With the Louisville Cardinals' national title conquest bringing the 2012-13 college basketball season to a close, it’s time to start looking ahead to the upcoming NBA draft in earnest.
There are a number of players that seem to be a lock for the first round and plenty of others still trying to prove that they are worth a top-30 selection in late June.
Because of this wiggle room and the unpredictable nature of the draft process, there will certainly be some major changes over the next few months—including prospects electing to return to school and other unforeseen events.
Regardless, we’re going to make an honest effort to nail down the first 30 picks. We imagine this is how the draft could shake out if it were to happen today.
*Draft order based on current record as of April 9, 2013 without accounting for lottery.
1. Charlotte Bobcats: Nerlens Noel, C, Kentucky
After getting unlucky in last year’s draft lottery, the Bobcats will hopefully secure the top pick in 2013 and land a legit franchise big man in Noel.
This Wildcats product may be recovering from a torn ACL, but a full recovery would give Charlotte a hard-working center with a nonstop motor, immense shot-blocking capabilities and a willingness to hone his raw skills.
2. Orlando Magic: Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State
Smart is a perfect piece for the rebuilding effort down in Orlando, as the Pokes star injects some much-needed youth into a position that only boasts an aging Jameer Nelson.
At 6’4”, this blossoming stud has the size, strength, speed, athleticism and leadership qualities that the Magic will need to get back into contention in a few seasons.
3. Phoenix Suns: Ben McLemore, SG, Kansas
McLemore is a great value here at No. 3, and he fills one of the biggest needs for the slumping Suns organization.
The Jayhawks guard can bomb away from beyond the arc and get to the cup with ease, but he has to work on performing more consistently in order to develop into a legit NBA star.
4. Cleveland Cavaliers: Otto Porter, SF, Georgetown
After nailing the past few drafts, Cavs GM Chris Grant has a perfect selection sitting here to complete the youth movement in Cleveland.
Porter may not be the go-to scorer that many envisioned him becoming, but with Dion Waiters and Kyrie Irving shouldering the load in the backcourt, this Hoyas standout can concentrate on generating efficient buckets, defending the top perimeter threats, rebounding and doing all the little things that win games.
5. Detroit Pistons: Anthony Bennett, PF, UNLV
While the Detroit frontcourt is looking stacked with Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond, it could use a versatile ‘tweener whose lack of size may actually be a strength on this roster.
Bennett is one of the stronger players in the class. He can slide down to the 4 in a small-ball lineup, but he also has the range and athleticism to play (and guard) the 3 when he’s needed there.
6. New Orleans Hornets: Trey Burke, PG, Michigan
Not to knock Greivis Vasquez, but it’s doubtful that he’s the long-term solution in New Orleans.
Burke, on the other hand, looks to be a bona fide superstar with a knack for winning big games. The Michigan star can score from anywhere on the floor, find a way to get to any spot on the court and is always a threat to drop in a bucket or dish a dime to an open teammate.
7. Sacramento Kings: Victor Oladipo, SG, Indiana
The Kings may have plenty of guards on the roster, but none are cut from the same cloth as this Hoosiers stud.
Oladipo doesn’t need the ball in his hands to make an impact, as his defensive intensity and hustle help his team win in other ways. When he does receive the rock, he’s an efficient scorer who can get to the cup or bomb away from beyond the arc.
He’s the perfect player to start changing the culture and could take on a leadership role by example in Sacramento.
8. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Toronto): Mitch McGary, PF, Michigan
McGary is the fastest-rising prospect in this class, as his dominant 2013 NCAA tournament run put him on the map and has scouts and general managers downright excited.
While it's unsure if McGary will return for his sophomore season, the 6’10” big man is likely never going to see his stock this booming again.
With his insane display of versatility and traditional skills for a 4 over a short stretch, there’s no reason he should remain with the Wolverines with a chance to go top-10 in the draft. OKC could definitely use a young prospect in its frontcourt, as he could complement Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins nicely.
