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Big Board: Smart's run for No. 1
Ranking the top 30 NBA draft prospects for 2013
Originally Published: March 13, 2013
By Chad Ford | ESPN Insider
Brendan Maloney/USA TODAY Sports
Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart has hovered in the draft class' top 5 all season.
For the first time in a month, our Big Board is starting to stabilize a bit at the top.
After the top three, everything is pretty wide open. Although GMs still bemoan the lack of star power at the top of the draft, we've been saying for months that there's actually a lot of depth in this draft, and our Big Board emphasizes that.
Want a player who can turn around your team tomorrow? This isn't the draft for you. Want someone who could contribute for a decade? There are a lot of choices.
With the conference tournaments this week and March Madness right around the corner, there is still plenty of time to make major leaps up (or down) the board.
So here it is … our fifth Big Board of 2013.
1Ben McLemoreSCHOOL: KansasCLASS: Fr.HT/WT: 6-5, 195POS: SG
16.7 PPG5.3 RPG2.1 APG
McLemore continues to be a bit hit or miss, but when he's on … wow. His 36-point game against West Virginia last week was a model of efficiency. He shot 12-for-15 from the field, 5-for-6 from 3. And despite a blowout loss to Baylor, McLemore at least took 16 shots in that game and ended the game with 23 points. The biggest issue for McLemore is his inability to really go out and get his own shot. But if he ever figures that out, those Ray Allen comps don't seem too bad.
PREVIOUS RANKING: 1 | PLAYER CARD
2Nerlens NoelSCHOOL: KentuckyCLASS: Fr.HT/WT: 6-11, 215POS: C
10.5 PPG9.5 RPG4.4 BPG
Noel underwent surgery on his torn ACL on Tuesday. Famed NBA surgeon James Andrews performed the surgery. Although Andrews' credentials speak for themselves, the choice of Andrews also signaled to NBA teams that Noel was picking a surgeon all 30 GMs in the league have on speed dial. Assuming the rehab goes well, Noel continues to be a likely top-three pick and still has a shot at going No. 1 overall.
PREVIOUS RANKING: 2 | PLAYER CARD
3Marcus SmartSCHOOL: OK St.CLASS: Fr.HT/WT: 6-4, 225POS: PG
15.1 PPG4.3 APG41 FG%
Although Smart also continues to be a bit hit or miss, he has a penchant for playing his basketball in big games. He hit another home run Saturday in the Cowboys' upset of Kansas State. Smart had 21 points on 7-for-11 shooting. He grabbed 6 boards, dished out 6 assists and had 2 steals. He was everywhere. Although Smart is far from a finished product, if a team such as the Orlando Magic or New Orleans Hornets gets the pick, he has a great shot at going No. 1.
PREVIOUS RANKING: 3 | PLAYER CARD
4Otto PorterSCHOOL: G'townCLASS: So.HT/WT: 6-8, 200POS: SF
16.4 PPG7.5 RPG2.7 APG
We've had Porter in our top 10 all year, but in the past few weeks his stock has grown to the point that he now has a great chance to go in the top 5. The majority of GMs and NBA scouts I spoke with last week now had Porter rated ahead of Shabazz Muhammad as the top small forward on their draft board. With a number of teams in need of a 3 on draft night, Porter looks like a lock to go somewhere between No. 2 and No. 6. "He's the best pure basketball player in this draft," one NBA GM said. "He doesn't quite have the ceiling of some of the other guys, but those guys all have major holes in their games that could come back to haunt them. Porter is as complete as they come."
PREVIOUS RANKING: 6 | PLAYER CARD
5Anthony BennettSCHOOL: UNLVCLASS: Fr.HT/WT: 6-8, 240POS: PF
15.9 PPG8.1 RPG1.0 APG
Bennett continues to suffer the side effects of a shoulder injury caused by sleeping on it weirdly. There seems to be no structural damage, it's more like a pinched nerve, but Bennett has struggled to play in the past few weeks and his production has plummeted. If he's fully healthy by the NCAA tournament, he really has a chance to put himself back in the conversation as the No. 1 pick.
PREVIOUS RANKING: 4 | PLAYER CARD
6Victor OladipoSCHOOL: IndianaClass: Jr.HT/WT: 6-5, 214POS: SG
13.7 PPG6.2 RPG2.1 APG
The Oladipo bandwagon has finally stopped going 200 mph. In fact, he slid one spot in our latest rankings. He struggled with foul trouble and with offense for a few games before breaking out again with a very strong performance against Michigan on Sunday. Not everyone loves Oladipo. A number of scouts are more comfortable with him as a late lottery pick thanks to his unpolished offensive skills. But there are others who still see him as a potential No. 1 pick.
