For the Tim Duncans, Kevin Durants and Kobe Bryants of the world, where you land in the NBA Draft doesn’t matter. In these rare cases, things like “situation” and “fit” have little outcome on a career. But players destined for stardom from day one are few and far between. The 2013 NBA Draft has none of these types. In a draft full of role players where few guys even have all-star potential, the right situation, the right coach or even just the right opportunity can be the difference between a guy spending most of his career overseas and a guy becoming a 10-year NBA vet. Here’s a look at the five players who landed in the best situations and five guys who might want to run back to their dorm room after their rookie season.
Five Best Situations
5. Mason Plumlee-Brooklyn Nets: The draft’s home team taking one of the most athletic big men in the entire draft was pretty much an afterthought after Brooklyn made a blockbuster deal Thursday night, acquiring Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce from the Boston Celtics. Plumlee is a well-coached, legit 7-footer with incredible athleticism and great potential defensively and he now gets to learn behind one of the truly great power forwards of all-time in Garnett. He may not play right away, but the experience he’ll gain from being on a contending team with a young, relatable coach in Jason Kidd and a slew of all-star veterans will be invaluable and could lead to a long career in the NBA.
4. Tim Hardaway Jr.-New York Knicks: Opportunity knocks. With Jason Kidd gone, J.R. Smith‘s return in doubt and just a lack of talent at guard in general for the New York Knicks, Tim Hardaway Jr. will get minutes. BIG minutes. And almost immediately. The 6’6″ shooting guard has a tremendous chance to earn a starting role on a playoff team almost immediately, assuming head coach Mike Woodson keeps an open mind. Not many rookies can say that, particularly guys taken as late as Hardaway was. If he can step and play well, we may be looking at a dark horse Rookie of the Year candidate.
3. Tony Snell-Chicago Bulls: Tom Thibideau is one of the three or four best coaches in the NBA. He is a creative defensive mind and he gives his best players minutes, regardless of contract or experience, and he is terrific at developing young talent. We saw that with former late first-round pick Jimmy Butler last season and we may see it again with 6’7″ wing Tony Snell in 2013-14. The Chicago Bulls did not shoot the 3 well last year and Snell is an immediate remedy for that, having shot nearly 40 percent from 3 during his two seasons at New Mexico. That, in addition to his immense potential on defense, should earn him a nice role in Chicago.
2. Kelly Olynyk-Boston Celtics: There wasn’t a more talented, polished offensive big man taken in the 2013 NBA Draft than Gonzaga’s Kelly Olynyk, who proved to be one of the best players in college basketball last season. The Boston Celtics have a gutted roster and after clearing the dust left from Thursday night’s trade, Olynyk may find himself as a go-to guy for the Boston Celtics if he’s able to get a chance right away. An elite point guard can be an opportunistic big man’s best friend and Rajon Rondo is still in the fold. Olynyk’s polish in the post and ability to step outside and knockdown shots should make him a favorite target of Boston’s volatile franchise player.
1. Otto Porter-Washington Wizards: John Wall was terrific after the All-Star break last season and his backcourt mate, Bradley Beal, is one of the most promising young shooting guards in the league. The Wizards have a ton of talent up front as well, with veteran bigs like Nene, Emeka Okafor and Kevin Seraphin in the mix. What they lacked was a small forward. Enter Otto Porter. The 6’9″ Georgetown product is the most complete player in this draft, doing it all on defense in particular with the versatility to guard multiple positions. Porter was both the best talent available and a position of need for Washington at third overall and he likely starts right away. Considering the talent in place, he may be the last ingredient for the Wizards in terms of becoming a playoff team.
Five Worst Situations
5. Michael Carter-Williams-Philadelphia 76ers: What exactly is going in Philly? The Andrew Bynum trade has become an unmitigated disaster and for the second straight season the 76ers have traded away their lone All-Star (first Andre Iguodala, now Jrue Holiday). Michael Carter-Williams is a good finisher at the rim and his best asset is his ability to make plays as a passer with his terrific court vision. But it’s a point guard’s worst nightmare to play on a team with nobody to pass to and the 76er roster is now completely devoid of talent. Defenders will make him hit jumpers and he will struggle.
4. Anthony Bennett-Cleveland Cavaliers: Tim Duncan. Shaquille O’Neal. LeBron James. Hakeem Olajuwon. Anthony Bennett? The Cleveland Cavaliers took an undersized power forward No. 1 overall and now Bennett must welcome all of the pressures that come with that title. Will he be able to handle it? Cleveland has a talented roster which includes a young power forward in Tristan Thompson who the Cavs already have a lottery pick invested in. Will they try and make it work with both as starters and force Bennett out of position? Whatever they decide, taking the 6’8″ Bennett first overall was both surprising and perplexing when you consider the poor fit and the fact that he wasn’t the best player on anyone’s big board.
3. Tony Mitchell-Detroit Pistons: It’s been a long, tough fall during the NBA Draft process for 6’9″ power forward Tony Mitchell. Many consider him the best pure athlete in the draft (dude’s got a higher vertical than Blake Griffin) and it looked like he was a lock to be a mid first-rounder at one point. Questions about his motor led to a tumble into the second round. Normally this would be the place where one would say “use it as motivation, prove everyone wrong,” but realistically where is he going to find minutes on a front line that features both Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe?
2. Cody Zeller-Charlotte Bobcats: Charlotte is where NBA careers go to die. Michael Jordan has proven to be completely inept as an NBA executive and despite numerous trips to the lottery, the franchise still lacks a real “face” type talent. Cody Zeller is a nice player and the fit isn’t horrible on paper. But with so many teams in the lottery needing a big man, you kind of have to feel for Zeller, who at one point was considered a lock as the No. 1 overall pick and has now been banished to NBA hell.
1. Ben McLemore-Sacramento Kings: The best pure talent in the NBA Draft ends up on the league’s most volatile roster. We know McLemore can shoot it and he of course is also a terrific athlete. But is he the type that will assert himself in games? If he doesn’t possess that personality trait, he will be eaten alive by the likes of DeMarcus Cousins and Tyreke Evans. Besides his passiveness, one of the knocks on McLemore was the fact that he struggles creating his own shot. Playing next to Tyreke Evans, a guy with a reputation as me-first type at point guard, it is going to be extremely difficult for McLemore to get off to the type of start as a rookie many expect him to.