The 2013 National Basketball Association Draft is still over a month away. However, the second most important date leading up to June 27 is May 21. The NBA Draft Lottery will be conducted tonight, where the bottom 14 teams from last season will get a chance at landing the top pick in the draft. Without a consensus number-one pick, these five teams — listed by likelihood of obtaining the #1 pick, below — have a number of interesting options . . .
Orlando Magic – 25% The Magic have the odds in their favor, but that might not be enough. In the past 20 years, the team with the highest odds has only won the lottery once. Oddly enough, it was the Orlando Magic in 2004, and they ended up drafting their best player since Shaquille O’Neal in Dwight Howard. The Magic, reeling from the loss of Howard to the Lakers, need talent anywhere they can get it. But most importantly, they need a big man. Kentucky center Nerlens Noel would be the most likely candidate to head to Orlando. He has the most potential in the draft to turn into an All-Star caliber player, something the Magic lack, with a dynamic style of play that is similar to Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Pelicans. Noel’s torn ACL is less of a concern for NBA teams due to his youth — especially a team like the Magic who won’t be taking a championship-or-bust attitude into Noel’s rookie season. The Magic do have seven-footer Nikola Vučević on their roster and still on his rookie deal, and he turned in a great season last year averaging 13.1 points, 11.9 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game in 77 total games. Pairing the seven-foot Noel, who could play power forward, would present an impressive 1-2 punch down low for the Magic. With a little bit of GM work, Orlando could become a reputable team in 2013-2014, but a lot will hinge on the draft lottery tonight.
Charlotte Bobcats – 19.9% Like most teams who string together consecutive losing seasons, the Bobcats are promising in that they have several young players picked up in previous drafts, capable of blossoming into big-timers. 23-year-old point guard Kemba Walker turned in an impressive sophomore season last year averaging 17.7 points, 5.7 assists and 2.0 steals per game. Guard/Forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had a solid rookie season and will likely develop some of the weaker aspects of his game for next season. The Bobcats have a lot of holes and would start filling them by adding Noel. The Bobcats started a combination of Byron Mullens, Bismack Biyombo and Brendan Haywood last year; each either solely defensive or offensive-minded. Noel would step in and become the automatic go-to man down low and could pair well with the defensive-minded Biyombo, who has become known as B-Smack for his ability to block shots at a high rate. They would represent a strong defensive core, but their scoring would be weak down low to start games. Rather than take a chance on better offensive players like shooting guard Ben McLemore or forward Otto Porter, the Bobcats will hope guard Gerald Henderson can continue to develop his game along with Walker and Kidd-Gilchrist. Adding Noel wouldn’t bring them out of the lottery for the 2014 draft, but it would put them in the right direction. They could start counting the days until next years draft that will feature 18-year-old forward Andrew Wiggins, who just declared to play for Bill Self at Kansas. The 2014-2015 Bobcats (their name will have been changed to the Hornets by then), with what could be two more lottery picks, might be serious contenders. Similar to what we’re seeing with the Golden State Warriors now — an entire team built through the draft — could be the Bobcats fate.
Cleveland Cavaliers – 15.6% The Cavaliers have been adding top draft picks for several years now, and they might only be one more away from turning into a contending team. They could pair Noel with All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving and second-year guard Dion Waiters. With big men Anderson Varejão and Tristan Thompson, Noel could be introduced slowly, a necessity due to his ACL injury keeping him out of action until at least Christmas. Thompson and Noel would create a dynamic and versatile front-court, with Thompson bringing both an array of offensive moves and a stable defensive game and Noel clearing the boards and blocking shots while connecting on high-flying oops with Irving. If the Cavaliers earn the second or third pick, they shouldn’t worry too much; the 6′ 9″ Porter out of Georgetown would be a perfect fit. He has very few holes in his game and is a defensive nightmare; he would slot nicely into the three-spot. No matter where the Cavs fall in the draft, they’re going to add yet another piece that brings them slowly back from the grave that Lebron James dug for them three seasons ago.
New Orleans Pelicans – 8.8% They have a new name, yes, but they’re still the same old New Orleans squad that has little upside since Chris Paul left for Los Angeles. If the Pelicans somehow win the lottery Tuesday, they have two possible options. And unlike most teams, Nerlens Noel isn’t one of them. With the #1 overall pick from last season Anthony Davis in tow, the Pelicans couldn’t add Noel; they’re basically the same player, only Davis is significantly better. Their best options would be Otto Porter and Michigan point guard Trey Burke. Porter could do the same thing for the Pelicans as he would the Cav’s: slide right into the small forward position and play a consistent well-rounded game. He wouldn’t be as offensively useful on the Pelicans, though, without the presence of an elite point guard like Irving. Which is why the Pelicans might consider sliding point guard Greivis Vásquez into a reserve role and draft Trey Burke to captain the offense, or at least fight for the gig. Burke helped lead the Wolverines to an NCAA Championship appearance and could blossom into a great NBA point guard.
Minnesota Timberwolves – 1.7% The Timberwolves have a very low chance of winning the lottery, a win might make them a contender. The T’Wolves ended up in the lottery because of injuries to point guard Ricky Rubio and PF/C Kevin Love last season, both key players. So their 31-51 record is a bit misleading. With Rubio and Love, the T’Wolves have a 1-2 punch that can rival most in the NBA. What they lack, which they tried to fix by signing guard Brandon Roy last season, is a wing scorer to complement Love and draw defenders off him. The T’Wolves aren’t looking years down the road: they’re ready to win now. Which is why they would ignore the hype around Noel and draft Kansas shooting guard Ben McLemore. McLemore is terrific in the open court and can shoot and defend with the best of them. Working alongside an elite point guard like Rubio would allow McLemore to play the way he is best fit to play: off the ball.