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Noel, Len lead surprisingly deep class of talent at center


POSTED: May 20, 2013 9:47 AM ET
UPDATED: Jun 24, 2013 11:27 AM ET

By David Aldridge

BY David Aldridge

TNT Analyst

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Although he's currently injured, Nerlens Noel of Kentucky remains the top big man in the 2013 Draft.

Most years, NBA types dread slogging through the pool of potential centers.

The prospects are often blown-up power forwards or bigs that are reluctant bangers. But this year's crop of college and international centers eligible for the Draft is unusual. Players listed as seven-footers in college are ... actually seven feet tall. And most of them seem to enjoy the grit and grind (copyright 2013, Memphis Basketball, Inc.) of post play.

The irony of having a number of decent-to-above-average centers in this Draft, of course, is that it comes as the NBA goes smaller and smaller. Indiana, San Antonio and Memphis all play big, and have played their way into the conference finals, though the trend is going against them.

The thing about trends, of course, is that they can change quickly. And as basketball is always going to be about putting the ball in the basket, and preventing the same at the other end, big guys who can make it easier or harder to do that will always be in demand.

This is the last Big Board before Tuesday night's Lottery. The Magic, coming off a league-worst 20-62 mark, have the best odds (25 percent) of winning the first pick. However, the team with the best odds of winning that first pick has, incredibly, been one of the least likely teams to get it. Since the modern, weighted Lottery system was introduced in 1990, three teams with the worst record the season before (or that were tied for the worst record) have won the first pick -- New Jersey in 1990 (the Nets took Derrick Coleman), Cleveland in 2003 (LeBron James) and Orlando in 2004 (Dwight Howard).

As you know, in the past, we never included any underclassmen on our Draft boards until they officially declared. But most of the "one-and-done" players and other early entries are almost always well known well before they declare. So now we list those underclassmen that most NBA scouts and personnel people believe will enter the Draft. (We know for sure now that the April 28 deadline for underclassmen to declare has passed.)

With these center rankings, we've finished the individual position rankings. The idea was to give you a sense of the available players that are likely to be in the Draft pool before the Lottery drawing locks teams into first-round position.

And, with the Chicago pre-Draft combine now complete, we have official heights and weights for every player -- and, as of now, their wingspans. (Each of the position rankings on the Big Board now has each of those official measurements.) A player with an "N/A" listed either was not invited to Chicago or, in the case of a handful of players, was not able to be weighed or measured there.

Again: This is not a mock Draft. They are a complete waste of time, and are almost always not just wrong, but loud wrong. This time of year, teams lie about their intentions. Agents lie about their clients' position. Everyone lies. So if I just regurgitate those lies, all I can do is look like an idiot. There are five coaching vacancies this morning, and there's a chance there will be two or three more before the Draft, which will certainly impact the kind and type of players those teams select. So why on earth would I do one now?

How do I know how players' workouts will impact their Draft status, for good and bad? (Having said all this, I commit to embarrassing myself yet again and trying a mock Draft a little bit before the real one in June.) This is a rough consensus of what NBA personnel people that I trust -- and who obviously can't be quoted by name -- believe is the pro potential of this year's crop of players.

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POINT GUARDS | SHOOTING GUARDS | SMALL FORWARDS | POWER FORWARDS | CENTERS

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Centers

A note on the rankings:

This is not a predictor of when these players will be taken. These rankings, based on discussions with dozens of NBA and college coaches, and NBA college scouts and team executives, address the question of how ready players are to play the position which they are assigned: In other words, if there was a game tonight, who would play better at that position tonight, not in three years. Players are ranked based on the position that the coaches and scouts believe is their best NBA position, and even then, there is always disagreement between teams.

• "Sleepers" are players almost certain to go in the second round but who may have first-round talent or otherwise have an impact on the teams that select them if they overcome perceived shortcomings.

• "Some Scouts Like" are players who are not certain to declare, but are viewed as potentially draftable if they do -- with an emphasis on "potentially."

All measurements are the official ones available after the Chicago pre-Draft combine. Measurements for players who did not attend the pre-Draft camp are from their respective university or team.

