Although the 2012-2013 college basketball season has yet to formally tip-off, the rush to see which prospects have a shot at not just making the leap to the NBA but thriving there has already begun. Much like the 2012 draft, this crop of players are primarily American-born or will at least be playing their next year of basketball with a major college program.
From returning players looking to build on a successful campaign to a crop of highly-touted freshman recruits looking to make the most of their time in the NCAA, this class features plenty of intriguing talent that will be sure to captivate both fans and pundits alike.
Bearing in mind that a sleeper could always emerge, a star could face an injury or a young player could struggle mightily, I have compiled a very early 2013 mock draft featuring description of just what each potential first-rounder brings to the table.
Note: Because of the activity of this offseason, it felt necessary to speculate on the draft order instead of using the 2012 order. These are obviously just speculations.
Although the 2012-2013 college basketball season has yet to formally tip-off, the rush to see which prospects have a shot at not just making the leap to the NBA but thriving there has already begun. Much like the 2012 draft, this crop of players are primarily American-born or will at least be playing their next year of basketball with a major college program.
Charlotte will be improved next season thanks to the drafting of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and the signings of Ramon Sessions and Brendan Haywood via amnesty, but this team is still a long way from being a competitive ball club. In an improved Eastern Conference they should still finish with the worst record and thus gain another chance at the first overall pick.
The Bobcats could use a young center to pair with Bismack Biyombo and Cody Zeller is coming off of a freshman season where he led Indiana back to relevance by averaging 15.6 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.2 blocks per game. He dominated the paint, patrolled the boards and played with surprising maturity.
Zeller is an incredibly agile big man, capable of running the floor and protecting the rim. He has a solid, refined post game that he can use to exploit his size and is physical on the block despite his relatively slight build.
Sliding between the four and five positions, Zeller uses his surprising quickness and length to score on stronger players and is excellent at carving out rebound position. He should continue to improve as the Hoosiers’ featured star for the 2012-2013 season.
A young core of Biyombo, Kemba Walker, Kidd-Gilchrist and Zeller would give Charlotte a good, nucleus to build around for the future, with Zeller’s skills and two-way impact leading the team and complimenting MKG’s intensity and grit.
After dismantling the core that led them to three consecutive ninth seeds, the Houston Rockets tried desperately to acquire a star big man this summer, ultimately failing to net any frontcourt player of note besides Omer Asik, who they shelled out $25 million over three years to sign.
Even with Asik, Houston should not pass on the chance to draft Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel, a dynamic shot-blocking center much in the vein of last year’s top overall pick Anthony Davis. Noel is a unique athlete for his size and even if it meant swallowing Asik’s questionable contract, the seven-footer simply has too much potential to let slide.
Defensively, Noel’s length, timing and leaping ability make it easy for him to alter any shot. He can protect the post or work as a help defender when one of his teammates is beat off the dribble, rotating over to help and force a difficult shot. He has the quickness to cover multiple positions if necessary and thanks to his size can dominate both the offensive and defensive glass.
His offensive game is incredibly raw, he can finish at the rim but is not a face-up or low post threat consistently. He has made some strides but will need to work hard to develop into as talented of a player on the offensive end as he is on the defensive end.
Still, Noel’s ability to make an impact, both guarding the basket and even the perimeter at times, along with his tremendous upside makes him a difficult prospect for a franchise that has been searching for a signature big man to ignore. With a year of development at the highest collegiate level, Noel has a chance to be the NBA’s next dominant center and his phenomenal above the rim play will get him drafted second overall.
One of the most highly-touted recruits in the nation coming out of high school, the versatile wing player will be a leader for an extremely talented UCLA squad that will contend for a national title next season. Muhammad is the heart of the team, and with his pure scoring ability he will likely spend just one season as a Bruin before he departs for the NBA.
The Orlando Magic are a club in flux after dealing Dwight Howard for pennies on the dollar and while Muhammad will not fix their hole in the middle he is easily the best player available for the Magic to begin rebuilding their roster around.
As a senior, Muhammad averaged 29.1 points and 5.3 boards per game for Bishop Gorman. He boasts an incredibly polished offensive game and is a threat to score in a myriad of different ways. He has excellent range on his jump shot and is capable both of pulling up off the dribble and moving without the basketball.
He is a good slasher and is capable of finding his way to the rim and breaking down a defense thanks to his quickness and ball skills. In addition, Muhammad also has a surprisingly consistent post game that he can use against smaller perimeter players. A skill like this is integral because it allows him to make an impact even when his shot is not falling consistently.
