With another week of the college season behind us, it’s about time to take another look at our constantly updating big board, which contains an ordered list of the top 30 prospects in the nation (and overseas).
There haven’t been too many drastic changes—and we predict there won’t be until tournament time—because a number of players have worked relentlessly to stake an early claim to a first-round selection and will be hard-pressed to give up that position.
Let’s take a look at our latest big board for the week of Jan. 15, with changes from the last edition noted next to the player’s 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)
Noel still needs to work more on the offensive end and fill out his lengthy frame with some muscle mass, but he’s been our top prospect all year and we simply don’t see that changing.
He’s a big with an undeniable motor, an extremely rare combination in the modern NBA. Even if he takes a few years to fully develop into a productive professional, Noel is worth a top pick.
No. 2: Shabazz Muhammad, SF, UCLA (Remains No. 2)
Muhammad has a great frame and a knack for scoring, but his lack of facilitating ability is concerning.
He reminds us of a young James Harden with less passing skills, which isn’t a bad thing considering the way the Houston Rockets star has panned out since being selected No. 3 overall back in 2009.
No. 3: Ben McLemore, SF, Kansas (Up from No. 4)
McLemore has done more than any other prospect to improve his stock over the course of the 2012-13 campaign.
He’s an older freshman at age 20, but he’s been absolutely killing it during his first collegiate season and is averaging a whopping 16.4 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.3 steals.
Those are lottery numbers and, coupled with being “the man” for a winning Jayhawks squad, should see this kid fall in the top seven come draft day.
No. 4: Alex Len, C, Maryland (Down from No. 3)
Len is a great rebounder, has a big body and looks to be an awesome teammate. If he can continue to show a great mix of upside and size, this young man will be one of the first names called in April.
No. 5: Anthony Bennett, PF, UNLV (Up from No. 7)
This Canadian star has been getting better all season and continues to refine his raw skills.
Bennett was initially thought of as a long-term prospect who had the strength and power to play down low in the NBA, but not the technique.
If he keeps showing that he has a balance of brute force and touch around the hoop, he’s going to remain at the top of our big board.
No. 6: Otto Porter, SF, Georgetown (Up from No. 8)
Porter’s size and skills are perfect for a swingman in today’s NBA, and he keeps proving that he has all the tools to succeed at the next level.
No. 7: Cody Zeller, C, Indiana (Down from No. 6)
Zeller’s stock has dramatically dipped since being one of the top-rated bigs on the board in the early portions of the 2012-13 season.
He’s shown little improvement from his freshman outing, and most of the other PFs and Cs have more upside and potential than this Hoosier.
While Zeller is still one of the most draft-ready prospects, we don’t see him going as early and should instead find his way onto a squad that needs immediate help in the frontcourt.
No. 8: Michael Carter-Williams, G, Syracuse (Up from No. 9)
Carter-Williams looks to be one of the best playmakers in the class and has amazing size for the PG position. However, he has to add an outside shot to his repertoire to become a truly elite talent.
No. 9: Alex Poythress, SF, Kentucky (Down from No. 5)
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist left a gaping vacancy at the swingman position after last year’s talented freshman was selected No. 2 in the draft upon winning a national title.
Poythress is doing his best to plug that hole, but doesn’t seem to possess the same motor as MKG, which is why his numbers aren’t as great and his defense isn’t as lauded. Regardless, he’s still one of the top SFs in this class
No. 10: Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State (Up from No. 11)
Smart has been climbing his way up the draft board by being an immensely coachable young man with a knack for facilitating, superb athleticism and a solid scoring touch.
No. 11: Archie Goodwin, SG, Kentucky (Down from No. 10)
With athletic guards like Russell Westbrook and Derrick Rose absolutely dominating in the NBA, there’s plenty of reason to take a chance on a young man like Goodwin.
He’s a freak athlete who sometimes plays wildly out of control, but his upside is undeniable. Even if he’s just used as a defender to try to help keep these star guards in line, there is plenty of value in grabbing the Wildcats guard early.
No. 12: Mason Plumlee, PF, Duke (Up from No. 13)
The senior isn’t going to wow anyone with his athleticism or upside, but he’s a gamer and looks to have a solid NBA career ahead of him.
Plumlee hustles, bangs for boards, hits open shots and does all the little things it takes to win.
No. 13: Isaiah Austin, PF, Baylor (Up from No. 14)
Austin has the height of a center and the muscular build of a guard. It’s a huge detriment to his professional prospects; teams are going to want him to bang down low, but he continues to try to play outside for the Bears.
Unless Austin finds a way to gain some serious mass, we struggle to see him logging big minutes in the NBA.
No. 14: C.J. McCollum, SG, Lehigh (Down from No. 12)
Many are quick to call McCollum a tweener, but he’s an explosive scorer that is without a doubt the best point producer on his Mountain Hawks squad.
