I have been analyzing the 2013 NBA draft for the past eight months.
In my opinion, the three best prospects in this class have been established since February. Beyond those three, there are a lot of intriguing players available. It is somewhat difficult to rank where they belong. That is pretty normal for a draft.
This list attempts to rank the best 20 prospects overall. I am more "excited" about the potential of this draft than the last two, but such feelings can be deceitful.
Obviously drafting is about speculation, but interestingly enough we often do not take a serious enough approach to conjecturing exactly what the top prospects in a given draft are most likely to turn into.
Drafting at the top is not about what a player will be like in one or two years, but what he will be like five to 10 years down the line.
Most elite players are decent right away, but they usually are dramatically better after four or five years in the league.
With most of the top prospects below, I have tried to make realistic comparisons of what they will be like as NBA players a half-decade from now. Here are my educated guesses.
1. Nerlens Noel
Noel is still probably the "safest" pick in the draft, despite injury and weight issues.
In the very least, if he can stay healthy, Noel should be able to affect the pro game the way Joakim Noah does.
At worst, a healthy Noel should be a Larry Sanders-type defensive menace. That is a worthwhile No. 1 pick.
A team that would draft Alex Len before him is probably making a huge mistake. Noel has all the tools needed to be a great NBA player.
He just needs to stay healthy.
2. Victor Oladipo
Oladipo is many people's favorite player in the draft—including probably mine.
But he is a riskier selection than Noel because there is a chance that Oladipo will never become a dominant offensive player, and he does not have the size to affect the game defensively the way Noel does.
But Oladipo is likely to be an All-Star, and I would not be surprised at all if he becomes one of the best shooting guards in the league.
The range of comparisons are large with Oladipo, but there is little doubt that he should have a long and effective NBA career.
3. Otto Porter
Porter is not only a safe pick but he possesses a much higher upside than he is given credit for.
Part of the lack of high expectations is Porter's own fault—he did himself no favors last month by comparing himself to Tayshaun Prince.
While Prince has had a good career, Porter has a chance to be a legit star. As outrageous as it sounds, Porter's upside could make him this generation's Scottie Pippen.
Obviously that is unlikely, but chances are Porter can turn into a player that makes an All-Star game or two. At his peak he should be better than Prince ever was.
You could even make the argument that Porter should be selected first in this year's draft based on his diverse skill set.
4. Trey Burke
Things get much dicier once we get past the top three prospects. There is a substantial increase in risk.
I like Burke and I think he will be a solid starting point guard in the league. He is an excellent offensive basketball player, and the rule changes that have increased the success of many NBA point guards work heavily in his favor.
Burke's upside is that of an All-Star. He is too smart and too skilled offensively to be a complete bust.
He will not be Chris Paul, but he could be a slightly better version of Jameer Nelson. That's the type of player who deserves to be picked early in an uncertain field like this one.
5. Ben McLemore
McLemore seems to be a safe pick. Too safe?
If McLemore can't turn into a solid starting NBA shooting guard, he is essentially a waste of a high pick.
I doubt McLemore has the upside many people think; the Ray Allen comparisons are off-base.
McLemore appears to be a relatively passive and complementary kind of player—but that's not a bad thing, and too many scouts swear by this kid for him to drop much lower than this.
The hope is that he can develop a pro game like that of Michael Finley in his prime. That is probably McLemore's best-case scenario, and I am skeptical it happens.
However, every other player available after McLemore has even larger question marks attached.
6. Steven Adams
Adams has too much upside to be picked later than here.
He is the kind of young center people mistakenly think Alex Len is. He has a huge frame and is skilled. Besides Noel, Adams is the big man most likely to achieve stardom in this draft class.
The relatively quiet freshman year at Pittsburgh should not fool people—Andre Drummond had a quiet year at UConn and was immediately an above-average NBA center when he reached the league.
Adams is unlikely to match Drummond's long-term success, but his size and skill level are uncommon enough that he should have a relatively easy time transitioning into the league effectively.
He in the very least should have a career like Jeff Foster had, and has the upside to be an All-Star.
7. C.J. McCollum
McCollum is just a good player. It's that simple.
In college, McCollum always played up to the competition when Lehigh went against bigger schools, and his small college background should not concern people. Nor should the fact that he was injured for much of last season.
I have a feeling McCollum will play point guard in the pros, because his passing instincts and feel for the game appear to be exceptional.
At worst, McCollum is like Randy Foye. At best he becomes this decade's version of Michael Adams, who was a 25-10 guy in 1990. McCollum has that kind of upside.
8. Michael Carter-Williams
Carter-Williams is very impressive when you first watch him.
His passing and driving ability is legitimately reminiscent of Jason Kidd. His length also makes him a good defender.
But Carter-Williams has trouble shooting the ball, much worse than poor shooters like Kidd and Rajon Rondo in college. So personally, I don't love Carter-Williams as a prospect, but the advanced numbers, per Sports Reference, are too good for him to be ranked much lower than here.
I doubt he turns into an All-Star, but it seems probable that Carter-Williams will be a capable starting point guard in this league within a few years. Jamaal Tinsley at his peak might be a good comparison.
9. Anthony Bennett
Bennett is one of the hardest prospects in the draft for me to get a read on. Some people think that he deserves to be picked first. But I personally see the glass half-empty.
