Four years later, how should the 2013 NBA Draft have played out based on what we know now?
Hindsight is 20-20, which allows us to see how poorly teams did in the 2013 NBA Draft. While each class is going to have its share of mistakes – Darko, Bargnani, Olowakandi – the 2013 draft was exceptional in that regard. If it were a test, then teams flunked.
If they could do it over based on what we know now, how might things have gone differently? That is the purpose of this piece – the first in a series of lottery re-drafts leading from 2013 to the present. The further back we go the clearer things are, so the 2013 re-draft will have the most information to draw on.
Some quick ground rules: teams are drafting in the re-draft primarily on quality of player, more so than positional needs. The potential for players to continue improving is evaluated as of today, not then, and more weight is obviously given to proven contributors. We are also including notable undrafted players who were eligible for the 2013 draft.
Finally, this draft is following the actual selection order based on trades made before and during draft night. That means that Philadelphia will be selecting a player at number six, not New Orleans – we can’t know how trades were influenced by players available, or when they were agreed to, so we’re doing our best here.
With that being said, let’s start with the Cleveland Cavaliers, picking first for the second time in three years (and soon to be third in four); let’s suffice it to say they went in another direction with their pick this time around…
1. Cleveland Cavaliers
Original Pick: Anthony Bennett, UNLV
Re-draft Pick: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Greece (originally selected 1-15)
This is the easiest pick for the re-draft, as the best player from the 2013 draft is far and away Giannis Antetokounmpo. Not even a lottery pick in 2013, the “Greek Freak” has ascended every season he has been in the league. Starting with his rookie season, Antetokounmpo has increased his per-game averages in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks – every single season.
The 6’11” rising star is not only the best player on the Milwaukee Bucks, he is one of the best players in the entire league. No other player from this draft has MVP potential, but there is every reason to expect Antetokounmpo will challenge for the award in the future. This very postseason he may be taking yet another leap in his development.
And can you imagine the Cavaliers’ fortunes if instead of selecting draft bust Anthony Bennett (one of the worst whiffs in NBA history) they had selected Antetokounmpo? Perhaps he would have been at the centerpiece of a Kevin Love trade (allowing the Cavaliers to retain Andrew Wiggins), or conversely he could be running out there right now alongside King James, already sporting a ring on his finger.
2. Orlando Magic
Original Pick: Victor Oladipo, Indiana
Re-draft Pick: Rudy Gobert, France (1-27)
The second overall pick in this re-draft is another player originally selected outside of the lottery (not exactly a ringing endorsement for NBA front offices). Rudy Gobert is in contention this season for Defensive Player-of-the-Year, Most Improved Player, and an All-NBA selection. Arguably the best rim protector in the league, Gobert has made an offensive leap forward this season as well.
The “Stifle Tower” would have been a worthy heir to Dwight Howard in Orlando, a hyper-athletic two-way force in the middle. There is also a small chance that the Magic would have traded Gobert for a Serge Ibaka rental, as they did with Victor Oladipo last summer. Oladipo is a fine player, but drops well below second in the re-draft.
3. Washington Wizards
Original Pick: Otto Porter, Georgetown
Re-draft Pick: Otto Porter, Georgetown (1-3)
This is one of only a few times a team lands on their original pick in the re-draft, but Porter makes the most sense for Washington this time around. While C.J. McCollum may be the more accomplished player at this point in his career, Porter still holds upside and plays a more valued position in the league.
McCollum also would have been a poor fit for a Washington team that had just selected Bradley Beal and John Wall in recent drafts. Porter fit and still fits a need for the Wizards, and he is turning into a true two-way starter for the team.
4. Charlotte Hornets
Original Pick: Cody Zeller, Indiana
Re-draft Pick: C.J. McCollum, Lehigh (1-10)
Cody Zeller has turned into a fine player, a starter on a squad that is in playoff contention every season. But McCollum is a special offensive player, one who can take over a game at any moment. His ability to score from anywhere on the court – and often no matter who is guarding him – is a skill much stronger than Zeller has in any area.
The Hornets could have paired McCollum and Walker in the backcourt, a move that would give Charlotte many of the same issues that Portland deals with defensively right now – and an offense that was equally as dynamic.
5. Phoenix Suns
Original Pick: Alex Len, Maryland
Re-draft Pick: Nerlens Noel, Kentucky (1-6)
A number of big men are in consideration for the Suns here, including New Zealand center Steven Adams and potential relatives Mason Plumlee and Cody Zeller. But Len is not one of them, as he has failed to take a step forward in four seasons in Phoenix.
Nerlens Noel spent his first season injured, but after that has been a strong defensive force with a unique skillset, using quick hands and instincts to generate a number of steals and blocks. Outside of the center-stocked roster of Philadelphia, Noel may be even further in his development than he is now.
6. Philadelphia 76ers
Original Pick: Nerlens Noel, Kentucky
Re-draft Pick: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Georgia (1-8)
While trading for the pick that became Nerlens Noel fit Philadelphia’s best player available strategy, swapping out a center for a defensive-minded off-ball guard would have unlocked the 76ers’ roster. KCP would be a terrific fit on Philadelphia today, and he would have been an equally strong fit as a draft pick in 2013.
