior problems. Being in Ohio, they might wince a bit about a former Ohio State big man who had knee problems in Portland.

So what to do?

The latest I was hearing going into Thursday morning was that both Noel and UNLV forward Anthony Bennett were in their mix, Noel for his upside through he’ll be out at least half the season recuperating and Bennett in their view as the top ready talent.

I happened to like Kansas’ Ben McLemore in that ready to play, high skill level category, a shooter in an NBA era when it is more important than ever. But team after team continues to express curious misgivings about McLemore, reminding me of the 1998 fall of Paul Pierce to 10th in the first round. You hear all sorts of excuses about McLemore. No one says exactly why they don’t like him, but he seems most in free fall.

Which is more difficult to gauge in this draft given there isn’t that much excitement. The Cavs are asking too much because they have No. 1. The Pelicans at No. 6 have been trying hard to trade out along with the Mavericks at No. 13 among the lottery teams.

There doesn’t seem, otherwise, to be a lot of movement. Boston has been trying to dump both Pierce and Kevin Garnett, hoping the latter will waive his no trade clause once he realizes no one he’s ever heard of is coming through that door.

Big names like Kevin Love, Luol Deng and LaMarcus Aldridge have been thrown out, though more as potential speculation than any serious discussions. None of them likely will be traded this year.

There figure to be some minor deals as the Magic, Timberwolves, Clippers, Hawks, Celtics and Suns have been talked about as the most active.

But the mystery for perhaps the first time since the 1989 draft when Pervis Ellison went No. 1 and Stacey King almost did will be Thursday when the No. 1 pick is announced. And then likely just as much for Nos. 2, 3, 4 and 5.

As for the Bulls, my guess—and that’s a guess for them as well because who knows who falls to No, 20—is the Bulls select Louisville center Gorgui Dieng. It doesn’t seem thrilling that the reliable draft web site compared him to Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje, a seven-footer from Cameroon who played briefly in the NBA after being selected in the second round of the draft. The long armed Dieng from Senegal is described much like Omer Asik, a defensive rim protector with limited offensive skills.

The Bulls’ top priority appears to be a backup big man to Joakim Noah. I think the Bulls would go for Kelly Olynyk if he were there given more offensive ability, but looking for a backup center the defensive component could be more important.

If the Bulls elect to go for a shooting guard or wing player, my guess is it would be Tim Hardaway Jr. given his range of skills and strong pro background of his Chicago native father. Maybe New Mexico’s Tony Snell. Hardaway isn’t the greatest shooter among the shooting guards figured to be available late in the first round. But his overall game and makeup probably would appeal to the Bulls.

Of course, they also could pass on all given the uncertainty up and down the line in this draft.

So for my first attempt at a Whodunit, or, more precisely, a Whospickinhim for the 2013 NBA draft, here’s my Mock Draft Version ?

1. Cleveland: Anthony Bennett, UNLV, 6-7, 240. Let me be the first to try this one out as most of these mock drafts have Noel to Cleveland. Some have been fooled into trying Alex Len from Maryland and, as I wrote, if there weren’t so many questions with their backcourt I think McLemore would make a heck of a three-guard rotation. But what do I know compared with the Cavs’ championship history.

2. Orlando: Nerlens Noel, Kentucky, 6-11, 206. And, yes, I forgot to mention I think Nate Robinson weighs more than Noel does. But the Magic isn’t in any hurry; their new management is much like the Thunder’s without Kevin Durant: Basically patient and not caring what you think. They stole a big man from Philadelphia in Nikola Vucevic and I can see them willing to wait for Noel to pair them.

3. Washington: Otto Porter, Georgetown, 6-9, 200. The rumors coming into the draft were they wanted Luol Deng. He’s like Deng but younger. Also stopped by college in the area and gives them a third, young perimeter player who fits their development.