Defensively Muhammad may not be a shut-down defender, but he puts in a tremendous effort and can seal off penetration and keep his man in front of him. In addition, he is capable of crashing the glass from the perimeter and making his presence felt on the boards to boot.
Muhammad plays with outstanding poise and maturity and will be a huge part of Orlando’s attempts to bring their team out from under the shadow of Dwight Howard.
Alex Poythress is not the best player available for the fourth overall spot, but he fills a positional need for New Orleans at small forward and is still a tremendous talent. Poythress averaged 30.4 points, 7.2 boards and 1.8 blocks per game in his senior season at Northeast High School while logging time at the three and four positions.
Poythess is the quintessential NBA wing player, he’s long and athletic with good size at 6’8”. He is one of the more explosive players in this year’s class, and while the Hornets have Al-Farouq Aminu at the small forward spot, they could certainly use some depth on the wing.
Poythress has good range on his jumper, making him a consistent floor spacing option and he can both create off the dribble and shoot off the catch. He is very quick in the open court and can finish at the rim consistently in transition as well.
He is not great with the ball in his hands, but can move off the basketball to create an open look and is also a very solid rebounder and shot-blocker for a player of his size and at his position. Defensively, he has the quickness to seal off penetration and be a real nuisance on the ball with his length.
Forcing the issue and making bad decisions can sometimes be a problem for Poythress as it is with many young players, but he could potentially be a good NBA starter and for a New Orleans team with their core in place this is a risk worth taking.
The Cleveland Cavaliers have their franchise player in Kyrie Irving and a number of young pieces like Dion Waiters, Alonzo Gee and Tristan Thompson, but with the team potentially looking to deal Anderson Varejao they will likely be in the market for a center to anchor the paint.
Steven Adams, a New Zealand native who will be attending Pittsburgh in 2012-2013, is a very physical, aggressive big man who can fill Varejao’s role as a rebounder and hustle player while still being capable of developing the finesse aspects of his game.
Adams, who stands 6’11”, uses his size to dominate the boards and control the tempo of a game. Unlike some other center prospects in this year’s class, Adams is already very strong and physical, not needing to add a significant amount of weight to his frame.
He does not have a particularly refined game, but he can hit the occasional midrange shot and is excellent at carving out position in the paint and finishing at the rim. In addition, Adams runs the floor extremely well, thriving in an uptempo game and beating opposing big men down the court.
Like many center prospects heading into college, his offensive game leaves something to be desired, but if he can develop a reliable hook shot and maybe another post move or two he could be a consistent double-double threat at the professional level.
With the departure of Antawn Jamison, the Cavs need to shore up their frontcourt and drafting a defensive-minded five to rebound and guard the post is the perfect situation for them.
Kyle Anderson has been touted as a true five-tool player capable of lining up at any position on the court, and the Detroit Pistons, who look to have their frontcourt solidified for years to come so long as Andre Drummond pans out, would be wise to add some perimeter depth with the addition of the UCLA product.
In his final season with St. Anthony, Anderson averaged 18.1 points, five boards and 2.7 dimes per game while impacting the game in a myriad of different ways. Anderson has an excellent handle and great court vision, making plays in the halfcourt, handling the ball on fast breaks and finding open teammates off of penetration.
He is not a great perimeter shooter, but he can hit from midrange and is capable of attacking the rim off the dribble. Because of his skill set he is a nightmare matchup as he can use his height against smaller guards and his quick first step against bigger, slower-footed forwards.
Anderson is not as dynamic of an athlete as many players who will be taken in the first round, but he has a clear role on a team as a playmaker that can exploit his unique position and keep a team’s offense running smoothly both in transition and the halfcourt.
The Pistons have Jonas Jerebeko and aging veterans Tayshaun Prince and Corey Maggette at small forward, but considering that Detroit is trying to build a young playoff contender, it makes sense that they snag such a highly-touted prospect with the sixth overall pick.
After a freshman season where he saw little time on the court playing behind John Henson and Tyler Zeller, James McAdoo figures to have a much more featured role on the Tar Heels next season.
He averaged an unspectacular 6.1 points and 3.9 rebounds on 43.4 percent shooting, but showed flashes of tremendous potential and is the perfect forward for the Washington Wizards, who could use a young piece at the three or four spots.
