An early look at the 2013 NBA Draft


May 22

The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or their Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Bulls and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.

Are two No. 1 overall draft picks enough to make up for the loss of LeBron James? Probably not, but the Cleveland Cavaliers got their second Tuesday in the NBA Draft Lottery, and that raised the intriguing possibility that the way really is being cleared for James to return to Cleveland as a free agent after next season.

LeBron James and Kyrie Irving

“By moving up from No. 3 to win the lottery drawing again (they got Kyrie Irving last time), the Cavs move into position to put together a strong young core with the talented Irving and big men who could make the case to attract James back to his home area where he still lives,” writes Smith.

The Miami Heat is the favorite to win their second consecutive title this season as they open the Eastern Conference finals Wednesday against the Indiana Pacers. But the way Dwyane Wade has struggled with debilitating knee problems, it is seeming more likely to many around the NBA that James could pursue his opt out to become a free agent in the summer of 2014. Perhaps he has a three-peat by then, and we know Michael Jordan took off after his first three-peat.

By moving up from No. 3 to win the lottery drawing again (they got Kyrie Irving last time), the Cavs move into position to put together a strong young core with the talented Irving and big men who could make the case to attract James back to his home area where he still lives.

The early consensus seems to be the Cavs select Kentucky’s athletic shot blocking big man Nerlens Noel, who is not due back from ACL surgery until December. But here’s one possible plan as Cavs owner Dan Gilbert has made it clear he expects not to return to the lottery: The Cavs trade their three other picks, Nos. 19, 31 and 33, to the Lakers for Pau Gasol, whom the Lakers need to move without taking back salary to save tens of millions of dollars of luxury tax charges. With Anderson Varejao returning to go with Gasol and Irving, Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson the Cavs can make a run at the playoffs. Then they let go Gasol after one season as his contract expires with then enough cap room to sign both James and Chris Bosh to go with that young core.

Think that one is far out? There’s going to be plenty more scenarios coming in a draft in which the top picks, including No. 1, could very much be in play for trade with teams looking to move down, which is rare at the top of the draft, or pursue veterans. So this draft day is going to be as uncertain as any in recent years given the absence of certain top three picks, or even a locked down No. 1 selection.

Here’s a very early look at a draft that could likely undergo major changes before June 27.

  1. Cleveland: Nerlens Noel. Not true he’s returning Christmas time because of his surname. Another king? If there’s a consensus No. 1, he’s it. And he is the first Noel.
  2. Orlando: Trey Burke, Michigan. They’ve got an innovative, young management not worried about what others think. So this tough point guard who plays to big moments makes sense even though he isn’t tall.
  3. Washington: Otto Porter, Georgetown. Big winner by moving up the most. They’ve got a history of moving top picks for instant results. They could use a versatile forward to go with their young backcourt and as David Falk is his agent maybe Falk stops making fun of John Wall.
  4. Charlotte: Ben McLemore, Kansas. Michael can’t get a break, but maybe he gets the No. 1 pick on many draft boards. He’s got a bunch of guards, but they all still get in the movies for kids’ prices. And Michael likes two guards.
  5. Phoenix: Victor Oladipo, Indiana. Maybe have two players worth keeping, a point guard and center. So he’s a guy you can begin building with, described by some as Tony Allen with a jump shot. Which would be pretty good to have.
  6. New Orleans: Cody Zeller, Indiana. Probably could have the pick if you’d take Eric Gordon. They could use a center and perhaps the better Zeller, who would look good with Anthony Davis. Now if only Austin Rivers could make a shot.
  7. Sacramento: Alex Len, Maryland. Get a center in there so they can trade DeMarcus Cousins to some sap of a team that thinks he’s still salvageable. Sacramento has done too much to save the team to be subjected to Cousins’ antics any longer.
  8. Detroit: Anthony Bennett, UNLV. Value pick if he gets down that far as he’s considered a high level talent and not only because he also went to UNLV but likened to Larry Johnson.
  9. Minnesota: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Georgia. They need some shooting to go with Ricky Rubio other than Kevin Love. This would seem high for him based on early reports, but these things change and you can’t get enough lottery guys you can nickname “the hyphen.”
  10. Portland: Mason Plumlee, Duke. You never can have enough big guys, especially if you are in Portland. They like their perimeter at point and small forward and another big men gives them flexibility.
  11. Philadelphia: Kelly Olynyk, Gonzaga. They’ll love the hair in Philadelphia. Who knows what they’ll do regarding Andrew Bynum, but can you make that mistake again? Their other best big guy is in Orlando.
  12. Oklahoma City: C.J. McCollum, Lehigh. So this guy and Jeremy Lamb for James Harden? Ooops. Yes, Russell Westbrook will be back. But they could use anyone else who could figure out how to score.
  13. Dallas: Michael Carter-Williams, Syracuse. If you do poorly, Jim Boeheim will call out your team for you if you have him. He’s a ball handling point guard, and they need more guys to throw the ball to Dirk with no free agents coming.
  14. Utah: Dennis Schroeder, Germany. Like they say, if you really need a point guard look to Germany. Well, they really need a point. He’s a smallish guy, quick compared with Rajon Rondo and some of the Teagues.
  15. Milwaukee: Tim Hardaway Jr., Michigan. They’ll need guards as Monta Ellis probably opts out and who knows with Brandon Jennings. Hardaway obviously comes from a strong pro background and is a close to ready player which they need.
  16. Boston: Steven Adams, Pittsburgh. They badly need size and someone who actually can rebound. They remain big on brain typing in interviews, and we know they’re smart coming from New Zealand.
  17. Atlanta: Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA. Once thought a top five pick, there’s been all sorts of questions including a failure to sing himself happy birthday. He’s a scorer and a risky pick, but if they can’t get Dwight Howard they’ll need some shabazz in the arena.
  18. Atlanta: Glen Rice, Jr., Georgia Tech (until kicked out after a shooting incident). So, yes, they’d know about him. The great former NBA scorer’s son. He had huge games finishing up the D-league season and is a scoring talent. Perhaps worth a shot. Didn’t really mean that one.
  19. Cleveland: Shane Larkin, Miami. They’ll probably trade the pick as they have four in the top 33. He’s small, but the son of baseball’s Barry Larkin and with some impressive times and measurements at the Chicago camp even though he’s a small point guard.
  20. Bulls: Jamaal Franklin, San Diego State. They probably will go for a backup center or shooting guard in case they can’t keep Marco Belinelli. They’ll likely want close to ready players and defenders, which he can do. Has had some incidents and isn’t the perfect shooting guard, but this isn’t the perfect draft.
  21. Some of the others who could finish out the first round include Tony Snell, Allen Crabbe, Jeff Withey, Nate Wolters, Archie Goodwin, Tony Mitchell, DeShaun Thomas, Rudy Gobert, Gorgui Dieng, Dario Saric. Sergey Karasev and Giannis Adetokunbo.

What do you think? Leave a comment below: