The deadline for underclassmen to declare for the NBA draft is April 28. Some major names have already announced their intentions to forego the rest of their collegiate eligibility to join the pro ranks.
Many of these players will shape the 2013 NBA draft. Here’s a look at the top four players who have already declared for the draft, and the teams that represent the best fits.
Noel’s freshman season was cut short due to injury, but in the 24 games he played for Kentucky, he displayed the athleticism, defensive instincts and rebounding ability to make himself a top three pick.
He made his intentions to go pro known on Monday.
ESPN’s Chad Ford has Noel as the top pick in his first mock draft.
You can’t teach size. At 6’11” Noel’s length is an obvious plus. But even more attractive is his leaping ability and speed. He has great run and jump skills that are only augmented by his remarkable instincts as a defender.
In addition to the 9.5 rebounds he snatched down per game, Noel also blocked 4.4 shots and picked up 2.1 steals per contest for Kentucky during the 2012-13 season.
He may never be a major offensive threat, but his ability to protect the basket and clean the glass make him the pacesetter for this draft.
Which team is the best fit for Noel?
Because he’s coming off a major knee injury, it's possible Noel may not be able to play early in the season. Teams and fans will have to be patient with him, but the wait will pay off.
There are quite a few teams that could use Noel.
The Charlotte Bobcats will have the best shot at the top pick as the NBA team with the worst regular-season record. He would be a nice fit with Kemba Walker and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, but I think he fits in best as the next great big man for the Orlando Magic.
After Dwight Howard’s turbulent exit from the Magic Kingdom, the city would embrace another big man. His arrival would ultimately make the very talented Nikola Vucevic expendable.
The 2013-14 season is a contract year for Vucevic, so his trade value could be high as an expiring contract as well as a developing 22-year-old center with proven production in the NBA.
This could lead to the Magic adding even more assets to build upon. Drafting Noel could be the first major step towards making the Magic contenders again.
For much of the season McLemore seemed to be the favorite to be taken with the top pick, but he didn't have a great NCAA tournament. The freshman averaged just 11 points per game in the tournament on only 34 percent shooting from the field.
Those less-than-stellar numbers came after he averaged 15.9 points per game on 49 percent shooting during the season.
Despite a rough tournament, McLemore announced he would make the jump to the NBA on April 9 as well.
He is an exceptionally gifted athlete with a shooting stroke crafted in the basketball heavens. However, he doesn’t put the ball on the floor extremely well. He also lacks the assertiveness to take over games the way his talent would suggest he’s capable of.
McLemore is too dependent on the jump shot without a capable dribble-drive game.
He could develop into an awesome scorer if he gets better off the bounce, but as is, he will have nights where he lights it up, and others where he seemingly disappears.
McLemore could also be a solid fit as a wing scorer for Charlotte, but the Phoenix Suns would probably be the best spot for him.
The team needs a prime-time scorer and though I like Shabazz Muhammad to the Suns most of all, McLemore is a close second as far as fit is concerned.
Oladipo reminds me of a Tony Allen-Leandro Barbosa hybrid. He is quick, strong and tenacious on defense like Allen, but his first step is explosive like Barbosa’s with the ball.
It's a solid mixture that makes him one of the most intriguing prospects in the draft. He also announced his intentions to enter the NBA on April 9.
Who is the better shooting guard prospect?
At 6’4” 215 pounds, Oladipo has the frame to match up with players in the NBA now. He also has big-time hops that allow him to finish at the rim with authority.
Oladipo genuinely takes good shots which helps to explain his amazing 59.9 percent shooting from the field in the 2012-13 season.
He only took 68 three-pointers last season, but he made 44 percent of them. I’m not sure that accuracy will extend out to the NBA three-point line, but the potential is there.
We don't know if the Kings franchise will be in Sacramento or Seattle come next season, but in any case, Oladipo would be a good fit for the organization.
This team needs a winner from a more disciplined program like Indiana. They need a culture change and this could be a step in that direction.
Tyreke Evans is a restricted free agent this offseason. The team could lose him, but Oladipo would be a nice, less expensive replacement.
Burke impressed me in the NCAA tournament and likely many NBA scouts as well. He announced he would forego his junior and senior season at Michigan on Sunday.
During the tournament he showed the ability to make clutch shots and get his teammates involved. His scoring and feeding of Mitch McGary is the reason the Michigan Wolverines played in the national championship game.
He proved he was worthy of the player of the year honors he received.
That said, he has a long way to go defensively. He gets lost too easy when defending his man without the ball. He doesn’t fight through screens well and his slight frame will make him a post-up target for bigger guards.
The latter can be worked with—or around—as Steve Nash is headed for the Hall of Fame and he has had the same deficiencies his entire career.
Burke could be the first point guard off the board and the best landing spot for him would be New Orleans.
The team soon to be known as the Pelicans need a presence at point guard. Greivis Vasquez is a nice player, but he’s a backup on a good team. If that’s what the Pelicans hope to become, they need to upgrade the position.
Burke would be a definite improvement at the point.
Keep track of all the underclassmen who have declared for the draft here.
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