2013 NBA Draft Winners and Losers

anthony-bennett-nba-draft-1At this point, most NBA executives and coaches don’t see the 2013 NBA Draft as one that will produce lots of future All-Stars and Hall-of-Famers. But this certainly doesn’t mean that the 2013 Draft wasn’t exciting because there were some high-profile trades and surprising picks. That said, let’s talk about who made out with these trades and picks along with which teams/players ended up losers after draft night.

Winner #1: Anthony Bennett

Seeing as how this wasn’t a talent-rich draft, the number one pick was up in the air. Even still, few people saw 6’7″ UNLV forward Anthony Bennett going as the top pick. In unbelievable fashion, the Cleveland Cavaliers took Bennett with the first overall selection and see him as their swingman of the future.

The Mountain West Player of the Year was just as shocked as anybody when David Stern called him up to the podium. “I’m just really as surprised as everyone else,” Bennett said. “I didn’t have any idea who was going No. 1 or who was going No. 2. I heard everything was up for grabs. But I’m just real happy, glad I have this opportunity.”

Loser #1: Nerlens Noel

nerlens-noelRail-thin Kentucky center Nerlens Noel was about as close to a clear-cut number one pick as anybody entering last night’s draft. Not only did the Cavs pass on him, but so did four teams after Cleveland. Noel’s freefall ended when the New Orleans Pelicans chose him with the sixth pick, although it wasn’t for them.

The Pelicans traded Noel along with a first round pick to the Philadelphia 76ers for point guard Jrue Holiday and second round pick PG Pierre Jackson. The 7-footer probably won’t play until at least November, following surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament that he suffered at Kentucky. And this definitely contributed to his descent on the draft board.

Winner #2: New Orleans

The Pelicans brought in one of the NBA’s most talented point guards to usher in a new era that includes a name change and different look. Holiday averaged 17.7 PPG and 8.0 APG last year on a Philadelphia team that didn’t exactly have many weapons. New Orleans is now hoping he can put up similar or better numbers for them.

The only problem will be deciding what to do with their loaded backcourt, which includes PG Greivis Vasquez and SG Eric Gordon. The latter isn’t happy in the Big Easy right now and could be trade bait this offseason.

Loser #2: Ben McLemore

ben-mclemore-draftMany thought that Kansas guard Ben McLemore was a lock to be selected in the top three. After all, he’s already a great shooter and gifted scorer following one year of college seasoning. However, he ended up going to the Sacramento Kings at pick number 7, which surprised many draft fans.

Scouts saw McLemore as a very good all-around player who can create shots for himself off the dribble. But as the draft drew closer, there were talks of him not being aggressive enough to take over games and justify a top-three pick. Now he’ll spend his rookie campaign on the hapless Kings, who’ve been non-competitive for years.

Winner #3: Boston Celtics

The Celtics’ aging core of coach Doc Rivers, PF Kevin Garnett and SF Paul Pierce clearly wanted out of Boston. Meanwhile, the Celtics, even with a healthy Rajon Rondo, seem like they’re better off rebuilding, rather than taking one or two more hopeless shots at a title.

On draft night, all parties got what they wanted as Pierce and Garnett were shipped off to a better team in New Jersey, while Boston unloaded big salaries and got several draft picks. The Celtics will now have New Jersey’s first round picks in 2014, ’16 and ’18, along with the option to trade picks in ’17. The ’14 pick is key since next year’s draft should be loaded with talent.

Loser #3: Both the Charlotte Bobcats and Phoenix Suns

cody-zeller-draftThe Charlotte Bobcats and Phoenix Suns aren’t playoff teams, which would make one think that they’d be gunning for players with tremendous upside. However, both clubs dropped the ball when they passed on Noel and McLemore at the fourth and fifth picks.

The Bobcats took Indiana center Cody Zeller with the fourth selection. And while Zeller is a mobile 7-footer with good all-around skills, he’s hardly the game-changer that Noel or McLemore could be. The same goes for the Suns and picking Alex Lens at the number five slot. On a team that needs so much, opting for a center who figures to have a solid, but unspectacular career isn’t going to get it done.

Winner #4: Victor Oladipo

Indiana shooting guard Victor Oladipo was projected by many to be a top five pick. However, most of these projections had him at the latter end of this range, and guys like Noel, McLemore and Otto Porter Jr. tabbed in the top three spots. So when Oladipo went number two overall to the Orlando Magic, some analysts were a bit surprised.

However, it’s not so crazy when you consider that he’s extremely athletic, has a great first step, takes high-percentage shots, and above all, plays defense better than any guard in the draft. Sure he’s a little short for a shooting guard (6’4″) and isn’t the greatest passer, but Oladipo should definitely make a big impact in Orlando with his shooting and defense.

Loser #4: Shabazz Muhammad

shabazz-muhammadLast year many people saw Shabazz Muhammad as a potential number one pick in the 2013 NBA Draft. And why not since he’s a 6’6″ shooting guard with a 6’11” wingspan, a good three-point shooter, and a player who’s already got the strength to compete with veterans.

However, none of this was enough to overshadow Muhammad’s subpar defense, character questions and lack of an all-around game. He was still a lottery pick, but just barely as the Utah Jazz picked him at number 14, then traded his rights to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Cavaliers shock Basketball World by taking Bennett No. 1

anthony-bennett-nba-draftThe 2013 NBA Draft isn’t even halfway finished yet, but no matter what happens tonight, people are mainly going to be talking about the Cleveland Cavaliers number one pick. The Cavs shocked pretty much everybody involved in the basketball world by taking UNLV forward Anthony Bennett first overall.

Bennett, who won the Mountain West Player of the Year award as a freshman, becomes the first Canadian to go number one in the NBA Draft. He’s also the second UNLV player to be selected with the top pick, an honor he now shares with retired forward Larry Johnson.

