The 2013 NCAA tournament is just about to begin, making it a perfect time to mock the first round of the upcoming NBA draft.
While the performances of many of these players over the next few weeks will drastically impact where they wind up in June, this will be a good reference to see where they were projected in early March and how much stock scouts, general managers and fans put into the tournament in terms of evaluating talent.
Without further adieu, lets take a look at the top 30 prospects in our latest 2013 NBA mock draft.
1. Charlotte Bobcats: Ben McLemore, SG, Kansas
The Bobcats have a legitimate star in Kemba Walker and a blossoming energy player in swingman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, making McLemore a perfect fit at the 2 for this floundering franchise.
That trio could form the nucleus of a successful, up-and-coming squad that could compete for the playoffs in the Eastern Conference in the near future.
2. Orlando Magic: Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State
Orlando has been rolling with Jameer Nelson as the starting PG for years now, but it’s clear that he’s no longer the man for the job.
This rebuilding organization needs a high-upside player at the position and there is no better option on the board than Smart.
The Pokes' star has great size at 6’4”, plus a knack for facilitating, scoring and rebounding at a high level.
3. Phoenix Suns: Nerlens Noel, PF, Kentucky
The Suns need to augment their frontcourt by adding a solid 4 next to Marcin Gortat.
Neither of the Morris twins fits that description and could play reserve minutes or slide to the 3 if the team drafts Noel.
Despite an ACL injury that ended his freshman season early, Noel is still a lock for the top five due to his amazing defensive capabilities, shot-blocking skills and solid motor for a big man—one of the rarest qualities in the modern NBA.
4. Cleveland Cavaliers: Otto Porter, SF, Georgetown
Porter is top-notch swingman that works perfectly for the Cavs' rebuilding effort.
Kyrie Irving is manning the point, Dion Waiters is quickly developing into a star at the 2 and now Cleveland gets its first potential star 3 since LeBron James took his talents to South Beach.
While he may not be an elite scorer, Porter can hit shots from anywhere on the court, play intense defense, rebound well for the position and contribute in every other aspect of the game.
5. New Orleans Hornets: Shabazz Muhammad, SF, UCLA
New Orleans has a great need for a wing player or center, so expect the future Pelicans to take the best available player at either position at No. 5.
Muhammad is the highest-rated swingman on our big board and he could be an awesome piece for this organization.
While he may not have great size for the 3 (listed at a generous 6’6”, 225 pounds), he makes up for it with his natural scoring abilities and intense work ethic.
6. Detroit Pistons: Anthony Bennett, F, UNLV
Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond make up an amazing young frontcourt in the Motor City, so expect the Pistons to attempt to augment that strength the best they can via the draft.
While Bennett plays the 4 at UNLV, he has the skillset to slide over to the SF position in the right system and could spell both established big men when Detroit goes small.
The 6’8” forward is one of the strongest players in the draft, but has been improving in the finesse department and has range out to the three-point line.
7. Sacramento Kings: Victor Oladipo, SG, Indiana
Oladipo is a serious player of the year candidate and could rise even higher on draft day with a good NCAA tournament.
He put himself on the map with solid offense, but his defensive intensity and hustle on every play is what truly sets him apart from the rest of the players in this class.
The Kings direly need players that do not need the ball to make an impact on a game, making Oladipo a no-brain pick here.
8. Minnesota Timberwolves: Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State
The T-Wolves have been searching for a productive 2 for years now and they can finally get one in Gary Harris.
This Spartans star has been excelling for a squad that is notoriously tough to get minutes on—let alone star for—as a freshman.
Harris is an offensive dynamo that may be a bit undersized (6’4”), but that hasn’t slowed him down during the 2012-13 campaign.
9. Washington Wizards: Alex Len, C, Maryland
Washington’s youth movement needs a center and Len is the top prospect on the board.
He’s an old school big that has a variety of moves in the low post, something that could make him a dangerous threat to score in the modern NBA.
Throw in the possibility that he could draw double teams that open up shots for John Wall and Bradley Beal. This pick couldn’t make more sense.
