With the draft under a week away, the majority of pre-draft workouts coming to an end and teams putting the finishing touches on their draft boards, I think now would be as good of a time as any to reveal my 2013 NBA Draft big board. This doesn't represent what I view as the best pick for the Wizards (if you're a BPA guy it shouldn't matter, right?), but is more of an overall assessment of the talent pool.
1. Nerlens Noel, Kentucky
As the fourth-youngest player in the draft class, Nerlens Noel is the perfect project big man you can build your team with. Without coming off as a complete contrarian, the one thing that impressed me more than his supernatural shot-blocking ability was his leadership. I've harped on it before, but reclassifying into the 2013 class and committing to what would be a disastrous season following a national championship should have embittered most. Instead, he remains as the consensus best player in the draft with the highest upside. I've flip-flopped on this a bit in the past week, but I ultimately can't see anyone else occupying this spot.
2. Otto Porter, Georgetown
It's not possible for me to harp on this much more, but I'll give it a shot: I think Otto Porter has as good a chance as any to become the first All Star out of this draft class. I'm not buying into the safe pick/low ceiling/high floor talk that's surfaced, and I'm certainly not bothered by his wiry frame or average lateral quickness. In short, he's too smart of a defender to be limited by his quickness and too well-rounded to be relegated to a "3 and D" player.
3. Victor Oladipo, Indiana
He's the best perimeter defender in this class bar-none and turned in one of the most efficient scoring seasons we've seen in quite some time. He has weak handle and probably benefited from all the attention Cody Zeller received than most are letting on, but his game was made for the NBA. He can pick up a ball handler from 90 feet out, hound you into turnovers, cause 10-second violations and do virtually anything you can think of in an NBA defender. And best of all, he has the drive and work ethic to be great.
4.Trey Burke, Michigan
Physical attributes should always take a backseat to skill. On top of being one the top floor generals for the runner up this season, Trey Burke showed an increased understanding of how to attack defenses with his entire repertoire. He acts as both a scorer and playmaker and has all the tools to play in any system. He can push the pace, is a master of the pick and roll and is a big time shooter who isn't afraid of the big shot. His skills should translate immediately, and he should emerge as one of the top players in his class.
5. Ben McLemore, Kansas
I made this point months ago: Ben McLemore is the safest pick of the NBA Draft. At the absolute worst, he'll be a reliable floor spacer that can defend at least adequately. He may not have shown off his world-class athleticism for a full season, and it certainly didn't appear on film when studying his defense, but as a late bloomer, it's at least understandable why he hasn't put it all together yet.
6. Anthony Bennett, UNLV
Bennett's outside of the top 5 for two reasons: He's a nonexistent entity on defense, and his offensive game isn't as polished as you may think. But none of it's to say he'll maintain this mantra 10 years down the road. It's true, you can hide him in a great defensive scheme, and he can (and probably will) improve his instincts and shed his bad habits on offense. But at the end of the day, he is a gamble in this draft. He could end up being the very best player from this draft, but it's just as likely he ends up on the list of undersized forwards that couldn't quite hit their ceiling.
7. Cody Zeller, Indiana
I've been high on Zeller all season, and continued to preach even through his roughest stretches in games that he's going to end up a very solid pro in the NBA. Some see a soft player that's apprehensive at the sight of contact who gets blocked more than your average center (not true). But I see a player who was overburdened by the lack of big men at Indiana, who played out of position and had to fit a style he wasn't accustomed to filling.
8. Alex Len, Maryland
This is your boom or bust pick. He's a seven-footer coming off a stress fracture in his foot that may linger through his career if not handled accordingly. He needs to bulk up, learn to defend without fouling and will have to be more inviting to contact as he rolls to the basket. But the potential is certainly compelling, and you would be hard-pressed to find better value here if he ever reaches his ceiling.
9. C.J. McCollum, Lehigh
This is where you start to see the talent level take a huge drop-off. I'm not as high on McCollum as most, I don't think he's going to be a starter, but that's the mindset you have to work with at this point of the draft. You have to go with the player you think will make the greatest overall impact, and that's McCollum. He can shoot off the dribble, in catch-and-shoot situations (though these didn't come at a premium), and has good range from three. He does have a case of tunnel vision at times and has to improve on his reads off pick and rolls, but he will make an impact from day one.
10. Gorgui Dieng, Louisville
Here's one instant-impact big, a true scarcity in this draft. At 23, many have already categorized him into the "low ceiling tier" but I think that's disingenuous. He's improved every season under Rick Pitino, has tremendous instincts and leadership, and has an improving offensive game with an encouraging looking jumper.
11. Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA
I've chronicled Shabazz's development in the past, his background and upbringing may have vaulted him into the spotlight early on, but I don't think his ceiling is much to speak about. What you see is what you get. He'll always stay true to his roots as a volume scorer, and there's not much out there to think otherwise.
12. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Georgia
There's plenty of intrigue with Caldwell-Pope in a draft like this, teams are always looking for a scoring wing that oozes potential, and KCP can be one of those guys that at least looks the part. He's uber-athletic, possesses a smooth stroke, can score from anywhere on the floor, and projects to be a good finisher at the rim.
13. Steven Adams, Pittsburgh
I've stated this before, but Adams is a rare big man with a completely clean sheet. There are no chinks in the armor, and he hasn't picked up the bad habits typically associated with raw big men. Teams can mold him however they choose, and he has the size and athleticism to be a good two-way player.
