Upside is one of the most common words used in association with the NBA draft. Athleticism is perhaps the key trait in this regard.
An incredibly skilled shooter who is limited athletically won't usually be tagged as a player with a ton of upside.
There is little that can be done to add speed, agility or leaping ability. Conditioning helps, but a guy like Jack Cooley of Notre Dame will never be as good of an athlete as Mason Plumlee of Duke or Tony Mitchell of North Texas.
Obviously, there's more than to being a great player than elite athleticism, but great physical skills will get scouts and general manager's attention.
Here is a look at four of the best athletes available in the 2013 NBA draft. What role best fits these players in the NBA?
Here is a list of A-plus athletes not featured in this article:
- Ben McLemore - Kansas
- Rodney Williams - Minnesota
- Plumlee - Duke
- Kentavious Caldwell-Pope - Georgia
- Mitchell - North Texas
James Ennis—6'7" SF—Long Beach State
Ennis is a former high jumper who cleared 6'11" while attending Ventura College. His hops weren't reserved only for the track; he routinely shows off his bounce during games as well.
Check out this highlight reel from the 2012-13 season.
His game isn't just about dunks, though. Ennis averaged 16 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.7 steals and 1.3 blocked shots per game last season.
He has a 6'11.5" wingspan per Draft Express, and the 22-year-old also plays with great fluidity. Ennis has potential sleeper written all over him.
He shot 35.8 percent from three-point range and there is no doubt he can defend on the NBA level. In Draft Express' latest mock draft, Ennis is slated as a second-round pick. This could be a name you hear a lot over the next few years.
Am I saying he could be a star? Maybe not a star, but I could certainly see him being a solid rotation player and even a starter.
Andre Roberson—6'7" SF/PF—Colorado
Who knew Buffaloes could fly? Usually they can't but Roberson is the exception. The 21-year-old out of Colorado used his awesome athleticism to be a force on both ends of the court in college.
Can he find success in the NBA?
After making the decision to forego his final year of eligibility at Colorado, Roberson's stock in the upcoming NBA draft didn't exactly spike. Both NBA Draft.net and Draft Express have him slated for the second round.
Pre-draft workouts can change things, but in Roberson's case, I don't think it will. He simply doesn't have the type of off-the-dribble game to play the small forward position adequately in the NBA.
That makes him a smallish but uber-athletic power forward. Roberson uses his quick springs, explosive hops and seemingly endless energy to rebound at a ridiculous rate.
He averaged 11.2 boards per game in the 2012-13 season. In some ways, he's like a very poor man's Shawn Marion. He could have a role as a defender/energy guy off the bench.
Victor Oladipo—6'4" SG—Indiana
As almost a lock for the lottery, Oladipo is one of the most highly touted elite-level athletes in the draft.
He reminds me of a cross between Tony Allen and Leandro Barbosa. He's an explosive leaper, who defends and is physically strong like Allen. With the ball, he has a very quick first step like Barbosa.
I wouldn't say he's a future star, as they aren't many of those in this rather mediocre draft class, but he does have one of the highest ceilings.
He can stand to improve his jump shot from distance. He did shoot 44 percent from deep in the 2012-13 season, but he shot less than two threes per game.
The 21-year-old also made just four of his last 15 attempts from distance in college. But, what Oladipo's game lacks, he can definitely get with practice.
He'll be a starter in the NBA relatively early in his career because of his defense and athleticism. As his jump shot develops, he'll become even more productive.
Jamaal Franklin—6'5" SG/SF—San Diego State
I called Ennis a potential sleeper, but Franklin is my ultimate sleeper pick in this draft. Beyond the freakish athleticism he possesses, Franklin also has a tremendous motor.
Roberson is a great rebounder for his size, but Franklin's 9.5 rebounds per game from a 6'5" player is impressive too.
When it comes to finishing around the basket, few can rise and flush like Franklin.
His biggest weakness is his jump shot. He shot just 27 percent from deep in the 2012-13 season. He has a rather slow developing release, but the kid has a scorer's mentality.
He isn't afraid to take big shots and he defends with the same veracity that he plays with on offense.
Not only could Franklin start for a good team, he could be a godsend for a club like the Chicago Bulls if he's around at No. 20.
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