UNLV Running Rebels freshman Anthony Bennett has looked like one of the nation's best players all season. With no real consensus No. 1 pick, it is not out of the realm of possibility that he could ascend to that level.
I've included him as a small forward, but because of his strength, he could be an undersized power forward as well.
Currently, NBADraft.net has Bennett listed as No. 5 in its latest mock draft.
The Charlotte Bobcats have the league's worst record right now, but that, of course, doesn't assure them of the top pick in the draft. If you view Bennett as a small forward, it doesn't seem logical that they would select him, having chosen Michael Kidd-Gilchrist with the No. 2 selection in 2012.
In any case, it is almost impossible for me to see a scenario where Bennett is around after the top five—barring some unforeseen future developments.
Here is a graded analysis of Bennett and a breakdown of the other top small forward prospects in the June draft.
Shooting Grade: B+
Looking at Bennett's frame, you wouldn't necessarily expect him to be effective from a distance, but he has a nice stroke. He isn't automatic at 34 percent from the three-point range, but his shot should improve as his career progresses.
He also shows the ability to shoot from the mid-range, as he likes to operate out of the triple-threat position. He's making just under 54 percent of his shots from the field.
At the free-throw line, he makes an acceptable 70 percent of his attempts. As a player that thrives going to the basket, and a potential high-volume shooter, he could raise his scoring numbers significantly if he could get that number up to 75 or 80 percent.
His potential as a scorer is perhaps the most exciting part of Bennett's game. He is putting in 18.2 points per game this season.
This is an area that Bennett can improve. He rarely looks to set up his teammates and doesn't throw especially effective passes when he does give up the rock.
Per StatSheet.com, Bennett has assisted on just 9.6 percent of his opportunities. This could be a product of being the unquestioned No. 1 scoring option, but undoubtedly he needs to work on this aspect of his game.
Bennett can get his own shot off jab steps and hard drives to the rim, but his turnovers are a bit high. He turns the ball over 15 percent of his possessions, so he needs to do a better job of handling the rock. At only 19 years old, this isn't unfixable, but it is still worth noting.
Bennett has the length, strength and athleticism to be a good defender, but at this point in his career, he isn't interested on that end of the floor.
He loses his assignment at times and doesn't always appear to give the best effort. I didn't grade him a D in this category because he has been playing power forward at UNLV, and I don't think that will be his position in the NBA.
Secondly, I've seen flashes where his physical gifts excite you about his prospects as a defender. He is averaging 1.6 blocked shots per game as a freshman.
He just needs to be more consistent in this area.
He is very explosive around the rim and in the open court. He has surprising hops for a thicker-built kid, and his long arms make him even more devastating at the rim.
He's strong enough to overpower many small forwards, which is part of the reason I think he fits better at that position in the NBA.
Per NBADraft.net, Bennett was measured at 6'7" in shoes with a 7'1" wingspan, which is big enough for small forward, but undersized for the 4 position. This is yet another reason I classified him as a small forward.
At 230 pounds, he has an NBA body already, and it should allow him to be a better-than-average rebounder for his position. He's pulling down 8.6 rebounds per game for the Running Rebels.
It is a little concerning when you see a player give poor effort on defense, as that makes up a great percentage of what it takes to be effective in that regard. A positive sign, however, is the consistency Bennett has shown throughout his freshman season.
He has only been out of double figures in scoring twice this season. I assume he will continue to get better, but I'm not sure he'll ever be plugged in defensively.
As an offensive force, and potential No. 1 scoring option, Bennett has significant upside. He has the skills and athleticism to be a 20-point, eight-rebound guy on a nightly basis in the NBA.
If he ever takes his defense seriously, he could be truly special. Hopefully, a team doesn't try to make him play power forward. That would be limiting his effectiveness, unless the team is attempting to go small in stretches.
Immediate Impact: A
Bennett could challenge just about anyone in the draft class for Rookie of the Year. He's ready to score and rebound well in the NBA right now.
He won't be as bullish around the rim as he is in college, but his ability to drive and shoot the jump shot will serve him well.
Bennett's strength and athletic ability is reminiscent of another former Running Rebel, Larry Johnson. Both are 6'7" and their games were/are highlighted by their ability to overpower smaller forwards and blow by slower defenders.
Both could/can finish at the rim with force and agility.
Johnson was a better passer and playmaker, though.
Before his back became an issue, Johnson was one of the most dynamic scoring and rebounding forwards in the NBA from 1991 to 1996.
FWIW: Multiple NBA scouts have told me the only guys they'd even consider for the top spot are Anthony Bennett, Ben McLemore & Nerlens Noel.— Gary Parrish (@GaryParrishCBS) February 11, 2013
Bennett's Overall Grade: B+
I may get some flack for calling Muhammad a small forward, but his weaknesses make this a better place for him; more on those a little later.
As far as pure scoring ability, he is the top prospect in the draft. He is almost assuredly going to be a 20-points-per-game scorer at the next level. He can shoot from distance well enough to keep defenders honest—and he's improving in that area.
The freshman has connected on 42.9 percent of his three-point attempts and 46 percent of his shots overall.
He's a physical player and makes just under 73 percent of his free throws. Because of his strength and touch, he can be effective in the post, as well as on the perimeter.
