Jun 26 2013 5:02PM

The 2013 NBA Draft Preview

Nathaniel S. Butler (3); Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images
Projected lottery-bound selections (L-R): Victor Oladipo, Ben McLemore, Nerlens Noel, Otto Porter and Alex Len.

We have been hearing about this year's NBA Draft for a couple years, and now that it's here, the dire predictions seemed to be on target.

There may be some future starters in the lottery, and the latter half of the first round could contain a surprise or two. For the most part, this draft has realized its "potential" as one of the weakest in recent years.

"The top part is very disappointing," a Western Conference GM says. "When you should be getting players like Blake Griffin, Carmelo Anthony and James Harden, you aren't. There is nobody that will change a team, there's no guy to build around.

"The top five is probably the worst of all time. Once you get past the top five, it really isn't so different than what we're used to."

It's imperative teams evaluate talent closely and work hard to match players with need. They may not bring in a star, but they could get a contributor. In this draft, that would be a very good thing.

Here's a list of the top prospects, each of whom brings possible potential and potential pitfalls, followed by a talent evaluation methodology that you probably have not heard of, but is a pretty good indicator of a player's future production.

2013 NBA Draft Order

First Round
1. Cleveland
2. Orlando
3. Washington
4. Charlotte
5. Phoenix
6. New Orleans
7. Sacramento
8. Detroit
9. Minnesota
10. Portland (from Charlotte)
11. Philadelphia
12. Oklahoma City (from Toronto via Houston)
13. Dallas
14. Utah
15. Milwaukee
16. Boston
17. Atlanta
18. Atlanta (from Houston via Brooklyn)
19. Cleveland
20. Chicago
21. Utah (from Golden State via Brooklyn)
22. Brooklyn
23. Indiana
24. New York
25. L.A. Clippers
26. Minnesota
27. Denver
28. San Antonio
29. Oklahoma City
30. Phoenix (from Miami via L.A. Lakers & Cleveland)

Second Round
31. Cleveland (from Orlando)
32. Oklahoma City (from Charlotte)
33. Cleveland
34. Houston (from Philadelphia)
35. Philadelphia (from New Orleans)
36. Sacramento
37. Detroit
38. Washington
39. Portland (from Minnesota via Boston & Cleveland)
40. Portland
41. Memphis (from Toronto)
42. Philadelphia
43. Milwaukee
44. Dallas
45. Portland (from Boston)
46. Utah
47. Atlanta
48. L.A. Lakers
49. Chicago
50. Atlanta (from Houston)
51. Orlando (from Golden State via Denver & New York)
52. Minnesota (from Brooklyn)
53. Indiana
54. Washington (from New York)
55. Memphis
56. Detroit (from L.A. Clippers)
57. Phoenix (from Denver via L.A. Lakers)
58. San Antonio
59. Minnesota (from Oklahoma City)
60. Memphis (from Miami)

Scout's Take on the Top Prospects

Andy Lyons/NBAE/Getty Images
Nerlens Noel

Even though Noel is still rehabbing a torn ACL suffered in February, and is likely out until Christmas, he remains the plum of this bunch. He's an outstanding shotblocker and can rebound well enough to make a contribution in that area right away. He runs the floor well and will score on the break and tip-ins, but Noel is not a polished offensive player, and he doesn't have the strength yet to be an intimidating positional defender.
"He'll have to play next to a highly skilled four or five man," the Western GM says. "He will make an impact next to [Nik] Vucevic in Orlando, but if he's next to [Cleveland's] Anderson Varejao, he's in trouble."
The big question with Noel is whether he'll be able to deliver in 2013-14, due to the injury. Some think it best to be Derrick Rose-cautious with Noel and sacrifice the upcoming season to get a good slot in next year's draft, which promises to be deeper than this edition. "Maybe you get Noel and salt him away so you get another lottery pick next year," an Eastern Conference executive says. "It would almost be a two-for-one."

