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Never before have I’ve experienced a draft where there is no consensus all-around #1 pick in an NBA draft. Usually, one can tell what the lottery winner will do with their pick based on who the best player will be, what position the team is trying to fill, or what kind of trades they are looking to make to move down from the #1 pick. For the 2013 NBA Draft, it was wide open. Like, really wide. To gain some perspective, let’s look at how the potential #1 picks have looked since the beginning of the most recent NBA season:
Cody Zeller was considered the #1 pick for the 2013 draft. Then Nerlens Noel took over the top spot and was even considered the #1 prospect during the Lottery procedure. After the injury to Noel’s knee, Ben McLemore looked to be the #1 selection. And then Otto Porter’s name surfaced about a month ago when Slam Online predicted him to go #1 in their mock draft. Then it looked like Alex Len would be the top pick in 2013, despite the fact that we weren’t sure what the Cleveland Cavaliers would do with their top pick as trade rumors and speculation cascaded down in the last week as experts and fans alike attempted to figure out what the Cavs will do with their #1.
Personally, I have been high on Ben McLemore since the college basketball season ended, but then word came out in the last month or so that teams have questioned his character magnified by the fact that he had attended “multiple high schools” (h/t Slam Online).
This is also the first time the draft was held at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. This was Commissioner David Stern’s last draft where he announcws the names of the first round draftees. Call me overly sentimental, but I am going to miss him.
So it was that kind of draft, unpredictable and full of surprises. The first surprise, as I screamed at the top of my lungs, scaring the living daylights out of my cats, occurred when Anthony Bennett was picked #1 overall. People have been complaining about the weakness of this draft and when the #1 pick gets compared to guys like Rodney Rogers and Jason Maxiell, it’s no wonder the Cavs found no takers for the #1 pick. With his large, 7’1” wingspan and athleticism, it’s no wonder Bennett was coveted by many as a top 5 pick. But since he’s only 6’7”, he is considered a “tweener” (not big enough to be a power forward, not quick enough to be a small forward). Scouts also questioned his toughness and desire to play defense and rebound. But his ability to finish big when close to the basket and pull up for jump shots has the Cavaliers feeling good about him. Where exactly he will fit on the team is up for debate however.
The Orlando Magic went ahead and selected Victor Oladipo (6’4”, 213 lbs). This wasn’t too surprising as many mock drafts (including this one from Sheridan Hoops) had the Indiana product going second overall to Orlando. Athleticism and length (6’9” wingspan) along with a commitment to defense and plenty of other intangibles (high motor, energy, etc.) must have won Orlando over. Unfortunately, there are too many questions in his game to consider him a formidable franchise player, including:
• Bad ball-handling skills
• Ineffective passer
• Inconsistent 3-point shot
• Not much of an offensive game
As I stated before, Ben McLemore would have been my selection if I were the decision-maker in the Magic front office, but in a draft full of mystery and unpredictability, I don’t blame them for going after the “safe” pick.
Otto Porter was Slam Online’s pick to go #1 overall in their mock draft. Standing 6’9”, 200 lbs, Porter has a wingspan of (7’1”) that matches his high basketball IQ. He does not need the ball to be effective, but is armed with a good jumper in the event that he does get the ball. The problem with Porter is that he does have size, but not much in terms of strength. And despite his height, he isn’t considered very athletic (lacks “leaping ability” per Draft Express). And even though he knows his way around half-court sets, he can’t create offense on his own. But he fits perfectly with the Washington Wizards as a third scoring option behind John Wall and Brad Beal. He won’t be asked to create his own offense as Wall will be sure to give him plenty of open looks. And his length is not just there for aesthetic purposes as he knows how to utilize his wingspan for defense and rebounding. Of the three picks so far, this is, without a doubt in my mind, the best in terms of prospect fitting the best with the team that drafted him.
As much as I thought that Porter was a great fit with his new NBA team, Cody Zeller going to the Charlotte Bobcats was definitely a head-scratcher. Despite his stock plummeting faster than the housing market, I still believe in Zeller’s skills streamlining well in the NBA. Does he lack strength? Yes. Will his defense be hindered by his 6’8” wingspan? Most likely. Does he need to toughen up, stop getting pushed around, and start taking charge when the situation calls him to do so? Absolutely! Will he be able to do that on a dismal Charlotte team? Probably not. After the conclusion of the draft, I could not figure out why the Bobcats would skip on Noel and McLemore to take a chance on Zeller. Perhaps Byron Mullens was not the center they were hoping for? Or maybe they were happy with the current roster as is and didn’t want to disrupt it with the very explosive McLemore or Noel. Whatever the case, Zeller and the Bobcats are stuck with each other for awhile so let’s try to figure out some positives in his game:
• 7-foot, 230-pound center that can run the floor well.
• Has high basketball IQ
• Good passer
• Confident shooter
• Solid in the post
• Advanced offensive game
• “Polished prospect”
In a nutshell, Zeller is a “finesse” player or if you really want to call a spade a spade, Zeller is just too “soft.” Perhaps if he bulks up and gains more confidence in his abilities, this will look like a steal for the Michael Jordan-soon-to-be-Hornets. Remember, at one point, Zeller was considered the top prospect at the beginning of the 2012-13 NBA season. However, that’s a lot of “ifs” to overcome for a player who showed very little progress in showing that toughness that will be needed inside the paint of NBA games. There is a reason why his teammate at Indiana, Oladipo, jumped ahead of him in this draft.
Alex Len, 7’1”, 255 lbs center out of Maryland was thought to be the new #1 prospect in this draft, but obviously that wasn’t the case. Instead, he fell into the hands of the Phoenix Suns. NBAdraft.net compared Len favorably to Jonas Valanciunas and Zydrunas Ilgauskas. What made Len the new #1 as the Draft night approached was his size and the agility that went with it. Plus scouts were impressed with the big man’s ability to rebound (seemingly, with the new evolution in the NBA for big men, a lost art), and potential to improve post-up skills and flourish in the pick and roll game. Because of his size advantage, experts believe that Len will be a contributor on both ends of the floor. Len is also armed with a good jump shot. Unfortunately, Len is a long-term project so the Suns will have to be patient with him. Unlike Zeller, Len’s game is unpolished. There were also concerns about lack of focus on both sides of the ball, especially on defense where he can look lost at times. So it might be awhile until we see Len really make an impact in the NBA.
Very interesting to see two centers go back-to-back in the top 5 of the NBA draft. Centers are a very unpredictable class of players to gauge. Going all the way back to the 2007 NBA Draft, of the 5 players taken in the top 5, only one player would be considered to be an elite player. That player is DeMarcus Cousins (Draft Class of 2010). The other players are:
The Bobcats and the Suns are hoping that they’ve solved their issues at the center position, but recent history is definitely not on their side.
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