The Missing Piece: Mid-Season Mock Draft

Published: February 16, 2013

Now that the All-Star break is here,  I thought it would be the perfect time to take a look at where the Hornets could find themselves this June on the night of the 2013 NBA Draft. To help me with this mock draft, I have sought out the opinions of talented TrueHoop writers, who will provide input on the direction other teams might go a couple of months from now. The order is based on current records. Without further adieu, here is your mid-season mock draft.

1. Charlotte Bobcats – Ben McLemore, SG, Kansas

From Spencer Percy at Queen City Hoops, “I am stuck between McLemore and Anthony Bennett with this pick now that Noel is out with a torn ACL, but I’m going to go with McLemore. Bennett projects as a SF in the league and Charlotte seemingly has their SF of the foreseeable future in MKG. What the Bobcats do not have is SG that can score in a multitude of ways — Ben McLemore would give them that. McLemore is a freak athlete that can change the style of a game on both ends of the floor. I think what I like most about his athleticism and ability to get off the floor as well as anyone in the nation is that he’ll give the Bobcats yet another player who can defend multiple positions on the floor (PG, SG, SF).”

Offensively, McLemore is a good shooter and has excellent range — He’s currently shooting 41.8 3FG%. If Charlotte continues to be the kind of team that wants to push the tempo then a guy like McLemore will fit the mold. He loves to run and finish with highlight reel dunks in transition. Again, one of the best leapers in the nation and extremely athletic.

2. Orlando- Nerlens Noel, PF/C University of Kentucky

The Magic pair Noel with Andrew Nicholson in what could be an elite front line sooner rather than later. As TrueHoop blogger Kyle Soppe pointed out,  “The backcourt is solid with Jameer Nelson/Aaron Afflalo sharing the ball handling duties and JJ Redick continuing his growth as a proficient scorer in this league, but the Magic lack an intimidating force on the interior. Glen Davis is a nice piece, don’t get me wrong, but he doesn’t have the upside of Noel, and with the Magic in rebuilding mode, the potential of Nicholson/Noel roaming the painted area is enticing.”

3. Washington- Anthony Bennett, PF, UNLV

Bennett is the best low post scorer in college basketball and with Wall and Beal dominating the ball on the perimeter, Bennett becomes a perfect player for those young guards to play off of over the next few years. If Bennett were just two inches taller, he would likely be the #1 pick in this draft, but his lack of prototypical size could worry some GM’s. What won’t worry them is his offensive game, which is advanced far beyond his years. He is a beast on the low post and can play all the way out to the college three-point line. He should be able to step in from day one and be an above average NBA scorer and might even be the favorite for Rookie of the Year.

4. Cleveland- Shabazz Muhammad, SG/SF, UCLA

Mallory Factor over at Cavs: The Blog says, “It would be a blessing if Muhammad fell to Cleveland at 4. With the recent injury to Noel, and the Cavs’ drafting of Dion Waiters last year, the obvious choice is the highly touted small forward.  Though Cleveland could easily take a center with this pick, the most glaring need is a natural swingman. After two years of the Alonzo Gee/Omri Casspi experience, it’s time to find a real starter.”

While slightly undersized at 6’6, Shabazz plays bigger and longer than his height thanks to his ridiculous wingspan (nearly 7 feet!) and his naturally strong body.  He’s a relatively good shooter, hitting 45% from the field, largely because of his ability to drive to the rim.  In addition, he has seen gradual improvement with his jump shot.  A tenacious defender, Muhammad plays a smart, NBA-ready style game that should make him a perfect fit for the Cavaliers’ possible 2013-2014 playoff run.

5. Phoenix- Victor Oladipo, SG, Indiana

Ryan Weisert of Valley of the Suns goes outside of the box with his pick, but defends it quite well saying, “Obviously fifth is a bit early to take Oladipo. He currently ranks 10th in Chad Ford’s Top 100, and is perhaps not even the best prospect on his own team. But Oladipo is perfect for the Phoenix Suns because all the qualities he exhibits are areas where the Suns are currently lacking. In terms of athleticism and leaping ability he’s right up there with Bennett and McLemore. He’s also a tenacious defender. The Suns need an infusion of both athleticism and defense quite badly. Oladipo is also a very efficient scorer. He’s ranks in the Top 10 in FG% nationally and has hit more than 50% of his 3-point attempts this year.