4. Charlotte: Cody Zeller, Indiana, 7-0, 230. I’m not just doing that because everyone will hit their heads and say there goes Jordan again. He’s generally around No. 10 in most mock drafts, and they’ll be all over Jordan on TV if he makes this pick as they generally do criticism based on their own erroneous mock drafts. But in a weak draft with no certainty, why not? He’s a capable big man, and they could use any sort of big man as they’ve experimented unsuccessfully at the position very uncapably. But wasn’t Len almost No. 1? Yes, but I can’t figure out why. Plus, Mike almost doesn’t give a crap what you think.

5. Phoenix: Victor Oladipo, Indiana, 6-4, 213. They need just about everything, but perhaps most a safe pick who will make it. Oladipo is a shooting guard without a great shot, but a leader and strong figure who’ll make plays and work, a nice piece. He sounds like a Jeff Hornacek type player. They’re probably moving Marcin Gortat soon, so they’ll be changing their roster.

6. New Orleans: Alex Len, Maryland, 7-1, 255. They’re another trying hard to get out of the draft. You can come up with plenty of options, McLemore, perhaps, as Austin Rivers didn’t look very good last season and they’ll likely be moving Eric Gordon as soon as they can find him. But the old NBA bromide is if in doubt, go big.

7. Sacramento: Trey Burke, Michigan, 6-1, 190. Another team that would like to move its pick. Most of the mock drafts guess they’ll take the Lehigh guard, C.J. McCollum, who is supposed to be a poor man’s Stephen Curry. Another team that needs help everywhere. Burke’s a leader, a potential big time playmaker despite his size. They’ve got a bunch of mini guards, yes, but it would seem you can build with someone like Burke.

8. Detroit: Michael Carter-Williams, Syracuse, 6-6, 185. The point guard they picked last time, Brandon Knight, they think is more of a shooting guard. So it makes sense to try again with more of a pure point guard as they are solid up front with two young big men.

9. Minnesota: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Georgia, 6-6, 205. The best shooting guard not named McLemore. They’ll want someone to play off Ricky Rubio, and again, word continues about wanting someone else to take McLemore.

10. Portland: Ben McLemore, Kansas, 6-5, 190. Perhaps just for effect I’ll have him in the Paul Pierce place. They’ve got the rookie of the year point guard and Wesley Matthews has never quite been their future. They always talk about taking centers, and centers shake with fear about going to Portland.

11. Philadelphia: Steven Adams, Pittsburgh, 7-0, 255. No way after that disaster of last season they bring back Andrew Bynum, or for any period of time. They’ve been weakest with big men and though he’s something of a project, he’s huge and has intriguing potential. The Thunder have been said to be pining for him.

12. Oklahoma City: Kelly Olynyk, Gonzaga, 7-0, 234. They have been mentioned as leaning toward Adams, if available. I have Adams gone, so the guess is the next best big man, who would be the Gonzaga scorer with hair that might frighten Kendrick Perkins.

13. Dallas: C.J. McCollum, Lehigh, 6-3, 197. The Mavs have most wanted to deal the pick for more cap room with their fantasies they’ll get Dwight Howard. Or Josh Smith or Al Jefferson, the latter two more possible. But if McCollum slips here—and I’m among the few who have him doing so—the Mavs probably would change their mind and take the fast riser in this draft. Except, apparently, in my peace room. C’mon, guys, there are no heroes in the draft. So drop the war room stuff.

14. Utah: Shane Larkin, Miami, 5-11, 171. They most need a point guard. He’s small, but the son of baseball’s Barry Larkin and a good shooter as well on a team that needs outside shooting room for its young bigs. Perhaps they’ll go for another big with Al Jefferson likely leaving, but they most need backcourt help.

15. Milwaukee: Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA, 6-6, 225. They’re a team that can use some shabazz, or something to shake them up. Probably losing both Monta Ellis and J.J. Redick, so you’d think shooting guard. If one falls, they’d likely do that. Perhaps Sergey Karasev, but probably not ready enough. They need players on the floor, and Muhammad should be able to score in the NBA. Plus, lying about his age may be good as the Bucks need older, more mature players. They’ll probably end up retaining Brandon Jennings, which would limit the need for a point guard, which most have suggested they’d take.

