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insider help please thanks in advance i feel like a bum asking for insiders but i really wanted to read this on

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The discussion: Who's the

The discussion: Who's the early favorite to be the No. 1 pick in the 2013 NBA draft?
Chad Ford: It's been nearly five years since NBA general managers faced the dilemma they do right now. In the 2012, 2011, 2010, and 2009 drafts the choice was clear.

This year? Not so much.

At least three players -- Kentucky's Nerlens Noel, Indiana's Cody Zeller and UCLA's Shabazz Muhammad -- came into the season with a legit shot at going No. 1. Two others -- Kentucky's Alex Poythress and Maryland's Alex Len -- have been mentioned as possible No. 1s as well by GMs I've spoken with since the season began.

Right now scouts are pretty evenly split among the three. Zeller is off to a somewhat underwhelming start. Muhammad didn't really wow anyone in his first two games. He's aggressive, but teams do have questions about how his game will translate. Noel was billed as being the rawest of the three and for the most part, that's proven true.

Obviously it's very early and things will change. Muhammad has just three games under his belt. Noel has five. And Zeller? He's still adjusting to the fact that he now has a huge target on his chest. In other words, I think we'll see all three get better as the season progresses.

So whom would I take No. 1 if the draft was held today? Zeller's more polished right now and Muhammad has the potential to be a 20 ppg scorer at the next level, but I'd take Noel. I've had him atop my Big Board since July 1 and I've seen nothing to persuade me he isn't the best prospect in this draft. Of the three, Noel has the biggest upside and is the most likely to fit a need on the handful of teams we've already identified as potential NBA lottery teams.

And for the record, Noel hasn't been nearly as raw as we had anticipated. For the first five games at Kentucky, Noel has a college PER of 30.04 -- better than the PER scores of Zeller and Muhammad. He's averaging a respectable 12.4 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 3.6 bpg, 3.0 apg and 2.6 spg in a little more than 30 minutes a game. He's shooting better than 60 percent from the floor, and despite his aggressiveness on the defensive end, he's managed to stay out of foul trouble.

I think the comparisons to Anthony Davis are unfair. However, he's almost exactly on par with Davis' averages in his first five games and not that far off from where Davis ended the season: 14.2 ppg, 10.4 rpg. 4.6 bpg ,1.6 apg, 1.4 spg on 62 percent shooting.

Debby Wong/US Presswire
Shabazz Muhammad has been up and down early.
For someone who was supposed to come in and struggle out of the gate, Noel has been more than solid and is getting better with each game. I still believe he has the inside track on the No. 1 pick, with so few legitimate centers in the league who can really control the paint.

Jay Bilas: This is not a great draft, with an overall talent level that is relatively low compared to past years. This year's class reminds one of 2011, when we all lamented how bad the draft talent crop was (and we were correct, in my judgment), yet there is always good value in any year. The same is true this season. However, there appears to be no Kyrie Irving-caliber player to top this year's draft.

As Chad mentioned, the top three prospects in this year's NBA draft are Noel, Zeller and Muhammad, and each is different.

Noel is long and athletic with a live body and the ability to run, rebound and block or change shots on the defensive end. He has great feet and mobility, and is leading Kentucky in steals as well as blocks and rebounding. He is playing more than 30 minutes per game and is averaging 12 points on only eight shot attempts per game, almost nine rebounds and more than 3.5 blocked shots. Noel is valuable for his ability to change ends and finish plays, but he is very raw on the offensive end and his offensive skill set needs to be refined, and he needs to be able to make free throws. But, because of his size, athletic ability and shot-blocking, he is a worthy top selection. His offense will develop over time, and his instincts and passing ability are impressive for his age.

Zeller is the superior offensive player to Noel, but does not impact the game on the glass or on the defensive end in the same manner. Where Zeller can match or beat Noel is in changing ends of the floor. I don't know whether the Zeller family put the dinner plates 94 feet from too little food, but the Zeller boys can all run the floor. Cody has a good array of post moves and does a nice job out of pick and rolls. He is a much better shooter than he has shown, and is developing a driving game as well. Zeller can hit a face-up shot, but needs to be more assertive in that area. But, while Zeller is going to be a top-five selection and a good pro for a long time, he does not appear to be a future All-Star.