I passed over Smart and Carter-Williams because the Suns drafted Kendall Marshall last summer and have Goran Dragic signed to a long-term deal. Likewise, I passed over Zeller and Alex Len because the Suns already have Marcin Gortat. The choice came down to Oladipo and Otto Porter, and I believe Oladipo is a better player who can contribute in more areas.”

6. Sacramento- Cody Zeller, PF/C, Indiana

The Kings have a plethora of shoot first guys and a talented, but frustrating low post presence in DeMarcus Cousins. What they need to balance out their roster is a team first player who can effect the game without scoring. Enter Cody Zeller, a big man who compliments Cousins perfectly, as he can play in the high or low post and can run with the Kings guards in transition as Cousins trails for the secondary break.

Zeller entered the season as the likely #1 pick but has fallen a bit, not so much because of poor play on his end but because others have exceeded expectations. Zeller might never be an NBA All-Star, but it is almost impossible to imagine he will be a bust. He runs the floor better than any big man in the last several years and he has range out to 18 feet. His low post game is solid, as is his off-ball defense, but he is going to have to add significant strength to take his game to the next level.

7. New Orleans- Otto Porter SF, Georgetown

This pick comes down to four guys: Marcus Smart, Michael Carter-Williams, Alex Len, and Otto Porter. At this point they are all in the same tier, but Porter wins out because small forward is the biggest need on this Hornets roster. Porter has been one of the best all-around players in college basketball this season, averaging 15.3 points, 7.9 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.9 steals, and 1 block for a Georgetown team that plays at one of the slowest paces in the nation. He is one of the best mid-range shooters in the country and has added the college three to his arsenal, as he is shooting it at over 44% this year.

Porter would fit right in with the type of culture Monty and Dell are trying to establish in New Orleans, as he is a team first guy who gives 100% on the defensive end every possession. He’s going to need to put on 10-15 pounds to really compete night in and night out with the best wing players in this league, but his quickness and length should help him make high impact plays from day one. If he hits his potential, Otto Porter projects as a Paul George type of player, capable of greatly impacting the game on both ends of the floor, and would fit perfectly in a front court that features Ryan Anderson and Anthony Davis.

8. Minnesota- Marcus Smart, PG/SG, Oklahoma State

We all know David Kahn likes to collect guards, and the idea of him pairing the ultra-athletic Marcus Smart with Ricky Rubio just has to make him salivate. You can argue that Smart has the most upside in this entire draft, as the Dwayne Wade comparison’s are not crazy if Smart reaches his ceiling. He can get to the bucket at will, make plays for others, rebound, and he plays tremendous team defense. Like practically any other young player, he is turnover prone and is inconsistent from the outside, but once he improves those two parts of his game, the sky is the limit.

9. Detroit- Michael Carter- Williams, PG, Syracuse

Piston Powered writer Brady Fredericksen loves the idea of getting a playmaking point guard to pair with his young frontcourt duo of Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe. “With the recent acquisition of Jose Calderon, it appears the Pistons aren’t totally sold on Brandon Knight as its point guard of the future. Despite Calderon’s early success with the team, he isn’t the future at the position either. That’s where Carter-Williams, the tall and lanky playmaker from Syracuse, makes perfect sense — especially if he gets to spend a year playing behind Calderon next season.”

MCW is already one of the best floor generals in the country, and a year or two learning behind Jose Calderon could make him downright scary. He has tremendous court vision and a good enough offensive repertoire to make opposing teams worry. The concern, as it usually is with Syracuse players, is whether or not he can play man defense in the pros after playing so much zone in college.

10. OKC- Alex Len, C, Maryland

The Thunder finally get a true center with mobility that they can groom to take Kendrick Perkins spot when his contract expires. Len is probably a year or two from contributing, but he is no stiff. A frontcourt with him, Ibaka, and Durant could be downright unstoppable down the line because every one of those guys has elite length and athleticism.

