We're approaching that point in the season where the eventual No. 1 pick usually emerges from the pack.
Our guy has been dominant as of late and appears to be the most likely of the 2013 NBA draft options to offer a game-changing presence at the next level.
We also saw a rising star in this week's Indiana-Michigan showdown, while a new name has appeared towards the back of our first round.
After evaluating recent performances, there's been some shuffling amongst the prospects in the top half of the lottery.
Some notes for the first round:
Oklahoma City gets Toronto's first-round pick, which the Raptors acquired in the James Harden deal from Houston.
If the Lakers miss the playoffs, their pick goes to Phoenix, which is something we anticipate.
Portland gives up a top-12 protected pick to Charlotte from the Gerald Wallace-Joel Przybilla trade in 2011.
The Atlanta Hawks receive Houston's top-14 protected pick in the Joe Johnson deal they made with the Nets.
Team needs were taken into account, although rosters are likely to change once June rolls around.
Stats current as of February 5, 2013.
Nerlens Noel has turned the corner as an NBA prospect, and Kentucky has been tougher to beat as a result.
You could argue that Noel was dominant against Texas A&M, finishing with 19 points, 14 rebounds and two blocks in an overtime win. He double-doubled and added five blocks in a blowout over South Carolina, protecting the rim and finishing above it.
For those nervous about Noel being the next Hasheem Thabeet—tap the breaks. Thabeet was awkward, goofy and clumsy. Noel is fluid, athletic and coordinated.
A raw offensive skill set doesn't necessarily mean a bad NBA center. Tyson Chandler hasn't made an offensive move in three years and he's one of the most effective big men in the world.
Noel is changing games defensively and making it easy for his team to convert easy baskets in the half court. With a motor that stays revved, he'll be able to impact a game before his offense fully develops.
Without any offensive player stepping up as the clear-cut No. 1 pick, Nerlens Noel has dibs on the top spot as a guaranteed interior game-changer.
If the NBA draft was a roulette wheel and you were looking for a scorer, putting your money on Shabazz Muhammad would give you the best odds on the table.
Muhammad is pretty much an automatic in the box score, quietly giving you 20 points even if his jumper isn't falling. And that's what the Charlotte Bobcats need—someone who can provide a consistent scoring presence and isn't the team's primary ball-handler.
He's averaging 18.4 points per game, which if sustained, would be the highest scoring average for a UCLA Bruin since 2004-05.
With a bag full of every scoring trick in the book, the only question that remains is which of them will translate. Regardless, he's simply too gifted an athlete and too talented a basketball player to not make an offensive impact once he reaches the next level.
Anthony Bennett had a monster game against Boise State, flashing his NBA potential as an offensive mismatch.
He scored 25 points, dominating the area from baseline to foul line-extended. Facing up from the mid-range, Bennett's foot speed is typically too quick for 4s, and his strength and power can overwhelm 3s.
Bennett has the explosive athleticism that sells tickets in the NBA. This is a guy that all 30 teams would want, but five desperately need.
The Cavaliers could use a physical athlete who can play off Kyrie Irving or generate points in the half court. Bennett's emergence has helped the 2013 draft class maintain some legitimacy.
Larry Johnson went No. 1 overall in 1991. Could his virtual clone be the next UNLV product to do the same?
It's certainly possible in 2013.
The only thing holding Ben McLemore back from solidifying a spot in the top three is his limited takeover abilities.
McLemore is an elite complementary scorer and not one you'd give the ball to as an option in isolation.
He scored 23 points against Oklahoma State, his first time eclipsing the 20-point mark since his 33-point outburst on January 9.
The Suns could use an upgrade at every position, particularly the off-guard slot, where Shannon Brown and Jared Dudley get way too many minutes. McLemore is NBA-ready because of his elite shot-making abilities and defensive tools, and he has unlimited room to grow as a prospect.
If he's there at No. 4, Phoenix should snatch him up and could finally own a long-term building block.
Cody Zeller showed why he's the most talented post scorer in the country when he finished 8-of-10 from the floor for 19 points and 10 boards against Michigan.
The full arsenal was on display—fall-away jumpers, over-the-shoulder hooks and the counter-moves on the low block that help turn a difficult angle into an easy scoring opportunity.
Anthony Davis is more of a freelancing face-up 4, while Robin Lopez isn't a realistic scoring option. Zeller would immediately offer the Hornets a new dimension of offense they don't typically get throughout a 48-minute stretch.
When Marcus Smart looks back on his journey to the pros, his game against Kansas will be a defining performance.
He was a game-changer, which is the type of player a team wants when it's drafting in the top 10.
