NBA Mock Draft 2013: Nerlens Noel Regaining Steam as No. 1 Pick?

May 16, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Nerlens Noel is interviewed during the NBA Draft combine at Harrison Street Athletics Facility. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

With the 2013 NBA Draft less than a week away, draft experts are putting their final touches on their mock drafts. Early on in the process, Kentucky Wildcats big man Nerlens Noel was viewed as the consensus No. 1 overall pick, but there is now some uncertainty at the top of the draft.

Over the past few weeks, a number of players have been associated with the top pick in Thursday night’s draft, but ESPN expert Chad Ford is ready to bring Nerlens Noel back to the top of the mix.

Here are the top three picks in Ford’s mock draft:

1. Cleveland Cavaliers — Nerlens Noel, Center, Kentucky

The Cavs have been talking to teams for weeks about a trade, but they are finding a limited market and at this point are likely to keep the pick.

Sources in Cleveland strongly suggest that the Cavs have yet to make their decision. Anthony Bennett, Ben McLemore, Victor Oladipo, Otto Porter, Alex Len and Noel all have visits and/or workouts scheduled in Cleveland this week. Noel is scheduled to visit the team Thursday and has a chance to seal the deal as the No. 1 pick if he performs well.

Noel remains on top because he fits the profile of a player the Cavs prefer to draft — the player with the most long-term upside. That’s why they picked Tristan Thompsonand Dion Waiters at No. 4 the past couple of years and why Noel remains the favorite.

2. Orlando Magic — Victor Olapido, Guard, Indiana

The Magic are in the hunt for Eric Bledsoe. If they can address their point guard issue via trade, they’re free to take the best player available at this spot. Oladipo and Ben McLemore are widely seen as the two best fits in Orlando. While McLemore might have more pure upside, I continue to hear that Oladipo has the upper hand. McLemore was in Orlando last week, but according to multiple accounts, his workout wasn’t terrific. Noel is a strong possibility, too, if he doesn’t go No. 1 to the Cavs.

3. Washington Wizards — Otto Porter, Forward, Georgetown

The Wizards continue to be in a strong position at No. 3. The two players they really like — Porter and UNLV’s Anthony Bennett — are both on the board here. Both are getting looks from the Cavs, but neither is the favorite at this point. There continues to be a pretty strong debate on this one inside the front office, and it might come down to risk aversion for the Wizards. Do they go with more of a sure thing (Porter) or gamble on the guy with more upside (Bennett)?

If you want to check out Ford’s full mock draft, click here.

Who do you think will ultimately be selected with the top pick of the draft? Sound off in the comments section and let us hear your thoughts and predictions.

Topics: NBA Draft 2012, NBA Mock Draft 2012, Nerlens Noel

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