DimeMag

Fast 5: Tracking This Year’s NBA Draft Class, Vol. 1

Each Wednesday, we’ll be assessing how the top prospects of the 2013 NBA Draft are faring in college and overseas. Stick with us each week for assorted thoughts, including the biggest risers and fallers, the standouts, the sleepers and what we know and don’t know about the next NBA Draft class…

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‘Tis the season for overreaction, both positive and negative for early season performances from the 2013 NBA Draft hopefuls, which is par for the course for the most part. Some of it is justified, but a lot of it is nonsense as the season has only just begun with less than ten games played from nearly everyone.

Here is the NBA Draft Fast Five

ONE: What Do We Know?
Indiana, led by Cody Zeller and a cast of quality NBA talent in their own right, are legitimate contenders. That is impressive because Zeller came in with all the hype as a potential No. 1 pick at the center position and has delivered in his early returns. With the way the class is setting up, the top spot is wide open for someone to assert themselves as the dominant prospect and Zeller is doing that right now. He runs the floor like a guard, getting easy points while scoring on the block in the half-court by imposing his presence. In terms of polish and skill, there is not a better prospect in this class.

The supporting cast has been great too with Victor Oladipo really impressing scouts with his improvement on both ends of the court. Add Christian Watford, Jordan Hulls, Yogi Ferrell and Will Sheehey and this is a tough, tough team.

TWO: What Don’t We Know?
So far this season, Kentucky has lost a few games and fallen out of the rankings in historic fashion, but that is not an indication of how good they could be. These are not the Wildcats from last year, understand that, but they are very talented top to bottom and need to establish a leader on the perimeter to get back on track. Right now Archie Goodwin has to work as the facilitator and scorer from the perimeter and he is doing a good job, but his role is more of an attacking scorer, which is limited when he is setting an offense for others.

Nerlens Noel and Alex Poythress have No. 1 pick potential, but have not played consistent enough to warrant the early season hype. Each has a defensive-oriented game and they score with athleticism right now, something John Calipari is great at maximizing. The glue to the team has to be the play of Willie Cauley-Stein at center and Kyle Wiltjer as a stretch four. They both have NBA games, but are not nearly consistent enough to be looked at as serious first round prospects. Key word there: Consistency.

THREE: Stock Rising
As a center, Alex Len fits the mold of a guy who should be a franchise changer at 7-1 with skill and potential. The game of basketball is a much different game however as centers, depending on the team, are generally defined by a specific role. With Len, he has not established that certain skill that he has that makes him better than his peers just yet. There is plenty of time for him to do so and it is clear that his raw talent is great with the way he played against Noel and Kentucky to open the season.

Keep an eye on Len at Maryland this season because you cannot teach seven feet. He’s vaulted his name into the conversation as a potential top-ten pick.

FOUR: Stock Falling
They do not come more skilled or with more upside than James McAdoo. Yet he has struggled coming out of the gates this season. He was pegged as the guy on this North Carolina team and had early season talk as a top-five pick after the way last year finished. He’s turning the ball over at a high rate while getting bullied in the lane against tougher defenders. As a four or a three, those are not ideal weaknesses because they will limit his effectiveness on the court.

On the flip side, McAdoo has the pedigree and skill set to be like a Swiss Army Knife in the NBA – doing a little bit of everything on both ends of the floor. His early season struggles can be attributed to the void of talent the team has after the 2012 NBA Draft took four of the five starters from last season. There is not a classic center to balance out McAdoo’s game and he is not adjusting well early on.

FIVE: Quick Hitter
When did the Orange become a well-oiled machine of 12-deep talent and under-utilized guards coming out to dominate after being overshadowed the year before?

Michael Carter-Williams is the next in the line of Wesley Johnson, Dion Waiters, and others of a guy that was not valued the year before and will be a lottery pick when given the time on the court. He is a point guard by nature despite his 6-6 frame and propensity for scoring at the rim. As of today, he is leading the nation in assists running the show in Syracuse, but also getting to the free throw line to balance out his game and keep the defense on their heels. There are not many playmakers his size, let alone scorers willing to hit the open man even when they have the ball in a position to score. Carter-Williams has all the tools on offense to be an elite weapon for the Orange all season.

With all the preseason buzz around their freshman, MCW was able to quietly come in and remind everyone how good he is. Coming off of the bench for Syracuse might be the equivalent to starting at Kentucky: all they do is produce future stars.

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TOP 5 PGs RIGHT NOW

1. B.J. Young: 6-3, 170 pounds – Soph., Arkansas
Stats: 19.5 PPG, 3.5 APG, 4.0 RPG, 0.8 SPG, 45.1 percent FG, 14.3 percent 3PT
This season Young has put up great numbers against quality competition. The problem is it is not translating to wins with 29, 18 and 25 points against Arizona State, Wisconsin and Syracuse respectively, all in losses.

2. Marcus Smart: 6-4, 200 pounds – Fresh., Oklahoma State
Stats: 14.5 PPG, 5.8 APG, 7.7 RPG, 2.3 SPG, 37.7 percent FG, 20.8 percent 3PT
Coming into the season, I saw a big year from Smart as a lottery pick and now it seems like everyone is on board with this potential one-and-done star.

3. C.J. McCollum: 6-3, 180 pounds – Sr., Lehigh
Stats: 24.4 PPG, 3.2 APG, 5.0 RPG, 1.6 SPG, 50.6 percent FG, 53.2 percent 3PT
He is a three-point shooting point guard, but so far this season McCollum has torched the nets and is playing at an even higher level than last year.

4. Trey Burke: 6-1, 175 pounds – Soph., Michigan
Stats: 17.0 PPG, 7.1 APG, 2.9 RPG, 1.1 SPG, 49.5 percent FG, 36.1 percent 3PT
Against N.C. State he played his best game to date, dishing like a point guard in the first half and scoring like a leader in the second half when needed in the impressive win.

5. Lorenzo Brown: 6-4, 180 pounds – Jr., N.C. State
Stats: 11.3 PPG, 5.9 APG, 4.4 RPG, 2.1 SPG, 36.6 percent FG, 15.4 percent 3PT
For Brown there are no questions about his skill or physical gifts as a big point guard, but he has struggled to finish and assert himself, hence dropping his draft stock.

The good thing is that the NBA Draft is not decided in November or December so early season struggles can be rectified and prospects will begin defining their seasons here in a few weeks when conference play starts. The race to the 2013 NBA Draft started back on June 29, immediately after the prior one concluded. Now we get to see the prospects in action to poke, prod and ridicule them for the next five months.

Who will ultimately be the best player from this class?

Follow Kristofer on Twitter at @NBADraftInsider.

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