McAdoo is not a great scorer from inside but he can hit midrange shots and elevate to finish at the rim. He is an outstanding athlete and will make a perfect running mate for John Wall and Bradley Beal as they look to push the pace and run at every opportunity.
Defensively, McAdoo is a solid rebounder who uses his leaping ability to sky for tough boards and is a very strong man-to-man defender. He has the strength to protect the block but the lateral quickness to also guard on the perimeter on a switch or a shooting big man.
McAdoo is not a true power forward due to his small stature but does not have the skill to instantly play the small forward spot in the league, so it will take some time for him to find his place. Still, there’s no denying the two-way impact of McAdoo and for a Washington team looking to join the postseason conversation he will be a great rotation piece.
The only position the Sacramento Kings do not have a logjam at is the small forward spot, where the team used Tyreke Evans last season and still desperately needs to find a permanent solution.
Tony Mitchell is coming off of a very strong first season at North Texas in which he averaged a double-double and figures to continue to improve as the team’s leader and focal point.
Although he did not exactly play against elite competition, Mitchell’s numbers of 14.7 points, 10.3 boards, 1.6 assists and three blocks per game on 56.7 percent shooting from the floor and 43.9 percent shooting from three-point range are certainly something to behold.
The 6’8” combo-forward would likely project to be a small forward in the NBA and thanks to his shooting ability will be able to keep a defense honest.
Mitchell is a true high-flyer that can make plays both offensively and defensively thanks to his athleticism. He is a dynamic shot-blocker and rebounder as well as a player capable of finishing consistently at the rim. He should mesh with the high-octane, fast paced Kings instantly.
He will need some time to acclimate to the higher competition level, but Mitchell is an incredibly versatile player who fills a positional need for Sacramento and can grow alongside their young players already in place.
The Portland Trail Blazers are one of the youngest teams in the league and have nowhere to go but up. Still, they could use a little help on the wing and may look overseas to Croatian prospect Dario Saric, an extremely polished forward that will be a very strong offensive player once he enters the league.
Playing for KK Zagreb in the Croatian A1 League, Saric averaged a solid 14.1 points, 9.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.7 steals per game and at just 18 years old still has a tremendous amount of untapped potential.
Saric is 6’10” but has an incredibly polished game reminiscent of much smaller players. He can score from anywhere on the court including the three-point arc and is great working with the ball in his hands.
He has surprising vision and knows where to find his teammates to create high percentage looks. Saric could potentially spend time in the point-forward role for Portland, handling the ball and making plays at the top of the key.
Saric can also use his size to score out of the post or even attack other forwards off the dribble due to his deceptive quickness. He is not an absurd athlete but he moves well on the basketball court and is capable of consistently creating his own shot.
Defensively, Saric is not particularly impressive as he is a bit too weak to guard the typical NBA power forward, and a little slow to cover the speedier small forwards, but his offensive production offsets his defensive troubles.
Portland has Wesley Matthews at the two currently, but could potentially slide Batum to shooting guard to make room for Saric, as the 2010 FIBA Europe U-16 MVP is one of the most intriguing players who could be available in the 2013 draft class.
Although they made some moves to improve their frontcourt this offseason by dealing for Samuel Dalembert and drafting John Henson, the Milwaukee Bucks still are missing a dominant center since dealing Andrew Bogut for Monta Ellis. Because of that, size is the main need for the Bucks and one prospect likely to be on their radar is French big man Rudy Gobert.
Gobert’s 2011-2012 stats for France’s Cholet are not particularly impressive, 4.7 points, 3.7 boards and 1.3 blocks, but that was in just 13.7 minutes of playing time per contest.
Gobert has phenomenal size at 7’1” that he can use to impact the game on both ends of the court. He is a gifted shot-blocker that can protect the basket and deter opponents from attacking the paint while also playing effective help defense to boot.
He is a very mobile big man that moves well on the court and is improving as an offensive player, developing a more consistent post game he can use to exploit his tremendous frame and length.
Rebounding is a strength of Gobert’s as he can simply sky above opponents and snag tough, contested boards in traffic. While he isn’t the strongest big man and could be pushed around during his time in the NBA by more physical post players, there is no denying his potential as a defender and rebounder.
He could stand to add some semblance of a face-up game, but Gobert has a high basketball IQ and would give Milwaukee the ferocious inside presence that they were lacking at the end of last season.
The Phoenix Suns have done an admirable job of retooling their roster with Steve Nash’s departure, but still have a bit of a hole at the small forward position. The team will likely miss the playoffs in their first rebuilding year and will look to add a talented wing player like Archie Goodwin out of Kentucky.
