Alex Len

My Top 25 NBA Draft Prospects

The NBA Draft is tonight, and instead of going a mock draft, which would be pointless because I have no sources, I am going to do a quick ranking of who I think the top 25 players in the draft are.

 

A couple quick notes before we get started: while I actually have seen a lot of the international guys in the draft, I haven't seen Rudy Gobert or Giannis Adetokunbo so you won't see either in this list. Also, real life has interfered with writing life a bit, so after the first few guys this will be more list than analysis as I spent a lot more time watching guys than I did writing about it.

 

1. Ben McLemore, Kansas

 

For full disclosure, I am a Kansas fan, but the biggest questions McLemore has are off the court. His signing with agent Rodney Blackstock was the latest in a sign of questionable decisions since he left Lawrence.

 

But, get him on a team with a good infrastructure and he is an all-star in the making. He has to work on his ball handling, but once he gets on an NBA roster and doesn't have to worry about anything other than basketball (especially things like feeding is family) he will fix the deficiencies in his game quickly. He is an elite shooter, a phenomenal athlete, and has all the tools to become a great perimeter defender as well as one of the better shooters in the league, and potentially a guy who can score from all over.

 

2. Trey Burke, Michigan

 

I love Trey Burke, and actually had him atop my rankings for a long time. He was the national player of the year this year for a reason, and can do it all on offense. He gets guys involved, knows when to take over, and can score both by getting into the lane and shooting from deep.

 

The knocks on him are is size and the fact that he doesn't have elite quickness, but his range and ability to get off a shot quickly should help with the quickness issue, and the only reason the size issue gives me pause is for injury reasons. College stats aren't the be all end all, but while he won't dazzle in a workout, when you see him on tape it's easy to see how good he is.

 

3. Nerlens Noel, Kentucky

 

Noel gets dinged for his lack of an offensive game, but it was coming on strong before he tore his ACL. More importantly, he's a potentially elite defensive player, and he plays hard and is still young, giving him a lot of upside.

 

ACL injuries are still scary but with modern medicine being what it is there are a lot fewer doubts about his ability to come back, and he's certainly in the running to go #1 overall.

 

4. Otto Porter, Georgetown

 

Porter is a guy who was hidden a bit in Georgetown's system, but other than Victor Oladipo, there might not be a safer prospect in the league.

 

He shot 42% from three last year, and was also over 40% on two point jumpers, both improvements from his Freshman year. He also improved from the line. The problem is he might not be able to extend that range to the NBA three, which will hamper his value. 

 

Further, it's tough to tell just how he will be as a pro because he got virtually no pick and role or ISO looks in Georgetown's system. He struggled to shoot off the dribble, in part because his shooting mechanics, so that is an issue. He does provide a lot to the offense when he doesn't have the ball though, as his basketball IQ is very high and he's a good passer.

 

Still, Porter is at worst interchangeable with any of the other guys in my top 4 because of how good he is as a defender. He has the length of a power forward, but can guard small forwards as well and will probably be used on a variety of guys in the NBA. The obvious comparison is Kawhi Leonard, which we have seen is an extremely valuable player.

 

5. Victor Oladipo, Indiana

 

Oladipo's biggest asset is that he plays hard all the time and uses that energy to defend the hell out of whomever is unfortunate enough to be across from him. He'll probably be able to defend the 1-3 spots in the NBA.

 

His offense I think is a bit overrated due to his high efficiency numbers this year. His jumper, though he shot it for a really high percentage, isn't a lock to be great, especially with the longer three point line, and he does a lot of his work offensively in transition. He's still not a great ball handler and the types of ways he scored in the half court in college probably won't be there in the NBA.

 

6. CJ McCollum, Lehigh

 

I have become more and more enamored with McCollum each time I watch tape. The problem is he went to Lehigh, and there isn't a lot of tape (or stats) on him from games against good competition. He dominated Duke in the NCAA tournament but struggled against some other big name teams. He had to score a lot for Lehigh obviously so it will be interesting to see how he adjusts to playing more point in the NBA. Based on how he moves without the ball though he looks to have a good basketball IQ.

 

7. Anthony Bennett, UNLV

 

We have reached the next tier of guys. Bennett had really good numbers for UNLV this year. He scored well in the post and showed off a decent jumper. My biggest problem with his game is that he's only 6'7" so the options around the basket won't be there as often in the NBA. He does have a good wingspan and is a great leaper though, which will help mitigate those concerns.

 

8. Kelly Olynyk, Gonzaga

 

Olynyk isn't a great athlete, but can score both inside and outside. He is a legit 7 foot, can score about the basket, handle the ball, move well, and shoot jumpers. He won't be an elite player and I have some questions about his defense and rebounding, but he is versatile and should be able to help in a variety of ways on offense.

 

9. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Georgia

 

Caldwell-Pope already has a good pull up jumper, has handled the ball in the pick and roll, and has gone through an entire season of college ball with everyone on the other team geared towards stopping him thanks to playing on an awful team.