PREVIOUS RANKING: 5 | PLAYER CARD
7Shabazz MuhammadSCHOOL: UCLACLASS: Fr.HT/WT: 6-6, 225POS: SF
18.3 PPG5.1 RPG41 3PT%
Muhammad continues to play hard and shows a knack to score. But it's become increasingly apparent to scouts that he really struggles to shoot off the dribble. If he gets his feet set, he's money, but when he tries to score on the move, his shooting percentages plummet. Coach Ben Howland said this week that Muhammad is leaving for sure for the NBA draft. If that's the case, he's going to need a huge tournament to propel his stock back into the conversation as the No. 1 pick.
PREVIOUS RANKING: 8 | PLAYER CARD
8Cody ZellerSCHOOL: IndianaCLASS: So.HT/WT: 6-11, 210POS: C
16.8 PPG8.1 RPG57 FG%
Zeller has been on fire of late. His last game of the regular season, a 25-point, 10-rebound effort against Michigan, was his best of the season. He showed off his ability to score in multiple ways and demanded the ball down the stretch in IU's toughest road game of the year. Scouts are still struggling to see how his game will translate, but he too could really help his draft stock with a very strong performance the next few weeks.
PREVIOUS RANKING: 9 | PLAYER CARD
9Alex LenSCHOOL: MarylandCLASS: So.HT/WT: 7-1, 225POS: C
11.8 PPG8.1 RPG1.9 BPG
Len has had his moments -- both for good (Kentucky, Duke) and for bad (such as his last game against Virginia). Many scouts blame the lack of strong guard play on the Terrapins this season. But others question whether Len has the toughness and drive to put Maryland on his back. For the first time all season, I'm hearing a chorus of scouts encouraging him to return to school for another year. With Maryland's chances of making the NCAA tournament slim, he's going to need a big ACC tournament to convince scouts one last time that he's ready for the NBA.
PREVIOUS RANKING: 7 | PLAYER CARD
10Gary HarrisSCHOOL: Mich. St.Class: Fr.HT/WT: 6-4, 210POS: SG
13.2 PPG2.4 RPG42 3PT%
Sources say Harris is strongly contemplating returning to school for his sophomore year. His recent rise up NBA draft boards might give him pause, but a nagging shoulder injury and a desire to keep working on his game might ultimately persuade him to play one more year with the Spartans. Plans change, however, and if they do, he's a likely lottery pick.
PREVIOUS RANKING: 10 | PLAYER CARD
11Michael Carter-WilliamsSCHOOL: SyracuseCLASS: So.HT/WT: 6-5, 175POS: PG
12.5 PPG7.6 APG39 FG%
Syracuse's downward spiral hasn't helped Carter-Williams' stock much. His assist numbers have plummeted; his turnovers have increased; and, although he has shot the ball a little better from the field, he's still struggling to hit anything from beyond the arc. A number of GMs are still very high on his long-term potential, but he's already two years older than most of the players in his class. His age is holding teams back as much as anything.
PREVIOUS RANKING: 11 | PLAYER CARD
12Trey BurkeSCHOOL: MichiganCLASS: So.HT/WT: 6-0, 190POS: PG
19.2 PPG3.2 RPG6.8 APG
Burke is pushing hard to be the second point guard off the board. His hyperefficient play -- as a scorer and as a passer -- has caught everyone's eye. If he were a little more athletic, I think we'd see a lot of Chris Paul in the type of game he plays. However, without the elite athletic ability, he probably can't catch Marcus Smart as the best point guard pro prospect in the draft.
PREVIOUS RANKING: 16 | PLAYER CARD
13Alex PoythressSCHOOL: KentuckyCLASS: Fr.HT/WT: 6-7, 215POS: SF
11.6 PPG6.2 RPG58 FG%
Poythress continues to drive us and everyone else in the NBA world crazy with his tantalizing athletic ability on one hand and a massively inconsistent drive on the other. We all want to love him, but he can make it so, so hard as his 7-PPG average over the past three games shows. The talent is there, but is the drive?
PREVIOUS RANKING: 12 | PLAYER CARD
14Mason PlumleeSCHOOL: DukeCLASS: Sr.HT/WT: 6-10, 230POS: PF
17.2 PPG10.3 RPG1.5 BPG
Plumlee is coming off one of his best games of the season, a 23-point, 13-rebound game against North Carolina on Saturday. That's the good news. The bad news? He just celebrated his 23rd birthday last week. For players 22 and older, the history of draft prospects isn't very encouraging.