Jamie Squire/Getty Images Sport
Ben McLemore
Shooting Guard

If you have paid any attention to the postseason, you know how important it is to have long-range shooters. McLemore brings the ability to hit the triple, along with excellent athletic ability.
"He has a chance to be a star," the Western GM says. "The way our game is played now, range shooting is so valuable."
McLemore has to improve his handle and get stronger, but he has a scorer's mentality and a stroke that is NBA quality. He can score off the dribble, too, but he isn't able to slalom his way through traffic.
"He's a straight-line driver," a Western exec says. "If he gets an opening, he can get to the rim, but he can't weave his way around like [San Antonio's Manu] Ginobili or [Miami's Dwyane] Wade. I don't know if he's a scorer with the shot clock running down, but he can come off a pick and shoot it well."

Elsa/Getty Images Sport
Otto Porter
Small Forward

Put Porter in the right situation, and he will be a valuable piece, capable of facilitating an offense from the wing, scoring, defending and rebounding. That's the good news. The other side of the argument is that he is unlikely to lift a bad team to big things with his skill set.
"In this draft, he's considered a good player, but he's good at a lot of things and probably great at none," the Eastern exec says. "He is creative, and he does a lot of things."
Porter surprised people last season with a big boost in scoring that included improved long-range shooting. He rebounded well, finished well in the paint and played some solid defense. He's not a long-term starter, but he is someone who will fit well into a rotation and contribute in several ways. He's also mature, has a good character and is ready to deliver his skills right now.
"I look at him as a Jeff Green pick," the Western GM says, referring to the Celtics forward. "I don't know what position he plays, but he is a good guy and a good basketball player. And nobody would be disappointed to have Jeff Green on their roster."

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images Sport
Alex Len

Even though the tall Ukrainian was not an overpowering force for the Terps, he is extremely skilled and will therefore be attractive to teams in search of a big man. "There aren't so many big men that get you excited," the Western exec says. "So maybe you take him and try to make something out of him."
Len is a fine passer, has a good shooting touch and rebounded well. He wasn't a dominant player but wasn't asked to be at Maryland. He's not a chiseled firebreather, but his skill level is such that he can be a productive offensive player and help defensively by blocking shots. He's mobile and has shown the ability to add some weight and strength.
"He's very skilled, has good hands, a good release and is a willing passer from the post," the Western GM says. "At some point, if a guy can play ball and is seven feet tall, somebody is going to take him."

Gregory Shamus/NBAE/Getty Images
Trey Burke
Point Guard

Watching Burke's toughness in production in the NCAA Tournament had to lead one to believe he can make a mark in the NBA. But there are questions about whether he is durable enough to withstand a full season and beyond in the League.
"He proved he's the best point guard in college, but if he keeps bringing it here at that size, he'll get beaten up," the Eastern exec says. "He'll get elbows at eye level and knees in the quad. Derek Fisher was durable at that size, but he was never the focus of the offense."
Burke is quick off the dribble. He defends, and he showed he could shoot from long range. Michigan used him in pick-and-rolls last year, and he made good decisions. He has the ability to be a starting point man in the League, but there is reason to believe he won't be a star.
"I don't think you're drafting a guy who will be in the top third of starting point guards in the League," the Western GM says. "You're not going to build around him. He's a nice piece to have, because bigs and point guards always have value in the League."

Jeff Bottari/Getty Images Sport
Anthony Bennett
Power Forward

Any assessment of Bennett will be hampered by the shoulder surgery he underwent in early May that will prevent him from participating in any predraft workouts. Because of that, teams will have to go entirely on his one year of play in Vegas, and that could be a little scary.
It's not that Bennett didn't show skill. He can shoot the three, and he rebounds, but though he is listed at 6-8, he's probably closer to "6-6," according to the Western GM. Plus, there is the problem of his weight. At 240 pounds, Bennett is quite a specimen. But if he adds even 10 more pounds, it could be trouble.
"His work ethic has been a problem going back to his high school days," the Western GM says.
Because Bennett is expected to be out four months after the surgery, he won't be able to take part in any summer league play. He should be ready for training camp, but as the Eastern exec says, Bennett will "always have to be vigilant about taking care of his body, or he's going to get too big."