Smart's instincts and motor took over against Kansas, when the 6'4'' guard pulled in nine offensive rebounds and scored 25 points in statement win.
Everything you've heard about his winning character was featured for 38 minutes. Smart was making plays when it counted on both sides of the ball, and his team pulled off the upset as a result.
Orlando needs an impact player, which is one of the labels Smart wears on his collar. We're starting to lean on Smart over Michael Carter-Williams as the better NBA prospect because of his instincts and overall "it" factor.
I'm going to operate under the belief that the only need the Oklahoma City Thunder have is interior scoring depth.
Alex Len still needs work, but something tells me this team can afford to be patient.
The only knock on Len so far this season is that he's been too passive on the offensive side of the ball. To his credit, Maryland is quick to audible if the defense denies the entry pass, but you'd like to see Len do a little more with his touches.
Regardless what he does for the rest of the year, he's still a 7'1'' athlete with an NBA skill set. Len's upside is top-five worthy, but the ETA for him to get there is still a few years away.
The Sacramento Kings need to make a splash whenever the opportunity presents itself, and at No. 8 in the draft, Michael Carter-Williams fills a need and a want.
He'd give the Kings a pass-first playmaker with a high ceiling because of his unique physical tools for a point guard. At 6'6'', with long enough arms to tie his sneakers standing up, Carter-Williams can get off any pass or shot with a release point that's out of the reach of defenders.
Teams have begun taking away his dribble penetration, and Carter-Williams has struggled to adjust. It doesn't change the height of his ceiling, however, which still justifies a selection in the late portion of the lottery.
Otto Porter's ability to contribute across the board would be ideal for a team who needs help in every area.
And after finally dealing Tayshaun Prince, the Pistons have a glaring hole at the wing.
If Porter isn't scoring, he's rebounding, and if he's not rebounding, he's defending. You're always going to get some type of contribution whether his offense is on or not.
He's been consistent all year and is one of the better bets in the 2013 NBA draft class. Just don't expect an All-Star ceiling.
Mason Plumlee had the game of his career against Wake Forest, finishing with 32 points on 12-of-15 from the floor.
The fact that he's facing up and making moves to the rim is scary. Plumlee showed some shake off the dribble getting from the perimeter to the paint in Duke's half-court sets.
He's an elite finisher who can catch anything up to 12 feet in the air. And now that he's looking for his offense, Plumlee is proving to be more than just an off-ball contributor.
Near seven-footers with this type of athleticism are always highly coveted, but the ones who can actually ball get taken in the lottery.
Plumlee's mobility and skill set would allow him to play alongside Andrew Bynum or behind him as a reserve.
C.J. McCollum is going to dance around the late lottery range until NBA draft workouts begin after March Madness.
He's likely to miss the remainder of the season with a broken foot, but should be good to go when some of the more concentrated scouting takes place from March to June.
McCollum will be on the Phoenix Suns' wishlist because of his overall talent, which the Suns lack at every position. He's got a higher ceiling than Goran Dragic, and his ability to play off the ball would give Phoenix some lineup flexibility and added offensive firepower.
The Suns should be in "best player available" mode, and McCollum could be that guy if he's still on the board.
The most impressive aspect of Isaiah Austin's rookie year has been his consistent rebounding rate.
One of the questions we asked prior to the season was whether or not Austin was too frail to play inside. He's coming off a 19-point, 20-rebound gem in a tough loss to Oklahoma and is starting to look like an automatic double-double candidate every night.
Offensively, his ceiling is sky-high because of his ability to play face-up basketball as a 7'1'' athlete. Whether he reaches it will depend on how well his shot-creating skills develop on the perimeter and how much his frame fills out for interior play.
He's the best prospect on the board at No. 12 overall and gives Dallas a need and a want as a young frontcourt player with size, talent and long-term promise.
At the end of the year, when scouting departments go through Victor Oladipo's file, the first thing they'll come across is the February 2 Indiana-Michigan game film.
He was outstanding, making NBA-caliber plays on both sides of the ball and giving Indiana the edge throughout the entire 34 minutes he was on the floor.
The improvement he's made from one year to the next is jaw-dropping. All of a sudden, he's changing direction off the dribble and creating his own offense as an attacker. He's also now a legitimate three-point threat, making a ridiculous 51.4 percent of his attempts from behind the arc.
As an offensive player, Oladipo has been one of the most reliable half-court finishers as a slasher and spot-up shooter.
He's been a game-changer defensively, as Jay Bilas pointed out on Twitter after the game:
Cody Zeller outstanding on both ends against UM. Victor Oladipo, in 45 possessions guarding 4 different players, gave up only 4 points.
