ESPN's Chad Ford recently released his NBA Mock Draft 2.0 (subscription required). We're going to play a little game of fact or fiction to determine which of his picks are locks and which should be considered stretches.
It's early in the process. The NBA combine still awaits, as do hundreds of team workouts the prospects will have to go through.
But you can still can get a general sense of how this draft is going to go down based on the 2012-13 college season and NBA teams' needs.
There just isn't anyone else in the field with legitimate No. 1 overall upside.
Nerlens Noel is going to go No. 1 based on process of elimination. If the Orlando Magic get the first pick and are set on Trey Burke, chances are they'll trade down a few picks to get him.
The Charlotte Bobcats, Cleveland Cavaliers, Phoenix Suns and New Orleans Hornets, four other teams in the running for the pick, could all use an athletic center like Noel.
His upside justifies him being the first guy off the board whether he plays much as a rookie or not.
Giannis Antetokounmpo is one of those high-risk, high-reward prospects. He's shown tremendous upside in Greece's second division where the competition is considered a step below college hoops.
But if you've seen Antetokounmpo handle the ball, you're likely to feel the risk is worth the potential reward down the road. There aren't a lot of prizes in this year's draft, and Adetokunbo has the tools to be one of them. If there was ever a draft to take a chance, this year's would be it.
Something tells me a team is going to take a blind swing on Antetokounmpo and hope they hit somewhere within the first 25 picks.
Otto Porter is going to escape this pre-draft process without drawing a red flag from anyone. He's as safe of a bet as there is and ultimately fills a need for the Cavaliers on the wing.
Anthony Bennett seems like the other obvious target here, considering Cleveland's backcourt is set and no bigs are worthy of a top-three pick.
But Bennett will be out for the entire pre-draft process after undergoing surgery on his shoulder. He also has question marks surrounding his natural position. At 6'7'', he lacks the ideal size for a 4 and the perimeter skills of a 3.
Bennett's inability to participate at the combine or in workouts won't kill his draft stock—it will just give Porter the upper hand when a team is deciding between the two.
I can't envision a team that's looking for a center taking Steven Adams before Mason Plumlee.
Adams is so raw and too many years away from being a factor in the NBA, and that's if he ever figures out the game. Mason Plumlee dominated in the ACC throughout his entire senior year. He's just as good of an athlete as Adams, only he knows how to use his physical gifts more effectively.
Plumlee averaged 17 points and 10 boards this season for Duke, expanding his offensive game and improving as a rebounder.
It just clicked for Plumlee. Adams is still searching for the switch.
Why pass on a sure thing for a maybe in three to five years? I've got Plumlee going before Adams in the 2013 NBA draft.
Despite breaking his foot in January, C.J. McCollum has shown enough over the past four years with regard to his offensive capabilities. He's the most polished scorer in the field whether he played in the Patriot League or the Big Ten.
As a junior, he set the college basketball world on fire by dropping 30 on Duke, eliminating them as a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament.
McCollum opened up this past season by dropping 36 on Baylor before going down with the injury.
After seeing Damian Lillard successfully make the transition from mid-major guard to NBA starter, scouts are likely to feel more confident dipping into lower-level conference pools.
Chad Ford currently has McCollum going No. 9 to Minnesota.
Chad Ford currently has Dario Saric going to the Dallas Mavericks at No. 13 overall as the first international prospect off the board.
I currently have Dallas taking an international player as well, only it's Dennis Schroeder, point guard from Germany.
Saric's appeal stems from his 6'10'' size and ability to put the ball on the floor as a wing. He's a solid rebounder overseas, and his offensive versatility is obviously an attractive quality to share.
But he doesn't project as a defensive asset. Saric doesn't appear to have the strength to defend the post or the foot speed to secure the perimeter.
Saric is considered a long-term prospect with lots of upside, but I think there are other international guys with similar ceilings (Rudy Gobert, Sergey Karasev, Schroeder) who might be safer and closer to contributing.
Gorgui Dieng, right.
Though at this point, it's impossible to project exactly who Oklahoma City favors, you can bet it's someone around seven feet tall.
Chad Ford currently has Gorgui Dieng going to the Thunder at No. 12. This is a reasonable possibility considering his ability to protect the rim and score around it. Personally, I think Dieng is a reach here and there are better options on the board, particularly Mason Plumlee from a "best fit" standpoint.
But I agree with Ford that the Thunder will look to address the center position given Kendrick Perkins' inability to contribute much offensively.
Orlando, New Orleans, the Sacramento Kings, the Detroit Pistons, Oklahoma City, Dallas and the Utah Jazz could all use another pass-first point guard or starting quarterback.
Chad Ford currently has Michael Carter-Williams slipping to No. 16 overall into the hands of the Boston Celtics. But I don't think the Celtics will get that opportunity.
Carter-Williams should be expected to impress during workouts given his unique physical tools for the position, and after he finished third in the country in assists, scouts are already aware of his ability to facilitate for his teammates.
Between his skill set, potential and the demand for point guards, I've got Carter-Williams going in this year's lottery.
No matter how you slice it, the Philadelphia 76ers will end up with a brand-new rookie big man.
Chad Ford has the 76ers taking Cody Zeller right now, a move I'll agree with if he happens to slip that far down.
Philly would probably take Alex Len in a heartbeat if he fell to No. 11. Based on the teams picking in front of them, chances are that one of these two is bound to be there when Philly is on the clock.
If not Zeller or Len, Mason Plumlee, Kelly Olynyk, Rudy Gobert, Gorgui Dieng and Steven Adams are all likely to be considered by the 76ers.
The organization hasn't decided what to do with impending free agent Andre Bynum, nor does it know what his value will be on the open market. Philly will look to take a seven-foot insurance policy late in the lottery just in case.
I have a couple of point guards, such as Lorenzo Brown and Isaiah Canaan, ranked ahead of Pierre Jackson, though Chad Ford has him going before both. Ford projects Jackson to land with the Clippers at the end of Round 1.
I'm actually one of Jackson's biggest supporters and believe he will find a spot in an NBA rotation. But in terms of the draft, I just don't see him going in the top 30 picks.
He had a fantastic year, but at around 5'10'' without that Nate Robinson explosiveness as a leaper, his upside is fairly limited for a first-round pick.
Jackson offers great value with a team's second pick in Round 2, but I wouldn't bet on clubs handing him a guaranteed contract right away.