The team that picks first in the 2013 NBA draft will be searching for franchise-altering talent and a long-term building block. For the most part, we've heard the same few names appear as the potential No. 1's in June.
But let's explore some of the dark horses who are in the running. These prospects have all been recognized as some of the best in the country, and they could be viewed as potential No. 1 picks, given a particular team's needs.
Ben McLemore, Kansas, SG, Freshman, 6'5'', 195 pounds
Player Comparison: Ray Allen
Notable Stats: 16.1 points per game, 50.7 percent shooting, 45.1 percent three-point shooting
The Charlotte Bobcats and Phoenix Suns can use anything that resembles offensive certainty, and Ben McLemore is a guaranteed product. Cleveland could take him and push Dion Waiters into his natural role off the bench. Washington, Orlando and New Orleans need help elsewhere, so if any of those teams get the top pick, they're not picking McLemore.
McLemore is the favorite of the dark horses because of the safety he presents as a draft pick. He's an elite shooter with the size and athleticism to operate without any restrictions. He elevates high off the ground with consistent mechanics, making it difficult to contest his shot on the perimeter.
With ideal physical tools for an off-guard and a shooting stroke of champions, McLemore offers minimal risk whether he goes No. 1 or No. 10.
With the ability to shoot, slash and finish in the half court, as well as defend the perimeter, McLemore is a safe bet to make an impact one way or the other.
McLemore has visibly improved his off-the-dribble game, and it's made him a more versatile offensive threat. While he's not an adept shot-creator on the perimeter, he's doing a better job of changing directions and finishing on the move.
Ray Allen never needed the dribble to create open looks for himself, and neither does McLemore. The Kansas star has the potential to excel in every category that made Allen so great.
A team looking for offense might be inclined to take McLemore if it isn't sold on Muhammad, Noel or Zeller.
Below are highlights from McLemore's 33-point game against Iowa State, which introduced him into the No. 1 overall conversation.
Anthony Bennett, UNLV, SF/PF, Freshman, 6'8'', 240 pounds
Player Comparison: Larry Johnson
Notable Stats: 18.1 points per game, 8.6 rebounds per game, 54.9 percent shooting, 37.7 percent three-point shooting
Everyone is a potential suitor. None of the teams bound for the top of the lottery are getting substantial contributions from the 3 and 4 positions, and Bennett can handle both.
Anthony Bennett is one of the most explosive players in the country and can be counted on to make at least one play a game that triggers you to rise out of your seat.
He's one of the few prospects in the draft pool that offers star power, because his ferocious style of play can liven an arena.
Bennett is a natural power forward, but his foot speed and mobility allow him to occupy the 3 spot. He has a deceivingly quick first step off the dribble that's deadly enough to beat forwards of any kind on the perimeter.
No single play illustrates Bennett's versatility better than this one against Cal, when he stole the ball and went coast-to-coast for the finish:
As a 3, Bennett can spot up from downtown or take a runner on the move. With the power of a 4, he's capable of stuffing the ball down the throats of rim protectors. And with 8.6 rebounds a game, he clearly plays physically enough to rip down boards and bang inside.
Bennett can also pose a threat in the post with the agility to face up and attack the rim.
He may not project as a 20-plus-point scorer at the NBA level, but teams looking for electricity in the frontcourt might fall in love with Bennett's motor and skill set.
Take a look at each point he scored against Cal , when he dropped 25 in a one-point win.
Alex Len, Maryland, C, Sophomore, 7'1'', 255 pounds
Player Comparison: Jonas Valanciunas
Notable Stats: 12.8 points per game, 8.1 rebounds per game, 1.9 blocks per game, 53.6 percent shooting
The Charlotte Bobcats and the Washington Wizards would be the two most likely to reach for Alex Len. Both lack any offensive promise at the center position, so they could use this draft to steal a long-term 7'1'' scorer.
On the surface, Alex Len may not look like a No. 1 overall prospect, but future upside might outweigh his current skill set.
At 7'1'' with a monstrous wingspan, you don't need an analyst to tell you that his ceiling is high, both literally and figuratively. You won't find many players who can contest his shot at the rim, which means if he starts getting them off consistently, he would become a dangerous offensive weapon.
He's got a developing post game, with the ability to turn over either shoulder or square up and face the hoop. Len is a lot more effective with room to operate, which he should have at the next level thanks to better surrounding shooters and a deeper three-point line.
On the other side of the ball, he's capable of eating space in the paint and thoroughly protecting the basket. Just by standing still with his hands up, Len is posing as a roadblock for penetrating guards.
Compared to Cody Zeller, he's less polished and more physical. But while you can improve an offensive skill set over time, it's tough to change the makeup of a finesse scorer like Zeller.
Len's stock soared after putting up 23 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks against Nerlens Noel opening night. Check out the highlights that boosted Len's draft status:
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