The 2013 NBA draft is still quite a ways off, but it’s important for teams to prepare for the future; especially those that have struggled mightily this year. The Washington Wizards, Charlotte Bobcats, New Orleans Hornets, and Cleveland Cavaliers have established themselves as the bottom tier of the NBA, all with win records under 25% so far this season. While not every team can have the number 1 pick, there are a handful of prospects that are ready to compete in the NBA. So who should go where? It’s far too early to predict a draft order, but here are some of the best college players of 2013 and where they’re needed in the NBA.
Shabazz Muhammad (SG): Washington Wizards. Muhammad is a pure scorer. Washington has the worst field goal percentage of any team and fittingly produces the fewest points per game. They have potential budding around the rim in Seraphin and Booker, led by Nene and Okafor, but they lack a reliable wing. Beal can put up numbers, but it takes him an awful lot of shot attempts to get there. Shabazz Muhammad is a threat from anywhere on the floor, which is good because the Wizards shoot a paltry 32% from downtown. Not to mention his play making ability. As it stands, the Wizards have no stand out player to go to in “final shot” situations. Tell me, Washington fans, how many overtimes have the Wizards won this year? The arrival of Muhammad would take tremendous pressure off of Point Guard, John Wall, and assemble a formidable backcourt duo. Shabazz Muhammad has the most overall talent of any pure scorer in the 2013 draft class, the Wizards need a go-to player that can knock down shots; it’s the best fit.
Anthony Bennett (PF): Charlotte Bobcats. When Bennett was choosing a college to take over, I was crestfallen when he scratched Oregon (my alma mater) off his short list. Bennett has dominated for UNLV. He is the definition of an aggressive, slashing Forward. He is nearly unstoppable in the lane, but he has the range to score outside of it too. Most importantly, he’s a finisher. Charlotte is 29th in assists this season. Kemba Walker is a capable Point Guard, and Ramon Sessions is a more than capable backup, so where’s the disconnect? The Bobcats need a player that is always poised to capitalize. Bennett has good hands and a killer instinct. He also provides sorely needed second-chance points with his rebounding skills. He is slightly undersized, but he can get in, get the bucket, and get out an impressive 56% of the time. And if you’ve been reading my stuff, you know how much stock I put in the Stretch Four that can draw defenders out of the lane. Bennett is the offensive presence Charlotte needs to succeed.
Ben McLemore (SG): New Orleans Hornets. I like this kid a lot. The Hornets are 29th in free throw attempts this year and are in desperate need of players that can get to the line in a tough situation. McLemore scores a high percentage of his points in transition or from penetrating. He is also one of the most athletic players in his class. His vertical allows him to create his own shot where no shots are available. Although he is a great scorer, he is less than polished. With an elbow that makes Rondo’s form look textbook, he would benefit astronomically from learning alongside Eric Gordon. McLemore is also a solid defender. Like I said, the guy is athletic. He has arguably the best defensive footwork of his draft class and excels at beating the screen. He is ideal for blocking penetration. In combination with Anthony Davis, their opponents may have to settle for more jumpers than even D’Antoni would approve of. With a little practice finishing with contact, McLemore would be exactly what New Orleans needs in a rookie.
Nerlens Noel (C): Cleveland Cavliers. Hear me out on this. Cleveland is #2 in personal fouls and dead last in blocked shots this season. As amazing as Varejao has been on the glass this year, he’s not a polished defender. With the sell-high trade rumors surrounding the Brazilian big man, a defensive upgrade may be in order. Nerlens Noel is 7’0 tall AND STILL GROWING. As a college athlete, he has averaged 3.5 blocks per game. He is incredibly long in the paint, which obviously lends itself to defensive play, but he can also finish with either hand under the rim. He won’t be stepping out to take 3s or anything, but he is very difficult to defend. You think he might be able to succeed with Kyrie Irving feeding him? Yeah. Most importantly though, if you want to keep your opponent from scoring, put a monster in the post. Nerlens Noel is the rare breed that Cleveland needs to stay competitive defensively.