Posted: Friday October 26, 2012 1:13PM ; Updated: Saturday October 27, 2012 12:42PM
Chris Mannix
Chris Mannix>INSIDE THE NBA
Chris Mannix's NBA Draft Big Board
Got bigs? The 2013 NBA draft could be loaded with them. This year's draft yielded a strong crop of guards and swingmen -- nine of the top 14 picks were perimeter players -- but an influx of talented freshman and international players has created for 2013 a deep pool of frontcourt talent. That group is led by Kentucky's Nerlens Noel, who steps into the Wildcats' frontcourt spot vacated by the 2012 No. 1 pick, Anthony Davis.

For our first Big Board of the season, SI.com spoke with eight team executives, scouts and international scouts. Here's a look at the top-20 NBA prospects.

 
1
Nerlens Noel
Kentucky, Freshman
6-10, 228
F
Executives from two likely lottery-bound teams identify the Kentucky freshman as the probable top pick in 2013. Noel is an elite shot blocker, with superior instincts and timing similar to last year's top pick, Anthony Davis. Still limited offensively -- "What high school big man isn't?" an NBA scout said -- Noel is decent off the dribble but will get the bulk of his points in the paint, where his size and 7-foot-4 wingspan will give him a big advantage.
 
2
Shabazz Muhammad
UCLA, Freshman
6-6, 225
F
Muhammad, said one general manager, is "is going to be a pure scorer at the college level," who can put up points with his jump shot, off the dribble and in transition. Already equipped with an NBA body, Muhammad, the 2012 McDonald's All-American Game MVP, is a relentless worker who uses that sturdy frame expertly to outmuscle opponents in the paint. Eligibility issues could hurt his stock: The NCAA is investigating whether Muhammad received extra benefits during his recruiting.
 
3
Cody Zeller
Indiana, Sophomore
7-0, 240
F
Zeller, the younger brother of Cavaliers center Tyler Zeller, would have been a lottery pick had he declared after last season. More of a finesse big man, Zeller excels off the dribble and around the basket. Zeller defends without fouling -- he fouled out of a game just once last season -- and despite a short wingspan (6-foot-8) still blocked 1.2 shots per game as a freshman. If he further fills out his thin frame this season, he should see his stock rise.
 
4
James McAdoo
North Carolina, Sophomore
6-9, 230
F
After playing behind 2012 first-round picks Harrison Barnes, John Henson and Tyler Zeller last season, McAdoo will be a focal point of UNC's offense this year. Though slightly undersized for an NBA power forward, McAdoo is a ferocious rebounder who showed scouts flashes of an efficient offensive game late last season. There is NBA royalty in his blood: McAdoo is the distant cousin of Hall of Fame center Bob McAdoo.
 
5
Rudy Gobert
France, 20 years old
7-1, 235
C
Gobert is long: His wingspan is 7-foot-9. "He looks almost like a cartoon character," an international scout said. Gobert's stock soared after a strong performance with the French Under-20 team at the Adidas Eurocamp, and he displays a soft touch around the rim. "He's a flat-out stud," a Western Conference executive said. "He's a rim runner who can play both ends of the floor."
 
6
Alex Poythress
Kentucky, Freshman
6-7, 239
F
Poythress is another physical specimen who utilized superior size and instincts to overwhelm prep-level competition. One general manager compared Poythress favorably to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, the No. 2 pick in 2012. Like Kidd-Gilchrist, Poythress will have to polish his offensive game; for now, he is strictly a transition player with an aggressive, attack-first style in the paint.
 
7
Tony Mitchell
North Texas, Sophomore
6-8, 235
F
Mitchell is already a lockdown defender. He has the quickness to defend several positions at the NBA level combined with uncanny shot-blocking skills (3.0 per game last season). Solid in the post, he needs to polish his perimeter game and diversify his repertoire off the dribble.
 
8
Isaiah Austin
Baylor, Freshman
7-1, 220
C
Austin is a long (reach of 9-foot-3), fundamentally sound center with a mid-range game that makes him a threat from 15 feet. Scouts like him even more defensively, where his instincts and ability to effectively use his length help him control his paint. Intensity and toughness are issues. "I don't think he likes to mix it up," an Eastern Conference executive said.
 