9. Washington Wizards: Shabazz Muhammad, SF, UCLA
After it was revealed that the Bruins freshman was actually 20 years old—instead of 19, as was previously believed—his stock has took a nosedive.
Statistical analysts such as ESPN’s Kevin Pelton (Insider access required) have adequately assessed what this means in terms of his ceiling and upside, which is something that will force Muhammad down many teams’ big boards
However, he’s still a value at No. 9 to Washington, a team that direly needs a legit swingman to complement its blossoming backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal
10. Minnesota Timberwolves: Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State
The initial thought is that Harris will return to East Lansing for a sophomore season, but he could declare and likely become a top-10 pick. Minnesota direly needs a productive off-guard capable of putting up points, and he should fall no further than here.
This young shooting guard has great range on his jumper and a knack for slashing to the cup, but his inconsistencies in other aspects of the game just prove that another year under Tom Izzo is likely the right call.
11. Philadelphia 76ers: Alex Len, C, Maryland
Len is a legit 7’1” youthful center with a variety of low-post moves that many pivot players lack these days.
However, he’s been timid on offense and has a ways to go in the defensive department before he can truly impact an NBA game on a nightly basis. Regardless, the Sixers need to get a big man after the Andrew Bynum drama of 2012-13 and will likely select Len if he’s available.
12. Portland Trail Blazers: Cody Zeller, C, Indiana
Zeller’s likely not going to become a superstar, but the Trail Blazers aren’t exactly looking for one in this draft.
They need a solid big man to provide depth off the bench that is ready to play right away and perhaps eventually overtake the starting center position next to LaMarcus Aldridge. The Hoosiers star is their man for the job.
13. Dallas Mavericks: Glenn Robinson III, SF, Michigan
The Mavs have been making the most of the limited pieces they've had to work with in 2012-13, but there’s a clear need to find a star to compliment an aging Dirk Nowitzki.
Robinson III may be raw, but the Wolverines swingman is an athlete with an accurate jumper and only seems to be improving with every game. He’s certainly worth a stab at the end of the lottery.
14. Phoenix Suns (via Lakers): Mason Plumlee, PF, Duke
The Suns may not be reaching for the stars with this pick, but Plumlee is a legit prospect who will help this team become relevant again in the near future.
The Blue Devils senior will earn a living by hustling on every possession, working for putbacks and second-chance opportunities, relentlessly guarding his man and doing the garbage-man work for this organization.
15. Milwaukee Bucks: Michael Carter-Williams, PG, Syracuse
While the Bucks aren’t exactly hurting for guards, their frontcourt could look dramatically different in the near future. J.J. Redick is set to become a free agent, Monta Ellis has a player option for the 2013-14 campaign before his contract expires and Brandon Jennings—who has been awful as of late—is due a qualifying offer as restricted free agent.
Carter-Williams provides much-needed size (6’6”) and defensive capabilities to a unit that is often burned due to its lack of skill in that area. He’s also one of the best facilitator in the class, which is a department that neither Jennings nor Ellis specialize in.
16. Boston Celtics: Kelly Olynyk, C, Gonzaga
With a plethora of decent guards on the roster, expect the C’s to look for a big in the middle of the first round.
Olynyk is a nice offensive talent who projects to only get better with more experience. His defense and athleticism may be questionable, but the team can afford to ignore that in exchange for the Bulldogs star’s offensive prowess.
17. Utah Jazz: C.J. McCollum, SG, Lehigh
Utah has had issues putting the ball in the net from deep, which is why the front office could peg McCollum at No. 17.
With no top-tier point guards available, the Jazz could attempt to turn McCollum into a Damian Lillard-type scorer from the position. But if his facilitating isn’t up to par, they’ll at least have an elite—if undersized—shooter coming off the bench.
18. Atlanta Hawks: Jamaal Franklin, SG, San Diego State
Franklin's insane amount of rebounds per game are a testament to his eye-popping athleticism, but this guard is also solid in other areas as well.
In fact, the main knock on his game is his jump shot, which is something that could improve with practice.
