At the Watercooler: 2013 NBA draft

Originally Published: June 29, 2012
ESPN.com

With the 2012 NBA draft in the books, Eamonn Brennan and Myron Medcalf met at the Watercooler Friday morning to spin it forward to 2013.

Eamonn Brennan: Before we begin the weekend, let's be "Those Guys" on a Friday morning. The 2012 NBA draft is over. We've officially waved good-bye to most of the stars of the 2011-12 season, including just about everyone of note on the national champion Kentucky Wildcats. So let's take a way-too-early look at next season, and in particular next year's draft, and how we see things playing out way ahead of time.

So Myron, having seen Nerlens Noel play against high school players and on YouTube, do you think he will end up the No. 1 pick in the 2013 NBA draft?

[+] EnlargeNoel
AP Photo/Bill ShettleMany analysts consider Nerlens Noel to be an even more developed shot-blocker than Anthony Davis.

Myron Medcalf: Well, he'll have some tough competition with Cody Zeller returning and Shabazz Muhammad (most likely) doing the one-and-done deal at UCLA. But he's a force, man. I saw him play at Peach Jam last year. He's a ferocious defender. I think he's more of a natural shot-blocker than Anthony Davis. He has a lot of work to do on the offensive end, but I think he'll make great strides in college. Plus, he has to get stronger. But Davis' emergence has to help his NBA draft stock, right?

EB: Maybe we can rephrase that as "going to Kentucky has to help his draft stock." John Calipari is good at a lot of things, but getting freshmen to play to their potential from Day 1 might be his best quality. A lot of very good coaches struggle with it. Many don't want the headache. If Noel is 80 percent as good on the defensive end as people have been saying, and can add a little offensive stuff to his flow, he'll be a top-five pick for sure.

Speaking of which, not to deviate, but Calipari's tweet earlier this week apologizing to his recruits because he was "spending the majority of his time answering questions from NBA teams about my six guys" was just pure ether. Hilarious. Sometimes you've just got to tip your cap.

MM: Haha. Exactly. He should teach a seminar. Calipari gets it. Listen, the elite guys are not going to your school because they're excited about majoring in botany. They're coming to school to have fun and develop as people and future NBA athletes. And Calipari knows it. He has that swagger the kids are always talking about.

EB: I have never heard this word "swagger" before. Can one foment such "swagger" if one acquires the ancient knowledge of the Dougie?

MM: Well, the Dougie can only be taught. Master Cali Swag District teaches a seminar online. I feel this is the point where people start wondering if they're going to keep reading.

EB: It is exactly that time. I'm trying to think of visual gimmicks or memes we can use to keep them interested. Instead, let's just move forward -- starting with Cody Zeller. Already a great college player, still has a lot to improve, could be the player of the year in 2013. What are his chances of going No. 1 overall? I fear that would be too high for a guy who will be a very solid pro for 10 years but is hardly going to change a franchise's fortunes. Agree?

And that even assumes Zeller won't come back as a junior. His brother (who stayed all four years at UNC) just got drafted, so it's not like it's a financial hardship issue. Indiana fans are hoping and praying.

MM: Well, I've talked to Tom Crean about four or five times this offseason. And he's saying crazy things about Zeller's offseason development. Crazy as in, "Uh oh … we didn't know he was that good." Crean says Zeller is going to have the ball in his hands in every situation. Off screens. Penetrating. Fast breaks. Back to the basket. I think we're going to see Cody Zeller 2.0 next season. What if he evolves into smaller Pau Gasol-type? Might not change a franchise but he could help one win a few titles. What's his ceiling?

EB: I actually love that comparison. Not just because I'm excited to see Zeller do crazy things in college -- he's a fun big man to watch -- but also because I think Pau Gasol is one of the more underrated players in the league, a guy whom I would happily take on the Bulls tomorrow if they found a way to get him. And you look at Pau, and he doesn't overwhelm you with athleticism -- he's just a strong guy with a wide base with ball skills you want from 15 feet and in. If Zeller targets that as his comparison, maybe I'm wrong about his ceiling in the NBA.

MM: I think the problem with assessing big men is that we stamp them far too early. That's the toughest transition in the game: going from a 4/5 in high school to a 4/5 in college. November Cody Zeller was a good player. March Cody Zeller was a lottery pick. I think we'll see a different player next season simply because he's going to do so much in that offense. Like Gasol. And I agree. Gasol doesn't get enough love. That's because we've fallen out of love with the finesse big man. But I think Zeller can be that guy at the collegiate and pro level.

Shabazz Muhammad
Courtesy Bishop Gorman High SchoolThe high-flying Shabazz Muhammad is part of the nation's No. 1 recruiting class at UCLA.

