2013 NBA Mock Draft: Which Stud Prospects Are on the Rise?
With so much uncertainty surrounding the No. 1 overall pick, it's a great year to be an NBA draft enthusiast.
We're going to attack our 2013 NBA mock drafts without the use of a draft order in order to avoid arguments predicting it and variables such as team needs.
It appears as if we're looking at a top-heavy draft with a few potential cornerstones and an abundance of serviceable role players.
Someone will inevitably emerge from the pack the way Anthony Davis did one year ago. Let's try and figure out who that might be.
Here are our first projections for the 2013 NBA draft.
All statistics accurate as of Nov. 19, 2012.
1. Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA
Monday night's debut went well for the most part, at least in terms of an individual audition for the next level.
Shabazz Muhammad is our top pick to start the year, primarily due to the fact that he possesses the highest upside with the least amount of risk.
At 6'6'' with a powerful NBA frame and phenomenal length for a wing, there are no question marks surrounding his physical tools. He poses a mismatch for opposing shooting guards who lack the strength to impede his north and south pursuit of the rim. And as a small forward, Muhammad's ability to play inside and out makes him an exhausting defensive assignment.
He went for 15 points against Georgetown, showing off a diverse offensive arsenal. Whoever gets the top pick will have the opportunity to add a prolific long-term scorer and major offensive building block.
2. James Michael McAdoo, North Carolina
James Michael McAdoo looks to have taken the next step in his development, raising his production and activity level with an increased offensive role.
Through four games, McAdoo is averaging 18 points and 9.5 rebounds; however, the most promising statistic of all is his 15.5 field-goal attempts per game.
His physical tools have never been questioned, and they look even stronger than they did a year a go. But his biggest knock was being able to consistently contribute offensively given his limited shot-creating tools.
McAdoo's elite combination of size, strength and athleticism have allowed him to continuously score easy baskets. With a quick first step, he's able to catch, accelerate and explode up at the rim, where nobody is capable of denying him.
His 15.5 shot attempts per game are a result of an expanded offensive repertoire, which include the additions of a mid-range jumper and post game in just a few months time.
He presents minimal risk and substantial upside as an off-ball scorer, rebounding presence and defensive asset.
3. Nerlens Noel, Kentucky
Nerlens Noel's questionable debut against Maryland is a thing of the past after bouncing back with 16 points, eight rebounds, three blocks and four steals in a tough loss to Duke.
Defensively, we know what he's capable of. Whether he records Anthony Davis-like rejection numbers or not, his ability to protect the goal and alter shots make him a valuable anchor as the man in the middle.
It's on offense where he's shown promise, displaying agility and elusiveness creating shots in the paint.
Facing up, Noel has been decisive with his post moves. He has a quick first step, which combined with a 7'4'' wingspan allows him to get close shots at the rim, and at this point, that's half the battle.
He's far from polished inside, but he's at least shown room to grow. Regardless of whether his offensive game continues to develop, he'll remain a threat as an above-the-rim pick-and-roll target and tip-in assassin.
We moved him ahead of Cody Zeller because of his overall impact at the rim on both sides of the ball.
4. Cody Zeller, Indiana
The preseason favorite for National Player of the Year, Cody Zeller remains the most polished big man in the country and arguably a Top Five lock.
Defenses panic when Zeller is isolated in the post, which makes it easier for his teammates to get open looks on the perimeter. He's the immediate focus of the opposing team's game plan because of the impact he can make with the ball in the post.
Having said that, we've seen a number of worrisome tendencies that have downgraded him a few spots.
Offensively, he's looked passive at times. Defenders have given him space to shoot facing up, but he hasn't looked to shoot. Against Georgia, he was a non-factor after picking up two early fouls, and he only attempted four shots the entire game.
Last year, he averaged a measly 6.6 rebounds per game and has only racked up double-digit boards once in four appearances thus far.
Though it's a tiny sample size and nothing to get excited over, the thought of Brook Lopez has at least entered my mind. Lopez, of course, is a good player, but not exactly worthy of a No. 1 overall selection.
