It’s officially fall, and with that comes the kickoff of the NBA and NCAA basketball seasons.
While Midnight Madness is just around the corner and NBA training camps will officially launch over the next few days, much of the behind-the-scenes focus among front office folks will be logging frequent flier miles to travel the country and the world to see the best and most promising prospects that may enter the 2013 NBA Draft.
While the 2011 NBA Draft was international-heavy in Round 1 and the 2012 draft was lacking international prospects who went high, the 2013 draft should be more balanced. The top 10 prospects heading into this year are heavy on bigs, in particular centers, and lacking in point guards.
Also, in following with the recent trend, there are no college seniors. The most experienced players are sophomores.
Here are our Top 10 2013 NBA Draft prospects as September is about to turn into October.
1. Shabazz Muhammad, 6’6″ SG, Freshman, UCLA – Muhammad, out of Bishop Gorman HS in Nevada, is a talented scoring wing who blends size, strength, and length on the perimeter. Muhammad is best in transition with his ability to slash to the basket. Muhammad also utilizes his strong frame to outmuscle opponents and finish strong in traffic. One trait scouts rave about is his intensity on both ends. Muhammad biggest deficiency right now is his ballhandling — but that can develop over time.
2. Cody Zeller, 6’11” C, Sophomore, Indiana – The youngest Zeller brother arguably was a top-3 pick had he been in the 2012 draft. Zeller embodies so much of what NBA GMs want in their bigs: mobile and aggressive. Zeller moves extremely well in transition and does not back down. The biggest knocks on Zeller are his slender frame and shorter wingspan. However, defensively Zeller activeness and anticipation make him disruptive. His brother, Tyler, was the 17th pick of last June’s draft and will be a rookie for Cleveland this season.
3. Nerlens Noel, 6’11″ C, Freshman, Kentucky – Looking at Noel on the surface, he will conjure up comparisons to Anthony Davis, who he will replace this year for Kentucky. However, several scouts I spoke with have said they are not as impressed with Noel after an up and down summer where he disappointed at Adidas Nation camp. The biggest difference between Noel and Davis is that Noel lacks Davis’ perimeter skills that made him so special. To his credit, Noel is a better straight up shot-blocker, whereas Davis excelled at the weakside block. Ultimately, Noel is still raw — especially on the offensive end — but his combination of size, length, and athleticism make him very intriguing.
4. James McAdoo, 6’9″ PF, Sophomore, North Carolina – McAdoo is a smooth scoring big man who should be the focal point of the Carolina offense this season. Although McAdoo is slightly undersized, he is a very good rebounder as he has excellent anticipation skills. As a freshman, McAdoo flashed great potential with a very polished low post game. He was the 2009 USA Basketball Player of the Year. McAdoo’s father is the second cousin of Hall of Famer Bob McAdoo,
5. Rudy Gobert, 7’1″ PF/C, Cholet (France) – The highest rated international prospect in the draft, Gobert is long, athletic big who moves extremely well for his size. What makes most NBA scouts so high on Gobert is his freakish 7’9” wingspan. In the top league in France, Gobert shot nearly 80% from the field, which at just 19 is very intriguing, if not astonishing. Already a very good rebounder and shot blocker, Gobert needs to get stronger and work on his post game.
6. Alexander Poythress, 6’8″ F, Freshman, Kentucky – Coming out of Northeast HS in Clarksville, Tenn., Poythress is listed as a SF, but has the size, strength, and athleticism to project as a combo forward in the mold of a Marcus Morris or Terrence Jones. Versatility is one of Poythress’ best attributes as he can defend multiple positions, rebound, finish in traffic or step out and face up. He and Noel are two of John Calipari’s most prized recruits.
7. Isaiah Austin, 7’1″ C, Freshman, Baylor – A product of Grace Prep in Arlington, Texas, Austin is a true 7-footer but plays like a wing as he is great in transition, can handle the ball, and can face up with range. On the defensive end Austin is so long that he disrupts most shots in the paint. The biggest knocks on the talented big are that his concentration can waver at times and that he must get stronger.
8. Tony Mitchell, 6’7″ PF, Sophomore, North Texas – Mitchell should be a household name this season as he is one of the most efficient and exciting players in college basketball. A bit undersized, Mitchell is still a tremendous shot blocker, 3.0 per game, who averaged a double-double while shooting nearly 57% from the field. Don’t be surprised to see Mitchell shoot up boards as the draft nears.
9. Archie Goodwin, 6’5″ SG, Freshman, Kentucky – Not too many shooting guards have a 6’10” wingspan, but Goodwin is not your typical guard. Named Mr. Basketball in Arkansas last season when he played for Sylvan Hills H.S. in Little Rock, Goodwin can score anywhere on the court and is a dynamic ballhandler. Goodwin’s instincts are very advanced and don’t be surprised to see him lead the Wildcats in scoring this season. Goodwin needs to improve as a defender, but everything else is there that will have scouts raving come draft night.
10. Adonis Thomas, 6’5″ SF, Sophomore, Memphis – Thomas is a tank physically, but his athleticism and explosion make him very unique. Thomas has nice form on his jumper and is fairly efficient as a scorer but needs to become more consistent from beyond the arc. With a talented squad in Memphis, Josh Pastner will rely heavily on Thomas to lead the Tigers and expect him to shoulder the load offensively.
(RELATED: SheridanHoops Preseason NCAA Top 25)
Joe Kotosh is the Editor-in-chief of Pro Basketball Draft, a leading scouting service in the world of professional basketball. Before Joe created PBD he served as an NBPA & FIBA certified agent and scouted players all across the world. Born and raised in Cleveland, Joe also contributes to Fox Sports Ohio and the Cleveland Plain Dealer. You can follow Joe on Twitter @Probballdraft.