2013 NBA Mock Draft: Identifying the Next Wave of NBA Stars

Jonathan WassermanNBA Lead WriterDecember 18, 2012

2013 NBA Mock Draft: Identifying the Next Wave of NBA Stars

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    Now over a month into the college basketball season, let's attempt to identify the next wave of potential stars in our updated NBA mock draft.

    If a player has star potential, it will be noted in the slide's title. Unfortunately, not many fall under this category in 2013.

    However, there are still a number of prospects with substantial NBA ceilings, including two of our top three projections for the 2013 draft.

STAR ALERT- 1. Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA- 6'6'', SG/SF

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    Notable Stats: 17.8 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 47.6 percent 3pt

    Shabazz Muhammad is starting to show off the All-Star package he was expected to deliver to UCLA.

    He's good for three or four easy baskets a game, using his physical tools to gain position and scoring instincts to convert. It's what keeps his basement so high. Even with an off game, Muhammad still manages to impact the scoreboard, eliminating the possibility of a no-show or dud performance.

    Muhammad scored 25 against Prairie View this week, and while there's not much to take away from this considering the level of competition, he continues to show promise from the perimeter, nailing three of his six three-point attempts.

    As a dynamic inside-outside offensive weapon, Shabazz has the highest upside and most potent star power of any prospect in the draft class.

2. Nerlens Noel, Kentucky, 6'10'' PF

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    Notable Stats: 10.7 PPG, 9 RPG, 3.9 BPG, 53.8 percent FG, 53.8 percent FT

    Nerlens Noel's draft stock remains stable after he blocked seven shots in back-to-back games.

    Kentucky hasn't been feeding him in the post, so his offensive production will continue to fluctuate. In fact, this might be the case for the rest of his career, at both the college and pro levels.

    I like to compare Noel as a less physical, more agile version of Tyson Chandler—someone who can impact a game on both sides of the ball without making an offensive move all game.

    Finishing pick-and-rolls, tipping in balls and protecting the rim will be his primary responsibilities for the majority of career. Chandler may not get many All-Star votes, but he's considered to be arguably the most efficient and effective two-way center in the game.

    Chandler is an ideal choice for Noel to model his game after.

STAR ALERT- 3. Ben McLemore, Kansas, 6'5'' SG

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    Notable Stats: 15.9 PPG, 39.5 percent 3pt, 49.1 percent FG, 85 percent FT

    Ben McLemore is in one of those zones.

    He's 11 for his last 18 three-point attempts over the past four games, and the Ray Allen comparison is looking more and more accurate.

    You can throw away the percentages the same way we did with Bradley Beal, who was taken for his perimeter scoring tools despite shooting 33 percent from downtown at Florida.

    McLemore has top-of-the-class shooting potential with a form that could sell postcards. He's smooth off the bounce, understanding his limitations and minimizing use of the dribble when it's not a necessary option.

    With ideal shooting guard size, athleticism and shot-making abilities, he could end up being the most efficient NBA scorer in the class.

4. Cody Zeller, Indiana, 6'11'', Center

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    Notable Stats: 15.7 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 60.7 percent FG, 1.4 BPG

    In Indiana's loss to Butler, Cody Zeller was a non-factor for a good 30 minutes of the game.

    He attempted nine shots in 37 minutes, an unacceptable number for arguably the best player in college basketball.

    You can blame the Indiana guards for not feeding the post, or the coach for not adjusting, but Zeller needs to take charge and assert himself as the leader.

    Zeller also grabbed a pathetic five boards in a double-overtime game, which is a problem that continues to push him further from that coveted first overall honor.

    As a 6'11'' prospect looking to solidify top-five status, you better be a damn good scorer if you're not going to block shots or control the glass. He's only making 5.4 field goals a game, as teams have begun to deny him the ball and get physical with him down low.

    I've been stressing the Brook Lopez comparison for a few weeks now, and there's no reason to back off just yet.

