February is a critical month for NBA draft hopefuls, as these young players have just a few short weeks left before the NCAA tournament to show scouts and GMs what they are made of.
While futures are made and fortunes are lost depending on how a prospect does during March Madness, having a high stock going in is extremely important.
Let’s check up on the progress of our top 30 prospects (with a surprising change at the very top of the list) and take an in-depth look at our constantly changing big board, which has changes from last week noted to the right of the player’s name.
Last week’s big board can be found here. Please note this is not a mock draft, but an overall ranking based on grade.
No. 1: Ben McLemore, SF, Kansas (Up from No. 2)
McLemore’s incredible season has finally proved him worthy of the top spot on our big board.
While we were skeptical to place him ahead of Noel, the Jayhawks star’s production has been out of this world and worthy of No. 1 pick consideration for many NBA organizations.
This 6’5”, 195-pound swingman can play a number of positions, has the ability to shoot the lights out, can lock up his man on defense and possesses extreme athleticism. One knock is his age (19), as he is a bit older than most true freshman.
We doubt that will matter too much come June and the draft.
No. 2: Nerlens Noel, C, Kentucky (Down from No. 1)
Noel is bumped down for the first time during the 2012-13 campaign due to his inconsistency.
He’s played well as of late, but his team isn’t winning games that they should be and the flat-topped frosh has proven he has years of development ahead of him before any sort of offensive game emerges.
The Wildcats defensive standout could still go No. 1, it just depends on the needs of the franchise that grabs that top spot.
No. 3: Shabazz Muhammad, SF, UCLA (Remains No. 3)
Even as McLemore lights it up, we still have Muhammad ranked as our best pure scorer.
The Bruin reminds us of a young James Harden at Arizona State, as he has the body size to get to the cup, the range on his jumper to knock down any shot on the floor and the basketball IQ to not hinder the team while he’s getting his points.
Any team that needs a potential 20-plus point per game scorer at the next level should gamble on Muhammad.
No. 4: Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State (Up from No. 10)
Smart made a jump up the rankings due to his strong play, great attitude and physical tools.
The 6’4”, 225-pound point guard puts the team ahead of himself and it’s a large reason why the Pokes star sometimes struggles to reach great individual numbers.
Still, Smart is averaging 14.2 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.6 assists in 32.7 minutes per game and is a threat to go off for a triple-double anytime he’s on the floor. Considering he can do all that while being completely unselfish and you have a potential franchise player waiting to be drafted here.
No. 5: Alex Len, C, Maryland (Down from No. 4)
The Terps are struggling to beat anyone of note, and that is hurting Len’s stock in the process.
This 7’1” stud has one of the most developed post games in collegiate basketball, a knack for rebounding and an NBA body. However, Len is being overlooked due to Maryland’s struggles and he could be the steal of the draft if he falls.
No. 6: Anthony Bennett, PF, UNLV (Down from No. 5)
Bennett is a kid in a grown man’s body and it is scary to think he still has room to grow and get stronger.
The UNLV product can out-muscle anyone in the paint and makes up for his lack of elite size with pure power.
No. 7: Otto Porter, SF, Georgetown (Remains No. 7)
Porter may never be a standout in the NBA, as he has plenty of great skills and can do all the little things for the Hoyas, but doesn’t possess any truly elite talents.
That’s perfectly fine, as glue swingmen are at a premium in the NBA—especially those with Porter’s athleticism and size.
No. 8: Michael Carter-Williams, G, Syracuse (Down from No. 6)
Carter-Williams is the best playmaker in this class, but he has to develop a jump shot, a better handle and—most importantly—more consistency.
He was absolutely awful in some losses Villanova and Pittsburgh and, even though the Orange beat Notre Dame, still didn’t make much of an impact outside of his passing.
We’d love to see a 6’6” point guard go early in the draft, but MCW has to prove to the world he can handle the position and pressure.
No. 9: Cody Zeller, C, Indiana (Down from No. 8)
We’re not dropping Zeller due to his lack of production, but rather his upside, or lack thereof.
It’s simply not there and we suspect the Hoosier product is a “get what you see” type prospect that will never become anything more than he projects to be right now—a decent role player and possible starting center for a mediocre franchise.
No. 10: Alex Poythress, SF, Kentucky (Down from No. 9)
Poythress needs to develop a motor if he’s going to ever jump into the early portions of the lottery.
Everyone is in love with his size and potential, but until he shows consistency in his production, this swingman is a risk.
No. 11: Mason Plumlee, PF, Duke (Remains No. 11)
The Blue Devil’s garbage man doesn’t need plays run for him to make a difference out on the court.
The young man hustles for every loose ball, runs the court like a gazelle and uses his surprising athleticism to get above the rim for oops and putbacks.
There’s always a glue guy like this found on great teams, and we suspect this is Plumlee’s NBA destiny.
No. 12: Archie Goodwin, SG, Kentucky (Remains No. 12)
Goodwin is an athletic freak that often plays out of control.
Once he learns to harness this gift and control it, Goodwin could become a Russell Westbrook-type that surprises everyone with his draft position and, eventually, his elite skills in the Association.
No. 13: Trey Burke, PG, Michigan (Up from No. 16)
Burke may not have the elite size of some of the other PG prospects, but he’s a playmaker that uses speed and athleticism, plus incredible vision and penetration skills, to make things happen.
There’s a reason why the Wolverines are near the top of the rankings, as this young man is dazzling the world with his play and should be a top draft pick in June.
