Underclassmen don't always pan out as NBA professionals, but when you're ready, you're ready. And there's little doubt that there are names on the NBA underclassmen list who are ready to contribute right away.
Seventy-seven players of college and international backgrounds will be among those vying for the 60 total selections in the 2013 NBA Draft. That number does not include the four-year college players who are also competing for the same designation.
Back to the underclassmen scene—all of the top-five players who still have a chance to go No. 1 to the Cleveland Cavaliers haven't completed their eligibility at the college level.
Alex Len, Nerlens Noel, Otto Porter Jr., Ben McLemore and Anthony Bennett were all mentioned as potential No. 1 selections for the Cavs by Fox Sports' Sam Amico on Monday, leading to the theory that there's a lot of wide-scale talent in this draft.
Along those same lines, here's a look at three of the top underclassmen in the draft who have a chance to make the biggest immediate impact in the NBA.
Don't label these guys as projects—they don't fit the bill.
You won't find Noel or Bennett on the list (injuries), but don't be discouraged about the long-term status of your favorite draft prospect if you don't see him on the list. This piece is about immediate impacts, and these three guys fit the bill.
SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Georgia
KCP has been drawing significant interest from lottery teams over the past few days, and that interest has led him to an invite to the green room in Brooklyn on Thursday night. Chris Haynes of Comcast SportsNet had the scoop:
If there's a team in need of wing help in the draft outside of the top-five picks (cough, Minnesota, cough), then Caldwell-Pope is going to be a hot candidate to fill those needs.
According to Alex Kennedy of HoopsWorld, he's even drawing rave reviews from fellow prospects:
The sophomore averaged over 18 points per game on 43.3 percent shooting from the field this season, and he added an impressive 7.1 rebounds per game on 37.3 percent shooting from the three-point line.
As noted by Steve Fall of The Sports Resource on Twitter, Caldwell-Pope's per-40 minute marks from deep were also very good:
Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports listed KCP's home-state Atlanta Hawks as a team looking to move inside the top five on draft night by dangling both of their first-round picks (No. 17 and No. 18). He also noted that Shabazz Muhammad was on the team's radar.
Another interesting connection to make there would be KCP, who played his college ball at Georgia and helps fill the void left by the free-agent exodus that happened in Atlanta's books this offseason.
With an athleticism that is severely underrated and an improving three-point shot, there's a good chance any team drafting KCP in the lottery is going to place him on the wing and let him thrive during his rookie season.
Minnesota, Detroit, Portland, Philadelphia and Dallas are all interesting fits inside the lottery. All of those teams would have minutes to offer the 20-year-old during his rookie season.
When the minutes come, Caldwell-Pope will prove he is one of this class's best shooting guards.
SF Otto Porter Jr., Georgetown
A consensus First-Team All-American this year, Porter draws comparisons to Tayshaun Prince and is seen as one of the most NBA-ready players in this year's draft.
It should come as no surprise that he's seen as one of the players listed who will make an immediate impact as an NBA rookie.
With a consistent college shooting stroke (49.8 percent over two seasons with the Hoyas) and an improving three-pointer (42.2 percent as a sophomore), Porter doesn't leave much of his game to project or development labels.
Although his ceiling is somewhat limited in scouts' eyes, he's already a well-rounded player on both ends of the court and strong enough just out of his teens to take on a starting job in the NBA.
Teams with needs at small forward (Cleveland, Washington, Detroit, New Orleans) inside the lottery are all likely quietly discussing the pros and cons of drafting the young Georgetown standout. One of those pros has to be his ability to contribute right away.
If he comes anywhere close to the 16.2 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.7 assists he averaged during his sophomore season at Georgetown, then whichever team drafts him will look back fondly at Thursday's selection process.
Even if he doesn't, expect his first impact to come on defense, where some of the NBA's most deadly scorers (LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Paul George) now reside. With long arms and high athleticism, Porter will be worth a lottery pick for his defense even if his offense sputters at first.
SG/SF Victor Oladipo, Indiana
In three seasons at Indiana, Victor Oladipo went from a shooting guard who couldn't shoot to one of the NCAA's most feared players on both ends of the court.
Sports Illustrated's Andy Glockner mentions both of the last two names as two of the "safest" picks in the draft:
Meanwhile, ESPN's Chad Ford has the young man rated No. 1 on his draft board following the information gathering from various NBA executives across the league:
His best and final season at Indiana included 13.6 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.2 steals per game on nearly 60 percent shooting from the field. But numbers hardly do justice to the idea that Oladipo is a star in the making.
Indiana was a different team when he was on the court. And although his offensive game hasn't quite caught up to his defense, intensity and basketball IQ, there's reason to believe that it will with the right NBA seasoning.
Whether Oladipo is a top-five pick or a trade target from another franchise won't matter—he's getting drafted to start. And he should be—you'd be hard pressed to find an NBA general manager's or coach's review of his game that would suggest otherwise.
Call him "safe," "sleeper" or whatever else you want, but Oladipo is going to have a big impact for his new team from Day 1. Now it's up to that team to come forward on Thursday night.
PF/C Cody Zeller, Indiana
SG Tim Hardaway Jr., Michigan
C Gorgui Dieng, Louisville
C Alex Len, Maryland
SG Ben McLemore, Kansas
SF Tony Snell, New Mexico
Follow B/R FC Ethan Grant (@DowntownEG) on Twitter.
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