STAR ALERT- 5. Michael Carter-Williams, Syracuse, 6'5'', PG

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    Notable Stats: 12.3 PPG, 10.7 APG, 5 RPG, 3.4 SPG

    You know how some people have that incredible sense of direction, how they can find a place they've never been to without MapQuest or GPS?

    Michael Carter-Williams can navigate a defense, knowing which route is necessary in order to open up a lane and create a scoring opportunity.

    He's now racked up at least nine assists in nine of his 10 games played this year. It's no fluke. He's defines the term "playmaker," with the ability to slip through every crack of a defense and exploit the collapse he inevitably triggers.

    What could hurt Carter-Williams is a story like the one that developed this week—involving him in an alleged shoplifting incident that refuses to gain any clarity. You can be sure he'll be absolutely grilled about this by scouts and executives during the predraft process.

    He still has the potential to become a star based on his rare pass-first mindset and unique physical tools for a point guard.

STAR ALERT- 6. C.J. McCollum, Lehigh- 6'3'' PG

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    Notable Stats: 24.9 PPG, 3.1 APG, 50.9 percent FG, 51.9 percent 3pt

    You won't see much change in C.J. McCollum's draft stock throughout the year. The level of competition he's facing just isn't strong enough to keep him from doing what he does, which is consistently find ways to put the orange in the cup.

    He bounced back from a 13-point game against Fordham with a 29-point game against St. Francis. As long as he bounces back, an off game here or there will have minimal impact on the way he's viewed.

    McCollum leads the country in scoring and is likely to sustain that title with the green light from his coach. His ability to put points on the board and manage the game give him legitimate upside, regardless of what conference he plays in.

    He's got star potential based on his high-volume scoring abilities and floor-general qualities.

7. Mason Plumlee, Duke, 7'0'' Center

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    Notable Stats: 19.2 PPG, 11.3 RPG, 61.1 percent FG, 73.1 percent FT

    Plumlee simply can't be stopped or contained at 11 feet in the air. Even with an off night like he had against Temple (5-for-14), he still managed 16 points and 14 rebounds.

    It's these type of games that shows he's turned the corner. Being able to impact a game without playing particularly well keeps Plumlee's basement where it is—higher than most prospects' ground floors.

STAR ALERT- 8. Alex Len, Maryland, 7'1'', Center

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    Notable Stats: 13.9 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 2.6 BPG, 58.7 percent FG

    It's at the point where I just wish we had the remote from Adam Sandler's Click, which would allow us to fast-forward time and skip this meaningless nonconference chapter and get to ACC play, where we'll have a better opportunity to evaluate Len against people his own size.

    He's now missed a total of four shots in his last three games. Len might as well be playing on a Fisher-Price hoop.

    With nearly unmatchable size and now an improved comfort level and skill set in the post, Len could end up passing Zeller as the top scoring center option in the class.

    He's the sleeper of the draft to make a move to the No. 1 spot.

STAR ALERT- 9. Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State, 6'4'' PG

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    Notable Stats: 13.2 PPG, 7 RPG, 5.2 APG, 2.4 SPG

    Marcus Smart is going through some speed bumps, but no worries here. Production tends to fluctuate in pre-conference-play blowouts.

    For example, he followed up a zero-assist, 20-point win over Missouri State with a seven-assist, 28-point win over Central Arkansas.

    Smart's star potential stems from his elite basketball instincts and ideal point guard tools. He's got a similar offensive package as James Harden, except with a pass-first mentality instead of a shoot-first.

    There are no physical limitations or question marks—just flat-out upside.

10. Otto Porter, Georgetown, 6'8'' SF

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    Notable Stats: 12.9 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 3.2 APG, 2.2 SPG, 1.6 BPG, 51.1 percent FG, 36.8 percent 3pt

    There's nothing new to report on Otto Porter, except for the fact that he's only made one three-pointer in his last five games.

    He gets a slight downgrade due to inconsistent shooting, but it's the idea that he can make up for it in three other categories that gives him such appeal as a prospect.

    We know who Porter is right now—a utility glue-guy that contributes in whatever area needs work. He doesn't have star potential, but he could end up being one of those 10- to 15-year veterans that will always have a home.