PREVIOUS RANKING: 14 | PLAYER CARD
15Kelly OlynykSCHOOL: GonzagaClass: Jr.HT/WT: 7-0, 238POS: C
17.5 PPG7.2 RPG65 FG%
NBA scouts continue to warm on Olynyk as a potential lottery to mid-first-round pick. Olynyk has the top PER in college basketball (36.58) and the second-highest offensive rating (ORtg), at 125.8, of any player in the country who uses at least 28 percent of his team's possessions. Olynyk's size, agility and skill set are terrific for a 7-footer. The only knock on him has been the level of competition he has played against in a somewhat watered down West Coast Conference. If he can play with the same level of efficiency in the NCAA tournament, Olynyk has a chance to be a top-10 pick in this draft.
PREVIOUS RANKING: 22 | PLAYER CARD
16Willie Cauley-SteinSCHOOL: KentuckyClass: Fr.HT/WT: 7-0, 220POS: C
8.4 PPG6.1 RPG2.1 BPG
He's raw. So raw. But you can't teach many of the things Cauley-Stein brings to the table. He really should go back to school for another year under coach John Calipari. But if he comes out now, someone is going to gamble on his combination of length and agility in the first round.
PREVIOUS RANKING: 13 | PLAYER CARD
17C.J. McCollumSCHOOL: LehighCLASS: Sr.HT/WT: 6-3, 190POS: SG
23.9 PPG2.9 APG52 3PT%
McCollum finally is off crutches, and there was hope that he might be ready to play for Lehigh in the Patriot League tournament. Unfortunately, he wasn't ready to go in time for the semifinal game against Lafayette and Lehigh lost 82-69, effectively ending McCollum's college career. The good news for McCollum is that it sounds as if he'll be healthy enough to compete in the NBA draft combine and workouts in May.
PREVIOUS RANKING: 15 | PLAYER CARD
18Dario SaricCOUNTRY: CroatiaAge: 18HT/WT: 6-10, 223POS: SF
8.4 PPG4.9 RPG1.8 APG
Although Saric's numbers don't scream lottery pick, he's an 18-year-old playing pro ball in the Adriatic league, and more and more GMs are returning from Europe with positive things to say about Saric. He played one of his better games of the year Sunday versus Olimpija, scoring 10 points, hitting 2 treys, grabbing 9 rebounds and dishing out 2 assists in a win for Cibona.
PREVIOUS RANKING: 17 | PLAYER CARD
19Rudy GobertCOUNTRY: FranceAGE: 20HT/WT: 7-1, 220POS: PF
8.4 PPG4.9 RPG2.0 BPG
Gobert also isn't putting up numbers that should wow anyone. Unlike Saric, he isn't particularly skilled, nor does he have great basketball IQ. But his 7-foot-9 wing span and his shot-blocking abilities are drawing interest from scouts. He's a long way from being a productive NBA player, but, with a few more years in Europe, he could end up being a steal.
PREVIOUS RANKING: 18 | PLAYER CARD
20Archie GoodwinSCHOOL: KentuckyCLASS: Fr.HT/WT: 6-5, 195POS: SG
14.1 PPG4.5 RPG2.8 APG
Goodwin is one of the most difficult players in the draft to peg at the moment. The athletic ability, the speed and a penchant for finishing at the basket are all there. His shooting woes have abated a bit the past few weeks, as well. But the poor decision-making, slight frame and inconsistency all point to his needing at least another year under John Calipari at Kentucky. Barring a Cinderella run in the NCAA tournament, will he return to school for his sophomore year?
PREVIOUS RANKING: 19 | PLAYER CARD
21Isaiah AustinSCHOOL: BaylorCLASS: Fr.HT/WT: 7-0, 215POS: PF
13.6 PPG8.8 RPG1.6 BPG
Austin has really struggled to score the ball efficiently in Big 12 play. Since Jan. 30, he's had just two games in which he has shot better than 45 percent from the floor and only one game in that sequence when he has shot better than 40 percent from 3-point range. Given Austin's lack of strength to play in the post, he's going to have to bring those numbers up to get a serious look from scouts as a lottery pick.
PREVIOUS RANKING: 20 | PLAYER CARD
22Jamaal FranklinSCHOOL: San Diego StateClass: Jr.HT/WT: 6-5, 195POS: SG
17.0 PPG9.4 RPG3.1 APG
Franklin continues to wow us with his rebounding ability for a guard. Over the past four games, Franklin is averaging an amazing 12 rebounds per game. Although his shooting stroke is still very much a work in progress, his defensive ability and his motor should land him a spot in the first round.
