2013 NBA Mock Draft: Which Prized Prospect Is Climbing Toward Top Spot?

Jonathan WassermanNBA Lead WriterJanuary 16, 2013

2013 NBA Mock Draft: Which Prized Prospect Is Climbing Toward Top Spot?

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    While Shabazz Muhammad has held the top spot in our 2013 NBA mock draft, there's a new prospect in hot pursuit.

    There has also been some substantial shuffling from picks six to 14, with two unexpected faces making their first trip into the mock lottery.

    Word has begun to spread into NBA circles that this is the year to trade a top pick. Without substantial star power, mid-level prospects are free to move about the cabin and find their way to first class.

30. Brandon Paul: Illinois, 6'4'', SG

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    Notable Stats: 18.1 points per game, 3.1 assists, 41.6 percent shooting, 36.1 percent 3pt

    We saw the ugly side of Brandon Paul this week, who shot 1-of-11 in a loss to Wisconsin and 6-of-17 in a loss to Minnesota.

    He's settling a bit too much on the perimeter as he tries to regain his scoring confidence. He did have one dunk over Trevor Mbakwe that had to send chills down your spine, as he rode the elevator up and threw one down with authority.

    Paul is an NBA-caliber athlete with potent offensive scoring tools, but just needs to improve his shot selection as a threat in the perimeter.

29. Jeff Withey: Kansas, 7'0'', C

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    Notable Stats: 13.1 points per game, 8.2 rebounds per game, 4.7 blocks per game, 54.5 percent shooting

    Jeff Withey didn't have his best week, but that's because of the expectations that come with averaging close to five blocks a night.

    Kansas is winning, and Withey's defensive impact is a major reason.

    Offensively, the most promising developments we've seen focus on his ability to finish with either hand at the rim. It makes him unpredictable in the post as someone who can turn over either shoulder to finish.

    Withey is likely to go in the first round because of the defensive reliability he offers amongst an unreliable pool of talent.

28. Kelly Olynyk: Gonzaga, 7'0'', C

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    Notable Stats: 18.1 points per game, 6.7 rebounds per game, 66.2 percent shooting

    Nobody has an answer for Kelly Olynyk, who went for back-to-back 30-plus point games against Saint Mary's and Santa Clara.

    Olynyk isn't the most electric athlete, but his footwork and instincts allow him to score off counter-moves in the post. He also does a really effective job of ceiling off his defender down low to create easy baskets for himself at the rim.

    Usually seven-footers at the college level can score because they happen to be seven feet tall, but Olynyk is different; he's got a great nose for the rim, which allows him to convert on scoring opportunities that most centers don't get in the first place.

    If he didn't look like a Hanson brother, we might be talking lottery.

27. C.J. Leslie: North Carolina State, 6'8'', SF/PF

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    Notable Stats: 16.2 points per game, 7.3 rebounds per game, 57.9 percent shooting

    C.J. Leslie's 25 points in NC State's stunner over Duke was just what the doctor ordered. He looked like the elite NBA prospect we thought he might be out of high school. Leslie was slippery in the post, spending time above the rim while consistently beating Duke defenders to the spot.

    Leslie also showed the face-up dimension of his game by nailing a mid-range jumper and using the dribble, something that could catapult his draft stock by allowing scouts to see he's capable of managing small forward responsibilities.

    Because of his talent and athleticism, he'll get first-round looks across the board. Whether or not a team decides to pull the trigger will depend on if they believe there's a position for him at the next level.

26. Victor Oladipo: Indiana, 6'4", SG

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    Notable Stats: 13.5 points per game, 5.9 rebounds per game, 2.3 steals per game, 66.9 percent shooting, 50 percent 3pt

    Victor Oladipo has established himself as the most relentless perimeter defender in the country, and it's likely to get him drafted by a team looking for pieces to win now.

    Oladipo's athleticism, long arms, quick feet and non-stop motor are made for locking down scorers and making them uncomfortable.

    And some newly discovered offensive instincts have only strengthened the case for using a first-round pick on the guard from Indiana.

    Someone is bound to fall in love with him and ignore the deficiencies.

25. Tim Hardaway Jr.: Michigan, 6'5'', SG

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    Notable Stats: 16.1 points per game, 5.4 rebounds per game, 46.8 percent shooting, 36.7 percent 3pt

    Offensively, Tim Hardaway Jr. is one of the most advanced perimeter scorers in the country. On the ball, he's able to use his dribble to attack the rim and athleticism to finish above it.

    Hardaway is also an isolation option with the ability to rise off the bounce, create separation and get off an uncontested jumper in his comfort range.