In his final high school season Goodwin averaged 25.8 points per game, making shots from everywhere on the court and proving very difficult to contain. He has good range on his jumper and incredible quickness that allows him to drive past his opponent and finish at the rim.
He also has a reliable midrange game and a nice floater he can employ instead of simply pulling up for a jumper or muscling his way to the basket.
Goodwin is a decent ball handler and also a solid defender who takes advantage of his size and length to crowd his opponent and force them into difficult shots. He’ll gamble a bit too often, but that defensive discipline will come with time.
The Suns need a go-to scorer in the backcourt to compliment Goran Dragic at the point and Luis Scola and Marcin Gortat, making an active, slashing guard like Goodwin a very logical addition.
He’ll be able to play uptempo basketball and find his way to the rim easily, meaning he should fit perfectly with this current Phoenix squad.
The Houston Rockets receive the Toronto Raptors first-round pick in the Kyle Lowry deal, and will likely use that pick to grab a high upside wing player to compliment their first lottery pick, which will likely be a franchise big man. Adonis Thomas had a decent inaugural season as a Memphis Tiger and will likely be a breakout candidate next season.
He averaged 8.8 points, 3.2 rebounds and 0.8 assists per game on 48.6 percent field-goal shooting and 40.5 percent shooting from three-point range, but with increased playing time and natural growth the swingman should be even better in 2012-2013.
Thomas is an excellent athlete with consistent three-point range who can stretch out a defense and knock down shots from the perimeter. He can power his way to the basket and is capable of making above the rim plays as well.
Thomas can handle the ball decently well, attacking off the dribble, and defensively is capable of covering ground quickly and staying in front of his man.
With Will Barton in the NBA, Thomas will have a huge opportunity to shine and has a chance to parlay that into a lottery selection in 2013.
The Utah Jazz received the Golden State Warriors’ first-round pick in the 2013 draft, and will likely use it to address the small forward spot. The team traded for Marvin Williams, but he clearly isn’t the long-term starter. With that in mind, the team is in a position to simply draft for talent and Oklahoma State’s LeBryan Nash is one of the better players available in this draft.
In his freshman season, Nash averaged 13.3 points, five rebounds and 1.5 assists on 39.4 shooting from the floor and a disappointing 23.5 percent from three-point territory.
Though he struggled with his shot, Nash showed flashes of being a dominant player thanks to his athletic ability and his strength. At 6’7” he is built like the prototypical NBA small forward and is an absolute blur in the open court.
Nash can handle the ball if necessary, attacking off the dribble or making plays for his teammates, and though he did not connect on his perimeter attempts regularly, he has a decent stroke and should improve on his overall efficiency in 2012-2013.
Defensively Nash can move his feet well, cover multiple positions and though he isn’t a threat to force turnovers or block shots, he is solid and can make his assignment work for his shots.
He needs to develop his overall game, but Nash should mesh well with the fast-paced Warriors and could potentially be a nice sixth man for them playing behind Williams and Gordon Heyward.
The Utah Jazz made a trade for Mo Williams this offseason, but they still could use an injection of youth at the point guard position as well as some consistent outside shooting. C.J. McCollum, the Lehigh star who rose to national prominence after leading the Mountain Hawks to a stunning upset of Duke, is a likely selection for the Jazz with the 14th overall selection.
McCollum lit up the Patriot League as a junior, averaging 21.9 points, 6.5 boards, 3.5 dimes and 2.6 steals per game while connecting on 44.3 percent of his field goal attempts and 34.1 percent of his three-pointers.
Although he was playing against some questionable competition at times, McCollum proved he was a lethal scorer who could make shots in a myriad of ways. He can attack the basket off the dribble, pull up for jumpers and even work without the ball in his hands if necessary.
One of the most surprising aspects of his game is the way he rebounds. He crashes the glass hard, is willing to play in the paint and is a very physical rebounder. He averaged a staggering 7.8 rebounds per game in 2010-2011 as a sophomore.
He is excellent at reading passing lanes and coming up with loose balls and has the size to guard both point guards and shooting guards. He will take some time to adjust to the skill level of NBA guards, but has the makings of a solid defender.
Utah could use a young point guard that can grow with their slew of talented big men, and C.J. McCollum could potentially be that player for the Jazz.
The Minnesota Timberwolves are expected to be a playoff team next season and actually have few positional needs, except maybe small forward, so the squad could very well opt to simply select the best player available, which could very well be Baylor center Isaiah Austin.
