At this point I like the 2013 draft. There are a lot of promising players, which is a welcome development following two very dry drafts. That makes this year much more fun for us draft geeks. The problem is there isn’t any one player who looks like a sure fire star. While the drafts of 2011 and 2012 were historically weak, at least there was Kyrie Irving and Anthony Davis. No such star has emerged as the class of the 2013 crop. There are enough good prospects out there, that I suspect a few will emerge and this won’t be a problem in April. It should be fun watching this group develop.
The 2013 class features what looks like a deep freshmen class, several promising sophs and some juniors and seniors off to good starts. It’s the freshmen and sophomores who are the players to watch though. Such players are the core of any good draft in this millennium. For that reason I’m placing those prospects at the top of the list for now, based on their upside. It is still early in the process and for that reason rather than doing an official numbered in order by prospectworthiness top 60, I’m starting by placing prospects in groups.
As I like to stress every year, most stats are inflated at this point in the season. With that in mind feel free to insert terms like: “so far”, “at this point in the season” and “until the rigorous conference schedule kills his numbers” at the end of every blurb. Because of this, these ratings are extremely fluid and will certainly change a lot when I do them again in a month.
Top 10 of 2013
These are the players that stand out as the best prospects in the nation right now. The situation is very fluid, but right now these 10 rank a notch above everyone else. Any one of these players could go either way at this point.
Nerlens Noel, C Kentucky: He’s been a monster defensively and that’s such a big deal for a center that I have to make him the top overall guy. He’s also been a surprisingly good passer. Offensively he has a ways to go, but has shown some signs. Now the conference schedule starts and the test will be whether or not Noel can improve the offense and keep his rebounding level up or if he’ll fall off the cliff as some rookie bigs do. Noel is young, even for a freshman. He won’t be 19 until after the tournament. My thinking in ranking him as the top guy is we have a player who has the potential to become another Kevin Garnett. Such a player has to be considered at or near the top of any draft.
Michael Carter-Williams, PG Syracuse: Dominant passer and defender. His offense is shaky. One thing to point out though is that most of the inefficiency in his offense is from behind the arc. That’s something that can be corrected fairly easily. Either he attempts fewer 3-pointers or gets better at hitting them. I doubt he’ll ever be a great offensive player, but he’s so dominating at passing and defense that I could see him becoming an excellent NBA player.
Kyle Anderson, SF UCLA: This one will come as something of a shock to most. It follows a trend of going with players who are dominating on defense. The thing to remember is that defensive skills tend to be more inate, while offensive skills are much easier to develop. That’s why I rate young players who are dominant defensively so much higher than ones who don’t. Anderson got off to a slow start offensively. He’s still weak in that area, but has hit well over .500 on 2-pointers in his last 10 games so I’m going to go optimistic on him for now. What I love about Anderson is his complete game. He passes like a PG and rebounds like a PF while putting up solid defensive numbers. I’m guessing he’ll improve dramatically as the season progresses.
Alex Len, C Maryland: Good center prospect. Len is a sophomore in his first full college season. He’s young for a soph, so the fact that his play has been superior to most of the hyped frosh centers is significant.
Otto Porter, SF Georgetown: Has a chance to surpass Otto Moore as the greatest Otto ever. Otto Graham, who teamed with Red Holtzman and Chuck “Rifleman” Connors to win the 1946 NBL championship before switching sports and becoming a legendary NFL QB, probably has a case too. Back to Porter, he does everything well and that’s a good sign for a SF prospect. The fact that he doesn’t score many points can probably be blamed on the Georgetown offense, but it is a concern.
Anthony Bennett, PF UNLV: Offensively he’s been a monster. Defensively he’s been good enough.
Willie Cauley-Stein, C Kentucky: He just might be the 2nd best freshman center in the nation. Unfortunately, he’s playing behind the top one. He has been very good when he gets on the court and his game has improved since the season started. He might just break out in 2013.
