Re-drafting the 2013 NBA lottery: Giannis Antetokounmpo the new No. 1 pick
A lottery pick is a valuable commodity in the NBA. It not only allows teams the exclusive right to sign a young talent but it also empowers them to do so on the cheap. Still, that doesn’t guarantee a quality return on investment, particularly upfront.
Only one of the top 14 picks in the 2013 draft rates as even an average NBA player this season based on Player Efficiency Rating. Six lottery picks are shooting below 40 percent. One has not played at all. Two (both selected in the top three) have drawn headlines for the fact that they should really be logging minutes in the D-League, while several more would likely be helped by a D-League assignment. Even more alarming, nine of the top 14 picks failed to make the rookie team for the Rising Stars Challenge at All-Star Weekend.
With so many top picks underwhelming and a few later picks exceeding expectations, it seemed a fitting time to re-examine the 2013 draft. Assuming that NBA decision makers knew all that they know now, how would they go about selecting players from this year’s woeful rookie class? We took a stab at the new lottery below. Feel free to chime in with your new version of the first 14 picks in the comments section.
Note: For the sake of simplicity, all draft-day trades will still be reflected in the re-draft order. It’s certainly possible that the Timberwolves wouldn’t have traded the No. 9 pick to the Jazz for No. 14 and No. 21, having evaluated Shabazz Muhammad more thoroughly, but walking back that deal and others would then begin to unwind status quo rosters in other ways.
1. Cavaliers – Giannis Antetokounmpo, SG
Original pick: Anthony Bennett
By no means am I ready for initiation into the Cult of Giannis, but such a remarkable 19-year-old prospect at a position of weakness for the Cavs might be too good to pass up. Anteotkounmpo clearly benefits from substandard competition. There aren’t any immediate stars of this bunch, and thus it seems prudent for Cleveland to make a play for a young, versatile contributor who could well become the best talent of this class.
2. Magic – Michael Carter-Williams, PG
Original pick: Victor Oladipo
The most productive rookie is also one of the most promising. Carter-Williams checks many of the same boxes as actual No. 2 pick Oladipo, though at 6-6 the current Sixer (No. 11 pick) presents an unusual challenge for defenses. He hasn’t figured out all the best ways to use that height to his advantage yet, but already Carter-Williams is slippery enough offensively and pesky enough defensively to project as a franchise cornerstone.
3. Wizards – Nerlens Noel, C
Original pick: Otto Porter Jr.
It says a lot about this rookie class that a player who hasn’t logged a single NBA minute this season would be projected to go third in a re-draft. To be fair, it’s a little bit more complicated than that. Oladipo would be the value pick here if not for his redundancy with guards John Wall and Bradley Beal, and Noel is a prize of a prospect despite his season-derailing ACL tear. Washington has needs elsewhere, but the opportunity to add a long-term defensive piece like Noel is well worth a prime draft pick — particularly in comparison to the other options on the board.
4. Bobcats – Victor Oladipo, G
Original pick: Cody Zeller
Playing alongside Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson would relieve some of Oladipo’s ball-dominant tendencies, allowing the 21-year-old guard to pick his spots and channel his energies more productively. He still has all the tools necessary to be an impact perimeter defender, and, unlike most every other Bobcats wing, he could soon help space the floor. He fits the franchise’s win-now bent, he complements Walker and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist more effectively than Gerald Henderson does and he could offer Charlotte a touch of needed (and did I mention marketable?) dynamism.
5. Suns – Tim Hardaway Jr., SG
Original pick: Alex Len
The most intriguing prospect left is easily Trey Burke, but drafting a third point guard behind Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic would be an overstretch of the “best player available” framework. Instead, Burke’s college teammate Hardaway Jr. — who went 24th to the Knicks — would fit in nicely running the court for the Suns. He’s not a special talent and doesn’t address any particular need, but Hardaway’s value lies in playing safely and productively within himself.
