NBA Draft 2013: Prospects with Most Tantalizing Star Potential
With the 2012-13 NCAA regular season entering its final stretch, the world is preparing for stars to be made. Before we become prisoners of the moment, however, it is imperative that we acknowledge where prospects presently stand—not where the NCAA tournament takes them.
More specifically, which prospects possess the most tantalizing star potential?
Some prospects have star written all over them but warrant a reason for concern. Others have a low basement, but such an extraordinarily high ceiling that they could be worth the risk.
One way or another, these players will garner interest from teams for their undeniable upside.
As for those left off of this list, it is not an indictment of their abilities being inferior. Instead, this list has been designed to outline the true stars of the 2013 NBA draft class.
So who are the most intriguing star prospects?
Isaiah Austin, Baylor Bears
Position: Power Forward
Height, Weight, Wingspan: 7'0", 215 pounds, 7'3.5" wingspan
2012-13 Season Averages: 19.70 PER, 13.7 PPG, 8.9 RPG, 1.0 APG, 1.5 BPG, 32.1% 3PT
If we're talking about intrigue, how can we not touch on a 7'0" power forward with a quality three-point shot and elite athleticism?
Isaiah Austin may not be leading Baylor to significant success, but he's placing his upside on full display. He has 10 double-doubles to date and has proved capable of playing along the interior and perimeter.
Although Austin can be classified as a project player, we may have never seen a 7'0" player with such extraordinary athleticism.
If we have, it's unlikely that they've possessed a strong enough three-point shot to hit 32.1 percent from distance as a power forward.
Whether or not Austin maximizes his potential depends heavily upon his ability to add muscle to his thin frame.
Upon doing so, Austin could be a once in a generation type of player.
Anthony Bennett, UNLV Rebels
Position: Power Forward
Height, Weight, Wingspan: 6'8", 240 pounds, 7'1" wingspan
2012-13 Season Averages: 28.48 PER, 16.4 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 1.0 APG, 1.2 BPG, 36.7% 3PT
In a previous generation, I would have labeled Anthony Bennett as a player without a position in the NBA.
In an era of small ball and stretch 4's, however, Bennett has legitimate star potential. A combination of power, athleticism and shooting range is the reason why.
At 6'8" and 240 pounds, Bennett is more than capable of pounding it down low. As a 36.7 percent three-point shooter, he's also proficient at stepping back and draining a jump shot.
The question is, can Bennett actually reach the level of stardom that his potential suggests?
In today's NBA, Bennett is an All-Star caliber talent. He can space the floor, pound it inside, run in transition and crash the glass.
Bennett could be a more complete offensive version of Josh Smith.
As for those concerned with his athleticism, don't let appearances deceive you. This big man can leap out of the building.
A true joy to watch and study.
Trey Burke, Michigan Wolverines
Position: Point Guard
Height, Weight, Wingspan: 6'0", 190 pounds, 6'5" wingspan
2012-13 Season Averages: 30.27 PER, 18.9 PPG, 6.9 APG, 3.1 RPG, 1.6 SPG, 38.5% 3PT
Trey Burke has displayed every single trait as a college player at Michigan as Chris Paul did at Wake Forest.
Burke is a superb passer with outstanding court vision. Not only is he accurate and crisp with his passes, but he knows what type of pass to make against every form of defense.
Perhaps most impressive of all, he's becoming increasingly more accurate with his bounce pass in transition—a staple of the NBA's up-tempo revolution.
Furthermore, Burke is an outstanding jump shooter. He's consistently converting field-goal attempts from mid-range and has displayed range beyond the three-point line.
Burke is currently shooting 38.5 percent from beyond the arc.
To cap it off, Burke is a significantly improved perimeter defender and a dangerous ball hawk.
With all of this being known, Burke is one of the safest prospects in this draft class.
At worst, he's a Jarrett Jack type of player, as he contributes big numbers off of the bench. At best, he's a potential superstar at the NBA's most in-demand position.
The interest is growing as Michael Carter-Williams cools down and Trey Burke makes his push for Big Ten Player of the Year.
Erick Green, Virginia Tech Hokies
Position: Point Guard
Height, Weight, Wingspan: 6'3", 185 pounds, 6'6" wingspan
2012-13 Season Averages: 32.04 PER, 25.0 PPG, 4.0 APG, 4.0 RPG, 1.3 SPG, 38.8% 3PT
If you're looking for this year's Damian Lillard, search no further than Erick Green of the Virginia Tech Hokies.
Virginia Tech's less than desirable team season has put a damper on Green's individual achievements—an unfortunate truth.
Green currently leads the nation at 25.0 points per game. He's putting up those numbers on a slash line of .480/.388/.822.
Efficient, dominant and quite Lillard-esque.
This is the type of player Green can be at the next level. He thrives in big-game situations despite having the focus of elite ACC defenses placed firmly upon us.
With above-average size and a 6'6" wingspan, Green also has the combination of size, length and athleticism to be a disruptive defensive player.
Green has legitimate star potential—the question is how soon will scouts take notice?
Ben McLemore, Kansas Jayhawks
Position: Shooting Guard
Height, Weight, Wingspan: 6'5", 195 pounds, 6'7" wingspan
2012-13 Season Averages: 25.33 PER, 16.5 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1.2 SPG, 42.5% 3PT
It's hard to argue that logic.
McLemore is one of the nation's elite scorers. A slash line of .502/.425/.868 should confirm that for any in doubt.
McLemore is strong off of the dribble and more than capable of picking a defense apart with his jump shot. Paired with a deceivingly quick first step, McLemore has become one of the most respected offensive forces in the nation.