Look for Zeller to remain amongst the elite prospects in the country despite a somewhat underwhelming start to the year.
5. Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State
Scouts should be gushing over what they've seen from Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart, who is showing the world why the two high school state championships and the U-18 gold medal he won weren't just a coincidence.
Smart's last name couldn't be more fitting. With an exceptional basketball IQ, he makes his teammates better with every on-court decision.
As a starting freshman point guard, Smart makes every dribble with purpose, whether it's to break down the defense or simply free up a shooter via the screen and hand-off. While his scoring comes secondary to his playmaking, Smart is averaging 15.3 points to go with eight rebounds, five assists and three steals a game.
Though his physical appearance suggests he's an off-guard, Smart's decision-making and floor general qualities make him a viable candidate to take on primary ball-handling duties at the next level.
It may take awhile before he generates serious NBA buzz, but I'm jumping the gun. There isn't a better young game-manager around.
6. Isaiah Austin, Baylor
Seven-foot athletes with this type of length just weren't meant to play on the perimeter, but Isaiah Austin has defied basketball logic.
With a body thin enough to fall through a sidewalk crack, one would expect Austin to struggle making the transition to college. Through four games, he's averaging 14.8 points and nine rebounds on 40 percent shooting from downtown.
His scoring prowess, rebounding rate and shooting percentage illustrate his range as a contributor.
The Kevin Durant comparison has been floated around, and though unrealistic, it gives you an example of the type of player Austin can be.
His ceiling remains extremely high thanks to his length, size and versatile skill set.
7. Alex Poythress, Kentucky
We weren't sure what type of prospect we were getting with Alex Poythress, but I think he's made it clear after his first three games.
Poythress is an aggressive off-ball small forward with the power of a 4 and mobility of a 3.
Similar to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, he has a relentless motor, especially attacking the rim and on loose balls above the cylinder.
Though not the adept shot-creator we thought he might be, his efficiency and production on offense helps diminish his limited arsenal.
Through three games, he's 21-for-30 from the floor while averaging over 16 points per game.
In a draft where NBA teams will just be looking for sure-thing contributors, you can mark Poythress down as a reliable, risk-free prospect.
8. Ben McLemore, Kansas
Ben McLemore has been one of the early-season surprises, standing out without trying to do too much.
He's been letting the offense come to him, a smart way to get accustomed to a new speed and pace.
Coach Bill Self mentioned that McLemore is as talented as any player he's ever coached, which though a stretch, tells you a lot about his impact and potential as a prospect.
He's scoring 14.8 points a game as an off-ball threat and has shown flawless rhythm and mechanics as a catch-and-shooter. This is where he'll earn most of his money at the next level, as he'll be asked to stretch the floor, slash off the ball and defend the other team's primary scoring guard.
McLemore looks the part of an NBA 2-guard and will only get better as the season progresses. As his comfort level rises, so will his aggressiveness.
9. Mason Plumlee, Duke
Few players in the country have expanded their offensive games to the degree that Mason Plumlee has from one year to the next.
No longer just an alley-oop target and putback machine, Duke is giving Plumlee the ball and watching him go to work.
With quick feet and ridiculous athleticism for a seven-footer, Plumlee has been taking advantage of his physical tools by attacking his defender off the bounce. He's scoring in ways he never did before, which has raised his ceiling from just one year ago.
Through three games, he's averaging monstrous numbers of 21.7 points, 8.7 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game. He's taking a manual scoring approach as opposed to the automatic one that saw his point total accumulate based solely on his physical exploits.
Expect Plumlee to be a surprise candidate for National Player of the Year.
10. Tony Mitchell, North Texas
Normally, Tony Mitchell would be higher, but North Texas lost to Doug McDermott's Creighton Bluejays by 20 and then went down to Alabama-Huntsville, a Division II program.
It's just a bad look to start the year for a lottery talent.
