High-Profile NBA Draft Prospects Exceeding Expectations

Jonathan WassermanNBA Lead WriterDecember 11, 2012

High-Profile NBA Draft Prospects Exceeding Expectations

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    Usually with high expectations come major disappointments.

    Not with these college basketball studs. They have come out firing to start the year despite facing enormous expectations.

    Without anyone standing out as the clear-cut star of next year's NBA draft, any one of these prospects has a chance at generating legitimate top-five consideration.

Ben McLemore, Kansas, 6'5'' SG

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    We knew coming in that redshirt freshman Ben McLemore had talent and athleticism, but we weren't sure how it would translate. It turns out McLemore might just be the top shooting guard prospect in the country, as he's illustrated a number of NBA tools in just eight games for Kansas.

    He's averaging 16 points; however, his draft stock won't depend on his college statistics.

    McLemore's 31 percent three-point mark is not an accurate portrayal of how his jumper projects. With picturesque mechanics and a fluid delivery, he'll be used as a spot-up target and long-range threat and should only improve with more reps from behind the arc.

    Attacking the rim, McLemore is nearly a lock for two points with explosive hops and strength as a finisher.

    Originally thought of as a potential mid-first rounder or two-year collegiate athlete, McLemore looks like he might be the Bradley Beal of this year's draft. Teams will throw out his percentages in a methodical offense and focus on his upside as a starting-caliber off-guard.

Alex Len, Maryland, 7'1'' Center

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    Alex Len flashed his lottery upside in limited minutes as a freshman, with the expectations that his role would increase, and so would his production.

    He's more than doubled his scoring average to 13.9 points and has raised his rebounding numbers from 5.4 to 8.7 per game.

    Len has quickly gone from raw to seasoned, improving his offensive skills to the point where he's a trusted go-to option.

    He wasn't supposed to turn the corner like this yet. The idea that Len has started to figure it out this early diminishes the risk that's associated with taking underdeveloped big men.

Michael Carter-Williams, Syracuse, 6'5'' PG

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    Big expectations were placed on Michael Carter-Williams this year, especially considering he only played 10 minutes a night as a freshman last season.

    Through eight games as a sophomore, Carter-Williams leads the country in assists at 10.4 a game. He's consistently able to make a play using his smarts and athleticism to manipulate the defense and vision and length to execute as a facilitator. 

    Carter-Williams is coming off a 26-minute, 16-assist gem against Monmouth, doing whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted.

    He was considered a questionable first-rounder before the year with nobody knowing what his true position would be. We know now.

    Carter-Williams could end up as a top-10 pick and the first point guard taken off the board.

C.J. McCollum, Lehigh, 6'3'' PG

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    C.J. McCollum introduced himself last year to the national audience after dropping 30 points on Duke and knocking them out of the NCAA tournament.

    With the bar set unusually high for a mid-major guard, McCollum has quickly exceed expectations early in his senior year.

    He's averaging 24.9 points a game on 51 percent from the floor, up from the 21 points and 44 percent he averaged last year. McCollum has scored at least 30 points three times, displaying the consistent takeover ability that separates him from other scoring guards.

    He's already shaking off skeptics who are hesitant to place mid-major prospects in their top 10. McCollum is a likely candidate to be the 2013 Damian Lillard.

Mason Plumlee, Duke, 7'0'' Center

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    Mason Plumlee's role was bound to increase, but nobody saw the production that would come with it.

    He's playing five more minutes a game and is averaging eight more points and two more boards. Plumlee has miraculously increased his free-throw percentage from 52 percent to 73 percent despite taking 3.5 more attempts per game.

    The 7-footer went from one-dimensional to multidimensional over an offseason and has positioned himself to present teams with an NBA-ready skill set and a long-term frontcourt option.

    Plumlee was pegged as a mid-to-late first-rounder to start the year but is now widely considered a legitimate lottery prospect.

    He's averaging 19 points, 11 rebounds and 1.7 blocks on 61 percent from the floor and is one of the pleasant surprises in all of college basketball.

Anthony Bennett- UNLV, 6'8'' PF

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    Anthony Bennett was a high-profile recruit for UNLV and has quickly become a high-profile draft prospect for the NBA.

    He's been hands down the most productive freshman in the country, averaging 19.5 points and 8.3 rebounds a game. With a strong, muscular body, contact bounces off him instead of the other way around.

    Down low, he uses his strength to gain position and touch to finish. He has shown glimpses of a jump shot that would really add to his game.

    He's converting in the paint at an extremely high rate, a quality that's likely to translate to the NBA given his physical tools.

    Some question whether he's undersized to play the 4 at the next level, but that one inch won't be a difference-maker. Bennett will let his production speak for itself, and it has so far in his young college career.