Cody Zeller, PF-C Indiana: I have been down on Zeller, but he isn’t a terrible prospect. Offensively he’s great and his rebounding is improved as he enters what should be a brutal Big 10 schedule. The fact that he looks like he’ll be able to play some PF gives him a big advantage on most center prospects.
Tony Mitchell, North Texas: Mitchell is in danger of becoming one of those guys who is over-rated because everyone talked about how under-rated he was for so long. Mitchell is recovering from a slow start and is getting back to the form that had him #2 in my 2012 rankings. He seems to be over the shooting struggles he had in November. Through that he’s remained solid on the boards and defensively. While he takes too many 3-pointers, the fact that he can hit well over 30% of them adds to his value.
Steven Adams, C Pitt: Other than the Kentucky duo, Adams is the only freshman center who has stepped in and played like a center prospect should.
Rudy Gobert, C France: He’s big and long. His stats show a potentially dominating inside scorer, a decent shot blocker and a poor rebounder.
Lucas Noguiera, C Brazil: He doesn’t have the crazy length of Gobert, but his numbers are equally impressive right down to the poor rebounding. Other than these two I haven’t identified any other impressive foreign prospects yet.
Next 10 Freshmen and Sophomores
I rank this group of freshmen and sophomores just a notch below the top guys. All are good players. Some will crash the top group in the next rankings, other will fall out.
Briante Weber, PG VCU: I’m not quite sure where to rank Weber, but his numbers are so damn impressive that I like his lottery chances a lot. He’s a sophomore who is one of many role players in the balanced VCU system. His numbers really jump out. His steals are an obscene 6.2 per 40 minutes. Seriously, that’s the highest rate I’ve ever seen by a long shot. Considering he posted a 4.6 last year in 674 minutes, I doubt the 6.2 is much of a fluke. His passing numbers are superior to most of the top PG prospects. As a scorer he has a ways to go in both efficiency and volume. Right now he’s something of a super sleeper as a prospect. Because he’s a soph who isn’t on the draft radar of anyone that I’ve seen, he may not even enter the draft until 2015. But few players have displayed the type of dominance that Weber has early in his career and that puts him very much in the top prospects discussion.
Brice Johnson, F North Carolina: Very impressive start. He’s easily the top Tar Heel prospect. Biggest issue I can see is he’s too thin, at less than 200 lbs. He has PF numbers, so he needs to put on some weight. By some I mean 40-50 lbs. He’s young, so it’s doable. The unknown is what effect the gain will have.
Ben McLemore, SG Kansas: McLemore has become something of a trendy top 5 pick. He’s been good, but I’m not quite ready to go that far on him. My main issue with him is he’s a SG. With SGs, unless they’re dominant players, I don’t see the point in burning a top pick on that position. Usable SGs are fairly cheap and plentiful.
Jordan Adams, SG UCLA: The new Pauley can’t have been an easy place to play in the early going this year. There’s been a lot of off-court drama and a lot of talented new players trying to fit in. Adams has been rock solid during the chaos, scoring often and efficiently while putting up solid numbers across the board.
BJ Young, G Arkansas: Young has been more of a distributor this year, raising the possibility that his future is at the point. His efficiency and defensive numbers are down. The drop in efficiency can be traced to 3-point shooting and is probably the result of a cold streak that will end. The low defensive numbers follow a trend that started last year and are a legitimate concern.
Trey Burke, PG Michigan: I may go off stathead message on Burke, at least for now. He has low defensive numbers and I always rank such players low. But as a scorer and passer he has been so good that I see no reason he couldn’t have a career that’s similar to or even surpasses what Darren Collison has done so far.
Marcus Smart, PG Oklahoma State: Very erratic start, but he shows some signs of being a dominant player. He might also be another Jamon Gordon.
Shawn Long, PF Louisiana-Lafayette: Long enrolled at Mississippi State as a freshman last year, but never played. He transferred to ULL and is off to a terrific start in his first NCAA action. Shawn Long is definitely a player to keep an eye on.