David Aldridge's Big Board: Centers
Rank Name School/Team Class/Age Height & Weight Wingspan Likely drafted
1 Nerlens Noel Kentucky Freshman 6-11 ¾, 206 7-3 ¾ High lottery
2 Alex Len Maryland Sophomore 7-1, 255 * 7-3½ Mid-lottery
3 Steven Adams Pittsburgh Freshman 7-0, 255 7-4 ½ Mid/late first
4 Rudy Gobert Cholet Basket (France) 20 7-2, 238 7-8 ½ Mid/late first
5 Gorgui Dieng Louisville Junior 6-10 ¾, 230 7-3 ½ Late first/early second
6 Jeff Withey Kansas Senior 7-0 ½, 222 7-2 Late first/early second
7 Mike Muscala Bucknell Senior 6-11 ½, 230 7-1 Late first/early second
8 Lucas "Bebe" Nogueira Estudiantes (Spain) 20 6-11, 215 7-1 Late first/early second
9 Colton Iverson Colorado St. Senior 7-0, 263 7-2 Second round
10 Dewayne Dedmon USC Junior 6-11 ¾, 239 7-4 Second round
NOTE: Center rankings updated as of 6/24/13
UPDATE (6/24/13): Center prospect Mohammadou Jaiteh, the 18-year-old prospect who played in Boulogne (France) last season, pulled out of the Draft earlier this month.
* -- Listed Height/Weight at Maryland; Len (recovering from surgery) was not weighed/measured in Chicago

Injured Noel seems worth the wait

In a Draft where there is more uncertainty than certainty, it's fitting that the top overall pick could well be a 206-pound teenager who will limp to the Commish's side.

That's the scenario that will play out if the team that wins Tuesday night's Lottery decides to think big, long picture, and selects Kentucky freshmen center Nerlens Noel. It is a possibility, because the 6-foot-11 player is a potentially game-changing shot-blocker and rebounder, despite having only played 24 college games before tearing his ACL and missing the rest of the season -- which ended ignominiously with a loss to Robert Morris in the first round of the NIT.

NBA Combine: Nerlens Noel

If not for the injury, Noel would be the clear No. 1 pick. His combination of defensive skills and energy puts scouts in mind of Marcus Camby, who went second overall in the celebrated 1996 Draft, after Allen Iverson was taken No. 1 by the 76ers. And pro scouts believe Noel can play the same way.

"Whatever Camby was, or Theo Ratliff was, I'd say they were fives," an Atlantic Division executive said of Noel, comparing Noel's performances favorably with Kevin Garnett's when Garnett played high school at Farragut Academy in Chicago.

Despite missing the end of the SEC season, Noel was still voted a first-team all-conference selection and Defensive Player of the Year. His 4.4 bpg would have easily led the nation had he played enough games to qualify, and he averaged nearly a double-double for the Wildcats while shooting 53 percent.

"I think he's more of a five, and I liked him more as the year went along," a Pacific Division executive said. "I saw him early in the season and I saw him right before he got hurt. You could see the growth on the floor. (When Kentucky played) Duke, they drove all game, but later, in the second half, he shut down the middle."

There are no concerns among the Lottery teams that Noel won't make anything but a complete recovery from the ACL tear, suffered Feb. 12 against Florida. A cynical view would be that it would be good for a bad team to take Noel this year and hope he doesn't play this season, making that team more likely to have another high Lottery pick for a 2014 Draft that potentially will be one of the best in recent memory.

Nerlens Noel's shot-blocking skills are reminiscent of a young Marcus Camby's.

But it will be a hard sell to a fan base of a losing team that the No. 1 pick is a guy who may only play a fraction of 2013-14.

"If you're a team that the fans are getting sick (of losing) and you're struggling, you might not take Nerlens Noel number one," a Southwest Division executive said. "Where you can take (UNLV forward Anthony) Bennett or (Kansas guard Ben) McLemore, and you know what you're getting."

There's a flip side, of course.

"I would sell it that the New Jersey Nets took Kenyon Martin (first overall in 2000) after he tore up his knee and ankle and all the injuries he had," an Atlantic Division personnel man said. "He struggled his first year, and that was most of the year. He did become effective the next year, but (Jason) Kidd was with him."

