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2014 NBA Draft is Loaded, But That Could Change by January, Which is Why Marcus Smart Could Still Go as High as 2nd

2013 McDonald's All American GamesLet’s flashback to June, 2012. The NBA draft has just wrapped, and as I love to do the day after a draft, we looked ahead to the next draft, 364 days away. It’s fun and speculative and triggers chatter!

Keeping in mind that NBA drafts are all about potential, in June of 2012, my NBA lottery mock draft had four freshman who hadn’t played a minute in college going in the Top 6. The other six players in the Top 10? All freshman, some who had shown a lot (Zeller) and some who had shown flashes (McAdoo).

And where are those 10 players now? Five of them are returning to school (all wisely). The other five?

Missouri v UCLA* Shabazz Muhammad, who I had No. 1 last June, will still go in the lottery, but probably not the Top 5
* Nerlens Noel, who I had 4th, might go 1st, despite a torn ACL
* Cody Zeller‘s stock went down a bit, but he’ll go anywhere from 8-14
* BJ Young of Arkansas clearly read his clippings in the offseason, played like it, got benched mid-season, and he’s not a lottery pick right now
* Tony Mitchell of North Texas, a Kenneth Faried-type player, saw his stats all drop. Then he declared for the draft. Marginal 1st rounder, I’d say

The top of the 2013 NBA Draft now has names who, in June 2012, few could have imagined – Ben McLemore of Kansas, Michael Carter-Williams of Syracuse, Alex Len of Maryland, Anthony Bennett of UNLV, Otto Porter of Georgetown, Trey Burke of Michigan, and Victor Oladipo of Indiana.

marcus smart is the manWhich leads me to this ongoing discussion about just how loaded the high school class of 2013 is. Putting Andrew Wiggins aside – he’s locked in at No. 1 for June 2014- it’s far too early to tell just how good Jabari Parker (Duke) or Julius Randle (Kentucky) will be as freshman. They’ll probably very good, but will they still look like Top 5 NBA draft picks after going through a season in the ACC and SEC? Who knows?

And now, onto Marcus Smart of Oklahoma State, who just decided to stay in school. Given what I’ve seen from Smart, and what I haven’t yet seen from the high school kids, I still think Smart could go as high as 2nd in the draft.

As we saw in the last few years, guards can improve dramatically by staying in school – see Trey Burke, Victor Oladipo and Kemba Walker. What if Smart spends his summer in the gym, working on his handle and taking 500 three-pointers a day? We could see a really dominant player next year.

We saw in the last few years it’s tougher for post players – like Jared Sullinger and Cody Zeller – to pass up the NBA to return to school because of the double-teams they’ll see, not to mention the giant target they become.

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