STAR ALERT- 11. Isaiah Austin, Baylor, 7'1'', PF/C

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    Notable Stats: 13.9 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 31.8 percent 3pt

    Isaiah Austin had his best game as a collegiate athlete against Lamar, going off for 23 points and 17 rebounds.

    But what's notable about the performance is that he made 10 two-point field goals. Before he becomes a rare 7'1'' three-point threat, he has to get better creating offense inside the arc.

    Otherwise, he'll just limit himself to an Andrea Bargnani-like impact—a one-way perimeter scorer with a waist of unique size.

    Austin has star-level tools, it's just a matter of using them accordingly.

STAR ALERT- 12. Archie Goodwin, Kentucky, 6'5'' SG

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    Notable Stats: 15.8 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 4.4 APG, 49.5 percent FG

    Archie Goodwin has star potential because of his explosive athleticism and ability to score easy baskets.

    He's remained consistent in an offense where the ball is shared, making it difficult for scorers like Goodwin to gain any sort of rhythm.

    He finished with four assists against Lipscomb, marking the seventh consecutive game he's dished out at least that many.

    Goodwin's athleticism off the bounce makes him an NBA playmaker, whether it's for himself or a teammate. Think Tyreke Evans with less of a handle and more of a jumper.

13. James Michael McAdoo, North Carolina, 6'9'' SF/PF

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    Notable Stats: 15.4 PPG, 8.3 RPG

    James McAdoo is at least trying to expand his offensive repertoire. He's playing mid-range face-up basketball, taking the 18-foot jumper with confidence and making a respectable amount of them.

    Without much dribble creativity, the jumper has to be something he masters in order to give him purpose in a half-court set.

    He got to the free-throw line 10 times against East Carolina, which should be something he looks to build on with conference play just around the corner.

14. Rudy Gobert, France, 7'2'' Center

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    Rudy Gobert could wind up going anywhere from mid-first round to the top five. He's a gigantic, 7'2'' question mark with an unprecedented 7'9'' wingspan. Gobert takes up an inordinate amount of space, both on the ground and in the air thanks to his fluid mobility as a runner and a leaper.

    To sound the star alert at this point might be a little premature. It's tough to project the outcome of something we've simply never seen before, and it could be a while before we even know what type of animal he really is.

    Predraft workouts will give us a much better feel for what he's capable of when matched up against some of the top prospects in college basketball.

    Even if he's limited to just cleanup, finishing and defensive duties, these type of measurements and physical tools could warrant top-five consideration in a down year.

15. Anthony Bennett, UNLV, 6'8'' SF/PF

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    Notable Stats: 19.3 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 54.3 percent FG

    Before a quiet 10-point game at UTEP, Anthony Bennett scored 25 and 27 points back-to-back.

    He's brushing off defenders like they're irritating mosquitoes, before getting the shot he wants and converting in the paint.

    I'm not going to hit the star-alert button yet—at 6'8'', Bennett is undersized for a 4, but lacks the foot-speed of your typical 3 or perimeter wing.

    He's just been too dominant to ignore past a certain point. With a much stronger draft class next year, Bennett should get out while his stock is hot.

16. Alex Poythress, Kentuky, 6'8'' SF

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    Notable Stats: 15 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 65.2 percent FG

    Alex Poythress hasn't done anything to really move the needle in either direction over the past two weeks.

    He's slipped from the beginning of the year, because of his inability to create offense from the perimeter. This pretty much diminishes his chances of ever gaining star potential, but it shouldn't effect his draft stock too much.

    Poythress will float along the mid-first-round mark until he makes any type of statement, whether it ends up being positive or negative.

17. Tony Mitchell, North Texas, 6'8'' SF/PF

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    Notable Stats: 13.6 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 2.5 BPG

    It's time to reach for the panic button, but not to press it.

    Tony Mitchell went 1-for-9 in a win over Southeastern Louisiana in which North Texas scored 45 points.