9
Dario Saric
Croatia, 18 years old
6-10, 223
F
Saric has power-forward size and small-forward skills. His ball handling and vision in the open floor rank as his biggest strengths. Saric still needs to fill out to defend at an NBA level. "I see him playing multiple positions," a West personnel scout said. "He needs to get his stroke more consistent, but he will make a solid transition to our league."
 
10
Archie Goodwin
Kentucky, Freshman
6-4, 198
G
Goodwin is a slashing, Dwyane Wade-type scorer comfortable playing a half-court game. In the paint, Goodwin absorbs contact well and is an excellent finisher. Like many young players -- and Goodwin, who turned 18 in August, is very young -- he needs to bulk up and work on his shot, but scouts love his potential as an NBA two-guard.
 
11
BJ Young
Arkansas, Sophomore
6-3, 180
G
Young flirted with entering the draft last year before withdrawing his name in April. A blur with the ball in transition, he has good body control and a fast first step. Like many smallish scoring guards, his future position is a question mark. Team executives would like to see Young improve his playmaking so he could potentially play point guard in the NBA.
 
12
Alex Len
Maryland, Sophomore
7-1, 225
C
Len's numbers don't jump off the page, but team execs are high on his defense (2.1 blocks in 21.2 minutes) and are eager to see him play a more expanded role. "I really have no idea what he can do offensively," an executive said. "But he plays lottery-level defense and I think his offensive game could really develop this season."
 
13
Mason Plumlee
Duke, Senior
6-10, 235
F
Plumlee was a solid scorer and rebounder last season while shooting 57.2 percent from the floor. After playing a perimeter-based offense with Kyrie Irving and Austin Rivers, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski has talked about being more balanced this season, in part to feature Plumlee, whom scouts would like to see showcase a stronger post game.
 
14
Steven Adams
Pittsburgh, Freshman
7-0, 240
C
Adams, from New Zealand, is a gifted athlete with big, suction-cup hands and a willingness to mix it up for rebounds. The 7-footer is a solid shot blocker and uses his size well to control the paint. Team execs have one question: Given that he's only played against mostly lower-level competition, will Adams be the same player in the Big East? If he is, expect Adams to skyrocket up draft boards.
 
15
Otto Porter
Georgetown, Sophomore
6-8, 205
F
Porter, one scout said, "plays very intelligently. He doesn't make many mental mistakes." A long, rangy small forward, Porter is an aggressive rebounder on both ends with an unselfish offensive game and a nice touch in the paint. Perimeter shooting is a glaring weakness: Porter shot 22.6 percent from three-point range last season.
 
16
C.J. Leslie
North Carolina State, Junior
6-8, 208
F
Leslie is an athletic power forward with an explosive first step who can outrun opposing 4-men in the open floor and face them up in the half court. Still, Leslie is an average defender with limited shooting range, and his lack of bulk creates questions about his ability to play up front in the NBA.
 
17
Adonis Thomas
Memphis, Sophomore
6-7, 240
F
Thomas showed a polished jump shot during an injury-plagued freshman season, making 51.5 percent inside the three-point line and 40.5 percent from beyond. Early reports say Thomas' jump shot has improved even more this summer, which would further complement a strong, attacking style around the rim. Some NBA team officials are unsure what position Thomas would play as a pro.
 
18
C.J. McCollum
Lehigh, Senior
6-3, 190
G
McCollum popped up on many radars last March, when he dropped 30 points in Lehigh's upset of Duke in the first round of the NCAA tournament. A combo guard, McCollum is a scorer first, passer second, and he has been effective at pick-and-rolls and shooting off the dribble. Size is an issue; McCollum will likely need to transition to point guard to be an effective NBA player.
 
19
LeBryan Nash
Oklahoma State, Sophomore
6-7, 230
F
A prototypical NBA small forward, Nash has a solid mid-range game and can score from inside and out. He can be sloppy (2.6 turnovers last season) and is an inefficient scorer who at times relies too much on his jump shot, which, overall, is still only average. Yet, given his natural talent, teams see plenty of room for improvement.
 
20
Jeff Withey
Kansas, Senior
7-0, 235
C
Withey's defense -- where his intelligence and shot-blocking (3.6 per game last season) rank him among the best in college basketball -- has impressed scouts. Offensively, Withey is a good finisher but lacks a fluid post game. But with Thomas Robinson gone, Withey's opportunities offensively will increase. His stock should only improve if he capitalizes on those chances.
 
 

 
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