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images Sport
Victor Oladipo
Shooting Guard

Consider Oladipo a basketball handyman of sorts. He has great athletic ability, defends enthusiastically, shoots pretty well and can help facilitate an offense. But he isn't particularly good at anything--except, perhaps, being tough. For a two-guard, that doesn't add up to a starting spot.
"He's a junkyard dog," the Western GM says. "He competes at a high level and is a tough sucker. The question is whether his shooting is real or a product of the college three-point line and getting passes out of the post when [teammate Cody] Zeller was double-teamed."
Oladipo will make an initial impact as a defender and a finisher in transition, but the ultimate challenge for him will be to become a full-fledged scoring threat, complete with a diverse game and the right attitude.
"I'm a fan," the Western exec says. "He's the best perimeter defender in the draft. He has good size for the perimeter, plays with a tremendous amount of energy and is athletic."

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images Sport
Shabazz Muhammad
Small Forward

OK, we know what you have heard about Muhammad. He's selfish. He's cocky. He's a bad teammate. He won't pass. He's a straight-line player. He's too lefthanded. But when you look at his pure skills, the guy can flat-out score. In the NBA, that's a popular ability to have.
"Sometimes in the NBA, when you get a kid away from everything that goes into a highly-heralded high school prospect and just focus on basketball, the guy blossoms," the Western exec says.
Muhammad averaged 17.8 ppg and shot 38 percent from three-point range. He can get to the basket. He can shoot well from outside. The small forward played with a point guard (Larry Drew) who wasn't always keen on setting up his teammates, so maybe he didn't share the ball so well, because he didn't think he'd get it back once he passed it. There's no question Muhammad is a risk, because of his attitude and because of his body.
"My concern is whether he is at his ceiling," says the Eastern exec. "If he isn't at the ceiling, he can feel the lights on his forehead. He looked like a man at age 14, so I don't know how much more he's going to develop."

Jason Miller/Getty Images Sport
Cody Zeller

If Zeller had entered the draft last season, he would have been a top-five pick. Before this season, many considered him a top-three choice. Now, there are questions about his NBA potential.
Zeller is not a dominating inside presence, but he has a "high basketball IQ, can run the floor and is skilled," according to the Eastern exec. Zeller has a quick first step and is able to pass well. He didn't shoot so accurately from mid and long range, but he did get to the basket well. "He's a good basketball player, and if you recalibrate your expectations to someone in the 8-to-15 range, you'll get a good piece," the Western GM says.
The Western exec calls him a "failsafe" pick, because Zeller will deliver as a mobile big man from day one. "What's the downside, that he's like his brother [Cavaliers forward Tyler]?" the Western exec asks. "[Tyler's] going to be a good player."

Pool/Getty Images Sport
Michael Carter-Williams
Point Guard

Those teams hoping to get a point guard who can make defenses pay for sagging off of him had better not take Carter-Williams. "He can't shoot a lick," the Western GM says. The numbers from last season back that claim up. Carter-Williams made just 39.3 percent of his field goal tries and only 29.2 of his three-point attempts last year.
But Carter-Williams is a penetrator who can set up teammates well, plays good defense and has the size not to get knocked around by aggressive defenders. "He has excellent vision and delivers the ball well," the Western GM says. "If a team is looking for a 6-5 point guard, it will fall in love with Michael Carter-Williams."
On the other hand, if a franchise wants someone who can do more with the ball than pass and hit the occasional floater, it might want to look elsewhere. "There's a great deal to be concerned about taking him in the Lottery, because I don’t think he's a franchise point guard," the Eastern exec says.

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images Sport
C.J. McCollum
Shooting Guard

Even though McCollum missed half the year with a broken left foot, he had three-plus seasons of success on his resume, including last March's upset win over Duke in the NCAA tournament. He entered the workout phase of the draft preparation healthy and ready to show off. But what exactly is he showing off?
If McCollum is a pure two man, he's going to have some trouble, because of his size. He needs to demonstrate enough point guard skill to convince teams he can play both backcourt positions. There are no doubts about his scoring ability. Whether he can run a team is another story.
"He shoots the heck out of it," the Western GM says. "The question is not about his shooting; it's about his ballhandling."
McCollum isn't expected to be a first-rate point guard. "I don't think you can come into the NBA and learn how to play point guard," the Eastern exec says. "No elite point guard came into the League without being a point guard before." So, McCollum's value will come if he can do both jobs well enough to help a team.