11. Philadelphia- CJ McCollum, PG/SG , Lehigh University

The 76ers find the perfect guard to compliment All-Star Jrue Holliday right in their back yard as they select Lehigh star CJ McCollum with the 11th pick. McCollum, like Holliday, can play on the ball or off and gives the 76ers two dynamic scorers in their backcourt to play off of Andrew Bynum if he can get back to 100%.

12. Dallas- Trey Burke, PG, Michigan

Dallas’s roster is so bare that they can afford to go best player available, and in this case that player is the likely NCAA Player of the Year Trey Burke. The Michigan star has terrific scoring and playmaking instincts and is another guy who would have went way higher if he were just two inches taller.

13. Phoenix (from Lakers) – Rudy Gobert, C, France

Phoenix did not expect a lottery pick when they traded Steve Nash to the Lakers, but that could be exactly what they get, and if they do, look for them to grab a big man who could be a star 2-3 years down the line. Rudy Gobert is a tremendous shot-blocker with a 7’7″ wingspan that just needs some seasoning. Adding Oladipo earlier in the draft, and now selecting Gobert gives the Suns a defensive foundation and also adds some much needed athleticism for a team that likes to get out and run.

14. Charlotte (from Portland) – Willie Cauley-Stein, C, University of Kentucky

Charlotte both starts and finishes this draft lottery, and after taking a sure thing in McLemore #1, they go big risk, big reward with Kentucky’s Willie Cauley-Stein. The 7-footer was a top football recruit just two years ago before shooting up several inches and redirecting his focus to basketball. He is extremely raw, but has fantastic hands (he was a WR) and great defensive instincts. If a team is patient, Stein can evolve into a more athletic version of Tyson Chandler.

Draft Notes and Observations

– The Hornets sit at #7 right now, and the most likely scenario is they finish somewhere between picks five and ten. Ben McLemore is the prize in this year’s draft and now that Noel is down with an ACL tear, there really is nobody else in that top tier alongside him. It seems like there is a very large second tier that has between 6 and 10 guys in it, depending on how you feel about several prospects. Regardless, there should be a quality player on the board when the Hornets pick.

– Nerlens Noel will go top 5, and I would actually be shocked to see him fall out of the top 3. A guy is not going to plummet down the draft board because he might miss the first 2-3 months of the season. These teams are drafting a guy for the next 10-15 years, not the next 10-15 months. Think of it this way: If the Clippers would have known before the draft that Blake Griffin would miss his rookie year, would they still have taken him #1? Of course they would. It will be the same with Noel. He is such a superior prospect when compared to a guy like Shabazz Muhammad, that he will go ahead of him even in spite of the injury.

– While there are about 12-15 guys in this draft that could be All-Stars or quasi All-Stars by my count in this draft, there are very few who will make an impact in year one. Cody Zeller should be an immediate rotation player, as should CJ McCollum, Anthony Bennett, and Ben McLemore, but the rest will likely struggle out of the gate. Most of the guys are either too raw or lack an NBA body at this stage.

– The Hornets need to spend the rest of this season figuring out where they are going to play Austin Rivers, because in all likelihood there are going to be several intriguing point guards available when they pick. If Rivers is going to primarily play the point, then selecting one of those guys would create a logjam that would result in either last year’s pick or this year’s pick being wasted.

– The Hornets have the assets to move up a couple of picks in this draft if they identify a guy that they just have to get their hands on. Vasquez and Lopez both have tremendous value because of their contracts and the Hornets also have the cap space to take on a bad contract if that’s what it takes to move up a few spots. They could also move down and target a team with multiple picks if they see value in the middle of the round. Utah, for instance, has their own pick and Golden State’s. Let’s say those picks end up being #13 and #17. If the Hornets don’t love someone at 7, they can move back and get a combo like Archie Goodwin and Glenn Robinson III instead.

The Missing Piece is a weekly feature that you can find every Saturday only on For past issues in this series, click here.



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