10. Philadelphia 76ers: Cody Zeller, C, Indiana
The Sixers have to grab a big man if Andrew Bynum decides to bolt town after his lone, disappointing season in the City of Brotherly Love.
Zeller may not be a high-upside prospect, but he looks ready to immediately contribute after gaining a bit of bulk in an NBA weight room. This sophomore can run the floor like a gazelle, plus has one of the highest basketball IQ’s in the class.
11. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Toronto): Willie Cauley-Stein, C, Kentucky
If Kendrick Perkins winds up being a victim of the amnesty clause this summer, the Thunder will be in the market for a starting center.
Cauley-Stein may not be prepared to man the pivot full-time for the contending club just yet, but OKC could develop this Wildcats prospect and pick up a veteran free agent to share the load with until he’s ready.
12. Dallas Mavericks: Dario Saric, SF, Croatia
The Mavs need to grab a star with this pick, so it wouldn’t be shocking to risk-taking owner Mark Cuban to go overseas and nab the most intriguing player on the board.
Saric is just 18 years old, but he has perhaps the best playmaking ability of any prospect eligible to be drafted and is developing nicely as a point-forward type player that can also score at a high level.
Dallas scored big when it took a gamble on Dirk Nowitzki back in 1998 and could strike gold with another foreigner this April.
13. Charlotte Bobcats: Kelly Olynyk, C, Gonzaga
With the Bobcats grabbing their starting shooting guard of the future, expect them to go big with their second pick in the first round.
Olynyk has been quickly rising up big boards this season and has led the Bulldogs to a No. 1 seed in the 2013 NCAA tourney.
He’s a gifted scorer and above-average rebounder, but his athletic abilities are questionable and he could be a defensive liability in the NBA. Regardless, he’s a proven winner and Charlotte has to acquire more players with that intangible.
14. Milwaukee Bucks: Alex Poythress, SF, Kentucky
With J.J. Redick, Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis all available in some form next summer, we expect the Bucks are going to wind up keeping at least two of them.
If that’s the case, don’t be surprised to take this middling organization take a shot at a high-upside, raw swingman prospect like Poythress. He may not be ready to play big minutes in the NBA just yet, but could eventually be one of the better players in the class due to his height, athleticism and skills.
15. Utah Jazz: Michael Carter-Williams, G, Syracuse
Utah has a dire need for a young playmaker to facilitate the development of the blossoming superstars in its frontcourt.
Carter-Williams is perhaps the best passer in this draft, but improvements to his jumper and handle must be made if he’s to become an elite PG.
16. Cleveland (via Lakers): Mason Plumlee, PF, Duke
The Cavs have enough young stars on the roster that they have the luxury of targeting glue guys and role players as the lottery ends.
Plumlee projects to be a great garbage man, meaning he can impact the game without plays being run for him by hustling, picking up offensive boards, creating extra possessions and trying hard every minute he’s on the court.
Every playoff contender needs a guy like that on the roster.
17. Atlanta Hawks (via Houston): Glenn Robinson III, SF, Michigan
The Hawks could utilize a prospect like Robinson, as he holds an NBA pedigree, can score in a variety of different ways and tends to fill it up against mediocre competition.
Unfortunately, he shrinks in the spotlight and needs to find a way to get his numbers up against the better competition he’ll face at the NBA level.
18. Atlanta Hawks: C.J. McCollum, SG, Lehigh
After losing Joe Johnson last summer, the Hawks need to get a go-to scorer on the perimeter.
McCollum projects to be one of the better scoring guards in this draft and could pan out similar to Damian Lillard, the Trail Blazers' Rookie of the Year candidate.
While he may be a bit undersized, there’s no denying his body of work during his time at Lehigh.
19. Boston Celtics: Trey Burke, PG, Michigan
Burke won the Big Ten Player of the Year award and could eventually win some national player of the year hardware when all is said and done.