Austin was extremely highly recruited coming out of high school and as a true seven-footer with a strong skill set he is certainly an attractive prospect to pair with a dynamic power forward like Kevin Love.
Offensively, Austin can hit shots and draw opposing big men out of the paint, opening up driving lanes. He uses his size well and has a decent set of post moves, making him one of the more polished big men available in this year’s draft.
He is also a good passer out of the post that can find slashers and is willing to get rid of the ball when facing a double team.
Defensively, Austin is an elite rebounder and shot-blocker thanks to his length and size. Although he needs to bulk up to avoid being pushed off the post, he has the leaping ability to alter shots anywhere on the court and is an asset as a help defender thanks to his timing.
Austin is more developed than many other big man prospects in this draft, and though he needs to add some weight, he is certainly capable of making an immediate impact for a team like Minnesota that needs a reserve center.
The Chicago Bulls are going to have a difficult season with Derrick Rose missing the brunt of the year recovering from his knee injury, but the team is still strong enough to make the postseason. With the underwhelming performance of Carlos Boozer over the last season and the impending free agency of Taj Gibson, the team could very well look to snag a power forward with their first round selection.
Anthony Bennett, a freshman this fall at UNLV, averaged 14.5 points and 7.7 boards per game for Findlay Prep in his senior campaign.
Bennett is an extremely versatile forward, capable of playing the role of a bruising frontcourt player or being a finesse scorer. He has great range on his jump shot and a very refined set of post moves that he can go to consistently down on the block.
Bennett is also capable of handling the ball, is an incredibly strong finisher at the basket and can overpower his man and make a play at the rim. He is also deceptively quick and can take slower-footed forwards to the rack.
Defensively, Bennett will need to improve, but he has the physical tools to cover both small forwards and power forwards and is able to hit the boards consistently despite being relatively undersized at 6’7”.
With Bennett aboard, the Bulls could finally look to trade Boozer, make Gibson the starter and use Bennett as an impact first big man off the bench.
The Atlanta Hawks desperately need some help on the wing after dealing Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams, so getting some perimeter scoring punch is a top priority during the draft. With that in mind, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, a hometown shooting guard out of Georgia, would make an excellent addition to the Hawks’ roster.
In his freshman season as a Bulldog, Caldwell-Pope averaged 13.2 points, 5.2 boards, 1.2 assists and 1.8 steals per game while connecting on just 39.6 percent of his attempts from the floor and 30.4 percent of his shots from distance.
KCP is an inconsistent shooter to say the least, but he is still a capable scorer because of his slashing ability. He can power his way into the paint and consistently finish at the rim and is also a decent ball handler from the 2-guard spot.
Like many of the prospects in the 2013 draft class, his athleticism is one of his biggest assets. Caldwell-Pope is a high-flyer that can play at a brisk tempo, move up and down the court with ease and finish at the rim.
He is great at deflecting passes and coming up with steals to create transition opportunities, often handling the ball on the break. His man-to-man defense is solid, and could become even better with more time in the league.
Pope’s decision making could use some work, he attempted a staggering 6.7 threes per game last season, but he could potentially become Atlanta’s shooting guard of the future and a major piece of their young nucleus.
The Dallas Mavericks managed to patch together a solid frontcourt, but the team will need to reload once Elton Brand and Chris Kaman are free agents next summer. With that in mind, the team could look to grab a frontcourt player and may wind up with NC State’s C.J. Leslie.
Leslie averaged 14.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 1.6 blocks per game for the Wolfpack on 52.5 percent shooting as he led the team to a surprising Sweet Sixteen berth in the 2012 NCAA tournament, upsetting Georgetown along the way.
He plays the power forward position in college, but will likely have to spend some time at small forward in the NBA and should look to improve his perimeter shooting. Still, Leslie is an outstanding athlete that can run the floor extremely well and find his way to the basket.
He is a very consistent rebounder on both ends of the court that can create scoring opportunities thanks to his hustle and effort on the glass. Leslie is also a true high-flyer that can exploit his athleticism to score points, despite his lack of a consistent shot.
Defensively, Leslie can cover multiple positions thanks to his ability to move in the paint and is a threat both to block a shot and come up with a steal to create a transition opportunity.
Though he is not the most skilled player, Leslie is an undeniable talent who would be a good addition to this soon-to-be rebuilding Mavs’ squad that seems committed to adding some young pieces around Dirk Nowitzki.
