The 2013 NBA draft kicks off on Thursday evening, leaving little time for most analysts and mock drafters to make last-minute updates to the big boards and finalize their last forecasts of the year.
I finished mine a bit ago, slightly after renowned ESPN analyst Chad Ford released his first—and likely last—two-round mock of the season.
As always, Ford has done an admirable job of piecing together what should be an accurate portrait of the draft, but we have our differences.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the picks the NBA insider simply nailed, a few selections that could go one of many ways and two projections that just won’t come true.
Click here to view Chad Ford's latest mock draft on ESPN Insider (subscription required).
3. Washington Wizards: Otto Porter, SF, Georgetown
Ever since the lottery revealed the Wizards had jumped up to No. 3 in the draft, this combination has been a match made in a heaven.
Ford notes that he has predicted Porter to Washington in every mock this year, which is another reason to feel good about this pairing. Considering the state of the roster in the nation’s capital, it just makes sense for the Hoyas' hometown hero to make the short trek to the Verizon Center.
While Porter isn’t known for his elite scoring ability or being able to create his own shot, the versatile swingman can do just about everything else at a high level.
Whether it's rebounding, defense, hustle or knocking down open threes, Porter will find a way to contribute when he’s out on the court and could immediately start for the Wizards during his rookie season.
9. Minnesota Timberwolves: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG, Georgia
KCP and the T-Wolves seem to be one of the surest matches in this draft, as Minnesota has been searching for a top-tier shooting guard to pair with Ricky Rubio in the backcourt for too long.
Ford believes that the only way this doesn’t happen is if the T-Wolves can use the No. 9 and 26 picks—plus forward Derrick Williams—to move up and snag Victor Oladipo.
Caldwell-Pope certainly isn’t a bad consolation prize, as the Bulldogs star may actually wind up becoming one of the top off-guards in the league in just a few years.
Due to his ability to create off the bounce, bomb away from beyond the arc, defend his position, facilitate and more, there’s no telling just how good this young man could be.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Nerlens Noel, C, Kentucky
It’s tough to blame Ford for drawing this conclusion, as it’s nearly impossible to predict what Cleveland will do on draft night.
The insider readily admitted that Alex Len and Anthony Bennett are both garnering consideration from the club with this selection, but he believes the athletic, high-motor Wildcats product grades out the highest on the team’s big board.
However, the Cavs could just as easily trade this pick or go in a completely different direction, as just about everything is in play at this juncture.
If Noel fails to come off the board here, he should fall no further than to the Orlando Magic at No. 2.
20. Chicago Bulls: Mason Plumlee, PF, Duke
The Bulls may have a relatively equal need for a big man as they do a shooting guard, but Plumlee doesn’t seem like the right prospect for this organization.
Although the Blue Devils product is a solid athlete and a hardworking banger in the low post, he’s a bit undersized and has almost zero upside. What you see is what you get with this kid.
Chicago already has its energy guy and emotional center in Joakim Noah, making Plumlee’s presence in that department somewhat redundant.
When it comes down to it, the sheer number of talented 2-guards who project to be available here makes it foolish for the Bulls to reach for Plumlee at No. 20, especially when he doesn’t bring much to the table that isn’t already there.
Downright Wrong Calls
10. Portland Trail Blazers: Michael Carter-Williams, PG, Syracuse
The Blazers drafted their point guard of the future last year and hit a home run, as Damian Lillard looks to be a legit star for years to come.
For that reason alone, Carter-Williams doesn’t make sense at No. 10, even if it’s a relatively good value range for the Orange facilitator.
MCW is 6’6”, so you’d think he'd have no issues shifting to the 2, but the Syracuse product has limited skills outside of his defensive and passing capabilities.
His jumper is downright atrocious, and his handle needs some work—two deficiencies that severely limit his upside as anything more than a distributor in this league.
Given that Lillard is more than capable of shouldering the load in that area, Portland should look elsewhere with this pick.
18. Atlanta Hawks: Shabazz Muhammad, SF, UCLA
Basketball is about putting the ball through the hoop more times than your opponent. It’s the most basic and most important skill in the game, but some players are able to do it at a much higher level than others.
Muhammad is one of those players, as the left-handed swingman is a gifted scorer who seems born to make shots in the NBA.
While his stock significantly dipped after a subpar freshman season at UCLA and the discovery of his true age (20 instead of 19), this prospect isn’t going to fall all the way down to No. 18.
Plenty of teams in the lottery could use a scoring wing, and they will likely find Muhammad grades out as the best available when it comes to time to select.
With that in mind, don’t be surprised if the Bruins shot-maker comes off the board much earlier than expected.