    His three-point percentage is down to 28.6 percent, and his team already has six losses against underwhelming competition.

    He's still a mid-first-rounder based on his upside and elite athleticism, but this isn't the start anyone anticipated for our original top mid-major prospect.

18. Trey Burke, Michigan, 6'0'' PG

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    Notable Stats: 18 PPG, 7 APG, 53.5 percent FG, 38.3 percent 3pt

    Trey Burke put up 27 points and eight dimes in a win over West Virginia, scoring the way most NBA point guards do—pulling up and getting to the rim.

    Not only has Burke jumped to the next developmental level, but he's stabilized. It appears that he's taken the next step, both as a scorer and distributor. 

    The better Michigan performs, the better it looks on Burke. This formula didn't hurt Anthony Davis.

19. Isaiah Canaan, Murray State, 6'1'' PG

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    Notable Stats: 21.3 PPG, 4 APG, 43.7 percent 3pt

    Isaiah Canaan contributed to a strong win over Western Kentucky, scoring 21 points with five assists and only two turnovers in 38 minutes.

    He's the ultimate mid-major floor general, and he has Murray State playing close to the level they were at last year.

    Now at 43 percent from downtown, this would mark his fourth consecutive year making 40 percent of his three-point attempts. He has NBA range, athleticism off the dribble and strength at the rim.

    Canaan doesn't have the upside of a Carter-Williams, but he's just as likely to find an NBA home.

20. Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky, 7'0'' Center

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    Notable Stats: 19.6 MPG, 7.6 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 1.9 BPG, 57.9 percent FG

    Another game, another typical 3-for-4 line in the box score for Willie Cauley-Stein.

    This is likely to remain the case for the rest of the year, as coach John Calipari is reluctant to play him alongside Noel for long stretches of a game.

    The big question with Cauley-Stein is whether or not he'll leave after his freshman year. With a full class coming in next year, Cauley-Stein might be better off leaving now, with his potential being a selling point.

21. Jamaal Franklin, San Diego State, 6'5'' SG/SF

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    Notable Stats: 18.6 PPG, 9.7 RPG

    Jamaal Franklin's consistency this year has elevated his draft stock.

    He's been a constant in the box score, whether his three-ball is falling or not. Because of his high motor and activity rate, he's able to pull in almost 10 boards a game a finish a number of scoring opportunities above the rim.

    With better perimeter instincts and a more dynamic off-the-dribble game, Franklin's ceiling could actually go up another level.

    His three-point accuracy has dipped from 33 to 27 percent, so he has work to do as an outside shooter. But in terms of making plays without the ball using his unique physical tools, Franklin fits the bill as an NBA complementary scorer.

22. Doug McDermott, Creighton, 6'7'' SF

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    Notable Stats: 23.7 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 52.9 percent 3pt

    There isn't a hotter shooter in the country than Doug McDermott, who just went for 34 against California and 30 against Akron.

    He's 21-for-31 on three-point attempts (67 percent) over the past five games. That's tough to do alone in the gym.

    McDermott is carving out an emergency escape role as a three-point specialist, in case his athleticism limits him against more physically imposing defenses.

STAR ALERT- 23. Le'Bryan Nash, Oklahoma State, 6'7'' SF

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    Notable Stats: 16.3 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 7.7 FTA

    Le'Bryan Nash was efficient against Central Arkansas, finishing with 19 points, six boards and five assists. He passed up scoring opportunities for himself to set up a teammate with a better look, something we didn't see from Nash as a freshman.

    He needed a game like this after two letdown performances prior, and he could use it to get back on track and continue building on a strong overall start.

    Because of Nash's ability to create his own shots in the half court and get to the line, his ceiling reaches a No. 2 scoring-option level, making him worthy of a star alert.

24. Brandon Paul, Illinois, 6'4'' SG

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    Notable Stats: 18.8 PPG, 39.8 percent 3pt

    Brandon Paul followed up his 35-point game against Gonzaga with a 14-point, eight-rebound game against Norfolk State and a 17-point, nine-rebound game against Eastern Kentucky.

