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College, NBA Draft / Dec 12, 2012 / 2:00 pm

Fast 5: Tracking This Year’s NBA Draft Class, Vol. 2

Anthony Bennett

Anthony Bennett (photo. UNLV Communications)

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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Many believe this class does not have a clear cut star, so some NBA decision-makers are trying to “get out of the” top five in order to avoid spending a high pick (and lots of money) on just a “good” player. This happens every year when a major star is drafted the prior year: it leaves a void in college and international basketball. Welcome to the 2013 NBA Draft everyone!

Here is the NBA Draft Fast Five.

ONE: What Do We Know?
There is no superstar this year and that is what typically makes people grow cold to an entire class. That is very common with draft classes. Looking back at the last 10 NBA Drafts, there have been perhaps seven with “can’t miss” stars at the top.

Let’s examine this:

2003: LeBron James
2004: Dwight Howard
2005: Andrew Bogut*
2006: Andrea Bargnani*
2007: Greg Oden
2008: Derrick Rose
2009: Blake Griffin
2010: John Wall
2011: Kyrie Irving*
2012: Anthony Davis

In 2005 Bogut was the top guy, but the draft produced two of the best point guards in the NBA this decade along with some quality depth overall. In 2006, Bargnani was the pick by default for Toronto, but after that, it was one of the more underrated classes over the past 25 years. Then there was 2011 where it was more about the guys who stayed in college rather than the talent that declared. Irving turned into a star, but go back to January 2011 and there was not one person who saw this coming.

That is what this 2013 class is evolving into. There is fluidity from the top to about midway through the lottery this year, which is not always appealing, but can produce a larger amount of quality talent to the league a la 2006 and even 2011. The top is not indicative of everything neck down in this or any NBA Draft.

TWO: What Do We Not Know?
With all of that we still don’t know how good the fluidity is just yet. Does it go 14 deep or three deep? Looking across the landscape, this class seems to be deep at every position outside of the four and maybe the one. There are a lot of quality centers in this class, but they are all raw outside of Cody Zeller with a lot to prove still in terms of what they can do on the court. The athletes on the wing are as good as any year since 2003 with a lot of potential stars led by Shabazz Muhammad, Alex Poythress and Otto Porter.

All four of those players could be the top overall pick in a draft like this – there is that fluidity – so not having a star does not make a class weak. It makes scouts have to do their job. The Boston Celtics did their job in 2006 with Rajon Rondo and the Denver Nuggets did the same in 2011 with Kenneth Faried.

We are getting a feel for the top players, but the draft will be won by teams in that 5-15 range and even into the 20s with how prepared they are.

THREE: Stock Rising
Early in the season, ESPN College Basketball Guru Jay Bilas tabbed Anthony Bennett of UNLV as the best freshman in the country. He may be right, but it is very early in the process.

The Canadian product is a burly, strong forward with the ability to play both the three and the four in college, but is more of a three at the next level. He is not a great shooter from distance at 6-for-19 so far on the season. Most perimeter players linger on the wing despite their shooting woes, but Bennett knows what he is good at and attacks the rim getting to the line (8.1 per game) at a high rate.

What makes Bennett a potential lottery pick is the fact that he plays hard on both ends of the floor, attacking the glass and defending his position as well as anyone. Bennett has a very high motor, which is not a teachable trait. Over the summer he struggled with conditioning, but he seems to have put that behind him this year. I was able to watch him at the Nike Hoops Summit in April and he is no stranger to taking (and making) big shots.

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