When it comes to the NBA draft, few analysts have built the reputation of ESPN Insider's Chad Ford. From his invaluable insight to his uncanny ability to break down the validity of rumors, he's become the go-to man when it comes to the annual selection process.
With anticipation serving as the only thing separating us from the 2013 NBA draft, Ford provided us with some last minute information that could shape the draft.
Ford went against the grain with this edition, continuing to support Nerlens Noel as the top pick and debunking popular rumors. In that same breath, he confirmed other reports and provided insight into draft night moves that could surprise the most avid NBA fan.
All in all, it was an eventful mock draft.
Click here to view Chad Ford's latest mock draft on ESPN Insider (subscription required).
Noel Unlikely to Fall Past No. 2
It's no secret that the Cleveland Cavaliers are attempting to choose between centers Alex Len and Nerlens Noel. Numerous reports have Cleveland siding with Len, and just as many analysts are speculating that Noel could see a relatively steep decline.
In Ford's most recent mock draft, however, he reports that the Magic are unlikely to let Noel fall past No. 2.
Ford expands on that report in a separate article, noting that Orlando is leaning heavily towards selecting Noel if he remains available. While Ford may have the former Kentucky star going first overall, there is the possibility that Len goes No. 1 to give the Magic have the chance to do just that.
If that's the case, all signs point towards Noel ending up in Orlando.
Sources close to the Orlando Magic told ESPN.com on Saturday that if the Cavs pass on Kentucky big man Nerlens Noel, the Magic are leaning strongly toward selecting him with the No. 2 pick in the draft.
Sources cautioned that things could change in the next five days as the Magic continue to gather information. "If the draft was held today, Noel would be our first choice," one source told ESPN.com.
It makes sense.
The Magic have a very strong core in place with Maurice Harkless, Tobias Harris and Nikola Vucevic. With that being said, they lack a rim protector and ranked 21st in opponent points in the paint during the 2012-13 regular season.
Noel could be the long-term answer to cure those defensive woes.
Cody Zeller Making Top 5 Waves
There's a power forward in this draft class that tested as the most explosive big man in the history of NBA draft scouting combine. He displays the tools to work a very strong mid-range game, stands at 7'0" and has a revered motor.
His name is Cody Zeller.
If the player I just described to you sounds like a top-five draft choice, it's mainly because he normally would be. In Zeller's case, however, there are more fans believing that he has no business going that high than those who support him.
According to Ford, NBA franchises aren't on board with their fan bases.
The Orlando Magic at No. 2, Charlotte Bobcats at No. 4 and Phoenix Suns at No. 5 are all expressing some degree of interest in drafting Zeller. Orlando and Charlotte are described as teams with an outside chance of picking Zeller, while Phoenix has "strong support" for him in their front office.
With that being said, Ford and I agree with Zeller going No. 11 to the Philadelphia 76ers—just don't rule anything out as a possibility.
According to Ford's latest mock draft, the Cleveland Cavaliers, Orlando Magic, Sacramento Kings, Dallas Mavericks, Milwaukee Bucks and Brooklyn Nets are all exploring trade possibilities. Some teams could be in the market to move up, while others are hoping to drop down the draft board.
Regardless of why they do it, numerous teams are in the market for a move.
The Cavaliers are considering trades pertaining to the No. 1 and No. 19 overall draft picks that they currently own. The deals would most likely be separate, which puts Cleveland in an even greater position of control than we'd previously believed.
One option would be to swap the No. 13 and No. 19 picks with Dallas and take on Shawn Marion's hefty salary.
The Mavericks would pursue that trade for financial purposes, if at all, as they prepare to make a run at Dwight Howard via free agency. Other potential trade partners include the Bucks and Nets, as they along with the Cavaliers are interested in Sergey Karasev.
The Kings, meanwhile, could trade former top-10 draft choice Jimmer Fredette to acquire a late first-round draft choice. It's unclear whether another team would be interested, but Sacramento has its eyes set on Tim Hardaway Jr. and Tony Snell.
The Magic are simply weighing all of their options—talk about madness.
Top 5 Pick Battles
Perhaps the most important aspect of Ford's mock draft is the individual battles that are taking place with each and every pick. While everyone likes to think that certain picks are set in stone, that's far from the case.
Every team is in a front office battle.
As previously noted, the Cavaliers are struggling to decide between Len and Noel. Anthony Bennett is another option for Cleveland, but that appears to be more of an outside possibility.
Ford goes against the popular vote and puts Noel at No. 1.
Assuming Noel is off of the board, the Magic are deciding between Ben McLemore and Victor Oladipo at No. 2. Not only are they the top two shooting guards in this year's draft class, but they offer contrasting styles of play.
When it comes down to it, Orlando will decide between an elite defender and an offensive force—right now, Ford reports that they're favoring Oladipo.
With the third overall draft choice, the Washington Wizards have Anthony Bennett and Otto Porter as their top two choices. While Bennett may be viewed as the player with higher upside, Ford reports that Washington is leaning towards Porter.
Everything could change, but Washington has been interested in Porter for quite some time.
At No. 4 in Ford's latest mock draft, the Charlotte Bobcats go with Len. If he is off of the board, however, Ford reports that Charlotte's top preferences are Bennett, McLemore and Cody Zeller.
To round it all out, the Phoenix Suns take McLemore at No. 5. With that being said, Ford is reporting that they prefer Oladipo and are considering Michael Carter-Williams and Zeller.
All in all, just one thing is clear from all of this—the craziest time in the NBA is officially upon us.