We’re right in the thick of the college season, meaning it’s time to once again update our rankings for the top 30 prospects in the nation, plus a few overseas.
Let’s take a look at whose stock is soaring, who is dropping off, who needs to improve in order to climb back into the rankings next week and check out a new face on this week’s big board.
Please note this isn’t a mock draft; prospects are ordered by overall grade and not by projected draft order.
No. 1: Nerlens Noel, C, Kentucky (Remains No. 1)
Noel has continued his stellar play and looks to have the highest upside coupled with the most production—a perfect combination for the No. 1 overall pick in a relatively weak draft class.
The Wildcats star may not be as good as Anthony Davis was last year, but he’s a worthy big man that will be in the NBA for years to come
No. 2: Cody Zeller, C, Indiana (Up from No. 3)
This polished young man has to work on gaining some weight to play center in the pros, but has all the tools aside from that and runs the court like a deer.
No. 3: Shabazz Muhammad, SF, UCLA (Down from No. 2)
Muhammad is the best pure scorer in this draft and will likely be a 20-point per game guy in the NBA. The question is, can he show us enough aside from scoring to be taken higher than No. 3?
He reminds us a bit of James Harden, the Houston Rockets star who was taken No. 3 himself back in the 2009 draft.
No. 4: Alex Poythress, SF, Kentucky (Remains No. 4)
Poythress is competing with his own teammate, Noel, for the right to be selected No. 1, and any chance of doing that will largely depend on if the swingman has a large role in returning the Wildcats to prominence.
He’s been all over our big board lately, but we’re ultimately settling on No. 4 again after some inconsistent play.
No. 5: Otto Porter, SF, Georgetown (Up from No. 6)
This versatile swingman continues to do it all for the Hoyas.
If he can continue leading them to victories late in the season with his all-around play, Porter is a first-half lottery lock.
No. 6: Alex Len, C, Maryland (Down from No. 5)
Len has some beastly size at 7’1”, and he’s not an uncoordinated, goofy center that provides nothing more than height. As long as he keeps showing up against the top level of competition, the Terps big man will only improve his stock.
No. 7: Archie Goodwin, SG, Kentucky (Remains No. 7)
Goodwin can play both point guard and shooting guard, making him extremely valuable and able to fill a number of roles for a number of teams come draft night. His youth and tremendous upside only help his cause even more.
No. 8: Anthony Bennett, PF, UNLV (Up from No. 15)
Bennett is the definition of a tweener, but he has the bulk to play inside and the smooth jumper to stretch the defense as a 4. We expect he’ll play PF in the NBA, so expect a team hungry for size and an interior presence to take a shot on this undersized big.
No. 9: Michael Carter-Williams, G, Syracuse (Up from No. 17)
Carter-Williams is one of the leading set-up artists in the nation and has great size for a potential PG in the Association. If he can bring Syracuse deep into the NCAA tournament while showing his incredible skills as a floor general, there’s no doubt MCW is the first point off the board.
No. 10: Rudy Gobert, PF, France (Up from No. 8)
Gobert is being projected as a top-10 pick for his monster length (7’9” wingspan) and potential as a big man. However, he’s going to slip unless he bulks up, as he’s not ready for NBA competition at his current size.
No. 11: Isaiah Austin, PF, Baylor (Down from No. 9)
Austin has a swingman’s skill set in a big man’s body, which makes him an extremely intriguing prospect. He does have to get more physical, because he’s not playing the 3 in the NBA.
No. 12: Mason Plumlee, PF, Duke (Down from No. 11)
This Blue Devil is a straight banger that isn’t afraid to clean the glass, put in buckets down low and hustle every minute he is out on the floor. Guys like this succeed at the next level all the time, and we project Plumlee will be a double-double machine if he gets a chance to start.
No. 13: James Michael McAdoo, PF, UNC (Down from No. 10)
McAdoo’s lack of effort and go-to moves is killing his stock in his sophomore year. He was supposed to have a transcendent season after electing to stay in Chapel Hill after foregoing the draft upon completion of his freshman year.
However, he’s failed to improve upon the promise he showed as a backup to John Henson in the 2011-12 campaign and may have actually taken a step backwards. As long as McAdoo is slipping on the court, he’s slipping on our big board.
No. 14: C.J. McCollum, SG, Lehigh (Up from No. 18)
McCollum reminds us a lot of Damian Lillard on the Portland Trail Blazers, a small-school guy that stayed around in college and simply learned how to score the ball at will.
