The NBA Draft is still three months away, but it's never too early to speculate.
March Madness has reaffirmed some of what we knew about the top prospects, but a few players have stepped up to improve their stock.
Some may have even hurt themselves, but there are of course still 16 teams remaining, and more stories to be written.
In the pro game, the Miami Heat have now won a ridiculous 27 games in a row, and many of the strengths and weaknesses of the rest of the teams in the NBA have remained consistent.
On the strength of those factors I've constructed a mock draft that forecasts the entire first round of the NBA Draft.
The draft lottery is May 21, so the top-14 picks are ordered based on record as of March 26. The traded picks are acknowledged with conditional swaps placed as if the season ended today.
The spotlighted selections are for the prospects who were—or are still active in the NCAA tournament. These players' tournament numbers will appear under their name.
Players that are still active have their stat-line marked with an asterisk.
Some of the other prospects competed, or are competing in smaller college postseason tournaments like the NIT, CBI, etc.
But those tournaments obviously don't offer as much exposure, and the level of competition isn't as high.
Though their performances aren't irrelevant, it isn't the focus here.
With that said, let's get into the mock.
1. Charlotte Bobcats—SG, Ben McLemore, 6'5", 195 pounds—Kansas
*Tournament Numbers: 6.5 points and 5.5 rebounds per game on 2-for-14 from the field and 0-for-8 from three-point range.
The McLemore haters will be out in full force now. Kansas' star has been terrible through the team's first two games of the tournament.
If this were football, his stock would dropping faster than Jason Terry and Brandon Knight trying to stop an alley-oop.
But this is basketball, and the draft is still largely about potential. Even with that, McLemore needs to finish strong if he hopes to keep hold of his spot atop most draft prognosticators' list.
He still makes the most sense for the Bobcats at No. 1.
2. Orlando Magic—C, Nerlens Noel, 6'11", 215 pounds—Kentucky
Noel may actually be benefiting from being out with an injury. He left a positive impression on scouts and general managers during the 24 games he played as a freshman.
Being out of action has protected him from any stock drop that could have been caused by poor play. It's not to say that I expected him to struggle late in the season, but it was possible.
As it stands now, Noel's status is as secure as anyone projected for the lottery—as long as he doesn't get a negative report from a doctor.
The Magic would be fortunate to add this potentially dominant interior defender to their lineup.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers—SF, Otto Porter, 6'8", 210 pounds—Georgetown
Tournament Stats: 13 points and 11 rebounds in loss to Florida Gulf Coast University.
Porter was a stat-sheet stuffer as usual in the loss to FGCU, but he did shoot just 5-for-17 from the field.
This shouldn't effect his draft status mainly because shooting isn't his best attribute. Porter's length, focus, leadership and versatility are his best qualities. Those were still apparent in defeat.
The Cavs would still be wise to solidify a wing spot with an all-around talent like Porter.
4. Phoenix Suns—SG/SF, Shabazz Muhammad, 6'5, 215 pounds—UCLA
Tournament Stats: 20 points, four rebounds on 6-of-18 shooting in loss to Minnesota.
The season didn't end well for Muhammad. His Bruins were knocked off by the Golden Gophers and just prior to the game, the Washington Post reported he was a 20-year-old, instead of the raw 19-year-old we all thought he was.
To some degree it isn't that big of a deal. But some will point to this as just another reason to dislike Muhammad.
In any case, he makes the most sense for Phoenix because they need a scorer who is not only unafraid of the spotlight, but who actually embraces it.
5. Detroit Pistons—PG/SG, Marcus Smart, 6'4" 200 pounds—Oklahoma State
Tournament Stats: 14 points, nine rebounds, four assists, and five steals vs. Oregon.
Smart couldn't lead the Cowboys past the Ducks, but his strong overall game is consistent with what we saw from him during the season.
The Pistons may have a good number of guards on their roster, but none of them are as talented as Smart.
