Ranking the Best 2013 NBA Draft Prospects Who Are Flying Under the Radar
Some of the most under-the-radar NBA draft prospects come from the mid-major conferences we rarely get to see, and others are found in the power-six sitting right in front of our very eyes.
These prospects all have NBA potential, but haven't been recognized as likely contributors at the next level.
Most of these guys all specialize in one particular area of the game. Whether it's rebounding, scoring or shooting, the following prospects all have something to offer an NBA rotation, and should be viewed as draft-day targets when June finally rolls around.
10. Robert Covington, Tennessee State, 6'9'', SF
Not many people outside of Tennessee know the name Robert Covington, but they might come June 2013.
He's averaging 17 points per game, having a down year in the Ohio Valley Conference. A down year also consists of a 38 percent three-point stroke, which was at 45 percent last season and 46 percent the one prior.
At 6'9'' he's got excellent size for an NBA small forward and can be viewed as a stretch wing who can light it up from deep.
Covington may not have much upside as a scorer, but his perimeter shot-making abilities for a sizable forward can help improve a team's spacing on the offensive side of the ball.
This is a draft filled with uncertainty. If teams are looking for a definitive three-point stroke to join their front line, Covington's name should be considered.
9. Zeke Marshall, Akron, 7'0'', C
Zeke Marshall is living up to his potential in his senior year, improving in every aspect of his game and helping Akron to a 14-1 conference record.
At 7'0'' with a massive 7'5'' wingspan (same as Anthony Davis), Marshall eats a ton of space in the middle of the paint. He's an easy finishing target at the rim who can nearly throw it down without leaving the floor.
This year, he's found a way to exploit the advantage his physical tools give him, raising his field-goal percentage from 54.2 percent to 66.7 percent while taking practically the same amount of shots per game.
Defensively he's a difference-maker, averaging 3.6 blocks in only 27 minutes, good for fifth in the country.
If you've followed previous drafts, you know how valuable seven-foot size can be. With his measurements, teams tend to overlook offensive upside when they know they can add reliable depth at the center position.
8. Amath M'baye, Oklahoma, 6'9'', SF
Amath M'Baye doesn't have much freedom in Oklahoma's offense, allowing his talent and potential to go easily unnoticed.
He's a 6'9'' small forward with incredibly smooth athleticism and a long basketball body. If you're looking for a comparison in terms of size and offensive approach, think Moe Harkless of the Orlando Magic, who's having success in the pros thanks to physical tools molded for NBA play.
M'Baye played two years at Wyoming, then sat out a year, and now finds himself auditioning on a slightly bigger stage.
He's averaging 10.4 points and 5.4 boards on 47 percent shooting in 25 minutes, and after showing no signs of range his first two years in college, he's up to 34.3 percent from downtown as a junior.
NBA teams that are looking to add athleticism on the wing and have a second-round pick to spare will absolutely give M'Baye a look this June.
7. Jack Cooley, Notre Dame, 6'9'', PF
Jack Cooley has earned himself a label, which is important come draft time so teams can seek him out. If a team is looking for rebounding, they automatically put Jack Cooley's name on their target list.
Cooley excels as a rebounder and has the potential to find a role as a specialist at the next level.
He's averaging 10.7 rebounds per game, tied for sixth in the country, yet his 14.3 rebounds per 40 is higher than anyone's in the top five.
More than any other skill, rebounding typically translates. It's instincts, timing and motor, which in many cases can supersede size.
Cooley happens to have NBA power forward size at 6'9'' with a strong upper body.
He's got work to do in the rest of his game, but teams who struggle on both sides of the glass could give Cooley a look somewhere in Round 2.
6. Markel Brown, Oklahoma State, 6'3'', SG
Markel Brown has evolved from a raw athlete to a talented scorer.
He's gradually raised his average from 6.4 points per game as a freshman, to 10.5 as a sophomore, to 15.6 as a junior, expanding his offensive arsenal and becoming a multidimensional threat.
As a shot-creator, Brown has shown the ability to separate from his defender and knock down step-back jumpers. He's gone from making 0.7 three-pointers per game on 31.9 percent shooting to making 1.6 per game at a much more respectable 37.9 percent clip.
Defensively, Brown projects as a perimeter asset whose athleticism and foot speed can match up with opposing point guards.
Brown was always a special athlete who gave you at least one highlight dunk every night. But with a much improved perimeter scoring repertoire, Brown could be a guy who adds some firepower to an NBA bench.
5. Erick Green, Virginia Tech, 6'4'', PG/SG
Erick Green leads the country in scoring at 25 points per game, but you don't hear his name mentioned with the top prospects in college.