— Jay Bilas (@JayBilas) February 3, 2013
Between his electric athleticism, defensive motor and expanded offensive repertoire, Oladipo presents a skill set worthy of a spot in an NBA rotation.
Somebody is going to fall in love. My first guess is the Timberwolves, who need someone to come in and immediately contribute at the off-guard slot.
James Michael McAdoo is coming off back-to-back 20-point games and is starting to find his scoring rhythm in North Carolina's offense.
For someone whose jumper has been rather inconsistent, McAdoo has tremendous confidence when he lets it go. He's quick to turn over his shoulder in the mid-range and create an uncontested look, which, if he starts converting with consistency, would be a weapon that directly translates to the NBA.
You can be sure Michael Jordan has been watching the Tar Heels and has a good feel for McAdoo as an NBA prospect.
The Bobcats have a need at every position, and McAdoo could help out at a few of them.
Archie Goodwin is one of the fiercest line-drive attackers around with the ability to explode towards the rim and finish in traffic.
His perimeter game needs the most work—Goodwin has made only one three-pointer since January 2, and his mechanics have loosened since the start of the year.
He's far from NBA-ready, which could dent his draft stock, but don't expect Goodwin to stray far from the lottery. There's tons of upside here if he reaches his ceiling. Goodwin just needs to find easier ways to come up with half-court buckets.
The Utah Jazz should be in the market for a point guard, and between Trey Burke's leadership, liveliness and two-way offensive skill set as a scorer and distributor, he offers everything the Jazz can't right now.
Burke managed to hold off a pesky Aaron Craft in a comeback win over Ohio State, finishing with a cool 16 points and eight assists on 4-of-7 shooting from downtown.
The most NBA-ready strength that Burke consistently displays is his effectiveness using a ball screen. Dribbling over it, Burke has a confident pull-up jumper off the bounce and can get to the rim via the hesitation dribble.
Teams will be asking themselves whether Burke is an energy spark off the bench or someone who can be groomed into a starting point guard. At 6'0'', that question is real, but he's somebody I'd feel uncomfortable betting against.
Alex Poythress finishes like a grown man and has potential seeping through his pores.
At 6'7" with excellent athleticism, Poythress' ability to face the rim should make him a mismatch once he develops some go-to moves.
He makes a few plays a game, usually thunderous jams off cuts or put-backs, that flash his NBA tools to scouts. But because of his inability to create his own offense, it doesn't happen consistently throughout a game.
With Jared Sullinger requiring surgery and likely to have a long-term issue with his back, Poythress gives Boston a completely different look as an above-the-rim presence and face-up athlete.
Jamaal Franklin is one of the top athletes in the draft to man the wing and offers a skill set that was meant to make plays off the ball.
With Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, the Bucks do a lot of running and a lot of missing. Franklin could help clean up some of the team's offensive efficiency issues by finishing plays in the half court and transition.
He's coming off a stat-stuffing performance in what turned out to be a bad loss to Air Force, finishing with 25 points, 10 boards and six assists.
Franklin's signature strength is making plays without using the dribble. Milwaukee has one of the least active groups of wings in the entire NBA and could use Franklin's motor and playmaking ability.
We're going to keep Rudy Gobert at the No. 19 spot to Atlanta, which can use his 7'9'' wingspan to come up with easy half-court baskets.
Gobert moves incredibly well for a 7'2'' athlete and does just what you'd expect someone with his physical measurements to do—finish above the rim offensively and disrupt plays on defense.
Because of his unusual physical tools, Gobert has a ceiling that could justify a pick in the lottery. To be safe, we have him plugged into the mid-to-late first round.
Willie Cauley-Stein just returned from a knee procedure, so it's a good sign that he's healthy.
He looked loose against South Carolina, finishing with 13 points, six boards and two blocks in 22 minutes.
Cauley-Stein is super coordinated and can put the ball in the hole despite lacking the footwork of a true post scorer.
You just can't teach 7'0'' size, strength and athleticism. You can teach basketball, however, and at only 19 years old, he's got plenty of time to learn.
Tim Hardaway, Jr. went nuts against Ohio State, nailing six three-pointers in microwave fashion.
He showed the ability to heat up and score points in bunches without needing to over-dribble. It's the ideal skill set made to play alongside a ball-dominant point guard, like Trey Burke or Derrick Rose.
Hardaway is taking fewer three-pointers and making more of them, which is a result of an improved shot-selection on the perimeter.
His body was built for the 2-guard position with a 6'6" frame, long arms and fluid athleticism. Hardaway's stock is on the rise as one of the more complete off-ball scorers in the class.
Glenn Robinson III was a no-show against Indiana, but made a clutch bucket against Ohio State that illustrated his NBA appeal in one play.
