Short answer, not really. The idea of intentional sabotage, regarding draft spots, is never a good one. But it does look like Nerlens’ two major competitors for the overall top spot aren’t doing a whole lot to make it an easy decision.
With the first few games into the season come and gone, NBA scouts have a little more information to work with regarding 2013’s draft. The top three names for the draft, Cody Zeller, Shabazz Muhammed, and Nerlens, have had some opportunity to show their ability, but so far none of the three have been overwhelming. Three games into the regular season, is it a race to the bottom for the NCAA’s top three players?
Shabazz was good, but not great, in his collegiate opener last night against Georgetown (a game which the Bruins ultimately lost). He picked up a quiet 15 points on 50% shooting, but grabbed only one rebound and two assists to go along with one turnover and two fouls. He’s a scoring machine, but he’ll have to work on all those other things to develop into a guy that teams want to base their franchise around. As Cal would say, “What is Shabazz doing when he’s not scoring?” Look for UCLA to look to include him more in the offense; and don’t expect him to start a game on the bench much longer.
Meanwhile, Indiana (unfortunately) escaped a surprisingly tough looking Georgia team, no thanks to Cody Zeller. The “Big Handsome” (I’m not seeing it) had an underwhelming stat line at 6 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 steals in twenty-seven minutes. He’s still averaging almost 15 points and 7.5 rebounds, but that’s against teams like Sam Houston State and Bryant University. He had a great season last year, but might pull a Jared Sullinger and really regress as far as draft position goes.
Noel, as we’ve seen, has shown tremendous improvement even through only three games. He had just 4 points in the opener against Maryland, but picked up 16 and 15 against Duke and Lafayette. He’s averaging almost 12 points, but it’s the rest of his stat line that really sets him apart. In addition to the scoring, he’s picking up 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 2.3 blocks, and 3.3 steals per game. When Nerlens isn’t scoring, he’s still very active, and has really set the standard for work ethic on this young Wildcats team. If I’m a scout, that’s gonna stand out.
Adam Zagoria, at ZagsBlog, observed the games at Hova’s House last night, and considered the draft prospects of those playing. “Truth be told, neither Zeller nor Muhammad looked deserving of a No. 1 overall pick on this night, early as it is in the season. … At this point, it figures to be a season-long battle for the top spot between several players, including Zeller, Muhammad, Nerlens Noel and Willie Cauley-Stein of Kentucky, Isaiah Austin of Baylor and perhaps others.”
The top three have been good, but they’re allowing other names to enter the “Top Spot” conversation. It’s nice to hear that WCS is in the mix, as well as Baylor big Isaiah Austin, but in the current basketball landscape, there’s no reason Zeller, Muhammed, and Noel shouldn’t be able to separate themselves from the rest of the pack.
I guess we’ll just have to watch a lot more basketball to figure out who’s gonna come out on top. Which is fine with me.