The Brooklyn Nets have one of the league’s most talented backcourts and a number of quality role players, but one position they could use some depth is center.
Brook Lopez is coming off of a season where he struggled with foot problems and is hardly a defensive factor when he is on the court, meaning the team could use another big man to protect the rim.
Enter Jeff Withey. The little used center for Kansas who broke out in 2011-2012 by averaging nine points, 6.3 boards and 3.6 blocks per game while shooting 53.6 percent from the field.
Withey is a phenomenal interior defender and shot-blocker. As a true seven footer he uses his size well, contesting shots, rotating to help out teammates and rejecting shots from anywhere on the court. He can anchor a defense and patrol the paint, while hitting the glass hard.
Offensively, Withey has improved his post game and is also capable both of hitting shots from midrange and converting at the foul-line. Withey is not an elite offensive player, but he is not a liability and is a strong finisher at the rim as well.
He may not have high upside considering he played very little his freshman and sophomore seasons, but Withey would provide the Nets with a consistent interior defender and a reliable backup for Lopez should he be injured again.
After letting Jeremy Lin walk and bringing in Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd, the point guard of the future situation for New York is very cloudy. Kidd is on his last legs and Felton’s best basketball may very well be behind him, making it imperative that the team grabs a young guard with high upside.
Texas’ Myck Kabongo has been projected as high as a top-10 pick but also as low as the late first round, so it’s entirely possible he is still available when the Knicks are picking.
In his first season as a Longhorn, Kabongo averaged a solid 9.6 points, three boards, 5.2 assists and 1.3 steals per game, although he hit just 39.1 percent of his shot attempts and 31.6 percent from three-point territory.
Kabongo is a pass-first point guard who excels at making plays for his teammates by driving the lane and collapsing a defense. He’s extremely explosive with a lightening quick first step and also has solid court vision to boot.
Kabongo was inefficient as a freshman, but he should improve as a shooter as a sophomore and will likely not be asked to score much at the next level.
Defensively, he uses his speed to his advantage, moving well laterally, knocking balls loose and taking off in transition for a clear look at the rim or setting up a teammate running the floor.
Kabongo needs to improve his decision making, as he averaged three turnovers per game, but he is undoubtedly an electrifying player who could end up as either a starter or a game-changing bench player once he matures and develops.
The Miami Heat are slated to receive the Philadelphia 76ers first-round pick after the Arnett Moultrie trade and will likely use it to address one of their few areas of need, the center spot. Although the team has thrived with Chris Bosh at the five, it never hurts to have a traditional center on the roster and the team could very well end up grabbing Louisville big man Gorgui Dieng.
Dieng had a breakout 2011-2012 season in which he averaged 9.1 points, 9.1 boards, 1.1 assists and 3.2 rejections per game while hitting 52.5 percent of his shots from the floor.
Always known for his defensive ability, Dieng worked hard on his post game and became much more of a scoring threat than he was in his first season. He has the length and size to be a factor offensively and is capable of finishing in the paint consistently.
Even if he isn’t scoring, Dieng can still be a factor on the offensive glass creating easy scoring opportunities on putbacks.
Most importantly though is Dieng’s defensive impact. He can lock down the glass and help dictate the tempo of the game, which was essential for an undersized Cardinals team.
As a shot-blocker, Dieng has tremendous poise and timing, he needs to work on knowing when to foul, but he is a great help defender who can anchor a team’s defense.
Dieng may never be a star or even a starter, but as an incredibly athletic 6’11” center that can run the floor and has good hands, he certainly has a place in the NBA that could very well be with the Miami Heat.
The Minnesota Timberwolves receive the first-round pick of the Memphis Grizzlies for 2013 and will likely use it to shore up the small forward spot. Even with Andrei Kirilenko and Derrick Williams on the roster, the Timberwolves will still look to upgrade the three position, and Georgetown sophomore Otto Porter would make a perfect addition.
In his freshman season for Georgetown, Porter averaged 9.7 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.1 steals per game while connecting on 52.5 percent of his attempts from the field.
Porter is an extremely reliable midrange jump shooter who is great at creating his shot either off the dribble or by moving around picks and freeing himself up. He is not much of a three-point threat, but is a threat out to about 18 feet. He is also capable of handling the ball and making plays if necessary.
Porter has good size and is incredibly long, making him a defensive asset on the perimeter, thanks to his ability to make his assignment work for a shot and block their vision of the court. Porter can also read passing lanes and create turnovers well.