William Mancebo/Getty Images Sport
Kelly Olynyk

Before the 2012-13 season, Olynyk was a mystery man who had red-shirted following his unremarkable (5.8 ppg, 3.8 rpg) sophomore campaign. But the year off benefited him greatly, and Olynyk averaged 17.5 ppg and 7.2 rpg and demonstrated an all-around offensive game that wowed some scouts.
Now, it's time to see if his skills translate to the NBA. Some believe he has the ability to be a huge offensive weapon. "He can spread you out and has the chance to be very productive," the Eastern exec says. Others worry about whether his big junior season has created a sensation that overvalues Olynyk's talents. "He's catching the wave," the Western GM says.
The tall Canadian resembles an international player in his ability to shoot well at his size and his shooting range. He won't impress with power and strength, so he'll have to go to a team with some established bulk inside.
"He's coming in at a time when the overall caliber of big men in the game is at a lower level," the Western exec says. "He's improved a lot. He's got size, a good frame and a motor."

Randy Belice/NBAE/Getty Images
Rudy Gobert
Power Forward

We are aware that the list of great French NBA players pretty much begins and ends with Tony Parker, although Boris Diaw and Nicolas Batum have acquitted themselves well. Frederic Weis, not so much. The long, lean Gobert has a wingspan of 7-10 and has proven himself to be a solid athlete in youth competitions and play while part of the French league, which is no longer so awful.
"I think he'll do well," the Western exec says. "He's a well-rounded player with good skills."
Gobert is not particularly strong. Nor is he a superior athlete. But he presents quite an impediment in the lane. "I've never seen a longer human being in my life," the Western GM says. The question with him will be his development curve and if his towering presence can offset some physical deficiencies. Still, he's an intriguing prospect in a league where height still matters.

Elsa/Getty Images Sport
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
Shooting Guard

It's expected that the casual fan won't know much about the foreign-born players in the draft, but Caldwell-Pope isn't exactly a big name, either, and he was the SEC Player of the Year. The reason? Georgia wasn't too good last season, so the Bulldogs weren't TV darlings, and Caldwell-Pope's 18.5 ppg and 7.1 rpg went largely unnoticed.
"He played on a horrible team," the Western GM says. "He didn't get a lot of good looks."
Caldwell-Pope shot 37.3 percent from three-point range, made 80 percent of his free throws, showed some solid defensive instincts and rebounded well. But his calling card is with the ball in his hands, a skill that should translate well to the NBA.
"He can shoot the ball and is a good scorer," the Eastern exec says. "There are a lot of guys like that in the League."

Point Guards
1. Trey Burke, Michigan
2. Michael Carter-Williams, Syracuse
3. Dennis Schroeder, Germany
4. Shane Larkin, Miami
5. Pierre Jackson, Baylor
6. Isaiah Canaan, Murray State
7. Myck Kabongo, Texas
8. Nate Wolters, South Dakota State
9. Lorenzo Brown, North Carolina State
10. Erick Green, Virginia Tech

Shooting Guards
1. Ben McLemore, Kansas
2. Victor Oladipo, Indiana
3. C.J. McCollum, Lehigh
4. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Georgia
5. Glen Rice Jr., NBA D-League
6. Sergey Karasev, Russia
7. Jamaal Franklin, San Diego State
8. Allen Crabbe, California
9. Tim Hardaway Jr., Michigan
10. Archie Goodwin, Kentucky

Small Forwards
1. Otto Porter, Georgetown
2. Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA
3. Dario Saric, Croatia
4. C.J. Leslie, North Carolina State
5. Tony Mitchell, North Texas
6. Reggie Bullock, North Carolina
7. Tony Snell, New Mexico
8. Giannis Adetokunbo, Greece
9. DeShaun Thomas, Ohio State
10. Andre Roberson, Colorado

Power Forwards
1. Anthony Bennett, UNLV
2. Rudy Gobert, France
3. Mason Plumlee, Duke
4. Richard Howell, North Carolina State
5. Brandon Davies, BYU
6. Jackie Carmichael, Illinois State
7. Livio Jean-Charles, France
8. Ryan Kelly, Duke
9. Kenny Kadji, Miami
10. Erik Murphy, Florida

1. Nerlens Noel, Kentucky
2. Alex Len, Maryland
3. Cody Zeller, Indiana
4. Kelly Olynyk, Gonzaga
5. Gorgui Dieng, Louisville

Age is Everything

NBA general managers may not be keeping this story handy on NBA Draft Day Thursday, but that's no reason why you shouldn't.

