C.J. McCollum might be the best scorer in the 2013 NBA draft.
You know all about Nerlens Noel and Ben McLemore, you've followed Shabazz Muhammad since he was in the ninth grade, and you believe that Trey Burke was the best player in college basketball last season.
Who don't you know? Every year there are a few surprises in the first round, guys who haven't gotten much press but who turn into excellent draft picks.
Last year it was Weber State's Damian Lillard, who went on to become the NBA Rookie of the Year. In 2011, it was Morehead State's Kenneth Faried. In 2010, it was Fresno State's Paul George.
We call them draft sleepers -- talented prospects who haven't gotten the love they probably deserve.
This year, there's an abundance of them. Here are six guys you might not know much about who could end up having better careers than some of the more-hyped prospects in the draft.
C.J. McCollum, G, Lehigh
McCollum might not be a household name, but NBA scouts have been watching him closely ever since his terrific freshman season at Lehigh. As both a junior and a senior he ranked third in the nation in college PER. He had his national coming-out party during the first round of the 2012 NCAA tournament, when he recorded 30 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists in a first-round upset of Duke.
He was off to a scintillating start as a senior, averaging 23.9 ppg and shooting a ridiculous 52 percent from 3-point range before a foot injury ended his season after just 12 games.
The good news is that McCollum is back. His foot is 100 percent, and he's been cleared for full workouts. The world will get its first look at him again at the NBA draft combine next week in Chicago.
What they should see is a very skilled scorer who can get his shot off from anywhere. There might not be a better scorer in the draft. McCollum is terrific in transition, can break down players off the dribble, shoot off the bounce and has deep 3-point range on his jumper in catch-and-shoot situations.
Despite his scoring acumen, McCollum is a heady player who also sees the floor well, reads defenses and keeps mistakes to a minimum. Although he's not a pure point guard, his slick handle, penetration ability and knack for finding open teammates all suggest he can easily make the transition to the point in the NBA.
Scouts say he's a high-character player who is driven to succeed. In many ways, he resembles Lillard in his work ethic and his fearlessness with the ball in his hands.
Of course, scouts have some issues with McCollum. Although the potential is there for him to make the transition to the point, he wasn't a high-assist player in college. Given his role on the team and his nature, he looked for his shot first. He also isn't a particularly explosive or quick athlete, which could create issues on both ends of the floor at the next level.
Nevertheless, more and more GMs seem to be warming up to McCollum as an elite prospect in the draft. We currently have him going No. 9 to the Timberwolves in our latest mock draft, but he could go as high as No. 4 to the Suns.
Glen Rice Jr., G/F, Rio Grande Vipers
Rice JrGrant Halverson/Getty ImagesFormer Georgia Tech player Glen Rice Jr. has been rising up draft boards recently.
It's hard to call the son of a former NBA All-Star a sleeper, but that's exactly what Rice became after being dismissed from Georgia Tech after his junior season for multiple team rule violations. Rice had the reputation as a troublemaker, an immature, entitled kid who was wasting his basketball talents.
However, Rice decided to play in the D-League this season, and after an inauspicious start, he caught fire in February and went on to average 18 points and eight rebounds a game through the rest of the season. He took his game to another level in the D-League playoffs, averaging 25 PPG and 9.5 RPG to lead the Vipers to the championship.
Rice Jr. has caught the eyes of scouts thanks to elite athletic abilities, a dangerous jump shot and fantastic rebounding ability as a wing. He's also made strides on the defensive end as well, recording above-average steals and blocks numbers. More importantly, he's had an incident-free season, indicating to NBA scouts that perhaps he's finally matured as a person.
How can a player who is dominating the D-League be ranked so low? Scouts are slow to accept that players can change. He wasn't on anyone's radar after his junior season of college, and they've been slow to wake up to his success. He's also been playing out of position as a power forward in the D-League, and there are questions about what position he will play in the NBA.
Nevertheless, the more the process moves forward, the higher Rice climbs. I think it's safe to say he's firmly in the first round right now. However, with great workouts and a great performance at the draft combine, he could end up in the lottery. There's that much potential there.
Isaiah Canaan, PG, Murray State
Fran Fraschilla broke down the case for Canaan on Tuesday, so I won't go into much more detail here, other than to say that Fran gets a major co-sign from me on Canaan. The Murray State star just didn't have a lot of support this season, but many scouts remember what he did to several of the opposing guards at the Nike LeBron James Skills Academy last summer. After he gets into workouts, he could become the next point guard off the board after Trey Burke, McCollum and Michael Carter-Williams hear their names called.
Ricardo Ledo, G, Providence
Ledo was the 21st-ranked high school prospect in the country last season and was widely regarded as the most gifted scoring guard in the class. Poor academics and inconsistent effort were the only things holding him back from being a star. Ledo failed to academically qualify to play at Providence, and has spent the past season practicing with but not playing for the team.
Had Ledo been able to declare for the draft last year, I think he would have been a mid to late first-round pick. Where will he go this year?
His talent, size and scoring ability are still all there. He also has a high basketball IQ and the ability to be a big point guard. His weaknesses are inconsistent effort and some selfishness with the ball. Scouts who have seen him in practices this season still swear he's one of the top talents in this draft and believe he'll blow up in workouts.
