Pro Player Comparisons for Andrew Wiggins and Other Top 2014 NBA Draft Prospects
It's only natural to see a young high school or college phenom and want to immediately compare them to an NBA great.
While no two players are exactly alike, many of the prospects projected to go in the 2014 lottery resemble some of the stars we're seeing today. Others resemble stars we saw 10-to-20 years ago.
I've given the following top prospects either a one-player comparison or a two-player comparison blend (two players who combined share similar strengths and weaknesses of that particular prospect).
Andrew Wiggins, Kansas, 6'8'', SF, Freshman
Pro Player Comparison Blend: Tracy McGrady/Clyde Drexler
Since winning the high school Gatorade National Player of the Year award, the hype surrounding Andrew Wiggins has been off the charts.
But let's not get carried away. He's not the next LeBron James or Kevin Durant.
Let's start with Tracy McGrady, who entered the league with similar high-flying athleticism and mesmerizing hops. When comparing the two, the first word that comes to mind is "bounce." Wiggins and McGrady have ridiculous bounce, as if the hardwood beneath their feet is actually a springy trampoline.
Their ability to elevate, even without momentum, allows them to rise, separate and finish over defenders, both as shooters or finishers inside. Only time will tell whether or not Wiggins' mid-range jumper will be as deadly as McGrady's was.
Wiggins also resembles NBA legend Clyde Drexler, a wing who would fly around the court and soar over defenders without appearing to break a sweat. Like Drexler, who was appropriately nicknamed "Glide," everything seems effortless for Wiggins.
These guys are/were able to pick up easy buckets in situations that wouldn't have even been considered scoring opportunities for the average player.
He doesn't have the frame and versatility of a guy like LeBron, or the size, length and three-ball of Durant, but Wiggins' natural talent should make him a special NBA commodity once he reaches his ceiling.
Julius Randle, Kentucky, 6'10'', PF, Freshman
Pro Player Comparison Blend: Lamar Odom/Chris Webber
Julius Randle possesses a destructive combination of strengths unlike any player in the field. At 6'10'', Randle has an imposing physical frame and demeanor, along with lighting-quick explosiveness and an impressive handle on the ball.
Like Lamar Odom in his prime, Randle can step out on the perimeter and burn his man off the dribble. He's shifty for a big fella, with the ability to shake and bake in every direction.
But Randle also plays with that mean streak that Chris Webber used to play with. And like Webber, Randle can knock down mid-range jumpers and score at the high post.
He's simply a matchup nightmare for opposing frontcourts. Most forwards lack the lateral quickness to keep up outside and the bulk to contain him inside.
Andrew Wiggins might be the favorite to go No. 1 in 2014, but Randle shouldn't be too far behind.
Dante Exum, Australia, 6'6'', PG/SG, 1995
Pro Player Comparison Blend: Penny Hardaway/Russell Westbrook
Dante Exum is the next NBA superstar that most of the world hasn't got to see yet. At 6'6'', he's a scoring point guard with unique size, playmaking ability and athleticism.
Ring a bell? Not too many guards have fit that description before. Only the 6'7'' Penny Hardaway comes to mind when thinking of high-ceiling prospects. He was able to run the offense as an orchestrator or take it over as a scorer.
But Hardaway didn't have the explosiveness that Exum has. Exum uses the same jet pack that Russell Westbrook seemingly straps to his back whenever he suits up. These are ball-handlers who can launch themselves at the rim, take contact, hang in the air and finish with balance.
Exum and Westbrook get easy buckets at the rim that aren't typically available to ball-handlers.
Like Westbrook, Exum is able to create his own shot at will and easily separate from defenders.
Exum hasn't decided whether or not he'll enter the 2014 draft or go to college in the U.S. and declare in 2015. Either way, this kid has superstar written all over him with a splash of Penny and Russ in the recipe.
Jabari Parker, Duke, 6'8'', SF, Freshman
Pro Player Comparison Blend: Paul George/Grant Hill
What separates Jabari Parker from the other top wing prospects is his willingness and ability to contribute across the board.
Parker is a terrific passer and team-first guy. Paul George and Grant Hill are/were both similarly disciplined, sizable wings who can score and distribute.
These are all smooth operators who can wheel and deal in the mid-range or set up a teammate on the move.
Given his high basketball IQ, versatile offensive game and excellent physical tools for the small forward position, Parker fits the mold of two special NBA players.
Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State, 6'4'', PG/SG, Sophomore
Pro Player Comparison Blend: James Harden/Jarrett Jack
Marcus Smart is a combo guard who can take over a game as a scorer or facilitator. Like James Harden, he plays a physical brand of ball. These are potent playmakers and true lead guards—guys who control the tempo and command the offense.
Jarrett Jack would be more of a basement comparison. Smart may never be the scorer or shooter that Harden is. Jack can do a little bit of both, though not in volume—at least not consistently.
Smart will need to eventually hit a few more of his jumpers per game, both in the mid- and long range. But he's got the physical tools, intangibles and skill set to become a starting NBA guard at either backcourt position.
Aaron Gordon, Arizona, 6'9'', SF/PF, Freshman
Pro Player Comparison Blend: Blake Griffin/Michael Beasley
Aaron Gordon's above-the-rim athleticism immediately reminds viewers of Blake Griffin. At 6'9'', Gordon has a similarly toned upper body and devastating explosiveness. Both Gordon and Griffin are easy-bucket machines—they finish over defenders as opposed to through them.
Gordon is a glowing target for lobs, dump-offs and in transition.
But he needs to find a natural position. Like Michael Beasley, there's a chance Gordon might be stuck between the 3 and the 4. Gordon has a power forward's body but really prefers playing on the wing.
Gordon can handle the ball, but long term, playing small forward could lead to inefficiency.
He's a superior athlete with tremendous natural talent. Finding the right position will be the key to Gordon's NBA success.
Glenn Robinson III, Michigan, 6'6'', SF, Sophomore
Pro Player Comparison: Andre Iguodala
Don't let the stats fool you. As a freshmen playing alongside two first-round picks, Glenn Robinson III wasn't a priority in Michigan's offensive pecking order.
But throughout the year, he flashed his enormous potential in small doses—and all I could think about was Andre Iguodala.
At 6'6'', these two both have similar frames and athleticism. They finish above the rim following backdoor cuts and other off-ball action. Robinson also has a pretty mid-range jumper that he knocks down via the dribble pull-up.
Given their physical tools, Robinson and Iguodala are both defensive assets. Robinson guarded opposing scoring wings and did a nice job making them uncomfortable. He got into passing lanes, forced turnovers and converted them into points the other way in transition.
Robinson and Iguodala aren't go-to scorers. They complement the offense by slashing, finishing off screens, spotting up and getting out on the break.
I've got Robinson becoming a valuable two-way NBA wing when it's all said and done.
Andrew Harrison, Kentucky, 6'5'', PG, Freshman
Pro Player Comparison Blend: Jrue Holiday/Dion Waiters
What immediately stands out about Andrew Harrison is his balance and smooth delivery. He always seems in control with the ball and in command of the offense.
He's got a handle like Jrue Holiday's, with the quickness off the bounce to change directions on a dime. Harrison also has a mean hesitation dribble and point guard instincts he uses to navigate through the defense and set up teammates.
With good size for ball-handlers, Harrison and Holiday can see and shoot over the top of defenders.
But Harrison also has the strength of a scorer like Dion Waiters. Harrison already weighs in at 214 pounds, which he uses to bully his men for easy buckets.
He's got the handle and offensive creativity of a point guard with the physical tools and scoring skill set of a 2. I'd say Harrison has a bright future in the pros as a blend of both Holiday and Waiters in a lead-guard role.
Joel Embiid, Kansas, 7'0'', C, Freshman
Pro Player Comparison Blend: DeAndre Jordan/Andrew Bynum
Joel Embiid is a raw 7-footer who's only been playing organized ball for the last couple of years—which is why the skill set he's already flashed has scouts buzzing over his potential.
Embiid can make the basket look miniature when he's throwing down from up above it. Like DeAndre Jordan, Embiid presents his guards with a target for lobs over the cylinder and power dunks inside.
On the down side, he shares a similar lack of discipline on both sides of the ball, though this is an area Embiid is bound to improve in.
Offensively, Embiid has flashed some nifty footwork when dealing inside, much like Andrew Bynum's when he's got room to operate. Embiid has also demonstrated mid-range touch that could really put him over the top as an NBA prospect.
He's got the tools to anchor a defense and overwhelm offensively on the interior. Jordan and Bynum seem like fair basement/ceiling comparisons for Embiid at this point in his young career.