After all, the NBAge Advantage Checkist has outperformed the NBA GMs at the NBA Draft the past two seasons now (see bottom of page for breakdown).

I mean, what other system out there called out Kawhi Leonard and Jared Sullinger as Top 3 picks before the 2011 and 2012 drafts?

Both Leonard and Sullinger were ranked third by the NBAge Advantage Checklist, yet neither was taken with any of the 14 lottery picks in either the 2011 or 2012 NBA Drafts.

Our track record below shows the NBAge Advantage lottery recommendations have outperformed actual NBA general managers' picks by a 20-4 margin (83 percent), when you use career win shares as the determining factor (again, see bottom of page for explanation).

That said, the NBAge Advantage Checklist bases its analysis on player scouting combined with statistical-projection analytics along with age correlation.

I've been doing draft projections for years--dating back to the 1990s for SPORT Magazine under the tutelage of the greatest scout in NBA history, Ed Gregory--but just started posting the entire pre-draft lists for HOOPmag.com the past couple seasons, before the 2011 and 2012 NBA Drafts.

We had Kawhi Leonard ranked third in the 2011 NBA Draft and he fell to No. 15 in the actual draft. Probably all 14 teams that passed on him regret that move.

We also had Jared Sullinger ranked third in the 2012 NBA Draft and he fell to No. 21 in the actual draft. You can bet two-thirds of those 20 teams regret missing him.

For what it's worth, HOOP did publish a post-draft assessment of the 2009 NBA Draft using NBAge analytics, but I don't refer to it here because the draft review was not a pre-draft list that revealed all my top rankings, as the 2011 and 2012 NBAge Advantage lists did.

I wish I had published the 2009 NBAge Advantage and other lists online, so I could boast about 2013 NBA All-Star Jrue Holiday being ranked third back then (he was taken 17th).

But then again, I guess I just found another way to do bring it up anyhow.

Oh, well.

So with all this in mind, I hereby post the 2013 NBA Draft NBAge Advantage Checklist, which could not have been produced as such without Coach Gregory's early teachings two decades ago, not to mention the invaluable statistical research of the math martial artist David Williams, whose great Regularized Statistical Plus Minus work can be found at YouHaveNoGame.

That said, here we go, here are the best prospects in the 2013 NBA Draft.

If you happen to be drafting for the Sacramento Kings or Phoenix Suns, you might want to pay attention.


(Player, School & Position, translated Regularized Statistical Plus Minus, Height & Weight, Birthdate)

1. Nerlens Noel, Kentucky C (+6.09), 7-0 206, 04.10.94: Tim Duncan, Roy Hibbert and Marc Gasol all showed in the 2013 NBA Playoffs how important it is to have a defensive big man. So with that knowledge, you'd have to be a fool to pass on this seven-foot shot-blocker in the 2013 NBA Draft. Either that or you're just extra-extra-cautious to take Noel, who tore the ACL in his left knee in February. Injury aside, Noel is by-far-and-away, the biggest defensive talent on the board and the only player who can turn into a game-changer when healthy.

2. Cody Zeller, Indiana C (+3.17), 7-0 230, 10.05.92: For his entire freshman season, the youngest Zeller brother was ranked in the top 5 on all the mock drafts. Then for some reason, after a hugely successful sophomore season, sharing the spotlight with fellow lottery pick Victor Oladipo, Zeller's stock dropped. There's no real good reason why. Zeller played great. All of the advanced analytics say his play was off-the-charts. Still, scouts found reason to gripe about one non-existent thing or another. Just keep this in mind: this stretch 5 can play ball, y'all. He is the best offensive big man in the draft. Nobody can take that away from him.

