The 2012-13 college basketball is rolling along. As the picture of who will end up in the NCAA tournament becomes clearer, the nation's top professional prospects begin to distinguish themselves from the pack of players hoping to join the league.
The NBA draft is about making improvements both for the present and the future, but it is always valuable for a team to snatch up a player who can be an instant contributor in his rookie season. These players may not have the highest upside, but they have honed their crafts enough to be able to make the jump to the pros without losing their ability to impact the game.
They may not be the stars of tomorrow, but in this mock draft, I've highlighted the most NBA-ready first-round prospects out there and mapped out how things could shake out in June.
All statistics and standings accurate as of January 6, 2013.
The Washington Wizards need all the help they can get after what is sure to be another season to forget. John Wall's prolonged absence has made the team's flaws all the more glaring, and it is clear that this club needs some immediate help.
Enter Indiana's standout sophomore Cody Zeller. Zeller is the leader on a very dangerous Hoosiers team, and he has grown as an all-around player in the 2012-13 season.
Washington has a deep frontcourt, but with Nene and Emeka Okafor playing key roles, they could use an injection of youth alongside Kevin Seraphin. Zeller's ability to score around the rim, rebound and make plays on both ends of the floor makes him a very logical choice.
His athleticism should make him a great running mate for Wall, Bradley Beal and Jordan Crawford.
After a slow start to their season, UCLA has rebounded and a huge part of their turnaround has been the sensational play of freshman Shabazz Muhammad.
Muhammad is averaging 19.6 points and 5.2 rebounds per game for the Bruins while shooting an absurd 48.6 percent from the three-point arc. He is excellent at handling the ball, has a smooth shot and is one of those effortless scorers that every NBA team could use.
The Cleveland Cavaliers have their backcourt of the future in Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters, but they have a glaring hole at small forward that Muhammad could fill for the next decade potentially.
Offensively, Muhammad is the full package and would make a great third option behind Irving and Waiters. He could stand to improve defensively, but he is far from a liability, thanks to his quickness and length.
Eric Gordon's injury history is certainly troubling, and Austin Rivers has not exactly panned out in his rookie campaign, making it quite likely that the New Orleans Hornets draft another guard in 2013.
Kansas' Ben McLemore has been instrumental in the program's success during what was expected to be a down year. He is posting 15.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game while shooting 48.3 percent from the field.
He can handle the ball, is a dynamic finisher in transition and is a threat to knock down outside shots. He has good size and strength for an NBA shooting guard and is also not afraid of taking big shots down the stretch.
With this selection, the Hornets will likely be looking for the best player available who can be an immediate contributor. Ben McLemore should be a great fit for this team.
Also, what GM doesn't value dancing ability?
The Charlotte Bobcats' struggles in the 2012-13 season have come down to their inability to get stops and protect the paint. Bismack Biyombo has been inconsistent at best, and Byron Mullens is far from a defensive enforcer, leaving the team in need of a true center and shot-blocker.
Kentucky's Nerlens Noel is as raw as they come offensively, but he can do two things already that Charlotte desperately lacks: rebound and swat shots.
Noel is averaging 9.3 boards and 3.5 blocks per game while filling Anthony Davis' role as the anchor of the Wildcats' ferocious half-court defense.
Offensively, he is not much of a threat, but he can run the floor as well as any big man in college basketball and should fit with this young Bobcats team that loves to push the pace and get out on the break.
No one expected great things from the Phoenix Suns in 2012-13, but their struggles have been far worse than anyone expected. Gambling on Michael Beasley has not paid off, and while Luis Scola and Marcin Gortat have been productive, both are veterans who may not be a part of the team's long-term plan.
Phoenix needs a boost in the frontcourt, and UNLV's freshman sensation Anthony Bennett would be a great addition. Bennett is posting 19.9 points, 9.1 rebounds and connecting on an unbelievable 56.1 percent from the floor.