As his defense progresses and his facilitating becomes more consistent, McLemore has all the tools of an NBA star.
The question is will we see the aggressive McLemore that tore apart West Virginia with 36 points on 12-of-15 shooting?
Or the passive McLemore that dropped seven points on just six field-goal attempts in 38 minutes during a recent loss to Iowa State?
If it's the former, McLemore could be a superstar.
Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA Bruins
Position: Small Forward
Height, Weight, Wingspan: 6'6", 225 pounds, 6'11" wingspan
2012-13 Season Averages: 22.86 PER, 18.3 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 44.6% 3PT
Entering the college ranks, Shabazz Muhammad was viewed as an elite athlete with an uncanny ability to get to the basket and finish with power.
The knock on Muhammad, however, was that he was an inconsistent jump shooter. For that reason, some scouts labeled him as a player to stay away from.
In response to the critics, Muhammad is currently averaging 18.3 points on 44.6 percent shooting from three-point range.
About that shooting issue...
Muhammad must develop as a facilitator to be a truly dominant small forward at the NBA level. With that being said, he possesses explosive athleticism and a 6'11" wingspan.
As a dominant athlete with a developed jump shot and a long-standing history as a winner, Muhammad becomes more intriguing with each passing day.
Assuming his jump shooting translates to the NBA, Muhammad could be an All-Star caliber player.
Nerlens Noel, Kentucky Wildcats
Height, Weight, Wingspan: 6'11", 215 pounds, 7'4" wingspan
2012-13 Season Averages: 26.74 PER, 10.5 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 1.6 APG, 4.4 BPG, 2.1 SPG
Injuries and team shortcomings aside, Nerlens Noel is the best individual impact player in this draft class.
Noel is a poised big man with elite athleticism, polished defensive fundamentals, a non-stop motor, polished ball-handling abilities and a progressing offensive game.
In other words, this young man is the complete package.
Noel can step in and become a defensive anchor from day one.
He's athletic enough to run in transition, dominates the paint and has displayed the ability to defend perimeter players off of rotations and screens.
As soon as he develops a mid-range game, Noel could become the best center in the NBA.
As for his work ethic, don't question that for a second.
It's only fitting that Noel suffered his season-ending injury while hustling as the rest of his team gave up on the play.
This kid is special, folks. Here's hoping that he makes a full recovery.
Victor Oladipo, Indiana Hoosiers
Position: Shooting Guard
Height, Weight, Wingspan: 6'5", 214 pounds, N/A
2012-13 Season Averages: 30.70 PER, 14.0 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 2.1 APG, 2.3 SPG, 63.4% FG, 49.0% 3PT
Victor Oladipo has taken every complaint that scouts had about him in 2011-12 and made them strengths in 2012-13.
For instance, Oladipo has gone from 20.8 percent shooting from beyond the arc as a sophomore to 49.0 percent as a junior.
Beyond that, he's improved his ball-handling, footwork, defensive base and all-around shot selection. For evidence, check the fact that Oladipo is converting 63.4 percent of his field goals.
As a shooting guard.
Some have compared Oladipo to former Oklahoma State great Tony Allen. While this is hardly a comparison to fret, it's selling Oladipo's upside short.
Mentally, he's a step ahead of everyone on the floor at all times. Physically, he does the things that the average player simply doesn't fathom.
Diving for loose balls, intercepting screens and setting off-ball screens as a 2 are minor examples.
His effortless athleticism and mental preparedness has him looking like a star—a true superstar.
It's all about development, but the tape doesn't lie—Oladipo has limitless potential.
Otto Porter, Georgetown Hoyas
Position: Small Forward
Height, Weight, Wingspan: 6'8", 200 pounds, 7'1" wingspan
2012-13 Season Averages: 29.24 PER, 16.6 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 2.5 APG, 2.0 SPG, 1.0 BPG, 46.9% 3PT
What doesn't Otto Porter do well?
Porter is the frontrunner for the Big East Player of the Year award and could have his hand in on the National Player of the Year discussion, as well.
As is rarely the case, the numbers speak volumes for where Porter is as a player.
Porter is currently averaging 16.6 points, 7.6 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 2.0 steals and 1.0 block per game. He's also shooting 46.9 percent from beyond the arc.
For perspective to his work ethic, he shot 22.6 percent from beyond the arc last season—that's a full 24.3 percent improvement in the matter of one year.
This has scouts in awe, and rightfully so. Porter has the all-around skill set to become one of the NBA's premier small forwards.
Legacy aside, Porter is eerily similar to Paul Pierce when he came out of Kansas.
A scary comparison, but one that holds weight.
Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State Cowboys
Position: Point Guard
Height, Weight, Wingspan: 6'4", 225 pounds, N/A
2012-13 Season Averages: 23.99 PER, 14.6 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 4.3 APG, 2.9 SPG
What position will Marcus Smart play? Can he improve as a jump shooter? Will he actually find a role in the NBA?
To answer those questions, let me offer you all a piece of advice—stop worrying about the specifics and understand how special a player Smart truly is.
A prospect with this powerful a work ethic and motor will find a role on any team he plays for.
Smart has the ball-handling abilities to run point at the NBA level. He's also a capable enough defender to take on the elite scorers at shooting guard.
With impressive athleticism and an undeniable ability to show up in the right place, at the right time, Smart appears destined for stardom—regardless of position.
If we had to label him with a position, Smart shares many traits with former Marquette star Dwyane Wade. Smart's jump shot must improve, but he's an unstoppable force when attacking the basket—both as a scorer and facilitator.
As soon as the J's start falling, this all-around monster could be viewed as the star of this draft class.