As a life long St. Louis Cardinals fan I have developed an immense appreciation for a well-developed minor league system. Building from within has been a huge factor in the Cardinals 2006 and 2011 World Series titles. Even though the MLB Draft and NBA Draft are totally different beasts, one major similarity holds true; the draft is the best way for a team to get better and ensure longevity of success.
However, just as quickly as a stud prospect lifts a team to the next level, a total flop can set a franchise back for years. The draft, like many things in life, is all about uncertainty. Even a physically imposing and crazy skilled prospect can end up playing 88 career NBA games (Greg Oden). He basically played his only year at Ohio State with one hand after getting wrist surgery before the season, which had scouts drooling over what he could do with two capable hands. Conversely, a lowly second round selection can become a Defensive POY and a cornerstone of a franchise.
Year after year NBA Scouts and GMs are forced to combine their meticulous scouting notes with their gut instincts in hopes of deciphering the best draft prospects. Well I guess the GMs are in luck as I seek to provide them with a short list of studs, duds, and sleepers for the upcoming NBA draft.
Ben McLemore, SG
Not only is he the best player is this year’s draft (Sorry Nerlens), but he also has the potential to get much better. McLemore has a jumper that makes Ray Allen’s mouth water. The dude was nearly a 50/40/90 guy in his only season at Kansas and led the team in scoring averaging 16.4 PPG. What solidifies McLemore as the best player in this draft is his underrated athleticism, which he showcased at the NBA Draft combine. After posting a 42 inch max vertical jump and a 3.27 second three-quarter court sprint time, McLemore became my “can’t miss” prospect in the draft. Whichever team is lucky enough to draft this youngster is getting a franchise player and an elite scorer.
Victor Oladipo, SG/SF
What I love about @VICICANFLY4IU (probably going to have to change that twitter handle) is you already know what you are getting at his absolute worst. Bare minimum you are getting a humble workaholic who plays excellent perimeter defense and has insane athletic ability (Checkout his MISSED dunk against Michigan, yeah he’s got bunnies). What is even more amazing about Oladipo is his unforeseeable improvement from his sophomore season to last season. He shot 13% better from the field, 23% better from beyond the arc, while increasing his averages in rebounds, assists, blocks, steals, and points despite playing only two more minutes per game. I’m no math expert, but I think that’s called an upward trend? Another huge bonus for Oladipo is that he is a great teammate and excellent locker room guy. He doesn’t have this enormous ego that accompanies some of today’s top young players. Oladipo was the heart and soul of one of the top college basketball teams in the country and will provide immediate impact wherever he lands in the league.
Shane Larkin, PG
Well I couldn’t just litter my studs list with players being taken in the top five picks, so I venture outside the lottery to give you Shane Larkin. While few view Larkin as a great prospect, I think he has the potential to be a top-tier PG in the league. There has been a clear shift to small point guards having sustained success the past few years a.k.a Chris Paul, Mike Conley, and Tony Parker. At 5’11” Larkin is undersized, but he makes up for that with his blazing speed and leaping ability. He is a lockdown perimeter defender and shows great poise for a young prospect. Larkin helped an improved Miami Hurricane team not only with his play, but with his leadership; not to mention the kid has great bloodlines, his dad is Hall of Fame Shortstop Barry Larkin. If drafted by the right team, let’s say the Indiana Pacers, Larkin can succeed and succeed quickly.
Michael Carter-Williams, PG
And now to immediately contradict myself I present you with 6-foot-6-inch Carter-Williams. While I still believe it is a small point guard league, the way you combat that is with length a-la the importance of Carter-Williams. Being an Indiana Hoosier fan, I witnessed the value of Carter-Williams length during the Hoosiers’ Sweet 16 game against Syracuse. He (and the nasty Syracuse zone) had Yogi Ferrell shitting his pants, thus not allowing the Hoosiers to get in their offensive flow. While Carter-Williams probably won’t be playing in a zone defensive scheme in the NBA, he will still disrupt ball-handlers and force teams out of their sets. Yes, Carter-Williams needs to improve his shooting, but that can definitely be done, just ask Jason Kidd. I see Carter-Williams playing for a while in the league and disrupting the short guys for a living.
Gorgui Dieng, C
Let’s do some Gorgui Dieng quick hitters; he is from Senegal (like it), he speaks five languages (love it), and he is your quintessential rim protector (need it). It is sad how a casual basketball fan forgets that 50% of the game is played on the defensive end when looking at draft prospects. Is Dieng going to WOW anyone with his back to the basket game? No. Is he going to average more than 14 PPG? Probably not. Is he going to play excellent low post defense and alter a plethora of shots? Hell yeah he is! Every team needs a guy to anchor their defense and they aren’t as easy to find as you may think. Now I don’t expect Dieng to play extensive minutes in his early years, but I do think he will hang around the league for a while and find his way on the right team and have a significant impact. He actually has an underrated 14-16 foot jump shot and I anticipate his low post game to improve. Either way you can’t teach his anticipation and shot blocking ability.
Nerlens Noel, PF/C
Let’s say a CEO of a major company is faced with a decision to acquire new fixed assets. He has the ability to purchase an extremely expensive piece of machinery that has been known to be faulty and defective, but might produce more product per hour. Would a smart CEO cough-up the big bucks for the faulty piece of machinery or stick to the status quo while trying to make realistic upgrades in other areas of the company? Now insert Noel for the piece of machinery. The NBA is a business and the draft serves as the primary opportunity for companies (a.k.a teams) to improve their assets (players). Thus, Noel’s knee is a huge red flag. In my mind it makes no sense for a team to waste a top 3 pick on a guy who just had major knee surgery. Oh yeah, Noel’s game focuses around his elite athleticism, athleticism that will certainly be in question now. While he may turn out to be a good defensive player and decent offensively, I choose to throw Noel into the duds pile just because it makes no sense to me to waste a top pick on him given his immense uncertainty. There are plenty of safer picks in the top of the draft.
