It's never too early to start thinking about the future. With this past year's draft over and teams have signed their draft picks, it's time to look forward to next year's lottery selections.
As the NBA season approaches, so does the NCAA college basketball season -- and they are the future of the NBA.
NBA players and coaches probably aren't worrying too much about next year's draft, but I'll bet you a handful of GM's are. Always looking to the future to build the best franchise they can is an important skill for a general manager to have.
Some GM's (of the NBA's bottom teams) might especially be looking forward to the draft next year because they are the ones who get to pick from the most talented pool of players: the lottery picks.
Let's take a look at the top players from college and abroad who are anticipating being drafted by an NBA team next summer:
William Buford is a 6-5/190 shooting guard who will be a junior this coming season at Ohio State.
Buford averaged 14.4 points and 5.6 rebounds last year for the Buckeyes' 29-8 season and looks to play an even larger role to fill the void left by the departure of Evan Turner.
With a strong frontcourt trio of Brook Lopez, Derrick Favors and Troy Murphy, the Nets probably won't be looking to draft a big man.
Buford looks to be the best candidate for the Nets at 14th pick caliber assuming no one drops below their predicted ranks. They could go for Tyler Honeycutt from UCLA or look for a young heir to Devin Harris in point guard Maalik Wayns from Villanova.
Not getting much recognition playing for a sub-par Georgia team in a conference dominated by powerhouse Kentucky, Trey Thompkins averaged 17.7 points and 8.3 rebounds in his sophomore season for the bulldogs.
He only looks to improve on that in his junior season in the hopes of being selected early in next year's draft.
The Bobcats would look to stick Thompkins in at power forward, especially if Tyrus Thomas turns out to be a bust...again.
Charlotte could also look to back up D.J. Augustin with a point guard selection in Maalik Wayns or Kemba Walker from UConn. If Mason Plumlee's stock rises over the course of the season, Charlotte could have their eyes set on a center like him - perhaps their weakest spot on the roster.
Whether Chris Paul remains in New Orleans or not, this would be a good choice for the Hornets.
As a backup to Chris Paul, Brandon Knight would have a great capacity to learn about the game and adapt to the NBA under the wing of CP3.
If Chris Paul is gone by draft time, Knight would be the ideal selection for the Hornets to find their new starting point guard.
The 6-7/210 high-flyer has many in Minnesota holding high hopes. Coming off a quiet freshman year averaging just under 12 minutes per game and not accumulating much statistical value, most of the college basketball world is in awe of his athleticism and NBA-body.
The Clippers would love another perimeter player to maybe be able to shed the contracts of Ryan Gomes and Rasual Butler, but may also be more interested in adding a youth factor alongside Eric Bledsoe to Baron Davis' increasing age...
If so, Brandon Knight would be a wonderful selection at 11th overall.
Terrence Jones is a 6-8/219 forward from Oregon heading off to play for Kentucky. Labeled the most talented high school prospect on the west coast, fans are excited to see what he does on the big stage.
His NBA-ready body, athleticism and versatile skill-set have him ranking high among the top prospects for the NBA draft.
The Knicks (assuming they don't wind up with Carmelo Anthony down the road) would like to stick Jones in at small forward next to Gallinari. Otherwise, they may look for a player like Rodney Williams or William Buford to place at shooting guard.
The 6-9 senior at Duke next season will definitely be ready for the NBA this year. Singler has flourished under Coach K and his time spent at Duke will serve him very well in the long run.
He understands the game, and can play many positions on the floor.
Much more, Golden State would love to have this sharpshooting small forward fill the weakest position on their roster (starter=Reggie Williams) who can definitely play at the fast-paced Warrior style. He may even elevate the defensive integrity on Golden State.
If not Singler, the Warriors would love to stick the athletic Terrence Jones in at small forward as well.
Creating a theme of picking players from Ohio State, the Sixers could possibly go for a player like Jared Sullinger next summer in the draft.
The 6-9/286 power forward is a load on both ends of the floor and could mix in well with the frontcourt of Marreese Speights, Elton Brand and Thaddeus Young.
Coming off a fantastic freshman season on a mediocre Colorado basketball team to average 17.1 points and 5.0 rebounds per game, Alec Burks seems to have quite some potential.
Indiana could really go anywhere in this draft as far as position. But seeing as Danny Granger, Darren Collison, and Roy Hibbert seem to be the building blocks for the Pacers, power forward and shooting guard seem like the positions they will go for.
They may be interested in taking a dip down to pick up Jared Sullinger to stick next to Tyler Hansbrough at power forward.
This 7-foot center entering Syracuse next year has a great body and solid mid-range jumper. Anchoring the infamous Syracuse zone defense next year should give him great recognition and room to grow under Jim Boeheim.
The Cavs could really go with any position here as they try to rebuild their team. If they choose Melo, he could easily share minutes at center with Varejao or even pull a starting job.
Any of the aforementioned players like Jared Sullinger, Kyle Singer, Brandon Knight, and Terrence Jones would be delectable choices for Cleveland as they start from scratch.
The only thing I don't like about this pick is the name Darko Milicic. The Pistons do not want to do that again.
Granted, this next year's draft class is not filled with players like LeBron, Wade, Bosh or Carmelo, but Detroit sure wouldn't want to pick another Milicic.
On the up side, Motiejunas is a 7-foot power forward with surprising finesse and agility, but also a toughness that allows him to bang inside.
The Pistons would like to stick him in at center for the aging Ben Wallace or perhaps go for a perimeter player to shed the contracts of Hamilton/Prince/Gordon etc.
In this case, Burks or Singler or Jones would be likely candidates.
Snagging this young form of Chris Paul would make for a very talented backcourt in Sacramento. Allowing Tyreke Evans to play more off the ball, Kyrie Irving would be a great fit for the Kings installed as a playmaker and another young chip to build their team around.
With an already young and talented frontcourt in DeMarcus Cousins and Jason Thompson, Sacramento should be looking for a small forward or a point guard. If Kyrie Irving slips to #4, I'm sure they would gladly take him.
If small forward seems more appealing, look for them to select a player like Kyle Singler, a pure shooter to complete their roster.
This 6-11 small forward has incredible length for his position and has the potential to create many mismatches in the NBA with his speed and athleticism.
He can shoot, dribble, pass and play inside with his big body, and should be a lock for a top 5 selection assuming he does well in his first year at Baylor.
As far as position, the Wizards do already have Al Thornton and Josh Howard at small forward, but they should pick Perry Jones purely off his caliber and potential.
If not Perry Jones, the Wizards may like a player like Alec Burks to back up the aging Gilbert Arenas, or a Fab Melo to place alongside the young and developing frontcourt of JaVale McGee and Andray Blatche.
The 6-11 center enrolled at Kentucky next year will be a force in the paint while in college.
The Timberwolves will like his size and will place him at center to either backup a resurgent Darko Milicic or start over a continuing disappointment Darko Milicic.
Minnesota could opt for a perimeter player as well, perhaps a Perry Jones, Kyle Singler or Alec Burks.
Regardless, Kanter should not drop out of the top 5.
Many people are of the mindset that it's safe to say Harrison Barnes is the consensus #1 overall draft pick next year.
With immense talent to accompany his great work ethic and coach-ability, Barnes should be a star at North Carolina, as well as in the NBA.
The Raptors would put him in at small forward and perhaps move DeMar DeRozan to shooting guard and have Barbosa come off the bench.
Don't expect Barnes to fall past the top 3, anyway.