NBA Draft 2014: Looking Ahead to Next Year's Class of Prospects

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NBA Draft 2014: Looking Ahead to Next Year's Class of Prospects
Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

The 2013 NBA draft will be here and gone before we know it, and on Friday morning, the preparation for the 2014 NBA draft will have officially begun. 

Thursday's draft is considered "weak" by all NBA standards, largely alluded to by the fact that we still don't know who the Cleveland Cavaliers are going to draft just hours before the event officially begins. 

On paper, the 2014 draft is anything but. 

The 60 spots for next year's draft will stay the same, but the players to be chosen in those spots will be vastly different than those who are vying for a spot in the league in this year's version. Just look at the incoming crop of college freshman for a few minutes and you'll understand that the 2014 draft has depth on all sides. 

It might be a little too early to start making projections for the upcoming season or even including these players as future lottery picks, but here's a look at a few prospects of note and others you should follow when college basketball gets underway later this year.  

 

Looking Ahead to Marquee Prospects

PG Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State

Marcus Smart was debating between a return to school and a trip to the NBA before he pulled his name out of the hat, and looking at the team he'll have at Oklahoma State next year, you cannot fault the decision. 

The Sporting News had an interview with the young man earlier this month, and Smart explained the reasons behind his decision to Michael DeCourcy:

He would have been a consensus lottery pick this year, though, and has the skills to play both point and shooting guard at the next level. As a freshman for the Cowboys, he averaged over 15 points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals in 33.5 minutes per game. 

It will be interesting to see how Smart handles the weight of stardom next year, because he'll be like Trey Burke in the sense that he came back for his sophomore season to prove more to himself and his team, and he'll also be a National Player of the Year candidate from Day 1. 

There's a lot to like about Smart's game, but how it develops next year and the leadership he shows in willing Oklahoma State to a better finish in the NCAA tournament will be better talking points for his future draft stock status. 

 

SF Jerami Grant, Syracuse

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Jerami Grant isn't marquee just yet, but his measureables, talent and opportunity at Syracuse next season all have a chance to make him a borderline lottery pick in the draft next year. 

Syracuse has been Small Forward University over the past few years, putting out names like Carmelo Anthony, Wesley Johnson, Kris Joseph and James Southerland, all who will likely be playing in the NBA following Thursday night's draft (Southerland is a draft prospect, the other three are already in the league). 

The opportunity to seize Southerland's role in Jim Boeheim's offense will be there. Grant played just over 14 minutes per game as a freshman, totaling 3.9 points and 3.0 rebounds in that span. 

But his shooting percent from the outside (40) and size (6'8" and growing) make him a hot candidate to be a conference standout even before he takes the court for his sophomore season. 

As Donna Ditota noted for Syracuse.com, Grant is being knocked out of the U19 World Championships with an illness, but Syracuse fans can take solace in the idea that he was a hot candidate to be a standout player for the team before that illness set in. 

NBA fans can take solace in it, too, because there's a good chance Grant emerges as a top-notch option in an otherwise depleted Syracuse offense next year. He's got a long line of alumni to look up to, and the skills to eventually be a candidate for the lottery if his game catches up to his projections next season. 

 

SF Andrew Wiggins, Kansas

Andrew Wiggins hasn't even played a minute for Bill Self in a meaningful game, but he's already penciled in as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft. 

Highlights like this, from ESPN's Jason King, in a Kansas scrimmage help cement that idea:

Bill Self knows he has a special talent on his hands, telling King in an interview after the same scrimmage that the fanfare surrounding his new star is so great that comparisons to what Wilt Chamberlain experienced in college are warranted. 

Wiggins wowed us all by picking the Jayhawks over Florida State, North Carolina and Kentucky, but it's not like he won't have a chance to realize his potential in Lawrence. 

Ben McLemore is a Jayhawk who thrived for Kansas last year, and he and teammate Jeff Withey could both be first-round picks Thursday night. Wiggins, though, will have the ball in his hands early and more often than either of those guys ever did, adding steam to the idea that his talent will be on full display early on. 

No college player is going to get more attention next year than the man who will likely be the No. 1 overall pick in mock drafts for the next six months. If you're into the draft, you should follow him closely, because if he pans out like we all think, there will be no waiting game about who the pick is this time next year. 

 

Other Notable Names to Watch

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Duke SF Jabari Parker

Kentucky PF Julius Randle

Kentucky G Andrew Harrison

Kentucky G Aaron Harrison

Croatian SF Dario Saric

Baylor PF/C Isaiah Austin

Michigan State SG Gary Harris

Michigan PF/C Mitch McGary

Michigan SF Glenn Robinson III

UCLA SF Kyle Anderson

 

Follow Bleacher Report FC Ethan Grant (@DowntownEG) on Twitter. 

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