2013 NBA Draft Preview: Projecting the Top 15 Picks
With the 2012 NBA draft squarely in the rear-view mirror, next year's crop of future superstars are officially on the clock.
The 2012 NBA draft class was considered by many to be one of the deepest classes in recent memory, while the future of the 2013 class remains cloudy.
With as many as four recent high school graduates projected to go in the top six, it's nearly impossible to speculate what this group will look like a year from today.
Luckily for my readers, it's only nearly impossible to project—and that's where I come into play.
Let's examine what the top 15 picks of the 2013 NBA draft will look like exactly one year from today.
15. Jeff Withey (7'0", 235): Center, Kansas, Sr.
Jeff Withey nearly threw his hat in the ring for the 2012 NBA draft before wisely deciding to return to Kansas for his senior season.
Withey averaged nine points, 6.3 rebounds and a ridiculous 3.6 blocks per game (fourth in the nation) for the Jayhawks in 2012.
He also registered a couple of eye-popping near-triple-double performances last season:
—13 points, 13 rebounds and nine blocks versus Long Beach State
—18 points, 11 rebounds and nine blocks versus Kansas State
With Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor moving on to the next level, Withey and Elijah Johnson immediately become the focal points of the Jayhawks offense in 2013.
14. C.J. Leslie (6'9", 207): Forward, NC State, Jr.
C.J. Leslie is another player who almost left a year too soon before wisely returning for his junior season at NC State.
An absolute freak of nature athletically, Leslie averaged 14.7 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.6 blocks for Mark Gottfried's Wolfpack a year ago.
Leslie is an explosive player with an incredible ability to finish at the rim in the transition game.
He can play both forward positions at the next level and will make his living by crashing the offensive glass and providing his teams with numerous tip-ins and putback dunks throughout the game.
13. Patric Young (6'8", 245): Power Forward, Florida, Jr.
An absolute beast from a physical standpoint, Patric Young averaged 10.3 points to go along with 6.4 rebounds during his sophomore season at the University of Florida.
When giving the opportunity, Young is more than capable of putting up a 25-point, 10-rebound game like he did in the Gators' 78-72 overtime win over Arizona in early December.
A relentless rebounder, Young has a 7'1" wingspan and comes equipped with a constant motor—one of those players that truly believes every missed shot belongs to him.
12. Isaiah Canaan (6'0", 193): Point Guard, Murray State, Sr.
Isaiah Canaan was considered by many college basketball analysts to be the best point guard in the nation last season.
Canaan averaged 19 points per game while shooting 47 percent from the field, 46 percent from three and 84 percent from the free-throw line.
Though many consider him to be a bit undersized, Canaan runs a ton of pick-and-rolls at Murray State—a skill that will help him tremendously at the next level.
11. Trevor Mbakwe (6'8", 237): Power Forward, Minnesota, Sr.
Trevor Mbakwe was off to a tremendous start in 2012, averaging 16 points and 10 rebounds during Minnesota's first five games of the season.
Unfortunately for the Golden Gophers, Mbakwe tore the ACL in his right knee just seven games into his senior season.
However, the NCAA granted Mbakwe a sixth year of eligibility and he will return to the Big Ten as a likely preseason all-conference pick.
In 2011, Mbakwe led the Big Ten in rebounding (10.5 per game) and should be a very productive player at the next level—assuming he is able to fully recover from the knee injury.
10. C.J. McCollum (6'3", 165): Guard, Lehigh, Sr.
Never heard of C.J. McCollum? Ask any Duke fan...
McCollum scored 30 points to go along with six rebounds and six assists in Lehigh's 75-70 upset of the second-seeded Blue Devils in last year's NCAA tournament.
A true combo guard, McCollum averaged 22 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists for the Mountain Hawks during his junior season.
McCollum will be asked to improve his handle at the next level as he will see the majority of his minutes at the point guard position.
9. BJ Young (6'3", 175): Guard, Arkansas, So.
Another combo guard, BJ Young, exploded onto the scene last year, averaging 15 points on 50 percent shooting as a freshman for the Arkansas Razorbacks.
A good rebounder for his position, Young got much stronger as the season wore on and impressed NBA scouts with both his play down the stretch and his potential at the next level.
Young averaged 19.4 points per game over his last nine games of the season and will be talked about as one of the best players in America during his upcoming sophomore season.
8. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (6'5", 200): Shooting Guard, Georgia, So.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has the ideal size for an NBA 2-guard and is projected by many to be the top shooting guard in the country next season as a sophomore.
