Over half of the 2012-13 NBA season is already in the books, meaning it's time to focus more on the upcoming draft—as it is all fans of many teams have to look forward to at this juncture.
While there aren’t any superstars waiting at the top, this crop of talent is deep and promises to make an impact on the NBA landscape.
Let’s take a look at our first mock of the 2013 season, with the draft order based on current record and predicted finish.
No. 1: Charlotte Bobcats: Nerlens Noel, C, Kentucky
Which player should go No. 1?
The Bobcats missed out on Anthony Davis last year but now have a chance to land another Wildcats defensive specialist and shot-blocking extraordinaire.
Noel may not be nearly as polished or have the same upside as the Hornets' superstar rookie, but he’s going to be a legitimate player due to his height, athleticism and motor.
No. 2: Washington Wizards: Ben McLemore, SF, Kansas
No player has done more to improve his stock than McLemore has this season. The Jayhawks stud is absolutely lighting it up during his freshman campaign and is now a legitimate candidate for the No. 1 overall pick.
While the Wizards have Bradley Beal, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2012 draft, manning the SG position, McLemore can slide to the 3 and integrate seamlessly with Beal and John Wall
No. 3: Cleveland Cavaliers: Shabazz Muhammad, SF, UCLA
The Cavaliers have a dominant point guard in Kyrie Irving and a number of promising young bigs, so they would be wise to nab the best available scorer in the class at No. 3.
Muhammad can absolutely light it up and should only get better from here on out. He possesses the tools to dominate and could eventually become the Cavs' leading scorer.
No. 4: Orlando Magic: Michael Carter-Williams, G, Syracuse
Orlando has to give up on Jameer Nelson sooner or later, and we think this will be the year.
Carter-Williams is the best playmaker in the class, and once he adds a jump shot and works on his handling ability, he could become an All-Star point guard.
While a center might be an ideal pick to fill the void Dwight Howard left, Nikola Vucevic has done well to replace him and is still developing. Adding a 6’6” point guard is the play here and should finally end Nelson’s rein of mediocrity in the Magic Kingdom.
No. 5: New Orleans Pelicans: Cody Zeller, C, Indiana
New Orleans nabbed a franchise PF in Anthony Davis and a promising young guard in Austin Rivers in last year’s draft, so it makes sense that the team brass selects a polished center in what should hopefully be its last season in the lottery for some time.
Zeller is a top prospect who has the tools to succeed in the NBA, but his upside is a bit limited compared to some of these other young stars.
No. 6: Phoenix Suns: Anthony Bennett, PF, UNLV
Bennett is an absolute force in the paint, despite being undersized for the position. The Suns need someone who can bang next to Marcin Gortat, and the UNLV product fits the bill.
This kid will be getting buckets and pulling down boards for whoever takes him in the top 10 of this year’s draft.
No. 7: Oklahoma City Thunder: Alex Len, C, Maryland
There’s a chance that Kendrick Perkins gets hit with the amnesty clause at some point in the future, meaning OKC will need to develop a starting center.
Len has the size (7’1”, 255 lbs.), natural low-post game and rebounding abilities to become an NBA star, and this team has the luxury of letting him develop on the bench if they select him here.
No. 8: Sacramento Kings: Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State
There are too many players on the Kings who need the ball in their hands to succeed, which is exactly why they need to grab a facilitator at No. 8.
If Carter-Williams is off the board, Smart is the best available and could help change the culture surrounding this floundering franchise.
No. 9: Detroit Pistons: Otto Porter, SF, Georgetown
With the Pistons developing Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond, they can start looking towards the wing to bring in young talent.
Porter is an all-around player who does everything well but nothing elite. He’s a glue guy and would be a perfect fit for a blue-collar team that is playing inside out—which happens to be exactly what the Pistons are doing right now.
No. 10: Minnesota Timberwolves: Archie Goodwin, SG, Kentucky
It seems no matter how hard they try, the T’Wolves constantly struggle to find consistent production at the SG position.
Goodwin is a supreme athlete who can come in and guard some of the NBA’s best guards, and he has the upside to eventually become one himself.
This Wildcats product reminds us a bit of a young Russell Westbrook, as he plays a bit recklessly and out of control at times, but he could eventually become one of the most dynamic stars in the league.
No. 11: Dallas Mavericks: Isaiah Austin, PF, Baylor
The Mavs need to gamble on a player here with a ton of upside, and no one has more than Austin.
This youngster has the height (7’) and skills to succeed, but he’s far too skinny to play down low in the pros right now. If he can add some weight, there’s no telling how good this Bears star can be.
No. 12: Philadelphia 76ers: Alex Poythress, SF, Kentucky
After trading away Andre Iguodala, the Sixers lost their big, defensive wing who had the athleticism to lock down elite perimeter players.
They can find another in Poythress, a player who reminds us of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist coming out of college last year, without the insane motor.
No. 13: Phoenix Suns: C.J. McCollum, SG, Lehigh
The Suns aren’t a great scoring squad, which is something McCollum can come in and instantly fix.
Much like Damian Lillard, this seasoned college star has been putting up filthy numbers at a small university but shouldn’t have a problem translating his game to the biggest stage.
He’s certainly worth a risk towards the tail end of the lottery.
No. 14: Charlotte Bobcats: Mason Plumlee, PF, Duke
If the ‘Cats select Noel No. 1, they can finish overhauling their frontcourt here by taking Plumlee.
He’s a polished forward who hustles, provides energy and brings an added toughness to any team he plays on.
