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Noel still the top choice as clock inches toward Draft time


POSTED: Jun 27, 2013 1:21 PM ET

By Scott Howard-Cooper

BY Scott Howard-Cooper

NBA.com

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Despite injury concerns, Nerlens Noel remains our favorite to go No. 1 overall in tonight's Draft.

Down to the final hours, and still sticking with Nerlens Noel for No. 1 despite the many reasonable cases built that the Cavaliers should go in a different direction. Opposing front offices see the logic, mostly because no one is pledging eternal love for Noel, but the consensus remains that the Kentucky defensive ace or Kanas' Ben McLemore are the best prospects.

That's not the only holding pattern. While there will be a lot of trade conversation as the day progresses, as always, interest in the picks is limited for the same reason teams in the mid-to-late 20s are willing to move them: the players expected to be there are not getting front offices excited. Spots are available for purchase or trade, as they have been since about February, but it's quiet so far.

That would create the increased possibility of teams using late-firsts on international prospects to keep overseas in hopes they develop beyond the projections of the players from U.S. colleges, except there are few of those realistic options. Most from overseas will either be gone by then or considered for deep into the second round.

1 Kentucky | PF | 6-11 | 220
The speculation about Alex Len charging to the top of the board is not going away. Some believe it to be a possibility. But many front offices still consider Noel the best prospect available, knee injury and all.


2 Kansas | SG | 6-4 | 195
Orlando could be setting up for a double-step to the future: McLemore as the new starting shooting guard and the old one, Arron Afflalo, to the Clippers for Eric Bledsoe to address point guard needs and complete a backcourt overhaul.


3 Georgetown | SF | 6-8 | 200
Porter is the ideal fit in position and complementary skills for several teams in the top 10, including the Cavaliers at No. 1. He just isn't the top-rated player on the board. That the Wizards are one of the rosters that could make a perfect landing spot is what will matter in the end.


4 UNLV | PF | 6-7 | 240
He checks more of the boxes than Alex Len and Victor Oladipo, the other best options. Bennett can deliver offense from the post or the perimeter, making him a necessary fit alongside non-scorers at center (Bismack Biyombo) and small forward (Michael Kidd-Gilchrist). And those two defensive specialists can compensate for Bennett's shortcomings on that side.


5 Maryland | C | 7-1 | 255
He could go anywhere from first to sixth with two undeniable factors in his favor: Len is talented with a lot of upside remaining, and he is clearly the best center on the board.


6 Indiana | SG | 6-5 | 210
Shooting guard is not the pressing need of the moment, with Eric Gordon there. Michael Carter-Williams and Trey Burke are on the board as potential upgrades at point guard, too. But Oladipo is clearly the best player and help for a team that finished 26th in shooting defense.


7 Indiana | PF-C | 7-0 | 240
Zeller gives the Kings two things they want: athleticism and stability. New GM Pete D'Alessandro wants a speed game and Zeller can play the transition game while also fitting next to DeMarcus Cousins. The big drawback is this pick doesn't address the defense, but Zeller, while not projecting as a star, has more certainty of a long career than others in that range.


8 Michigan | PG | 6-1 | 175
Teams love the intangibles -- leadership, toughness, experience in big games -- of the college Player of the Year, but questions remain about small guards who lack the special level of athleticism usually needed to compensate for small stature.


9 Georgia | SG | 6-5 | 205
Adding a scoring punch and finding help at shooting guard are Minnesota priorities. KCP addresses both, even as a volume scorer who shot 43.3 percent overall and 37.3 on 3-pointers in 2012-13.


10 Lehigh | PG-SG | 6-3 | 190
McCollum will have to be a lead guard in the pros because of his size, but his scoring punch adds to his value and the versatility makes him a nice fit for a backcourt that needs depth, not a starting point guard.


11 UCLA | SG | 6-6 | 225
Muhammad is a scoring threat, with the chance to be more, and Philadelphia finished 30th in points and 22nd in shooting. If he grows out of the selfish play, Muhammad has a chance to be one of the top offensive threats of the class.


12 Pittsburgh | C | 6-11 | 235
Adams continues to use team and group workouts to show more of an offensive game than most saw in the one season at Pitt. He is relatively inexperienced against top competition after growing up in New Zealand, but the aggressive, high-energy style of play coupled with the upward trajectory in his game is very appealing.


13 Syracuse | PG | 6-5 | 175
If the Mavericks keep the pick, which is a big if as they are trying to offload salaries to increase their free-agency spending power. Dallas has backcourt needs and Carter-Williams has the size and court vision of a very promising prospect, while needing to learn to hit a shot.


14 Germany | PG | 6-1 | 180
A breakout performance for the international team playing against the top U.S. college-bound stars at the Nike Hoop Summit in Portland in April moved the jet-like point guard from the second round to legitimate lottery possibility.