    Off the ball, he's a deadly spot-up shooter with NBA range and has proven capable of slashing, catching and finishing coming off screens. It's becoming a matter of making shots and missing them.

    He's tightened up everything else. He's shooting 46.8 percent from the floor and 36.7 percent from downtown, both acceptable numbers and improvements from his sophomore campaign.

    Hardaway's impressive play has put him on the first-round radar, and has helped Michigan become the powerhouse they are today.

24. Isaiah Canaan: Murray State, 6'0'', PG

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    Notable Stats: 21.9 points per game, 3.9 assists per game, 46.2 percent shooting, 41.3 percent 3pt

    Isaiah Canaan is averaging 26 points over his last three games, scoring at the rim, from the stripe and behind the arc. He's unpredictable off the dribble, with the ability to pull up from 28 feet away or attack the rim.

    Canaan just doesn't have much to work with on the Murray State roster, yet he's still putting up numbers with consistency and efficiency.

    When I look at Isaiah Canaan, I see a Raymond Felton clone and future NBA point guard.

23. Lorenzo Brown: North Carolina State, 6'5'', PG

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    Notable Stats: 13 points per game, 7.1 assists per game, 4.1 rebounds per game, 45.6 percent shooting, 28.1 percent 3pt

    Lorenzo Brown's playmaking abilities are out in full force if you've seen him lately. After putting up 21 points and 10 assists on Iowa, Brown dished out 13 dimes in NC State's win over Duke.

    He's so clever and crafty with the basketball that he opens up seams in the defense, which creates scoring opportunities for teammates.

    NBA evaluators will love his pass-first instincts, along with his size and athleticism to give him a distinct advantage over his defender.

    The only thing separating Brown from the first-tier point guards is a traditional pull-up jumper off the dribble.

22. Doug McDermott: Creighton, 6'7'', SF

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    Notable Stats: 24 points per game, 7.2 rebounds per game, 56.8 percent shooting, 50.7 percent 3pt

    After following up a 39-point, 10-rebound double-double over Missouri State with a 31-point output over Northern Iowa, Doug McDermott is making his move toward National Player of the Year honors.

    You can't make these numbers up. He's scoring at a blazing rate from both inside and outside the arc, despite lacking speed, athleticism and the ability to play above the rim.

    You can teach shooting, but McDermott doesn't need it. What you can't teach is instincts, and that's what McDermott has.

    A team looking for immediate production shouldn't be shy to take McDermott in the late first round. He'll be able to make shots from all over the court from day one in a limited role.

21. Tony Mitchell: North Texas, 6'8'', SF/PF

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    Notable Stats: 14.6 points per game, 9.0 rebounds per game, 2.6 blocks per game, 46.1 percent shooting, 29.3 percent 3pt

    If you're curious as to why Tony Mitchell has fallen so hard in the rankings, see former Arizona Wildcat Derrick Williams.

    He's stuck in between positions—not comfortable enough to play the post and not effective enough off the dribble.

    Mitchell is putting up similar numbers as he was last year, just in a mid-major conference against inferior competition. Prospects usually return to school so they can show scouts the improvement they've made from one year to the next. We just haven't seen anything that Mitchell has added to his game.

20. Alex Poythress: Kentucky, 6'8'', SF

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    Notable Stats: 13.2 points per game, 6.4 rebounds per game, 63.1 percent shooting, 47.4 percent 3pt

    Had there not been word that Alex Poythress was a predetermined one-and-done prospect, I would have said the 2014 draft is a more fitting exit strategy.

    Without much to offer off the dribble, Poythress is limited to catching and finishing, put-back dunks or open spot-up jumpers. He can only go in one direction, and that's straight.

    Without the ability to shake his defender, Poythress struggles to create separation as a shot-creator, which results in ugly shot selection and few scoring opportunities.

    At 6'8'' with excellent mobility, strength and coordination, he's got solid tools as an off-ball contributor. I'm just not sure that justifies lottery consideration at this point in his career.

19. James McAdoo: North Carolina, 6'9'', SF/PF

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    Notable Stats: 14.4 points per game, 8.1 rebound per game, 45.5 percent shooting

    Another week and the same issues for James McAdoo arise. He's putting up similar numbers every game, while making the same mistakes over and over.

    Unless it's an easy dunk or finish, McAdoo is likely to attempt a shot off balance or fading away. It just doesn't make sense when you consider his unique size, mobility and athleticism.

    If you want to look at this from a glass half full point of view, he's at least creating his own shot—something he was unable to do as a freshman. But they're difficult shots, and ones not likely to fly in a pro-style offense.

