We kicked off the New Year with our first big board of 2013, and we’ve already made some drastic changes to it after a single week.
Let’s take a closer look at the top 30 players in the nation and across the Atlantic, assign an overall ranking to each one, followed by an alphabetical grade based on their performances and upside as an NBA draft prospect.
Make sure to reference the changes from last week’s big board, as we’ve made it easy for you by putting each player’s Jan. 1 ranking in parentheses next to their name.
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)
Even if Noel isn’t having the best statistical season, he’s our top prospect.
The big man has the size and athleticism to become a force in the NBA, even if it takes him some time to develop. Don’t expect him to come in and make an immediate impact, but down the line he may be one of the better PF/C’s in the league.
No. 2: Shabazz Muhammad, SF, UCLA (Up from No. 3)
Regardless if Muhammad plays the 2 or 3 at the next level, he’s going to find a way to score.
With so many teams in the lottery looking for someone who can simply put the ball through the bottom of the net, there’s no doubt in our minds that he is going to be a top-three pick come draft day.
No. 3: Alex Len, C, Maryland (Down from No. 2)
Len put himself on the map by outplaying Noel and Willie Cauley-Stein in the beginning of the season, and he continues to rise with great play for the Terps.
The big man has a skill set that will translate to the pros and we expect he’ll be an extremely solid—if unspectacular—starter in a few years.
No. 4: Ben McLemore, SF, Kansas (Remains No. 4)
No player has improved his stock over the course of the season more than the Jayhawks swingman.
He’s shown the ability to shoot the ball from anywhere on the floor and has the body to absorb contact when going to the cup. He reminds us a bit of Bradley Beal, his former AAU teammate—who went No. 3 overall in the 2012 draft.
No. 5: Alex Poythress, SF, Kentucky (Remains No. 5)
Poythress has many of the same skills that Michael Kidd-Gilchrist provided last year for the Wildcats, but his motor isn’t as strong.
If the young man can start hustling more, while continuing to do all the important things—score, rebound, play defense, etc—he’s going to become a star in the NBA.
No. 6: Cody Zeller, C, Indiana (Remains No. 6)
Which player is No. 1 on your big board?
While Zeller topped many big boards at the start of the 2012-13 campaign, we’ve been skeptical on the young man and it seems for good reason.
He’s yet to show much of a noticeable improvement over his superb freshman season, which isn’t a bad thing, but makes scouts leery that he has reached his ceiling.
No. 7: Anthony Bennett, PF, UNLV (Remains No. 7)
It doesn’t matter that Bennett doesn’t possess the prototypical size for a 4; he has the heart and strength to get his buckets and out-muscle the opposition in the paint.
There’s plenty of undersized bigs making an impact in the NBA, so as long as Bennett continues to dominate on the glass and on the scoreboard, he’s going to be a lottery lock.
No. 8: Otto Porter, SF, Georgetown (Up from No. 9)
Porter has a shine to his game and continues to improve with more experience at the collegiate level. He knows how to score and contribute in a number of categories, making him an extremely intriguing prospect.
As for his perceived low upside, that just may keep him on the fringes of the lottery, rather than going in the top half.
No. 9: Michael Carter-Williams, G, Syracuse (Up from No. 10)
If you were designing an elite NBA PG, you’d probably want someone to be the size of MCW.
At 6’6”, he’s a massive guard and has elite playmaking abilities, coupled with a pass-first mentality. As long as he continues to set up his teammates and earn easy buckets for everyone, we doubt another point guard will come off the board before Carter-Williams.
No. 10: Archie Goodwin, SG, Kentucky (Down from No. 8)
With so many athletic guards taking over the league right now, Goodwin is going to be a coveted player in the draft.
He is one of the most freakishly fast and quick guys on the board, and many teams will take a chance on him in order to guard the likes of Russell Westbrook, Derrick Rose and other top-tier players.
No. 11: Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State (Up from No. 16)
Smart is immensely coachable and continues to improve his scoring and passing capabilities.
If he keeps it up, the Pokes star will be one of the first guards selected on draft day.
No. 12: C.J. McCollum, SG, Lehigh (Up from No. 14)
Everyone loves a scorer, and McCollum is the best in the class.
He’s a bit undersized and perceived to be a ball hog at times, but there’s no denying his natural talent to simply put points up on the board.
McCollum reminds us a bit of Damian Lillard from last year’s class—a young man who went to a small school and had no problem translating his scoring ability to the next level.
No. 13: Mason Plumlee, PF, Duke (Remains No. 13)
Don’t sleep on Plumlee becoming an early lottery pick, as there’s not much to pick apart concerning his game.
He does all the little things, hustles and plays with a motor that just won’t quit. The Blue Devil star is a glorified garbage man, but every championship team needs a player like him logging major minutes.
Which PF would you rather have on your squad?
No. 14: Isaiah Austin, PF, Baylor (Down from No. 11)
We truly want to put Austin higher, but we just aren’t sold on his ability to play the 4 in the NBA.
He’s too skinny and seems to desire handling the ball like a guard and fires up shots from all over the court like a swingman.
