At the College Basketball Roundtable each week, we ask members of the coverage staff for their opinions about a current topic in the sport. There are three questions this week, all related to the NBA draft.
First question: Which lottery pick was the worst?
Jeff Eisenberg's answer: When Toronto selected Terrence Ross at No. 8, his response probably did not reassure fans wondering whether the Raptors made a mistake taking him so early. "I didn't think I would go this high," he said. Toronto coveted perimeter help, but targets Dion Waiters, Damian Lillard and Harrison Barnes went in the first seven picks. As a result, the Raptors reached for Ross, choosing him over Austin Rivers and Jeremy Lamb. Ross' outside shooting will be an asset and his ballhandling skills aren't as big a liability as some have suggested, but he'll need to be more consistent and more aggressive to justify Toronto taking him so early. Drafting a quality role player in the teens is fine. Drafting one at No. 8 is less enticing.
Mike Huguenin's answer: I think Andre Drummond is going to be a bust with Detroit. He has all the measurables, but I never was impressed when I saw him in his lone season at UConn. He can block shots, no question, but his rebounding wasn't what it should be and his offense was nothing special. He needs a lot of work, and I'm not sure he is going to put in the time that is needed. I wonder about his consistency and motivation; those aren't things you should worry about with the No. 9 pick.
Steve Megargee's answer: I understand that big guys inevitably are overvalued, but I still think the Portland Trail Blazers made a bit of a reach by selecting Illinois center Meyers Leonard 11th overall. Big guys are in such rare supply in college basketball that you'd think a 7-foot-1 lottery pick could at least lead his team to the NCAA tournament. Leonard was unable to do that at Illinois last season. He does have an NBA body (7-1/250), but I'm not sure he has an NBA game. During one three-game stretch last season, he scored five points in 27 minutes against Michigan, nine in 37 minutes against Purdue and nine in 32 minutes against Nebraska. Illinois lost all three of those games, part of a late-season collapse that cost former Illinois coach Bruce Weber his job. If Leonard couldn't deliver consistent production in the Big Ten, I'm not sure how he's going to have a long NBA career.
[Marc J. Spears: Winners and losers in the 2012 NBA draft]
Second question: Who was the best second-round pick?
Jeff Eisenberg's answer: There probably are 10 first-round picks who won't be as successful in the NBA as Will Barton, including several shooting guards taken ahead of him. Barton, a star at Memphis, slipped all the way to No. 40 despite averaging 18 points as a sophomore and showcasing an efficient mid-range game, effective rebounding ability and good defensive promise. Yes, he needs to get stronger and develop a more consistent 3-point shot, but you could say that for many of his peers in this draft, including Jeremy Lamb, who went No. 12.
Mike Huguenin's answer: I think there are a couple of second-rounders who will make better pros than some guys taken in the first round, most notably Draymond Green, the former Michigan State star who went 35th overall. Watch an NBA game, any NBA game, and you'll be shaking your head at the lowbasketball IQ shown by a lot of extremely athletic guys. Green is sort of the opposite: He has a basketball IQ that is off the charts, but he is not that athletic. I don't think it's going to matter. Green does a little bit of everything; he can score, rebound, pass and defend; he also has a nasty streak that is going to serve him well in pro ball. I think it's his passing ability and rebounding ability that is going to make him an important bench player for a long time – and maybe even a starter as he gets older.
Steve Megargee's answer: You're not necessarily looking for stars once you get into the second round. You're looking for guys with at least one skill that can help them carve out a niche in the NBA. That's why I think the Milwaukee Bucks may have found a keeper in Kentucky guard Doron Lamb, the 42nd overall pick. Lamb won't make any All-Star teams. He might not even develop into an NBA star. But the guy sure knows how to shoot. He made 49.7 percent of his 3-point attempts (161-of-324) as a freshman and made 47.4 percent of his tries from beyond the arc (175-of-369) last season. That shooting ability should keep him on an NBA roster for several seasons.
Third question: Who is going to go No. 1 overall next year?
Jeff Eisenberg's answer: To me, the three favorites at this point are Indiana sophomore-to-be Cody Zeller and incoming freshmen Shabazz Muhammad of UCLA and Nerlens Noel of Kentucky. Of those three, I'd lean toward Noel because an elite center is more valuable than an elite wing and because his upside appears a tad higher than Zeller's. At 6-11 and with an incredible combination of length and explosiveness, Noel is an agile defender and elite shot blocker capable of making an immediate impact on that end. Whether he goes No. 1 overall or slips down draft boards a bit probably will depend on how quickly his offensive skill set develops.
Mike Huguenin's answer: I think it will be UCLA's Shabazz Muhammad, an incoming freshman who is the No. 1 recruit in the class. (He would be the third Bruin to go first overall, joining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Walton.) Muhammad is an elite athlete who can get to the rim on anybody, yet also has a nice outside stroke. In short, he is a devastating offensive player, and I think enough teams will be enamored with his offensive skills to take him over incoming Kentucky freshman Nerlens Noel. Noel by all accounts is a tremendously gifted defensive player but a tremendously raw offensive player.
Steve Megargee's answer: Recent history tells us it will be someone who hasn't yet begun his college career. A freshman has been selected first overall in each of the past three drafts (John Wall in 2010, Kyrie Irving in 2011, Anthony Davis in 2012). I'm going to guess Kentucky signee Nerlens Noel makes it four in a row next year. Noel isn't nearly as complete a player as Davis, but his 6-11 frame and extraordinary shot-blocking ability should make him appealing to NBA teams. It's tempting to go with Indiana sophomore Cody Zeller instead, but after watching the draft stock of Harrison Barnes, Jared Sullinger and Perry Jones fall after they returned for their sophomore seasons, I think predicting a freshman is the much safer bet.
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