    His ability to create shots from the perimeter, as well as take it to the rack, has made him look like a next-level scorer with doable size for an off-guard.

    He's raised his scoring average from 15 to 18, his field-goal percentage from 39 to 46 percent and his three-point percentage from 33 to 39 percent. Gradual improvement is an admirable quality that goes hand in hand with draft board jumps.

    Paul seems destined to fill a sixth man role if his potential is reached, posing as a high volume perimeter scorer who can put points up in bunches.

25. Tim Hardaway Jr., Michigan, 6'5'' SG

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    Notable Stats: 15.7 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 35.7 percent 3pt

    Tim Hardaway Jr. better hope scouts were watching Michigan's game against West Virginia, when he went off for 25 points on 7-for-12 shooting.

    There's no question he has an NBA-caliber repertoire as a perimeter scoring guard. He continues to show the ability to separate from his defender and create offense off the dribble, whether it be attacking the rim north and south or pulling up east and west.

    He needs to tighten up the consistency on his jumper, which failed him for most of the month. But when it falls, Hardaway looks every part of a next-level scorer.

26. Victor Oladipo, Indiana, 6'4'' SG

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    Notable Stats: 13.2 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 65.8 percent FG, 2.7 SPG

    Victor Oladipo leads the Big Ten in field-goal percentage (which is insane for a shooting guard) and steals. That tells you all you need to know about his style of play.

    Oladipo only takes good shots, which he gets thanks to lightning-quick explosiveness as a slasher toward the rim.

    He's also probably the last guy in the country you want face-guarding you, as his motor and battery never seem to fade. He's like the Tasmanian Devil—causing mayhem and havoc around the floor space he occupies.

    Oladipo is one of those guys whose skill set and measurements you ignore.

27. Richard Howell, North Carolina State, 6'8'' PF

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    Notable Stats: 14.4 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 67.5 percent FG

    Richard Howell has gotten better and better, and he is now at the point where the NBA is listening.

    He won't wow you with athleticism; rather, he'll beat you with production. Howell averages 14 points and only 2.7 missed shots a night. That's offensive efficiency at its peak.

    Against Norfolk State, Howell grabbed 19 rebounds to go along with five assists, five steals and 12 points. He's got a confident mid-range stroke and a strong, intuitive low-post game.

    Teams looking for upside will have no interest in Howell. Teams looking for reliability will.

28. Rodney Williams, Minnesota, 6'7'' SF

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    Notable Stats: 13.4 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 55.5 percent FG, 1.6 BPG

    Because he lacks offensive polish, Rodney Williams is going to have games like he did against South Dakota State, where he scored two points in 29 minutes. He also will have games like he did against North Dakota State, where he scored 19 points on 8-for-14 shooting.

    This lack of offensive reliability is why he's not a lottery talent. 

    However, his off-the-charts athleticism is a persuasive attribute.

    Williams makes two or three plays a game that 99 percent of the basketball population is incapable of. Veteran playoff teams could get high-end athleticism for cheap, say at the end of the first round.

29. Jeff Withey, Kansas, 7'0'' Center

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    Notable Stats: 14.1 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 5.4 BPG, 59.3 percent FG

    It was a quiet week for Jeff Withey, who only totaled five blocks in a win over Belmont, which somehow brought his average down.

    Any offense he produces, or shows signs of producing, is a plus. He'll be drafted by a first-round team looking for defensive depth up front.

30. Trevor Mbakwe, Minnesota, 6'8'' PF

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    Notable Stats: 18.2 MPG, 9.2 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 60 percent FG

    After tearing his ACL last year, Trevor Mbakwe is slowly regaining steam.

    We've seen some explosion out of his legs that we haven't witnessed all year, and he now has his first back-to-back stretch of the season scoring in double-digits.

    He's got the athleticism and skill set to present teams with a legitimate scoring post presence. Whether or not he's physically capable of executing a move before his defender can react will determine just how productive an NBA player Mbakwe will be.