3. Otto Porter, Georgetown SF (+3.14), 6-9 198, 06.03.93: Porter does everything well, which makes him a natural for a top-of-the-draft selection right here. He is probably the only player who is in every-single-body's mock-draft top 5. You're not going to find a bad word about Porter here or anywhere else, for that matter.

4. Trey Burke, Michigan PG (+1.52), 6-1 187, 11.12.92: Bet against Burke and you'll regret it the rest of your life. He made March Madness Michigan's, and I am sure he will paint this 2013 NBA Draft in maize-and-blue colors. He might be one of the smallest point guards in the draft, but he just seems to come up big whenever the moment calls for it. He's a good defensive player, who can create and score with equal aplomb.

(number in parentheses is either Regularized Statistical Plus Minus Score
from 2012-13 NBA season or translated RSPM from college/overseas play)

1. Paul George, Pacers (+3.29)
2. John Wall, Wizards (+4.14)
3. Ricky Rubio, Timberwolves (+2.87)
4. Greg Monroe, Pistons (+2.16)
5. DeMarcus Cousins, Suns (+1.96)
6. Nikola Vucevic, Magic (+1.46)
7. Jrue Holiday, 76ers (+0.56)
8. Damian LIllard, Trail Blazers (+0.35)
9. Gordon Hayward, Jazz (+1.23)
10. Kemba Walker, Bobcats (+1.04)
11. Klay Thompson, Warriors (-0.74)
12. Al-Farouq Aminu, Pelicans (+1.42)
13. Lance Stephenson, Jazz (+0.43)
14. John Henson, Bucks (-0.05)

1. Kawhi Leonard, Spurs (+3.43)
2. Derrick Favors, Jazz (+2.81)
3. Tristan Thompson, Cavaliers (+0.86)
4. C.J. McCollum, Lehigh PG (+1.61)
5. Greg Smith, Rockets (+0.82)
6. Derrick Williams, Timberwolves (-1.74)
7. Michael Carter-Williams, Syracuse PG (+0.43)
8. Mike Muscala, Bucknell PF (+4.78)
9. Brandon Knight, Pistons (-2.12)
10. Cory Joseph, Spurs (-2.26)
11. Alec Burks, Jazz (-2.35)
12. Dion Waiters, Cavaliers (-2.51)
13. Nate Wolters, South Dakota State PG (+2.26)
14. Jamaal Franklin, San Diego State SG (+1.11)

1. Kyrie Irving, Cavaliers (+1.73)
2. Cody Zeller, Indiana C (+3.17)
3. Jared Sullinger, Celtics (+0.38)
4. Jonas Valanciunas, Raptors (+0.33)
5. Trey Burke, Michigan PG (+1.52)
6. Victor Oladipo, Indiana SG (+1.85)
7. Tobias Harris, Magic (+0.19)
8. Harrison Barnes, Warriors (-2.10)
9. Terrence Jones, Rockets (+1.20)
10. Bismack Biyombo, Bobcats (-0.47)
11. Enes Kanter, Jazz (-0.62)
12. Lucas Nogueria, Brazil C (+1.45)
13. Shane Larkin, Miami PG (-0.11)
14. Evan Fournier, Nuggets SG (-2.91)

1. Anthony Davis, Pelicans (+4.15)
2. Andre Drummond, Pistons (+5.58)
3. Bradley Beal, Wizards (-0.41)
4. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Bobcats (-0.86)
5. Otto Porter, Georgetown SF (+3.14)
6. Alex Len, Maryland C (+2.35)
7. Anthony Bennett, UNLV PF (+2.38)
8. Steven Adams, Pittsburgh C (+2.02)
9. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Georgia SG (+2.42)
10. Ben McLemore, Kansas SG (+0.03)
11. Maurice Harkless, Magic (-1.88)
12. Sergey Karasev, Russia SF (-0.80)
13. Marquis Teague, Bulls (-6.15)
14. Dennis Schroeder, Germany PG (-3.23)

1. Nerlens Noel, Kentucky C (+6.09)
7. Giannis Adetokunbo, Greece SF (+0.58)
12. Archie Goodwin, Kentucky SG (-1.25)

5. Alex Len, Maryland C (+2.35), 7-1 255, 06.16.93: The flexible Len just may move up the ladder in this draft, but I think most of that has to do with teams being wary of Noel's ACL, even temporarily forgetting Len has his own injury issues to deal with (ankle). He is also a good all-around player, which may be the appeal in a draft that features such a defensive-centric center (Noel) and offensive-centric center (Zeller).