We moved Ledo into the first round of our mock draft on Tuesday. If he plays well at the combine and in workouts, he could move another 10 or 15 spots up the board. There are few upside prospects in this draft, and Ledo has just about every scout I've spoken with intrigued.
Jackie Carmichael, PF, Illinois State
Carmichael has had a bit of a cult following all season among NBA scouts. He's not young (23), nor does he have huge upside. However, he's the rare power forward these days who actually plays with power. At 6-foot-9, 240 pounds with a 7-foot wingspan, he has the requisite size and strength to play in the post. And he works his butt off on both ends of the floor. He's physical and finishes above the rim in the paint. He rarely touches the ball outside of 18 feet.
His explosive athletic ability, toughness on the boards, shot-blocking and quickness are all indicative of an NBA backup power forward. He won't ever be a big-time scorer in the league, but could fill a Udonis Haslem-type role at the next level as a tough defender who protects the rim, grabs rebounds and scores on garbage points. He could be a late first-round pick.
Burst onto the scene as a rising senior and announced himself as a high-major player and Top 100 candidate. He's the owner of an athletic build and is wiry, ala Will Barton. His effectiveness is derived from the fact that he is capable of playing multiple positions. Though he's far from a full time point guard, Quarterman believes he can do it in a pinch and handles the ball well enough to be a secondary handler. As an offensive player, Quarterman is adept going to the rim and owns a floater that is effective. His length, ala Jeremy Lamb, is a real asset. Where he may have the most upside is on the defensive side of the ball. Hawks the ball, plays tight defense and most importantly, wants to be a defender.
He's new to the scene so consistency in terms of high level performances is something he needs to build on. His perimeter shot behind the line will be a huge part of his development. If he wants to play more as a point - we don't think that's his long-term position - he needs to tighten the handle and make A decisions.
High-major candidate. Has the physical attributes that are elite for his position. Needs time to grow his reputation in conjunction with his game.
Ditto the Will KD ever win a ring Insider article.
Found the article on some chinese website
Originally Posted by Insider
Will Kevin Durant ever win a ring?
It's still early, but with LeBron James around, could a title elude him?
With LeBron James in front of him, is Kevin Durant destined for a career of "bridesmaid" status?
Frequently in this space, I've touched on the relatively deterministic nature of the NBA when compared with the three other major North American sports leagues. Simply put, the high number of possessions and small number of players on the court cause basketball to be the most predictable sport on our landscape. This is why the better team wins any given basketball game with far greater frequency than it does in baseball, football or hockey.
That's especially good news if you're the best player in the NBA, a fact that's been borne out by six decades of pro basketball history. The lineage of the league's best players, from LeBron James backward is filled with superstars who also led their teams to championships, almost single-handedly exerting their influence on the league and bending it to their will.
By contrast, having the best player in baseball or hockey leads to a championship with surprising infrequency, and even the NFL's marquee quarterbacks have a much lower "batting average" in championships won than the NBA's top stars. (For every Tom Brady and Joe Montana, there's a Joe Flacco or an Eli Manning -- and that's not even mentioning the Trent Dilfers or Brad Johnsons of the world.)
All of which brings us to Kevin Durant.
Durant, almost all of us can agree, is: (A) a generational type of talent, and (B) almost certainly not the best player in basketball. As even the most casual of observers can tell you, James is playing at a level so high that everyone else is relegated to merely battling for second place in the pecking order of NBA stars. In fact, James has reached that rarefied zone of being the league's unquestioned alpha dog, a place previously reserved in the minds of basketball fans for names such as Michael Jordan, Shaquille O'Neal, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and few others (even Magic Johnson and Larry Bird had each other; Bill Russell fended off Wilt Chamberlain and Oscar Robertson for the better part of a decade).
This might have happened sometime last season -- or, more likely, after an offseason spent processing the new reality of James and the Heat as reigning champions. Whenever it happened, the overwhelming consensus is that James is the league's No. 1, with Durant left chasing the runner-up slot.
In most sports, such designations are usually cosmetic appellations at best, but in basketball they tend to have real repercussions. James' Heat might very well fail to win the crown again, but NBA history is littered with repeat champions led by the league's best player, and Miami's recent performance has confirmed the preseason notion that the Heat are the team through which all roads to a title run. In baseball, the reset button gets pressed -- the San Francisco Giants are one of no fewer than a baker's dozen of contending teams, any one of which could win it all without us batting an eyelid. However, basketball is more like the boxing landscape of yesteryear: To be the new champ, you have to knock the old one out.
That means Durant could very well join the timeworn list of the NBA's second-best players, all of whom could have won at least one title (often more) were it not for the No. 1 player denying them for years and years on end.
Jordan's career is particularly notable for locking lesser stars out of the championship club. Between 1982-83 and 1990-91, 19 actual or probable (defined as greater than 50 percent Hall of Fame probability, according to Basketball-Reference.com) Hall of Famers made their NBA debuts, excluding Jordan. Among those players, just eight won a ring without help from Jordan, and some of those championships were of dubious contribution (Mitch Richmond averaged 1.5 PPG in the playoffs for the 2003 Lakers; even David Robinson, Clyde Drexler, and Gary Payton got their rings as veterans in support of younger superstars).