19. Chicago Bulls: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG, Georgia
Caldwell-Pope has been skying up the big board and could land with a contending team desperate for productivity at the 2 in Chicago.
Derrick Rose would take the heat off this Georgia product and free him up to take open shots, which he is excellent at knocking down.
20. Atlanta Hawks: Isaiah Austin, PF, Baylor
Austin is oozing upside, but he has to put on some serious bulk before stepping into the paint in the NBA. He might take some time to develop, but this Bears product could wind up becoming a steal this late in the draft if he’s able to gain weight and assume the role of a seven-foot stretch power forward.
21. Utah Jazz: Dario Saric, SF, Croatia
With the need for a guard addressed earlier and a loaded frontcourt, the Jazz can take a gamble on a high-upside Euro prospect that may not be stateside for a few years.
Saric has value as not only a potential contributor, but also as a trading chip down the line in case the team can parlay one of its many assets into a legit superstar.
22. Brooklyn Nets: Jeff Withey, C, Kansas
The Nets have a legit starting 5, so the bench unit has to be the focus of their first-round draft pick in 2013.
Withey is a senior shot-blocker who could carve out a fruitful NBA career due to his seven-foot frame, willingness to defend and improving offensive repertoire.
23. Indiana Pacers: Tim Hardaway Jr., SG, Michigan
Hardaway spent the past three seasons firing away for the Wolverines and it’s finally paying off, as he’s a legit first-round prospect who could land on a good team this spring.
He’s a little bit too trigger happy at times, but the 6’6” sniper has proven capable of knocking down shots from anywhere on the floor and the Pacers could use that in their second unit.
24. New York Knicks: Gorgui Dieng, C, Louisville
Dieng dominated in the title game and helped the Cardinals bring home a championship, which NBA teams certainly took notice of.
This guy steps up when the pressures on, possesses a solid 6’11” frame and is supremely athletic, making him a nice potential fit in the Knickerbockers' stout but aging frontcourt rotation.
25. Los Angeles Clippers: Archie Goodwin, SG, Kentucky
Goodwin is a bit of a wild card, as he’s not much of a shooter and plays completely out of control at times, but his upside is undeniable.
The Clippers would certainly continue living up the “Lob City” moniker if they added the Wildcats product to their roster, but he’s likely a few years off from developing the jump shot and poise needed to play regular minutes.
26. Minnesota Timberwolves: Patric Young, C, Florida
The T’Wolves have a good center in Nikola Pekovic, but Young looks to be a serviceable back up who can soak minutes from day one.
He is a nice change of pace from the starter as well, as his athleticism and floor-running capabilities are superior.
27. Denver Nuggets: James Michael McAdoo, PF, UNC
McAdoo killed his stock in 2012-13 by showing little improvement from his freshman year and making numerous head-scratching decisions. But he’ll still be able to get minutes in the NBA.
He’s big in size and can play even bigger, as evidenced by his role as the center in the Tar Heels’ small-ball lineup.
28. Oklahoma City Thunder: Rudy Gobert, PF, France
Gobert is a project at best, although his huge wingspan and frame give him what someone will likely call ridiculous, tremendous, gigantic upside on draft night.
Who knows if we’ll ever see him on American soil, but the Thunder can afford to gamble with this Frenchman.
29: San Antonio Spurs: Doug McDermott, SF, Creighton
McDermott is a scorer who is adept at using screens and a variety of other fakes and crafty moves to free himself up to fire away.
The Spurs love to employ tactics to open up shooters and space the floor, making this Bluejays swingman with a great basketball I.Q. an ideal fit in San Antonio
30. Cleveland Cavaliers (via Miami): Tony Mitchell, PF, North Texas
Mitchell had a poor season in 2012-13 against the Mean Green’s subpar competition, but the prospect’s ceiling is still incredibly high.
Even if he never pans out as the scorer many thought he would become, Mitchell is a top-flight rebounder and shot-blocker for his size and could be a nice role player at the NBA level.