6. Steven Adams, Pittsburgh C (+2.02), 7-0 255, 07.28.93: Adams is likely to be a Top 6 player who may just drop out of the Top 10 altogether. The chill New Zealander has a lot of upside to his game that some lottery teams might not recognize. Top Western Conference teams keep having a dream where this do-the-dirty-work center falls to the No. 12 slot, where the Oklahoma City Thunder await their knight in shining armor. If the Thunder land this defensive force, the James Harden trade, in all its money-saving splendor, becomes more tolerable.

7. Victor Oladipo, Indiana SG (+1.85), 6-4 213, 05.04.92: Oladipo really came out of nowhere to make his presence felt on the NBA Draft radar. Now, some are projecting that he may be taken with a top 3 pick. I love his defense and his attitude, but he has a long ways to go to live up to some of the ridiculous Dwyane Wade hype I've been hearing of late.

8. Anthony Bennett, UNLV PF (+2.38), 6-7 239, 03.14.93: The Bernie Mac big is really about as powerful as they come, with a frame and low-post game that hearkens back to the days of Barkley, Dantley and Anthony Mason. Whether Bennett is able to get his game off in the NBA remains to be seen. But one thing's for sure: Bennett will likely impose his will on somebody real soon, real bad.

9. C.J. McCollum, Lehigh PG (+1.61), 6-3 197, 09.19.91: Give McCollum a starting point guard job, and he will give you everything you need in a conservative quarterback on the floor. He is the essence of a safe Top 10 pick. Can play either guard spot. Handle, shoot, pass, defend, you name it. You can roll the dice and go after the big men in this draft, or you can make a play for big-play Burke. But if you want to take the safe, good pick, choose C.J.

10. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Georgia SG (+2.42), 6-6 204, 02.18.93: The advanced metrics community probably had more to do with Caldwell-Pope's rise up the draft ladder. Shoot, some smart folk are even saying he's become a Top 5 pick now, mainly because the Georgia shooting guard has shown he can do all the extra things (rebound, defend, etc.) that most shooting guards aren't inclined to do.

11. Ben McLemore, Kansas SG (+0.03), 6-5 189, 02.11.93: McLemore likes to think of himself as the next Ray Allen. Although I am not inclined to call Ben Mac a future Hall of Famer, he does have the shooting qualities to make him a niche scorer in this NBA. However, if you are expecting him to stuff the stat sheet in all categories like a D-Wade or Kobe, you will be sorely disappointed. On the other hand, if you are trying to not spend your $5 million mid-level exception on a wing, take McLemore and enjoy the cost savings for at least four seasons.

12. Michael Carter-Williams, Syracuse PG (+0.43), 6-6 184, 10.12.91: If you loved the days when Magic and Penny and Steve Smith played point guard, then you'll love Carter-Williams who is trying to bring the tall 1 back into the NBA. It would be helpful if he was drafted by a team that already had a good point guard in place. Carter-Williams can use all the PG tutelage he can get because that is where he can make his bread and butter at the next level.

13. Giannis Adetokunbo, Greece SF (+0.58), 6-9 196, 12.06.94: Giannis is so good, yet so raw, but so young and so full of potential. The team that drafts him is probably getting an unplayable 18 year old this year, but a young man who can develop into a really good all-around player in a couple years.

14. Mike Muscala, Bucknell PF (+4.78), 6-11 230, 07.01.91 Boom or bust, the Bucknell scoring 4 has major upside, even though most prognosticators do not have Muscala in their first-round mock drafts. The well-balanced big really should be able to find his own niche on any NBA program.