7. Sacramento Kings
Original Pick: Ben McLemore, Kansas
Re-draft Pick: Victor Oladipo, Indiana (1-2)
The true winner of a series of re-drafts is the Sacramento Kings organization, as they are given a chance at redemption on each and every one of their draft-day blunders. Ben McLemore has a nugget of potential still buried deep, but he has contributed little to the Kings. Oladipo is not going to reach the lofty heights that Orlando and others saw for him four years ago, but he is a two-guard who can score and play tough defense. That’s a lot more than Sacramento has had in years.
8. Detroit Pistons
Original Pick: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Georgia
Re-draft Pick: Dennis Schröder, Germany (1-17)
The next best players on the board are centers, but Detroit is one of the last teams to need a center – especially at that point in time, with young centers Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe fighting for playing time already. Schröder is an inconsistent point guard, but he fills a position of need for the Pistons and at times has flashed elite speed and scoring ability. At other times he looks lost, but there are no perfect players remaining.
9. Utah Jazz
Original Pick: Trey Burke, Michigan
Re-draft Pick: Steven Adams, Pittsburgh (1-12)
The Jazz swap out one international center for another in this draft, as they are not going to be blessed with Rudy Gobert late in the first round. They also avoid Trey Burke, who shot up draft boards after a run to the NCAA title game with Michigan – and shortly thereafter shot down any hopes he would be an All-Star level point guard. Adams has had a relatively down year, but he is an elite defensive big with offensive upside and could fill much of the role Gobert has for the Jazz.
10. Portland Trail Blazers
Original Pick: C.J. McCollum, Lehigh
Re-draft Pick: Mason Plumlee, Duke (1-22)
In an interesting twist, Plumlee lands in Portland a few years earlier in this re-draft, as McCollum is long gone. Without two defensive sieves in the backcourt, Plumlee’s rim protection limitations are less damaging, and his offensive skillset – including underrated passing skills – are able to shine.
11. Philadelphia 76ers
Original Pick: Michael Carter-Williams, Syracuse
Re-draft Pick: Robert Covington, Tennessee State (undrafted)
Our first undrafted player shows up here at pick 11, with Robert Covington being drafted by the same team that would later sign him to a very team-friendly deal. The 2013 class has three players among the top-25 players in the league in ESPN’s RPM stat: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Rudy Gobert, and Robert Covington. The quintessential 3-and-D player, Covington is a strong pick here.
12. Oklahoma City Thunder
Original Pick: Steven Adams, Pittsburgh
Re-draft Pick: Cody Zeller, Indiana (1-4)
Zeller is not the player that Adams is, but he is solid and consistent. He sets strong screens, plays hard, and shows up every night. There is value to having such a player, and he would fill a role easily for the Thunder. The Hornets fell apart this season when Zeller wasn’t available, speaking to an underrated quality of the big man.
13. Boston Celtics
Original Pick: Kelly Olynyk, Gonzaga
Re-draft Pick: Gorgui Dieng, Louisville (1-21)
Dieng is one of those players whose value is hard to nail down. On the one hand he is well-rounded and consistent, filling his role well. On the other he lacks an elite skill or significant upside. Playing in the shadow of Karl-Anthony Towns means Dieng is rarely given room to fly. But he does play hard on defense and has developed a solid mid-range jumper, and beats out the other candidates for this spot – including Olynyk.
14. Minnesota Timberwolves
Original Pick: Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA
Re-draft Pick: Andre Roberson, Colorado (1-26)
Muhammad is an underrated player, a strong scorer off the bench with a versatile game inside the arc and the athleticism to fill a role on defense. Whether he stays in Minnesota this offseason or goes elsewhere, he will be a valuable contributor. But Roberson has proven to be one of the league’s very best wing defenders, and in the right environment his cutting and rebounding outweigh his limited scoring ability. He rounds out the lottery re-draft.
Honorable Mentions: Kelly Olynyk, Gonzaga (1-13), Seth Curry, Duke (undrafted), Matthew Dellavedova, Australia (undrafted), Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA (1-14), Tony Snell, New Mexico (1-20)
Three quick takeaways come up when analyzing the lottery re-draft. First, teams missed at the top. Anthony Bennett is out of the league just four years later, and he went first overall. Giannis Antetokounmpo was not selected until 15th, and Rudy Gobert lasted until 27th. Was this more a gross mis-evaluation of talent, or players landing in the right environment to excel?
Secondly, teams missed all over the lottery. Of the fourteen picks in the re-draft, seven came from outside the lottery, including one player who went completely undrafted in Robert Covington. Players such as Trey Burke and Ben McLemore are barely hanging on to NBA rosters at this point, and yet they were exciting lottery picks four seasons ago.
Finally, we’ve learned that the Rookie-of-the-Year award means nothing. Michael Carter-Williams filled out the stat sheet for a Philadelphia team disinterested in winning games, winning the award. He has gone on to flame out in Philadelphia, tank the Milwaukee Bucks, and finished fourth in the point guard rotation for a Chicago club with one of the worst collections of talent at that position in the league. Tyreke Evans, Emeka Okafor, and Carter-Williams are all recent winners who did not follow through on their upside.
Tune in next week as we tackle the 2014 NBA lottery re-draft. In 2013 the best player was taken 15th overall; is No. 15 in the 2014 draft going to provide the same value?