He's scoring 15 a game on 43 percent from downtown, so the numbers have remained fairly consistent. But you'd like to see Mitchell take some accountability and make an impact on the final scoreboard.
11. Alex Len, Maryland
If an NBA prospect is 7'1'', that's probably why he's an NBA prospect. But not Len.
Len can ball, and the 7'1'' label only makes him tougher to contain. Just ask Nerlens Noel, who got taught a 23-point, 12-rebound, four-block lesson on opening night.
He's a pretty ferocious dude if you watched that opening game. Len fought for his points inside and showed off some nifty footwork getting there. He's a solid all-around finisher and an explosive athlete for a kid his size.
Not only does he have promise offensively, but defensively, his aggressiveness is a really good sign. He averaged 2.1 blocks in 21 minutes last year and is blocking 3.7 shots in 29 minutes over three games this year.
I still want to see him do it against conference opponents consistently, but Len is clearly a name to keep an eye on moving forward.
12. C.J. McCollum, Lehigh
C.J. McCollum came firing out of the gate, scoring 36 points on 14 made field goals against a talented Baylor team.
Ten days later, he scored 35 in a blowout over Fairfield. The point is, the kid can score.
The issue is whether or not he can facilitate, because the 26 points a game he's averaging now are unlikely to translate directly to the next level.
He's really just too good of basketball player to bet against, though.
Maybe a far-fetched theory, but the fact that Damian Lillard, last year's top mid-major guard, is excelling in the pros, might ease some of the pessimism shared by skeptics who remain weary over his inferior competition.
13. Rudy Gobert, France
Rudy Gobert will remain a fixture in our first-round mock drafts, so get used to hearing me talk about his unprecedented 7'9'' wingspan.
His arms resemble two long strands of fettuccine that he can whip up and down or side to side in order to take up space and cause defensive clutter. The ability to block shots while out of position will surely frustrate penetrating guards and frontcourt scorers.
Offensively, he's a target above the rim, has the mobility to get up and down the floor and keeps balls alive on the glass.
We don't know what he'll look like as a finished product, but it's possible that Gobert is something never before seen.
14. Michael Carter-Williams, Syracuse
Michael Carter-Williams has flashed a number of NBA tools after studying from the bench as a freshman at Syracuse.
He's one of the few combo guards capable of handling primary ball-handling duties because of his vision, unselfishness and breakdown ability. Once he gets in the lane, he's a threat to score or set up a teammate thanks to his length, touch and passing skills.
In two games, he's played two different roles, posing as a scorer (17 points, four assists) against San Diego State and facilitator against Wagner, when he racked up 11 assists.
Defensively, his length has been a problem for opposing guards, as the eight steals he's collected in two games are not a fluke.
There's a whole lot to like about Michael Carter-Williams, who still has room to grow as a shooter and ball-handler.
15. Archie Goodwin, Kentucky
Archie Goodwin has made the best of a situation that has him playing out of position.
He's been running the point the past few games in response to Ryan Harrow's bizarre disappearance, but he has shown off his scoring instincts in the process while given more opportunities to dominate the ball.
He's best operating from the wing, where he can use angles to attack and explode off the bounce. At 6'5'' with NBA athleticism and sound 2-guard length, Goodwin can finish amongst the trees and avoid traffic at the rim.
He's also shown good fundamentals pulling up off the dribble, getting elevation and space to rise and fire with accuracy.
Goodwin is likely to float around the mid-first round all year, but he can explode into the Top 10 if he succeeds as go-to scorer.
16. Otto Porter, Georgetown
After suffering from concussion-like symptoms following an opening-night collision, Porter's versatile skill set was on full display against Shabazz Muhammad and the Bruins.
With an NBA frame and the length to go with it, Porter finds ways to avoid disruptive arms at the rim and finish inside. He's complemented a slithery interior game with a reliable mid-range jumper, which has actually extended out to nearly 24 feet. He knocked down both of his three-point attempts against UCLA, finishing with 18 points, 11 rebounds, five assists, five blocks and three steals.