    He's a high-reward pick outside the lottery, but presents risk as a top-10 option.

18. Jamaal Franklin: San Diego State, 6'5'', SG/SF

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    Notable Stats: 17.8 points per game, 10.3 rebounds per game, 3.5 assists per game ,42.9 percent shooting, 27.8 percent 3pt

    Jamaal Franklin dropped 20 points and grabbed 18 boards in a win over Fresno State and finished with 23 points in an overtime win over Colorado State.

    His freakish athleticism and length allows him to consistently make plays above the rim, which is why it's possible that a 6'5'' wing can be so dominant on the boards.

    Unlike most, the less he tries to create his own shot, the better he comes off. He's still raw as a perimeter scorer, but incredibly effective as an off-ball contributor. Slashing, finishing, defending, rebounding and running are all areas in which Franklin excels, and none of them require him to use his dribble.

    This will be his role at the next level, and though off-ball contributors have limited ceilings, Franklin has the potential to be the best at his craft.

17. Archie Goodwin: Kentucky, 6'5'', SG

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    Notable Stats: 15.2 points per game, 3.6 assists per game, 43.7 percent shooting, 32.4 percent 3pt

    I hate to say a freshman was bad, especially when he's currently one of the better prospects in the country, but it's performances like the one Archie Goodwin put on against Tennessee that will drive his draft stock down.

    He finished 2-of-10 before fouling out, looking completely raw offensively without any sense of direction.

    Goodwin was out of control off the dribble, overusing it and taking it to dead ends on the court. Jimmy Dykes pointed out during the broadcast that Goodwin doesn't know when to use his breaks, which couldn't have been more on point.

    Without much range on his jumper, Goodwin is overly reliant on his explosiveness to attack the rim.

    Against Tennessee, he looked more like a raw athlete playing basketball, as opposed to an athletic basketball player, if that makes any sense.

16. Isaiah Austin: Baylor, 7'0'', PF/C

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    Notable Stats: 14.6 points per game, 8.6 rebounds per game, 51.4 percent shooting, 37.5 percent 3pt

    Isaiah Austin finished with 15 points and 11 rebounds against Kansas, showing off that smooth offensive game from all over the floor.

    However despite consistent scoring and rebounding production, he's not an NBA-ready prospect.

    Austin's slow delivery sometimes offsets his length. It takes him so long to execute a move that it makes his shot easy to contest.

    Developing and mastering some go-to moves inside the arc will be his goal over the next few years so that he's not figuring out what he wants to do on the fly, which ultimately slows down his overall delivery.

    With boatloads of talent and unique physical tools, Austin could end up flying into the top eight or so by June.

    If not, it's because scouts view him more of a perimeter-3 than a frontcourt 4 or 5.

15. Marcus Smart: Oklahoma State, 6'4'', PG/SG

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    Notable Stats: 14 points per game, 5.5 rebound per game, 4.7 assists per game, 2.8 steals per game, 41.3 percent shooting, 29.7 percent 3pt

    Marcus Smart was rather disappointing in loss to rival Oklahoma, finishing with four turnovers, three assists and 3-of-10 shooting from the floor.

    He's taken a step back as a facilitator, failing to rack up at least four assists for the third straight game. His scoring, though, has been up over the past two weeks.

    Scouts looking at Smart won't study his numbers too much; he's a guy whose strengths are in the intangibles he brings to the table.

14. Rudy Gobert: Cholet, 7'2'', PF/C

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    Midseason, Rudy Gobert's draft stock will be dependent on his competitors in America. The worse the American prospects look, the more appealing Gobert becomes.

    Someone has to benefit from a weak draft class. This year, it's likely to be an unproven kid from France with unprecedented measurements of 7'2'' and a 7'9'' wingspan.

13. Glenn Robinson III: Michigan, 6'6'', SF

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    Notable Stats: 12.3 points per game, 5.8 rebounds per game, 59 percent shooting, 39.4 percent 3pt

    This is the first time Glenn Robinson's name has been put on the board, as we're now operating under the assumption he's a one-and-done prospect.

    From a talent perspective, it's a no-brainer—he just might have a better opportunity to showcase his game at Michigan when Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway are playing in the NBA.

    Robinson is an off-ball scorer who can play anywhere in the half court. He's an excellent finisher at the rim, with the ability to explode upward for power or elude defenders in the air.

    On the perimeter, Robinson is limited to spot-up duties. However, he's proven effective with a 39 percent stroke from downtown. While Robinson can score, his game is better suited to complement other scorers, the way Andre Iguodala does from the wing.