He has emerged as a leader, despite his inexperience, and would immediately become a major contributor offensively for the Suns. He can finish in the paint and step outside to hit shots, making him a perfect stretch forward for Alvin Gentry's offense.
Where Bennett must improve, though, is defensively.
He is a bit small for power forward and must bulk up before he can achieve his full potential in the league. Still, he is clearly something special and a surefire high lottery pick in 2013.
The Oklahoma City Thunder received this pick from the Houston Rockets in the James Harden deal, who in turn received it in when they dealt Kyle Lowry to the Toronto Raptors.
With such a strong, young core, Oklahoma City does not have a clear need to fill any positions, but they could use a shooting guard of the future since Harden departed.
In his sophomore season at Georgetown, Otto Porter has shown great improvement.
He continues to be a lock down perimeter defender and has improved his outside shooting. He went from being a bit of an offensive liability to a reliable outside shooter and even a legitimate three-point threat.
The Thunder have Kevin Martin, but he is a free agent at the end of the season and is a big minus on the defensive end. Thabo Sefolosha cannot do much more on offense than drain an open three-pointer.
Porter is not quite ready to be an NBA starter yet, but if he develops a little bit more offensively and adds some weight, he could be a starting-caliber wing player in a season or two and emerge as a third option behind Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
This would be a bit of an unconventional selection for the Detroit Pistons, given that Brandon Knight is their point guard of the future. But because of Michael Carter-Williams' size, I believe that this backcourt tandem could actually work quite well.
The 6'6" Carter-Williams may not be able to hit an open shot, but Knight is a reliable scorer and is a perfect complement to MCW's outstanding passing ability. Add to that Carter-Williams' athleticism and uncanny rebounding ability and the Pistons could actually have one of the league's better guard pairs.
Carter-Williams is averaging a sensational 11.7 points, 4.9 rebounds and 9.8 assists per game for Syracuse after being barely used in his freshman season. He is not a phenomenal one-on-one defender, but he is great at reading passing lanes and coming up with loose balls.
Detroit will likely end up with yet another mid-lottery selection, and at this point, I think it is worth a gamble on a unique talent like Michael Carter-Williams, even if his offensive game still needs some work.
He has the potential to become a Rajon Rondo-type player.
The Orlando Magic lost their franchise center in Dwight Howard over the summer, but they have the opportunity to draft his replacement just a short year later. Maryland's Alex Len has made significant strides since his freshman campaign and is a true seven-footer with plenty of skill.
Len is a strong rebounder and inside finisher who would provide a presence in the paint for this relatively small Orlando team. Len and Nikola Vucevic could become a dominant frontcourt for the Magic if both continue to develop.
Offensively, Len can hit shots from mid-range and attack the basket. He is also great on the offensive glass and can keep possessions alive for his team.
Len needs to bulk up somewhat, but landing him with the eighth overall pick would be a major coup for this rebuilding Orlando team.
The Sacramento Kings could really use a pass-first point guard, but there is not an elite facilitator available in the 2013 draft. Instead, the team should address their need at small forward by snagging Kentucky's Alex Poythress, one of the better 3's in the nation.
Just a freshman, Poythress is posting 14 points and 6.3 points, while shooting a blistering 64.2 percent from the floor. He is an extremely gifted athlete and is incredibly explosive in the open court.
Poythress is not a great ball-handler, but he is a solid defender and puts in great effort on both ends of the floor. He may never become an NBA star, but he is the kind of athletic, versatile player who would be a nice addition for this dysfunctional Sacramento team.
What keeps him from an NBA-ready designation is that he does not have a clear position at the professional level and needs to work a little more on his outside shot to be a three-point threat in the league.
The Dallas Mavericks' decision to sign Derek Fisher midway through the 2012-13 season shows that they clearly are not confident in Darren Collison as their point guard of the future. Rodrigue Beaubois has never quite panned out, and this team could certainly use some young legs, making Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart a worthwhile choice at 10th overall.
