Point/Counterpoint: Who should go first in the NBA Draft?

BY DI STAFF | JUNE 26, 2013 5:00 AM

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Victor Oladipo, Indiana

If Victor Oladipo’s play last season at Indiana didn’t impress you, I don’t know what will.

Now, sure, Indiana didn’t win the NCAA title; the Hoosiers didn’t even make the Final Four. But that doesn’t mean Oladipo shouldn’t be the number one pick in the draft.

He turned into one of the best players in college basketball last year, averaging more than 13 points per game and becoming the Big Ten’s top defensive player. He turned into a role player for the Hoosiers, and I believe that he will turn into a role player in the NBA.

I don’t think that Oladipo will be a big name in the NBA right away. But the way he progressed into one of college basketball’s elite in just three seasons shows he has incredible work ethic.

The Cleveland Cavaliers currently have the No. 1 pick in Thursday’s draft. The Cavs haven’t had a true star since LeBron James left. This means they need to create a solid group of core players who lead their team. Their pick needs to be someone who Cleveland can add to its already strong core group. Oladipo can be that man.

Oladipo improved so much over the last three years at Indiana, and there is no reason to think he’s reached his full potential. 

— by Ryan Young

Nerlens Noel, Kentucky

Nerlens Noel may not be the best player in the draft, but he is the best fit for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Cleveland lacks defense; it ranked 25th in points allowed per game last season and let opposing teams shoot 47.6 percent from the floor — good for last in the league. Noel can help that. He averaged 4.4 blocks per game and 2.1 steals.

Noel is also efficient on offense, averaging 10.5 points per game on a 59 percent average from the field. 

Noel just fits the Cavaliers better. Cleveland already has its superstar of the future with Kyrie Irving, and it just drafted shooting guard Dion Waiters last year — not to mention their current center, Anderson Varejao, is 30 years old and has recently been troubled with injuries.

Despite the talent of these two guards on offense, they severely struggle on the defensive end. Noel measures in at 6-11 and has a 7-4 wingspan. By drafting him, teams will think twice before venturing into the paint. 

This draft class isn’t going to change the league like the 2003 draft, but it should provide solid role players for teams in need of them. Noel falls into this category. I don’t expect him to be a superstar, but I expect his name to be called first.

— by Jacob Sheyko

Otto Porter, Georgetown

The Cleveland Cavaliers have the first overall selection in Thursday’s 2013 NBA Draft — at least for now. If Cleveland keeps the pick, it should take Georgetown standout Otto Porter.

Porter is one of the top prospects in the 2013 draft. He’s a small forward capable on making an immediate impact in the NBA. The Cavaliers have a solid backcourt combination in Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters. Their frontcourt isn’t in bad shape with Tristan Thompson, Tyler Zeller, and Anderson Varejao manning the 4 and 5 spots in the rotation.

Porter has the attributes of an ideal small forward at the next level. His size, athleticism, defense, and all-around smooth game will fit a Cleveland squad that has struggled on both ends of the court.

Cleveland was 19th in the NBA in scoring offense, averaging 96.5 points per game. Porter has perimeter skills that can help take pressure off Irving and Waiters. Porter can help Mike Brown’s team space the floor, thus opening up the court for Cleveland’s dynamic backcourt.

Porter can have an even bigger impact on defense. Cleveland allowed 101.2 points per game last year — which is abysmal. Porter’s 6-9 frame, 7-1 wingspan, quickness, and defensive awareness is something Brown can utilize. The Cavaliers lack a lock-down perimeter defender, and Porter fits the bill.

Porter is the most NBA-ready prospect among this year’s prospects. Cleveland needs an immediate impact player if it seeks to return to the postseason. Guys such as Nerlens Noel are great prospects, but they need time to develop in order to be an effective NBA player. Porter doesn’t need time to develop; he can play right now.

— by Dominick White

Ben McLemore, Kansas

When David Stern steps up to the podium Thursday night to announce the first pick of the 2013 NBA Draft, he will announce Kansas point guard Ben McLemore’s name amid the boos that will most certainly echo through the hall.

It doesn’t matter what team ends up with the first pick — whether it’s Cleveland or the Wizards — McLemore is a player who will bring a high basketball IQ and versatile skills to any lottery team.

It’s true that McLemore has struggled at times, but the St. Louis native came alive at times and delivered big performances that go beyond his 15.9 points and 5.2 rebounds averages per game.

Arguably, McLemore’s biggest game of the 2012-13 season came against in-state rival Kansas State. The Wildcats were No. 10 in the country then, but that didn’t scare McLemore. The freshman exploded for 30 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 steals in a rout. He dropped 30-plus points against Iowa State and West Virginia, too.

But McLemore’s youth and sporadic scoring is a cause for concern, even though the 20-year-old has proven himself ready to make an immediate impact in the NBA. He leaves Kansas as a finalist for the Wooden Award — it’s clear that his best basketball days are ahead of him, and those days could come soon, depending on where he lands and the role he’ll take.

If anything, McLemore has proven more than such players as Nerlens Noel just by playing an entire season and avoiding injury. The NBA is a guard-oriented league. Anthony Davis, another “true center” similar to Noel, found little success in New Orleans. It takes a versatile guard to create space for big men, and McLemore can be that guard for any team willing to call his name.

— by Matt Cabel

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