DimeMag

Fast 5: Tracking This Year’s NBA Draft Class, Vol. 7

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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At this point in the season the bad are bad and the good are good. It is safe to say that 12 of the 16 playoff teams are already locked in, and 11 of the 14 lottery picks are scouting heavily by now. With that, there are seven teams that may — or may not — make the playoffs, so starting at the bottom, let’s take a peek behind the curtain of what they need.

Here is the NBA Draft Fast Five.

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ONE: What Do We Know About The Washington Wizards?
Today, they are 7-28 and sitting at the bottom of the league, but have shown signs of life and health for that matter, winning three straight games. They have a nice young core of talented players led by John Wall and Bradley Beal, who are complemented by Kevin Seraphin, Chris Singleton and Jordan Crawford.

With that group, they are capable of making the playoffs when healthy.

Nene is the veteran force that balances the youngsters by giving them an inside presence, but over the years he has proven to be injury prone and unreliable. As a third or fourth option however, Nene could be a very good player on a playoff team down the road.

Offensively the Wizards are arguably the worst team in the NBA, ranking last in points per game, field goal percentage, and three-point shooting with the 17th slowest pace. They are also the second-worst team in the league in assists.

TWO: What Do They Need?
The one thing that stands out on this team has been the inconsistency with the front office recycling coaches at a very high rate. They have had six coaches on the sideline for 70-plus games each. No consistency in philosophy or message for the young roster.

In the draft, the Wizards could benefit from a long-term option at the center position. Right now they are leaning on Emeka Okafor and Nene there.

Cody Zeller, Nerlens Noel, Rudy Gobert or Alex Len are the obvious options for a team that will likely finish bottom five in the standings. There is a chance that none of those four are perennial All-Stars, but they all would complement the current talent on the roster.

THREE: Stock Rising
This season as a whole has been great for Trey Burke, and the Michigan point guard is making his way up draft boards as of late. He is doing a much better job this season of controlling the offense with efficiency (3.6:1 assist to turnover ratio) compared to last season (1.65:1), showing the freshman to sophomore improvement. Depending on the type of offense a team runs, Burke could easily be a top 20 pick.

FOUR: Stock Falling
Last season in 17 games, Jarnell Stokes came onto the scene on fire as the youngest freshman in the country. This season through 15 games, he has basically been the same player showing little to no improvement. Stokes is a load in the paint, but an undersized four that has not shown the ability to dominate on the block.

FIVE: Quick Hitter
On his way to another big and efficient scoring day at the offensive end, Kansas guard Ben McLemore went down. He heard a “pop” and the initial concern was that it was a major knee injury. The coaching staff was much more confident and rightfully so as McLemore was evaluated and it was determined he suffered only a sprained ankle.

No timetable for a return as of now.

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Top 5 Freshmen Prospects Right Now

1. Nerlens Noel: 6-11, 216 pounds – Fresh., Kentucky
Stats: 10.8 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 3.7 BPG, 57.7 percent FG, 58.6 percent FT (34-58)
Comparing Noel to Anthony Davis is simply not fair. He is not as polished or as versatile offensively as the former No. 1 overall pick, but in terms of being a rangy defender there are not many that have the same skill-set as Noel.

2. Anthony Bennett: 6-7, 239 pounds – Fresh., Kentucky
Stats: 19.6 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 1.4 BPG, 56.4 percent FG, 41.2 percent 3PT
He came in with a lot less hype than his peers, but has taken full advantage of his opportunities playing like the next coming of Grandmama himself, Larry Johnson.

3. Archie Goodwin: 6-5, 195 pounds – Fresh., Kentucky
Stats: 15.7 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 3.6 APG, 45.1 percent FG, 33.3 percent 3PT
There isn’t a better combination of intensity on the defensive end and the offensive end than Goodwin. He has the ability to get to the rim with ease, and can guard multiple positions full-court.

4. Shabazz Muhammad: 6-5, 225 pounds – Fresh., Kentucky
Stats: 18.2 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 0.8 APG, 46.3 percent FG, 45.0 percent 3PT
It took some time to get back into shape, but Muhammad is scoring at a high rate inside and out for the Bruins using his strength and ability to shoot.

5. Alex Poythress: 6-8, 215 pounds – Fresh., Kentucky
Stats: 13.4 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 0.6 BPG, 63.2 percent FG, 67.6 percent FT (46-68)
At one point there was buzz for Poythress to be a contender for the No. 1 overall pick, but he has shown signs with his body language and effort that have changed some minds in NBA circles.

With the way the new era of one-and-done prospects is going, freshmen dominate the top of the draft almost every year. This year will likely be different as four of these five may be top 10 talents, but the majority of the top picks will be between upperclassmen and international talents.

Which players do you want to see your squad draft?

Follow Kristofer on Twitter at @NBADraftInsider.

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