    With NBA athleticism, size and two-way promise as a defensive asset, Robinson should garner lottery consideration whether he leaves this year or the next.

12. Willie Cauley-Stein: Kentucky, 7'0'', C

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    Notable Stats: 7.6 points per game, 5.8 rebounds per game, 1.9 blocks per game, 62.1 percent shooting

    Willie Cauley-Stein's leap into the lottery isn't a result of volume production, rather individual plays that stand out throughout a game.

    He's awfully nimble for a guy his size. He can spin, juke and shake with a man on his back in the post. While his offensive repertoire doesn't resemble Patrick Ewing's, he's flexible enough down low where he's able to adjust to the defense and make a move to create separation.

    Cauley-Stein is using both hands to finish, which he does with consistency and efficiency. He's now gone eight straight games without missing more than two shots.

    Heavier production would come with more offensive touches, but that's unlikely to happen in Kentucky's system. Leaving after a year to develop in the pros should be the move for Cauley-Stein, whose draft stock gets a boost in a down year of prospects.

11. Michael Carter-Williams: Syracuse, 6'6'', PG

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    Notable Stats: 11.9 points per game, 9.4 assists per game, 4.9 rebounds per game, 36.9 percent shooting, 27.1 percent 3pt

    Michael Carter-Williams had another shooting day that makes you scratch your head. He finished 3-of-12 from the floor in a win over Villanova, taking tough shots in traffic that just seemed forced or off balance.

    However, he was awesome against Providence a few nights before, finishing with 17 points, six assists, six boards and five steals.

    Throwing up a dud offensively once every few games won't destroy his draft stock, though it's possible he loses some fans with his occasional questionable decision-making.

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

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    Notable Stats: 23.9 points per game, 5 rebounds per game, 2.9 assists per game, 49.5 percent shooting, 51.6 percent 3pt

    The broken foot that's likely to sideline C.J. McCollum for the season could end up being a blessing in disguise for his draft stock.

    Scouts watching McCollum have seen what he does well. The only thing left for them to do is to pick out his flaws and note what needs to be fixed.

    Fortunately for McCollum (if there's anything fortunate about a season-ending injury), it's impossible to be exposed wearing street clothes from the bench.

    McCollum's draft stock will remain the steady until pre-draft festivities.

9. Trey Burke: Michigan, 6'0'', PG

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    Notable Stats: 18 points per game, 7.1 assists per game, 52 percent shooting, 39.2 percent 3pt

    Trey Burke was due for an off game. No big deal. He finished with 15 points on just 4-of-13, with four assists and four turnovers in a loss to Ohio State.

    What he's done this year allows for games like these, although not too many against conference rivals.

    He and Michael Carter-Williams are neck and neck for the honors of top pure point guard in the land. Burke has solidified his position as a first-rounder and has the potential to be the first point man off the board in June.

8. Mason Plumlee: Duke, 7'0'', C

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    Notable Stats: 17.5 points per game, 11.4 rebounds per game, 1.6 blocks per game, 62.1 percent shooting

    Mason Plumlee played all 40 minutes against NC State, finishing with 15 points, 11 boards, two blocks and four steals.

    There aren't many players at the college level who can contain Plumlee at this point. His shot has proven impossible to contest when he's gained position inside, and with the ability to play 12 feet in the air, easy scoring opportunities are available on the regular.

    Plumlee is likely to float around the mid-lottery for the rest of the year. However, there's a lot better chance of him shooting up the board than free-falling down.

7. Otto Porter: Georgetown, 6'8'', SF

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    Notable Stats: 13.3 points per game, 7.7 rebounds per game, 48.5 percent shooting, 39.3 percent 3pt, 2 steals per game

    Otto Porter followed up a couple off-games with a dominant 19-point, 14-rebound effort in a blowout over St. John's.

    It was much needed on a personal and team level, as Georgetown can't afford Porter's presence to fade throughout a game.

    He's at his best when his motor is turned up, making plays off cuts, line drives, put-backs and finishes, all without using more than one or two dribbles.

    Porter is another one of those guys who brings reliability to a lineup, and it's likely to get him drafted higher than his offensive talent level suggests.

6. Alex Len: Maryland, 7'1'', C

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    Notable Stats: 13.8 points per game, 8.3 rebounds per game, 2.2 blocks per game, 55.6 percent shooting

    Alex Len is coming off this third game in a row with at least 15 points and nine rebounds.

    He's pretty much a constant, assuming Maryland makes an effort to get him the ball in the post. With his size, length, athleticism and skills, there isn't a single player in college capable of denying him one-on-one.