Eric Moreland, PF Oregon State: Looking at the raw numbers, Moreland looks like a terrific PF prospect. He’s hitting 65% of his 2-pointers and is at 15.5 R40 and 5.0 SB40. I do have some doubts though. First is OSU has really been pushing the pace this year, so those numbers are certain to come down some when I do pace adjustments. He’ll still look pretty good, but they might be something less than eye-popping. The other thing is I watched an OSU game where Moreland was replaced late in the game for defensive purposes. The announcer said it was because he wasn’t a good on-ball defender. I evaluate by statistics and Moreland’s are pretty impressive so far. But I realize they don’t tell the entire story. As with the rest of these players, we still have 20 or so games to see how this plays out. If Eric Moreland really is a poor defender, it will eventually be reflected in the numbers.
Archie Goodwin, SG Kentucky: I’m not sold on Goodwin as a great prospect, but it’s hard to dismiss him. While he hasn’t dominated in any one area, he has been good enough as a freshman to think his high end future is a starting NBA SG.
So far, so Good
These are juniors and seniors who have stepped up their games so far to the point that they could be lottery picks should they continue on their current pace. It’s always good to be wary of such improvement in juniors and seniors, which is why I keep them separate from the freshmen and sophomores in this early ranking.
Jordan Bachynski, C Arizona State: Probably the most impressive start of any junior or senior. It’s also so far above his career norms that I can’t imagine him keeping it up. He plays low minutes and is 23 years old which are both negatives. But he’s also 7’2”, is hitting 64% of his FG attempts and blocking 7.4 shots per 40 minutes while rebounding adequately. That says he’s an NBA center.
Fuquan Edwin, SG Seton Hall: Player to watch. Edwin posted a .539 2-point pct. along with an 11.5 RSB40 while playing 3rd banana behind seniors Jordan Theodore and Herb Pope last year. He’s getting a chance to star as a junior and has taken full advantage. It will be no surprise at all if he makes the jump into the lottery in the next edition of these rankings.
Jeff Withey, C Kansas: He’s blocking shots as effectively as ever. His rebounding and offense have improved. Key will be keeping that pace during the conference schedule.
Jack Cooley, PF Notre Dame: A solid senior whose numbers have gone up across the board.
CJ McCallum, G Lehigh: He’s having his best ever scoring year and continues to put up solid defensive numbers. His 3-pointer has been falling at over 50%, a huge deal for him since shooting had been a weakness.
Elias Harris, F Gonzaga: One of the more interesting stories in the 2013 draft class. Harris had been on radar for 3 years now, but has never really put it all together. As a senior he’s improved his passing and defense to the point where he has to be in the first round discussion. It isn’t easy for a player to improve on defense like Harris has. The fact that he’s doing it bodes well for his pro prospects.
Victor Oladipo, SG Indiana: Off to an incredible start. His 2-point pct is over 70% in the early going and his defensive numbers are great. He’s also seeing his 3-pointer fall consistently for the first time in his career.
Reggie Bullock, SF North Carolina: The former top 20 prospect might finally be breaking out.
Carrick Felix, G-F Arizona State: After an ordinary couple of years, this guy is killing it so far for the Sun Devils. He’s similar to Oladipo. Both are terrific defenders who are scoring at a level well above previous levels. Both might be undersized SFs. Both seem to lack the scorer’s mentality that has historically been important for great SGs. They’re a couple players here putting up great numbers, but I’m not sure what to do yet other than mention them here and see what transpires the rest of the year.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG Georgia: Junior who is having his best year.
Jamaal Franklin, SG San Diego State: He’s been kind of erratic and remains so. But he is very talented and has improved a lot.
James Southerland, SF Syracuse: He’s getting big minutes for the first time in his career as a senior and has really taken advantage. I have my doubts about him keeping this pace up, because his efficiency numbers are so much above his career averages.