He is not a dynamic athlete, but Porter is an aggressive rebounder on both ends that makes multiple efforts to keep balls alive.
Minnesota has assembled plenty of talent on their roster and Porter would have the opportunity to learn from another versatile small forward in Andrei Kirilenko before being thrust into the fire. With their second first-rounder, the T-Wolves have the opportunity to take a chance on a good potential role player in Otto Porter.
Andre Roberson wasn’t particularly heralded last season, but in his sophomore campaign at Colorado the 6’7” combo forward played tremendous basketball on both ends of the court. The Denver Nuggets have plenty of depth, but they could use a defensive-minded big man to backup Kenneth Faried and JaVale McGee.
In 2011-2012 Roberson averaged 11.6 points, 11.1 boards, 1.9 blocks and 1.3 steals per game while shooting 51 percent from the floor and 38 percent on threes, although he attempted just 50 all season.
Roberson is a bit small to play the four in the NBA, but he’s long and strong enough to offset that when playing defense and attacking the glass. He’s a hard-nosed player that is willing to bang in the paint and grab tough boards in traffic. Roberson is capable of dominating both the offensive and defensive glass.
Offensively he can hit some shots and finish in transition, but will not be much of a scorer as a pro. His real impact will be defensively, where Roberson can guard multiple positions, read passing lanes and even use his leaping ability to block shots on bigger players.
He should thrive in Denver’s uptempo schemes and will be able to play strong defense off of the bench, even though he is somewhat of a tweener forward. If Roberson can develop a more consistent shooting touch he could potentially be a starting small forward at the next level.
There was much speculation that Michigan’s Trey Burke would declare for the NBA draft after his freshman season, but the speedy, undersized guard opted to stick around in Ann Arbor and as a result should see his stock rise next season.
Burke averaged a very solid 14.8 points, 3.5 boards and 4.6 assists per game while shooting 43.3 percent from the field and 34.8 percent from distance.
Lightening quick off the dribble, Burke has an extremely fast first step that he can use to blow by his opponent and is also very good at running the pick-and-roll. He has good court vision, a solid handle and can read and break down a defense with his ability to get into the paint.
As a shooter, Burke is sound, if not stellar. He can stop on a dime off the dribble and is a reliable midrange option, although he could use some work on his three-pointer considering how many he actually shot last season. He will likely not be much of a shooter in the league and will thrive as a penetrator/playmaker.
Defensively, Burke’s lack of height and strength is a concern obviously, as larger guards can back him down, but he is aggressive on the ball and uses his speed to his advantage.
The Indiana Pacers are going to need a backup point guard with D.J. Augustin being a free agent next summer, and Trey Burke could grow into a great spark-off-the-bench style point guard that can occasionally explode for a huge game.
The Los Angeles Clippers have their core in place with Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, but the one position that they could use some serious depth at is the small forward spot, where the team is depending on a pair of injury prone veterans in Caron Butler and Grant Hill. With that in mind, the Clippers will likely be looking to add a young wing player, and Reggie Bullock would make a perfect addition.
In the 2011-2012 season with the Tar Heels, Bullock averaged 8.8 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game while hitting 42.8 percent of his shots from the floor and 38.2 percent from beyond the arc.
Bullock is an excellent three-point shooter both off the dribble and spotting up, who will feast off of double teams on Griffin that leave him available on the perimeter to fire away. He is also an underrated athlete that can slash to the basket and move without the ball in his hands.
Defensively, Bullock is aggressive and physical on the perimeter, capable of knocking balls loose and sealing off driving lanes. He can guard multiple positions and will often be asked to defend the opposing team’s best scorer.
Bullock will never be an NBA star, but he is an extremely well-rounded player who could bolster the backcourt rotation of a team like Los Angeles even in spot minutes.
The San Antonio Spurs are such a deep, talented team that there is little they actually need to get out of the 2013 draft. Still, with Tim Duncan aging they could use some depth in the frontcourt and Duke’s Mason Plumlee, a skilled big man who will be graduating next summer, would make a very logical addition.
In his junior season as a Blue Devil, Plumlee averaged 11.1 points, 9.2 boards, 1.6 assists and 1.6 blocks per game while shooting 57.2 percent from the field.
Plumlee is a good passer out of the post and can make plays for his teammates, but is also capable of scoring on the block. He is a great finisher at the rim and is a true pick-and-roll threat.