6. 76ers (via Pelicans) – Trey Burke, PG
Original pick: Nerlens Noel
A better passer than advertised who could be a lot of fun running an offense at Philadelphia’s breakneck pace. Burke has been the second-best rookie this season, but situational specifics and the long-term potential of other prospects nudge him down to No. 6 here.
7. Kings – Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG
Original pick: Ben McLemore
McLemore is still available, but I like Caldwell-Pope as a similar value and slightly better fit. There’s a chance that McLemore could be an exceptional player if he focuses on improving his off-the-dribble game, but even then it seems unlikely that he’d have a chance to grow in that way alongside DeMarcus Cousins, Isaiah Thomas and Rudy Gay. Caldwell-Pope is just as interesting a player but better suited to a more restrained role. That he projects as a better perimeter defender than McLemore is also of high importance to the Kings, who field enough minus-defenders to give coach Mike Malone a perpetual headache.
8. Pistons – Ben McLemore, SG
Original pick: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
McLemore works fine for the Pistons, who first and foremost need capable NBA players with three-point range. The 20-year-old guard is certainly that, with the aforementioned potential for growth if given room and freedom to operate.
9. Jazz (via Timberwolves) – Anthony Bennett, SF
Original pick: Trey Burke
Bennett’s play hasn’t justified being the ninth pick. But he possesses talent and skill, buried beneath a tough start, a crisis of confidence and poor conditioning. Utah, far more so than Cleveland, is in a position to put Bennett on the floor and allow him to play through his mistakes in hopes that he could turn out to be a nice complement to Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter in the frontcourt. It’s hard to imagine Bennett’s rookie season going much worse than it has, but the guy has played 380 NBA minutes. That’s not enough precedent to doom his career or overwrite the promise he showed in college.
10. Trail Blazers – Steven Adams, C
Original pick: C.J. McCollum
I could just as easily see the Blazers sticking with McCollum here, but why not opt for a clear upgrade over the Joel Freeland/Meyers Leonard reserve tandem? Adams could be groomed for the Robin Lopez role with the potential to be an even better rebounder.
11. 76ers – Alex Len, C
Original pick: Michael Carter-Williams
Drafting Burke and Len just doesn’t have the same appeal as adding Carter-Williams and Noel, but such is the nature of the hypothetical re-draft for a team that drafted as well as the Sixers actually did. Still, they could do worse than Len. It’s hard to get a bead on Len’s potential because he’s played only 152 minutes, but even in coming off injury he moves well for a 7-footer. There’s room for him to find a place as a quality contributor in a pick-and-roll league. The fact that Len has some solid base-level skills as a 20-year-old makes him all the more promising.
12. Thunder – Cody Zeller, PF
Original pick: Steven Adams
Oh, dear. With Adams and Len off the board and McCollum a needless addition with Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb in tow, Zeller could well be the most sensible pick from a shallow pool of candidates. He hasn’t been effective as a rookie. Stronger opponents have made life difficult for Zeller inside, and he hasn’t managed to catch a groove with his mid-range jumper. That said, there’s a world of difference between operating in Charlotte’s cramped offense and feeding off Kevin Durant. Zeller could give Oklahoma City another rotation-worthy big man in time.
13. Celtics (via Mavericks) – C.J. McCollum, SG
Original pick: Kelly Olynyk
A nice scorer who can play off Rajon Rondo and beside him. That’s not a bad get for the Celtics at this position, particularly when McCollum is a better creator than he’s been given the chance to demonstrate this season.
14. Timberwolves (via Jazz) – Mason Plumlee, C
Original pick: Shabazz Muhammad
Plumlee is a difference-maker with his energy and athleticism. At the very least, he’d be more useful than Muhammad for a team facing pressure to win immediately and choosing between playing undersized (Dante Cunningham, Ronny Turiaf) or overmatched (No. 21 Gorgui Dieng) players at backup center.