It’s the first day of 2013, so there is no better time to debut our first big board of the New Year.
Let’s take a look at the 30 best prospects across the collegiate ranks and overseas, rank each one and assign a grade based on how we think they will fare when they make the jump to the NBA.
Obviously, you’re not going to agree with every selection, so drop a line in the comments and let us know what you think.
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
Regardless of Kentucky’s record or Noel’s offensive woes, we believe he’s the top prospect in the draft.
He’s an absolute machine on defense that will make a huge impact no matter what NBA team lands him. The lengthy big man has a bright future and this season should only get better for him and the Wildcats.
No. 2: Alex Len, C, Maryland
Len is starting to look like the real deal, and his 7’1” frame seals his status as one of the top prospects in 2013.
The extra year of college has done the Terps sophomore well, and we fully expect him to come off the board within the first five picks at this rate.
No. 3: Shabazz Muhammad, SF, UCLA
Muhammad is the best scorer in the class, but the Bruins' subpar play in 2013 is hurting this young man’s stock.
If he continues to develop, there’s no question he goes early, as many believe the UCLA star is reminiscent of James Harden (Arizona State version).
No. 4: Ben McLemore, SF, Kansas
Despite being relatively old for a freshman, McLemore has emerged as a true beast for the Jayhawks and continues to boost his stock with excellent play.
He needs to add bulk to his sizable frame, but looks to be a blue chip prospect at this juncture.
No. 5: Alex Poythress, SF, Kentucky
Poythress reminds us of a more offensively sound Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
The Bobcats took MKG at No. 2 last year, so the sky is the limit for this young swingman with a gifted scoring touch and great all-around abilities.
No. 6: Cody Zeller, C, Indiana
Zeller is slipping down our big board as more players with higher ceilings continue to improve around the college basketball world.
It’s not a knock on the Hoosiers' star, but he doesn’t have the brightest pro career despite being extremely polished at the collegiate level. We expect a team that is desperate for help along their frontline will grab Zeller in the lottery.
No. 7: Anthony Bennett, PF, UNLV
Bennett is a physical specimen, but he’s got to add some polish to that raw frame. His game is based on pure power, but it’s going to be tougher to outmuscle the NBA bigs next year if he declares for the draft.
No. 8: Archie Goodwin, SG, Kentucky
Goodwin has an immense amount of athleticism for his position and that will be needed to both guard and score on NBA 2’s.
He’s likely going to be another Wildcats one-and-done, but we’ll see how the rest of this season goes for the raw prospect. He has to work on ball security and scoring on a consistent basis.
No. 9: Otto Porter, SF, Georgetown
Porter continues to impress us with his versatility and overall solid play. There’s little chance, barring something unforeseen like injury, that he slips out of the lottery
No. 10: Michael Carter-Williams, G, Syracuse
MCW is one of the top PG prospects in the nation, but he has to realize his role on the team and stop shrinking when the lights shine brightest.
In a loss to Temple, the 6’6” guard went 3-of-17 from the field and only dished out six assists, well below his season average of 10.2.
He needed to be facilitating and making buckets, instead he was throwing up clunkers and hogging the rock.
No. 11: Isaiah Austin, PF, Baylor
Austin is still playing a bit like a 3, when every NBA scout that is interested knows he will be manning the 4 at the next level.
While he’s doing well at Baylor, Austin has to get down into the paint and start working on his low-post moves to become a true star at the next level.
No. 12: Rudy Gobert, PF, France
International prospects are always tough to get a bead on, but Gobert looks solid and has incredible size—plus wingspan—for his position.
No. 13: Mason Plumlee, PF, Duke
Duke’s garbage man reminds us of a more tenacious, improved Kris Humphries.
The Blue Devil is willing to scrap for every board, hustle up and down the court and find a way to impact games, despite not having every play run for him.
No. 14: C.J. McCollum, SG, Lehigh
McCollum is worthy of draft consideration alone on his excellent performance against Duke as a No. 15 seed last year, but he’s building on that and could become another Damian Lillard type that dominates at a mid-major and gets drafted early.
