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

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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New Year, same old Fast 5 as we continue the journey to June for the 2013 NBA Draft by looking at all the story lines. Turning the page on a new year may help some prospects, but also begins the next leg in the process as we get into conference play this month. Can familiarity help, or hurt these prospects?

Here is the NBA Draft Fast 5.


ONE: What Do We Know?
To keep with the season, this edition of “What Do We Know?” is going to be a New Year’s Resolution for all 2013 NBA Draft hopefuls. Since the coverage of the draft switched from 2012 to 2013, there has been a litany of players talked about as lottery picks and even No. 1 overall picks.

From Cody Zeller to Shabazz Muhammad, Nerlens Noel, Rudy Gobert, Alex Len, Archie Goodwin, Anthony Bennett and Ben McLemore the list is exhaustive.

Kicking off the New Year – and from my experience the real meat and potatoes of the draft season where prospects start to settle into their positioning – it is time for someone (or a few someones) to create separation. The talent is there for numerous prospects, but showing that “it” factor or having a breakout performance is sorely needed. Who is that going to be? Who knows? All I can say is last year on January 17, I released a Big Board that had 25 of 30 of the eventual first-round picks. Now is when we begin to get a finger on the pulse.

TWO: What Do We Not Know?
Following along with the theme above, this is going to be my New Year’s Premonition. When conference play begins and continues through January we will know who the No. 1 overall pick is and right now he is in my top 10. That is my premonition. Who will that be? Again, who knows? But the fact of the matter is that it has to be someone and the talent is there for a prospect to come of age on the court before our eyes.

THREE: Stock Rising
Style and effective execution are almost (if not more) important than general athleticism. A prime example of that is N.C. State freshman forward T.J. Warren. He is not at elite athlete and most scouts might even call him a below average athlete, but he can score. What Warren does is he plays his game and scores in a variety of ways.

This season he has shown the ability to get to the free throw line, knock down the three, shoot with efficiency and more importantly, he is shooting at a very high rate. With his current 69.4 field goal percentage, he has the second-highest shooting percentage in the country as the second-leading scorer for the Wolfpack. Many guys have made it in the NBA as average athletes – like Paul Pierce, James Harden, John Salmons, and more. Warren might be the next one.

FOUR: Stock Falling
Stock can fall for a variety of reasons and in the case of Arkansas point guard B.J. Young, it is not really due to on-court productivity, even if that is a factor. In two of his three biggest scoring outbursts this season, his team has lost. The team is also 1-3 in games against quality opponents. Both of those are intangibles that point guards need to have to be elite and right now Young is struggling to have his production lead to wins.

FIVE: Quick Hitter
Style, execution, intangibles, and other elements of a prospect are very important. Another one is character. Without character, a team is not going to invest millions of dollars and years of development on a prospect.

There are always stories that float around about prospects and their use of drugs, alcohol, not taking academics seriously, crime, and they are all sad tales that lead to talent wasted.

This season is no different as these prospects go under a microscope, and intangibles are either revealed or proven to not be there. Over the course of the season, players are going to slide in mock drafts and on big boards because of that. Just because a prospect has great size, athleticism, and scores 20 points a game does not mean they are mentally ready for the rigors of the NBA and professional basketball. Unfortunately, there are going to be some victims of these circumstances. The ones that make it are the kids that avoid theses things, focus on their craft, and prove to have rare character.


Top 5 Cs Right Now

1. Cody Zeller: 6-11, 220 pounds – Soph., Indiana
Stats: 16.6 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 1.3 BPG, 62.2 percent FG, 72.5 percent FT
Zeller entered the year as the top overall prospect, a spot nobody seems to want as the season has progressed. But he is easily the most polished and safe prospect in the class.

2. Nerlens Noel: 6-11, 216 pounds – Fresh, Kentucky
Stats: 10.5 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 3.6 BPG, 54.8 percent FG, 52.2 percent FT
He is not Anthony Davis, but as a defender, believe it or not, Noel is a better player. There are a lot of holes on offense that he has to grow into, but he has the range, quickness and motion to cover a lot of ground around the rim.

3. Alex Len: 7-1, 225 pounds – Soph., Maryland
Stats: 13.3 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 2.3 BPG, 58.1 percent FG, 66.1 percent FT
No one has raised their stock from the summer to today quite like Len has this season. He is the prototypical center with the skill-set down low to make a major impact on both ends of the floor.

4. Isaiah Austin: 7-0, 200 pounds – Fresh., Baylor
Stats: 14.5 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 1.0 BPG, 51.9 percent FG, 43.3 percent FT
Centers shouldn’t live on the perimeter, but that seems to be the home for Austin this season, taking 30 threes and 99 twos this year. At this rate, he is shooting 20 percent of his shots from three, reducing his efficiency as a seven-foot athlete.

5. Steven Adams: 6-10, 235 pounds – Fresh., Pittsburgh
Stats: 6.8 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 1.0 BPG, 62.3 percent FG, 34.6 percent FT
Simply being athletic with potential put Adams into the conversation of being a lottery pick, but his game as of late moved him considerably lower with the lack of production on the court.

Who has the best chance of developing into a NBA All-Star from this class?

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