Plumlee is actually a solid ball handler for a big man and can sometimes take his man off the dribble, but is primarily used as a rebounder and interior defender for Duke. He can dominate the glass thanks to his size and also uses his length to alter shots and play effective help defense.
San Antonio has a slew of young big men, but Plumlee should be able to make an immediate impact and carve out a few minutes of playing time, especially if the team deals DeJuan Blair. He won’t be a star, but as a talented, athletic big man he certainly has a future in the league.
The Boston Celtics retooled their roster this offseason and look to be a true championship contender, but the team is still largely built around veterans and could use an injection of youth. One player who should be available when Boston is drafting is Doug McDermott, the Creighton standout who has been among college basketball’s best scorers over the past two seasons.
In 2012-2013, McDermott averaged 22.9 points, 8.2 boards and 1.1 assists per contest while shooting 60.1 percent from the field and 48.6 percent from three-point range.
McDermott has phenomenal range and is an extremely reliable shooter who can heat up in an instant and drill shots even against tight defense. He is also staggeringly efficient, even on a Bluejays team where he was the clear first option he rarely took bad shots or forced the issue.
Not an elite athlete, McDermott has a good handle and an extremely high basketball IQ which he uses to take advantage of defenders. On the defensive end he is not a liability as he moves his feet well, but will struggle in the NBA against more athletic, quicker perimeter players.
Still, with the Celtics looking to add some more scoring and outside shooting to compliment Rajon Rondo, it makes sense that they would grab an extremely experienced, mature player to stretch out a defense off of the bench.
The Los Angeles Lakers forfeited their first-round pick to the Phoenix Suns when they dealt for Steve Nash, and as a result the Suns have the opportunity to snag a potential rotation piece in Florida power forward Patric Young.
Young had a breakout 2011-2012 campaign for the Gators in which he averaged 10.2 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.1 assists while shooting a blistering 61.8 from the floor. Young is slightly undersized, but projects to be a solid NBA player because of his high motor, relentlessness and scoring touch.
Young can attack the boards against larger players thanks to his relentlessness and ability to carve out position. He fits the mold of slightly small banger who uses physicality to make up for a disadvantage in length against his competition.
He his not a great shooter, but he has a solid post game that he can exploit thanks to his quickness and is not a liability on offense. In addition, Young is a smart defender who can guard the post without fouling, even though he is not much of a shot blocker.
Phoenix has Luis Scola at the four, but he’s a veteran and this team would be wise to select a young four that could grow over the next few years as a player. Patric Young should be their man.
With James Harden’s future in Oklahoma City clearly in question, the Thunder could very well be looking for a replacement for the electric shooting guard. Louisville’s Wayne Blackshear had a quiet freshman season due to injuries, but is poised for a breakout sophomore campaign.
Blackshear played just seven minutes per game for the Cardinals last season, averaging 2.5 points, 1.4 rebounds and 30 percent shooting from three-point territory, but there is no denying his talent.
Blackshear is a very explosive athlete that can power his way to the rim and thrive in a fast paced style of play. He is also a capable outside shooter, at least enough that a defense has to respect his shot and open up driving lanes. Cutting without the ball is a strength of his and Blackshear is capable of creating space and coming off screens.
Defensively, he is extremely active and aggressive thanks to his quickness and physicality on the perimeter. Blackshear is also capable of hitting the glass from the perimeter and guarding both the small forward and shooting guard spots. He is aggressive and showed a knack for shot-blocking in high school.
He needs to improve his ball handling and overall shooting slightly, but Wayne Blackshear is a low-risk, high-reward selection at the end of the first-round that could potentially grow into a special player for the Thunder.
The Miami Heat will cede their first-round pick to Cleveland in 2013 due to the LeBron James trade, and the Cavaliers will likely use the pick to grab a talented, NBA ready player who should contribute immediately.
In his second season at Michigan, Tim Hardaway, Jr. averaged 14.6 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game while shooting 41.8 percent from the field. He is a capable scorer because of his ability to slash and attack the basket thanks to his quickness and athleticism.
His outside shot did not fall consistently last season, but Hardaway can hit perimeter shots and is decent at both handling the ball and making plays for teammates and moving without the basketball.
Defensively, Hardaway is unspectacular, sometimes making mistakes and failing to keep his man in front of him, but he should thrive as a scorer off the bench.
Hardaway will not be a star in the NBA, but for a Cleveland team that will likely take a big man with their lottery pick, he would be a nice rotation piece behind Dion Waiters.