Muhammad is a left-handed, transition-oriented wing who is a worker. He has missed significant time due to a ridiculous NCAA suspension, and he also missed time due to a shoulder injury. Muhammad has not yet impressed to the level of his talent, but I believe he will. Yet, in just 53 total minutes of playing time, he is averaging 18 points per game on 50 percent shooting, and he has gotten to the line 15 times. Muhammad is not a Russell Westbrook athlete, but he is an NBA athlete and can be very good. He still needs to work on his handling and passing, and must become a more reliable perimeter shooter. In the snapshot culture, Muhammad's stock is up and down, but he simply needs some time. He is playing on a young team that is trying to figure it out. Give him another 10 games or so, and Muhammad will prove to be the best player in the Pac-12.

Prospect on the rise
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Elsa/Getty Images
Otto Porter's three-point shooting looks much improved.
Bilas: Brandon Paul, G, Illinois Fighting Illini
Paul was outstanding in the Maui Invitational, and not only played to his talent, but played with consistency. Paul has always had the ability to score, as evidenced by his career numbers and his 43-point performance last year against Ohio State. He has very good size for a guard, and he has the ability to bring the ball upcourt and initiate offense. Paul is athletic, and an outstanding long-range and intermediate-range jump shooter who can play in transition or in the half-court. Paul also has the tools to be a really good defender, and he did a nice job defensively in Maui. He clearly has worked on his handle, and has matured as a player and a leader. He needs to continue to improve as a driver and not settle for jump shots. His demeanor is very good, and he has stepped into a leadership role for Illinois.

Ford: Otto Porter, F, Georgetown Hoyas
Porter absolutely wowed scouts last week at the Legends Classic in New York with his strong play against UCLA and Indiana. His line against UCLA was a box-score stuffer: 18 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists, 5 blocks, 3 steals and 2-for-2 on 3-pointers. He struggled in the first half against Indiana the next night before putting the team on his back and carrying it into overtime. Porter had five points and a rebound in the last 30 seconds of regulation.

What's clear from watching both games is that Porter is now the leader of this team and he's markedly improved his jump shot from last year. Porter's long-range jumper and his leadership abilities were the two biggest questions scouts had about his game.

Porter's been ranked as a potential top-11 pick on our Big Board since July 1 and hasn't actually moved up in the rankings much, but it's nice to see so many others recognizing what a talent he is.

What to watch for this week
Ford: I actually have a ton of games to watch on my TiVo this week, thanks to the challenges between the Big Ten and ACC, and the Big East and SEC.

Kevin Jairaj
Quinn Cook and the Blue Devils have looked sharp.
I'm tuning into the North Carolina State-Michigan and North Carolina-Indiana doubleheader Tuesday. I've been disappointed in both North Carolina and NC State so far, but Michigan and Indiana both look like the real deal.

Wednesday has a stellar Ohio State-Duke matchup. I'm much more sold on Duke than I am on Ohio State right now.

Thursday I'm watching Marquette-Florida and Kentucky-Notre Dame. Florida has been terrific coming out of the gate, but will face a very gritty Marquette team. Notre Dame should be another strong test for Kentucky.

Finally, I'm really looking forward to Friday's Syracuse-Arkansas game. There are a lot of scouts crossing their fingers that Arkansas' B.J. Young is the real deal. With no real point guards in the draft, they need him to be good.

Bilas: I'll be dialing in on Ohio State at Duke. Duke has played a difficult schedule, and Ohio State is on the back end of an NBA-worthy six games in 10 days.

Duke has played Kentucky, Minnesota, VCU and Louisville, and has been playing a hobbled Seth Curry a ton of minutes. Ohio State has not played the same difficult slate, and will enter Cameron Indoor Stadium Wednesday night as the fresher team. The Buckeyes have an elite scorer in lefty Deshaun Thomas, an elite on-ball defender in Aaron Craft, and a tough all-around performer in Lenzelle Smith Jr.

Duke has gotten great play from Mason Plumlee, who has performed as a first-team All-American, and Quinn Cook, who has been steady and has made great decisions at the point guard spot. Cook was the MVP of the Battle 4 Atlantis, even though Plumlee was Duke's best player.

Duke comes into this game still smarting from an 85-63 thrashing at Ohio State in last year's ACC-Big Ten Challenge, and will be looking for a little payback. But, to get it, Duke has to dominate the glass and win the frontcourt battle. Ohio State will have a difficult time matching Plumlee and Ryan Kelly inside, and Amir Williams and Evan Ravenel must avoid fouls and play big inside.

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