With the 2012-13 college basketball season far in the rearview, you’d think there wouldn’t be much change on the weekly big board.
However, due to the presence of stateside talent showcases (such as the Nike Hoop Summit) and an abundance of newly freed time for scouts to work overseas, I’m starting to notice a number of international prospects generating buzz as potential first-round picks.
Let’s take a look at these foreign players and the rest of my top 30 projections in the April 30 edition of the big board.
Last week’s big board can be found here. Please note this is not a mock draft, but an overall ranking based on grade. Grade for each prospect is based on athletic ability, production in college (or overseas), measurements and NBA projections on a curve.
No. 1: Nerlens Noel, PF/C, Kentucky (Remains No. 1)
Despite the injury concerns, Noel is the top prospect in this class for numerous reasons.
The Kentucky star is a big man who possesses a motor and elite defensive skill—especially in the shot-blocking department. He may be a while away from contributing on offense, but Noel should be the No. 1 pick for most organizations this June.
No. 2: Ben McLemore, SG, Kansas (Remains No. 2)
McLemore is a lights-out shooter who can score at will, but only when he’s feeling it.
The Jayhawks stud is prone to lapses of inefficient and unmotivated play, which is a shame since he’s an All-Star-caliber player when he turns it on. Regardless, because of his ceiling as a franchise scorer and lack of talent in this draft, McLemore will be one of the first five players off the board.
No. 3: Otto Porter, SF, Georgetown (Remains No. 3)
Porter is an ideal prospect for any team looking for a swingman who doesn’t have to be the primary option on offense.
This Hoyas product is best when he’s defending the opposition’s best perimeter weapon, knocking down wide-open looks and crashing the glass. He’ll do all the little things to help win, but you wouldn’t want him shouldering the scoring load.
No. 4: Victor Oladipo, SG, Indiana (Up from No. 6)
Oladipo is a defensive-stopper with immense athleticism and a lot of upside. He’s not the best scorer, but he takes great shots and makes the most of his opportunities.
His inspiring style of play should get teammates motivated to hustle up and down the floor and lock up their men defensively.
No. 5: Trey Burke, PG, Michigan (Remains No. 5)
Despite being undersized, don’t bet against this Michigan star succeeding in the NBA.
He led the Wolverines to a national championship game appearance and has all the handles, court vision, facilitating touch and shooting stroke to man the starting point guard spot for a championship team in the pros.
No. 6: Anthony Bennett, PF, UNLV (Down from No. 4)
Bennett is a bit of a tweener, but in a modern NBA that emphasizes small ball, he could be quite an asset.
While not always motivated, the Rebels stud is powerful enough to muscle his way into the paint to defend the rim, get rebounds and generate buckets, while also having the agility to guard small forwards and the range to drag his man out to the three-point line.
No. 7: Shabazz Muhammad, SF, UCLA (Up from No. 9)
When the Los Angeles Times discovered that Muhammad was 20, instead of 19 as previously assumed, his professional outlook took a turn for the worse.
While he’s still likely to be a top-notch scorer, the UCLA star’s ceiling is lower and upside isn’t as high as many expected. He should be a decent player who can carry the load for a weaker team or a nice second option on a contender.
No. 8: Alex Len, C, Maryland (Remains No. 8)
Len is two things you don’t want to see in a big man—raw and hesitant. If the Terps 7-footer can change that and develop into the low-post scorer he shows flashes of, the team that drafts him will be quite happy.
However, due to his unwillingness to call for the ball and dominate against smaller competition in college, I’m not sure he’ll make that leap. It’s certainly worth a lottery risk for a team that doesn’t desperately need production from the pick—such as Oklahoma City.
No. 9: Michael Carter-Williams, G, Syracuse (Down from No. 7)
Carter-Williams is an elite facilitator and excellent defender with his 6’6” frame at the point guard position, but he has some areas to work on.
If he becomes a better ball-handler (he’s average at best right now) and more consistent jump shooter (he’s terrible in this department), he could be a star in the NBA—rather than the consistent rotation member he can be without improving in those departments.
No. 10: C.J. McCollum, SG, Lehigh (Remains No. 10)
McCollum is a pure scorer, plain and simple. He gets buckets from anywhere on the court and regardless of whether or not he lines up as a 1 or undersized 2.
Don’t trust his facilitating ability too much if he winds up at the point guard spot, as he seems destined to become a Nate Robinson-like bundle of energy (without the elite athleticism) who can come off the pine and fill it up in a hurry.
No. 11: Kelly Olynyk, C, Gonzaga (Up from No. 13)
Olynyk is a nice option for point production in the frontcourt, as he utilizes a back-to-the-basket style just as effectively as his face-up game.
His athleticism and defensive capabilities are questionable, but he’s worth a gamble in the late lottery.
No. 12: Gorgui Dieng, C, Louisville (Remains No. 12)
Dieng isn’t the most polished player in this class, but he’s not afraid of the spotlight and proved that while guiding the Cardinals to a national title.
He’s a solid rim protector with above-average athleticism, shot-blocking skills and dunking ability. The big man has to improve his offense, but that should come in time.
No. 13: Cody Zeller, C, Indiana (Down from No. 11)
Zeller doesn’t seem to be suited to take on the big men who man the center position in the NBA, but he’s not quite a true power forward either.
Regardless, he can run the floor like a deer, finish well around the basket and immediately soak minutes in his rookie season, which are a few assets that many franchises should be looking for in a 7-footer during a weak draft.
No. 14: Mason Plumlee, PF, Duke (Remains No. 14)
Plumlee is a blue-collar prospect who will work relentlessly to secure rebounds, defend his mark and help his team win.