Smart's game has its share of flaws, but the freshman is putting up impressive numbers at 14.3 points, 6.1 rebounds and 4.9 dimes per contest. He has great size for a point guard at 6'4" and is an outstanding athlete to boot.
He uses his size to see the floor well and has the ability to drive the lane and power his way to the rim.
However, he is a bit careless with the ball at times and needs to learn when not to force the issue. He also has a shaky jump shot and takes far too many threes for a mediocre shooter.
Even with these issues, Smart has tremendous upside and could emerge as a versatile lead guard to usher in the next era of Dallas Mavericks basketball.
Archie Goodwin is a natural shooting guard, but he has been forced to do a good deal of playmaking for Kentucky due to Ryan Harrow missing time for various reasons. Goodwin has played better than expected on the offensive end of the court and is a tenacious, aggressive defender as well.
The Philadelphia 76ers could choose to draft a big man in case Andrew Bynum leaves in free agency or continues to struggle with his knees, but they also need a 2-guard to pair with Jrue Holiday.
Goodwin is quite the talent.
He is averaging 15.8 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game on 46.9 percent shooting from the field. He would fit well with the Sixers running the fast break and has improved as an outside shooter, making him a viable spot-up threat.
Goodwin needs to take care of the ball better, but he will be doing less facilitating at the NBA level and could be an immediate contributor for Philly from day one.
Breaking his foot might hurt C.J. McCollum's draft stock, but the Lehigh star should still be a mid-lottery selection, thanks to his scoring talents and ability to play both guard positions.
The Phoenix Suns, with what should be their second lottery selection, could use some depth behind Goran Dragic. They could groom McCollum to be their starter at shooting guard.
His team has not quite been performing up to expectations, but McCollum has been averaging a sensational 23.9 points, five rebounds and 2.9 assists per game, while shooting 49.5 percent from the field and 51.6 percent from three.
Yes, McCollum has been torching Patriot League defenses, but he is a very crafty player who can attack the basket off the dribble and has outstanding range on his jumper.
McCollum, a four-year starter, has plenty of experience leading a team, and while he does not have the highest upside, he is as NBA-ready a guard prospect as there is available in the draft.
Michigan's Glenn Robinson III started his freshman season off a bit slowly but has seriously picked up his play in recent weeks and emerged as a potential lottery selection. The Utah Jazz have Marvin Williams at the small forward position, but he is clearly not the long-term solution.
Robinson has averaged 12.5 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game for one of the best teams in the nation and has shot a blistering 59.2 percent from the field.
He is a dominant athlete who can run the break and attack the rim, making him a natural fit for this young Utah team. He needs to work on his outside shot somewhat, but he can still space the floor effectively and is a more developed player than the Jazz's Alec Burks.
At 6'6", he is a little undersized to play the three and needs to stay aggressive offensively, but there is no denying Robinson's talents and his place in the league.
With Ricky Rubio struggling to get back on the court and Brandon Roy's knees wearing down yet again, the Minnesota Timberwolves should certainly look to bolster their backcourt depth. Arkansas' B.J. Young is an athletic combo guard capable of scoring and handling the ball who would slide nicely into Rick Adelman's rotation.
In his sophomore season for the Razorbacks, Young is averaging 17.7 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.3 assists while shooting 47.4 percent from the floor. His shooting percentages have dipped from 2011-12, particularly from three-point range, but that is a product of him having to shoulder a greater offensive load.
Young will need to find his outside shooting stroke if he wants to be an upper-echelon NBA wing, but his length and ability to attack the rim are extremely valuable.
His 6'3" stature makes it unclear what position he will play, but whether he plays the point guard or off-guard role, he will be able to make an impact, thanks to his versatility.
A national player of the year candidate and one of the most improved players in the country, Duke's Mason Plumlee has improved practically every facet of his game and propelled Duke to a 14-0 start.
Plumlee is posting 18.4 points, 11.3 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game while connecting on 63.4 percent of his shots from the field. He has also made huge strides from the free-throw line and is no longer a late-game liability like he has been in the past.
