The NBA Draft is still more than two months away, but the dominoes are already falling into place. With an incredible high school class set to take over college basketball next season, most prospects want a taste of the money, leaving now while the food is still warm.
For Dime’s 2013 NBA Draft Tracker, we put together the master list of draft prospects, then we broke them up into tiers: From the potential franchise-caliber superstars down to the guys who will be scrapping for jobs in the NBA, overseas or in the D-League next season. Throughout the workout period, we’ll keep the list updated with info on who is talking to which teams, who’s leaving, who’s staying, and who’s stock is rising or falling. With June 27 still a long ways off, here’s the latest update:
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The top 10 players on the draft board this season. These players could be potential franchise changers or put certain teams who are one piece away over the hump. These players don’t need as much development as the other players who could be drafted.
*Anthony Bennett – Leaving
Anthony Bennet decided to leave after his freshman year at UNLV. I was on the fence with Bennett for quite some time, and a short tournament showing doesn’t help his case either. However, Bennett possesses the talent and physical ability to be a good player on the next level. He may go in the top three depending on Nerlens Noel and who’s drafting where. He made the right choice by coming out.
*Trey Burke – Leaving
This is the best decision that Burke could’ve made for himself. There was really nothing more left for him at Michigan to accomplish other than a national title. Burke could potentially be a top five pick in this year’s NBA Draft depending on a measurement at the NBA combine. It wouldn’t be wise for him to leave that money on the table.
*Rudy Gobert – Leaving
The lanky center from France is making the right move here. He has the desirable pro length and size at 7-1 and the athleticism to back it up. Rebounding translates to the NBA from all leagues and that’s something that Gobert does well. He’ll be just fine in the league.
*Ben McLemore – Leaving
Ben McLemore was really faced with the same decision that Burke was. He has something that teams desperately need on the NBA level: shooting. He’s a guaranteed top-three pick and there’s no way that he slides out of that range. He has all the physical tools and potential that teams look for, along with his shooting touch.
*Shabazz Muhammad – Leaving
As expected, Shabazz Muhammad is leaving UCLA and entering the NBA Draft. This was the best decision for Muhammad amid all of the controversy about his age, among other things. His stock is likely as high as its ever going to be right now with the top-heavy incoming recruiting class coming in. He’s a potential top-10 talent this season even at 20 years old.
*Nerlens Noel – Leaving
If I were Noel, I’d take a chance and leave for the NBA this season. Next year’s incoming class is stacked and Noel has the chance to be the first pick in the draft. There’s no way that a kid should ever pass that up unless he knows that he can have it for sure the next season. Nothing is certain with Noel off of his ACL tear right now so he needs to take advantage of this. He made the right move.
*Victor Oladipo – Leaving
By now we’ve all heard the saying “you’ve got to strike while the iron is hot.” That’s exactly what Victor Oladipo is doing here. He’s leaving when his stock is the highest and is probably as high as it’s going to get. He projects as a second or third fiddle to a team with a need at the small forward position. He won’t make it out of the lottery with the Wizards, Cavaliers, Pistons and Kings all picking.
*Otto Porter Jr. – Leaving
This is a great choice by Otto Porter. He has every skill that small forwards need on the next level and should be a top-eight pick in the draft this year. He brings defensive intensity, shooting, driving ability, and more to whoever picks him up on the next level.
*Marcus Smart – Staying
Marcus Smart staying at Oklahoma State was the best decision for him. He wasn’t ready for the NBA level yet. He had all of the physical tools, but he still was a turnover prone point guard that doesn’t shoot the ball well. His shot percentage would’ve fallen even more and with how fast the NBA game is, his turnovers may have increased as well. He made the right decision by returning to improve for another season.
*Cody Zeller – Leaving
Cody Zeller made the best choice for himself once again. He lost money after not leaving as a freshman when he could’ve gone top three, but now he’s just a lottery choice. Still, with the 2014 Draft class talent coming in, it was best for Zeller to leave now while he was still close to the top.
The players who need to be further developed but could become starters or very good role players in the league. These players have a high ceiling, but still have a lot of developing to do.
*Steven Adams – Leaving
*Isaiah Austin – Staying
Most believed Isaiah Austin had played his last game at Baylor, and that the 7-1 stretch four would jump at the chance at being a mid-first-round pick. Instead, it was revealed Austin had torn the posterior labrum in one of his shoulders, which would’ve prevented him from attending pre-draft workouts. Because of this, he’ll be back with Baylor next year.
*Vander Blue – Leaving
*Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – Leaving
*Jahii Carson – Staying
*Michael Carter-Williams – Leaving
If I were Michael Carter-Williams, I’d stay in school. He has the height of an NBA guard and has a decent basketball acumen as well, but I don’t think that he’s ready for the NBA. At the point guard position, you have to be able to shoot unless you have elite athleticism. Carter-Williams can’t counter his inability to shoot with his limited athleticism.
*Willie Cauley-Stein – Staying
I rarely ever say that a kid makes the wrong decision by staying, but I think that Cauley-Stein made the wrong move here. I really like his length and quickness at the NBA level. He’s a seven-footer that weighs 245 pounds and was going to have a shot to get into the top 10. His elite athleticism at that size is something NBA teams dream of. Look at the impact Andre Drummond had on the Pistons this year. I believe Cauley-Stein would’ve done something similar.
*Allen Crabbe – Leaving
*Aaron Craft – Undecided
Aaron Craft should leave Ohio State for the NBA Draft. With Deshaun Thomas leaving, the Buckeyes are going to need a go-to scorer down the stretch. Craft isn’t suited for that and no one on Ohio State’s roster really is proven to be one at the moment. Craft could be a very good role player and defender on the next level. He should take his chances there, even though most expect him to be back with the Buckeyes.
*Gorgui Dieng – Leaving
*Jamaal Franklin – Leaving
*Archie Goodwin – Leaving
*Tim Hardaway Jr. – Leaving
Tim Hardaway Jr. shouldn’t have left Michigan. His draft stock isn’t particularly high and he could potentially be an undrafted player. With no guarantees in the NBA, it was a safer bet for Hardaway Jr. to keep a spot at Michigan if only for another season. If he could’ve improved his game, he could’ve made it into the bottom of the first round next season.
*Garry Harris – Staying
*Myck Kabongo – Leaving
*Shane Larkin – Leaving
Shane Larkin used his magical season at Miami to introduce himself to the country. He’s proven to be a very good, but small, two-way point guard that should be able to play on the next level. After overcoming every question mark in college, Larkin will go to the next level, where his draft stock is all over the place.
*Alex Len – Leaving
Alex Len leaving Maryland is a good decision for him as far as money goes. He’ll likely be a top-10 pick with his size and his potential. However, I don’t think he’s NBA ready in many senses. He’s a good rebounder, but he’s not what you want in a finisher at the rim. If I were him, I’d stay at Maryland to hone my offensive skills and become an even better player. Teams will always draft size early and he’ll have plenty of opportunity to get drafted high.
*C.J. Leslie – Leaving