Every draft inevitably contains some players who simply don't live up to the hype, and the 2013 NBA draft will be no different. Identifying those players certainly isn't easy, though, and that is why NBA talent evaluators make the big bucks.
With that said, there is no question that some prospects are entering the league with more question marks and red flags than others. That doesn't necessarily mean that they are doomed to fail, but they have a lot of seasoning to do before they're ready to contribute at the next level.
Here are three highly-touted prospects likely to be taken early that also carry a huge amount of risk with them.
Despite the fact that he only played two seasons at Maryland with varying degrees of success, center Alex Len has shot up draft boards as of late. He has been viewed as a top-five pick throughout this process, but suddenly there a whispers regarding the Cleveland Cavaliers potentially taking a chance on him with the No. 1 overall selection, according to Jimmy Smith of the Times-Picayune:
It remains to be seen if the Cavs will actually pull the trigger on that pick, but there is no doubt that Len is now among the perceived elite prospects in this draft. His potential is undeniable, as he is 7'1" and has shown flashes on both ends of the floor. ESPN NBA analyst Jay Williams even believes that he has what it takes to be better than Kentucky center Nerlens Noel in the NBA:
With all of the support that Len has been receiving from guys like Williams in recent weeks, perhaps it shouldn't be a surprise to see him in this position. Len averaged just under 12 points and eight rebounds per game for the Terrapins last season, though, so he has a lot to prove. Len simply doesn't seem like a guy capable of stepping in and dominating from day one, so the Cavs may have a project on their hands. Generally speaking, No. 1 overall picks should be sure things rather than projects.
Another prospect who is possibly still in the mix for the No. 1 overall pick is Kansas shooting guard Ben McLemore. He has all the tools that scouts look for in an NBA shooting guard and he was a key player for the Jayhawks as a freshman last season. Even so, taking McLemore early in the first round seems like a very risky proposition.
McLemore averaged 16 points and five rebounds per game while shooting close to 50 percent from the floor and 42 percent from three-point land in his only season at Kansas. Once the games got important in the NCAA tournament, however, he came up small. He scored just 13 points total against Western Kentucky and North Carolina before rebounding to some degree against Michigan. Now there are questions about his work ethic as well, according to Chad Ford of ESPN:
His lack of preparation for the draft is hurting him. Multiple sources told me that his workout in Phoenix was not impressive. McLemore, according to sources, wasn't in shape and struggled to keep up in the workout. I heard similar things in Orlando.
Players have bounced back from poor reputations before, but this is the most important time of McLemore's life, so he should be putting forth the best effort possible. McLemore just doesn't seem to rise to the occasion when he needs to, so teams should proceed with caution.
Most observers figured that UCLA small forward Shabazz Muhammad would be a top-five selection in this year's draft heading into the 2012-13 season, but he was hit-and-miss throughout the year and his stock has tumbled. Muhammad is still a surefire first-rounder who is unlikely to fall past the middle of the round; however, that is a far cry from what most expected for him.
Muhammad's numbers were solid, as he averaged a shade under 18 points and five rebounds per contest last season, but he struggled with team play throughout the year and he won't have as much success in isolation at the NBA level. Now that international prospect Dario Saric has withdrawn from the draft, though, Ford believes that Muhammad will benefit.
Saric's withdrawal may help Muhammad's bank account, as he could move back up draft boards a bit, but that doesn't make him a better player. Perhaps Muhammad can succeed in the right situation if he is surrounded by veterans who will keep him in check, but he could be poisonous to a young team if he plays a "me first" game. Teams without much of a veteran presence should probably steer clear of Muhammad.
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