These are players who well regarded but are posting numbers more consistent with draft busts than successes. I limited this to prospects who find themselves listed in the lottery in the mocks around the web.
Isaiah Austin, PF-C Baylor: He just isn’t much of a defender. It’s hard to call any big guy is much of a prospect if he doesn’t bring some defensive skills.
Shabazz Muhammad, SF UCLA: High volume scorer with few other skills. As we saw with Derrick Williams and Harrison Barnes, such players usually struggle in the pros. Every now and then they’ll toss out an impressive performance that will tantalize fans. But generally such players don’t make good pros.
Alex Poythress, SF Kentucky: See Muhammad comment. I would rank Muhammad a little higher than Poythress, because of the UCLA effect on the numbers of perimeter players during the Howland era.
James Michael McAdoo, F North Carolina: It’s kind of unfortunate that he was so quickly ushered into the top 5 of the mocks this summer after an uninspiring freshman season. He’s done little to justify the hype and is already starting to fade. Probably best for him to stay out of the spotlight for a year and work on his game.
Mason Plumlee, C Duke: He’s a good inside scorer and rebounder, but his defensive numbers are still too low. This has been a career-long problem for him, so I doubt he’s going to fix it any time soon. The 2013 draft looks to be deep with decent center prospects, so there’s no need to burn a lottery pick on a likely career reserve like Plumlee. Another important note is that he’ll be 23 at tournament time. He isn’t a 5th-year senior, but he is older than most seniors and that makes anything he does this season a tad less impressive.
The Best of the Rest in the 2013 Draft Class
Gorgui Dieng, C Lousiville: Dieng has made some nice improvements in his game. He’s scoring more efficiently and turning the ball over a lot less. In fact passing would have to be considered a strength of his. His biggest strength and the skill that will get him drafted is defense. Negative is he’ll be 23 in a couple of weeks, making him a couple of years older than most juniors.
Andre Roberson, F Colorado: One of the nation’s best rebounders stuck in a SF’s body. I had expected a breakout year for him as a scorer, but he’s still 4th on a balanced Buffalo team in scoring. Other than scoring frequency, all the numbers look terrific. He’s a great defender who can hit the 3-pointer.
Adam Woodbury, C Iowa: As a group the freshmen centers haven’t been all that special. Woodbury has been better than most. I mean if you compare him and Isaiah Austin, Woodbury rebounds and blocks shots at a much higher rate and hits a slightly higher percentage of 2-pointers. These are the things that matter for center prospects. The only thing Austin has done better is hit the 3-pointer.
Rakim Christmas, PF Syracuse: Christmas has been playing in a crowded front court, but has put up some solid numbers in limited minutes. I’d like him a lot more if he grabbed more rebounds.
Brandon Davies, PF BYU: One of many several veteran college PFs who has come in with an improved game. Davies is young for a senior, which makes him more of a prospect than say a Jackie Carmichael or Richard Howell.
Robert Covington, F Tennessee State: Last year I thought he was a legit 1st-rounder coming off a great junior year. This year he struggled early before surgery to repair a torn meniscus has him on the shelf until February. Obviously this is bad news for a guy who may have been the best small college prospect in the country going into the season. Hopefully he can finish strong and get himself noticed in the combines.
Keith Clanton, PF Central Florida: Classic stretch 4 prospect. Clanton has 3-point range to go with marginally acceptable defense and rebounding skills.
Doug McDermott, SF Creighton: He has the same problem that lands Muhammad and Poythress in with the overhyped crowd, poor defensive numbers. His offense is so incredibly good that I can’t believe he won’t find NBA minutes in a Steve Novak-type role. But that’s his high end.
Sean Kirkpatrick, SG Cincinnati: My biggest concern is that he’s a forward in a guard’s body. He is off to a terrific start though. We’ll see where he goes with it.
Cory Jefferson, PF Baylor: 4th-year junior is taking advantage of his first significant minutes. At 210 he’s thin for an NBA PF, but his numbers have been terrific. It’s a nice change to see a Baylor big man playing some defense.
