NBA Prospects of the Near Future

For some prospects, their postseason was over even before it started. For others, it didn't last too long. And even more will begin the off-season this weekend. Any way you look at it, time has run out for a handful of top prospects as their seasons have come to a close.

Meyers Leonard, C, So., Illinois

Physically, there's not a whole lot not to like about this 7-footer. He's long, super-athletic for his size, and gets up and down the floor well. For a player of his size, he is quite agile. And look at the improvement between his freshman and sophomore seasons: going from 8 minutes a game to 32 a night, elevating his scoring to 13.6 points on 58.4 percent shooting and 8 rebounds per game. He's had much better focus and aggressiveness in games, something he struggled with for much of last season; however, his play is still inconsistent, but this young kid is oozing with NBA potential given his athletic ability and growing offensive ability.
Projection: late lottery pick

Scott Machado, PG, Sr., Iona

In a draft void of a truly standout point guard, Machado has risen to the occasion in his senior year of action for the Gaels and is the sole reason for Iona's NCAA play-in game. Despite the loss, Machado was impressive show casing his elite quickness and court vision. He's a late-bloomer- this is really his first well-rounded season utilizing his talents. In the past, he was a sub-par shooter, but this season, he shot nearly 50 percent from the field, over 40 percent from 3-point range and 80 percent from the foul line. If he was a little bigger, he'd be a mid-round pick, but as things stand, he's more likely to get selected in the 20-30 range.

Projection: late first-round pick

Fab Melo, C, So., Syracuse

He'll be 22 years old by the time the Draft rolls around and while he could certainly use another year in school, Melo does not have an interest in sticking around and attending class. Melo made leaps and bounds in his second-season under Jim Boeheim; after barely being able to stay on the court with foul trouble as a freshman, the 7-foot anchor was the Big East Defensive Player of the Year, averaging 5.8 rebounds and 2.9 blocks to go along with his 7.8 points per game. He was a tremendous force at the rim in the 2-3 zone, ranking 11th in the country in block percentage and his impact was felt in the three games he missed mid-season when the Orange were allowing 10 more points per 100 possessions without him.

Projection: late first-round pick

Tony Mitchell, SF/PF, Fr., North Texas

Mitchell finally made his college debut this season after getting his academics in order and he was a force for the Mean green. This long-athletic combo forward was a match-up nightmare for teams in the Sun Belt; he stands a muscular 6'8" with explosive athleticism and the speed and quickness to match some guards. Mitchell averaged a double-double in under 30 minutes of playing time. His offensive game is still developing as he becomes more comfortable playing out on the perimeter (where he shot 44 percent from 3-point range this season), he needs to improve his handle and fine-tune some scoring moves in the low-post. The NCAA Tournament would have given him better exposure, but if he comes out this year, he should have great workouts with teams and work his way up teams' draft boards.

Projection: mid-to-late first round

Arnett Moultrie, PF, Jr., Mississippi State

Moultrie's season came to an end last night as the Bulldogs fell to UMass. He's still flying under-the-radar as bit, but has the physical profile, athleticism and game of a late-lottery to mid-round pick. For much of the regular-season, the 6'11" UTEP-transfer was one of the SEC's best players, hitting the glass hard, being aggressive and scoring on the blocks or stepping outside with range out to the 3-point line. Playing in the SEC for the first-time this season, Moultrie showed a new aggressiveness, topping the conference in rebounds per game and leading the Bulldogs in scoring.

Projection: mid-first-round pick

Renardo Sidney, PF, Jr., Mississippi State
While his teammate Arnett Moultrie potentially ended his career with the Bulldogs on a high-note, the oft-troubled Sidney had just the opposite night. In the NIT, he finished the game with just 3 points in 16 minutes of play; after the game, Sidney tweeted: "I'm out!! Finally". The one-time consensus top ten player in his class is no where near NBA-ready skill-wise or maturity-wise and it would be an enormous risk for a team to use a pick on him. So now the question becomes where Sidney will indeed play his basketball next season.

Projection: Transfer or playing professionally in the NBDL

Josh Smith, PF, So., UCLA

The talent is clearly there- this kid is big, incredibly strong and has a great, soft touch, but his on-court conditioning continues to be horrendous and every scout questions his work ethic and desire. If Smith could lose 30-40 pounds and put in the work (Texas' Dexter Pittman comes to mind), he will start to live up to his potential. But at this time, his skills and talents are being under-utilized because his minutes are being limited by his weight.
Projection: Second round

Maalik Wayns, PG, Jr., Villanova

Wayns is likely keeping his name in the NBA Draft after a solid junior season with a dwindling interest in attending class and playing for a team with little hope of improving and making the NCAA Tournament. This quick, athletic guard has been on the NBA radar for a couple of seasons with his physical tools, yet questionable decision-making. His jump-shot is still below-average and assist-to-turnover ratio still hovering around 1.5:1 again this season. A team could take a flier on Wayns in the second-round to see if he can fit in their respective system, utilizing his quickness and ability to jet in the open floor.

By President Corey Ruff - 3 - 14 - 12