Fast 5: Tracking This Year’s NBA Draft Class, Vol. 9

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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Three teams into the team preview version of the Fast Five with the Washington Wizards and Cleveland Cavaliers in the books, here we look at the Charlotte Bobcats. This is arguably the most futile franchise in the NBA after dropping 18 straight games earlier this season and constantly not finding the right mix of talent on the roster.

Here is the NBA Draft Fast Five.


ONE: What Do We Know About The Charlotte Bobcats?
When you look at the Charlotte Bobcats, their needs are clear and simple: talented basketball players and scorers. The scorers are sorely needed in every facet — from big men in the paint to shooters and to playmakers on the perimeter.

Their core going forward consists of Kemba Walker, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Bismack Biyombo. All very good athletes, but not a group that can produce points consistently at this level and need some help. Other contributors to the team for the next 2-3 years include Tyrus Thomas, Jeffery Taylor and Brendan Haywood.

The point guard position has improved this season with Walker getting better in his second full season and learning how to balance scoring and distributing. He and MKG are cornerstones on the perimeter, along with Biyombo in the paint, but they need to add shooters, scorers and options in-between them to dig themselves out of the cellar of the NBA, where they have lived for years.

TWO: What Do They Need?
Looking at the upcoming draft, their needs fit the talent with four quality centers in the top 10 and six in the top 20. They vary in skills, but all provide a big body in the paint that score in different ways.

Then when you look at the nucleus on the perimeter, you find yourself looking, and looking, and looking for anyone who has the potential to put up 20 points a night for a winning team. Wedging in a shooter between the two youngsters would add floor balance. Again, there are a few options in the top 10, with two prospects near the top, that can provide a major impact.

THREE: Stock Rising
This season, Richard Howell has been the best player on the floor for North Carolina State and potentially the best prospect in the state. He is not a volume scorer or a guy who makes plays on the offensive end, but rather makes an impact on the glass and on the defensive end. As a four, he is a little undersized, but is one of the stronger players in the country and knows his role on the basketball court.

With the way he is playing, despite the wins and losses, Howell is making a case to be a late first-round pick ahead of all of his more highly-regarded teammates. Rebounding translates to the NBA, which is where Howell excels with 27 career double-doubles, 13 of which have come this season. Right now he is fifth in the nation in rebounding, but with the way he is playing over his past six games, he may soar to the top of that list.

FOUR: Stock Falling
The combination of injuries and a newly established pecking order for the UNLV Running Rebels has slid Mike Moser down from mid first-round pick to an early second-round pick. He has the ability to be a volume rebounder despite his frame, and can stretch the floor out to the NBA three. This season, he has taken a step back due to his right elbow dislocation from earlier this year that could have caused him to miss the entire season.

Instead he has come back, but in a more reduced role, with reduced production from last year. In his last six games, he has totaled 36 points (3-for-13 from three) and 30 rebounds in just under 23 minutes a night. Compare that to last year: 14.0 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 33.1 percent from three in 31.4 MPG. He’s a different player.

FIVE: Quick Hitter
Lately, the college basketball world has had a lot of chatter around it surrounding the lack of talent (it’s a down year), and the methodical style in which officials call games. The Big East is a prime example. They are known as the roughest teams in the NCAA, teams that play grinding games every night. Situationally that is good for basketball and for young players to gain toughness and know that these types of games can happen. But in the long run it hurts the development of many young players.

The NBA is a wide open game. If these 18 or 19-year-old rookies are coming in used to playing a certain pace, with fouls never being called and the ability to mug someone before they are whistled for it, the expectations aren’t being set properly.

I agree with Jay Bilas. The game needs to played more open, allowing these athletes to showcase their skills and develop as all-around basketball players. It only helps the game, the players, and the impact young players can have at the next level. That cannot happen in these “hard hat” games that allow players to do anything they deem necessary to make a stop. A line needs to be drawn to where the development of young basketball players is the focus.


Top 5 Fits For Charlotte Right Now

1. Ben McLemore: 6-5, 185 pounds – Fresh., Kansas
Stats: 16.1 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 1.2 SPG, 50.7 percent FG, 45.1 3PT (37-82)
There is not a better shooter and athlete in this draft in terms of the complete package. McLemore is one of the better three-point shooters in the class and has the athleticism to score in transition as well as make plays off the ball as a defender.

2. Cody Zeller: 6-11, 220 pounds – Soph., Indiana
Stats: 16.0 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 1.4 BPG, 59.8 percent FG, 72.6 percent FT
Right now (and in the team’s history), they have not had a “go-to” scorer in the paint. He may not be an overwhelming athlete, but Zeller can score on the block with efficency.

3. Alex Len: 7-1, 255 pounds – Soph., Maryland
Stats: 13.2 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 1.9 BPG, 54.3 percent FG, 64.5 percent FT
Len has a little more potential than Zeller, but that means he is a lot more raw and needs time to develop. He is a great athlete for the position and has the size to dominate in the paint.

4. Shabazz Muhammad: 6-6, 225 pounds – Fresh., UCLA
Stats: 18.2 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 0.9 APG, 47.5 percent FG, 43.6 percent 3PT
Off the ball, Muhammad is a good scorer in transition and from the perimeter. He is not a great ballhandler, but with the development of Kemba Walker this year they may create a quality duo.

5. Nerlens Noel: 6-10, 228 pounds – Fresh., Kentucky
Stats: 10.2 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 4.7 BPG, 58.2 percent FG, 54.1 percent FT
The best raw athlete of the group is going to take some time to develop, but Noel has great potential as a defender and will excel in transition for the Bobcats.

The Bobcats need to accomplish one of two things to be able to take the next step as a respectable franchise. They either need to add a perimeter scorer (elite athlete) or a presence in the paint. In this draft, that may be tough, but with two potential picks between 1-5 and 13-17, they have the opportunities to get one of those via the draft. Adding to the group of Walker, Biyombo, Jeffery Taylor, Kidd-Gilchrist and Byron Mullens will be vital this summer.

Who should Charlotte try to draft?

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