This guy has some undeniable qualities, and he could be one of the most polarizing athletes in the NBA over the next few years—depending on which team he lands with.
Of all his qualities, perhaps the one that stands out most is his desire to be great. If you think by default that every kid wants to be great, you're wrong. Many are happy just being good, Muhammad is not one of those guys.
This is actually a double-edged sword for the freshman, as it makes him come off as selfish to some. His drive to be special will hopefully serve him well when all is said and done.
While I believe in Muhammad as player, some of his actions support the selfish label. His behavior after Larry Drew II took and made the game-winning bucket against Washington on Feb. 7 is one example.
However, this is something that can be cleared up with maturity and good coaching. After all, he is just 19 years old.
As far as skills, Muhammad is not a great ball-handler, and he is a good—but not exceptional—athlete. These two traits make him better suited for the 3 position than the 2.
UCLA's Shabazz Muhammad ranks 2nd in scoring among Pac-12 players (18.5 ppg). Muhammad is No. 37 in scoring, nationally.— UCLA Basketball (@UCLAMBB) February 11, 2013
NBA Comparison: Smaller Glenn Robinson "Big Dog"
Overall Grade: B
Otto Porter: 6'9", 205 pounds, Georgetown—Sophomore
Porter is long, smart and he does many of the little things very well.
He doesn't take bad shots and has the potential to be a statsheet stuffer. His current averages support that thought: 15.3 points, 7.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.9 steals and one block per game.
He isn't an excellent run-and-jump athlete, which is peculiar because uber-athleticism generally goes with a player that has his frame.
In addition to his moderate athleticism, he doesn't have the ball-handling skills to get his own shot, and he has a less-than-ideal shooting form.
NBA Comparison: Less Athletic Shawn Marion
Overall Grade: B
Glenn Robinson III: 6'6", 215 pounds, Michigan—Freshman
On skill set alone, GRIII is the most talented player on a very gifted Michigan Wolverines roster, but he plays a secondary role.
That can be taken one of two ways.
He's either comfortable not being the lead guy, or he is unselfish. Too much of either could be a bad thing for a guy with the talent to be selected in the lottery. His game is smooth, and he's an explosive athlete. He can shoot it from deep and explode to finish above the rim.
If he were more assertive, he'd be averaging more than 10.8 points per game and possibly in the conversation for the top pick in the draft.
Once the NCAA tournament rolls around, he has a great opportunity to significantly improve his draft stock.
Glenn Robinson III is Michigan's X-Factor. Wolverines need him to score on the road. Only 6 points combined at IU and Wisconsin.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) February 11, 2013
NBA Player Comparison—Less Assertive, but More Athletic Brandon Roy
Overall Grade: B
Dario Saric: 6'10", 225 pounds, Croatia—18 years old
I've been watching footage of Saric for awhile now, and I'm impressed with his basketball instincts, ball-handling, confidence and shooting range.
He has the tools to be a very good offensive player. He isn't especially quick, but armed with the skills of a much smaller player, he can make up for what he lacks in athleticism.
Saric is so young, and he hasn't played against top competition enough to be positive about how his game will translate, but he's one to keep an eye on.
He has a four-year deal with his current club (per Sportando.com), so the team that drafts him may have to wait until 2014 for him to arrive, but he could be worth the wait.
NBA Player Comparison—Toni Kukoc
Overall Grade: B
Doug McDermott: 6'8", 225 pounds, Creighton— Junior
McDermott can fill it up.
He has a great touch around the basket and range that extends beyond the NBA three-pointer. McDermott makes 55 percent of his shots from the field, 48 percent from three and 86 percent from the free-throw line.
He has exploded in college this season and as a sophomore. He improved his already impressive scoring average from 22.9 last season to 23.3 this year.
Athleticism isn't a strong suit, though. Many of the shots he gets off in college won't be as easy in the NBA. He struggles with the type of long, athletic defenders he'll see on a nightly basis as a professional.
In the NBA, he'll be a deadly spot-up shooter that gives great effort in every aspect of the game.
NBA Player Comparison—Mike Miller in his prime, but a little less athletic
Overall Grade: B
James Michael McAdoo: 6'9", 230 pounds, North Carolina— Sophomore
McAdoo is physically very impressive. He's a legit 6'9" and very strong. It serves him well as a defender on the perimeter and even in the post. McAdoo may ultimately be better off as a power forward.
The sophomore gets his hands on the ball in the passing lanes and in on-ball defense regularly.
Offensively, he is very raw and doesn't offer much except open-court finishing ability and put-backs. I have doubts that he'll ever develop a touch that expands his offensive game.
NBA Player Comparison—Metta World Peace without the offense and character concerns
Overall Grade: B-
Alex Poythress: 6'7", 230 pounds, Kentucky— Freshman
I love Poythress as an athlete. He's strong, athletic and very aggressive around the basket. His perimeter game is a bit suspect, though.
He has made 41 percent of his three-point attempts, but his form isn't ideal and that range may not extend to the NBA three. The release of the shot is also a bit slow and telegraphed.
At this point, he's better suited as a cutter or player that makes his living roaming the baseline for a penetrating guard or double-teamed big man. If he stayed another year, he could work on his game a bit, but there are a few holes.
NBA Player Comparison—Ronnie Brewer
Overall Grade: B-