The Mountain Hawks star is now in his senior year and is looking to repeat Lillard’s success by dominating his last campaign and making an immediate and successful transition to the next level.
No. 15: Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State (Down from No. 14)
Don’t sleep on Smart, as he’s an immensely talented player on both ends of the floor and isn’t afraid to take chances in order to help his team win. As a pure point guard, Smart needs to improve his vision, but the athleticism is there.
No. 16: Ben McLemore, SF, Kansas (Up from No. 20)
Many believe that McLemore has a bit of Brandon Rush in him, and it’s easy to see why. He’s a silky smooth scorer, a solid defender and simply looks like a prototypical 3 at any level of organized basketball.
No. 17: Tony Mitchell, SF, North Texas (Down from No. 12)
Mitchell hasn’t been nearly dominant enough against the low-level competition his Mean Green face on a regular basis.
Until he shows some consistency and starts absolutely destroying his opponents, Mitchell is a late-lottery prospect at best and may fall down into the late first.
No. 18: B.J. Young, PG, Arkansas (Down from No. 13)
Young was completely outclassed by Carter-Williams when his Hogs met the Orange at the end of November. The guard is simply too much of a ball hog and takes too many shots to have a positive impact on a game right now.
We like this kid for his athleticism and tenacity, but he’s nothing more than an undersized SG masquerading as a point.
No. 19: Dario Saric, SF, Croatia (Down from No. 16)
Being too skinny, a common problem with many overseas prospects, plagues this elite European talent. It really makes you wonder why an NBA team hasn’t brought a weight training and diet program across the Atlantic for these kids.
No. 20: Jamaal Franklin, SG, San Diego State (Down from No. 19)
The Aztecs junior has been steadily hanging around our big board after a great start to the 2012-13 campaign and promises to only get better.
As long as Franklin is scoring and doing all the little things for his SDSU program, he’s a first-round lock.
No. 21: Steven Adams, C, Pittsburgh (Remains No. 21)
Adams has a ton of upside, but we almost hope he doesn’t declare and instead spends more time developing at the college level.
No. 22: Myck Kabongo, PG, Texas (Remains No. 22)
Kabongo is one of the best pure point guards in this draft but hasn’t been able to get on the court yet due to suspension. If he can come back and rescue the Longhorns from their woes, it’ll do wonders for his stock.
No. 23: Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State (Up from No. 24)
Harris’ athleticism alone has him on the radar of many scouts, but his basketball IQ is also ridiculous, and he seems to understand the game at another level. Being under the tutelage of Tom Izzo as a member of the Spartans definitely helps foster that mental development.
No. 24: Le’Bryan Nash, SF, Oklahoma State (Down from No. 23)
Nash’s size for his position is ridiculous, and he could conceivably lock down a great number of NBA players right now.
However, he needs to get his head on his shoulders and start maturing, putting forth 100 percent effort and achieving his potential.
No. 25: Trey Burke, PG, Michigan (Up from No. 26)
The Wolverines PG has been a bit of a surprise in 2012-13, and it’s showing in his draft stock. He’s greatly improved upon his freshman averages and is leading a resurgent Michigan team to great heights. If he keeps it up, he’s going to be a worthy first-rounder.
No. 26: Jeff Withey, C, Kansas (Down from No. 25)
Withey has to get more involved offensively to be anything more than a reserve big man worth a bit of defense and fouls in the NBA
No. 27: C.J. Leslie, PF, NC State (Up from No. 28)
Leslie is a bit of an enigma who we have been waiting to see emerge for years now. If he continues to hold off, he’s going to continue to wallow at the end of our big board.
No. 28: Willie Cauley-Stein, C, Kentucky (Down from No. 27)
UK fans are hoping Cauley-Stein isn’t a one-and-done, but if he keeps playing at a high level, he just might be.
There’s actually a chance this young man vaults into the lottery by draft night, but it’ll all depend on his progress over the remainder of the long 2012-13 season.
No. 29: Alex Abrines, SG, Spain (Unranked Last Week)
This developmental project may not be seen stateside for years, so expect only a stacked, veteran team to take a chance (such as the San Antonio Spurs).
No. 30: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG, Georgia (Down from No. 29)
Caldwell-Pope is a sniper and a defender, two great assets to have at the next level, but needs to improve his overall game to be considered anything more than a late-round flier for most NBA teams.
Dropped From Rankings
No. 30: Kyle Anderson, SF, UCLA