He's showed off his finishing efficiency at the rim thanks to the size and athleticism that allow his frame to absorb contact.
Robinson does a nice job of making plays off the ball as a spot-up shooter or half-court slasher and is best suited in a lineup with capable playmakers around him.
We haven't seen Robinson create much off the dribble, which is tough to do in the first place with Trey Burke dominating the ball, but it doesn't seem like that will ever be a big part of his game.
Brooklyn needs a serious upgrade at the 3-hole and could groom Robinson III as a potential long-term replacement for Gerald Wallace.
It's just not a good look to regress after a breakout year.
North Texas is getting worked night after night, and Tony Mitchell hasn't done much about it.
It doesn't change his future potential, however, as arguably the most athletic prospect in the class with a body that was built for the NBA.
But Mitchell needs to find his groove and establish a defined brand of basketball that can translate to the pros. Until then, he's just a first-rounder based solely on potential.
The Indiana Pacers don't have a three-point specialist or much depth at the 3-spot.
Doug McDermott could come in right away and provide a floor-stretching, shot-making presence that should improve the spacing and balance of the offense.
He's the most accurate shooter of anyone in the field, and with the size to get it off, he possesses a valued skill that's guaranteed to translate.
He won't be the 23-point scorer he is in college, but his shot-making abilities will be coveted by a team looking to fill a gap in the rotation and provide offensive depth.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope aces the eye test at 6'5" with long arms and fluid athleticism.
Known for his pure shooting stroke, Caldwell-Pope was disappointing from long-range as a freshman, but has finally found his rhythm and is thriving as as sophomore.
Caldwell-Pope does three things well that will help land him a role in an NBA rotation. He defends at a high level and can guard multiple positions. He also has picturesque mechanics on his jumper and possesses NBA three-point range. He can slash off the ball and finish on the move.
Caldwell-Pope isn't an adept shot-creator from the perimeter. He needs screens and off-ball movement to create his scoring opportunities.
But if a coach makes it simple and asks him to do the three things he does well, Caldwell-Pope will find a spot on an NBA roster.
He's averaging 17.8 points per game for Georgia as a sophomore.
The Knicks are known to think out of the box on draft day, and Mike Muscala fits as a potential target.
Muscala has a passion for rebounding and an offensive skill set built for the pros. He's got a good-looking mid-range jumper to go with confident post moves and a strong, 6'11'' frame.
The Knicks are lacking on the boards, have minimal depth up front and don't have a single power forward or center under the age of 28.
He's averaging 19 points and 11.5 rebounds per game for the Bison, producing both on the interior and mid-range facing up.
The more I think about it, the more I love this pick for the New York Knicks.
C.J. Leslie is coming off three straight double-doubles, getting his rebounding game working just in for the final stretch.
Nobody doubts his talent, but at 6'9'' without bulk or muscle, playing inside at the pro level won't come so easily.
The key for Leslie is finding other ways to score when the defense takes away the paint. Hakim Warrick never figured it out, but Leslie has shown some face-up potential that should allow him to log minutes on the perimeter.
Cashing in on those minutes and producing as a 3 will maximize his effectiveness as an NBA player.
Jeff Withey's size, shot-blocking skills and finishing touch are worthy of a backup position in an NBA rotation.
If you look around the league, you'd be surprised by how many teams don't have viable backup centers. Guys like Ronny Turiaf play for a new team each year because they don't provide a defensive presence night in and night out, making them expendable.
With Withey, you're guaranteed to have some type of rim protection and a 7'0'' target who can finish inside.
There's nothing sexy about his game, but reliable seven-footers don't just fall from trees.
Kelly Olynyk is just the type of player the San Antonio Spurs would covet—a gawky, sizable big man with an old-school approach to the game who lacks any flare whatsoever.
He manages to score 17.9 points a game by making some face-up jumpers and positioning his body to create easy opportunities down low.
This isn't a guy who will be catching alley-oops or running the floor. Olynyk only brings in seven boards a game because of his inability to play above the rim.
But he's a source for points in the half court from the inside and out. NBA coaches typically find room for seven-footers who can score.
Isaiah Canaan's floor general qualities were on full display this week when he took over down the stretch and helped Murray State escape in overtime against Austin Peay.
He wants the ball when the pressure is highest, a trait that all coaches want in their point guards.
He's quick off the dribble and he's built like a mini tank. I like to refer to him as a bowling ball because he keeps a low center of gravity, making it difficult to knock him off balance. Though only 6'0'', Canaan bounces off contact and finds ways to finish.
Canaan is a strong guard who can run the offense or score anywhere from baseline to 27 feet from it.
He's a more reliable backup option than both Reggie Jackson and Eric Maynor.