Meanwhile, the star power of the Hall of Fame-caliber players left ringless by Jordan is blinding: Karl Malone, John Stockton, Charles Barkley, Dominique Wilkins, Patrick Ewing,Reggie Miller … the list goes on and on.
Always a bridesmaid?
Player Debut Rings w/o MJ
James Worthy 1983 3 3
Dennis Rodman 1987 5 2
Hakeem Olajuwon 1985 2 2
Joe Dumars 1986 2 2
David Robinson 1990 2 2
Clyde Drexler 1984 1 1
Mitch Richmond 1989 1 1
Gary Payton 1991 1 1
Scottie Pippen 1988 6 0
Dominique Wilkins 1983 0 0
Ralph Sampson 1984 0 0
Charles Barkley 1985 0 0
John Stockton 1985 0 0
Patrick Ewing 1986 0 0
Karl Malone 1986 0 0
Chris Mullin 1986 0 0
Reggie Miller 1988 0 0
Tim Hardaway 1990 0 0
Drazen Petrovic 1990 0 0
As the most analogous modern player to Jordan in terms of sheer dominance, James casts a shadow that looms similarly large over the careers of Durant and his contemporaries. The previous generation -- most notably Kobe Bryant(in his post-Shaq incarnation as the Lakers' undisputed No. 1) and Dirk Nowitzki -- got their rings in the brief window before James started making good on his vast potential in the playoffs. Players who debuted in the LeBron era might not be so lucky if he follows in Jordan's footsteps and puts a comparable stranglehold on the Larry O'Brien trophy.
This isn't just a rare phenomenon with Jordan or (potentially) James, either. The presences of O'Neal and Tim Duncan stymied Kevin Garnett for most of his prime. Robinson and Ewing each had Olajuwon in their paths. And who knows how many rings Chamberlain would have were it not for Russell? In each case, being second-best wasn't good enough to break through because it's so difficult for NBA teams to win a seven-game series against even a slightly superior opponent.
Among team sports, this "bridesmaid effect" is somewhat unique to the NBA, and again, it all stems from the nature of the sport. Perhaps a better illustration is a comparison to individual sports: in this metaphor, basketball is like tennis but baseball, football, and hockey are like golf. Barring age or injury to the top player, the world's second-best tennis player has a low probability of winning any given tournament with the best player also in the field because there are few upsets -- all roads lead through the No. 1 player -- and the more skilled competitor wins a tennis match overwhelmingly often. This is why, in sports such as tennis and basketball, you see certain players come up short against dominant competition again and again. There's the distinct feeling that the perpetual bridesmaid must "wait out" the reigning champion, seizing upon age-related decline, to have a chance at winning.
Conversely, although we sometimes see the same names pop up from time to time in golf's majors, more often the case is that winners fluctuate wildly from tournament to tournament. Periods such as Tiger Woods' dominance in the early 2000s are the exception, not the rule, because favorites face such a smaller sample and there are so many more sources of variance than for their counterparts in tennis. In golf, as in team sports other than basketball, there is very much the sense that "the field" outweighs any given competitor's probability of winning a tournament, simply because of said variance. You don't have to wait for the best player to decline for a chance at winning; sometimes you can beat him head-to-head through sheer chance alone.
Durant's one edge -- his age
In some ways, it's too early to declare that Durant is fated to the predicament of the perpetual bridesmaid. He's still just 24, and could plausibly continue to improve -- this season alone, his game has taken off further into the stratosphere than it was just a year ago. Likewise, decline could befall 28-year-old James at an earlier age than any of us would expect, opening the door for challengers to the throne.
Based on normal aging patterns, James likely has reached his peak already and is playing at or near his best right now (statistically, he's actually slightly below his maximum output of 2008-09 and 2009-10 at the moment, but he has essentially plateaued at an incredible rate of production over the past five seasons), so there's nowhere to go but down for the league's best player, especially as he enters his early 30s.
Meanwhile, Durant still projects to have several years of growth left, particularly after a 2012-13 campaign that saw his production continue to push upward from an outstanding 2011-12. It's possible Durant's upward arc could cross paths with James' downward trajectory within five or six years. Could the 2017-18 season be Durant's sweet spot, in his age-29 season?
Theoretically, Durant would be in his prime, just as James is now. By then, James should be in clear decline in his age-33 season, and there's no guarantee Wade or Bosh will have anything left by then, nor whether James still would be playing with them. Fact is, that sweet spot could come even earlier if things break right for Durant and wrong for James.
Having said that, James has such a huge edge on Durant and everyone else production wise that he could lose 15 percent of his value and still be ahead of Durant. That means we shouldn't be surprised if the first decade or more of Durant's career plays out in parallel against James', with LeBron getting the better of him in terms of ring count simply because he continues to be the game's most dominant player.
In some sports, there's no shame in being second-best because sometimes you even get lucky and win anyway. Unfortunately for Durant, basketball just isn't one of those sports.