Lost in the drama of the NBA finals is the excitement of the draft, the place where it all starts for the next generation of superstars. For many teams, draft night is when they select a franchise cornerstone for the next 15 years, or when they fill a crucial need that will elevate them to contenders. For most players, draft night is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream, the reward for their endless hard work and perseverance.
Here is a look at the top prospects of the 2013 NBA draft:
1. Cleveland Cavaliers- Nerlens Noel, C, Kentucky
In Noel, Cleveland has their big man of the future. It is clear that Anderson Varejao does not have a future in Cleveland, and Noel can come in and more than fill his shoes. The freshman from Kentucky has all the tools to be a rim protector at the next level, and would be able to finish easy baskets on pick-and-rolls with Kyrie Irving. His offensive game is still raw, and he needs to bulk up to bang with NBA bigs, but if there are no medical red flags from his torn ACL, Nerlens Noel is the best option for Cleveland. Noel has a higher ceiling than Porter and Oladipo, and if Noel's injury forces him to sit for most of the year, the Cavs will have a chance at the tremendous talent at the top of the 2014 draft.
2. Orlando Magic- Ben McLemore, SG, Kansas
McLemore is a great talent that the Magic simply cannot pass on at number two. He has above-average athleticism, good offensive instincts, and a picture-perfect jump shot. There are concerns over his lack of aggressiveness and the "killer instinct", but McLemore has the potential to be a perennial all-star. Orlando might also consider Trey Burke here, but they might be better off taking the best available talent and filling their hole at point guard through trade.
3. Washington Wizards- Otto Porter, SF, Georgetown
The third pick is a gift for the Wizards. They have the pieces needed to make the playoffs next year, and Otto Porter will be the perfect fit on this Wizards team that is finally turning it around. Porter is a do-everything small forward: he has length, a high motor, excellent basketball IQ, an improving jump shot, and outstanding defensive abilities. Porter can play the role of Kawhi Leonard for the Wizards, guarding multiple positions, knocking down open shots, and making smart passes and cuts.
4. Charlotte Bobcats- Anthony Bennett, PF, UNLV
Bennett has one of the highest ceilings of anyone in the draft. He is extremely skilled and versatile offensively and can create mismatches; however, there are questions about his toughness, health, and defensive abilities. The Bobcats need players who can score the ball, and Bennett would provide them with a much-needed offensive punch.
5. Phoenix Suns- Victor Oladipo, SG, Indiana
Oladipo is probably the player NBA GMs love most in this draft. He has an excellent motor and incredible work ethic, and has improved greatly every single year of college. Oladipo has the winning attitude that can transform ball clubs and positively affect everyone in the locker room, and Phoenix would love to begin their rebuilding through him.
6. New Orleans Hornets- Alex Len, C, Maryland
After dropping a little down draft boards after his injury, Len's stock recently shot back up, and there were rumors that he was being seriously considered as the No.1 pick. Len is a mobile and efficient big man that can score and protect the rim, plays smart, and his soft touch allows him to finish with either hand around the basket. Although he is inconsistent and needs development, Len has a ceiling as high as anyone's in this draft.
7. Sacramento Kings- Trey Burke, PG, Michigan
The Kings need help everywhere, but most of all, they need an identity. Right now, the Kings look like an ensemble of lost, trigger-happy, ball-dominant players that cause more problems off the court than they solve on the court. Burke is the best talent available here, and he can provide much-needed leadership to the Kings. His confidence, swagger, and winning mentality can finally bring Sacramento a face of the franchise (Boogie Cousins is just a huge question mark at this point), something the city desperately need after the franchise's near-move to Seattle.
8. Detroit Pistons- Shabazz Muhammad, SF, UCLA
Muhammad provides the Pistons a scoring threat from the wing to pair with Monroe and Drummond down low. Muhammad has slipped down draft boards dramatically over the course of the year, and there are questions about not only his game but also his character. If the Pistons are willing to take a chance on him, the potential is definitely there.
Caldwell-Pope is in the late-teens to early-twenties range in most mock drafts, but he has "2013 Terrence Ross" written all over him: a prototypical NBA wing that can run, jump, shoot, and finish above the rim. He fills a need for the Wolves, and would benefit greatly from receiving passes from Ricky Rubio. Look for KCP's stock to continue to rise dramatically.
McCollum has drawn comparisons to Damian Lillard, and why wouldn't Portland take a chance on him after Lillard's tremendous success? McCollum is less polished than Lillard was last year, but he will get the chance to learn from Lillard and come off the bench. McCollum will provide much-needed offense to the Portland bench, who averaged only 18 points last season.