This is a guy whose physical limitations can be overlooked if he starts to slip down the board.
You start to realize it's not a fluke when he's doing it every night in a power-six conference. How's this for consistency: Green has scored at least 21 points in 27 of Virginia Tech's 30 games this year.
He's a mid-range assassin, with the ability to create his own shot and knock them down with range. He's also one of the most efficient finishers in transition, having the instincts to navigate through contesting arms and bodies and finish with balance on the move.
The rim has expanded for Green in his senior year, who's scoring in volume with efficiency at a 48 percent clip from the field, 38.5 percent from downtown and 81 percent from the line on 8.2 attempts per game.
Green is slightly undersized for the natural 2 position, lacking above-the-rim explosiveness that so many others seem to offer. But Green is capable of holding down secondary ball-handling responsibilities, which gives him an extra out in terms of finding floor time with an NBA team.
4. Allen Crabbe, California, 6'5'', SG
Allen Crabbe looks the part of an NBA off-guard with a scoring repertoire similar to a young Rip Hamilton.
He's scoring 18.6 points per game for California while demonstrating the ability to put the ball in the hole from practically every spot on the floor.
Crabbe began his college career as strictly a three-point threat, a good place to start for a developing scorer. Now, he's learning how to create his own shot while maintaining his accuracy as a shooter from both inside and outside the arc.
As a junior, he's scoring on the move, pulling up and stepping back, and with 6'6'' size he's able to get off shots with ease.
California runs a lot of slashing action, with Crabbe making diagonal cuts into the lane where he can catch and use the angle to finish while attacking the rim. The idea that he doesn't need the ball in his hands for him to generate offense is really an attractive feature for a scoring wing.
Crabbe could get looks as high as the mid-first round based solely on his scoring prowess at the off-guard position.
3. Lorenzo Brown, North Carolina State, 6'5'', PG
If you're one to appreciate the purity of a natural point guard, then you have to love what Lorenzo Brown brings to the table as a distributor.
He leads the ACC in assists at seven per game, using his crafty dribble and roaming vision to create for teammates in the half court or transition.
Brown has great point guard size at around 6'5'', which allows him to see over the perimeter and recognize the open seams. He's got a break-down first step with the ability to manipulate the defense, leading to easy scoring opportunities for his big men who just have to catch, gather and finish.
Right now he's working on his pull-up jumper and extending his range, but Brown's ability to set the table as a playmaker should be coveted by teams who lack depth at the position.
If Brown finds a way to refine his outside stroke, he's got starting NBA potential because of his physical tools and invaluable point guard instincts.
2. Mike Muscala, Bucknell, 6'11'', PF/C
I don't care whether Mike Muscala is playing in the Patriot League against Lehigh, the Big Ten against Indiana or on the farm against a herd of sheep. Muscala is legitimate talent regardless of the competition he sees at the collegiate level.
At 6'11'' he's got NBA big-man size and the toughness to play inside. Muscala averages 11.1 rebounds per game and blocks 2.5 shots, taking ownership of the paint and embracing his role as an interior presence.
Offensively he's got a mature, NBA skill set, with the ability to score on the low block with his back to the rim or step out in the mid-range and knock down 18-foot jumpers. He's a classic inside-outside 4 or 5, the way Kurt Thomas made a living for over a decade in the NBA.
With a high basketball IQ and active motor, look for a team to recognize Muscala as a source for reliable depth and production. He should be getting looks from playoff teams starting at the end of the Round 1.
1. Isaiah Canaan, Murray State, 6'1'', PG
Isaiah Canaan has too many NBA tools to let his physical limitations cloud his projection.
These days, 6'1'' works at the point guard position if you have the necessary strengths to go with it. Canaan has powerful legs with a strong, sturdy frame that can absorb contact when he attacks the rim.
He's a natural ball-handler asked to score in Murray State's offense that lacks a supporting cast capable of generating points themselves. However, Canaan has proven he can run the pick-and-roll as a facilitator, something he'll see lots of once he reaches the next level.
And with an elite three-point stroke, he becomes a dual threat off ball screens. Canaan has deep, NBA range and has been knocking them down with consistency throughout his four-year career.
He's currently shooting a career-low 38 percent from downtown, which is a career goal for most guards entering the draft. Last year he shot an astonishing 45 percent from three, after shooting 40 percent as a sophomore and a jaw-dropping 48 percent as a freshman.
Canaan is a scorer off the dribble who has the creativity and leadership qualities of a point guard. The Raymond Felton comparison is spot on.
There's a deep crew of point guards eligible for this year's draft, and without many starting positions available, one of them is bound to slip down the board.
If that guy ends up being Canaan, someone is going to get great value and bang for their buck.