Mason Plumlee, PF
Plumlee is your classic filler pick. He just takes up space on the draft board. He doesn’t do anything above average and is just an all around decent player; can’t shoot, decent low post game, plays okay defense, and isn’t overly athletic. He’s just a big white dude with average skills. Plumlee reminds me a lot of Tyler Hansbrough who used his motor to get by on the college level. Plumlee is a high-energy guy, but he needs more than that to be effective in the league. With not much else to go on besides height and motivation, I can’t see a solid reason to spend a pick on Plumlee.
Shabazz Muhammad, SF
Shabazz seems to be the kid that went through puberty early and thus, was able to dominate high school ball and propel him to be one of the nation’s top prospects. At UCLA he got a rude wake-up call when he had many “oh shit” moments realizing that college ballers were just as athletic as he was. He has character issues and seems to be a little selfish on the court. He’s going be a guy that needs a kick in the pants every once in a while and is just a waste of time for an NBA team to deal with. With higher character guys who have similar games, I don’t see a reason to draft Shabazz.
Steven Adams, C
Clearly I don’t believe this draft features quality big men. Scouts are enamored by Adams’ size at 7 feet and the fact that he is still so young at only 19 years old. Sure there is a lot of potential with those measurables, but he just doesn’t have the skill set to perform on the next stage. Teams will look at Adams as a project, but it seems far too often that NBA teams will draft a big man purely on potential and he turns into nothing. That is how I see Adams future unfolding.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG/SF
Another guy with a great name, admittedly this is definitely a contributing factor to why I like Caldwell-Pope so much. More importantly, he has a great frame at 6 feet 5 inches and 205 pounds, a solid stroke, and he’s been “the guy” on his team before. Caldwell-Pope was sheltered from the spotlight since he played his college ball at Georgia, but this actually helped his development even more. He was the go-to-guy on offense averaging 18.5 PPG. His field goal percentage and three-point percentage were low for a guy who does shoot the ball as well as he does, but I attribute that to Caldwell-Pope having to take so many contested and end-of-shot-clock shots. He is also a good rebounder for his position averaging 7.1 a game. My favorite thing about Caldwell-Pope is that he had to be “the man” at Georgia. He is experienced in demanding the ball, which should help his confidence at the next level. I’d love to see the Bulls draft Caldwell-Pope as he could provide good floor spacing for D-Rose to operate while bringing a tough and competitive mentally to an already tough team.
Peyton Siva, PG
Siva is short in stature, but he has the heart of beast. He is very explosive off the dribble and can penetrate deep into the lane against the best defenders. Siva received great coaching at Louisville from Rick Pitino who transformed a hard-nosed point guard from Seattle to a great leader. Siva was the heart and soul of the 2013 National Champion Cardinals and demonstrated his leadership skills playing against the Wooden Award winner, Trey Burke. He posted 18 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists on the biggest stage in college hoops. Yes, Siva’s size is concerning, but that was the knock on him coming of high school too. Siva just knows the game and relies on his high basketball IQ to make up for his height. Siva is a game manager who can score if necessary and there is always a place in the league for a guard who has a good head on his shoulders.
B.J. Young, SG
I played against B.J. back in high school. His team featured tall, athletic black kids while I played with a bunch of short Jews. The game went exactly as it sounds. We lost by 45 and B.J. only played the first quarter. Now that I have reminisced on my playing days let’s talk more about Young. He is a score first guard that has the skill-set to play point or on the wing. Young has what Bill Simmons calls irrational confidence. While Young may get full of himself and take some questionable shots he has the confidence in his ability to make and take difficult shots. He is a guy that has the potential to provide a great spark off the bench and perform well on the second unit. This is an overlooked title, but having quality player on a team’s bench gives them the ability to take over games when the other team is resting their starters a.k.a the Eric Bledsoe effect. Young isn’t the most polished guard in the draft, but he does what he does (score) and he does it well.
Christian Watford, SF/PF
This is a total homer pick. We have all seen Watford at his best and at his worst. At times he shows his versatile offensive capabilities, while other times he looks like an unmotivated waste of space. However, under a structured system where Watford can just play ball I think he can flourish. At the end of the day this guy is too gifted not to play in the league. At 6 feet 9 inches C-Wat can bang in the post and show off his sweet jumper. He’s got a pure stroke and when hot, he can really fill it up. Watford probably won’t be a perennial All-Star, but he can play meaningful minutes of a playoff caliber team. Side Note: he hit the biggest shot in Indiana history when they beat Kentucky in 2011. Kind of cool.
So there you have it, a quick glance at some players to watch for in the upcoming 2013 NBA Draft on June 27th. I’d like to go ahead and apologize to all the foreign players that potentially should have been included in this list. Unfortunately, I haven’t gotten around to watching many Croatian or German basketball league games this season, but from what I read we could have some serious players coming in from oversees.
The draft is an exciting time for all 30 NBA teams. The draft symbolizes hope. Hope that a bad team will select the right prospect to get their team out of the hole and hope that a good team will choose the right guy to make them a title contender. Either way it is exciting to watch these prospects grow and see if they can handle the bright lights and the pressure of playing in the league.