    This draft is shaping up to be unpredictable and without much predetermined structure. Because nobody really stands out as "the guy," Len has as good of shot as anyone to be the Dion Waiters of 2012 and rise into the top five out of nowhere.

5. Anthony Bennett: UNLV, 6'7'', SF/PF

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    Notable Stats: 19.6 points per game, 9.3 rebounds per game, 56.4 percent shooting, 41.2 percent 3pt

    Anthony Bennett was dominant in an overtime win over Air Force, finishing with 22 points on 9-of-16 shooting and 16 boards,

    He stepped up and nailed two three-pointers within the first five minutes of the game, illustrating his perimeter talent and versatility as an offensive-oriented combo-forward.

    He got into foul trouble in the previous game against a tough New Mexico team, but his top-five upside has already been flashed.

    It gives Bennett some margin for error moving forward, with scouts and evaluators already getting a glimpse of his high potential down the road.

4. Cody Zeller: Indiana, 6'11'', C

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    Notable Stats: 16.9 points per game, 7.9 rebounds per game, 1.4 blocks per game, 63.1 percent shooting

    Cody Zeller holds down the four spot, playing top-five basketball without illustrating any top-three characteristics.

    In Indiana's loss to Wisconsin, Zeller was efficient and productive (23 points, 10 rebounds) as he normally is when given the ball inside. The problem was his disappearing act during a crucial time in the second half, when the Badgers took the lead and the Hoosiers needed a bucket.

    For a guy with his size, athleticism and talent, you just don't see that killer instinct in Zeller shown by most dominant interior scorers.

    We are tough on Zeller because of just how talented he is, but talent alone won't justify a top draft pick when a franchise's future could potentially depend on the reward.

3. Nerlens Noel: Kentucky, 6'11'', C

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    Notable Stats: 10.9 points per game, 9.3 rebounds per game, 3.9 blocks per game, 58.5 percent shooting

    Nerlens Noel has gotten the boot from the No. 2 spot on the board, although not because he's misbehaved as an NBA prospect.

    Noel is actually living up to the hype as a defensive star and exceeding expectations as an offensive threat. Over the past three games, he's averaging 13.3 points, 9.0 rebounds and 5.3 blocked shots.

    His timing as a rim protector is second to none. Noel gets a good amount of his swats as an off-ball defender, sneaking behind the on-ball player to rise up and send shots in a different direction. He's blocking guards at the high post and forwards on the low block.

    He's a true defensive game-changer, the only one in the 2013 draft class.

    The difference between the No. 2 and No. 3 spot really depends on which team occupies it. Anyone looking for a defensive presence inside is likely to target Noel within the top three picks.

2. Ben McLemore: Kansas, 6'5'', SG

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    Notable Stats: 16.4 points per game, 5.4 rebounds per game, 50.3 percent shooting, 43.5 percent 3pt

    Ben McLemore has soared up to No. 2 in our latest 2013 NBA mock draft, after putting on a prime-time clinic in a nationally televised overtime win over Iowa State.

    It was a masterful performance—one that included 33 points on 6-of-6 from downtown and only two misses combined between 12 field-goal attempts and seven from the stripe. Even his misses were going in—he banked in a deep three to send the game into overtime in the final seconds of regulation.

    McLemore has leapfrogged Nerlens Noel because of the reliability he presents as a draft pick—whereas Noel offers some risk, particularly on the offensive side of the ball. McLemore has the chance at becoming an All-World shooter, showing textbook balance, elevation and minimal wasted motion. With world-class athleticism and ideal size for a scoring guard, he's electric in the open floor and decisive attacking the rim.

    If the team selecting in the No. 2 spot is in pursuit of offensive services, McLemore should be favored as a no-risk, high-reward option at the off-guard slot.

1. Shabazz Muhammad: UCLA, 6'6'', SG/SF

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    Notable Stats: 18.2 points per game, 4.9 rebounds per game, 46.3 percent shooting, 45 percent 3pt

    This wasn't Shabazz Muhammad's best week in terms of individual play, but his team won two tough road games at Utah and Colorado, and there's no reason to bump him out of the top spot.

    His six-point effort against Utah was only the second game all year he's failed to record at least five made field goals.

    Still the most potent scoring wing in the country, Muhammad continues to show off as a five-tool offensive player. He can spot up or pull up, slash off the ball, score off one foot in the lane or finish in the post. He's one of two or three prospects in the draft pool with a skill set capable of handling primary or secondary scoring responsibilities once he reaches the next level.