When the likely top draft choice goes down with a season ending injury, it shakes up the whole field. Let’s take a look at my revised top ten in this edition of Prospect Watch.
1. Ben McLemore-McLemore is the one player I truly feel has star written all over him. He is a long athletic two guard with a beautiful shooting stroke. He can take it to the cup or rain three pointers if given space. For the season, McLemore is now raised his shooting percentages to 44% from downtown and 51% overall. Scouts have seen consistent improvement to his game too since he stepped onto the court for Kansas. Going from a player who looked a little out of control on the court to a player who is playing against inferior competition He is just better than everyone. And that doesn’t just mean offensively. McLemore projects as a plus defensive player, with great range, quickness and length. This kid is going to be a star.
2. Shabazz Muhammad-Shabazz is a dynamic scorer, flat out. He works well in the isolation game or as an off the ball stretch player. I see him as an excellent pick and roll partner at the next level. He projects as a small forward likely, standing at 6’6″ with an incredible 6’11” wingspan to go with solid athleticism. I don’t think Shabazz is a super-star player, I think he is an elite scorer though. His shooting numbers have dipped slightly as he is down to just 46% shooting on the season, but he has a good release and should be able to score at the next level. What is really holding him back is his lack of facilitating ability; he just doesn’t set his teammates up well, although the more spread out game of the pros should help him there. He is also not a great defensive player. He normally stays with his man, but does not challenge shots well not does he create turnovers with active hands like McLemore.
3. Anthony Bennett-AB is an absolute monster. He is only 6’8″ at the power forward positon, but has great length with a plus 7 foot wing span. He can score in a variety of ways, both on the post back to the basket or facing up on the perimeter. He currently sits around 18 points a game for his UNLV squad to go along with 8 boards. He is an elite athlete at that position and can stretch the floor shooting 35% from downtown. If he was 2 inches taller he would supplant McLemore for the number one pick. He may be Canada’s best player since Steve Nash.
4. Nerlens Noel-Despite his recent ACl tear, I still think Nerlens is a top draft target. I actually think he goes from a risky top 1 or 2 pick, to one of the safest selections in the draft just a few choices down. When he was healthy we saw exactly what we expected out of high school. Rediculous shot blocking ability at nearly 5 a game, good rebounding at nearly 10 a game and a work in progress in offensive game, scoring around 10 on mostly dunks and free throws. Noel is clearly going to be a difference maker defensively with his length and athleticism. It’s whether that raw talent can become something on the offensive end that scouts are curious about. He’s a bit of a project either way, but at anything after the 3rd pick he is well worth the risk. He has a top tier motor, always working hard and hustling. He was injured on a hustle play in fact, but his motor is a big reason I love him.
5. Alex Len-Len is just a big man who knows how to score. He needs to get a lot stronger, but he has both back to the basket moves and face up shooting. He has great height, standing at 7’1″ but is only 225 pounds, so he needs to add a bunch of strength. He has Brook Lopez type offensive skills, so we will see if it translates at the next level, but it’s hard for scouts to pass over a potentially good scorer at the center position. The Ukrainian will need a year or so of adjustment time at the next level to get his conditioning where it needs to be, but his coordination and shooting ability are hard to come by for a player his size. He is a solid rebounder and shot blockers, averaging 8 and 2 respectively in just 26 minutes a game. I like Len a lot and think he could move up on my rankings, especially if scouts continue to sour on Shabazz. He is a potential sleeper pick at number 2 behind McLemore.
6. Marcus Smart-Well the freshmen point guard has showed flashes of what he could be, but has not done it on a regular basis. Possessing great size at 6’4″ 225, he is a physical player on both ends. Defensively he doesn’t mind mixing it up, blocking shots or getting in the passing lane. He is one of the best in college ball at stealing passes along the wings. He is not an elite shooter, but has solid form, so they hope is that he comes around. He currently shoots around 41% including just 30% from distance. He is a great rebounder for his position, and a solid passer. He needs to improve his playmaking in getting easy shots for his teammates. He has a little Tyreke Evans in him, but that’s not a bad things. Smart has some of the best potential in the draft and has supplanted MCW for top PG prospect.
7. Cody Zeller-Zeller is just a solid big man. He is fluid offensively, running the floor like a guard and finishing with superior touch. He can shoot well, is an elite passing big, and has all the intangibles you look for as a winner. His biggest downsides are that he is not an elite rebounder and he is undersized/weak at the center position. He projects as a power forward, but will need to add a lot of strength to play at the next level. I’m a little discouraged with his play this year, but I know he could step onto an NBA team and help right away. Another very safe pick.
8. Michael Carter Williams- A 6’5″ point guard with elite ball handling and court vision don’t come around very often. MCW is a pure point guard with great defensive instincts to boot. What is holding him back is his shooting ability as he is under 40% shooting on the year. Watching him though, I think he can develop a dangerous NBA 3 point shot given time. He is a smart player, making correct situational calls consistently. MCW is also old for his class as a 21 year old sophomore who will be 22 early on during the next NBA season.
9. Mason Plumlee-The only college senior on my list, Plumlee is a rare combination of size (6’11” and 240 LBs) and athleticism. His statistical output increase has been quite impressive as he went from averages of 11 points, 9 boards on 57% shooting his junior year to 18 points, 11 boards on 60% shooting despite increased defensive attention during his senior campaign. Plumlee is a skilled and willing passer to boot. He doesn’t have the enormous potential as some of the other bigs here because of his “advanced” age, but his game looks to be tailor made for the pro level. He should continue to be a very effective rebounder on both ends (he may find his calling cleaning up the offensive glass) and will be ready to step in right away. While we have seen Plumlee improve his back to the basket moves he needs to continue to do so in order to be a respected two way player at the next level. I’d also like to see Plumlee add a few more pounds of muscle to help him hold position on the post when facing the pro sized athletes in the NBA. He is a very low risk player. THIS HILARIOUS VIDEO BELOW HAS BEEN A HIGHLIGHT OF MY DAY. (I need a life)
10. Victor Oladipo- This young man is a crazy athlete with explosiveness rarely found. He is already an elite defensive player, locking up opposing shooting guards around the country. He reminds me a lot of Tony Allen in that way. Oladipo has also shows a much better shooting touch of late. We all know his finishing ability and soft touch around the basket, but now he is starting to spread the floor. He has raised his three point shooting to 52% and is shooting a god like 65% from the field in general. For a shooting guard to be shooting that high a percentage is absurd. 65% from your primary wing player, think about that for a second and you will understand how he and Zeller have the Hoosiers ranked number one right now. I absolutely love this kid, he is going to be a top tier defensive player and fast break finisher. He will need to add the range on his distance shot to include NBA three point range, but with how much he has improved already, sky is the limit. Watch the video to see his athleticism. Just Wow
Check in later for ranking by position too. Check me on Twitter too @theNBAninja