No. 14: Victor Oladipo, SG, Indiana (Up from No. 15)
Oladipo has put himself on the map with incredible defense, a nice shooting stroke and great displays of athleticism.
He wasn’t on our big board earlier in the year, but his recent performances have proven him more than worthy of a mid-first round selection.
No. 15: C.J. McCollum, SG, Lehigh (Down from No. 14)
McCollum may be sidelined with a broken foot, but it’s not hurting his stock too much.
This pure scorer has a skill that translates to any level of basketball and there’s no way any franchise that needs a point-getter will let him slip past.
No. 16: Isaiah Austin, PF, Baylor (Down from from No. 13)
Austin is dangerously skinny for his seven-foot frame, but has a ton of upside due to his guard-like ball handling and sweet shooting ability.
If he can bulk up and play in the paint when he makes it to the NBA, the sky is the limit for this prospect.
No. 17: Glenn Robinson III, SF, Michigan (Remains No. 17)
Burke gets much of the credit for the Wolverines' success, but Robinson is a consistent scorer, great rebounder and has an NBA pedigree.
Scouts are beginning to fall in love with this kid’s upside and we have a good feeling we’ll see him contributing in the Association next year
No. 18: Jamaal Franklin, SG, San Diego State (Up from No. 22)
Franklin made shockwaves for his insane dunk last month, but he’s an overall good player and should find a home in the first round of the 2013 draft.
This guy can rebound at an insane rate for a guard, a testament to his immense athleticism. Any team looking for a SG that can immediately contribute should start its search here.
No. 19: Rudy Gobert, PF, France (Remains No. 19)
Gobert is talked about due to his 7’9” wingspan, but we’re not sold on his skills until he lands on American soil and starts showing them against NBA-level competition.
No. 20: Dario Saric, SF, Croatia (Remains No. 20)
As with Gobert, we’re hesitant that the young Saric is going to be able to do anything if he comes to the USA this year.
In fact, we believe that this 18-year-old will stay in the EuroLeagues for a few years to develop, even if a desperate team takes a shot on him in the 2013 draft.
No. 21: Willie Cauley-Stein, C, Kentucky (Remains No. 21)
Cauley-Stein has been a pleasant surprise for the Wildcats in 2012-13, and it may culminate with him coming off the board in the lottery by the time June rolls around.
He’s a big, athletic shot-blocker with a motor, which is an absolute rarity in the NBA.
No. 22: Tony Mitchell, SF, North Texas (Down from No. 18)
Until we see Mitchell absolutely light up some of the weak competition that his Mean Green face, we aren’t considering him a lottery pick and have him marked as a fringe first-rounder at best.
This guy has the talent to destroy the opposition in the Sun Belt conference, and it would be a shame to see him squander that opportunity and miss out on becoming a lofty draft pick.
No. 23: James Michael McAdoo, PF, UNC (Remains No. 23)
Speaking of untapped potential, McAdoo is failing to impress this year and needs to figure a way to salvage his season in a hurry.
If the Tar Heels star can slap together a good tournament run, it may boost him back into the lottery, but we’re not wholeheartedly convinced.
No. 24: Jeff Withey, C, Kansas (Up from No. 25)
Withey is a polished, shot-blocking, defensive force. However, he leaves much to be desired on the offensive end and projects as nothing more than a role player until he can polish his post-up game.
No. 25: Gorgui Dieng, C, Louisville (Up from No. 26)
Much like Withey, Dieng is known for his shot-blocking and defense, although he uses athleticism more than height to accomplish this.
If the Louisville star can add more than powerful jams to his offensive repertoire, it would do wonders for his draft position.
No. 26: C.J. Leslie, PF, NC State (Up from No. 29)
Leslie is a frustrating prospect, as he has the pure talent to be a collegiate star and, eventually, a contributor to a top NBA franchise.
Unfortunately, he doesn’t seem to have the desire and rarely shows his full array of skills on the hardwood. Until Leslie can do that on a regular basis, he’s a fringe first-rounder.
No. 27: Kelly Olynyk, C, Gonzaga (Unranked last week)
We could see a contending team with a dire need for some size—such as the Miami Heat—take a chance on Olynyk here.
He’s not a great athlete, but has seven-foot size and a bulky frame that can absorb blows and bang in the paint.
Olynyk possesses both a face-up and low-post game, so he’s worth a gamble even if he’s never going to become a top center in the league.
No. 28: B.J. Young, PG, Arkansas (Down from No. 27)
Young is a ball hog that we think is a stretch to label as a “PG”, considering he’s more of an undersized SG that doesn’t pass the rock.
There’s a place for someone with his athleticism and scoring ability in the NBA however, as he could come off the bench and provide instant offense for short stretches.
No. 29: Myck Kabongo, PG, Texas (Down from No. 24)
Kabongo is getting ready to return to action, and we believe his stock could significantly rise—or fall—based on his performances over the next few weeks.
We love this prospect as a pure point guard, who puts passing and setting up teammates well before getting his own numbers. He reminds us a bit of a young Rajon Rondo and hope his career pans out in the same fashion.
No. 30: Steven Adams, C, Pittsburgh (Remains No. 30)
Adams has a ton of height but not much else, as he would greatly benefit from another year or two in school to develop.
Still, he’s here on our big board as a number of scouts are convinced that an NBA team will take a stab at him at some point in the first round.