Kotoch: Who will be No. 1 in Draft? No clear leader

Of all the other center prospects, Len has the best size, 7’1″ and 255 lbs, but also is solid on the glass and able to block shots. Many NBA teams have taken note of Len’s improvement this year, and a few scouts feel that Len is undervalued right now because Maryland (12-1) has primarily blown out all of its non-conference opponents — thereby limiting Len’s minutes and production.

Like Kentucky, all of Maryland’s remaining games will be nationally televised.

While all the other centers in the mix for the top spot have either held steady or fallen below expectations, Len has seen his stock soar. With momentum like this, it is possible that by tournament time Len could be the odds-on favorite to be the top pick.  Also working in Len’s favor is the fact the NBA is starved for size and functional centers on the offensive end.  Most teams would have a hard time passing up a player like Len.

As Maryland begins its ACC schedule today against Virginia Tech, Len needs to play heavy minutes and become an even more dominant force in the middle, especially offensively. In the end don’t be surprised if he is the first name called in what will be David Stern’s final NBA draft.

Cody Zeller, C, Indiana –  Where to begin with Cody Zeller? The preseason favorite to be the top pick in the draft by many experts has followed up his spectacular freshman season with a nearly identical sophomore campaign.

Zeller has been very good at times offensively and occasionally on defense and the glass, but he has failed to consistently dominate the competition as many NBA executives and scouts had hoped for heading into this season. When freshman concerns spill over into a sophomore season, those concerns become magnified. One executive who recently scouted Zeller complained that he didn’t command the ball or try to take over like someone of his ability should.

While Zeller’s stock has slipped slightly, he remains in the mix to be the top pick and would be a great compliment to a team that lacks post scoring . Unfortunately for Zeller, Indiana (13-1) has a target on its back. And with such high expectations for the team, the star player must perform up to or beyond expectations or be considered disappointing.

As the Big 10 season gears up, Zeller has a chance to sweep any disappointment under the rug as he will run through a challenging schedule rife with tough opponents and difficult matchups, but with Zeller’s pedigree and resume he mostly needs to finish strong to have teams salivating over him come draft time.

Anthony Bennett, PF, UNLV – Over the summer the buzz around UNLV was that the Rebels would be a very good team, led by Mike Moser and with super-frosh Anthony Bennett. But with Moser missing nearly half the season, so far, Bennett has been forced to step up earlier than many expected.  And he has not disappointed.

There has not been a more dominating freshman in America this season than Bennett, who is averaging 19.4 ppg and 9.0 rpg.  More impressive is the fact that Bennett has an old-school game that incorporates his advanced body and 7’1″ wingspan. Fewer players in college are comfortable or willing to be physical and play back-to-the-basket, but Bennett does so in a refreshing way.

Combined with his advanced post game, Bennett has a good face-up game with range, and moves well for a player his size.  Bennett also wreaks havoc for his opponents with his ability to attack off the dribble.

Coming off a six-point loss at North Carolina last Saturday, the Rebels (12-2) open conference play next week after tonight’s game against Cal-State Bakersfield.

Comparisons to Zach Randolph and Larry Johnson are out there, and NBA scouts all season long have been raving about Bennett.  In a year in which no candidate has separated himself from the pack, Bennett could be a great choice at the top for the right team (especially Toronto, which would jump at the chance to land a player who will be the backbone of Jay Triano’s national team for years to come). Pairing Bennett with Kyrie Irving in Cleveland would make for a deadly pick-and-roll combination and give opposing defenses nightmares.

Rudy Gobert, C, France – The lengthy Frenchman has to be included in the mix to be the top pick on potential alone.  Gobert is 7’1″ and has a 7’9″ wingspan, moves well, finishes around the basket, and can alter opponents’ shots.

That being said, Gobert’s stats aren’t overwhelming from a production standpoint but scouts and GMs are salivating at his ridiculous field goal percentage of 77%.  While there is exciting potential, Gobert is very raw offensively and must get stronger to handle the rigors of the NBA grind.

His team has been eliminated from EuroCup competition, so NBA scouts will have to judge him against the lesser competition he will face over the remainder of the season in the French League.

From a draft standpoint, Gobert is a long shot to be the top pick — but should not be dismissed.

(RELATED: Top 10 NBA Prospects — Preseason Edition)

(RELATED: Top 10 NBA Prospects — December Edition)

(RELATED: No Mock is a Lock, But Our Mock Rocked)

Joe Kotosh is the Editor-in-chief of Pro Basketball Draft, a leading scouting service in the world of professional basketball. Before Joe created PBD he served as an NBPA & FIBA certified agent and scouted players all across the world. Born and raised in Cleveland, Joe also contributes to Fox Sports Ohio and the Cleveland Plain Dealer. You can follow Joe on Twitter @Probballdraft.




  1. john steppling says

    good piece, but no McLemore? Id think if bennett is there, then McLemore has to be. In fact Id say he has to be more impressive so far than Muhammed. Only 6 4 1/2 of course and shabaaz is 6 6. But so what, McLemore has elite hops and athleticism. Gobert is a walking bust. Ouch. This years biyambo but worse. Also…mason Plumlee might not be top pick but top five? Id say so at 19 pts a game and is a better defender than Cody.

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