The Boston Celtics' frontcourt has not been particularly impressive, and the team needs a dominant rebounder and inside player to pair with Kevin Garnett. Plumlee is a great finisher at the rim who can also block shots and attack both the offensive and defensive glass.
He may not produce much offensively at the next level, but he has a clear role as an athletic banger that can run the floor and make plays in the paint.
The Celtics need all the help they can get on the interior, and Mason Plumlee will be able to play a vital role for this team from day one.
The Milwaukee Bucks have made a fairly patchwork frontcourt work to their advantage, but the team could use a true center to bolster their interior play.
Enter Kentucky's Willie Cauley-Stein, who has played well in limited minutes and is a very high-potential prospect. In just 20.5 minutes per game, he is averaging 7.8 points, 5.9 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game on 61.6 percent shooting from the field.
Cauley-Stein's game lacks polish, and he is downright horrendous from the foul line, but as a true seven-footer with length and uncanny athleticism, he is an intriguing prospect.
He has a long way to go offensively but already has the makings of an impact defender because of his ability to block shots and control the defensive glass.
Obviously, there is chance he chooses to stay with the Wildcats as he will likely start as a sophomore, but if not, he could very well wind up with Milwaukee in 2013.
Baylor's Isaiah Austin may be thin as a rail, but he has played tremendous basketball for the Bears in his freshman season.
He is posting 14.8 points, 8.9 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game while shooting 51.4 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from three-point territory.
The Charlotte Bobcats receive the Portland Trail Blazers' top-14 protected draft pick as a result of the Gerald Wallace trade and will likely use it to take the best player available.
Austin is a unique big man in that, not only can he shoot from outside, but he is also capable of absorbing contact and playing in the paint. He is a good rebounder who does not simply camp out on the perimeter and has a productive, reliable post game.
He may not be much of a shot-blocker, but few college centers are as good as he is offensively.
He is still a ways away from being a starting-caliber big man and desperately needs to add some muscle to his wiry frame, but Austin is a project well worth waiting on for Charlotte.
UNC has had a down season by their standards, but James Michael McAdoo has emerged as a sophomore into a strong defender and a reliable scoring option.
McAdoo is averaging 14.5 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game, while shooting 46.3 percent from the floor.
The Denver Nuggets' core is set, but the team could always use another athletic player to run the floor in George Karl's system, and McAdoo's defensive acumen makes him extremely valuable. He is physical and uses his length and quickness to disrupt opponents and make them work for their shots.
Offensively, he still needs to polish his jump shot to ensure he becomes more than just another athletic combo forward, but he is a great finisher in transition and would provide some additional depth for Denver.
With his ability to read passing lanes and run the floor, James McAdoo would fit in perfectly with this Nuggets team.
A unique forward prospect capable of handling the ball and making outside shots with regularity, Croatia's Dario Saric is as versatile a forward prospect as they come.
The Brooklyn Nets have Gerald Wallace and Kris Humphries at forward, but they could use another player capable of knocking down shots and creating consistent offense.
Saric is also capable of making plays and finding open teammates but is also a consistent rebounder at 6'10". He uses his length well, and despite not being a great one-on-one defender, he does contest shots and does work on the defensive boards.
Saric needs to improve his decision-making, somewhat, and add some bulk. But he has a future in the league as a big man capable of handling the ball and should be enticing enough for Brooklyn to scoop up in the latter part of the first round.
The Chicago Bulls have played as well as could be expected in the absence of Derrick Rose, but it is clear that their lack of a reliable option at the off-guard spot is holding them back.
Georgia's Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has shown tremendous growth from his freshman to his sophomore season, and while he is not quite NBA-ready, he is as good of a prospect as there will be available when Chicago is selecting.
Assuming the first-option role offensively, Caldwell-Pope is averaging an impressive 17.5 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.1 assists. His shooting percentages leave a lot to be desires, as he's connecting on just 42.3 percent of his attempts overall and 33.3 percent from distance.