14. Shane Larkin, Miami
Call me a sucker, but I could care less about size when I see Shane Larkin play. His pick and roll ability rivals Trey Burke's, and he's a tremendous shooter from anywhere on the floor. He'll struggle defending anyone in the NBA, but he has the makings of a great third guard.
15. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Greece
He has a tantalizing skill-set -- at 6'9" he can handle the ball like a guard, has great court vision, and is just 18 years old. He'll need more seasoning overseas, is paper-thin at just 196 pounds and will need to improve on his jumper, but at 15 I feel pretty comfortable taking him.
16. Dennis Schroeder, Germany
From everything I've gathered on Schroeder, he's a terrific pick and roll player with blazing speed and exceptional ball handling skills that possesses Eric Bledsoe-like qualities on defense. You think that will translate to the NBA?
17. Michael Carter Williams, Syracuse
I've really soured on Carter Williams as I watch more tape on him. There were a lot of games where he was quiet for a full half and then completely dominated the next. For most prospects, it's a matter of knowing when to take over, but for MCW, it was a matter of him being completely shut down by his opponent. He posted great assist numbers, but most consisted of drive-and-kicks or in transition. Can he consistently make plays out of the pick and roll while defenders sag back on his jumper? Will he ever develop into a consistent shooter given his poor mechanics?
18. Reggie Bullock, North Carolina
Here's another glue guy that will assuredly make an impact on a team next season. He is the ultimate role player. He gets his team extra possessions through his work on the offensive glass and diving for loose balls. His size at 6'7 allows him to defend both wing positions, and he's a dead eye three point shooter that gets a lot of looks spotting up in transition.
19. Jamaal Franklin, San Diego State
Franklin's football background is manifested throughout his game. He's by far the best rebounding wing in the draft and is an explosive leaper. He's an aggressive defender that likes to take his man out of his comfort zone, and his offense is more predicated around heart and desire than sheer skill.
20. Kelly Olynyk, Gonzaga
This is where I'd be ecstatic to take Olynyk. His value would be off the charts should he fall toward the end of the first round, which would ameliorate concerns over his defense.
21. Sergey Karasev, Russia
Karasev's multi-faceted offensive attack continues to intrigue executives leading up to the draft. At just 197 pounds with average lateral quickness, it remains to be seen whether he'll match up fairly with tougher wings. However, he's a hard worker that doesn't take plays off, so at least he has that going for him.
22. Rudy Gobert, France
He stole the show at the combine, measuring in at a 7'8.5" wingspan and a 9'7" standing reach. He's a freak, but really needs to fill out before he makes an impact on either end of the court.
23. Allen Crabbe, California
Probably a little high, but I love what Crabbe brings to the table. He will always have a place in this league with his ability to come off screens, spot up, and make threes. Just the presence of him on the floor changes the dynamic of your offense, and if he learns how to use his size and wingspan on defense properly, he could become an adequate defender despite concerns over his athleticism.
24. Erick Green, Virginia Tech
Of all the point guards available in this draft sans Trey Burke, Green and Nate Wolters looks to be the most balanced scorers. Both had a lot of pressure to score for their respective offenses, and both weren't afforded the opportunity to show their passing dexterity nearly enough. But that won't be the case in the NBA, against second units I could see both thriving as playmakers with their games opening up more. Green probably played off ball more than any other PG in this draft, which makes him that much more appealing to teams devoid of a third guard.
25. Jeff Withey, Kansas
Withey has the ability to affect games on the defensive end. He needs to fill out a little more, but he moves so fluidly and gets off the floor quick enough that it may excuse his poor frame just a bit. He was Kansas' most important player during their tourney run, and emerged as a legitimate offensive threat in their inside/out attack.
26. Tony Mitchell, North Texas
Mitchell has the most potential defensively than any other power forward in this draft. But with him, we've all been waiting to see more, something to really get excited about. He didn't show the improvement from his freshman year like we expected, and the new coaching change didn't amend any of his bad habits. He continues to gravitate more toward the perimeter on offense despite his poor shooting, but if he rededicates himself to the post, he can be a productive player in the NBA, but it's up to him which direction he wants to go.
27. Mike Muscala, Bucknell
The first thing you'll notice about Muscala is just how skilled he is. His PER was second to only Kelly Olynyk's this season, and led the Patriot League in rebounds, blocks, and free throw attempts. He has a nice feel for the game, can mix it up inside, and take opposing big men off the dribble. There is some bust potential with him due to his poor lateral quickness and failures to get good position down low consistently, but he should become a good rotational big off the bench.
28. Nate Wolters, South Dakota State
The more I watch Wolters, I think he'll be a solid third guard someday. I love the way he attacks the pick and roll, and he's so balanced scoring the ball. His athleticism will hurt him in the NBA, but he did a great job in the first round of the NCAA tournament using his smarts to funnel Trey Burke into help.
29. Jackie Carmichael, Illinois State
At 23 years old, Carmichael's stock will never be too high, but it does present some intrigue with him coming out of a mid-major school while being highly productive throughout his 4 years. He has an interesting skill-set as a pick and roll partner, and is a plus rebounder with his strength and high motor.
30. Mason Plumlee, Duke
Plumlee's stock looks more unstable by the day by the emergence of both Gorgui Dieng and Steven Adams, but there is still a strong belief that Plumlee becomes a solid third or fourth big on a team. He gets talked up for his improvement each year during his tenure at Duke, however I see a guy who vastly underachieved given his athleticism. Each 4 year player at Duke makes strides in their game, bolsters their draft stock in their senior season, only to see them level off in the NBA (see: Smith, Nolan).