Kotoch: Top 20 NBA Draft Prospects, Pre-March Madness

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March Madness is right around the corner, so it’s time to circle the wagons and look ahead to the NBA draft after breaking down each position the past five Saturdays.

Since the last Big Board, draft stocks have soared or tanked based on performances, injuries, and inconsistencies. As the NCAA Tournament approaches, the lives of NBA scouts will be consumed by the names on this list as they dissect every wrinkle or wart of each prospect.

Interestingly, every March a few prospects make a name for themselves and boost their stock enough to declare for the draft — and this year will likely be the same.

The strength of this draft appears to be centers, and as I broke down last week there could be up to 12 big men taken in round 1 this year. Click here for a complete look at the Top 100.

1. Nerlens Noel, C, Kentucky, 6’11″

Despite Noel’s recent knee injury that shelved him for the season, the Kentucky big man remains atop the big board.

Before his injury, Noel was emerging as one of the premier defenders in the country, highlighted by a 12-block performance against Ole Miss.

The door is now open for other prospects to challenge to potentially be the top pick, but a torn ACL is no longer the same devastating injury it used to be. With Noel potentially able to suit up in 8 months, he still belongs on the top of my board.

2. Ben McLemore, SG, Kansas, 6’5″

McLemore has been great this season leading the Jayhawks, whose last lottery pick, Thomas Robinson, just got traded and will have a fresh start in Houston.

McLemore’s rise has been steady to the point where he has now eclipsed Shabazz Muhammad as the top perimeter player.

In talking to scouts, the thing they continue to want to see is whether he can take a game over. As things stand, McLemore could be the biggest threat to Noel for the top spot on the board.

Definitely a top-3 pick.

3. Shabazz Muhammad, SG, UCLA, 6’5″

One of the top prospects heading into the season hasn’t quite lived up to the massively high expectations that were placed on him, but he has been consistent most of the season.

One of the biggest knocks on Muhammad is that he is a high volume shooter in an age where the NBA is looking to maximize efficiency and tracking new analytical statistics.

Muhammad has ceded some ground to McLemore, but a dominant string of performances the rest of the way could open the door to being ranked as the top pick again.

4. Anthony Bennett, PF, UNLV, 6’8″

Bennett’s game is unique, since you don’t often see players post up with an arsenal of moves, but the freshman doesn’t shy away from contact.

Another surprise from Bennett has been his range and accuracy shooting jumpers.

Questions about being a tweener will persist until Bennett is measured at the combine, but as the NBA game continues to get smaller some team in the top 5 is likely to pull the trigger on the big Canadian kid.

 

5. Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State, 6’4″

Smart has been shooting up NBA boards for much of the season with impressive performances showcasing his athleticism, physicality, and production.

In a recent win over in-state rival Oklahoma, he finished with 28 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists. However, in the loss to Kansas, Smart finished just 2-for-14 from the field, good for 14%. Despite that ugly shooting performance, Smart grabbed 7 boards and went to the foul line 14 times.

The ability to run NBA offenses and play either guard position makes Smart very attractive, especially with his unrelenting attacking style. Don’t be surprised if he is even higher on this board in the future.

6. Alex Len, C, Maryland, 7’1″

Len’s performances this season have varied greatly due to a lack of touches from his teammates.

Scouts I have spoken with have questioned why the Terrapins don’t give him 15 touches a game . With his length Len is a good rebounder and shot blocker who is balanced on offense, which is the recipe for a quality starting NBA center.

With Noel’s injury. Len’s got a chance to be the top pick if the team drafting first is desperate for a center and uncomfortable with Noel’s recovery.

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Comments

  1. Steven Burkhart says:

    I think Cody Zeller would be a good fit for Phoenix since they want mobility.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Our Cleveland friend from Pro Basketball Draft shares his updated take on the top 20 NBA Draft prospects. No change at the top: “1. Nerlens Noel, C, Kentucky, 6’11″ — Despite Noel’s recent knee injury that shelved him for the season, the Kentucky big man remains atop the big board. Before his injury, Noel was emerging as one of the premier defenders in the country, highlighted by a 12-block performance against Ole Miss. The door is now open for other prospects to challenge to potentially be the top pick, but a torn ACL is no longer the same devastating injury it used to be. With Noel potentially able to suit up in 8 months, he still belongs on the top of my board.” [Joe Kotoch/Sheridan Hoops] [...]

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