There are other concerns about Noel's body that have nothing to do with his knee.

The 6-11 ¾ Noel -- laughably listed at 238 pounds by Kentucky last season -- checked into Chicago at a Manute Bol-ish 206 pounds. And there are very few personnel types who think he'll be able to bulk up a whole lot more, given his spindly lower body. There is no way he'll hold up physically at his current dimensions -- consider all the physical problems that Camby has had in his NBA career.

"He ain't never gonna get to 260," one Southeast Division personnel man said of Noel. "That's a pipe dream. Anthony Davis has trouble picking up weight, and he's 220-whatever. Noel will have trouble getting to 230. And he's got a narrow frame. That's a concern. I think you've got to look at him like a four, like (Cody) Zeller. He's got good enough feet that he can guard fours. The problem is, he's can't shoot it.

"Defensively, he'll be okay, and it'll play to his strengths. He's a weak side shot blocker, so playing against those stretch fours will probably help him. He's not strong enough to be a strong side defensive player now."

The Southwest executive thinks Noel will have trouble holding offensive position -- "they will push him off the post," the exec said. "He'll have to hit that midrange jump shot. Davis dominated a lot more with his overall game. This guy doesn't have an overall game yet. They've been working with him on his jump hook. But his knee is going to put him behind the eight ball because he's got to get back in shape, he's got to get his timing back."

But Noel's upside -- that word, again -- is too good to pass on him.

"His strength is his quick jumping," a Western Conference scout said. "He's a really quick jumper. And he's also really long, with that wingspan. He's another guy who couldn't make free throws. No range, or anything like that. But what he did show was an ability to pass the ball, an understanding of the game. He was really starting to blossom (offensively) when he got hurt."

Said a Western Conference general manager: "His frame is not big enough to support much more weight ... but he's so athletic and so long and so quick off the floor, he'll be fine. He's not a guy who's going to give you that much offense, and if you can live with that, you'll be fine. He's never going to live up to being the No. 1, but that's just a reflection of this Draft."

Len expecting to flourish in NBA

Alex Len is a legit future NBA center with quality moves around the basket.

Maryland's sophomore center Alex Len has no body issues. He's a legit 250-pounder. But Len is also on the shelf after ankle surgery earlier this month to stabilize a stress fracture. Len will miss four to six months. He didn't work out in Chicago last week, but told reporters that he believes in 10 years he'll be viewed as the best player in the Draft. Scouts and executives believe he, too, will be worth the wait.

Len was inconsistent in his two seasons at Maryland, but part of that, NBA types believe, wasn't his fault. He played with guards who struggled to get him regular touches in the paint, and wings who couldn't take pressure off of him consistently with jumpers.

"The thing with Len is, staying at Maryland wasn't going to help him, because they weren't going to throw him the ball," a Northwest Division scout said. "They didn't throw him the ball when they could see both of his numbers in the post."

But Len flashed enough to justify his likely Lottery status. He outplayed both Noel and Willie Cauley-Stein in the Barclays Center Classic in November, going for 23 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks in Maryland's 72-69 loss, making them "look like kids," as one scout put it. He had five more double-doubles on the season, led the ACC in blocked shots (78) and acquitted himself well in three meetings against Duke.

"If he doesn't have that game against Kentucky, I'm not sure you're talking about him as a top-seven, top-eight pick," a Western Conference Director of Scouting said. "But he did have that game, so you have to take that into consideration. The point guard was horrendous in the games I saw him. I saw him play very well against Mason Plumlee. He just physically has a lot of work to do with the lower part of his body. He does shoot it and I think he's got a competitive fire, and he's still young. But when you have a young guy with a lower leg issue, that's real scary."

Scouts believe Len will be able to step out enough on the perimeter to be an effective pick-and-pop player.

"If you want to be more negative, I don't know how tough he is," said the scout who praised Len's performance against Kentucky. "I don't know how physical he is. He's going to have a real problem with that in the lower body. I don't think he's more talented than (76ers center) Spencer Hawes ... right now he doesn't want to shoot the jump hook, but I'm sure somebody will teach him that. I think Len's going to be fine. I think he will be able to play but you're going to have to be patient."