While he may not be the most skilled or have the highest upside, his intensity, hustle and garbage-man style of play should insure he cracks a rotation for a contender in the next few seasons.
No. 15: Dario Saric, SF, Croatia (Up from No. 17)
Saric is our top international prospect this year, as the 6’10” forward can see the floor, handle the rock and pass like a guard, while having the height of a power forward.
He has to improve upon his agility and shooting stroke, but this young man could soon be a star in the United States.
No. 16: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG, Georgia (Down from No.15)
Caldwell-Pope is an all-around shooting guard whom many organizations would love to have, as the 2 has become one of the weakest NBA positions.
This Georgia product can score from deep, slice to the rim, rebound and defend well for his position and hustles. He just hasn’t found much success with the Bulldogs, but that could change with better teammates in the Association.
No. 17: Jamaal Franklin, SG, San Diego State (Down from No. 16)
Franklin is a pure athletic specimen who will play above the rim and likely lead all shooting guards in rebounding on a per-minute basis.
Unfortunately, he may not be getting much floor time until he hones his jumper into a reliable weapon.
No. 18: Jeff Withey, C, Kansas (Remains No. 18)
As a senior, it would be impressive if Withey ever improved much upon his currently established offensive game. It’s clear he’s not going to make an impact in that area.
However, because of his 7-foot stature and shot-blocking capabilities, there is no doubt he can become a reliable player and carve out a long career as a 20-minute-per-night defensive-oriented center.
No. 19: Sergey Karasev, SG, Russia (Up from No. 25)
Karasev is shooting up draft boards after he shot the lights out at the Nike Hoop Summit.
He’s a great passer and—most importantly—a smart player who loves to come off screens and utilize play calls to get free for the open shot. Those kinds of snipers always find a way to make an impact in the Association.
No. 20: Glen Rice Jr., SG, D-League (Up from No. 21)
College didn’t work out for Glen Rice Jr., but he’s been lighting it up for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers in the D-League.
His draft rights are still available and likely worth a first-round pick in this class, as his scoring touch alone should help him make the jump up to the NBA.
No. 21: Dennis Schroeder, PG, Germany (Unranked last week)
Schroeder’s performance at the Nike Hoop Summit was arguably the best. The German point guard dominated the top high school prospects in the Oregon-based exhibition contest, showing up a number of players considered to be top-10 locks in the 2014 NBA draft.
He’s capable of getting to the line and scoring at will with underrated speed and athleticism, while possessing a pass-first mentality that gets his teammates involved.
No. 22: Allen Crabbe, SG, California (Up from No. 23)
Crabbe’s another prospect in this class who is going to make a living by firing the rock up from all over the court.
He’s better suited as a sixth man over a starter due to his defensive liabilities and streaky shooting touch.
No. 23: Tim Hardaway Jr., SG, Michigan (Down from No. 19)
Speaking of streaky, Hardaway Jr. certainly fits the definition.
The Michigan star is prone to taking bad shots and isn’t capable of doing much else but shooting, but when he’s hot, the young man will score in bunches. I project him to be a solid bench player who gets about 15-20 minutes per night and fires up a ton of threes in that time period.
No. 24: Giannis Adetokunbo, SF, Greece (Up from No. 29)
The “Greek Freak” is making shock waves in the same way that Bismack Biyombo did in the unimpressive 2011 draft.
He stands a solid 6’9”, but has a rail-thin frame. His upside is undeniable—with ability to pass and handle the ball extremely well—but he has been going against some of the worst imaginable competition in Greece.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see this kid come off the board in the lottery based on upside alone, but there’s a good chance we never even see him make it to the NBA.
No. 25: Myck Kabongo, PG, Texas (Up from No. 28)
Kabongo reminds me of Rajon Rondo, as he’s an athletic point guard who would much rather drive into the paint and kick it out to an open teammate over finishing or firing up a jumper.
He’s not as skilled as Rondo was coming out of Kentucky, but as a late-first-round pick, I love the Texas star’s upside.
No. 26: Isaiah Austin, PF, Baylor (Down from No. 20)
Austin is the definition of upside. The Baylor big man has the skills of a small forward and the height of a center.
Unfortunately, his frame is far too skinny, and he’ll get dominated in the paint by bigger NBA competition. If he’s able to pack on some pounds, Austin could become one of the more intriguing stretch 4s this league has ever seen.
No. 27: Tony Mitchell, SF, North Texas (Up from No. 28)
Mitchell never panned out as the elite scorer many thought he could become, although his time with the Mean Green wasn’t a complete disaster.
He proved he’s an above-average rebounder and can easily play the 4, while also showing elite athleticism. Mitchell’s ceiling is still high, it just may take some time to develop him in order to reach it—which teams at the end of the first round fortunately usually have plenty of.
No. 28: Archie Goodwin, SG, Kentucky (Down from No. 24)
Goodwin is another athletic freak, but at the bottom of it all, he’s a shooting guard who simply can’t shoot.
Unless he develops a jumper, his reckless style of ball-handling, out of control drives and small stature will insure he doesn’t ever become more than a D-Leaguer.
No. 29: Steve Adams, C, Pittsburgh (Up from No. 30)
Adams should have stayed another year at Pittsburgh, but he’ll make guaranteed first-round money solely based on his size.
There’s nothing special here except a big body and a little bit of defensive upside.
No. 30: Rudy Gobert, PF, France (Down from No. 27)
While Gobert possesses insane size at 7’1” and an absurd 7’9” wingspan, I’m just not sure what else he brings to the table.
He’s not doing much in France and isn’t even blocking many shots against awful competition. Some general manager will fall in love with the potential and take him—possibly even in the lottery—but I see nothing but bust.