With the regular season wrapped up, the league announced on Wednesday that the 2013 NBA Draft will be hosted at the brand new Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The Bobcats are poised to have either one or two lottery picks this summer depending on whether Portland's pick makes it past the top 12, in which case it'll belong to Charlotte. With that in mind, it's time to start talking draft. Here's a roundup of this year's best prospects:
Despite suffering a torn ACL injury this February, Nerlens Noel is the No. 1 pick on most draft boards. At worst, he'll be selected with the second pick, which means the Bobcats have a decent shot at landing him. Noel's 4.4 blocks per game have given way to Larry Sanders comparisons, but I prefer to call him mini-Dwight. He's not nearly as athletically overpowering as Howard was upon entering the draft, but he's darn near close. The 6'10" freshman out of Kentucky has an otherworldly 7'4" wingspan, allowing him to physically dominate his opponents on both ends of the floor. However, he's going to have add a great deal of strength if he wants to be able to bang with bigs in the NBA. And like Dwight Howard in his early years, Noel struggles to score from the low post. In the high post though, Noel is more than adept at taking his man off the dribble and finishing explosively.
At 20 years old, Ben McLemore has already been compared to Ray Allen. The 6'4" shooting guard out of Kansas has amazing range, shooting 39.5 percent from behind the college three-point line this season. McLemore sees the majority of his baskets from beyond the arc and in transition, where his elite quickness and explosiveness allow him to thrive. As a shooter, McLemore is already adept at creating separation off screens, getting his feet set and spotting up. However, his shoddy ball-handling caps his potential on the offensive end as McLemore doesn't score on isolation plays. On the defensive end, McLemore has solid length, strength and quickness. His potential has yet to line in with his consistency but the freshman shows a ton of promise on both ends. I would liken him to a more athletic version of Arron Afflalo.
Otto Porter, who is 6'8" with a 7'1" wingspan, has more than enough size to step into the small forward position in the NBA. Porter has solid athleticism, a knack for scoring around the rim and shooting range that has improved to outside the arc. The Georgetown sophomore plays within himself, moving well without the ball while proving to be a very willing passer. On defense, Porter's length gives him a heady advantage over his opponents but he's going to have to add some muscle on that 200 pound frame if he wants that to carry over into the NBA. Porter may not carry the gifts of other-worldly athleticism, but his physical tools and work ethic should earn him a good career.
If not for Nerlens Noel, Oladipo would be the most exciting player in this year's draft. He's an explosive and creative finisher around the rim, making him deadly in transition and off-ball cuts. However, his ball-handling is rather weak, making him both ineffective and turnover-prone when he takes it to the rim in half-court sets. Oladipo, whose jumper was nothing if not completely broken in his sophomore year (20.8 percent shooting from beyond the arc), has markedly improved his shooting from beyond the arc shooting 44 percent this year. The defensive end is where Oladipo will find his place in the NBA, though. The 6'5" shooting guard has 215 pound frame and terrorizes his opponents with a style that is reminiscent of Tony Allen's.
Anthony Bennett, UNLV's freshman power forward, is an explosive scorer who plays both inside and out utilizing his above-average ball-handling skills and smooth stroke from outside with great mastery. He's an ambidextrous scorer with a great dribble-drive game and a superb touch around the rim. He uses his athleticism to bang down low, grabbing offensive rebounds and drawing free throws at a high rate. The 6'7" forward may appear to be undersized for his position, but his 7'1" wingspan begs to differ. Regardless, Bennett still struggles mightily on the defensive end, due to both a lack of effort and awareness. He reminds me of a less athletic version Blake Griffin with a consistent jumper.
Indiana's Cody Zeller is a solid offensive player with a diverse low-post repertoire. His footwork, agility and height give him more than enough tools for that to carry over to the NBA. Zeller's high motor, mobility and basketball IQ allows him to capitalize on a few easy baskets per game. His potential as a jump shooter in the NBA is solid, too. On the defensive end, Zeller is a solid pick and roll defender, using his quickness to hedge and recover on time and also generate steals. However, his lack of athleticism will likely prohibit him from ever being a true enforcer on that end.
Trey Burke is like Kemba Walker with a better grip on passing in the pick and roll. In a lot of ways, he's reminiscent of this year's Rookie of the Year, Damian Lillard. He's a solid floor general with an affinity for finding open teammates. The 2013 National Player of the Year is also a great shooter and defender. He's only 6 feet tall, but his 6'5" wingspan gives him an edge on offense when he's finishing at the rim while allowing him to be a pest on defense. Burke has solid athleticism and body control, but his lack of size may hinder his effectiveness around the rim.
Shabazz Muhammad was the consensus No. 1 pick in the draft before the NCAA season started. His other-worldly size, speed and athleticism give him an undeniable edge over his opponents. He's improved his shooting and ball-handling, making him practically unguardable in isolation situations. The biggest concern with his transition to the NBA is that his natural talents will equalize once he's playing against better competition. This is a legitimate concern, but I'm not sure if Muhammad should have dropped as low as he did. If the Bobcats can snag him at the 9-12 range, they shouldn't hesitate.
Alex Len is this seasons feast-or-famine pick. The seven-footer has all the potential tools: he's a great athlete for his size, has impressive foot speed, a great touch around the rim -- with both hands -- and a high basketball IQ. On the defensive end, he's already a good pick and roll defender with potential as an elite rim-protector. Essentially, Alex Len have it all. However, there are concerns about whether those tools will come together in the NBA. Len is too thin to hold his own in the post and many scouts have questioned his toughness. Of course, that could just be scout-speak for "we don't know what to make of foreign players sometimes." Len's a high-potential player who probably won't develop into a full product for a few years. Luckily, most teams in the lottery aren't in "win-now" mode.
The seven-foot center out of Gonzaga is a lot like Cody Zeller on the offensive end. He's mobile, he's got a great touch around the rim, he runs the floor well and he has a great post up game. He's also a great shooter for his position, shooting 35.7% from beyond the arc this season, with a solid dribble-drive game from above the free throw line. However, some worry that his lack of athleticism will hinder his ability to be a high-impact player in the NBA. On the defensive end, Olynyk is prone to getting bullied in the lane, having issues with both post positioning and rebounding. To further things, he seems to lack the overall awareness to be an acceptable team defender.