This is a bit low for the Wolverines' PG, but we think he falls if Michigan is upset in the early portions of the NCAA tourney. Boston needs to find a suitable back up for Rajon Rondo, who likely won’t be available for much of the 2013-14 campaign as he recovers from an ACL injury.
20. Chicago Bulls: Archie Goodwin, SG, Kentucky
Chicago still needs to find a great shooting guard to put in the backcourt with Derrick Rose, so don’t be surprised to see the organization take a stab at filling this void by nabbing Goodwin.
While he’s not much of a shooter, he could bring everything to the table that Marco Belinelli and Rip Hamilton lack.
Goodwin is an amazing athlete that can knife to the cup at will, defend the top guards (such as Russell Westbrook and Rondo) and may even eventually learn to shoot the three to round out his game.
21. Utah Jazz (via Golden State): Jamaal Franklin, SG, San Diego State
Franklin can rebound insanely well for his position and has the athleticism to guard any player out on the wing.
If he eventually finds a way to get his shot to fall consistently, he would be a steal at No. 21.
22. Brooklyn Nets: Kyle Anderson, SF, UCLA
Anderson is an extremely intriguing prospect. He is an incredible passer for his size and brings a variety of different tools to a team.
While he may not have had the best year with the Bruins, many scouts are in love with his deliberate style of play that is effective and unique.
23. New York Knicks: James Michael McAdoo, PF, UNC
Even if McAdoo’s Tar Heels make a run during March Madness, we don’t see him getting back into the lottery—where many saw him going in preseason and even after his freshman year in the 2012 draft.
He’s just too inconsistent, makes too many mistakes and doesn’t have a defined NBA position.
Regardless, the Knickerbockers have many question marks and aging players in their frontcourt, making McAdoo a worthy gamble at No. 23.
24. Indiana Pacers: Isaiah Austin, PF, Baylor
Austin is far too skinny to contribute to an NBA lineup right now as a big, but does possess the ability to shoot, dribble and play like a swingman.
We believe a stacked squad like the Pacers will select him on draft day, letting him bulk up at the end of the bench and eventually employing him as one of the more interesting seven-foot stretch 4s the league has ever seen.
25. Denver Nuggets: Rudy Gobert, PF, France
Gobert makes sense for the Nuggets because they can stash him in the EuroLeague until he’s either ready to develop or the front office uses him as a trading chip for a legit star.
Denver is too deep to bother employing a late first-round pick and instead needs to find a way to get a go-to star on the roster.
26. Minnesota Timberwolves (via Memphis): Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG, Georgia
Caldwell-Pope is another shooting guard prospect for the T-Wolves, a team that could make worse decisions than drafting a pair of players at the position in June.
Caldwell-Pope and Harris (the No. 8 pick in this draft) could potentially log a majority of minutes at the 2. We imagine one will likely emerge as a star playing off of Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love for burgeoning squad.
27. Los Angeles Clippers: Patric Young, C, Florida
Young may not ever become a starter in this league, but he could be a prolific backup at the PF and center positions.
The Clippers are an ideal fit, as the Florida star is an immense athlete that could help the oops coming for Lob City’s second unit.
28. Oklahoma City Thunder: Tony Mitchell, SF, North Texas
Mitchell was once drawing comparisons to Kevin Durant, but he’s struggled to dominate against inferior competition during his two seasons with the Mean Green.
Perhaps OKC should give him a chance to become teammates with KD and back the superstar up.
He’s a gifted talent that may be floundering due to his subpar teammates and little motivation to show up every night.
29. San Antonio Spurs: Doug McDermott, SF, Creighton
McDermott is a lights out shooter that would be an incredible fit in the Spurs' system.
This Bluejays sniper is adept at running off screens and using picks to find the open shot, making him perfect for Gregg Popovich’s constantly moving offense.
30. Phoenix Suns (via Miami): Jeff Withey, C, Kansas
Withey is another center prospect that the Heat should be willing to take a chance on.
He’s not much of an offensive force, but his seven-foot frame and shot-blocking ability could make him an integral role player on this championship squad.