When the Cleveland Cavaliers won the 2013 NBA Draft lottery and were awarded the No.1 pick on June 27, it seemed inevitable that they would take Nerlens Noel. The Kentucky freshman was widely regarded as the top prospect in this year’s class and was expected to form a top, young core with Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters. With the draft just a few days away, though, it’s still unclear who the Cavs will take.
Noel suffered a torn ACL during the season and could miss a few months in his rookie year. He still may have the highest upside of any player in the draft, but a few more candidates have emerged as possible top picks.
Otto Porter and Alex Len seem to be the biggest threats to Noel at No.1. Both prospects are almost guaranteed to be taken within the first few selections, but their stock may have improved, since May’s NBA Draft Combine.
In his second year at Georgetown, Porter was one of the best two-way players in the country. He averaged 16.2 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.7 assists. The forward was also one of the best defenders in the Big East. In a year where the class is considered to be weak by many, Cleveland might decide to go with Porter, who is one of the most NBA-ready players in the draft.
Len is quickly approaching Noel as the top center in the draft. He averaged 11.9 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game in his one year at Maryland, which is comparable what Noel did at Kentucky. Len won't be coming of a major injury, and Alex Kennedy of HoopsWorld reports that former Cavaliers are pushing for the organization to take the former Terrapin. Len's biggest issue may be the ankle surgery that he underwent in April.
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Ben McLemore is projected by many experts to go near the top of the draft. However, with Irving and Waiters on the Cavaliers roster, he’s most likely to be taken by the Orlando Magic at No.2.
Noel still remains the favorite to go at No.1, but it’s not a foregone conclusion like some may have thought. Below is a first-round 2013 NBA Mock Draft for all the teams in the lottery.
1) Cleveland Cavaliers, C, Nerlens Noel, Kentucky
2) Orlando Magic, SG, Ben McLemore, Kansas
3) Washington Wizards, SF, Otto Porter, Georgetown
4) Charlotte Bobcats, C, Alex Len, Maryland
5) Phoenix Suns, SG, Victor Oladipo, Indiana
6) New Orleans Pelicans, PG, Trey Burke, Michigan
7) Sacramento Kings, PF, Anthony Bennett, UNLV
8) Detroit Pistons, PG, Michael Carter-Williams, Syracuse
9) Minnesota Timberwolves, SG, C.J. McCollum, Lehigh
10) Portland Trailblazers, C, Steven Adams, Pittsburgh
11) Philadelphia 76ers, C, Cody Zeller, Indiana
12) Oklahoma City Thunder (via Toronto Raptors), C, Kelly Olynyk, Gonzaga
13) Dallas Mavericks, SF, Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA
14) Utah Jazz, PG, Dennis Schroeder, Germany