At the next level, this young fellow will be much more willing to distribute to more talented teammates—while still being able to score at will against most opponents.
No. 15: Trey Burke, PG, Michigan (Up from No. 16)
The Wolverines finally lost, but Burke’s stock is firmly entrenched and he’s definitely one of the top PGs in this class. The young man may not be the biggest prospect, but he’s a great passer, top-notch scorer and verbal leader on the floor.
No. 16: Rudy Gobert, PF, France (Down from No. 15)
Gobert projects to be an elite rim protector in the Association, but we hardly see the big man with a much-publicized 7’9” wingspan ever doing much more.
He’s a specialist who will likely come off the bench for his defense and has the ability to change an opponent’s game plan.
No. 17: Dario Saric, SF, Croatia (Remains No. 17)
Saric is extremely young but has a ton of upside for an overseas talent. We imagine a contender will take a gamble on this kid late in the first and stash him in the EuroLeague for a couple of years.
No. 18: James Michael McAdoo, PF, UNC (Remains No. 18)
McAdoo's plummet down the big board is hardly a surprise, as the Tar Heels “star” hasn’t been much of a game-changer during his sophomore year.
Many were expecting more from McAdoo in his second season at Chapel Hill, but he’s becoming less and less of a factor as time goes on. If he continues to force up bad looks, ignore teammates and make everything hard out there for himself and everyone else, his stock will only fall further.
There is still hope for the 20-year-old, but his chances of becoming a lottery pick are looking slimmer and slimmer. It’ll likely take a solid tournament to change some minds.
No. 19: Jamaal Franklin, SG, San Diego State (Remains No. 19)
Franklin is a beastly athlete who rebounds extremely well for his position, knows how to put the ball through the bottom of the net and isn’t afraid to D up on anyone. He does all these things well, but none great, so he grades out as a decent mid-first-round pick.
No. 20: Tony Mitchell, SF, North Texas (Remains No. 20)
There was once a time when this talented prospect was compared to Kevin Durant, but that praise has proven to be far too lofty. Mitchell is a great athlete and decent shot-maker, but he doesn’t possess a transcendent scoring ability
No. 21: Myck Kabongo, PG, Texas (Up from No. 22)
Kabongo is still suspended, but he’s one of the best pure point guards in the class. He uses his elite vision and athleticism to drive and dish to teammates and cares far more about facilitating than getting his own buckets.
No. 22: Jeff Withey, C, Kansas (Up from No. 23)
The Jayhawks are rolling and Withey is a large reason why, although he has to improve more on the offensive end if he’s ever going to jump up the big board and become a serious lottery contender.
No. 23: B.J. Young, PG, Arkansas (Down from No. 21)
It’s not hard to see Young falling out of the first round, as his selfish play and losing ways aren’t exactly what most franchises are looking for in a PG. However, his athleticism and upside are too much to ignore, and there’s a chance his Razorbacks teammates are a large reason why he’s so leery of assisting.
No. 24: Willie Cauley-Stein, C, Kentucky (Up from No. 28)
Cauley-Stein is a player that brings a lot to the table and barely takes anything off.
The Wildcats big man is a tough defender, efficient scorer and has plenty of upside, which is why we wouldn’t be shocked to see him land in the lottery this April.
No. 25: Glenn Robinson III, SF, Michigan (Up from No. 29)
Robinson hasn’t been getting much credit for the Wolverines' resurgence, but he’s been instrumental in the process and people are starting to take notice. He’s young but has an NBA pedigree and the physical tools to succeed if he decides to go pro.
No. 26: Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State (Down from No. 25)
Harris is still raw, but his athleticism is through the roof and his decision-making has improved noticeably under Tom Izzo. If he keeps it up, there is no telling how high his stock will rise.
No. 27: Le’Bryan Nash, SF, Oklahoma State (Down from No. 26)
Nash’s lack of aggression and tendency to give low effort for long stretches is absolutely destroying him in the eyes of many franchises.
He needs to pony up, start giving his all and playing up to his elite abilities. If that happens, we could be talking about a potential lottery selection here instead of a fringe first-rounder.
No. 28: Brandon Paul, SG, Illinois (Up from No. 30)
Paul is putting himself back on the map as a high-energy scorer who will be an asset for many teams that need some spark off the bench.
He no longer looks like the high-caliber starter that many thought he would be when he first enrolled at Champaign, but the young man now is reinventing himself as a volume point-producer—a coveted role in the modern NBA.
No. 29: C.J. Leslie, PF, NC State (Down from No. 28)
Leslie is a high-risk, high-reward prospect who has been bouncing up and down our big board all year. He needs to be more consistent in order to become regarded as a serious first-round pick.
No. 30: Steven Adams, C, Pittsburgh (Down from No. 27)
Adams is far too raw to contribute to the NBA right now, but—as the old adage goes—you can’t teach size.