He is a versatile scorer who can pull up from anywhere and knife his way into the lane as well. His decision-making is not always great, but he does not turn the ball over much relative to his high usage rate.
With a little work on his outside stroke, Caldwell-Pope could emerge as a great sidekick to Rose.
The Atlanta Hawks were expected to be in a rebuilding year in 2012-13 after dealing Joe Johnson, but behind a strong defense and the play of Josh Smith and Al Horford the team has thrived and appears to be a lock for the postseason.
Still, dealing Johnson and Marvin Williams has left them with an obvious need at small forward. With that in mind, the team should use the draft pick they received from Houston to grab North Texas standout Tony Mitchell.
Mitchell has not developed as much as many people anticipated in his sophomore campaign, but he is still posting 14.8 points, 9.1 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game while shooting 47 percent overall.
He is a sensational athlete and someone capable of using his quickness to make plays on the defensive end of the floor. He would fit nicely in with this new incarnation of the Hawks and give them another defensive stopper.
What keeps him from an NBA-ready designation, however, are his maturity issues and his inability to consistently knock down outside shots.
Danny Granger's knee injury raised a serious concern about his role with the Indiana Pacers going forward and whether the team needs to add another small forward. Without their star scorer, the Pacers' defense has carried them, but they could use some added depth at the three spot.
Colorado's Andre Roberson is one of the best defensive wing players in the nation and has been a huge part of the Buffaloes' successful start to the 2012-13 season.
Roberson is averaging 11.4 points, 12.1 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game, while shooting 49.2 percent from the floor and 42.9 percent from deep. He has not been connecting consistently on his free throws, but that is about the only hole to be found in the junior's game.
He is somewhat undersized at 6'7", but he uses his length to absolutely dominate the glass and can also block shots. He reads passing lanes extremely well and has the ability to get out on the break and finish at the rim.
He'll never be an NBA star, but Roberson's defensive talents make him the kind of player who can fill a role instantly.
Al Horford has played admirably at center for Atlanta, but he is a bit undersized and is a more natural fit for the power forward spot. The Hawks have two late first-round selections and would be wise to draft a true center who can anchor the paint and protect the hoop.
Kansas' Jeff Withey, fresh off a breakout junior season, is having a sensational senior year for the Jayhwaks, averaging 13.4 points, 8.2 rebounds and 5.2 blocks per contest.
Withey is not a great offensive player, but he has added a reliable hook shot to his game and is capable of converting from the charity stripe, an invaluable trait for a center.
He is a steady rebounder, but what makes Withey so useful is his ability to alter shots using his length and excellent timing. He is as reliable a help defender as they come and deters opponents from driving into the lane.
Defense, rebounding and shot-blocking are things that usually translate well to the professional level, meaning Withey should have a fairly easy time making the jump.
The Utah Jazz are not in great shape at the point guard position, and with the future of Mo Williams up in the air, it makes it essential that the team uses one of their first-round selections to draft a point guard.
Michigan's Trey Burke has emerged as one of the top floor generals in the country, averaging 18.2 points, three boards and 7.5 assists per game while shooting a blistering 54.6 percent from the field and 40.6 percent from three-point range.
His scoring numbers and percentages may dip slightly as Big Ten play continues, but there is no denying the crafty point guard's ability to attack the basket and create offense for his team.
Burke's size is a legitimate concern, and he must add some heft before he an become a true impact player, but there is no denying that at worst he can be a spark plug off the bench capable of running a team's offense for stretches and handling the ball.
If Burke can bulk up and put in more consistent effort on the defensive end to match his offensive versatility, he could very well end up as a quality NBA starter down the road.
Kevin Love has proven to be fairly fragile, despite his rugged play, making it important that the Minnesota Timberwolves add some frontcourt depth in case he continues to miss time regularly. French big man Rudy Gobert is a raw prospect, but because of his length and athleticism, he is certianly an intriguing one.
