2013 NBA Draft: Drafting the Decent

Wrapping up Draft Week, let’s take a look back at 2013, the greatest collection of good-not-great mediocrity ever to go in the first round.

Sure, the first round produced three All-Stars—Giannis Antetokounmpo, Rudy Gobert, and Victor Oladipo—but this was otherwise in hindsight a draft that was so beautifully “blah”, so dreary in its mediocrity, and oh by the way included one of the worst first-overall-pick busts in NBA history (Anthony Bennett) that it goes down in history as a special sort of screwed up.

There are no second-round salvations to be had in this draft the way there were in previous drafts. Of all players to go in the second round that year, only Allen Crabbe and Mike Muscala are still active, and Crabbe is only technically so as he is currently without an NBA contract.

Muscala makes $2.28 million and only got into 572 minutes of action in 2020.

23 players have already cleared 10 Win Shares so far in the seven years since this draft. 13 have played at least a hundred games and posted .100 WS/48 or better—CJ McCollum is the dividing-line guy.

There are plenty of legit decent guys who went in this draft. Otto Porter, McCollum, Dennis Schroder, Steven Adams, Mason Plumlee…all solid contributors to NBA rosters even as they’ve never been All-Stars.

Nerlens Noel went sixth despite tearing his ACL in college, and he just posted a 20.4 PER backing up Adams in Oklahoma City. Not quite what you want from a lottery pick, but the guy’s an above-average reserve the same way Plumlee is that in Denver for Nikola Jokic.

But man, that top pick. Cleveland whiffed and whiffed hard on Bennett.

His minus-1.3 VORP is the second-worst such figure in the entire draft, behind only Ben McLemore, who finally posted a decent season in Houston in 2020 but still holds a minus-2.5 career VORP, worst out of all picks.

His .013 WS/48 is second-worst among anyone who played 100 NBA games from that draft class—only Lorenzo Brown, picked 52nd by Minnesota, was worse, posting minus-.007 WS/48 across 103 games over five seasons.

Speaking of WS/48, it’s worth noting that Giannis has led the league in that stat for the past two seasons but had such a slow start to his career that he’s still behind Gobert for the best overall figure (.203 for Gobert; .180 for the Freak) over a career.

Giannis had an almost hilariously bad rookie year when you consider what he evolved into as soon as the Bucks figured out how to unleash his talent.

A 10.8 PER for a big man is bad. A .031 WS/48 for a guy taller than 6’10” is practically unheard of. And negative VORP? Yep, Giannis clocked in at minus-0.2 for the 2013-14 season.

The moral of the story is never, ever judge a rook by his cover.

The only downside for Giannis is that he’s going to have to figure out how to shoot the 3 right quick, because he’s at risk of going down as one of the worst 3-point shooters ever to play the game once he gets enough attempts to qualify for such a leaderboard. He’s in Barkley/Westbrook territory.

Then again, it doesn’t matter if you can’t hit the 3 if you make 77.9 percent of your shots at the rim, as Giannis did last season.

But veering this runaway train back onto the rails, this draft still produced only two superstars. Oladipo could’ve been one, but his ruptured quad tendon looks to have completely sidetracked his career and it remains to be seen whether he’ll be able to resume the upward track that had him in two All-Star Games in 2018 and ’19.

It’s fascinating to look down that list in Basketball Reference and debate whether the guy drafted is actually good; just about the whole first round had a serviceable career and continues to do so.

But with rare exceptions (the three actual All-Stars plus arguably McCollum), nobody was great.