Who's No. 1 pick in 2013 draft?

Zeller, Muhammad, Noel present viable options to be NBA's top selection

Updated: May 29, 2013, 1:53 PM ET
By Jay Bilas and Chad Ford | ESPN Insider

Zeller, Noel, Muhammad Icon SMI, US Presswire, Getty ImagesEarly on, it's a three-man race to be the NBA's top prospect this June.

During college hoops season, Jay Bilas and Chad Ford will start the week off by addressing a big question, evaluating NBA prospects on the rise and looking ahead to the next week.

The discussion: Who's the early favorite to be the No. 1 pick in the 2013 NBA draft?

Chad Ford: It's been nearly five years since NBA general managers faced the dilemma they do right now. In the 2012, 2011, 2010, and 2009 drafts the choice was clear.

This year? Not so much.

At least three players -- Kentucky's Nerlens Noel, Indiana's Cody Zeller and UCLA's Shabazz Muhammad -- came into the season with a legit shot at going No. 1. Two others -- Kentucky's Alex Poythress and Maryland's Alex Len -- have been mentioned as possible No. 1s as well by GMs I've spoken with since the season began.

Right now scouts are pretty evenly split among the three. Zeller is off to a somewhat underwhelming start. Muhammad didn't really wow anyone in his first two games. He's aggressive, but teams do have questions about how his game will translate. Noel was billed as being the rawest of the three and for the most part, that's proven true.

Obviously it's very early and things will change. Muhammad has just three games under his belt. Noel has five. And Zeller? He's still adjusting to the fact that he now has a huge target on his chest. In other words, I think we'll see all three get better as the season progresses.

So whom would I take No. 1 if the draft was held today? Zeller's more polished right now and Muhammad has the potential to be a 20 ppg scorer at the next level, but I'd take Noel. I've had him atop my Big Board since July 1 and I've seen nothing to persuade me he isn't the best prospect in this draft. Of the three, Noel has the biggest upside and is the most likely to fit a need on the handful of teams we've already identified as potential NBA lottery teams.


To read more from Chad Ford and Jay Bilas on the top prospects for the 2013 draft and what to watch this week, you must be an ESPN Insider.

Jay Bilas

College Basketball analyst

Chad Ford | email

Senior Writer, NBA Insider