16. Boston: Mason Plumlee, Duke, 6-11, 238. They were hoping for Olynyk. But Plumlee should serve a reasonable replacement as a hard working big man who’d be popular in Boston. Considered fairly athletic among the big men in the draft.

17. Atlanta: Tim Hardaway Jr., Michigan, 6-6, 200. Basically a rebuilding situation with all the expiring contracts but pretty much Al Horford and Lou Williams. Maybe they get Josh Smith back, though they’d like a fresher start. You can always use shooting, so Hardaway’s a start.

18. Atlanta: Lucas Nogueira, Brazil, 7-0, 220. They’ll need size as they go on, and he’s a guy they also can keep overseas to develop if they hit on some free agents.

19. Cleveland: Sergey Karasev, Russia, 6-7, 197. He’s been tabbed to go higher, and perhaps he will. But they’ve been said to like him and would make up for passing McLemore and give them that three guard set with Karasev a top shooter. They’re still trying to trade that pick as well as they have three of the top 31 and likely won’t use them all.

20. Bulls: Gorgui Dieng, Louisville, 6-11, 230. With the guys off the board that I have, they’d probably go with the best big man left, who would be Dieng. Good program, defensive player with a big wing span for shot blocking and probably good for 10-12 minutes off the bench this season.

21. Utah: Dennis Schroeder, Germany, 6-2, 168. Well, they do need point guards. He’s been more highly regarded by some as a Rajon Rondo type without the attitude and probably too good to pass up at this point.

22. Brooklyn: Jamaal Franklin, San Diego State, 6-5, 191. If one of the points fell through they’d probably take him as they likely will lose C.J. Watson. They’re also said to be trading MarShon Brook, so there’s basically no bench scoring. He’s potentially a scorer with an improving shot.

23. Indiana: Allen Crabbe, California, 6-6, 197. Larry Bird is back in the Pacers’ front office, and he likes shooting. Plus, they need scoring. Yes, they’ll get Danny Granger back, but who knows about his knees, and who knows for how long. They really need a playmaking point guard, but there’s really none this low in the first round.

24. New York: Ricky Ledo, Providence, 6-6, 197. A Knicks kind of choice their mostly unsophisticated fan base will love. He’s a highly skilled player considered a risk with a high ceiling if he doesn’t fall off the ledge first.

25. Clippers: Reggie Bullock, North Carolina, 6-7, 200. A good shooting forward who can space the floor for their big men as they’ve been looking to move Caron Butler. Perhaps a shooting guard like Tony Snell if they don’t go for the forward. Doc likes shooting and you want shooters with Chris Paul.

26. Minnesota: Rudy Gobert, France, 7-2, 238. Amazingly big guy with a huge wing span who sounds a bit like Hasheem Thabeet, who wouldn’t have been a bust picked here, where he should have been. Worth a risk.

27. Denver: Tony Snell, New Mexico, 6-7, 198. They need shooting, and not necessarily because Andre Iguodala may not return. They’ll look in free agency as well, but he’s a nice shooting prospect to get at the bottom of the first round.

28. San Antonio: Livio Jean-Charles, France, 6-9, 217. When in doubt with the Spurs, go for an international guy. They always can leave him overseas and pursue some free agents as they’ll likely be under the cap. He’s a good athlete, and they’ll need to be adding some.

29. Oklahoma City: Tony Mitchell, North Texas, 6-9, 236. A tough, undersized power forward who’s been likened to the peripatetic Thomas Robinson. But if you can get him at the end of the first it’s a value selection.

30. Phoenix: Jeff Withey, Kansas, 7-0, 222. I’m not a big fan, but he doesn’t seem to care. They’ll be moving their center soon, and not that Withey is the answer. But he’s tall and can make some shots. And in Phoenix it’s good to have guys to block out the sun.