Rodney Stuckey is going into the final year on his deal which makes moving him a possibility, and Will Bynum is a free agent this summer.
Smart would be a great pickup for the Pistons.
6. New Orleans Hornets—SG/SF, Victor Oladipo, 6'5", 214 pounds—Indiana
*Tournament Stats: 13.5 points, seven rebounds, and two assists per game.
Oladipo's tournament play has been remarkably close to what he did during the season. He came up big against Temple in the round of 32 with 16 points.
He looks like a great replacement or insurance policy should the Hornets part with Eric Gordon.
7. Sacramento Kings—PG, Michael Carter-Williams, 6'5", 185 pounds—Syracuse
*Tournament Stats: Eight points, six assists and five rebounds per game.
The Kings could take Cody Zeller or even Willie Cauley-Stein here, but that would likely mean they plan to move DeMarcus Cousins, and I just don't think they're ready to do that yet.
MCW is a solid playmaker with intriguing size and athleticism for the point guard spot. The Kings would be smart to make him the pick here.
8. Minnesota Timberwolves—PF/C, Cody Zeller, 7'0", 225 pounds—Indiana
*Tournament Stats: 13 points and five rebounds per game.
Zeller has been less than dominant, but he has been steady in the tournament. He hasn't asserted himself as a leader on the floor, but if he is drafted by the Timberwolves, he would benefit greatly from playing with Ricky Rubio.
Zeller could play center or power forward in Minnesota. He'd be a nice backup or possibly a replacement, should the Wolves part ways with Kevin Love.
9. Washington Wizards—C, Willie Cauley-Stein, 7'0", 240 pounds—Kentucky
Cauley-Stein is incredibly raw offensively, but he has the ability to impact the game as a shot-blocker now.
His athleticism is a solid fit alongside John Wall and the Wizards' youthful core.
10. Oklahoma City Thunder (From Toronto Raptors)—C, Alex Len, 7'1", 255 pounds—Maryland
The Thunder need size and Len definitely has that. I'm not high on his ceiling as a pro, but he'd be fortunate to land with a team like the Thunder.
Being surrounded by two great players like Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant would allow him to work offensively, while defenses are forced to devote their attention to the team's stars.
11. Philadelphia 76ers—PG/SG, C.J. McCollum, 6'3", 192 pounds—Lehigh
If you're looking for my sleeper pick for Rookie of the Year, it's right here. McCollum has some Jamal Crawford qualities—he can score in bunches and create for teammates.
The 76ers need a scorer in the worst way. They have Jrue Holiday, but McCollum would be a great sixth man that could play alongside Holiday at the end of games.
He hails from Lehigh so many aren't aware of him and he missed most of this season with a foot injury.
Make no mistake, he has the most polished offensive game in the draft—that includes McLemore and Muhammad.
12. Charlotte Bobcats (From Portland Trail Blazers)—SF/PF, Anthony Bennett - 6'7", 240 pounds—UNLV
Tournament Stats: 15 points, 11 rebounds in loss to California
The Bobcats would potentially come away from the NBA draft with two of the most talented freshman, should this scenario play out.
Bennett's stock has slipped a bit lately, but he can score and rebound. He can play either forward position, but he creates the most matchup problems as a small forward.
13. Dallas Mavericks—PG, Trey Burke 6'0", 180 pounds—Michigan
*Tournament Stats: 12 points and seven assists per game
The Mavericks would probably only allow five seconds to tick off the clock if Burke is on the board when they select.
He struggled with his shot against South Dakota State, but he was back on his game with 18 points against VCU.
Dallas needs an infusion of youth and talent and Burke could deliver both.
14. Utah Jazz—PF/C, Isaiah Austin 7'1", 220 pounds—Baylor
Austin needs another year in school, but he is a legit 7'1" player with athleticism and range out to the three-point line. He is so thin, though.
It appears that he's standing in the middle of his uniform.
As a stretch-four, he could serve as a floor-spacer for the Jazz's big, athletic and young frontcourt players like Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors.