Youngster Adams worries, intrigues some teams

Steven Adams, the Pitt freshman from New Zealand, had a very solid Chicago camp, following a freshman season in which he was a first-team all-Big East Rookie Team selection. Whether he's risen as high in the first round as some have breathlessly stated is another matter. But he did have a good week.

NBA Combine: Steven Adams

Adams, who initially planned to return to Pitt for his sophomore season before changing his mind, displayed not only a willingness to throw his body around, but he was a much better perimeter shooter than many thought.

"He impressed everybody in his interviews," a Southeast Division executive said. "He was solid working with the bigs. I think people just liked his upside and his attitude. I think he impressed everybody with how hard he works. His best basketball is ahead of him. Character moves you up. I don't know if (becoming a Lottery pick) happens. If it would it would probably be closer to 15, somebody at the tail end of the Lottery who needs some size."

Adams blocked more than two shots a game for the Panthers.

"He's big and strong, he's reasonably athletic, he is very physical," a Pacific Division scout said. "If this league can draft Daniel Orton in the first round, you can draft Steven Adams in the first round. I thought he was a first-round candidate when I saw him play against Georgetown a few months ago. I thought he was very aggressive and physical. He doesn't mind hitting people and he doesn't mind being hit. He's a big guy. He's got big hands. (But) he's not a skilled player."

Charitably, Adams' offense is limited at present. He's behind the likes of Portland rookie Meyers Leonard or Orlando's Andrew Nicholson, themselves players who are far from being consistent contributors. It is thus difficult to see a player who averaged just 7.2 ppg in one season of college ball going ahead of other, more skilled players in the top part of the first round -- though it always takes just one team to like you.

"Is he a Lottery pick?," one GM asked over the weekend. "I don't know man. We were watching Synergy the other day and he bobbled so many balls. But in Chicago, he caught all of them."

Nogueira the next Nene ... or a future bust?

Among the more confusing center prospects is 20-year-old Lucas Nogueira, the Brazilian also known as "Bebe." He's seen as the Brazilian 2.0 version of Nene, his countryman who paved the way in 2002 as the first man from that country to be a first-round pick (No. 7).

Three years ago, as a 17-year-old, Bebe exploded on the scene at the Under-18 FIBA Americas Tournament in San Antonio. He led all players in rebounding and blocked shots, and his Brazil team took a U.S. team featuring Kyrie Irving, Austin Rivers and 2013 Draft prospects Tony Mitchell and Vander Blue to the wire before losing in the gold medal game. Bebe dominated inside with 22 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks.

"In San Antonio, he was the best player on the floor," one veteran birddog said.

But as Bebe went through the different stops the next couple of years -- the 2011 Nike Hoops Summit, the 2011 adidas Eurocamp, the Under-19 FIBA Tournament -- he kind of stalled out. He played well at times, but his rapid development slowed. And he was still a very skinny prospect with a freakish wing span. Was he just a bored 17- and 18-year-old kid with time and a little money in his hands for the first time? Maybe. But the gloss was off, and NBA types, as they do, started looking around.

But Bebe has had a bounce-back year of sorts for Asefa Estudiantes, in Spain's celebrated ACB League. It is one of, if not the best, international basketball leagues in the world. A member of the team for four seasons, Bebe was sixth in the ACB in blocked shots this season, despite coming off the bench and playing little more than 13 minutes a game.

"I've seen his progress since he's 16," one veteran scout said. "He might be one of the highest risers in the draft. People with an opinion on him, they don't know him that well. They may have seen him play a few minutes last year in the second division. He's 7-2. He's going to beat you down the floor, he's going to alter shots, he's going to rebound."

Said a Pacific Division personnel man: "Everyone who's seen him says he's made strides. Long, bouncy, athletic, second jump, limited offensive player. Not a guy who you can throw you the ball in the post. But he's going to get activity baskets. That kind of DeAndre Jordan, Tyson Chandler, I'm not a great offensive player but I can help you win because I can guard the rim and I can run."

Others aren't as sold.

"He would scare the living daylights out of me," an Atlantic Division personnel man said. "I mean, he is thin. Really, really thin. He is a real project. Depending on where you draft, he is scary. He has a chance to fail. He has got to get way stronger. You're taking him on the come, and as a project."

