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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The 5 Best Bets in the 2013 NBA Draft

At this point in the season, things are starting to shape up to a clear enough picture that you can see what you a working with in the lottery. For me, there are 5 nearly clear cut starters that will be able to contribute sooner than later. They don't rank as my top 5 picks - but if I had a pick in the top 14, Id certainly look to put myself in position to get one.

1. Nerlens Noel

Why Noel? Noel is certainly very raw, but that doesn't mean you can't project him into a sure-fire starter by taking a small leap of faith. His defensive ability is already for the lights of the NBA which is something you can't say about many other 18 year old freshman centers ever. Right now he relies more on his outstanding physical gifts and motor, but for him, that goes a long way. Noel has been the only stable factor on this UK team all year long. It speaks volumes about his character and his understanding of his role. While Poythress gets benched because of lack of effort and Goodwin faces questions with his shot selection, Noel has been the rock inside for Kentucky all year long. Noel could have easily went down the wrong path at UK with no veteran leadership and varying success so far, but he's been everything you could want in a budding star. He has erased any concerns about who he thinks he is as a player and his work ethic is reportedly good. At this point, that is not only good enough to put faith in him as a NBA starter sometime soon - but also as the #1 overall pick.

2. Marcus Smart

Smart has been ranked as a top 5 pick on this site since November and has cemented his status ever since with strong performances in big games. Smart is not phased by these situations and has been the leader of Oklahoma State's team all season long. His leadership ability was raved about all summer long by coaches while he played for the U18 USA team. His natural leadership ability made him the easy choice for starting point guard and while he is still learning the position, he has shown plenty of potential in making plays for both him and his teammates. Smart also gets after it on the defensive end - making tons of plays and rebounding the ball - and Oklahoma State has gone from the 107th best team defensively last year to a top 20 team now ( Defense, leadership, maturity, excellent size, athleticism, and a good skillset are  a recipe for a player that wont let you down if you select him. And he's only 18 and brimming with potential.

3. Trey Burke

Trey Burke doesn't possess the amount of potential as the first two guys, but he is already a well-rounded and schooled point guard that can contribute right away. I don't expect Burke to go in the top 5 nor should he - but just like Kemba Walker, if Burke is to drop to the bottom of the top 10 he is an easy pick. Burke may end of National Player of the Year this year on top of leading one of the best team's in the country. He acts as both a scorer and playmaker for his teammates and can score in a variety of ways. Burke can push it in transition, finish at the rim, make plays in the halfcourt, and get his shot off the dribble. There simply is no weakness in his game and it is hard to see him not being a factor at the next level.

4. Ben McLemore

I was on McLemore quickly this year just like Smart. Some players you can just tell right away if they have something special to them. For McLemore, his mix of athleticism and shooting ability projects him very well to the next level. McLemore already has a good understanding of curling around screens and keeping himself squared to the basket to convert shots. The look of his jumper has drawn comparisons to Ray Allen. McLemore is also a big time finisher above the rim and with improved ball handling, his slashing game could become a factor as well. Right now, he is a dynamic shooter that actually has proven in college he can shoot - cough Brad Beal - which gives him a home in the NBA.

5. Cody Zeller

Zeller currently ranks lower than the rest of these guys on my rankings and that is mainly due to the lack of upside. But his basketball IQ and skillset make him the most NBA ready big man in this draft. And Zeller already has two brothers with NBA experience and it is hard to see him not being the best one. Zeller is known for his offensive skill in the post and this season his jumper that he has always said to have, is starting to show in games. What might be a surprise is what he can bring defensively for a team. Zeller is often criticize for his wingspan and lack of explosiveness, but most of the game of basketball is played away from the rim or with the idea of preventing a team from getting to the rim - and that is exactly what Zeller does. Zeller understands defense more than any other big man in this draft and is one of the few that can play NBA defense right away.

One more to consider: Otto Porter

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