Winning the rights to the top overall draft pick in Tuesday’s NBA Draft Lottery might not cause franchise-wide celebration or bring a surge in ticket sales at the team’s box office.
The 2013 draft, more than any in recent memory, has no sure thing at No. 1.
“I think when you look at this year’s draft and you’ve got guys like (Indiana’s Cody) Zeller and (Duke’s Mason) Plumlee, (Kansas’ Ben) McLemore, you have players that can absolutely play immediately,” NBA scouting director Ryan Blake said this week. “What I think fans and media and even GMs, they want to pick that guy that is going to be your star franchise player, but if you look at what you’re getting, you can get really good players that can be playing in the league a long time.”
Orlando has the best chance to receive the No. 1 pick in Tuesday’s draft lottery draw, which includes the NBA’s 14 non-playoff teams with chances for the top picks weighted based on regular-season record.
The Magic posted a 20-62 record and will be guaranteed leaving with a top-four pick on Tuesday. They have a 25-percent chance of getting the top pick.
The Charlotte Bobcats, still in the process of interviewing head coaching candidates, are second (19.9 percent) and Cleveland (15.6), Phoenix (11.9) and New Orleans (8.8) round out the top five.
The top overall prospect is arguably Nerlens Noel, the Kentucky freshman recovering from a torn ACL with a projected return date around Christmas. Noel tore his ACL on Feb. 21 and his defined NBA skill — defense — isn’t going to create a queue of trade suitors. But he’s a young 19 and at 6 feet, 10 inches tall, brings obvious potential because of his athleticism and length. Best-case scenario: Noel is an instant protector of the rim with his penchant for blocked shots and rebounds and eventually evolves a modest offensive game.
“I feel I should be the top pick because I’m a great teammate, I really care about where I’m going to play and I’m going to give all my heart and 100 percent effort to get my team back to the promised land, which is where we all want to be,” Noel said. A shooting guard hasn’t been selected first since the 1975 NBA Draft, but David Thompson could be joined by Kansas freshman Ben McLemore, who some NBA executives describe as a “safe” choice. But McLemore, 6-5, 200 pounds with enough range to adjust quickly to the NBA game, didn’t stand out in any positive way at last week’s draft combine in Chicago.
“Just coming from nowhere, coming from nothing, just being able to have the opportunity get a No. 1 spot is just a blessing,” McLemore said. “I’m going to work for it the same way as him. He’s going to work for it, and I’m going to work for it. It definitely is neck-and-neck.”
Other potential top picks include two other freshmen — Michigan point guard Trey Burke and UCLA small forward Shabazz Muhammad.
The 2013 draft is scheduled for June 27 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.