He is thin. Listed at 215 pounds by Estudiantes, it's a fair bet he's probably closer to 200. "He's got a body like Mikki Moore," a Northwest Division scout said, referring to the lanky veteran big man. But NBA types think Bebe may be able to put on and keep on more weight once he's in a regimented offseason program in the States.

"When he's 25, he's not going to weigh 200 pounds," the Pacific Division man said. "But he has to work at it. He hasn't gotten that great weight training and conditioning that we would give him. He lives like a college kid. He's probably eating pizza and (junk). He's not going to be 280 but he's going to get bigger and stronger and work out ... could he guard, like, Nick Collison, Lavoy Allen? Yeah, he could guard those fours."

And Bebe may finally make the Brazilian senior team this summer. According to FIBA.com, he is scheduled to meet soon with the team's coach, Ruben Magnano, though the Brazil team -- which lost in the quarterfinals to Argentina at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London -- still sports NBA bigs like Nene and the Spurs' Tiago Splitter.

Dieng projects as a 'future backup'

Louisville's Gorgui Dieng may have made the most progress over three seasons than any big man has in college basketball. The Senegal native, the latest from Amadou Gallo Fall's SEEDS Academy, came to Kentucky from Huntington Prep weighing less than 190 pounds. He also had to make the usual adjustments -- language, diet, learning the game -- while dealing with the foghorn of demands from coach Rick Pitino.

Draft Combine: Gorgui Dieng

But Dieng has become more than a shot-blocker (he's a very good one, having won Big East Defensive Player of the Year honors). Now, Dieng steps out to the foul line and can make that jumper with confidence. He is adding to an occasional post game. And his intelligence (he's now up to five languages, having picked up English in a snap) makes it likely he'll easily be able to master NBA defenses and concepts.

In the Final Four matchup with Duke (better known for the horrific broken leg Cardinals guard Kevin Ware suffered in the first half), Dieng helped stabilize the Cardinals emotionally and on the floor with three critical jumpers in the second half, igniting Louisville's blowout win.

Dieng finished the season in the top 30 nationally in rebounding (9.4 per game), and tied for 23rd in the country in blocks (2.52). He also was one of the few big men who played bigger minutes who finished the year with a positive assist-turnover ratio (1.12).

"After we played them, I thought he would be better served going back to the school," said the head coach of a team that played Louisville this season. "But as the year went on, he showed those flashes that pro teams just can't run away from. You could see he could run and that he could finish around the basket. And I'm sure everybody will point to that game against Duke when he played really well against (Mason) Plumlee. He's got the tools; he just needs the reps to be more consistent."

In Chicago, Dieng weighed 230 pounds, a tribute to the work he's done on his body in four years.

"He was more low key than what I expected," one team executive said. "Some of the things he said. A lot of the bigs talked about being workers, more than I've heard before from some of the bigs, and seemed to like basketball. And that's always an issue."

Dieng will be the latest African-born center to try and make it in the NBA. As the continent's basketball development continues, so does the line of young big men looking for an opportunity, beginning in college and continuing in the pros. It has been a hit-and-miss proposition; for every Hakeem Olajuwon, there is a Saer Sene; for every Dikembe Mutombo, there is a DeSagana Diop. Dieng has a chance to be a success story.

"He's always played hard," one personnel man said. "A guy like (Milwaukee's) Larry Sanders is similar to Gorgui. Long, athletic presence. He doesn't have great hands. His feel for the game is good -- it's not great. I don't think he can be a starting center but he can be a good backup."

Scouts torn on shotblocker Withey

Kansas' Jeff Withey, the NABC co-Defensive Player of the Year along with Indiana's Victor Olaidipo, was a better shot blocker in college than Dieng. He finished second in the country in blocks (3.95), continuing his two-year development into one of the nation's toughest post defenders. He was also one of just six players nationally to post a triple-double. But this season, he didn't have the Morris twins (Marcus and Markieff, both of whom are on the Suns) or Thomas Robinson (now in Houston) playing alongside him. Withey had to protect the paint alone, and was rewarded for his prowess with an AP third-team all-America nod.

But some scouts don't know if he'll be as effective defensively in the NBA.