PREVIOUS RANKING: 21 | PLAYER CARD
23Steven AdamsSCHOOL: PittsburghCLASS: Fr.HT/WT: 7-0, 240POS: C
7.1 PPG6.2 RPG2.1 BPG
Adams struggled through an ankle injury but seemed healthy enough in the Panthers' win over DePaul on Saturday. Although Adams has plenty of NBA suitors, sources say it's likely he's going to return to Pitt for his sophomore season.
PREVIOUS RANKING: 23 | PLAYER CARD
24Glenn Robinson IIISCHOOL: MichiganCLASS: Fr.HT/WT: 6-6, 210POS: SF
10.9 PPG5.5 RPG1.2 APG
We've been waiting for Robinson to have a good game against an elite opponent, and that finally happened Sunday in Michigan's loss to Indiana. Robinson ended the game with 13 points and five rebounds. The talent Robinson possesses is undeniable, but he's still raw and needs more experience. It will be interesting to see what he decides to do about the NBA draft. A big tournament could push him back into the lottery discussion. A mediocre one might convince him he needs another year of school.
PREVIOUS RANKING: 25 | PLAYER CARD
25James Michael McAdooSCHOOL: UNCCLASS: So.HT/WT: 6-9, 223POS: PF
14.6 PPG7.6 RPG1.2 APG
McAdoo has been playing center for North Carolina in Roy Williams' new small-ball starting lineup. It hasn't done anything to dramatically affect his efficiency, and he was dominated inside by Mason Plumlee against Duke on Saturday. Although McAdoo is showing some confidence with his face-the-basket game, he still looks a long way away from being a NBA contributor right now. The physical tools are there, but it looks as if he needs another year.
PREVIOUS RANKING: 24 | PLAYER CARD
26Jeff WitheySCHOOL: KansasClass: Sr.HT/WT: 7-0, 235POS: C
13.6 PPG8.6 RPG4.0 BPG
Withey has been playing a hyperefficient brand of basketball of late, shooting 23-for-27 from the field in his past four while averaging more than four blocks and nine rebounds per game. He's not a sexy prospect, but Withey could have a long career in the NBA as a shot-blocker off the bench.
PREVIOUS RANKING: 27 | PLAYER CARD
27Gorgui DiengSCHOOL: LouisvilleCLASS: Jr.HT/WT: 6-11, 235POS: C
10.3 PPG10.1 RPG2.6 BPG
Dieng is finally having the season many of us thought he might coming into the season. He has become a solid scorer around the basket, is doing a much better job of rebounding the ball and has the potential to be an elite shot-blocker. He's coming off one of his best performances of the season, a 20-point, 11-rebound, 5-block performance against Notre Dame. If he plays that way in the tournament and gets Louisville to the Final Four, he's going to be a lock for the first round despite his age.
PREVIOUS RANKING: NR | PLAYER CARD
28Allen CrabbeSCHOOL: CalClass: Jr.HT/WT: 6-6, 210POS: SG
18.6 PPG6.0 RPG2.6 APG
Crabbe has the tools to be a lethal shooter/scorer at the next level. But NBA scouts are worried about his inconsistent effort on both ends of the ball. When he's dialed in, he's as dangerous as anyone in the country. But too often, he doesn't play with the intensity he needs to dominate the game.
PREVIOUS RANKING: 26 | PLAYER CARD
29Patric YoungSCHOOL: FloridaClass: Jr.HT/WT: 6-9, 245POS: C
10.5 PPG6.2 RPG1.7 BPG
Scouts continue to debate what type of player Young will be. He rarely puts up big numbers for Florida and is seen as just an average rebounder, but his tough defense and his explosive athleticism suggest that he might be a terrific role player on a veteran team.
PREVIOUS RANKING: 28 | PLAYER CARD
30Tony MitchellSCHOOL: North TexasCLASS: So.HT/WT: 6-8, 220POS: SF
13.0 PPG8.5 RPG2.7 BPG
Mitchell's disappointing season came to an end Thursday with a loss to Louisiana-Lafayette in the Sun Belt tournament. Although his offensive woes continued, he did put up some strong rebounding and shot-blocking numbers in his last three games, averaging 12 boards and nearly three blocks per game over those last three. Mitchell said he's on the fence about whether to return to North Texas for another season. Given how much his draft stock has plummeted this year, I no longer think it's a foregone conclusion that he'll leave for the NBA.
PREVIOUS RANKING: 30 | PLAYER CARD
Next five in: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Georgia; Kyle Anderson, UCLA; Myck Kabongo, Texas; Le'Bryan Nash, Oklahoma State; BJ Young, Arkansas