He's the ultimate utility forward capable of contributing across the board. Porter will be a long-term serviceable role player at the next level.
17. Le'Bryan Nash, Oklahoma State
Le'Bryan Nash has made a noticeable adjustment to his offensive game, and it's paying dividends for his team early on.
As a freshman, the majority of Nash's shot attempts came from the perimeter, resulting in low-percentage offense and some ugly losses.
This year, he's looking to attack, using his strength and athleticism to muscle his way to the rim. He's got a soft touch in the mid-range and can create shots at will, but getting to the basket needs to become his bread and butter.
Easily the most meaningful stat of the year for Nash is his 11 free-throw attempts per game. He's averaging just under 19 points and looks to have matured as a prospect who's trying to break into the lottery.
He's got the talent to do so.
18. Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky
Willie Cauley-Stein has looked good in limited minutes, making an impact just by being one of the five guys on the floor.
His agility can be tied to his days as a high school football standout, which is a total mind-blow when you consider he's seven feet tall.
We've seen Cauley-Stein play a little with his back to the basket, looking coordinated enough to spin and shoot on the move. He went for 14 points against Lafayette and swatted four balls against Maryland, finding ways to contribute despite learning on the go.
It's hard to project his ceiling, but his size, NBA frame and athleticism give him purpose regardless of his skill level. The arrow is pointing upward.
19. Anthony Bennett, UNLV
Anthony Bennett is a power athlete who can bring down the rim like a Fisher-Price hoop.
He's effective because of his physical style of play and strong, explosive body. His strength inside and touch around the rim should make him a high-percentage scorer throughout his career.
Bennett attempted four three-pointers and made one in two games, so at least it appears as if this is something he plans on adding to the arsenal.
He's averaging 17 points and eight boards through two and just has the look of a one-and-done freshman.
20. Lorenzo Brown, North Carolina State
Most likely the best pure point guard prospect of the bunch, Lorenzo Brown's handle and creativity off the dribble allow him to consistently get his teammates open looks.
He's got excellent quarterback size at 6'4'', and though thin, he is a clever finisher at the rim with the ability to avoid traffic in the air.
Brown has been inconsistent offensively over his first four games, but you can tell he just needs to get loose. Hopefully, Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart woke him up after shutting Brown down to six points and an assist in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off final.
The NBA game might be better suited for Brown, who thrives in space as a pass-first facilitator. I'm expecting him to bounce back once he finds his rhythm.
21. C.J. Leslie, North Carolina State
C.J. Leslie's athleticism and talent are both lottery-worthy, but the mental lapses have prevented him from steadily producing.
In the Puerto Rico Tip-Off title game, Leslie picked up five fouls in 17 minutes, with the fifth being a technical right as the second half got underway.
With an improved roster and added scorers, Leslie's numbers are down across the board, but he still manages to do things that just simply can't be replicated.
The talent is there, but Leslie will need to tighten up his decision-making and continue putting in work in the weight room. He'll have to average more than six rebounds a game if he wants to convince scouts he's capable of manning the 4 at the next level.
22. Isaiah Canaan, Murray State
Isaiah Canaan is a gamer, and although he hasn't shot the ball particularly well to start the year, he's been the catalyst for a Murray State team that remains a threat to knock off anyone.
It's hard not to notice the similarities between Canaan and Raymond Felton, two bowling balls that bounce off contact, staying low to the ground with a strong foundation.
Though Canaan is considered a score-first point guard, that generally has to do with the lack of weapons that surround him.
He's averaging 18.3 points through four games, and unless I hear otherwise, he should remain a borderline first-round prospect.
23. Sean Kilpatrick, Cincinnati
Sean Kilaptrick is a rugged, 6'4 off-guard who's gotten increasingly better with time.
Through three games this season, he's averaging 21 points and has hit 11 of his 20 three-point field goal attempts.
While three-point shooting has always been his forte, Kilpatrick has expanded his game off the bounce, and he now threatens defenses as a dribble-drive guard as well.
