Star Comparisons for Every Top 2014 NBA Draft Prospect
With the 2013-14 college hoops season starting to boil, it's time to make some star comparisons for the top NBA Draft prospects.
Not every major draftee will become a megastar in the Association, but the 2014 class has a truckload of potential.
These young guns exhibit many of the same qualities as some of the NBA's elite performers, and some of them even remind us of all-time legends.
As we dish out comparisons for our "Elite Eight" prospects, the similarities are based on a mix of physical attributes, basketball skills and overall potential. Many of the likenesses are best-case scenarios.
If these connections don't get you pumped for the 2014 draft, I don't know what will.
Noah Vonleh, Indiana F (Freshman)
NBA Star Comparison: Chris Bosh/Harrison Barnes hybrid
Indiana forward Noah Vonleh wouldn't be able to hang with Chris Bosh or Harrison Barnes in a shooting contest, that's for sure.
However, he shares plenty of characteristics with the two stars, and he does have outside shooting potential. The Hoosier youngster moves extremely well for a 6'10" player, and it's easy to see that he'll be comfortable on the wing as a pro.
Like Bosh, Vonleh isn't a world-class athlete, yet he can shoot over defenders, drive or post up. His back-to-the-basket upside and untapped jump-shooting capabilities make him a candidate for Barnes-esque impact.
To be fair, Vonleh is incredibly unique, with a 7'4" wingspan and a chance to play both forward spots in the NBA. Stay tuned to Indiana's season while he builds his lottery status.
Aaron Gordon, Arizona PF (Freshman)
NBA Star Comparison: Kawhi Leonard/Shawn Marion hybrid
Arizona freshman Aaron Gordon owns an NBA-ready physique and impressive vertical talent, but in the prime of his NBA career, he'll be able to do much more than jump out of the gym.
The 6'9" forward is a phenomenal rebounder and a mobile rim-runner, and he also has some ball-handling skills and an outside shot. This wide range of competence is similar to two of the NBA's most versatile forwards: Kawhi Leonard and Shawn Marion.
Leonard and Marion are used as small forwards in most lineups, yet they can rebound like power forwards and defend bigger guys in a pinch. San Antonio's utility man was a power forward in college, and he blossomed into a dangerous shooting threat early in his NBA career. Meanwhile, Marion ended up being a terrific team player, something Gordon could achieve.
Look for Gordon to stuff the stat sheet like these studs within his first couple seasons in the Association.
Joel Embiid, Kansas C (Freshman)
NBA Star Comparison: More athletic Andrew Bynum and poor man's Hakeem Olajuwon hybrid
NBADraft.net compares Joel Embiid to Andrew Bynum and Hakeem the Dream, and I think they're spot on.
In fact, Embiid will probably end up somewhere right between them when it comes to skills and overall impact.
The seven-foot Kansas freshman displays superb deep-post footwork and a nice baby hook, similar to Bynum. And although he doesn't have a plethora of moves or dynamic scoring ability yet, he seems to have the wherewithal to acquire them like Olajuwon did.
Bynum and Olajuwon have each won a pair of championships, and Embiid could be that kind of anchor once he enters his prime: He may never be a megastar, but he'll make plenty of plays on both ends of the floor to make his team successful.
Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State G (Sophomore)
NBA Star Comparison: James Harden/Dwyane Wade hybrid
This may be a best-case scenario comparison, but there is a whole lot of James Harden and Dwyane Wade in Marcus Smart.
Oklahoma State's super sophomore is a combo guard that can score, facilitate and defend at an extremely high level. Smart has the physical slashing capabilities of the Beard and D-Wade, as well as a quickly developing outside jumper.
Harden and Wade aren't labeled as point guards, but they have a knack for anticipating the movements of their teammates and can make big plays by passing. Smart will likely be a multidimensional guard in a similar vein.
Defensively, Smart's knack for putting pressure on opponents and creating havoc is analogous to Wade's impact for the Miami Heat. Whether it's stifling opposing point guards, stymying an athletic wing or anticipating a weak-side block, these two share a handful of traits.
Dante Exum, Australia G
NBA Star Comparison: Penny Hardaway/Michael Carter-Williams hybrid
When you watch how Dante Exum moves on the court, you immediately think of tall, rangy point guards like Michael Carter-Williams and Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway.
He handles the rock easily while gliding with a sneaky quickness and athleticism like MCW, and he has a scoring repertoire reminiscent of Penny, the former Orlando Magic superstar.
Exum won't be one of those floor generals who always facilitates for others and runs the show like Rajon Rondo or Steve Nash. His God-given athletic gifts and scoring prowess are too good to waste.
In that sense, he will be a truly dangerous dual threat playmaker like MCW and Penny. He could score 30 or dish a dozen dimes on any given night, depending on what the defense gives him.
On the other end of the court, Exum will be just as frustrating for opponents. His foot speed, wingspan and instincts are a perfect storm.
Julius Randle, Kentucky PF (Freshman)
NBA Star Comparison: Lamar Odom/Zach Randolph hybrid
When you combine the versatility and mobility of Lamar Odom with the relentless physical aggression of Zach Randolph, you get a forward quite like Kentucky's Julius Randle.
The top-five prospect is an inside-out threat, with the ability to knock down open jumpers, beat his man off the dribble or get buckets with post moves. His similarities with Odom aren't limited to scoring ability, however. Randle is also a good passer for his size, and uses his athleticism to grab rebounds and work smoothly in transition.
And like his fellow southpaw Z-Bo, Randle puts the "power" in power forward.
Randle uses his strong frame and rear end to clear space and box out, and he's not afraid to pound right at a defender as he turns toward the hoop.
With this blend of skill and physicality, Randle could be one of the most uncontainable players in the NBA.
Andrew Wiggins, Kansas F (Freshman)
NBA Star Comparison: Dominique Wilkins/Tracy McGrady hybrid
Kansas' prized freshman forward Andrew Wiggins is the most highly anticipated draft prospect in a decade. As such, he's drawn comparisons to many of the all-time greats.
There's certainly stardom in his future, but instead of likening him to the absolute immortals like Michael Jordan or LeBron James, we compare him to high-flyer Dominique Wilkins and scoring machine Tracy McGrady.
Wiggins' vertical explosion, agility and breathtaking dunks are already in the neighborhood of Wilkins, who was one of the best above-the-rim players ever. The youngster's perimeter skills and overall game, however, could potentially look like All-Star wing Tracy McGrady's.
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.
If the young star ends up being a combo of 'Nique and T-Mac, lookout world.
Jabari Parker, Duke SF (Freshman)
NBA Star Comparison: Carmelo Anthony/Grant Hill hybrid
With an NBA-ready jumper and the ball skills to score in any situation, Jabari Parker possesses a playing style and fluidity that corresponds to Carmelo Anthony and Grant Hill.
Not only does he have the shooting stroke of a guy like 'Melo, he also uses great footwork to set up his shot like the Knicks star.
When it comes to end-to-end athleticism and maneuvering his way to the rim, Parker is reminiscent of both 'Melo and Hill. He can finish gracefully with either hand, adjusting to the defense as he swoops to the hoop.
The best part about the comparison to Anthony and Hill? Parker might be just as good, if not better than them when it's all over.
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