2013 NBA Draft: Who will Cleveland pick First?

nerlens-noelThe NBA Draft Lottery was held last night, and the Cleveland Cavaliers truly hit a jackpot. With just a 15.6% chance of corralling the top pick, Cleveland saw their ping pong ball come up first. So they’ll be making the first selection when the 2013 NBA Draft takes place on June 27th.

While nobody is a slam dunk to be chosen No.1 this year, the popular consensus is that Cleveland will take Kentucky center Nerlens Noel. The 7-footer is pretty raw offensively and has a super-skinny frame at just 210 pounds. But he’s got tremendous upside, is a phenomenal shot-blocker, and fills the Cavaliers’ need for another good frontcourt player.

Anderson Varejao currently plays center for the Cavs and has been an excellent rebounder and solid defender…when he actually plays. However, the 6’11” big man has played just 81 games in the past three years, including 25 last season. Because of Varejao’s injury issues, taking a chance on Nerlens certainly isn’t a bad idea. And even if they’re both healthy, Varejao can play some power forward as well.

American v KansasKansas guard Ben McLemore has also been discussed as a potential number one pick. And it wouldn’t be completely unfathomable to think that Cleveland would choose him if they saw something unique. However, this is a team that took shooting guard Dion Waiters with the fourth pick last year. Plus they have Kyrie Irving at point guard, which would make taking McLemore a little overkill.

One more name that’s been thrown out as a potential number one selection is Otto Porter Jr. This is completely a needs-based pick since Cleveland has a big hole to fill at small forward. But as talented as the Georgetown product is, most analysts don’t see him as the absolute best player in the draft.

otto-porter-jrIf the Cavaliers don’t fall in love with anybody, there’s also the option of trading away the top selection. However, this is a bad idea for a team that’s seemingly tanked the last few years in hopes of stockpiling young talent through the draft. It’s also hard to see Cleveland getting fair value on any potential superstar they’d select number in June.

The wheels have definitely been set in motion for the Cavs to return to competitiveness in the 2013-2014 season. Irving is one of the best young point guards in the league after averaging 22.5 PPG, 5.9 APG, 1.51 SPG and shooting 39.1% from the 3-point line. Waiters had a strong rookie campaign after scoring 14.7 PPG and dishing out 3.0 APG. Tristan Thompson is proving to be a good frontcourt player, following a season where he averaged 11.7 PPG and 9.4 RPG.

Plus this club is loaded with solid role players in C.J. Miles, Alonzo Gee, Marreese Speights, Tyler Zeller. Wayne Ellington and Jeremy Pargo. Will all of this be enough for a playoff run next year? Depending upon how their No. 1 pick develops in the upcoming season, Cleveland definitely could be back in the postseason for the first time in four years.

NBA Power Rankings for Jan. 10th, 2013

In our last power rankings, we discussed how the Los Angeles Clippers have been on a pretty torrid pace. They won 17 straight games at one point and have ascended to the league’s top record. However, the Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs aren’t far behind the Clippers since they’ve both been playing some pretty good ball too. But have any of these teams passed the Heat for our number one ranking? Here’s a look at the answer…

1. L.A. Clippers (28-7) – At the beginning of the season, most people thought the other Los Angeles team might be in this spot. However, the Clippers are not only the best team in L.A., but they’re playing better than anybody in the NBA right now. Chris Paul has upped his assists over the past month and is averaging 9.5 APG on the season (second best in the NBA).

2. Miami Heat (23-10) – The Heat drop a spot in our rankings after losing three out of their past seven games. This certainly doesn’t bode well for the team either because they’re now departing for a five-game, West Coast road trip. While Miami is still our favorite to win the title in June, other players besides LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh (scoring 60% of team’s points) are going to have to step up.

3. Oklahoma City Thunder (27-8) – The next couple of weeks will be extremely challenging for the Thunder since they go on the road for 9 out of their next 10 games. But at the moment, they’re only a half game behind the Clippers’ league-best record. Serge Ibaka (2.86 BPG), Kevin Durant (1.31 BPG) and Kendrick Perkins (1.03 BPG) are definitely making it difficult for opponents to shoot over this team.

4. San Antonio Spurs (28-10) – San Antonio continues to play really well after winning 9 out of their last 11 games. The Spurs are currently scoring the third most points in the league with 104.95 PPG. That said, it’s no wonder why seven Spurs are averaging at least 9.0 PPG or better. Tony Parker (19.2 PPG) and Tim Duncan (17.4 PPG) lead this charge.

5. New York Knicks (23-11) – The Knicks opened the year hot and quickly grabbed the NBA’s top record. However, it’s been rough sailing for New York lately after dropping 6 out of the past 11 contests. They’ll be without superstar Carmelo Anthony for tonight’s road game against the Pacers. He’s been suspended for waiting outside the Celtics’ locker room for Kevin Garnett following heated in-game exchanges between the two.

6. Indiana Pacers (21-14) – Just a few weeks ago, Indiana was struggling and looking nothing like the team that went 42-24 last season. However, things have changed in a hurry and the Pacers are coming off a win against the Heat. What’s interesting is that Indiana is second-to-last in team scoring with 91.23 PPG; however, they’re also holding opponents to just 89.46 PPG, which easily counteracts the lack of scoring.

7. Memphis Grizzlies (23-10) – Memphis climbs one spot from last week after winning their past three games – all of which were on the road. Backup PF Marreese Speights (10.8 PPG in January) has been a nice spark off the bench this month for the Grizzlies, which have previously lacked much bench production.

8. Golden State Warriors (22-12) – Having dropped their past two games, the Warriors fall one spot in our rankings. However, it should be
mentioned that one of these losses was on the road to the Clippers, which they’d previously beaten the game before at home. Golden State definitely has a nice bench led by PG Jarrett Jack (11.9 PPG, 5.0 APG) and PF Carl Landry (12.3 PPG, 6.6 RPG).

9. Houston Rockets (21-15) – Houston continues to climb the standings on the strength of James Harden’s scoring (26.5 PPG). He’s not the only one tallying points either because this team leads the NBA with 106.0 PPG, and eight players are averaging 8.9 PPG or better. If they can keep this up, Houston will definitely be in the postseason come May.

10.  Denver Nuggets (21-16) – Denver marks the seventh Western Conference team to appear in our top 10 this week. They’ve gotten here by winning 6 out of the past 8 contests – including one game against the Clippers. This has truly been a team effort since six Nuggets are averaging double figures in scoring. Danilo Gallinari leads the team with 16.2 PPG while Ty Lawson is chipping in 14.1 PPG.