NBA

The NBA Draft Lottery: Winner Gets Nerlens Noel? Or Ben McLemore?

nerlens noel kentucky knee injuryThe NBA draft lottery is tonight, and if you’re wondering how this could have crept up on you so quickly, it’s because this draft is beyond dismal. Since the turn of the century, two draft classes stick out as horrendous and completely devoid of talent: 2000 (Kenyon Martin went 1st) and 2006 (Andrea Bargnani went 1st). The Class of 2013 will probably fall somewhere in between those disasters.

The 2000 draft was littered with disappointment, and only two players from the first round (Martin and Jamaal Magloire) made the All-Star team, and the best player might have gone in the second round (Michael Redd). The discussion of biggest bust in that draft is a challenge – Stromile Swift, Darius Miles or Marcus Fizer? DerMarr Johnson, a guy who never did anything in one season with Cincinnati, shockingly went 6th overall. Stiffs like Chris Mihm and Joel Przybilla (a serviceable stiff, I suppose) went in the top 10, with non-entities like Jerome Moiso (loved him briefly at UCLA) and Etan Thomas following up at 11th and 12th.

The 2006 draft was one big bucket of yuck – Adam Morrison, a legend at Gonzaga, went 3rd overall and scored 1,200 points in the NBA – although Rajon Rondo is an elite point guard and LaMarcus Aldridge is a very good 20-8 player. Somehow, Patrick O’Bryant and Mouhamed Sene went in the Top 10.

ben mclemoreAnyway, what’s at stake tonight?

A 206-pound toothpick from Kentucky who suffered a torn ACL might be the top pick. Is Nerlens Noel a painfully thin Ben Wallace? A homeless man’s Anthony Davis? Noel will need to get healthy and then add 15 pounds to his sinewy frame before he gets manhandled in the NBA. I don’t know if he’ll be a factor at all as a rookie. How’s this – Noel might have a nice career as Utah’s Mark Eaton – won’t score a lot, but will block shots and rebound? Noel is obviously far more athletic than Eaton, who was a 7-foot-4 giant.

So maybe Ben McLemore, the Kansas wing dripping with potential, will go 1st? That’s possible, but are you sure McLemore is definitely going to be a better pro than Indiana’s Victor Oladipo? Defense, the killer instinct, and athletic ability all go to Oladipo. McLemore is a lethal shooter, but if you followed college basketball closely, you know he can vanish at times. Oladipo doesn’t let that happen … but he’s also not going to get in a zone and sink five or six three-pointers one night the way McLemore can (he did that four times, actually). Back in a February Mock Draft, I had McLemore 1st and Oladipo 9th.

Perhaps a point guard is what your team needs? Then Trey Burke of Michigan, who tore up the NCAA tournament, or offensively-challenged Michael Carter-Williams of Syracuse could sneak into the Top 5. I like Burke, but I really like MCW, who I think has off-the-charts “upside.” He’s a ridiculous athlete who is 6-foot-7 and at times reminds of Penny Hardaway, except he doesn’t shoot well. (Good news! That can be fixed.) A taller version of Rajon Rondo, perhaps?

Wild cards? Indiana’s Cody Zeller, last seen struggling against the Syracuse zone in the NCAA tournament, could rise … or fall. At the NBA Combine last week, a few talking heads actually said they’d take Steven Adams of Pitt over Zeller. That’s sheer lunacy, but someone will probably end up getting fired in two years for taking Adams in the Top 10 after he dominates a chair in a workout. Anthony Bennett of UNLV? He’s a slightly more bullish version of Larry Johnson. Alex Len, a 7-foot-1 athletic big from Maryland is probably one of my favorite players in the draft, mostly because the Maryland guards were so terrible last year, nobody really knows what Len can do. I think he’s going in the Top 5.

Yes, I’ll have a mock draft tomorrow and the hope is that I’ll have a podcast with someone to talk about the draft, as well.

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