 

10. Dennis Schroeder, Germany

 

Schroeder looked great in the Hoop Summit and turned me into even more of a fan than I already was. He has been compared to Rajon Rondo a lot, but I think he will end up a better shooter. If he can distribute and defend as well as Rondo, some team will grab the steal of the draft.

 

11. Cody Zeller, Indiana

 

When Zeller was being talked about as a potential #1 pick I was very down on him, but I think the pendulum has swung too far the other way, and some people don't even have him in the lottery (though most of the latest mocks have him safely in the top 10).

 

Zeller is 7 foot tall, but while his college stats were great he struggled to score inside against more physical players. That won't get any easier in the NBA, but he runs the floor really well, has a pretty good jumper, and if he can defend he'll turn into a nice rotation piece.

 

12. Alex Len, Maryland

 

I didn't forget about him; I just don't get it. He is athletic, he has a developing game, and he's dominated his peers in international competitions. But his college numbers were pretty bad. Sure he didn't get the ball in good spots a lot thanks to Maryland's guards being terrible, but find me the last good NBA big man who did nothing in college while being the star player on the team. He certainly has a ton of upside but I wouldn't bet on him at all.

 

13. Steven Adams, Pitt

 

Adams is still developing as a basketball player, hailing from New Zealand, but he has already shown enough to make me think he'll be a good defender in the pros, and his offensive game came along very nicely during his Freshman year. Like Len he didn't do much statistically but he's athletic and can hit a jumper, and even though he's below Len on my list if I had the option of taking either one I might end up picking Adams.

 

14. Sergey Karasev, Russia

 

He doesn't have a ton of upside left I don't think, but he's just 19 and is already a seasoned pro having played in the pro league in Russia. He's 6'7" and possesses a really good jumper, and he has a great feel for the game. He's already played in the Olympics and he was one of the key scorers for a team in one of the better pro leagues in Europe. I don't love his defense but if he's available for a team like the Thunder they should jump all over him.

 

15. Michael Carter-Williams, Syracuse

 

The biggest problems with MCW are the fact that his numbers weren't great. He was a pretty bad perimeter shooter in college and he turned it over a lot as well. He'd be a lot lower on this list but he is 6'6", has a ton of upside and I think can be an above average passer and defender in the league.

 

16. Gorgui Dieng, Louisville

 

Dieng showed off an improved jump shot this year for Louisville, but obviously the bulk of his value lies on the defensive end of the floor. He's a good rebounder as well and should be a 10 year backup center in the league.

 

17. Mason Plumlee, Duke

 

Plumlee has a pretty limited offensive game in the post, but has a nice hook shot. He's good in transition and can finish well in the lane. If he improves his jumper he can be a decent offensive player, but his main asset is that he is an above average rebounder.

 

18. Shane Larkin, Miami

 

We have reached the "shrug your shoulders and pick a guy" range. Larkin is really small, but is a good point guard in the pick and roll and can shoot well off the dribble. Fortunately for him he has a quick release, which should help him get his shot off in the pros.

 

19. Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA

 

I guess. Muhammad doesn't really do anything other than score, and he doesn't do that very efficiently. Some teams still love him for some reason but with his limited game and all of the off court concerns I wouldn't touch him.

 

20. Jeff Withey, Kansas

 

Withey won't be anything more than a backup center his whole career, but he was the best interior defender in college basketball each of the last two years and he's a pretty good one on one defender in the post as well. 

 

21. Jamaal Franklin, San Diego State

 

Franklin has a great motor with good size and I think will be able to defend 1s 2s and 3s in the NBA. He isn't a great decision maker all the time and isn't a great shooter, but I think he'll be able to rein that in once he isn't asked to carry the whole load like he was for the Aztecs. 

 

22. Mike Muscala, Bucknell

 

Muscala was one of the best players in college basketball last year and has an intriguing repertoire of post moves as well as the ability to hit a jumper. I am not sure how his athleticism and defense will translate to the NBA, but I do think he'll be able to score in the post.

 

23. Lucas Noguiera, Brazil

 

Noguiera is really lanky and not polished offensively, but he's really quick for a 7 footer and can run the floor really well. He certainly needs developing offensively but he's a good weak side defender and the tools are there for him to add more.

 

24. Erick Green, Virginia Tech

 

Green was one of the best offensive players in college basketball last year. He's already 22 so there isn't as much upside left but he could carve out a nice role as a scorer off the bench in the NBA.

 

25. Nate Wolters, South Dakota State

 

My personal cheeseball of this draft, Wolters did a little of everything for the Jackrabbits. He'll look good as a backup point guard on a good team, and as an added bonus he could be a guy who can be on the floor in crunch time as well thanks to his shooting.

 

Five others I like:

 

Ricky Ledo, Providence

Pierre Jackson, Baylor

Colton Iverson, Colorado State

Myck Kabongo, Texas

Michael Snaer, Florida State

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