Alex Len averaged less than 12 points per game at Maryland but has been discussed as a potential No. 1 pick. (Patrick Semansky/AP)
Overrated and underrated have become overused terms within the sports lexicon, but when it comes to relative value in the draft, the phrases certainly apply. This year's draft, with the lack of a peak and an overall flatness of talent throughout the first round, should provide a number of opportunities for good value and bad.
Here are a few examples on each side where, if things break a certain way, guys could end up being over- or underrated come Thursday night.
If he goes No. 1 overall ... Alex Len
In a draft with no right answer at No. 1, there still can be some wrong answers. Len's highlights can impress, but they exclude the large chunk of games in which he totally disappeared for Maryland. Yes, the Terps had poor point guard play and yes, the offense should have run through Len much more than it did last season. That still doesn't excuse him for averaging less than 12 points per game given Maryland's weak nonconference schedule and the relatively down ACC.
The history of 7-footers with such modest college scoring numbers (and those not part of a loaded, balanced team such as Florida in 2007) is quite worrisome if you're thinking of taking Len. Throw in an ankle stress fracture that will keep him off the court until the fall, and there are enough red flags to look elsewhere. Len needs some time to develop into an NBA player. He doesn't need the pressure of being No. 1.
If he goes in the top five ... Trey Burke
There was some early talk that Burke could go as high as No. 2 to Orlando. Many mocks still have him in the top seven, making him part of the first tier of projected talent in this draft. In his draft breakdown, I highlighted a number of comparables that suggest Burke could have a decent-but-not-stellar NBA career. Combine that with some bust factor given his size, and you should look elsewhere. Nerlens Noel, Alex Len, Victor Oladipo, Otto Porter, Ben McLemore and Anthony Bennett are all better gambles that high.
If he goes in the lottery ... Steven Adams
Considering all of Len's flaws, how can a really poor man's version of Len sneak into the top 14? Didn't any scouts watch Pitt play this past season? Adams is raaaaaaaaaw. If he didn't get stuff off the offensive glass, he barely got touches in the Panthers' offense. He has poor hands. Even in a draft with this many question marks, the lottery is way, way too high for a long-term project like Adams.
... and Shabazz Muhammad
As many who have scrutinized Muhammad's game have asked: If he's such a hard worker and has had access to individual workout gurus, why is his game so limited and left-hand dominant? Shabazz is not explosive enough to consistently score around the rim like he did at UCLA, and his three-point shooting from the deeper NBA arc remains a question. If he applies some self-awareness to his work ethic, he can turn himself into an opportunistic scorer/effort guy who should be able to defend, but that possibility is a ways away at this point.
The biggest question surrounding Anthony Bennett is what position he'll play in the NBA. (Isaac Brekken/AP)
If he goes below the top five ... Anthony Bennett
The UNLV product has too much innate ball skill at his size to drop lower than this. Tweener or not, semi-indifferent defense or not, Bennett can handle the ball, shoot well from the perimeter and can get out and finish in transition. He's a little too similar to Derrick Williams for my liking, but he's definitely talented, and in this draft, he should come off the board before other options.
If he falls out of the lottery ... Michael Carter-Williams
It will take some work, but if he can fix his faulty jumper, he'll be a solid player in the backcourt. He has the length (6-7 1/4 wingspan) to be immediately disruptive defensively and he's always looking to pass, which is always a nice commodity in a league of scorers.
... and Shane Larkin
Yes, he's not very big (5-11 1/2), but everything else about Larkin screams success. An uber-athlete with a famous athlete father and a lot of skill at the point guard position, I really like him as a mid-first-round value pick.
If he falls below 20 ... Gorgui Dieng
Dieng was an excellent shot-blocker at the college level with the ability to shoot from outside 10 feet and pass. Finding good, quality, young size on the cheap is so hard. In the cap era, a guy like Dieng can be extraordinarily valuable if he pans out.
If they fall out of the first round ... Tony Snell and Pierre Jackson
Snell has prototypical wing size (6-7 1/4) and can shoot the ball from deep. If he can consistently play with more intensity, he could be an extremely valuable three-point shooter/wing defender in the NBA, at the very least. Jackson is a speed demon at the point guard position. He should make a team (and a rotation) with his ability to beat guys off the dribble and create, either for himself or for others.