The one-and-done culture of college basketball has created an environment that makes staying in school until graduation almost obsolete. The nation’s top NBA prospects almost always opt to turn pro before they complete four full seasons at the collegiate level.
Because of that particular dynamic—and the high demand for younger and younger talent—few seniors find their way into the NBA draft lottery. This year will be no different.
Only four seniors were selected in the first round of the 2012 draft. Seven found a home in the first round in 2011 and five became first-round selections in 2010.
With another young draft class this year, there’s a good chance only three or four seniors come off the board in the first round of the 2013 draft. But as is always the case, predicting the draft is an inexact science—even for NBA teams.
One of the most notable senior selections to break out in the NBA recently, Denver Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried was selected No. 22 overall, behind a plethora of talented young underclassmen like Kyrie Irving, Brandon Knight, Klay Thompson and Iman Shumpert.
While Faried was one of the few seniors in that draft class to have found success in the NBA at this point (Chandler Parsons is also a noteworthy exception), he has proved the unpredictability of the selection process.
Will any of this year’s seniors have similar NBA success? It’s too early to tell, but we’ll certainly find out.
Let’s break down the top seniors in this year’s draft class and project their potential landing spot in the first round.
Mason Plumlee, C, Duke
At 6’11 and 245 pounds, Mason Plumlee has a good frame for the center position in the NBA. He’s not particularly bulky or overwhelmingly thin, but he shows a good mix of size and athleticism that will translate well to the pro game.
While his well-rounded skill set is an asset that will have teams’ attention in the latter portion of the lottery, it’s also a bit of a deterrent.
Plumlee doesn’t have tremendous upside at the NBA level. His post moves are fairly limited, though he certainly has room to grow. The question is whether NBA teams are willing to use a high selection on a 23-year-old post player in need of further development, especially in a class with several young seven-footers potentially available in the bottom half of the first round.
The Duke product does have enough quickness and athleticism to be an immediate producer, but he probably isn’t the type of player a team can plug in as a starter from day one.
Projection: No. 15 to the Cleveland Cavaliers
C.J. McCollum, G, Lehigh
At 6’3” and 200 pounds, Lehigh combo guard C.J. McCollum doesn’t quite fit the mold of an NBA shooting guard. He has the jumpshot to hit open looks at the NBA level, but his lack of length may necessitate a move to point guard, especially if he is expected to see significant minutes early in his career.
The Canton, Ohio native had an incredible career at Lehigh, averaging at least 19.1 points each of his four years with the Mountain Hawks. In 2012, McCollum averaged 23.9 points, 2.9 assists and five rebounds per game on an unbelievable 51.6 percent shooting from behind the arc.
The talent is certainly there, but the fit is still to be determined. McCollum would benefit from starting his career with a team that can use him off the bench in a combo guard role, thereby allowing him to utilize his best abilities as a shooter without being rushed into a facilitative role as a full-time point guard.
Projection: No. 16 to the Boston Celtics
Jeff Withey, C, Kansas
Kansas center Jeff Withey had an immensely productive college career with the Jayhawks, but some questions remain about his NBA potential.
A lengthy, athletic seven-footer with terrific shot-blocking ability, Withey makes his presence felt at the defensive end of the floor. His defensive prowess projects well to the NBA level, but he lacks the bulk and lower-body strength to bang with some of the bigger bodies at the next level.
Withey’s athleticism will certainly help in his pro development, but he still has much room for improvement at the offensive end. NBA teams looking for an immediate offensive post producer won’t be all that interested in the Kansas product.
It may take some time for Withey to broaden his array of post moves, but the potential is there. Like many seniors entering the draft, the biggest question is how willing teams are to wait on that development.
Projection: No. 26 to the Minnesota Timberwolves