Ranking the Most NBA-Ready College Basketball Stars
Some prospects are projects, while others are short-term solutions.
The guys ready to contribute immediately at the pro level generally stand out in college, both physically and fundamentally.
With no sign of many franchise cornerstones in the 2013 draft class, NBA-ready players might see their draft stocks get a boost.
Here are eight college hoops stars who are poised to make an immediate impact in the NBA.
8. C.J. McCollum, Lehigh
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
C.J. McCollum is a great basketball player right now, and that tends to translate to quicker success.
The inferior college competition shouldn't change the fact that McCollum can flat-out score, and with a legit NBA-body, a lights-out three-ball and the ability to create offense off the dribble, there's no reason this type of talent can't translate.
The adjustment hasn't seemed to hurt former mid-major guard Damian Lillard, who looks like a lock for the NBA's Rookie of the Year award.
If McCollum is taken by a team with minutes to spare, he should be an impact rookie in 2013.
7. Otto Porter, Georgetown
Otto Porter's maturity and ability to contribute in every facet of the game should allow him to quickly excel in an NBA rotation.
He won't come in and start dropping 20 a night, but he'll have the opportunity to earn substantial minutes in his rookie season.
His mid-range jumper, length, passing, interior activity and overall motor are all strengths that a coach would happily plug into a lineup. Porter's complementary skill-set should only be even more effective playing alongside better players.
6. LeBryan Nash, Oklahoma State
Chris Trotman/Getty Images
LeBryan Nash recently said he wants to lead the NCAA in free-throw attempts, which must have been music to the ears of NBA evaluators.
There's no debating what Nash's job will be at the next level. Whether he reaches his ceiling as a No. 2 scoring option or ends up as a reserve, putting points on the board is what this kid does.
Knowing how to get to the line is an art that usually takes years for NBA players to master. Through six games so far, he's making seven free throws a night. If his jumper comes around, it will only make his attack-game more potent.
5. Cody Zeller, Indiana
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Cody Zeller's offensive skill set is NBA-ready, which combined with a mobile, seven-foot frame, will allow him to get off the shot he wants whenever he's featured.
With natural post-players becoming a rare commodity, there will be a number of teams in the market for Zeller's services. He should get scoring opportunities from day one, as his presence alone in the post should provide better spacing for an offense.
He's not higher on the list for two reasons, one being we haven't seen him do the elbow jumper that has such a big role in the NBA game, and the other is his lack of strength.
But as a basketball player, he'll immediately become one of the most skilled big-men in the game the moment he enters the league.
4. Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State
Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports
Marcus Smart just has a veteran presence about him, the way other young prospects like Robert Griffin III and Mike Trout do in football and baseball.
In terms of basketball, he's physically good to go tomorrow. He'll enter the league as a physical mismatch to a number of NBA point guards.
But what should allow him to thrive faster than others is his basketball IQ, team-first attitude and complete all-around skill set.
Smart's ability to read a situation and execute the appropriate play just isn't something that can always be picked up. Some guys just have the instincts to go with the skills that allow them to excel at any level.
Marcus Smart is one of those guys.
3. Mason Plumlee, Duke
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Mason Plumlee will enter the NBA as one of the most athletic seven-footers in the game. Even with minimal offensive skills, Plumlee will find ways to contribute as an above-the-rim, off-ball playmaker.
The fact that he has become a more polished post-scorer only increases the chances of early productivity.
If Plumlee lands in the right situation where he can get minutes right away, then numbers will come with it.
With a better point guard, which he'll have in the NBA, Plumlee will be the recipient of even more alley-oops and finishes at the rim.
His physical tools will allow him to contribute even during the adjustment process, and should give an under-the-rim front-court some life down low.
2. Ben McLemore, Kansas
John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports
Ben McLemore looks primed for a breakout rookie season in the NBA.
He's scoring on limited opportunities at Kansas, making the most of every touch he gets in the offense.
Where he's more advanced than most young prospects is from behind the arc. Playing off the ball, he'll get plenty of scoring chances as a spot-up shooter, which is an area he should excel in at the next level.
Physically, everything about him screams NBA shooting guard. He's an elite athlete who can slash off the ball and finish emphatically at the rim.
The idea that he doesn't need the ball will give him more opportunities for minutes. There just aren't many question marks about what he brings to the table.
If Bradley Beal can go number three in 2012, there's no reason McLemore can't do the same in 2013.
1. Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA
Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports
UCLA's three losses shouldn't reflect on Shabazz Muhammad as an NBA prospect, who seems to be held back by the frustratingly slow and patient college pace.
Muhammad should be ready to go right away upon his entry into the league, where his physical tools alone will allow him to contribute on the scoreboard regardless if his jumper is falling.
He's built to comfortably play both the two and the three, with the size, length, strength and athleticism to man either wing position. With more freedom to operate, Muhammad should get extra opportunities to create offense for himself in the half-court and transition.
At his best attacking the rim, Muhammad shouldn't have any problem with contact or an upgrade in interior defense. He can use power when given the opportunity and finesse when necessary, which should help him overcome any obstacles he encounters on his path to the basket.
There's no reason he can't average 14 points as a rookie in a setting more fitting to his overall game.