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Five NBA Teams That Must Choose Wisely at the 2013 Draft

by Photo of Scott Davis

For these five teams, the 2013 NBA Draft is critical to their upcoming season

Five NBA Teams That Must Choose Wisely at the 2013 Draft

The NBA Finals only ended last week, but the next event in the NBA treadmill is already upon us: the Draft. Taking place at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn this Thursday, this year's NBA Draft, while considered a weaker draft class (don't they say this, like, every year?) is crucial to several teams. There are always the obvious picks in the lottery - sure-fire, solid NBA players that can practically be locked into the top five or ten picks. But every draft has its hidden gems, its sleeper picks that prove their worth when they get on the floor.

For some teams, the draft is just adding another player - a guy to come off the bench, a young player stuck to the bench, a piece to throw into a possible trade. However, for these five teams, the 2013 NBA Draft may play a critical part in their upcoming season, so they must choose wisely.

1) Cleveland Cavaliers:

Number one picks don't come around very often. For the Cleveland Cavaliers, who finished with the third worst record in the NBA, it's their second go-around in the last three years. 2011 yielded them superstar-in-the-making Kyrie Irving, the franchise's current cornerstone and hopeful building block. However, they perhaps misused the number four pick that year by choosing Tristan Thompson -- a big man who can score well (although inefficiently) and rebound decently, but doesn't look like a huge impact player. Including this season, they have three years to convince Irving to stay in Cleveland (a situation Cavs fans are all too familiar with). They haven't made many strides in the win department, they don't have a supremely talented team, and they're not an attractive destination for free agents, so they must draft well. The number one pick is a huge opportunity to grab an impactful player, a future partner-in-crime for Irving. A future superstar like Kyrie is tough to grab, but they have a chance with the top pick, and losing it could mean wasting another season on Irving's rookie deal.

2) Washington Wizards:

The Washington Wizards are in a similar situation to the Cavaliers. They've been stuck in the Lottery doldrums for the past five seasons and haven't made any major improvements from season-to-season (although they finished with about a .500 record after this year's All-Star break). John Wall and Bradley Beal (and possibly the disappointing Jan Vesley) represent the faces of the franchise, but like the Cavs, the Wizards have just two season to convince Wall it's worth staying in Washington. Unlike the Cavs, though, the Wizards have a fairly hefty payroll and an incomplete roster. They have several years of big money tied into Emeka Okafor, Nene, Trevor Ariza, and the now-amnestied Andray Blatche. The Wiz have $65-million committed to ten players this season, not including the #3 draft pick in this year's draft, and free agents to fill out the roster.

As mentioned, the Wizards weren't awful in 2013 when they had a healthy roster. However, thus far, Wall, and the front-court of Okafor, Nene, and Ariza haven't proven capable of staying healthy. Likewise, minus the development of Wall and Beal (and they both have high upsides), this current core won't do much better than the seventh or eighth seed at best in an improving Eastern Conference. This year's draft is crucial to the Wizards to find another future star to bolster the team. They have halfway decent surrounding talent, and given the development of Wall, Beal, and the #3 pick, the Wizards could become a playoff team to be taken seriously.

3) Minnesota Timberwolves:

The Minnesota Timberwolves must be nearing desperation at this point. They haven't made the playoffs in almost ten years, and they've lost potentially competitive years to a slew of injuries. Kevin Love has a player option in two years and has already grumbled about moving to greener pastures; Ricky Rubio, who wasn't all that fond of going to Minny in the first place, has a team option in 2014 and a qualifying offer in 2015; Nikola Pekovic has a qualifying offer the Wolves need to meet this season; Andrei Kirilenko has a player option this season. We can see where this is going. Basically, the Wovles' most talented players may all be fleeing soon. Minnesota has lost out on multiple high draft picks by choosing duds like Johnny Flynn, Wesley Johnson and Derrick Williams while trading good players like OJ Mayo and Ty Lawson. Simply said, the Wolves need to find a stud in this year's draft with the ninth and 26th picks. They could've been a playoff team last season, but injuries tore down their hopes. Some good players and some good luck could reverse their fortunes.

4) Oklahoma City Thunder

How could it be so important for the Western Conference's first place team need to draft well? This year's playoffs made it pretty obvious for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Kevin Durant, while one of the NBA's best players, looked out-matched carrying the entire team on his back. As unstoppable of a scorer as he is, Durant was given play-making duties when Russell Westbrook went down with a torn meniscus and couldn't handle the load. After that, the shelves seemed kind of bare. Serge Ibaka's productivity came and went, Kevin Martin disappointed, and the Thunder's remaining roster consisted of specialty players or guys incapable of carrying the load. This year, the Thunder were granted a gem by scooping up the 12th pick in the draft, courtesy of the James Harden-Rockets trade, that sent the Raptors' old pick from the Rockets to OKC. They also have their own 29th pick to try and find a worthwhile player. In some respects, the Thunder took a step back after trading Harden - this year's 12th pick could be a way to replenish some of the team's depth and talent. Kevin Martin is a free agent and they have long-term salary commitments to their core. The West's best team could get even better.

5) New York Knicks:

Though some people might wave over the New York Knicks' 24th pick in the 2013 Draft, it actually has great, but subtle importance to the team. The Knicks, as often discussed, are the oldest team in the NBA, with just one player under the age of 25, so there is little room for internal growth. However, the team is capped out with huge salary commitments to the trio of Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire, and Tyson Chandler. This offseason, the Knicks may lose two important players in J.R. Smith and Chris Copeland who both might chase bigger money elsewhere. The Knicks are considering scenarios where they bring in old friends and other, later picks for this year's 24th, but it may not be worth it. There are a few potential NBA-ready players available in the late first round, and the Knicks could use another good player to both boost their current roster and brighten the future. But they'll probably just end up trading him because they're the Knicks.

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