John Brown, F High Point: A freshman off to a good start. He’s a good scorer and rebounder. His defensive numbers are great. He isn’t much of a passer yet.
Jamelle Hagins, PF Delaware: I don’t see that he’s on the level of a Millsap or Faried. I do think his rebounding and defense are impressive enough that he’s worth 2nd round look.
DJ Seeley, G CS-Fullerton: Fifth-year senior who has been lighting it up and playing defense better than ever.
Lorenzo Brown, PG North Carolina State: Brown has continued the solid defender/adequate passer/erratic scorer game with a slight uptick in his numbers this year.
Nate Wolters, G South Dakota State: As we’re seeing with Damian Lillard this year, high scoring, small college guards with mediocre passing numbers can make for good NBA PGs. Lillard was the exception of course and his success doesn’t mean every small college PG can make the jump to the NBA. But it does mean such players should be looked at more closely.
Mike Muscala, C Bucknell: A good, multi-skilled center. I’m watching what could be his coming out party against Missouri as I write this.
Nick Johnson, G Arizona: He doesn’t pass enough to be a PG and doesn’t score enough for a SG. He does have great defensive numbers and has scored very efficiently.
Mitch McGary, C-PF Michigan: He looks more like a center than a PF, but he’s listed as a PF so I’ll buy in at least for now. He’s hit over 60% of his shots and has been a great rebounder. He hasn’t shown much in the way of defense and that keeps him down here with the dregs of the draftworthy prospects.
Arselan Kazemi, PF Oregon: Interesting prospect, but like a lot of players I’m not sure exactly where he fits. He’s top 10 in the nation in both steals and rebounds. That’s good, but a PF should block more shots than he does. I guess I’d place him roughly in the same class with Hagins and Carmichael. That’s a PF who can probably help a team inside, but is very unlikely to become an NBA starter.
Pierre Jackson, PG Baylor: Jackson is solid, but unspectacular. I feel he’s good enough to be an NBA backup PG.
Maurice Kemp, SF East Carolina: Common story. Anonymous player starts kicking ass as a senior.
James Ennis, G-F Long Beach State: See Maurice Kemp comment.
Brenden Dawson, F Michigan State: A nice all-around player who would help his cause immensely if he added an outside shot.
Jackie Carmichael, PF Illinois State: A senior who just turned 23, Carmichael is a marginal prospect thanks to his strong rebounding and defensive skills.
Lawrence Bowers, F Missouri: A 5th-year senior who is taking advantage of his final opportunity. He isn’t a great prospect, but has shown some signs of being a useful stretch 4.
Evan Roquemore, PG Santa Clara: Playing well enough to get a mention. Roquemore has made a big jump so far this year, so the burning question will be whether he maintains this new pace or reverts back to his first couple of seasons and the sub-.400 FG pct.
Isaiah Armwood, PF George Washington: Armwood spent a couple of uninspiring years at Villanova before transferring. He’s playing better now, with defense being the strength. As a 4th-year junior with a transfer on his resume, Armwood has a lot to prove. He’s off to a good start.
Trevor Mbakwe, PF Minnesota: He’ll be 24 in January and has had trouble avoiding the long arm of the law during his career. Those are a couple of big negatives. As a prospect his numbers have been consistently good and he appears to have the ability to become a decent inside reserve in the NBA. I don’t like to get into character issues much. I’m not close enough to these situations to have any idea what the issues are and what, if any, affect they’ll have on team chemistry. I do know that such baggage is not a good thing for any prospect to be lugging along during the evaluation process. In a year that looks to be deep in PF prospects, such baggage won’t help his cause.
Baye Keita, C Syracuse: Junior center. He’s been an efficient scoring, poor rebounding shot blocker until this year. This year he’s a better rebounder to the point that he has to be taken seriously as a prospect. His problem has been getting minutes. Syracuse is so loaded with talent that Keita has had trouble getting on the court.