Bauman: Noel and Len — Two players, two paths and a collision at No. 1

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nbadraft13_300x250_3 (1)NEW YORK — Nerlens Noel grew up fixated on playing in the NBA.

“Since I was a little kid, like 8 years old, I’ve wished for this to come true, to play in the NBA and now it’s finally here,” said Noel. “All the hard work has paid off.”

Meanwhile, halfway around the globe in Ukraine, Alex Len didn’t know what basketball was all about until he was a 13-year old who was still participating in gymnastics.

“Dude, you don’t belong there,” explained Len, regarding how his first basketball coach escorted him off of the parallel bars and onto the hardwood.

“You belong on the basketball court.”

He did then, and he certainly still does now.

Bauman: Three Projected First-Round Picks Who Need The Right Situation

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nbadraft13_300x250_3 (1)When it comes to the NBA draft, sometimes it’s the team, not the player.

Take Thomas Robinson, for example. He was a consensus All-American as a junior and led Kansas to the national title game. By virtually all accounts, he was projected as a solid NBA player.

But Robinson, a power forward, was drafted by the Sacramento Kings, who already had DeMarcus Cousins, Jason Thompson and Chuck Hayes manning their big positions.

So Robinson languished on the bench for half a season before being dealt to the Houston Rockets – who already had three rookie power forwards. He didn’t get the opportunity he needed with either team and was labeled a disappointment.

Now word out of Houston is that GM Daryl Morey is looking to move Robinson without taking any salary in return to clear the cap space needed to max out Dwight Howard. So Robinson likely is headed to a third team before his third-year option is even picked up.

There are a handful of players in the 2013 draft whose futures will be impacted by the team selecting them. Some will be perfect fits for open slots; others will be buried on a bench behind established veterans and never get the chance to show their abilities.

Here’s a look at three whose fortunes could depend on which team drafts them.

CodyZellerCody Zeller, 7-0 1/2, PF-C, Sophomore, IndianaIndiana Hoosiers

Coming into his sophomore 2012-13 campaign, the big man was supposed to have a banner year – literally – for the Hoosiers.

Zeller didn’t quite meet those expectations this season, but he certainly had his moments and showed flashes of brilliance while in Bloomington.

Does he have to work on using his length, strength, lower body and shoulders to finish even better? Sure, but he ran the floor hard, finished in the paint and proved he has a nice touch on his shots as well.

One of the biggest adjustments to the NBA for Zeller likely will be in pick-and-pop situations in space. Zeller has playmaker skills that weren’t always evident at Indiana; he should be an above-average playmaker for a big man at the next level.

Moreover, Zeller has a better touch on his jump shot than I believe most people care to realize, which will be a valuable tool playing with an NBA level point guard – as long as he’s willing to shoot it.

“It wasn’t in our game plan for me to shoot outside as much,” Zeller told me recently at the NBA Draft combine in Chicago. “But I have that ability and I think I’ll be able to show that ability in the workouts with the NBA teams and I’ll be doing a lot more of that at the next level.”

There are also questions regarding whether Zeller can bang in the paint on a nightly basis. While this is an area that has yet to be determined, the game has been leaning more and more toward big men who can step out to the perimeter to shoot. Zeller will fit in just well if he’s not too passive.

Zeller’s excellent combine numbers only help his cause. People weren’t sure how athletic Zeller was, but by posting the highest standing vertical at the combine he has proven he is an athlete.

RELATED: WHY THE 2014 DRAFT WILL OVERWHELM THE 2013 DRAFT

Zeller figures to go late in the lottery, where Philadelphia, Oklahoma City and Dallas all are looking for frontcourt depth for various reasons and would be good landing spots. Bad fits would be Minnesota and Detroit, but he does not look as if he will go that high.

san diego state aztecs 146 logoJamaal Franklin, 6-5 1/4, G-F, Junior, San Diego StateJamaal Franklin

When asked to explain his game, the versatile swingman said, “A person who goes hard every possession. Take no plays off. I’m not out there to look pretty. I’m out there to win. If the ball is on the floor, I’m gonna get on the ground, do whatever it takes. I just want to be a winner. I’m a real competitor and I hate losing.”

This year, Franklin led the Aztecs in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks while guarding multiple positions at a high level.

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Bauman: A 44-inch vertical, plus other notes from NBA pre-draft camp

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13NBA_Draft_StateFarm_LogosheetCHICAGO — It was not a make or break situation, but when you walked into the gym for the NBA pre-draft camp on Chicago’s west side - filled with scouts, general managers, coaches, media and everyone in between – you could feel the intensity in the air.

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The 6 O’Clock News: Zeller, Carter-Williams Go Pro; LeBron To Sit; Lawson May Return Tonight

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CodyZellerA busy week in the NBA continues to get busier. As the draft boards and playoff scenarios continue to change, we’ll keep you updated every day at 6 O’Clock.

Here’s the latest news around the league:

March Madness: Sweet 16 Preview

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ncaaThe first weekend of the NCAA Tournament is pure mayhem; games begin and end simultaneously, buzzers sound from TV’s, iPads, iPhones, and computers, celebrations are loud … and defeat is inevitable for more than three-quarters of the field…

Which brings us to these next four days of college basketball: Games are fewer than the week before, but the stakes continue to rise as the Sweet Sixteen turns into the Elite Eight, and, eventually the Final Four.

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