Many people who attended the draft were baffled when Bennett was first off the board. According to the DraftExpress mock draft, the 6’7″, 239-pounder was expected to go with the eighth pick. He definitely showed a good overall game by averaging 15.8 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 1.2 BPG, and shooting 38.3% from the three-point line. However, he wasn’t exactly considered number one overall pick material coming into tonight. CBS Sports NBA writer Zach Harper summed this up pretty good when he wrote:

Bennett is a big-time scoring prospect, but doesn’t exactly have the cachet of someone you’d expect taken with the top pick. Bennett has a really good face-up game with range out to the 3-point line.

nerlens-noelMany experts thought that the Cavaliers were leaning towards selecting either Kentucky center Nerlens Noel or Maryland center Alex Len. After all, Cleveland has a solid young nucleus with PG Kyrie Irving, SG Dion Waiters and PF Tristan Thompson. So adding a good defensive center would’ve given them another piece to building a future contender. However, they chose to go with Bennett, who’s expected to fill a hole at the starting small forward spot.

Nerlens was another surprise among the 2013 NBA Lottery selections because, not only did he not get taken first, but he also tumbled down to the sixth pick. The New Orleans Pelicans ended his freefall and quickly traded his rights to the Philadelphia 76ers for a package that includes All-Star guard Jrue Holiday.

Nerlens didn’t seem too dispirited about falling down the board as he hugged his mom and smiled at the podium after being picked. “I thought everything was in the air, so I wasn’t thinking I was the No. 1 pick,” the 7-foot shot-blocking specialist said.

victor-oladipoThe Orlando Magic avoided going with a center as well since they took Indiana guard Victor Oladipo with the second overall pick. After getting selected, Oladipo said, “It’s like a weight vest you took off after running five miles. It’s relaxing, man. But at the same time, you know it’s just getting started.”

The Washington Wizards kept Georgetown swingman Otto Porter Jr. in town by taking him with the third pick, while the Charlotte Bobcats took Oladipo’s Indiana teammate, PF Cody Zeller, with the fourth selection. Len rounded out the top five when he was taken fifth by the rebuilding Phoenix Suns.

Besides Noel, another surprising fall in the draft was former Kansas freshman guard Ben McLemore. Many mock drafts had him going within the top three picks, but he wasn’t taken off the board until the Sacramento Kings grabbed him with the seventh choice.

Georgia shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope went to the Detroit Pistons with the eighth draft pick. And Michigan guard/2013 Final Four hero Trey Burke was picked by the Minnesota Timberwolves at ninth, then traded to Utah for the 14th and 21st picks.

Lehigh’s C.J. McCollum was the first mid-major player to be selected as he rounded out the top 10. The Portland Trailblazers love the point guard’s sharp shooting, as McCollum averaged 23.9 PPG while shooting 51.8% from the three-point arc.

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.

College Basketball Power Rankings for Nov. 10th, 2012

On the eve of a new college basketball season, there is no unanimous number one team. However, the Indiana Hoosiers come the closest to being a preseason favorite since they’ve grabbed 43 of a possible 65 first place votes. But Louisville and Kentucky are also highly-rated coming into the 2012-2013 NCAA basketball season. Plus there are several other teams worthy of national title consideration, as you’ll see in our first college basketball power rankings.

1. Louisville Cardinals – Following a Final Four run, the Louisville Cardinals are back with a strong returning group of Peyton Siva, Russ Smith, Wayne Blackshear, Chane Behanan and Gorgui Dieng. With so much returning and some new faces in Montrezl Harrell and Luke Hancock, the Cardinals look poised to make anoher deep tournament run this year.

2. Indiana Hoosiers – The Hoosiers are coming off a Sweet 16 appearance and big regular season win over Kentucky last year. With Christian Watford and Cody Zeller returning to dominate the paint for Indiana, big things are expected in the upcoming season.

3. North Carolina State – Often a middle-of-the-pack ACC team, the Wolfpack should be leading college basketball’s most prestigious conference this year since they return both C.J. Leslie and Lorenzo Brown.

4. Kentucky Wildcats – The Wildcats added an eighth championship to their decorated basketball history after a 67-59 title game win over the Kansas Jayhawks. Unfortunately, they lose a massive amount of talent, including Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Anthony Davis. Coach John Callipari had no trouble reloading though after picking up top-flight recruit Nerlens Noel.

5. Ohio State Buckeyes – Ohio State has big shoes to fill after losing  Jared Sullinger and William Buford. However, Deshaun Thomas looks poised to break out this season while Aaron Craft should provide some steady leadership at both ends of the court.

6. Kansas Jayhawks – Few people expected the Jayhawks to make it all the way to the NCAA title game. Now championship expectations are there since veterans Jeff Withey and Elijah Johnson will combine with super freshmen Perry Ellis and Ben McLemore.

7. Michigan Wolverines – Following a disappointing second round exit in the NCAA tournament, Michigan returns with a strong nucleus that includes Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. Some of the incoming class could provide immediate help as well.

8. Syracuse Orange – Syracuse may have lost some key players, but they still figure to be a powerhouse with Brandon Triche, C.J. Fair, Michael Carter-Williams and James Southerland returning.

9. Florida Gators – The loss of Bradley Beal to the NBA is no doubt a huge blow to Florida. However, Patric Young is one of the best centers in college basketball and Kenny Boynton will certainly help ease the loss of Beal.

10. Duke Blue Devils – Maybe this isn’t Coach K’s best Duke team to open the season. But we certainly see a potential top 10 club with Mason Plumlee, Seth Curry, Ryan Kelly and Tyler Thornton returning as starters.