15. Milwaukee Bucks—C, Kelly Olynyk 7'0", 255 pounds—Gonzaga
Tournament Stats: 23.5 points and 9.5 rebounds per game
Olynyk's Bulldogs were shocked by Wichita State in the round of 32, but it wasn't because he didn't deliver. He had very solid numbers in his two tournament games, and could have very well improved his stock.
The Bucks need a center with Samuel Dalembert going into free agency—as if he could be looked at as the answer in the middle anyway—and Olynyk would be a great fit in Milwaukee.
16. Phoenix Suns (From Los Angeles Lakers)—PF/C, Mason Plumlee - 6'11", 245 pounds—Duke
*Tournament Stats: 16.5 points and 6.5 rebounds per game
With Muhammad presumably already selected, the Suns would be wise to grab an athletic big like Plumlee.
He runs the floor well and has the ability to play above the rim.
Muhammad and Plumlee teamed with the Morris twins (Marcus and Markieff) Kendall Marshall and Wesley Johnson (unrestricted free agent this summer) make for an interesting young nucleus.
17. Boston Celtics—SF/SG, Glenn Robinson III, 6'6", 215 pounds—Michigan
*Tournament Stats: 17.5 points and 7.5 rebounds per game
If GRIII is available here, it would be a little easier to part with Paul Pierce. Pierce is still playing at a very high level, and the Celtics could get a good amount in return for him.
But GRIII has been very impressive through the tournament thus far, and the Celtics would be adding a significant talent by taking him here.
18. Atlanta Hawks—SF/PF, James Michael McAdoo, 6'9", 230 pounds—North Carolina
Tournament Stats: 14 points, five rebounds and three steals per game.
The Hawks will probably lose Josh Smith in the offseason. They will need to replace his athleticism at the forward position.
McAdoo isn't on Smith's level, but he does have a high ceiling as a defender. I don't think he'll ever develop much of a shooting touch, but his size and defensive instincts are a plus.
19. Chicago Bulls—SG/SF, Jamaal Franklin, 6'5" 220 pounds—San Diego State
Tournament Stats: 20.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists and three steals
Franklin is an incredibly underrated prospect. He rebounds like a power forward (9.5 per game), and shows explosion as an athlete and as a scorer.
Aside from McLemore and possibly Muhammad, there is no player in this draft that is a better fit for the Bulls.
He will defend and he has the spunk to step up as another scoring option.
20. Atlanta Hawks (From Houston Rockets)—Dario Saric, 6'10", 225 pounds—Cibona Zegreb
Because the Hawks have two first-round picks, they can afford to take chance on the top international prospect in the draft.
Saric is skilled—especially for a big man. He has great vision and a solid overall offensive skill set. Per Sportando.net, he signed a four-year deal, but he has an NBA buyout option for the summer of 2014.
21. Utah Jazz (From Golden State Warriors)—PG, Myck Kabongo, 6'2", 175 pounds—Texas
Is this a little early for Kabongo?
Perhaps, but the Jazz can't come away from this draft without a point guard. Mo Williams is headed towards free agency and Alec Burks will be the only lead guard under contract.
Kabongo has great instincts for the position and he'd have a good chance to beat Burks out for the starting spot.
22. Brooklyn Nets—C, Steven Adams, 7'0", 250 pounds—Pittsburgh
Tournament Stats: 13 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks in loss to Wichita State
Adams is another player that needs to return for his sophomore year, but if he doesn't, he makes sense for the Nets here.
Every team in the Eastern Conference is trying to gear up for the Miami Heat. LeBron and Co.'s only perceived weakness is their lack of bulk on the inside.
With Brook Lopez already on the roster, Adams could be another big bodied, rim protector off the bench. He has the potential to be more, but at this point in his career that's his best-case scenario early on.
Aside from that, he's looking at a stint in the D-League.
23. New York Knicks—C, Gorgui Dieng, 6'10", 245 pounds—Louisville
*Tournament Stats: 10 points, five rebounds and a block per game.