He averaged over 13 points and five rebounds per game as a freshman while topping the 20-point mark in four games.
However, one thing is for certain, Caldwell-Pope will have to improve his shooting percentages across the board if he hopes to hear his name called in the 2013 NBA draft lottery.
7. Tony Mitchell (6'8", 235): Forward, North Texas, So.
Tony Mitchell averaged 14.7 rebounds and 10.3 rebounds as a freshman for the North Texas Mean Green in 2012.
Mitchell had some absolute monster games last season, including:
—34 points and 16 rebounds versus South Alabama
—30 points and 17 rebounds versus Denver
—22 points and 21 rebounds versus Florida Atlantic
At the college level, Mitchell is a man-child physically and a hyper athletic combo-forward who runs the court extremely well for someone his size.
He has often been compared to Kenyon Martin and should be a lock for the lottery next season.
7. Steven Adams (7'1", 245): Center, Pittsburgh, Fr.
Steven Adams will play one year for Jamie Dixon and the Pittsburgh Panthers next season before entering the 2013 NBA draft.
Adams is considered the top international prospect by most NBA GMs and scouts as a result of his rare combination of size, length and athleticism.
He runs the floor extremely well for a big man and is considered a great rebounder due to his high-energy style of play.
Remember this name...
6. Adonis Thomas (6'6", 222): Small Forward, Memphis, So.
Adonis Thomas showed flashes of brilliance as a freshman for the Memphis Tigers while NBA scouts were left drooling over his seemingly unlimited potential.
Blessed with a 7'0" wingspan, Thomas is an extremely tough and athletic forward with incredible jumping ability.
He still has a long ways to go in terms of an overall polish to his game, but based on potential alone, we expect Thomas to be drafted near the top of the 2013 NBA draft.
5. Alex Poythress (6'8", 213): Forward, Kentucky, Fr.
Another one-and-done freshman under John Calipari, Alex Poythress is one of two Kentucky freshman expected to turn pro after one year in Lexington.
A 5-star player out of Clarksville, TN, Poythress is ranked as the second-best forward and eighth-best player overall in the class of 2012 by Rivals.com.
4. Nerlens Noel (6'11", 216): Power Forward/Center, Kentucky, Fr.
Back-to-back Kentucky freshman in the lottery (sound familiar?), as Nerlens Noel will only be around for one season under John Calipari and the defending champion Kentucky Wildcats.
There are some early whispers regarding Noel's eligibility next season as he heads to the professional basketball factory in Lexington, Kentucky.
He is an explosive athlete and an elite shot-blocker thanks to his 7'4" wingspan and quick jumping ability.
Noel has the potential to be a superstar at the next level according to many NBA scouts.
3. James McAdoo (6'9", 226): Forward, North Carolina, So.
Surrounded by four lottery picks during his freshman season at North Carolina, James McAdoo was lost in the shuffle.
This will not be the case in 2013 as McAdoo immediately becomes the focal point of Roy Williams' high-octane offense.
An extremely smooth forward with serious superstar potential, McAdoo has drawn comparisons to another former Tar Heel—James Worthy.
He certainly possesses the right bloodlines, as his father, Bob McAdoo, won two NBA championships while averaging 22.1 points and 9.4 rebounds during a 14-year NBA career.
Don't be surprised if McAdoo gets serious consideration as the first pick in the 2013 NBA draft.
2. Shabazz Muhammad (6'6", 222): Guard/Forward, UCLA, Fr.
Ranked as the No. 1 overall prospect out of high school by Rivals.com, Shabazz Muhammad will play one year at UCLA before moving on to the next level.
Many analysts project Muhammad to be the first pick in the 2013 NBA draft as a result of his elite athleticism and scoring ability.
NBA-ready from Day 1, Muhammad is a left-handed shooting guard who can score at will in a variety of ways.
1. Cody Zeller (6'11", 230): Power Forward/Center, Indiana, So.
Indiana head coach Tom Crean summed it up best, according to Rick Bozich of WDRB.com, "We don't look at Cody Zeller as a big man. We look at him as a very tall basketball player."
Zeller has only begun to scratch the surface of his unlimited potential as a basketball player at the next level.
There are whispers around Bloomington that Zeller is closer to 7'0", 240 lbs right now and has expanded his range beyond the three-point line.
Similar to his older brother Tyler, Zeller runs the floor better than any "big man" (sorry Coach Crean) in the country and is extremely athletic for his size.
The only question that will remain for Zeller after his sophomore season is...will he stay or will he go?