No. 15: James Michael McAdoo, PF, UNC
McAdoo continues to plummet down to the rankings as he's shown absolutely no improvement over his freshman year and is struggling to become the star that many predicted he would in 2012-13.
He still has time to turn it around, but our expectations have certainly been lowered for this Tar Heel.
No. 16: Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State
Smart is eminently coachable and seems to be a joy to play with, two great qualities in a modern point guard.
The Pokes need him to start hitting shots at a higher clip, but things are looking up for this young man.
No. 17: Dario Saric, SF, Croatia
Again, international prospects are tough to read, but Saric has shown flashes of brilliance in the EuroLeagues and exhibition contests.
He’s likely going to be taken late by a team that has the luxury of stashing him overseas for a while.
No. 18: Tony Mitchell, SF, North Texas
Mitchell is having a decent 2012-13 campaign, but he’s not dominating the way a player of his caliber should against lowly competition.
We’re not saying he’s falling outside the lottery yet, but he needs to step it up and start dominating the way he’s capable of.
No. 19: B.J. Young, PG, Arkansas
We’re hesitant to label Young as a PG, as he’s always firing up the rock and freezing his teammates out.
Young is still a lottery prospect despite being turnover prone and selfish, as his athleticism is undeniable and his teammates are clearly subpar.
No. 20: Myck Kabongo, PG, Texas
Kabongo is serving a lengthy suspension, but he’s still going in the first round due to his style of play and comparisons to Rajon Rondo.
Like the Celtics' star, the Longhorns' PG puts passing first, knows how to drive and dish and has all the tools of a pure point.
No. 21: Jamaal Franklin, SG, San Diego State
Franklin is a sound shooting guard that has all the overall skills to play the position in the NBA.
He can shoot, rebound, defend, get to the cup and has prototypical size for the position.
No. 22: Steven Adams, C, Pittsburgh
Adams likely needs another year before he can make a serious impact in the NBA, so we hope he elects to stay in school.
However, he will get selected if he declares, as he has huge size and a lot of raw potential.
No. 23: Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State
This Spartans' stud doesn’t have great range on his jumper, but does everything else a decent clip.
If he improves in all areas, there’s no chance that Harris slips from the first round.
No. 24: Le’Bryan Nash, SF, Oklahoma State
If Nash could only live up to the potential he’s been blessed with, he would likely be a No. 1 overall pick.
Unfortunately, there are character issues, motor concerns and plenty of other red flags with this Cowboy.
No. 25: Jeff Withey, C, Kansas
Withey is a defender first and foremost, but could bump his stock by getting more involved on the offensive end.
It’ll be worth monitoring to see if he starts calling for the ball in the post and trying to develop a back-to-the-basket game by the time the draft comes around.
No. 26: Trey Burke, PG, Michigan
Burke is likely going to shoot up the draft boards by the end of the season, but we need to see a bit more from the young man before vaulting him to the lottery.
His Wolverines are rolling in 2012-13, and Burke has been the catalyst. If they keep it up, his efforts will certainly be validated with a top 15 pick.
No. 27: C.J. Leslie, PF, NC State
Leslie can play both forward positions well, but doesn’t project to be elite at either. He’s definitely an intriguing prospect, but we need to see consistency before advocating a first-round selection.
No. 28: Willie Cauley-Stein, C, Kentucky
Cauley-Stein has been an asset for the Wildcats, but didn’t get nearly the same amount of hype that Noel did coming into the season.
If he continues to improve his defense and works to craft an offensive game, Cauley-Stein will come off the board early.
No. 29: Brandon Paul, SG, Illinois
Paul’s been killing it for the Illini and we would love to see the former elite recruit make his way into the NBA as a first-rounder.
If he continues to play at a high level, it shouldn’t be an issue.
No. 30: Doug McDermott, SF, Creighton
This sniper has put himself on the map as the Bluejays' best player, and he is easily going to be able to bang threes in the NBA.
While McDermott doesn’t have the athleticism to guard other swingmen consistently in the NBA, his value as a shooter is through the roof.
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