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Scott Howard-Cooper

Potential No. 1 pick Ben McLemore has struggled offensively in the NCAA tournament.

Execs still not sold on the Jayhawks' McLemore


Posted Mar 29, 2013 9:02 PM

Draft-related notes as the NCAA tournament goes through a blender:

• The draft was already turning into a sinkhole, with few prospects even at the top of the lottery truly exciting front offices, and now there is increasing skepticism about potential No. 1 pick Ben McLemore.

The Kansas freshman -- the Kansas freshman shooting guard -- missed all nine shots in Sunday's victory over North Carolina and scored his only two points on free throws. Bad games can happen, and they can especially happen to players in the tournament for the first time. But this has become all too common.

McLemore in the last four games has scored two, 11, five and 10 points, with the five coming against 11th-ranked Kansas State. He has made eight of 26 shots in that time. When Kansas faced No. 14 Oklahoma State on Feb. 20, the game went double overtime, he played 49 minutes... and scored seven points. The Jayhawks played Iowa State five days later, it went overtime, McLemore logged 38 minutes and managed seven again.

There is extra scrutiny because McLemore is being considered for the first pick. But as Kansas heads into the Sweet 16 tonight against Michigan in Arlington, Tex., an important moment for McLemore anyway because the Wolverines have talented guards, the question is being asked in at least some NBA circles: if this is McLemore versus college defenders, how long will it take him to become a consistent scoring threat in the pros?

• Final tally from Bloomington, Ind.: Cody Zeller, an average of 10.9 rebounds per 40 minutes as a 7-foot power forward/center. Victor Oladipo, 8.9 rebounds per 40 as a 6-5 swingman.

At the start of the Indiana season, Zeller was possible No. 1 pick and Oladipo was late-first. By the end, as of Thursday's loss to Syracuse and its constricting zone, Oladipo has positioned himself to get picked ahead. Oladipo has climbed that much -- he was No. 8 in the mock draft at the start of the tournament, with Zeller at No. 7 -- and may now go before both Zeller and UCLA's Shabazz Muhammad, each past candidates for the top choice.

Zeller, if he comes out, will have the advantage of being a big man in a draft with little in the way of dependable power forwards and centers. And he should be a dependable pick, a prospect who does not project to be a star but also does not bring the risk of a lot of players at any position.

• Ben Howland being fired at UCLA ends a unique relationship with the NBA. Howland produced pros, sometimes stars and sometimes players who led with defense and toughness, the style of play the coach pushed: Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love, Arron Afflalo, Jrue Holiday, Luc Mbah a Moute, Darren Collison. In all, 12 Bruins were drafted from 2004 through 2012, one of the best marks in the country.

But NBA teams were forever challenged in trying to project what a prospect would be like away from the system that often kept offensive talents in a box. It went beyond estimating what players would do with the eventual added experience, the typical read while scouting most schools.

There was no body of work to judge Westbrook as a point guard and little of the same for Holiday, partly because of their inexperience and partly because of the situation. Westbrook had little chance as a Bruin to show he would one day become a dynamic talent. Love was more obvious, even as a one-and-done, because he had a similar role as would come in the NBA and his game was so advanced as a freshman.

• The tournament has turned a well-deserved spotlight on Louisville guard Russ Smith, and the Cardinals defense under former Knicks and Celtics coach Rick Pitino is great fun to watch, but the read before the important individual and group pre-draft workouts is that Smith is a longshot for the first round. It's a tough road for 6-foot guards who aren't true distributors and don't shoot well.

Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him and follow him on Twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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