Best-Case, Worst-Case Scenarios for 2014 NBA Draft Prospects
At this stage in a prospect's development, you can only see an outline of what he might look like 10 years down the road.
But it's tough to make out who will ultimately fill it.
I've given each prospect a best- and worst-case scenario, since it's tough to pinpoint exactly who each will eventually resemble.
A prospect's best-case scenario is represented by a player with similar characteristics and strengths. If that particular prospect can maximize his potential, he should end up looking like the best-case scenario I've given him.
A prospect's worst-case scenario is represented by a player with similar characteristics and strengths who hasn't found a way to effectively use them as a pro.
Andrew Wiggins, Kansas, 6'8'', SF
Best-Case Scenario: Clyde Drexler
Worst-Case Scenario: Vince Carter
There's no questioning Andrew Wiggins' potential—just if he has what it takes to reach it.
If we're talking about Wiggins' best-case scenario, I have to bring up my man Clyde Drexler, who's recognized as one of the 50 greatest players of all time.
Drexler was appropriately nicknamed "The Glide" for his ability to effortlessly soar through the air. He had touch on the move and unique shot-making ability.
Wiggins reminds me of Drexler—a lengthy wing who plays above the rim on offense and in players' grills on defense. Drexler didn't need the three-ball to carry him throughout his career. He did his damage attacking the rim in the open floor.
Wiggins is a once-in-a-decade athlete with a two-way skill set that could make him an all-time player one day.
If it doesn't, chances are he ends up with a career like Vince Carter's.
A popular criticism of Wiggins is that he lacks killer instinct and a cold-blooded mentality. Carter was a superior athlete and dangerous scorer, but his motor was always in question, as was his track record as a franchise player.
Like many scoring wings, Carter eventually became too perimeter-oriented, and his consistency suffered as a result.
Wiggins has the potential to be a memorable NBA superstar if he can maximize his natural talent and avoid the traps along the way.
Julius Randle, Kentucky, 6'9'', PF
Best-Case Scenario: Chris Webber
Worst-Case Scenario: Lamar Odom
Julius Randle has that inside-outside game that made Chris Webber so successful. Like Webber, Randle has the ability to handle the ball, finish around the rim or operate in the mid-range as a face-up threat.
He's strong and powerful yet agile and flexible. Randle has a promising outside stroke he uses to complement his quick first step, making him a mismatch one-on-one against slower 4s in space.
The fear with Randle is that he falls in love with his perimeter game too much. Since it's rare for a 6'9'' forward to be able to step back for a 20-foot jumper, sometimes Randle gets carried away.
This was a problem Lamar Odom encountered as a pro. Despite his size, Odom settled too much on the perimeter. He could handle the ball and get to the hole, but he wasn't a high-percentage weapon the way most big men should be.
Randle should look to focus more on his post game at Kentucky, rather than pretending he's a guard or a wing.
There's monster potential here. Let's hope he can tap into all of it.
Dante Exum, Australia, 6'6'', PG/SG
Best-Case Scenario: Russell Westbrook
Worst-Case Scenario: Iman Shumpert
Imagine Russell Westbrook but three inches taller, and that's what Dante Exum has the potential to look like in a best-case scenario.
He's impossible to stay in front of, thanks to a lightning-quick first step and rocket-ship explosiveness.
And like Westbrook, Exum has the scoring arsenal to completely take over a game. He can get to the rack at will or heat up from outside. With strong ball-handling skills and the ability to consistently break down defenses, Exum can create plays for teammates just as easily as he can for himself.
But if it turns out that Exum isn't fit to play the point as a pro, his lack of strength can hurt him in a full-time role as a 2. That could lead to Iman Shumpert comparisons, a former point guard who was a star in college with the ball in his hands but was forced to move off the ball as a pro.
And though Shumpert hasn't reached his ceiling, he projects more as a supporting cast member than an NBA star.
But I hopped on the Exum train the first time I ever saw it run. I'm expecting a general manager to use a top-five pick on Exum and immediately appoint him the future lead guard of his franchise.
Jabari Parker, Duke, 6'8'', SF
Best-Case Scenario: Grant Hill
Worst-Case Scenario: Caron Butler
Jabari Parker and Grant Hill have a lot in common, other than the Duke connection.
As a wing, Parker can score from every spot on the floor, playing with the ball or without it. Like Hill, Parker is lights-out in the mid-range and can knock down shots from all different angles.
But what makes these two so much alike is their high-level passing and basketball IQs. Parker is open-minded on offense. He shows the vision and willingness to make the smart or extra pass.
However, Parker lacks the athleticism of some of the top prospects in the country.
He's an incredibly refined perimeter scorer, but exploding to the rack isn't necessarily his strength. Worst-case scenario, Parker ends up looking something like Caron Butler, a talented scorer who's had to rely too heavily on his outside game.
Without the ability to consistently get to the rack, Butler has averaged fewer than five free-throw attempts per game in 11 of his 13 seasons.