If he bulks up and starts banging in the paint come the combine and workouts, the Baylor star’s stock is going through the roof.
No. 15: Rudy Gobert, PF, France (Down from No. 12)
Does Gobert have what it takes to translate his giant frame from the EuroLeague to American shores?
We know a team will certainly take a stab at his potential, as his wingspan and size are just too much to ignore. It remains to be seen if he can harness this into a successful career in the Association.
No. 16: Trey Burke, PG, Michigan (Up from No. 26)
Like McLemore, Burke has proven himself over the first half of the season and is now looking like a legitimate lottery pick.
The Wolverines PG is piloting an elite program to a top seed in the NCAA tournament, and we suspect his play there will determine his draft position. Right now, he’d absolutely be a top pick because of his elite scoring and distributing talents.
No. 17: Dario Saric, SF, Croatia (Remains No. 17)
Saric is a point-forward that may be one of the better playmakers in this class, but as with many Euro prospects, we just can’t tell if he’ll be able to pack that talent in his suitcase and bring it to the USA.
He’s extremely young, so we can see a deep, veteran contender using a mid-to-late first round pick and stashing him overseas for a while.
No. 18: James Michael McAdoo, PF, UNC (Down from No. 15)
McAdoo continues to plummet down on our big board, as the once-projected top pick continues to fall from grace.
He’s shown no improvement from his freshman year, and may have in fact regressed in his second year with the Tar Heels. If he doesn’t figure out how to turn things around, he’s likely a fringe first-rounder and would be better served staying in school.
No. 19: Jamaal Franklin, SG, San Diego State (Up from No. 21)
The Aztecs junior guard has played consistently well through the 2012-13 campaign and will likely land in the first round because of this.
He’s supremely athletic, has a nice rebounding knack and knows how to get to the cup. If he polishes up his jumper in time for workouts, it will do wonders for his stock.
No. 20: Tony Mitchell, SF, North Texas (Down from No. 18)
We’d like to see Mitchell completely destroy the low level of competition that his Mean Green are facing, but that hasn’t been the case on a consistent basis.
Until that happens, we aren’t sold on this young man as a top prospect.
No. 21: B.J. Young, PG, Arkansas (Down from No. 19)
Young has great athleticism and scoring touch, but he doesn’t distribute and seems like a mediocre floor general.
Perhaps it’s because his Razorback teammates are subpar, but we’re not expecting this kid to come into the NBA and start leading the league in assists. He may be better served in a spark plug role off the bench.
No. 22: Myck Kabongo, PG, Texas (Down from No. 20)
Kabongo can’t get back on the floor until Feb. 13, but his stock is still relatively high.
He reminds many of a young Rajon Rondo, with his great passing instincts, elite athleticism and a drive-and-dish type of game.
No. 23: Jeff Withey, C, Kansas (Up from No. 25)
Withey is a natural defender and shot-blocker, but he won’t be a great professional player until he develops more on the offensive end.
Right now, he’s a liability and needs to work on his post-up game.
No. 24: Willie Cauley-Stein, C, Kentucky (Up from No. 28)
Noel gets all the attention in Lexington, Ky. but Cauley-Stein is an intriguing prospect that has a lot of raw potential.
It wouldn’t be a major shock to see him get selected in the lottery, mostly due to the lack of high-upside bigs in this class.
No. 25: Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State (Down from No. 23)
The Spartans star has made a name for himself during his time in East Lansing, Mich. but has much to improve on and is getting by mostly on his great athletic abilities.
If he decides to stay another year under Tom Izzo, Harris could be a lottery pick.
No. 26: Le’Bryan Nash, SF, Oklahoma State (Down from No. 24)
Nash can’t seem to get his head in the game, but often plays amazing when he’s actually focused.
He possesses the body of a star NBA player and the potential to become one, but the question is: Does he have the desire?
No. 27: Steven Adams, C, Pittsburgh (Down from No. 22)
Adams is nothing more than a big body in our minds, but some scouts are extremely high on his potential, so we’ve listed him here.
He looks like an absolute bust and needs more time in school before he gets destroyed in the NBA.
No. 28: C.J. Leslie, PF, NC State (Down from No. 27)
Leslie’s had an up-and-down collegiate career, and that inconsistency is not helping his stock.
It’ll take a solid stretch of great play and perhaps a deep tournament run to get Leslie back into the first half of the first round.
No. 29: Glenn Robinson III, SF, Michigan (Unranked last week)
Michigan basketball is back on the map, and this young man has significantly contributed to its excellent season.
The forward has an NBA pedigree and has put up some great numbers in recent games. If he keeps it up, the freshman will land in the league—just like his pops.
No. 30: Brandon Paul, SG, Illinois (Down from No. 29)
Paul hasn’t exactly lived up to all the expectations foisted upon him when he first started playing in Champagne, Ill. but he’s doing well as of late.
He’s a great athlete, above-average shooter and knows how to score when driving with the rock. Paul could be a steal late in the draft.
Dropped From Rankings
No. 30: Doug McDermott, SF, Creighton