The NBA Draft is the league's annual paean to tomorrow. Fans barely get an opportunity to celebrate the champions of last season before watching the stars of the future go through the sorting hat ritual. Coverage of the 2013 derby begins Thursday at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN, with the first pick coming shortly after 7:30. SBNation.com will, of course, provide comprehensive coverage.
To help you prepare, we've compiled this primer on the event. Enjoy!
WHO WILL GO NO. 1?
No one knows! This is actually pretty rare in the annals of the NBA Draft. There is almost always a clear-cut, consensus choice at this point, if not in May. Nerlens Noel is certainly the favorite to go No. 1, but repeated reports have suggested the Cleveland Cavaliers, who have the No. 1 pick for the second time in three years and third time in the past decade, are undecided and looking at trades to get out of the choice. (In fairness to Cleveland, the trades that have been leaked out would get the Cavaliers a very good veteran.)
Noel is a big man out of Kentucky. He was injured late in the Wildcats season and may not play until December, adding some concern to his status as a top prospect. He's an excellent shot blocker and projects as a top defensive big man. His offense, however, currently leaves a lot to be desired. Also, he has a killer haircut. Better than Norris Cole, not quite to the level of Iman Shumpert.
Other options at No. 1 appear to be Alex Len, Ben McLemore and Otto Porter.
DOES THIS DRAFT SUCK?
Yes, in a way! There are no surefire stars. There may be no stars period. It happens. But there is some solid depth and plenty of intrigue. Because of the unsettled nature of the lottery, we may see a bunch of trades. Also remember that free agency begins on Monday -- this could turn into a week or two of heavy movement as teams look to prep for stricter salary cap and trade rules. The Mavericks, for instance, have openly discussed trading out of their lottery spot.
But yes, it's unlikely we'll have many, if any, All-Stars from this draft, and that does put a damper on the whole thing. All we can hope for is fun during the event itself.
WHO ARE THE BIGGEST SLEEPERS?
We had a stunner at No. 4 in 2012 as Cleveland took Dion Waiters, leaving Thomas Robinson and Harrison Barnes on the board. This year, two guards that could end up going surprisingly high are C.J. McCollum of Lehigh and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope of Georgia. Both are good shooters and versatile. McCollum in particular is seen as a Damian Lillard doppelgänger, mostly owing to backcourt impurity (they are combo guards) and small-school heritage. KCP is a more traditional two-guard with great peripheral numbers. It's hard to imagine KCP going any higher than No. 7, and the same can likely be said of McCollum. But we'll see.
WHICH TOP-RATED PROSPECT COULD SLIP?
Recent mocks have shown Kansas two-guard Ben McLemore slipping down. My thinking is that there is so much trade potential that if McLemore gets beyond No. 4, someone will move up to nab him. Therefore, I'll go with two guys who should probably land in the top five but could fall toward No. 10 or beyond: Victor Oladipo and Anthony Bennett. Oladipo, a two-guard from Indiana, is plausible at No. 2 and No. 5. But if the Magic and Suns pass on him, you could see him get to Minnesota at No. 9. I struggle to see the Wolves passing on him. For Bennett, who hasn't been able to work out for teams due to injury and doesn't have the best reputation when it comes to effort, No. 3 (Wizards), No. 4 (Bobcats) and No. 5 (Suns) are seeming fits. But if those teams go with other prospects, we could see the UNLV star drop into the late lottery. Oh, also, either of those guys could go No. 1. This is a weird draft.
ARE THERE GOING TO BE INTERNATIONAL PLAYERS?
Yes! Alex Len is Ukrainian, but played at Maryland. He'll be in the lottery but won't technically count as an international draft pick. The first true international pick could be Sergey Karasev, widely expected to be in consideration to Detroit at No. 8. Other lottery internationals could be French center Rudy Gobert and German point guard Dennis Schroeder. Greek national Giannis Antetokoumpo/Adetokunbo (his name is a mystery!) will totally destroy David Stern and everyone on the ESPN panel but Fran Fraschilla and Chad Ford when he's picked in the first round. (Oh my heavens, can we get Chris Broussard to say this name? Like now?) Lucas Noguiera of Brazil will also likely go in the first. His nickname is "Bebe," and yes, the joke writes itself.
WHAT WILL BE THE DOMINANT STORYLINE ON FRIDAY MORNING?
Invariably, the looks of one of the prospect's "dates." This is the internet age, after all. But trades of actual NBA players will get high billing, as will Cleveland's decision at No. 1 and the highly-rated prospect that falls the most. Shabazz Muhammad, who could go No. 7 to, uh, No. 13 or beyond may also get some attention. (He was recently the top high school prospect in the country.)
There's one other storyline worth mentioning: this is David Stern's final draft as commissioner. So get your boos out now, New York.