Much of the buzz surrounding the 2013 NBA draft involves potential stars at the top of the class, including a debate between Nerlens Noel and Alex Len—and possibly other candidates—for the No. 1 overall pick.
While these prospects deserve plenty of attention and should make for fine NBA players, it’s the unheralded hopefuls in the late lottery and into the latter portions of the first round that I find more interesting.
With such a weak overall crop of talent, some of these young men may end up shocking the world and become regarded as the best players out of the class in a few years.
Let’s take a closer look at who has a good chance of pulling off this feat.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG, Georgia
There isn’t much to knock on KCP’s game, as this Bulldogs star can do a bit of everything from the shooting guard spot.
While many teams in the modern NBA employ a platoon at the position, in order to get elite shooting, top-notch athleticism and off-the-bounce creativity at different times—often depending on the matchups—they wouldn’t need to with this potential star on the roster.
Caldwell-Pope is capable of connecting on deep three-pointers, creating his own shot, using his athleticism to get to the cup or defend opposing wings, setting up teammates in good positions to score and much more.
His main weakness is ball-handling, but a team with an elite point guard would be able to hide KCP’s weakness and allow him to flourish in every other aspect of the game.
Expect Caldwell-Pope to go in the late lottery on Thursday, but soon be considered one of the top five shooting guards in the league.
Tony Mitchell, F, North Texas
Mitchell may no longer have the immense upside or excitement surrounding him out of high school, but he still promises to be a legitimate force in the Association.
The uber-athletic Mean Green star has developed into a world-class rebounder during his two seasons in college, which is a testament to his work ethic and motor.
He’s not the biggest forward at 6’9”, 235 pounds, but he’s getting strong enough to bang inside. He's easily able to sky over most opposing bigs to snare a board.
Mitchell is also quick enough to play on the perimeter and stick with—or blow past—some of the faster players he’ll face out there.
The Dallas native is looking like a late first-round selection, but should be able to log heavy minutes at both forward spots in his rookie year.
He needs to work on his jump shot and become more consistent, but considering his non-stop motor, it’s not a stretch to say this kid should improve drastically in those areas over the summer.
If he ever reaches his immense ceiling as a scorer, this 21-year-old will be a complete asset for his franchise and a potential All-Star candidate.
Steven Adams, C, Pittsburgh
Adams is oozing upside and has one of the highest ceilings of any big man in this class, but he’s also extremely raw and could need years of work to develop a serviceable offensive game.
How will Adams fare in the NBA?
This New Zealand native stands at a legit 7’0", 255 pounds, which will allow him to go one-on-one with even the toughest pivots. At the draft combine, Adams showed that he’s athletic enough to run the floor and has the footwork required to avoid fouling out when guarding the top centers.
That alone should insure Adams doesn’t fall outside the lottery, but he could become the top player in this class if his offense ever catches up.
With only one season with the Pittsburgh Panthers under his belt, this 19-year-old still has miles to go in terms of a back-to-the-basket game and even basic pick-and-roll finishing skills.
However, with the right tutelage and dedication, Adams could take the league by storm in a few years.