The 2013 NBA draft is inching closer and closer, with Tuesday evening’s lottery one of the last major steps prior to the big event.
While the lottery is certainly an important date for many prospects and franchises, it’s likely not going to have a real impact on whether or not many of the fringe first-round picks in this class receive a guaranteed contract or fall into the second.
These young men are going to have to continue impressing suitors via workouts and interviews over the next few weeks, as that is the best way to bolster their draft stock now that the scouting combine is complete .
With the way things are currently going, a handful of solid players have separated from the pack, look to be off the bubble and now appear to be locks for the first round.
Let’s take a look a closer look at these fast-rising prospects.
Tony Snell, SG/SF, New Mexico
Snell shocked Lobos fans when he announced he wouldn’t return for his senior season, instead opting to start his NBA career early.
Initially it seemed that the swingman was making a mistake and wouldn’t even have a chance to crack the first round come June, but all signs are pointing toward him coming off the board in the early-to-late twenties.
His scoring touch was a bit inconsistent in college, but Snell’s streaky touch allows him to quickly rain buckets down on the opposition—when he’s feeling it.
He certainly was during the Mountain West Conference tourney, as the guard/forward went 10-of-15 from three-point land in the final two games and secured a No. 3 seed in the NCAA tournament for New Mexico.
Snell then went 4-of-12 against Harvard and his team was upset by the underdog, proving that he has a long way to go in terms of consistency.
Regardless, expect a team in the late-first to take a chance on this athletic young man with plenty of upside.
Tim Hardaway Jr., SG, Michigan
While some of his teammates decided to return to Michigan for another run at a national title, Tim Hardaway Jr. elected to hire an agent and turn pro after his excellent junior campaign.
The sweet-shooting Wolverines guard has been on the fence—as either a late first-round or early second-round selection—for months now, but when push comes to shove, it’s hard to see approximately 30 general managers passing on this kid.
Where will Hardaway Jr. get selected?
He’s simply too skilled from beyond the arc, while also possessing the size and athleticism required to defend the position at the next level.
These “three-and-D” off-guards are a rarity in the NBA, but an absolute must-have for any contender looking to dethrone the Miami Heat and win a title.
Even if Hardaway Jr. has some work to put in on his handle and much to learn about shot selection, there’s nothing that a good coach with contending squad picking at the end of the first round can’t teach.
This long-range gunner is likely coming off the board in the late-teens to mid-20s.
C.J. Leslie, SF, NC State
As the Wolfpack disappointed during the 2012-13 campaign, Leslie’s stock dipped, from potential lottery selection to consensus second-rounder.
However, the lengthy forward is climbing back up and is now generating some buzz as a potential selection worthy of a first-rounder this June.
He’s a freakish athlete that measured in at 6’7.5”, ran a 3.14-second 3/4 court sprint, blitzed through the underrated lane agility drill in a 2013-best 10.19 seconds and showed an eye-popping max vertical leap of 40.5”.
Those are wild numbers and prove that Leslie could carve out a niche in the NBA solely based on his physical abilities. He could become a terrific shutdown defender that could guard anyone out on the perimeter with his length and wingspan.
If he’s able to show a bit more on the offensive end during private workouts, don’t be surprised if this prospect is selected in the mid-to-late 20s.