Gobert needs to add weight and develop his offensive arsenal, but he uses his length well on the defensive end to alter shots and crash the glass.
He is also an extremely quick player, capable of covering ground quickly and covering his teammates defensive mistakes.
Gobert can play both behind Love and center Nikola Pekovic, and his youth means he has an incredibly high ceiling going forward. He needs to be polished, but he could potentially be one of the steals of the 2013 draft.
Jason Kidd has had an unprecedented resurgence, and Raymond Felton is playing as well as could be expected, but the New York Knicks could use some youth at the point guard position.
Kidd could very well retire at season's end, and Pablo Prigioni is a free agent as well, meaning that the team could use another guard who can run the team's offense but also create his own shot with the team's second unit.
Murray State star Isaiah Canaan burst on the national scene during the 2011-12 season and has continued his impressive play, posting 21.4 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game. He is shooting 45.8 percent from the floor and 41.9 percent from distance.
He is explosive in the open court and has become a more reliable ball-handler in the halfcourt as well. He does not do much defensively, but he can create offense and also work as a spot-up shooter as well.
Canaan will likely never be a starter at the professional level, but he has the talent to be a valuable role player for a team like New York for years to come.
Even though Cleveland should address their small forward issue with their lottery pick, there is always the possibility they choose to bring in another player at the position who can help with the scoring burden.
Creighton's Doug McDermott is just a junior, but has emerged as one of the top scorers in the nation as he is averaging 23.1 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game on 54.3 percent shooting from the field and 48.5 percent from deep.
He is not particularly explosive and is not a great athlete, but McDermott is a crafty player who can handle the ball, get to his spots on the floor and hit shots even against tight defense.
At the NBA level, he will be a liability defensively, but he is an incredibly efficient scorer, and that will earn him a spot in the league. The Cavs could use an added scoring option, and McDermott, even in a limited role, would provide that.
The San Antonio Spurs' system could always use another pure scorer with a sweet shooting stroke, and with Manu Ginobili showing signs of age, the team could look to grab another shooting guard like Washington's C.J. Wilcox.
Wilcox, a redshirt junior, is having a career year, averaging 18.4 points, 4.5 rebounds and two dimes per game, while shooting 46.4 percent from the field.
He has become the main scoring threat for Washington, and his ability to drill shots from anywhere on the floor makes him an extremely tough cover. However, he typically makes good decisions with the ball and would be a great fit for the Spurs' fast paced offense.
He is an average defender and not an elite athlete, but he has the build of a prototypical NBA 2-guard and the length to at least make his opponents work for their shots.
Minnesota's Rodney Williams has had an extremely productive four-year career with the Golden Gophers and is just the kind of player a team looking for immediate, but not significant, help is looking for.
The Los Angeles Clippers' situation at shooting guard is not quite certain, and they could use a smart, aggressive athlete like Williams who can run the floor and play stingy perimeter defense.
Williams will not be leaned upon as much of a scorer in the league, but he is not an offensive liability thanks to his talents for finishing at the rim and could be groomed into a very dangerous outside defender.
He has plenty of experience playing in important games and should contribute to the winning culture the Los Angeles organization is building.
Williams' upside may be low, but he is most certainly NBA ready.
Myck Kabongo has been making headlines for his battles with the NCAA due to eligibility issues, not his play on the court, but he is still a talented point guard who is a clear first-round talent.
Eric Maynor is a free agent in the summer of 2013 and could depart for a more featured role, making it essential that the Thunder grab a point guard to play some spot minutes off the bench behind Russell Westbrook.
Kabongo is an excellent athlete who loves to push the pace of the game, finding open teammates and attacking the basket.
He needs to improve his offensive game, as he struggled with his outside shot and overall efficiency, but Kabongo is an undeniable talent. He could be quite valuable coming off the bench for OKC to keep their offense running smoothly and give them a pass-first point guard to complement Westbrook.