15 Gonzaga | C | 7-0 | 240
The Bucks could have pressing issues in the backcourt once free agency begins, but there are few choices among guards at this point. Olynyk's advanced offensive game will be a nice complement to the defensive presence of Larry Sanders and John Henson.


16 Russia | SF | 6-7 | 205
While Mason Plumlee would be more NBA-ready, the Celtics have Jared Sullinger and Brandon Bass at power forward. Meanwhile, they also have Paul Pierce a year away from free agency, if he's not gone sooner, at small forward. Karasev has shown potential while playing big minutes in a good league in Russia as a 19-year-old.


17 Duke | PF | 6-11 | 245
How much longer can Atlanta go nowhere fast with Josh Smith? Plumlee has the combination of a developing offensive game and already-there elite athleticism for a big man. He could go as high as late-lottery, in that Philadelphia-Oklahoma City range.


18 Brazil | PF-C | 7-0 | 220
The NBA has been waiting for years for the athletic 7-footer to add toughness. That it hasn't happened is a bad sign. That teams are still very interested is a good sign. The burgeoning shot-blocker could spend another year overseas or come now as part of the big-man rotation with Al Horford.


19 Greece | SF | 6-9 | 215
He has a long way to go -- like Athens-to-Cleveland long -- but Adetokunbo has unique qualities that make him a worthwhile investment in the late-teens or 20s. In time, he can be a point-forward distributor and nice complementary piece.


20 Louisville | C | 6-11 | 245
Dieng's size and mobility translate into a future as a shot blocker, with signs of a respectable offense. Being 23 gives him fewer years to develop and play. But it should make him more mature and able to better fit with a team in win-now mode.


21 Kansas | C | 7-0 | 235
The Jazz have hard decisions to make on free agents Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap. Withey would be a move to address that, could back up Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors and is an interior defender with four years experience at a major program.


22 France | PF-C | 7-1 | 235
Gobert had an underwhelming 2012-13 in France, but front offices see real defensive potential with his size and wingspan. They were impressed he participated in the Chicago pre-Draft combine when a lot of others with a chance for mid-first usually bail. But not being in great shape for the early individual workouts could hurt.


23 NBA D-League | SG | 6-6 | 210
The long road back for the son of a former All-Star small forward includes playing for the Rio Grande Vipers after being kicked off the team at Georgia Tech. But he's a shooter and the Pacers need people who can make baskets, especially from the perimeter.


24 Miami| PG | 6-0 | 170
The son of baseball Hall of Famer Barry Larkin would provide a nice dose of athleticism at point guard, even as the backup. His size is an obvious concern, but it's not hard to find players with long careers with the same doubts.


25 San Diego St. | SG | 6-5 | 205
The Clippers started Willie Green and Chauncey Billups this season, so Franklin will have the chance to make an immediate impact with explosiveness that will fit in Lob City. The key will be how fast the Mountain West Conference Player of the Year handles the transition from college small forward to the NBA backcourt.


26 North Texas | SF-PF | 6-8 | 235
Mitchell had a disappointing sophomore season and admits he did not play hard all the time, with a lot of NBA people also willing to say it for him. But it's easy to see teams falling back in like with his athleticism and toughness, and Minnesota is open to using its second first-rounder on a player who needs developing.


27 California | SG | 6-6 | 205
Denver needs help from behind the arc. Though he needs to get stronger, Crabbe has the size, accuracy and decent 3-point range to fit the shooting guard mold and be an ideal role player for a team that already knows how to run.


28 Murray State | PG | 6-0 | 188
He is one of the most NBA-ready players of the Draft, after four years in college. And he has been praised by Chris Paul. A lot of teams are looking at Canaan late in the first round and early in the second as a dependable backup point guard. Shooting guard is also a possibility, with Tim Hardaway Jr.


29 Kentucky | SG | 6-5 | 190
He went from being one of the top recruits in the country to a very inconsistent one-and-done college career, but the physical tools and potential will keep a lot of teams interested in a player with first-round potential.


30 Michigan | SF-SG | 6-6| 200
No killer crossover like his father, but the next generation can score, pass and is a competitor. He needs to get stronger, but will have a chance to stick as a long-term solution in Phoenix.


Second Round


31 South Dakota St. | PG | 6-4 | 190
A smart ball handler and sharp passer with great instincts and size who has the chance to become Kyrie Irving's backup.


32 Spain | SG | 6-5 | 190
Oklahoma City is in win-now mode, had two rookies this season and will be adding another player in this lottery, barring a trade. The last thing it needs is another first-year player. Abrines can develop overseas for at least one more season.


33 Providence | SG | 6-6 | 197
A risk pick because of questions about his maturity off the court, but Cleveland can afford the gamble as its fourth choice and could get a good shooter in return.


