Source: USA TODAY
Most analysts and pundits say Kentucky center Nerlens Noel is the top prospect for the NBA draft.
He retains that status despite a knee injury that probably will force him to miss some games next season and concerns over whether he has enough bulk to battle with NBA big men.
But when looking at the 14 teams relegated to the draft lottery, which will take place tonight in New York and will be televised on ESPN, you will find several teams that aren’t exactly in the market for a big man — including the Pistons.
The Pistons are content with their young big men — third-year power forward Greg Monroe and rookie center Andre Drummond, who will represent the Pistons on stage tonight when the TV lights pop on at Times Square Studios.
So whom would the Pistons select if Drummond provides the luck needed to parlay a 3.6% chance into the No. 1 pick when the draft is held June 27?
Teams looking for perimeter help — like the Pistons — might turn to Kansas shooting guard Ben McLemore.
McLemore, 20, who spoke to reporters at the NBA predraft combine last week, knows he is close to realizing a lifelong dream.
“I definitely think about it a lot,” McLemore said at the Attack Athletics gym just a short distance away from the United Center, where the Chicago Bulls play. “At this point, right now I’m just trying to get through it and try to get to that day … special day and walk across that stage and I say to myself, ‘I made it.’
“How my career goes and down the road, I’m going to continue to work hard each and every day.”
A lot to like
The comparison you hear the most associated with McLemore is Heat shooting guard Ray Allen.
He weighed 190 pounds and measured nearly 6-feet-5 in shoes when tested last week in Chicago, and he impressed athletically with a 42-inch maximum vertical leap.
But what makes him an elite prospect is a pure jump shot with an easy three-point range. He shot 42% from the three-point line during his only season at Kansas.
He averaged 15.9 points and was a Wooden Award finalist as a freshman.
The Pistons desperately need shooting and athleticism on the perimeter, and McLemore could fit the bill.
Some question marks
But like Drummond at this time last year, McLemore faces questions surrounding his inconsistency.
For all the acclaim he received when he scored 33 points in an overtime victory against Iowa State, just as many eyebrows were raised when he averaged only 6.5 points in the first two NCAA tournament games.
But McLemore’s inconsistency is common among young players.
Allen had a huge junior season at UConn when he was a model of consistency in averaging 23.4 points. But he averaged 12.6 points as a freshman coming off the bench.
The next step
Still, if the Pistons win the lottery, don’t discount the consideration of Noel. They still need depth in the frontcourt, and even second units can use the rim protection that Noel could provide.
If you look at championship-level Pistons squads, starting caliber frontcourt help was routine when you remember the likes of Mehmet Okur and Antonio McDyess.
And who knows, maybe someone like Indiana’s Victor Oladipo or Michigan’s Trey Burke could rise up the ladder?
McLemore welcomes the competition.
“Just coming from nowhere, coming from nothing, just being able to have the opportunity get a No. 1 spot is just a blessing,” McLemore told reporters.
Ellis writes for The Detroit Free Press, a Gannett property.