15. Lucas Nogueria, Brazil C (+1.45), 7-0 220, 07.26.92:

16. Nate Wolters, South Dakota State PG (+2.26), 6-5 196, 05.15.91

17. Jamaal Franklin, San Diego State SG (+1.11), 6-5 191, 07.21.91

18. Sergey Karasev, Russia SF (-0.80), 6-7 197, 10.26.93

19. Rudy Gobert, France C (+1.31), 7-2 238, 06.26.92

20. Tony Mitchell, North Texas PF (+0.80), 6-9 236, 04.07.92

21. Archie Goodwin, Kentucky SG (-1.25), 6-5 189, 08.17.94

22. Ray McCallum, Detroit PG (+1.18), 06.12.91

23. Shane Larkin, Miami PG (-0.11), 5-11 171, 10.02.92

24. Kelly Olynyk, Gonzaga C (-1.11), 7-0 234, 04.19.91

25. Gorgui Dieng, Louisville C (-1.14), 6-11 230, 01.18.90

26. Allen Crabbe, California SG (-1.72), 6-6 197, 04.04.92

27. Jeff Withey, Kansas C (-1.59), 7-1 222, 03.07.90

28. Dennis Schroeder, Germany PG (-3.23), 6-2 165, 09.15.93

29. Mason Plumlee, Duke PF (-2.61), 7-0 238, 03.05.90

30. Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA SF (-2.87), 6-6 222, 11.13.92


As noted above, the NBAge Advantage Checklist outperformed the NBA general managers at the 2011 and 2012 NBA Drafts by a significant margin. You can use any metric you'd like as a measuring stick--minutes played, Player Efficiency Rating, RSPM, you name it. For the following example, I chose to go with career win shares.

In the 2011 NBA Draft, both the NBA GMs and NBAge picked Kyrie Irving and Derrick Williams first and second--so that's a break-even margin right there. NBAge recommended Kawhi Leonard (11.7 career win shares) next at No. 3 and every GM passed on him until pick No. 15. Not one of the dozen picks between Nos. 3 thru 14 had as many win shares as Leonard. Advantage: NBAge, 12-0. NBAge recommended Tobias Harris (3.3) next for picks 16 thru 19, coming up short against Nikola Vucevic (7.5) and Iman Shumpert (4.4), but beating Chris Singleton (2.1). Advantage: NBAge, 13-2. NBAge then recommended Jordan Hamilton (1.1) for picks 20 thru 26, coming up short against Kenneth Faried (20.4), Reggie Jackson (2.6) and MarShon Brooks (2.1), but beating Donatas Motiejunas (0.7) and Nolan Smith (0.0). Advantage: NBAge, 15-5. NBAge then recommended Tyler Honeycutt (-0.1) for picks 27 thru 30, losing out to JaJuan Johnson (0.2), Norris Cole (0.6), Cory Joseph (0.9) and Jimmy Butler (8.1).



In the 2012 NBA Draft, both the NBA GMs and NBAge picked Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist first and second--so that again is a break-even for both sides. NBAge then recommended Jared Sullinger (2.7) for picks 3 thru 21. It lost out to Bradley Beal (3.0), Damian Lillard (5.8), Harrison Barnes (2.8) and Andre Drummond (4.5). But it outperformed Dion Waiters (0.9), Thomas Robinson (-0.1), Terrence Ross (0.9), Austin Rivers (-1.1), Meyers Leonard (2.4), Jeremy Lamb (0.2), Kendall Marshall (-0.2), John Henson (1.9), Maurice Harkless (2.4), Tyler Zeller (2.0), Terrence Jones (0.7), Andrew Nicholson (1.7) and Evan Fournier (1.0). Advantage: NBAge, 13-4. NBAge then recommended Marquis Teague (-0.3) for picks 22 thru 29. It lost out to Fab Melo (0.0), John Jenkins (1.7), Jared Cunningham (0.0), Tony Wroten (0.1), Miles Plumlee (0.0), Arnett Moultrie (1.7) and Perry Jones (0.0). Advantage: NBAge, 13-10. NBAge then recommended Draymond Green (0.6) for pick No. 30, but lost out to Festus Ezeli (1.5).