Plumlee would be a perfect fit alongside Kidd-Gilchrist, one of the highest-motor guys in the league.
No. 15: Boston Celtics: Tony Mitchell, SF, North Texas
Paul Pierce is getting older, and eventually The Truth is going to hang up his boots.
Danny Ainge has to realize this and needs to select an heir apparent, which could easily be the Mean Green’s Mitchell.
This kid has drawn comparisons to Kevin Durant for his lanky body and natural scoring ability, but he has a lot of work to do if he’s ever going to live up to that lofty praise.
No. 16: Atlanta Hawks: Trey Burke, PG, Michigan
Burke is a complete point guard, although his size (6’, 190 lbs.) leaves something to be desired.
Whether it’s driving and dishing, setting up teammates, finishing at the cup or nailing jumpers, this Michigan man can do it all, and there is a reason he is the best player on the top team in the nation.
Atlanta has a decent selection of PGs, but Burke would immediately be one of the best if the franchise landed him here.
No. 17: Utah Jazz: Victor Oladipo, SG, Indiana
Oladipo has made it clear he’s an asset on the defensive end, but he is also wowing scouts and fans with his offensive abilities.
The Hoosier star is now likely a first-round lock if he declares and represents a great value here at No. 17.
While the Jazz aren’t desperate for a 2 guard (they have an abundance of backcourt players right now), Oladipo’s defense and upside are too much to ignore.
No. 18: Milwaukee Bucks: Rudy Gobert, PF, France
The Bucks will likely take a pick based on need here—especially with star guards Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis having uncertain futures with the franchise.
However, Gobert is a major steal here, as the French star has a huge wingspan and lots of promise. If the big man shows up on American soil and starts dominating his workouts, he may not even be available come No. 18.
No. 19: Atlanta Hawks: Glenn Robinson III, SF, Michigan
Robinson is a smooth scorer with an NBA pedigree—two assets that would make him a nice fit to man the 3 for the Hawks.
While he’s not ready to start, a year or two on the bench would do this Wolverines star well, and he could eventually emerge as a real talent.
No. 20: Indiana Pacers: Dario Saric, SF, Croatia
The Pacers are a deep team that have numerous studs at each position, which is why they will likely go with a player they can develop on the D-League or stash over in Europe.
Saric is the best young European prospect available, and the 18-year-old has more upside than anyone else in the draft class. If he develops in the EuroLeague, the Pacers may have a star on their hands down the line.
No. 21: Brooklyn Nets: Willie Cauley-Stein, C, Kentucky
Cauley-Stein has been a nice surprise for the Wildcats in 2012-13, and he may be an even nicer pick for Brooklyn here.
This seven-footer is loaded with potential and could eventually become one of the best centers in the class.
No. 22: Denver Nuggets: Jamaal Franklin, SG, San Diego State
Franklin fits in perfectly with the Nuggets, as he is a great athlete with an unrelenting motor and knack for rebounding.
If Denver is ever going to be a serious contender, they will need a superstar—something Franklin is not—but this is the place to nab a great role player and bolster the bench.
No. 23: Chicago Bulls: James Michael McAdoo, PF, UNC
McAdoo was supposed to be a top draft pick in 2013 (and may have been if he came out in 2012) but has shown little improvement during his sophomore season.
The Tar Heels product should be a star but is struggling to impress in nearly all aspects of the game that would translate over to the NBA.
No. 24: Utah Jazz: Myck Kabongo, PG, Texas
The Jazz need a pass-first, unselfish point guard to set up all the scorers on their team, which is exactly what Kabongo is.
He reminds us a bit of a young Rajon Rondo, but we haven’t been able to see him play in 2012-13 yet—due to an NCAA suspension.
Keep an eye on Kabongo when he returns, as he could easily slip to the second round—or jump to the lottery—based on his performance.
No. 25: New York Knicks: Jeff Withey, C, Kansas
New York has a plethora of aging big men, which may work for a championship run in 2013 but does not bode well for the future.
Withey would immediately add some youth to the club, plus provide above-average shot-blocking and defense.
No. 26: Minnesota Timberwolves: Gorgui Dieng, C, Louisville
Dieng, like Withey, is a tall, athletic shot-blocker and defender, but he has to improve offensively if he’s going to get steady NBA minutes.
The T-Wolves can take a chance late in the draft here, as he projects to be a solid backup to Nikola Pekovic at the worst.
No. 27: Cleveland Cavaliers: B.J. Young, PG, Arkansas
The Cavs may not have a perfect starting lineup yet, but they can immediately upgrade the bench by taking Young here.
This ball-dominant guard would provide a ton of energy off the pine and would be able to score in bunches when he comes in as an undersized 2 or shoot-first PG.
No. 28: Los Angeles Clippers: Brandon Paul, SG, Illinois
Speaking of bench production, Paul would likely join an elite Clippers second-unit if he were selected here.
The Illini product is as streaky as they come when firing away, but when his shot is falling there may not be a more deadly scorer in the game.
No. 29: Oklahoma City Thunder: C.J. Leslie, PF, NC State
Leslie is a bit of an enigma, as he has the capabilities to be a legitimate NBA star but plays like a role player most nights for the Wolfpack.
If he ever puts it all together, a team—such as the Thunder in this mock—is going to have a huge steal on its hands.
No. 30: San Antonio Spurs: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG, Georgia
Caldwell-Pope is a lights-out shooter who can knock down his shot from anywhere in the arena.
The Spurs are always looking for great players to surround their stars with, and this Bulldogs sniper is certainly an option at No. 30.