Its no secret the 2013 NBA draft doesnt figure to be a wealth of talent. A year ago it was clear Kentucky freshman Anthony Davis would be the prize in 2012. No such player has emerged at the pinnacle of Junes draft and probably wont, based on the projected talent pool.
Scouts say Indianas Cody Zeller has a good chance of being the top overall pick assuming he turns pro, but that doesnt mean Zeller, a power forward, projects as a player of huge impact on the NBA scene.
With input from two long-time NBA talent scouts (and with no firm pecking order), here are 10 college players Bobcats fans who are draftniks should check out between now and April:
Cody Zeller (7-0, 240), Indiana power forward: He is different from his brother, Cleveland Cavaliers rookie Tyler Zeller, in that he is more talented offensively, but he doesnt have the bulk to be a center. More bouncy and skilled not as stiff and robotic, like his brother can be, said one scout. Another scout said it is key he gain strength before his rookie NBA season, and even then, hed benefit greatly from playing with a pure-defender center who could leave the inside scoring to Zeller.
Ben McLemore (6-5, 195), Kansas shooting guard: A classic combination of athletic ability and shooting skill in the college game he is hitting 40 percent of his 3-point attempts, 48 percent from the field and 88 percent from the foul line. One scout said based on his agility and spring, he should be a solid defender if he applies himself. But solid as McLemore is, will he be a big step up from established NBA shooting guards? Said one scout: I dont see him taking lots of minutes away from guys we already have if its a fair fight.
Shabazz Muhammad (6-6, 225), UCLA small forward: He is more of a scorer than a shooter. He is big and strong the way you want an NBA small forward to be, but one scout said his contributions dont really make his teammates better because he is neither enough of a passer nor creator to force mismatches from the opposition. He gets his, without being enough of a threat to command double-teams.
Alex Len (7-1, 240), Maryland center: Based on how he dominated Kentuckys high-profile big men this season, he is getting a lot of attention. He has been compared to Philadelphia 76er Spencer Hawes for his pick-and-pop ability to set screens and make mid-range jump shots based on the advantage created. He can score in bunches and has a ton of basketball savvy for a sophomore. Scouts think he is a good teammate, but maybe too much so, seemingly deferring to guards who arent better scoring options on the pick-and-roll.
Otto Porter (6-8, 205), Georgetown small forward: Scouts like that at 6-foot-8, Porter has the size and the skill set to be prototypical NBA small forward. Often these days, teams have to compromise on length or perimeter skills at the position. The trouble in evaluating Porter is Georgetown plays a Princeton offense at such a deliberate pace that its hard to project how hell respond to a faster pace and NBA offenses full of pick-and-roll variations.
Nerlens Noel (6-10, 230), Kentucky big man: Noel is intriguing because he is so long (a reported 7-4 wingspan) and such a leaper that he should have NBA impact as a shot blocker-rebounder. The question is his strength, particularly his lower body: How will he hold ground under the basket against pros far stronger in post-up situations? The expression get up into him play tight to Noels relatively weak body to physically overwhelm him comes up a lot in scouts reviews.
Anthony Bennett (6-8, 240), Nevada-Las Vegas swing forward: Canadian basketball is getting dramatically better, particularly around Toronto. Bennett, who grew up in Ontario, defines the emergence of now-well coached Canadian talent. Hes a high flyer as far as playing above the rim. He needs some refinement on his shooting, but those ups are hard to disregard.
Mason Plumlee (6-10, 235), Duke power forward: The best pro prospect the Raleigh-area schools have to offer this season. Plumlee came back for his senior season and has improved. He has a solid body, plays physically, can be an explosive jumper and defends well. But heres the but. He has suspect hands, scouts say, which hinders him from catching a pass and immediately getting into scoring position. That undermines his explosiveness, one scout said, which is his attribute best suited to the NBA game.
Willie Cauley-Stein (7-0, 245), Kentucky center: Unlike teammate Noel, he has the lower-body strength to hold some ground in the post. However, he doesnt have those other things incredible leaper, athletic grace that give Noel a foothold on a long NBA career. Of the players on this list, Cauley-Stein is the guy scouts would most advise to stay at least another season of college ball, regardless of his potential to be drafted among the top 15. He just needs the seasoning coach John Calipari might provide.
Michael Carter-Williams (6-6, 185), Syracuse point guard: Point guard might have replaced center as the most important/hardest-to-fill spot in pro basketball. Carter-Williams is intriguing in that he is a true distributor/ball-handler, averaging 9.8 assists. The problem is he cant shoot: He makes 37 percent from the field and 28 percent from the 3-point line. That makes it pretty easy for a team to guard four with five.
Two other draftable players from the Carolinas:
James Michael McAdoo (6-9, 230), North Carolina swing forward (second half of the first round): Scouts use the word unassertive in describing McAdoos sophomore season. He is not playing badly, but he certainly is not dominating as you would expect from a guy who once shared best-of-high-school class plaudits with former Kentucky star Anthony Davis. He gets to the foul line five times a game, which is good, but his skills and quickness would suggest even more easy scoring opportunities.
C.J. Leslie (6-8, 200), N.C. State swing forward: (early second round): He is so skinny that scouts wonder what position hed play at the next level. While he has some perimeter skills, theyre more ball-handling than shooting. Unless he bulks up, it will be essential he becomes a better jump-shooter.