There's no questioning Parker's talent, just whether or not his lack of quickness and explosiveness will keep him from maximizing it.
Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State, 6'4'', PG/SG
Best-Case Scenario: James Harden
Worst-Case Scenario: Jarrett Jack
You want Marcus Smart to have the ball. He's combo guard who can run the offense or take it over as a scorer.
His best-case scenario is James Harden—a true playmaker, whether those plays are for himself or his teammates. Both Smart and Harden also use physical strength to their advantage. Like Harden, Smart is a harassing on-ball defender and aggressive offensive attacker.
For Smart to have a better chance at reaching his best-case scenario, he'll need his jumper to become a more deadly and reliable weapon.
Smart's worst-case scenario is Jarrett Jack, who's not a volume scorer or pure facilitator. He's strong in both but not elite in either area.
Jack is a guy who'll give any team solid depth. He's a reliable contributor—with Jack, you know what type of minutes you're going to get. But he's not a franchise-cornerstone guard or legitimate game-changer.
Worst comes to worst, Marcus Smart has a long career as a trustworthy supporting-cast member.
But I just don't see it ending up that way.
Aaron Gordon, Arizona, 6'9'', PF
Best-Case Scenario: Blake Griffin
Worst-Case Scenario: Derrick Williams
It's not often you see guys with power forward size play two feet above the rim. Like Blake Griffin, Aaron Gordon is one of them.
At 6'9'', he's an elite finisher with the ability to throw down over traffic or through it. He's an incredible target for lobs—chances are if it's tossed up high enough, Gordon will get to it.
Offensively, he's a tough matchup facing the rim thanks to his quick feet and ball skills. But he'll need to develop more of a mid-range game as a shooter and back-to-the-basket game in the post.
Despite his size, Gordon fancies himself a small forward, showing a preference for playing the wing as opposed to down low.
Derrick Williams, a similarly freakish athlete, has struggled as a pro without a refined perimeter game or go-to move in the post. It didn't stop him from dominating in college, but in the pros, Williams is just an athlete as opposed to a scorer.
And that's what Gordon will have to avoid moving forward.
Joel Embiid, Kansas, 7'0'', C
Best-Case Scenario: Andrew Bynum (Healthy)
Worst-Case Scenario: DeAndre Jordan
Given his size and skill set, Joel Embiid's ceiling reaches the same height as Andrew Bynum's.
However, at this stage in his development, Embiid is raw as a bone. He's shown he can score over the shoulder or spin in the lane for a jump hook, but there's isn't much fluidity in his movement just yet.
Embiid is a longer-term project, but at 7'0'' with a 7'5'' wingspan, he can be a featured option in the post if he's able to refine those offensive skills.
If those skills never develop, he could end up looking something like DeAndre Jordan—an monster in the middle whose production is driven strictly by athleticism.
Jordan gets his buckets on alley-oops, catch-and-finishes and tip-ins off misses. His offensive skills never really developed, and therefore he hasn't given the Clippers a realistic half-court scoring option.
There's a significant difference between Bynum in his prime and DeAndre Jordan. And that's why big men are often high-risk, high-reward draft picks.
Andrew Harrison, Kentucky, 6'5'', PG
Best-Case Scenario: Jrue Holiday
Worst-Case Scenario: Tyreke Evans
Andrew Harrison is an advanced all-around prospect for an incoming freshman, both physically and fundamentally.
And like Jrue Holiday, he uses his size to play over defenders and his handle to knock them off-balance.
Both Holiday and Harrison can play a pass-first role but can also take the game over as a scorer. If Harrison can produce in both facets of the game with balance, he's got a chance to be an All-Star point guard like Holiday was in 2013.
But one of the knocks on Harrison is that he's more of a combo than a true point. Tyreke Evans, another big guard with a mean handle, was ineffective early on running the point for this same reason.
Evans was ultimately forced off the ball, where his over-dribbling and lack of range couldn't hurt the offense as much.
Harrison will need to focus on facilitating before scoring, as well as making his three-ball a constant threat to the defense.
Glenn Robinson III, Michigan, 6'6'', SF
Best-Case Scenario: Andre Iguodala
Worst-Case Scenario: Al-Farouq Aminu
Glenn Robinson III has the tools to become a strong complementary weapon.
At 6'6'', he's got the size and athleticism to effectively guard either wing position. Offensively, Robinson scores via off-ball movement instead of one-on-one isolation chances.
For these reasons, his best-case scenario is Andre Iguodala, a small forward with similar physical attributes and two-way strengths. Offensively, both Iguodala and Robinson can spot up from downtown or step into pull-up jumpers inside the arc.
They're also lethal in the open floor, where they play above the rim and are always a threat to cut backdoor for a layup or alley-oop.
If Robinson struggles to create good looks or convert his open opportunities, he could be in trouble early on, just like Al-Farouq Aminu.
Aminu is a similarly smooth athlete on the wing, but he can't consistently knock down shots or generate his own offense.
This will be a telling year for Robinson, who should see his scoring chances rise dramatically with Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. off to the pros.