I think Bennett is more likely to have a career like Jason Maxiell's than Paul Millsap's.
A big concern is his height. I have yet to hear an exact number when it comes to Bennett's height. If he is a legit 6'8" in shoes, that makes him a significantly better prospect than if he is only 6'6". Given the info I have, I have a feeling the case is the latter.
Any young prospect with the kind of offensive explosiveness Bennett possesses deserves to be taken seriously, and I will be the first to admit that I may have him pegged too low.
Ultimately, nothing I have seen on the court or statistically makes me believe this really is the second coming of Larry Johnson. I may be wrong, but to me Bennett is more likely a strong role player in the NBA, as opposed to a star.
10. Rudy Gobert
Gobert's measurements and size are staggering.
He could end up being a better version of Gheorghe Muresan, which would be very valuable.
Like many of the big men in this year's class, Gobert was underutilized by his team, especially on offense. Having the incredible length and decent skill set he has, I can't in good faith rank him any lower than this.
His rebounding is only adequate, and he might end up a bust, but Gobert is a unique prospect with some fascinating talent.
11. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
Eleventh is perhaps too low a ranking for Caldwell-Pope, who quietly had a very promising sophomore year for a middling Georgia team.
We might be looking at the next Joe Johnson, a player who had similar numbers coming out of Arkansas 12 years ago. However, more realistically, Caldwell-Pope will likely just be a solid NBA shooting guard for many years to come.
He is a good value pick if he ends up falling outside the top 10.
12. Kelly Olynyk
Olynyk scored 27 points per 40 minutes this year for Gonzaga, an incredibly impressive number for a big man playing on the No. 1 ranked team in America.
That alone means he is a good prospect and should make us realize there is an abundance of intriguing prospects in this class.
Olynyk's offensive arsenal could make him one of the best offensive big men in the NBA one day. The Luis Scola parallels are easy to make, and there is some validity there.
I feel Olynyk is fast and athletic enough to carve out a long and successful career, and many of us might be underrating him. His offensive output last season really is an auspicious sign.
13. Alex Len
I like Len as a prospect, but after watching him all year I feel as if scouts have too high expectations for him.
The rumors of him being picked first overall baffle me. Len can block shots, score some and rebound—but he doesn't look like a future All-Star because he does none of those things exceptionally well.
Maryland did not have the best system for Len to thrive in, but it is telling that he did not noticeably improve as the season went along.
I like the Robin Lopez comparison—I think that's realistic. Len should be a solid player in this league if he can add some strength, but that does not mean he deserves to be taken in the top five.
14. Tony Mitchell
Mitchell has too much upside to be ranked much lower than this.
The hope is that North Texas' system last year played a large part in Mitchell's struggles. His sophomore season was a disaster, but Mitchell has still shown enough flashes to see a Shawn Marion-type potential if everything falls in place.
Obviously, it is unlikely that Mitchell will ever reach those heights, but his exceptional defensive skills and athleticism make him worthy of being selected in the lottery.
Even if he ends up burning out as a pro.
15. Cody Zeller
Why do I have Zeller so low? Because the more I see of him the less I like him as a prospect.
I don't mean that condescendingly. Zeller's case as a future star lessened considerably as the college season went on.
Like his brother, Tyler, I could see Cody becoming a solid player in the NBA, but his upside doesn't excite me.
Many folks who swear by numbers think Zeller is a top player in this draft, but my eyes are telling me something completely different at this point.
Like Bennett, I may have Zeller ranked too low, but I'm willing to live with that.
16. Jeff Withey
I wouldn't be shocked if Withey ends up being the best big man in this class after Noel.
His defense is superb and should translate very well to the next level. Meanwhile, his offense is good enough that it won't hinder him too much.
He's old (23) for a prospect, but in this case that doesn't bother me. Withey is underrated and should have at least a Joel Przybilla-type career.
His shot-blocking and potential as a defensive anchor is something any NBA team should want.
17. Giannis Adetokunbo
Adetokunbo is the huge wild card.
I know so little about this guy that I am leery of ranking him so high. But, then again, if the videos and measurements I have seen are any indication, this kid could end up being one of the best players in the class.
His relative late inclusion into the draft has me wondering, and it seems a little fishy to me.
I hope the team that drafts him is able to do much more research on him than I have been able to. Regardless, you are looking at the epitome of a high-risk/high-upside pick.
18. Archie Goodwin
I have liked Goodwin all year and see no risk in drafting him in the top 20.
Goodwin, who struggled this year at Kentucky at times, is one of the youngest players in the draft. But when he was good, he was very good.
The first month of the college season I thought he might be the best guard prospect in the entire draft; he had some huge games early on.
Obviously he will need to improve his shooting, but Goodwin is exactly the kind of prospect who could be a steal if he is taken late.
19. Shane Larkin
Larkin is kind of like Trey Burke lite as a prospect.
Size is a serious concern for Larkin, and while he flashed some real promise at Miami this year, he might be out of the NBA in a few years.
At this juncture, his solid statistics warrant him being picked. It is quite possible Larkin is capable of being a starting NBA point guard.
20. Lucas Nogueira
Like Gobert, Nogueira has impressive size.
Unlike Gobert, Nogueira never really played much over in Europe and is largely unproven.
This is a high-risk pick, with the hope Nogueira can develop into another impressive Brazilian NBA big man.
For more NBA draft info and risk analysis, click here.