Ranking the Top 2013 NBA Draft Prospects at Every Major Conference Tournament
With six major conferences, we get six elite NBA prospects.
Each conference tournament will showcase a ton of NBA talent, but it's fun to pick the guy who will do the best job of representing.
There's still plenty of time for these players to boost their draft value. The conference tournament is an opportunity to play on a brighter stage with more on the line. And for the most part, this will be the second or possibly third time that some of these teams will be seeing each other this year.
This is a good opportunity for prospects to take what they've learned and apply it.
6. ACC: Alex Len, Maryland, 7'1'', C
Alex Len came firing out of the gates as a sophomore, dropping 23 points and 12 rebounds on Kentucky's Nerlens Noel.
But he hasn't made much noise since, often drifting into the background instead of asserting himself offensively. Opening night was actually the last time Len recorded 20 or more points.
However, none of this affects his long-term promise. At 7'1'' with fluid athleticism, Len has the physical tools you can't teach, with room for growth in areas he struggles.
In isolated situations, Len has shown the ability to play with his back to the rim or attack his defender facing up. With room to operate, he's going to find a way to get off a clean, open look.
Compared to other ACC prospects like Mason Plumlee and James McAdoo, Len wins the upside battle as a potential go-to scoring option in the post. Both Plumlee and McAdoo project as complementary contributors, with their strengths centered around their ability to make plays off the ball.
Len could do himself a favor by anchoring a Maryland run in the ACC tournament, but he still seems like a lock for the lottery based on his ceiling as a prospect.
5. SEC: Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky, 7'0'', C
Willie Cauley-Stein is an immaculate athlete at 7'0'' with long, cut arms and a strong upper body. A former high school wide receiver, Cauley-Stein's agility and coordination are unique for a true NBA center prospect.
Since given regular minutes after Nerlens Noel's injury, Cauley-Stein is averaging 10 points, eight boards and 3.5 blocks while anchoring the middle.
He does have moves in the post, with the ability to score with either hand and turn over both shoulders. But at this stage in his career, his delivery lacks fluidity, and he'll need time before teams consider him a go-to option for points.
Regardless, his size and aggression in the paint will allow him to contribute in ways that Andre Drummond does for the Detroit Pistons. While these two athletes lack a refined offensive repertoire, they make their presence known in rim protection, rebounding and finishing strong inside.
In comparison to other SEC prospects playing in the conference tournament such as Alex Poythress and Archie Goodwin, there aren't any question marks surrounding Cauley-Stein's natural position or the physical transition process.
He's a project, but he should still be able to make a difference even if his offense never comes around.
4. Big Ten: Cody Zeller, Indiana, 7'0'', PF/C
Cody Zeller has had to live up to wild expectations, and despite his statistical improvements and Indiana's elite overall record, some still question his abilities and potential.
Zeller's rebounding average is up from 6.6 to 8.1 per game, a number that makes more sense when you consider his size and athleticism. And he's scoring 16.8 points per game at a 57-percent clip in the toughest conference in college basketball.
He's as skilled a post player as any prospect in the country, with the ability to fade away over either shoulder, spin baseline or attack off the bounce from the high post.
But skeptics wonder whether he's strong and tough enough to battle against the NBA's physical centers. In a loss earlier in the year to Minnesota, Zeller was manhandled by a meaner, more aggressive Trevor Mbakwe.
Still, you won't find too many big men who come out of college this polished offensively. Compared to other elite Big Ten prospects such as Victor Oladipo, Gary Harris and Trey Burke, Zeller has the potential to be a go-to option for half-court points.
The others are more likely to be reserves to build up a rotation—Zeller has the potential to be someone a team builds around.
3. Pac-12: Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA, 6'6'', SG/SF
Shabazz Muhammad's 18.3 points on 45-percent shooting and 41.7 percent from downtown are all impressive numbers for a freshman in an offense that allows for minimal individual freedom.
Muhammad has the skill set built for the wing, with the ability to slash off the ball and knock down spot-up shots on the perimeter. With his unteachable offensive instincts, no angle is too harsh for Muhammad, who can adjust his body or shot type to finish comfortably on the move.
There are question marks regarding his offensive arsenal—which doesn't consist of a pull-up or step-back jumper—because it propels so many scorers to the next level. Most of his production comes on the break or on catch-and-shoots on the perimeter.
But Muhammad knows how to score, even if it's in unorthodox fashion. And with 6'6'' size and NBA explosiveness, there won't be concerns over the physical transition process.
The Pac-12 doesn't offer much star power, so this is an easy decision. Muhammad can boost his stock with a strong conference tournament and a run into March, especially if he's UCLA's driving force.
2. Big East: Otto Porter, Georgetown, 6'8'', SF
Otto Porter might be the most versatile prospect in the country, and he has improved in every area of the game after a promising freshman year.
The Big East Player of the Year averaged 16.4 points, 7.5 rebounds and two steals on 50 percent shooting and 44 percent from downtown.
Porter has a frame that was built for the NBA, with broad shoulders and a lengthy wingspan at a solid 6'8''.
Athletically, he has the foot speed to operate on the perimeter and drive to the hoop with the ball or without it. On the interior, Porter plays with a sense of toughness that allows him to finish after contact despite lacking bulk or substantial muscle.
He's expanded his range over last summer and has been a lethal three-point threat to match his automatic mid-range jumper.
Porter is also incredibly unselfish—almost to a fault—demonstrating great instincts as a playmaker and passer.
Although he's not someone who projects as a go-to scoring option, Porter's mature and complete two-way game will be coveted by teams looking to fill out their rotation.
Compared to other top Big East prospects such as Syracuse's Michael Carter-Williams, Porter offers no risk or questions surrounding his role at the next level.
He's a guaranteed NBA contributor and should start getting looks from the No. 2 pick on down.
1. Big 12: Ben McLemore, Kansas, 6'5'', SG
Ben McLemore edges out Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart as the top prospect who will be playing in the Big 12 conference tournament.
The Kansas freshman star broke out nationally when he went for 33 points in an overtime win over Iowa State, finishing 10-of-12 from the floor, 6-of-6 from downtown and 7-of-7 from the stripe.
He has a flawless jumper with picturesque mechanics, getting high elevation and sweet rhythm going up.
It's rare to find a dynamic athlete with such a lethal shooting touch (43 percent from downtown) on the perimeter, but that's exactly what McLemore brings to the table. And with excellent foot speed and mobility, McLemore has the agility and understanding of how to get open by moving off the ball.
He's also able to get out in transition, slash from the wing and finish easily above the rim.
Though we've beaten it to death, the Ray Allen comparison is spot-on. He rarely uses the dribble before letting it go, keeping the offense in rhythm without disrupting team ball movement.
Moving forward, he has work to do creating his own offense in the half court, but with elite physical tools and a money-making stroke, he fills all the requirements needed to become a top complementary scorer.
Marcus Smart is going to be great, but without a natural position and a 29-percent three-point stroke, he has questions to his game that McLemore doesn't have to answer.
Although the lottery will decide his future, McLemore is likely to draw interest from more teams at the top than any other prospect.
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