34 Ohio State | SF-PF | 6-7 | 225
Thomas is a versatile scorer with good experience after three years with the Buckeyes. The question is whether he is a tweener without a position or a stretch four.


35 North Carolina | SG-SF | 6-7 | 200
Bullock is a 3-point threat with good size who can also rebound and defend.


36 New Mexico | SG | 6-7 | 200
He becomes the latest attempt by Sacramento find someone who can hit a shot, with range to the 3-point line and the bonus of improving, versatile defense.


37 Bucknell | PF-C | 6-11 | 230
The versatile offensive threat -- low-post skills, pick-and-pop with range -- can add to Detroit's already promising big-man arsenal of Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond.


38 Texas | PG | 6-3 | 180
Kabongo's stock has plummeted in the last two years, but he remains one of the best true playmakers in the Draft, while needing to improve his shot.


39 Long Beach St. | SG-SF | 6-7 | 200
Ennis is a talented scorer who can rebound from the backcourt. He finished in the top 10 in the Big West Conference in eight categories.


40 Serbia | PG-SG | 6-3 | 190
Nedovic is aggressive and athletic, can get to the rim and defend, and also is an ideal stash player as Portland's third pick. He could use another season or two in Europe to work on his shot and handle.


41 Baylor | PG | 5-10 ½ | 175
Memphis has three choices, but all in the final 20 picks, so odds of finding real help in the Draft are not good. Jackson provides the chance for open-court speed and depth at point guard.


42 Minnesota | PF | 6-8 | 235
His history of knee problems and his age (24) are drawbacks, but Mbakwe has a chance to stick as a rebounding specialist and a shot blocker with a wide wingspan.


43 Virginia Tech | PG | 6-3 | 185
Green led the nation in scoring as a senior while helping his Draft stock with improvements as a distributor.


44 North Carolina St. | PG | 6-5 | 190
Brown was one of the best transition point guards in the country, and his size combined with vision makes him an intriguing second-rounder.


45 North Carolina St. | PF | 6-7 ½ | 250
Howell uses toughness and strength inside to control the boards, especially on the offensive glass, despite being slightly undersized.


46 France | SF-PF | 6-9 | 220
An athletic combo forward who excels in the open court and had a very good showing at the Nike Hoop Summit, he lacks strength and a consistent shot.


47 North Carolina St. | PF | 6-9 | 210
Leslie used his athleticism well in college to finish in the top eight in the Atlantic Coast Conference in rebounding and scoring, but 210-pound power forwards are generally appetizer plates in the NBA.


48 Colorado | SF | 6-7 | 205
Not merely the Pacific 12 Conference Defensive Player of the Year, Roberson was one of the best defenders in the country. He already has NBA-level athleticism and rebounding skills.


49 Montenegro | C | 6-11 | 240
He is clearly not ready for the NBA, after being unable to stay in the rotation with his Barcelona club in 2012-13, but a mix of size and agility, with some decent skills, makes Todorovic an intriguing prospect.


50 Missouri | PG | 5-11 ½ | 177
While size is an obvious drawback, Pressey is an excellent passer with vision and instincts.


51 Arkansas | SG | 6-3 ½ | 180
Young is an attacking guard who can score when he gets to the rim, but he has an inconsistent jumper.


52 Montenegro | PF | 6-9 | 240
Playing below the rim with limited athleticism means he could have a difficult transition to the NBA, but range as a shooter at that size and ability to play pick-and-roll also means he is worth a long look


53 St. Mary's | PG | 6-4 | 190
Being a pick-and-roll specialist made the Australian a candidate for the NBA. Good showings at group workouts boosted his chances for the second round.


54 Arizona | SF | 6-7 | 225
Hill helped himself by going from a tough player who could score inside to adding a jump shot and becoming more versatile in addition to smart and hard-working.


55 Colorado St. | C | 7-0 | 262
Iverson is a true center, unlike a lot of the other bigs on the board, who will make a team if his rebounding production translates from college to the pros.


56 Detroit | PG | 6-2 | 191
It's not just a local pick. McCallum makes good decisions with the ball and can get to the basket.


57 Duke | PF | 7-0 | 228
Kelly can play tough inside as a shot blocker and also step out to the 3-point line to hit shots. Two foot surgeries in a little more than a year are a concern.


58 Illinois St. | PF | 6-9 | 241
Carmichael is a blue-collar hopeful -- rebounding, shot blocking, work ethic -- trying to make a big jump from Illinois State.


59 Duke | SG | 6-3 | 180
The brother of Stephen and son of Dell is, naturally, a shooter. That fits with Minnesota's desire to get better on the perimeter.


60 Miami | PF | 6-10 | 241
Being 25 years old means there isn't much room to develop, but getting anything from a player picked late in the second round is a bonus. Kadji is a fit as a stretch four with the ability to hit all the way out to the arc.


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