Dieng is one of the best shot-blockers in the draft, and the Knicks are old in the middle. His production in the tournament has been a little low only because Louisville has blown opponents out.
Tyson Chandler has been in the NBA for 11 years, and the Knicks' current backup centers are NBA senior citizens (Marcus Camby is 39 years old and Kurt Thomas is 40).
This should be a slam dunk pick for New York should the order of the draft shake out this way.
24. Indiana Pacers—SG, Archie Goodwin, 6'5", 195 pounds—Kentucky
The Pacers may part with Danny Granger this offseason—or the following offseason. He'll be an expiring contract in 2013-14, and they could move Paul George back to the small forward position.
Lance Stephenson has been productive for the team at shooting guard, but adding an athletic player like Goodwin would be a good move.
He's still a little raw, but I'm impressed with his ability to get to the rim and free-throw line.
25. Minnesota Timberwolves (From Memphis Grizzlies)—Tim Hardaway Jr., 6'5", 195 pounds—Michigan
*Tournament Stats: 17.5 points per game and 75 percent from three-point range (8-of-12).
Hardaway, Jr. can't get his own shot in the NBA, but if he's with a team that has a ball handler like Rubio that finds shooters, he can be valuable.
He has shot the ball extremely well in the tournament and if he continues to shoot it this way, he may even see his stock rise a bit.
26. Denver Nuggets—SF, Sergey Karasev, 6'7", 205 pounds—Triumph Moscow
The Nuggets can afford to take an international prospect here if they can retain the services of Andre Iguodala.
It's hard to see him moving on because Denver seems to be such a great fit for him..
The Nuggets could take Karasev, who is a standout in a weak pool of international prospects in this year's draft.
He has good size for the small forward position, good ball-handling skills and a solid stroke on his jump shot. He isn't an amazing athlete, though, and that's precisely why he doesn't figure to go until late in the first round.
27. Los Angeles Clippers—C, Jeff Withey, 7'0", 255 pounds—Kansas
*Tournament Stats: 16.5 points, 11 rebounds and six blocked shots per game.
Why are the Jayhawks still alive in the tournament with McLemore playing so poorly?
I've got two words for you: Jeff Withey. He is well on his way to an All-Tournament selection.
This would be an awesome pick for the Clippers late in the first round. Behind DeAndre Jordan, the team lacks depth at center.
Drafting Withey would not only add depth, but he would give the second unit a rim-protecting big. This could be one of the biggest picks in the draft considering how good the Clippers are already.
28. Oklahoma City Thunder—SG, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, 6'6", 200 pounds—Georgia
Kevin Martin is a free agent at the end of the season, and though it is possible he re-signs with the team, KCP is not a bad insurance policy.
He plays tough defense and he is a demon in the passing lanes. In a sense, he could give the team a mixture of what Martin and Thabo Sefolosha offer them now.
29. San Antonio Spurs—SF/PF, Alex Poythress, 6'7", 220 pounds—Kentucky
Poythress reminds me of Ronnie Brewer. He is strong, athletic and he plays the baselines extremely well, but he doesn't have the greatest shooting touch.
As a role player with the Spurs, his energy could be an asset off the bench. He'd also be in a great environment to get the most out of his talent.
Take a look at players like Kawhi Leonard and DeJuan Blair as examples.
30. Cleveland Cavaliers (From Miami Heat)—PF, Adreian Payne, 6'10" 240 pounds—Michigan State
*Tournament Stats: 10.5 points, seven rebounds and 2.5 blocked shots per game.
Payne had a great showing against the Memphis Tigers in the round of 32. He showed great athleticism, energy and touch.
If he can put together another game or two like that one, he may rise even higher on my draft board.
The Cavs will likely move Anderson Varejao at some point, and that will open up time for a young, versatile big man like Payne. If being a heck of a guy counts for anything, Payne should be a lottery pick.
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