Hey, it's never too early, right?!? Whether you're on board for tank nation or not, the thought for a while now is that the Magic will be in play for a very high pick. With the NCAA season starting, a lot of these prospects will start showing their worth. This season is a big rebuilding one, and many feel it will be the draft which ultimately makes or breaks this year. So why not start tracking things now?
The Near-Consensus Top-3
1. Shabazz Muhammed: He's my clear #1 right now, but I understand that opinion is going to be controversial. He's long, quick and athletic. He has great intangibles and seems to have a strong IQ. He's got a jump shot that can be devastating, though still needs some polish (doesn't have the same range Brad Beal was hyped to have, but I think his in the same position) He's got some questions defensively and might not be a LeBron/Harden-like playmaker, but he's great off the dribble, much like Durant. I know the value of big men in today's game, but a dominant offensive wing can help you get just as far. He doesn't have the glaring offensive or defensive weaknesses that some of the other top guys have.
2. Tyler Zeller: I might be bias because I'm now a Hoosiers fan (my sister goes there, and I'll be going to at least 4-5 games this year). He's bulked up but still has retained his amazing quickness and agility. He'll never be the defender Noel will be, but offensively he has tremendous upside. Great fundamentals, a nice mid range game and solid post skills. Can he bang with the bigger NBA centers in the NBA? That's my only hesitation.
3. Nerlens Noel: Has the potential to be a tremendous defender. He looked a little soft in his debut the other night, but his athleticism just jumps off the page. Offensively he's incredibly raw and I don't know if it will ever become more than that. He's got to bulk up a lot too, but I'm sure that's possible. He's not necessarily a leader worth writing home about. Zeller might not be a great defender, but I think he's less inept on that end than Noel is inept on offense.
The Other Top-of-the-Lottery Players
Here's Chad Ford's Big Board....
1. Nerlens Noel C
2. Cody Zeller C
3. Shabazz Muhammad SF
4. James Michael McAdoo PF
5. Alex Len C
6. Tony Mitchell SF
7. Isaiah Austin PF
8. Alex Poythress SF
9. Rudy Gobert PF
10. Archie Goodwin SG
11. Steven Adams C
12. Drario Saric SF
13. Otto Porter SF
14. Adonis Thomas SF
15. Anthony Bennett PF
I'm more intrigued by Austin and Adams than I am Len. I have no idea how Anthony Bennett crept up that high, but I'd imagine we won't be picking outside of the top 10 anyways.
I'm really interested in Gobert, and he might be #4 on my list right now. Saw him at Eurocamp 2012 and he stole the show on the last day. Tremendously athletic and long. He's got to bulk up a lot, but he has the frame to pull it off. If he can gain a nice 20 or so pounds of muscle he could be a freak. He's got a 7-9 wingspan. He might not enter the 2013 draft, but if he does it will be because he'll be a top pick, and if that's the case I'd be all for it. A good amount of risk here, but a ton of upside. Almost like him more than Noel.
McAdoo I do indeed think is the next best prospect. After that, I'd probably prefer Austin.