EB: I like it. OK, Shabazz Muhammad. I'm a sucker for a lefty with a smooth offensive game. Blame the Nick Van Exel highlights of my impressionable youth. Blame James Harden. But I really like Shabazz's stiz.

MM: Nick Van Exel. Classic.

EB: My guy! Left-hand floaters for days, man.

MM: You couldn't block it.

EB: The geometric angles involved were baffling.

MM: And if the D collapsed, Eddie Jones was there in the corner, waiting to knock down the 3. But back to Shabazz. I just don't know, man. I think he's a top-three talent. No doubt. But is UCLA going to implode as it tries to mesh the veterans and the new guys? How will Kyle Anderson handle PG? What position will Shabazz play? Some guys enter the year with his stock and they climb. But I could see the opposite for Shabazz if UCLA gets messy with chemistry. A lot of people to include.

EB: It is going to be a fascinating season in Westwood. Final Four. February implosion. Anything's possible.

MM: Can't wait to see it. I think ESPN should send a camera crew to L.A. now. Just start filming.

EB: They can send me if they want. I've got a flip cam and a face born for radio. What could possibly go wrong?

Anyway, those are the apparent top three picks on most mock draft boards, but as we all know, the college hoops season tends to make these things fluctuate. Which means James Michael McAdoo could end up as the No. 1 overall pick. Agree or disagree?

No Zeller and no Henson and no Barnes -- he'll have plenty of opportunity to put up numbers. And I have to say I love his decision to come back. He could have gone the Marvin Williams route, and maybe it would have worked out, but I like the desire to be more in college than just a prospect. Maybe that's selfish, but I like it.

MM: I agree. Smart move. We didn't really see him last year with all the talent. This season, he'll be the man in Chapel Hill. Good call.

I put Isaiah Canaan in that boat, too. Big hype last year when he exploded onto the national scene. But he could play his way into the top 15 with another stellar year. Any other lottery sleepers on your list?

EB: I'll give you three. Michael Carter-Williams, Wayne Blackshear, Mike Moser.

[+] EnlargeMike Moser
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhMike Moser returned to UNLV, where he's got a good chance to become a lottery pick.

MM: Nice.

EB: MCW (Can we settle on that acronym now? Thanks.) couldn't break into Syracuse's loaded rotation but was a top prospect coming out of school and could have a star-caliber season. Blackshear was hurt but flashed oodles of potential in the Final Four against Kentucky. And Moser has flown largely under the radar nationally out at UNLV, but my God, look at him. That's an NBA small forward! If he puts an offensive game together, he could be a career guy in the league.

All three of those guys are late first-rounders right now, so maybe they're not deep sleepers, but they could be top 10 by the end of the season.

I'm also seeing Kenny Boynton as a late second-rounder. That guy had an awesome shooting year last year. If he adds another tool or two, he could be a sixth-man gunner type in the league, right?

MM: I love your sleeper picks. I could definitely see Boynton moving up. How many guys can shoot? Seriously. Don't sleep on Jeff Withey. Went toe-to-toe with AD in the Final Four. He's one 12-foot jump shot and/or spin move off the block from being a lottery pick. Second-round sleeper. And Christian Watford is supposed to be a late second-rounder? I'm just curious: Any NBA squad need a 6-8, 44 percent 3-point shooter? Anyone?

EB: (Nodding my head on Watford as we speak.)

EB: Question for you, Myron. The theme of this year's draft (at least for me) was the general damage guys who came back to school did to their draft stock. Jared Sullinger, Perry Jones and Terrence Jones all could have been top-10 guys last season; this year they fell. Will we see a change in attitude? Or was the lockout season a one-time thing anyway?

MM: I think the lockout changed everything. Without it, Sullinger, Jones, Barnes … they're all gone. They didn't want to sit for a year (potentially). But I still think their decisions speak to my typical response on the issue. If you're hot, you have to go. I mean, MC Hammer blew $30 million. But he made $30 million. You feel me? Yes, guys might enter the league after one year and fail. But they could fail after Year 1, Year 2, Year 3, as well. We get so flabbergasted when a guy makes the wrong decision. But it happens every year to multiple guys of all ages. The bottom line is that you have to go, IMO, when your swagger's on 10 (translation: when you're a projected lottery pick, unless you have a chance to be No. 1 next season).

EB: In the immortal words of Kanye West: "Don't leave while you're hot/ that's how Ma$e screwed up."

MM: Ha, precisely.

EB: I think that just about covers it? Only 4½ more months until the season starts. What are we going to do now? Maybe we'll just start chatting about your new iPad. Watercooler: Tech edition. You in?

MM: If I can ever figure it out, yep.