Though he lacks offensive creativity, his ability to shoot, attack and defend make him a low-risk, low-reward, role-playing prospect.
24. Doug McDermott, Creighton
Doug McDeromott's stock is unlikely to change from now til June.
As steady a player as there is, McDeromott's appeal is tied with his ability to make shots from all over the court. Inside, he compensates for a lack of size with crafty footwork in order to get open looks despite awkward angles. Outside, his jumper is smooth and looks pure enough to get gain entry into the specialist club at the next level.
He's scored over 20 points in two of his three games and looks determined to make a run as a Cinderella sleeper.
While there are obvious physical limitations being an under-the-rim small forward, there's always someone who ignores the details and goes with what they see rather than what the measurements say.
25. Pierre Jackson, Baylor
Pierre Jackson literally looks like a video game character who only runs on turbo.
There's not a faster guard with the ball from baseline to baseline at the college level. A quick outlet pass, and you've got yourself a fast break with Pierre Jackson.
That's where he'll be of use at the pro level. Jackson will be like the Darren Sproles of the New Orleans Saints, sprinkled in every so often to change the pace and catch the defense sleeping.
He's averaging 20.2 points and seven assists a night, and whether he's a scorer or playmaker, his quickness alone creates scoring chances for teammates.
All it takes is one team in the first round to want a lightning rod off the bench, and Jackson will be off the board.
26. Jamaal Franklin, San Diego State
After struggling through wind playing Syracuse on a boat, Jamaal Franklin bounced back with two straight double-doubles.
The good news is, he's getting to the line, putting that electrifying athleticism to use. Through three games, he's averaging 11 free throws a night, and though he's only making seven, it's the idea that counts.
The bad news is, he's only hit two of his 16 three-point attempts.
The in-between news is that despite throwing up brick after brick from downtown, he's still able to positively impact the game.
As of now, I'm expecting an older playoff team to drool over his athleticism and potential late in the first round. Of course, that could change.
27. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Georgia
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope should go a lot earlier than No. 27 based on his physical tools, talent and the eye test. The problem is, we already know what he is.
Caldwell-Pope will be a low-percentage perimeter scorer at the next level, because of his outside to inside shot-selection ratio. Almost all of his attempts come from 18 feet or further. There's just no way to be an efficient player that way.
That's not to say there isn't a role for him. Guys like Nick Young and other perimeter-oriented guards tend to find spots in a rotation. It's just in a limited role.
Caldwell-Pope has the size, athleticism and shooting mechanics to be an effective NBA shooting guard. But he'll have to tighten up his shot selection and start getting closer looks at the rim.
He's averaging 10 three-point attempts per game and is shooting just 33 percent from the floor.
28. C.J Fair, Syracuse
Whether or not C.J. Fair's stock will be high enough by year's end will determine if the 2013 draft is the right time to go.
He's really improving on all cylinders, especially as a 3, despite being a more natural 4.
He's scored 17 points and grabbed 10 boards against a tough defensive San Diego State team and an even tougher gust of wind playing on the U.S.S. Midway.
With an unteachable nose for the ball and a much-improved outside stroke, Fair remains one of the sneakier under-the-radar prospects in the country.
29. Victor Oladipo, Indiana
Victor Oladipo has an established identity entering the NBA draft, eliminating any fear from prospective employers who shy away from "tweeners" and question marks.
He'll be asked to defend and slash for the rest of his career, making plays off the ball while creating havoc in the process. If you saw what he did to Georgia in the second half Monday night, then there shouldn't be any confusion over his role or purpose.
There's no real upside in this pick. But coaches looking for life should feel confident in Oladipo's motor and defensive lockdown tools.
30. Jeff Withey, Kansas
At this point, it's fair to say any offense Withey contributes at the next level is a plus, because through four games, he's averaging 4.5 blocks per contest.
At the college level, he's able to finish at the rim because of his size and coordination, but his skill level is still lacking.
Teams selecting late in the first round are typically just looking for depth. Jeff Withey should head to the draft with a "backup center" label pasted to his head.