DimeMag

Fast 5: Tracking This Year’s NBA Draft Class, Vol. 2

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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Many believe this class does not have a clear cut star, so some NBA decision-makers are trying to “get out of the” top five in order to avoid spending a high pick (and lots of money) on just a “good” player. This happens every year when a major star is drafted the prior year: it leaves a void in college and international basketball. Welcome to the 2013 NBA Draft everyone!

Here is the NBA Draft Fast Five.

ONE: What Do We Know?
There is no superstar this year and that is what typically makes people grow cold to an entire class. That is very common with draft classes. Looking back at the last 10 NBA Drafts, there have been perhaps seven with “can’t miss” stars at the top.

Let’s examine this:

2003: LeBron James
2004: Dwight Howard
2005: Andrew Bogut*
2006: Andrea Bargnani*
2007: Greg Oden
2008: Derrick Rose
2009: Blake Griffin
2010: John Wall
2011: Kyrie Irving*
2012: Anthony Davis

In 2005 Bogut was the top guy, but the draft produced two of the best point guards in the NBA this decade along with some quality depth overall. In 2006, Bargnani was the pick by default for Toronto, but after that, it was one of the more underrated classes over the past 25 years. Then there was 2011 where it was more about the guys who stayed in college rather than the talent that declared. Irving turned into a star, but go back to January 2011 and there was not one person who saw this coming.

That is what this 2013 class is evolving into. There is fluidity from the top to about midway through the lottery this year, which is not always appealing, but can produce a larger amount of quality talent to the league a la 2006 and even 2011. The top is not indicative of everything neck down in this or any NBA Draft.

TWO: What Do We Not Know?
With all of that we still don’t know how good the fluidity is just yet. Does it go 14 deep or three deep? Looking across the landscape, this class seems to be deep at every position outside of the four and maybe the one. There are a lot of quality centers in this class, but they are all raw outside of Cody Zeller with a lot to prove still in terms of what they can do on the court. The athletes on the wing are as good as any year since 2003 with a lot of potential stars led by Shabazz Muhammad, Alex Poythress and Otto Porter.

All four of those players could be the top overall pick in a draft like this – there is that fluidity – so not having a star does not make a class weak. It makes scouts have to do their job. The Boston Celtics did their job in 2006 with Rajon Rondo and the Denver Nuggets did the same in 2011 with Kenneth Faried.

We are getting a feel for the top players, but the draft will be won by teams in that 5-15 range and even into the 20s with how prepared they are.

THREE: Stock Rising
Early in the season, ESPN College Basketball Guru Jay Bilas tabbed Anthony Bennett of UNLV as the best freshman in the country. He may be right, but it is very early in the process.

The Canadian product is a burly, strong forward with the ability to play both the three and the four in college, but is more of a three at the next level. He is not a great shooter from distance at 6-for-19 so far on the season. Most perimeter players linger on the wing despite their shooting woes, but Bennett knows what he is good at and attacks the rim getting to the line (8.1 per game) at a high rate.

What makes Bennett a potential lottery pick is the fact that he plays hard on both ends of the floor, attacking the glass and defending his position as well as anyone. Bennett has a very high motor, which is not a teachable trait. Over the summer he struggled with conditioning, but he seems to have put that behind him this year. I was able to watch him at the Nike Hoops Summit in April and he is no stranger to taking (and making) big shots.

FOUR: Stock Falling
Let me preface this with the fact that Tony Mitchell of North Texas is not having a bad year. Actually, he is having a year that most forwards wish they could have after having a borderline dominant freshman campaign last year.

As a basketball prospect though, Mitchell has become the target of defenses to begin the year and hence the struggles so far. His numbers across the board have taken a dip partially because of the newfound attention and also because of Mitchell playing on the perimeter. It’s known Mitchell is not as effective on the perimeter as a three as he is as an undersized, athletic four in the paint. Part of the issue might be that he was hyped up as a top-five player to enter the season and in reality, he was more suited to be a mid-to-late lottery pick which is where he would be taken today.

Getting back to his roots in the paint will help Mitchell. That’s where he’s at his best.

FIVE: Quick Hitter
When a player stays in college for four years they become forgettable because the book is out on them with all the good, but more importantly all the bad. That is the case with Brandon Paul of Illinois, who has all the skill in the world to be a volume scorer at any level.

He has the physical build of an NBA guard and the confidence in his game to play there right now. The issue with Paul has always been the mental side.

Over the years there have been lapses where he could have carried the team on his back, but instead either shrank or shot his team out of the game. It seems this season he has found the polite balance between his own ability to score from the perimeter and to create for others. This year, Paul is averaging career-highs in points, assists, rebounds, and in the more critical categories like assists, field goal percentage and three-point percentage. The shots are a lot smarter, and he is finding the open man. Paul has the ability to get his anytime he wants. It is more impressive when he uses that to setup a teammate that cannot get their own shot. Paul has evolved into a complete player and could be a steal in the draft with the way teams overlook seniors.

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TOP 5 SGs RIGHT NOW

1. Archie Goodwin: 6-5, 195 pounds – Fresh., Kentucky
Stats: 16.4 PPG, 4.4 APG, 5.6 RPG, 1.2 SPG, 49 percent FG, 53.8 percent 3PT
For the early part of the season, Goodwin has been the most important player on the Wildcats. He is looked to as a scorer, distributor, playmaker and to play defense. Goodwin is a combo guard with great athleticism that he uses on both ends of the floor.

2. Michael Carter-Williams: 6-5, 176 pounds – Soph., Syracuse
Stats: 12.4 PPG, 10.4 APG, 5.6 RPG, 3.8 SPG, 41.9 percent FG, 22.2 percent 3PT
There has not been a more impressive guard in the country than MCW with his ability to take over a game without scoring. So far this season, MCW has five games with 10-plus assists and four games with 15-plus points, furthering his value on the court as a duel threat.

3. Ben McLemore: 6-5 185 pounds – Fresh., Kansas
Stats: 16.0 PPG, 2.4 APG, 5.6 RPG, 1.3 SPG, 45.7 percent FG, 31.4 percent 3PT
Over the past two games, McLemore has found his stride by combining his three-point stroke with the ability to get to the line. Those two games were against the two most athletic teams on the Jayhawks schedule to date.

4. Branden Dawson: 6-6, 200 pounds – Soph., Michigan State
Stats: 10.4 PPG, 1.6 APG, 5.5 RPG, 2.1 SPG, 60.3 percent FG, 0 percent 3PT (0-1)
There is not a better physical specimen on the wing than Dawson, who can play the two and the three. He is a relentless rebounder and great defender for his position.

5. Jamaal Franklin: 6-5, 185 pounds – Jr., San Diego State
Stats: 19.1 PPG, 3.3 APG, 9.9 RPG, 1.8 SPG, 45.2 percent FG, 24.3 percent 3PT
As a rebounder and scorer, Franklin is the class of this class with his ability to get on the defensive class. He rebounds out of his area.

I wouldn’t go as far as to say there is a superstar in this class, but with Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Manu Ginobili and others looking at their better years in a rearview mirror, this is a much needed talent influx. The league needs great scorers on the wing. Are these guys the next generation? Time will tell.

Who will ultimately be the best player from this class?

Follow Kristofer on Twitter at @NBADraftInsider.

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