College, NBA, NBA Draft / Dec 5, 2012 / 2:30 pm

Fast 5: Tracking This Year’s NBA Draft Class, Vol. 1

Cody Zeller

Each Wednesday, we’ll be assessing how the top prospects of the 2013 NBA Draft are faring in college and overseas. Stick with us each week for assorted thoughts, including the biggest risers and fallers, the standouts, the sleepers and what we know and don’t know about the next NBA Draft class…

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‘Tis the season for overreaction, both positive and negative for early season performances from the 2013 NBA Draft hopefuls, which is par for the course for the most part. Some of it is justified, but a lot of it is nonsense as the season has only just begun with less than ten games played from nearly everyone.

Here is the NBA Draft Fast Five

ONE: What Do We Know?
Indiana, led by Cody Zeller and a cast of quality NBA talent in their own right, are legitimate contenders. That is impressive because Zeller came in with all the hype as a potential No. 1 pick at the center position and has delivered in his early returns. With the way the class is setting up, the top spot is wide open for someone to assert themselves as the dominant prospect and Zeller is doing that right now. He runs the floor like a guard, getting easy points while scoring on the block in the half-court by imposing his presence. In terms of polish and skill, there is not a better prospect in this class.

The supporting cast has been great too with Victor Oladipo really impressing scouts with his improvement on both ends of the court. Add Christian Watford, Jordan Hulls, Yogi Ferrell and Will Sheehey and this is a tough, tough team.

TWO: What Don’t We Know?
So far this season, Kentucky has lost a few games and fallen out of the rankings in historic fashion, but that is not an indication of how good they could be. These are not the Wildcats from last year, understand that, but they are very talented top to bottom and need to establish a leader on the perimeter to get back on track. Right now Archie Goodwin has to work as the facilitator and scorer from the perimeter and he is doing a good job, but his role is more of an attacking scorer, which is limited when he is setting an offense for others.

Nerlens Noel and Alex Poythress have No. 1 pick potential, but have not played consistent enough to warrant the early season hype. Each has a defensive-oriented game and they score with athleticism right now, something John Calipari is great at maximizing. The glue to the team has to be the play of Willie Cauley-Stein at center and Kyle Wiltjer as a stretch four. They both have NBA games, but are not nearly consistent enough to be looked at as serious first round prospects. Key word there: Consistency.

THREE: Stock Rising
As a center, Alex Len fits the mold of a guy who should be a franchise changer at 7-1 with skill and potential. The game of basketball is a much different game however as centers, depending on the team, are generally defined by a specific role. With Len, he has not established that certain skill that he has that makes him better than his peers just yet. There is plenty of time for him to do so and it is clear that his raw talent is great with the way he played against Noel and Kentucky to open the season.

Keep an eye on Len at Maryland this season because you cannot teach seven feet. He’s vaulted his name into the conversation as a potential top-ten pick.

FOUR: Stock Falling
They do not come more skilled or with more upside than James McAdoo. Yet he has struggled coming out of the gates this season. He was pegged as the guy on this North Carolina team and had early season talk as a top-five pick after the way last year finished. He’s turning the ball over at a high rate while getting bullied in the lane against tougher defenders. As a four or a three, those are not ideal weaknesses because they will limit his effectiveness on the court.

On the flip side, McAdoo has the pedigree and skill set to be like a Swiss Army Knife in the NBA – doing a little bit of everything on both ends of the floor. His early season struggles can be attributed to the void of talent the team has after the 2012 NBA Draft took four of the five starters from last season. There is not a classic center to balance out McAdoo’s game and he is not adjusting well early on.

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