"It will be tough (to block shots in the pros)," one general manager said. "Didn't (Cole) Aldrich do the same thing in Kansas? He's close to being a D-leaguer now. He did the same thing in college, and he might be a little more athletic than Withey."

Everything's faster. Everyone's bigger.

Jeff Withey of Kansas may or may not end up as a great shotblocker in the NBA.

"When I watched him in the tournament against Michigan, (Wolverines big man Mitch) McGary went to work on him," one NBA executive said, referring to Michigan's Sweet 16 win over Kansas in which McGary finished with 25 points and 14 rebounds.

"Guards, other bigs (in college), they don't know how to score against shot blockers," the exec continued. "Whereas guys at our level, they do. The guards use those floaters and the bigs use the rim. I don't know if his shot blocking will transfer as well. But he won't get in foul trouble and he's not going to hurt you offensively. History will tell you that guys who just block shots, it's hard to translate to the NBA level. You have to be able to do more than that."

There are scouts, though, who think Withey, an ex-volleyball player, will be able to make that transition to the pros. The Morrises, Darrell Arthur, Collison, Robinson, Aldrich and Drew Gooden are some of the former Jayhawk bigs that have been able to stick in the pros. Kansas always produces smart, heady, tough players, all traits that Withey possesses.

Rangy Gobert tantalizes with defense

France's Rudy Gobert displayed his incredible wingspan in Chicago, an insane 7 feet, 8 ½ inches. For a long time this spring, the 20-year-old seven-footer, who plays for Cholet, a Pro A League team in France, was thought to be a sure high Lottery pick. Those predictions have been tempered somewhat in recent weeks, though Gobert is still highly unlikely to get much past the Lottery if not taken then. He's just too intriguing a defensive prospect, in the JaVale McGee tradition.

Gobert blocked 1.9 shots per game for Cholet, third in the Pro A League, ahead of players like former first-round picks Alexis Ajinca and Shelden Williams.

"You know what you're going to get with him," one scout said of Gobert. "He's going to come in and give you a defensive NBA game...he can come in and do some stuff defensively, and my head coach would like that."

But Gobert is not viewed as especially athletic, despite his size and reach.

"It's not like he's a big-time rim protector, but guys like him get in the way," one personnel man said. "He knows what he is. He knows he's an interior player. He doesn't try to do too much offensively and get in the way."

But NBA streets are littered with the bodies of executives and coaches who waited for international big men to develop. There probably aren't more misfires on international bigs than domestic ones, but they seem more spectacular: Darko Milicic, Nikoloz Tskitishvili, Oleksiy Pecherov, Sene, etc. NBA types are increasingly leery on foreign bigs who shine in a single tournament or workouts.

"It's going to take time," one GM said. "He played in the French Division, but where do you pick them? It's the same thing that everybody was raving about with (Bismack) Biyombo: 'I'm going to play in Qatar.' To me, it's not a body of work."

Well-rounded Muscala looks like solid pro

Many likely feel the same about the Patriot League, a conference that has produced one NBAer, Colgate's Adonal Foyle, since its inception in 1986. But this year, the Patriot is likely to double its NBA output. Lehigh guard C.J. McCollum is a near-lock to go in the Lottery, and Bucknell center Mike Muscala has a chance to join him in the first round, albeit toward the end. At worst, Muscala will be drafted, and has a chance to stick.

Bucknell big man Mike Muscala leads the Bison in scoring, rebounding, assists and blocked shots.
Bucknell big man Mike Muscala has many NBA talents that scouts crave.

"Of all the guys in Chicago, the guy that really impressed me was Muscala," one Pacific Division executive said. "He's got that skinny body, but that kid's got a lot of skills. I don't think people realize how long he is. Even though he's got that small upper frame, his lower frame is strong, and that's where you'll get your power from."

Muscala's 22 double-doubles led the nation and he won his second Patriot League Player of the Year award. The Bison won the league title for the second time in four years -- Lehigh, and McCollum, won the other two. Muscala finished fourth nationally in rebounding (11.1) and was 33rd in blocks (2.35). He scores with both hands, can run the floor extremely well and can catch the ball and finish in traffic.

