One of the most intriguing things about the NBA draft is how much it changes from one year to the next. With high school players having to wait one year after graduation before entering the draft, there are plenty of one-and-done college players, which makes each class unique.
This year is no different as there are several hallmarks that will distinguish it from past and future drafts. The same was true of last year's draft as well. While many of the prospects taken last year still need time to develop, it's still worth comparing that draft to Thursday's as the trends could come into play for many years to come.
Here is how the 2013 NBA draft stacks up against the 2012 version in terms of overall quality and in terms of which tendencies figure to be similar or different.
Big vs. Small
It remains to be seen how teams will ultimately draft in the first round this year, but much of the talent appears to reside in the post. Maryland center Alex Len and Kentucky center Nerlens Noel are both potential No. 1 overall picks. Aside from them, centers Cody Zeller, Steven Adams, Kelly Olynyk, Mason Plumlee, Gorgui Dieng, Rudy Gobert, Jeff Withey and Lucas Nogueira are all very likely to be selected in the first round.
That would be a major departure from last year's draft as Andre Drummond, Meyers Leonard, Fab Melo and Festus Ezeli were the only pure centers to be selected in the first round. Forwards Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist were the first two players off the board, but the draft will likely be remembered for guards such as Damian Lillard, Bradley Beal and Dion Waiters. All three of them made an instant impact and have star potential in the NBA.
While guards like Victor Oladipo, Ben McLemore and Trey Burke have a chance to do something special at the next level, there is no question that the center position will be the main focus on Thursday night. There doesn't appear to be a dominant Shaquille O'Neal, Patrick Ewing or Hakeem Olajuwon-type center in this draft, but it wouldn't be surprising to see this class produce a few All-Stars at the position.
International players have been a huge part of the NBA draft for the past several years, but they didn't make a huge impact in the first round last year. In fact, Frenchman Evan Fournier was the only overseas player taken in the first round as the Denver Nuggets selected him No. 20. Several foreign prospects were taken in the second round, but very few of them saw NBA action. The international flavor promises to return this year, though, because as many as five foreign prospects could be taken in the first round.
Gobert, Nogueira, Dennis Schroeder, Giannis Adetokunbo and Sergey Karasev all stand a great chance of being drafted among the top 30 picks. It's possible that Karasev is the only one among them who will make the jump to the NBA immediately, but they all have very high ceilings, so teams won't shy away from them despite the fact that they need to develop further.
Even if there isn't a Dirk Nowitzki or Tony Parker among them, it's nice to see so many international players in the mix. They bring a lot of different attributes to the table that aren't often seen from collegiate players and they tend to be more polished when they finally come to the NBA as well. This year's international crop would have been even deeper if Dario Saric had decided to declare, but it will be much better than last year's nonetheless.
Kentucky & North Carolina Dominance vs. Parity
Perhaps the biggest storyline in last year's draft was the dominance of Kentucky and North Carolina in the first round. Wildcats Davis, Kidd-Gilchrist, Terrence Jones and Marquis Teague were all selected among the first 30, while Tar Heels Harrison Barnes, Kendall Marshall, John Henson and Tyler Zeller all came off the board by the 17th selection. It doesn't seem as though any one school will have that type of success this season.
Teams like Indiana (Oladipo and Zeller), Kansas (Withey and McLemore) and Michigan (Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr.) could have two first-rounders each, but that will probably be the extent of it. In fact, it's entirely possible the top 10 picks this year could feature prospects from the SEC, ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Big East, Mountain West and Patriot League. That type of parity simply wasn't present last year as the SEC and ACC dominated the draft.
In a lot of ways, this year's draft is a microcosm of this past NCAA basketball season. There was no dominant team as it seemed like the No. 1 squad lost on a weekly basis. Any number of teams could have won the national title as well, so it's fitting that the talent in this draft is so spread out. Aside from Davis, all of the Kentucky and UNC players drafted last year had plenty of growing pains, so it will be interesting to see if parity changes that this year.
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