Sketchy draft may not provide much relief

The NBA Draft provides a sense of optimism, an opportunity for the feeble to rise and rebuild into legitimate title contenders.

Sadly, the 2013 version probably won't provide many franchise players. At this rate, teams should be pleased just to get a solid rotation guy.

This year's draft, which will take place June 27 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., is considered one of the weakest, not just in recent memory, but maybe all time. Most scouts, pundits and smart people agree there is no guaranteed difference maker.

Last year's No. 1 overall pick, Anthony Davis, was seen as a can't-miss kind of guy.

This year, it's expected to be another Kentucky big man to go first overall. The difference is, Nerlens Noel is not quite the prospect his predecessor was.

If the Cleveland Cavaliers peg Noel with the first pick as predicted, he will join a young nucleus headlined by Kyrie Irving, who went No. 1 two years ago, Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters and Tyler Zeller.

Noel, much like Davis before him, is considered to be NBA ready on the defensive side of things. Offensively ... not so much. He is a project, but one worth the No. 1 pick.

The Cavs have Zeller and a returning Anderson Varejao to man the middle. Plus, adding a defensive force can't hurt a team which finished dead last in opponents' field-goal percentage last season.

"Our identity will be one of a tough-minded, physical, defensive-first group," said new/old head coach Mike Brown.

Noel would seem to fit that bill.

But make no mistake, Cleveland will trade this pick for the right price. What this is remains unclear, however. Would anyone move up and pay a steep bounty for a project with a major knee injury?

Oh, did we forget to mention Noel tore his left ACL in February? Yep, that's the No. 1 pick in this draft.

"We're really happy with his progress," famed Dr. James Andrews told ESPN. "He's several weeks ahead of schedule on his rehab. He's improving on a weekly basis. He has a completely stable knee. The bone plugs are completely healed into the bone. His muscle and weight is returning. He has had no setbacks at all."

The Orlando Magic, who finished with the worst record in the NBA this season, didn't win the lottery, but will settle for second. Again, the Magic would probably trade this pick if they had its druthers. If they stay pat, Kansas sharp-shooter Ben McLemore could be the guy. Talent-wise, he's near the top of this draft, but do the Magic, who acquired Arron Afflalo as the key principal in the Dwight Howard trade, have a spot for him? Afflalo has three years remaining on his contract and McLemore is too tantalizing a prospect to overlook.

The Washington Wizards are third, and if there seems like any mortal-lock team- prospect connection, it's here. Otto Porter, the Georgetown sophomore, is local and fills a huge need at the small forward spot. He would do well to play with John Wall and Bradley Beal the next decade as a great wing corps.

The Charlotte Bobcats and Phoenix Suns are next. Both have new head coaches, and both could take any position. They are in spots where best available player will work.

The New Orleans Pelicans, Sacramento Kings, Detroit Pistons, Minnesota Timberwolves and Portland Trail Blazers round out the top 10. The Philadelphia 76ers, Oklahoma City Thunder (via trade with the Toronto Raptors), Dallas Mavericks, drafting in the lottery for the first time in 13 years, and Utah Jazz polish off the non-playoff squads.

UNLV forward Anthony Bennett, Indiana guard Victor Oladipo, Michigan guard and national player of the year Trey Burke and intriguing prospect Shabazz Muhammad, a UCLA swing man, will be taken before the lottery teams finish.

Big men Cody Zeller of Indiana, Alex Len of Maryland, Pittsburgh's Steven Adams and Gonzaga's Kelly Olynyk all should be gobbled up in those first 14 slots.

One trend that has taken over recent drafts is not expected to impact the 2013 edition. There is not expected to be a large foreign presence taken early on.

Dario Saric, a 19-year-old forward from Croatia, was projected to the first foreign (didn't attend college in the United States) player taken. He withdrew from the draft at the deadline, so he's off the table.

Dennis Schroeder, a 19-year-old German point guard, Russia's Sergey Karasev, a 6-foot-7 small forward, and Lucas Nogueira, a 20-year-old Brazilian 7-footer, should be the first three foreigners to shake hands with Commissioner David Stern.

Six teams - the Cavaliers, Suns, Timberwolves, Jazz, Thunder and Atlanta Hawks - have two first-round picks. The Miami Heat, Golden State Warriors and Raptors have zero picks.

Those three teams may be the lucky ones.

This draft will net some teams some quality players, guys like McLemore, Oladipo and Burke. Those are legitimate professional basketball players in waiting, but nothing more.

Yet, their names will all be called on Thursday. They'll meet commissioner David Stern, then embark on the challenge of proving us wrong.