"To me, he's a big time sleeper," said a college coach whose team played Bucknell this season. "Really skilled, excellent hands. Pretty strong rebounder ... he can shoot it up to 17 feet, very accurate, very good hands, probably a better rebounder than before ... we played them two years ago and I thought he was more of a finesse guy, but this year I thought he rebounded very well. I thought he was more physical.

"Coming into the game I thought we could hit him but he was pretty physical, didn't mind being in the paint ... he can immediately go into a game and be good defensively, and he can make the 17-footer. He made a left handed jump hook against us and I just went 'wow.' Somebody's going to make a real smart pick taking that guy."

While Muscala can shoot it out to the 3-point line, he isn't a "stretch four" candidate. "I have him as a five because he can't guard fours," one Northwest Division scout said. Indeed, Muscala will have to play center in the pros. The question is whether he can handle the banging inside night in and night out.

Unfortunately for him, he had one of his worst days on his last day as a collegiate player, going just 4-of-17 for nine points -- only the second time all season he finished with less than double figures in scoring -- in Bucknell's loss to Butler.

"Considering he's already been through four years of college, you don't think his body is going to change much," one scout said. "He's not nearly as strong as (Cody) Zeller is going to be. All these guys are going to have to adjust to the physical part of the game."

Said another team's college personnel director: "He wasn't as big (in Chicago) as I'd hoped he'd be. He really needs to work on his body. There isn't a whole lot of definition to him. I love his motor. He can score with either hand. He can shoot it. The lower body is going to be an issue because he won't be able to hold his position in the paint. I think he's going to slip into that early second round. He's one of those guys that thinks he's a spread center, but I don't think he's mobile enough."

Notes on the rest of the crop ...

• Colorado State's Colton Iverson took an unusual route to the Draft. He transferred from Minnesota after three seasons, something extremely rare at any level, and played his last college season in Fort Collins, Colorado, for former Iowa State coach Larry Eustachy. In one season, Iverson led the Rams to the third round of the NCAAs, where they lost to eventual national champion Louisville. Iverson held his own all season, winning Mountain West Newcomer of the Year honors and was ninth in the country in field goal percentage (59.6 percent) and top 20 in double-doubles (14).

He's not a first-rounder -- "we need more talent than that," said an exec on a Lottery team -- but Iverson's size and agility will get him drafted.

"I saw him at Minnesota," one Western Conference scout said. "I thought he could run a little bit, a physical guy, and seemed to have a knack for being around the ball. Nothing special, but we get back to, can a guy be on a roster?"

Said a Northwest Division executive: "He's as big as a house and he's really physical. Not very vertically gifted or a great skill level guy, but he's a guy that can come in there and do maybe what Mark Madsen did -- just bang you and pick up a couple of fouls and be an annoyance kind of guy."

• There are higher hopes for Mouhammadou Jaiteh, a teenager who played for Boulogne, a second-division team in France, this season. A product of the national INSEP program that produced the likes of Tony Parker, Boris Diaw and Ronny Turiaf, Jaiteh was second in France's B League in rebounding, averaging almost a double-double (16.0 ppg, 9.8 rpg), shooting almost 65 percent.

But, as ever, Jaiteh is extremely raw. He did okay at the Nike Hoops Summit in Portland, but did not stand out on an international team that featured guard Dennis Schroeder, swingman Sergey Karasev, forward Livio Jean-Charles and high schooler Anthony Wiggins, who just announced last week that he will attend Kansas.

"I saw (Jaiteh) twice in France, one personnel man said. "He really did score and rebound well. He's not very athletic. Long arms. Seems to rebound and score well. He didn't play well in Portland. He didn't stand out. I used to see him as a 20 to 30 guy; now I see him as a 30 to 40 guy."

Wherever Jaiteh goes in the Draft, he will be yet another project.

"He's got a decent feel for the game, not great," another scout said. "If he was in college you'd probably take a flier on him late second, but now, I'm not sure he gets drafted ... those guys, they haven't had enough playing time. And they haven't had enough time to adapt to the culture. He plays below the rim, not at it. He doesn't have a three game, a trail game. He's not a pick and pop guy. Defensively, he's a position holder. The positive is he has a good body, but the negatives are he's not instinctive."

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