CHICAGO – He spent the last several months lobbying through actions, with his play as a Kansas shooting guard, and then Ben McLemore finally said it.
He is the best player in the draft.
“Deep down I think I am,” he told NBA.com as the pre-Draft combine got underway with physical testing in advance of most players, but not McLemore and other top prospects, taking the court Thursday and Friday. “I have that mindset that I am. Just going out there and showing my abilities.
“People know what I did in college and know what I can do throughout my career. A lot of people know I really haven’t reached that point in my basketball life, so I know deep down inside that I have it in me. I’ve just got to keep working.”
The pre-Draft combine will be televised on ESPNU (10 a.m.-2 p.m. ET) and ESPN2 (2-3 p.m. ET) on Thursday and again on Friday at the same times and on the same channels.
Whether McLemore is actually first off the board on June 27 will depend partly, if not largely, on the results of the lottery – the winner will likely go for Nerlens Noel of Kentucky if it needs a big man and for McLemore if it needs a shooting guard. Neither has distinguished themselves enough to be the dominant figure of the Class of 2013.
Some teams might take Noel regardless of position because of the value of a defensive-presence at power forward or center, but others could be scared away by the risk of using the No. 1 choice on a player coming off knee surgery. On health reasons, McLemore is a safer bet and has a lot of upside as well.
“I think it’d be important to me, especially being the No. 1 draft pick and that a shooting guard [hasn’t] been a No. 1 draft pick for a while, for years,” McLemore said. “It’d be very important to me to make history to me. It would be great to be No. 1, being able to help my family out.”
Meanwhile, injuries continue to create problems for teams hoping to begin to arrange individual workouts with possible first-round picks. With Noel, Anthony Bennett and Alex Len already out because of health issues that are scheduled to sideline them through summer league, Louisville center Gorgui Dieng and San Diego State shooting guard Jamaal Franklin were both in walking boots Wednesday. Dieng, No. 17 in the latest NBA.com ranking, reported a sprained right ankle suffered in a training session, Franklin a sprained left ankle in similar fashion.
Both described their injuries as relatively minor, though also enough to possibly delay the start to individual workouts. Dieng said he is scheduled to see a doctor on Monday and hopes to ramp up his conditioning with an eye toward full practices and scrimmages soon after.
Duke guard Seth Curry is also here to meet with teams, but estimated he is a month away from being able to return to contact work while recovering from the stress fracture in his right shin. The brother of Stephen and son of Dell is a possibility for the second round.