This year’s upcoming NBA draft is regarded as one of the deepest in years. With all the hype surrounding players like Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker, it brings up comparisons to the great draft of 2003 with LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, among many others. NBA teams picking in the 2014 lottery will not have an easy time deciding on whom to take regardless of what number the pick is.
Several players that are eligible for the draft are not only expected to do well in the league, but are expected to quickly pave their path to becoming NBA All-Stars. Let’s take a look at the six players who have the best chance to be dawning those All-Star jerseys next year.
It is seriously damn near impossible to find a flaw in Jabari Parker’s game. At 6’8” and 235 pounds, Parker most often draws comparisons to Carmelo Anthony. Considering 'Melo is a six-time All-Star himself, those aren’t bad comparisons to have. Through nine games this season, Parker has shown a fully stocked arsenal of offensive moves. He’s able to score anywhere on the court: long range, off the dribble, in transition and even in the post, showing clearly that he is the most polished and NBA-ready player on the draft board.
He is averaging 22.1 points per game and 7.8 rebounds along with shooting 55 percent from the field and 47 percent from three-point range. He became the first player since Kevin Durant to score 20 or more points in his first seven games of his college career. The one knock on him entering the season was his thought-to-be average athleticism. Well, so far at Duke he has seemed to silence those critics, showing off a more fit and athletic version of himself; even prompting college basketball reporter Seth Davis to tweet after the Duke vs. Arizona game that he thought Parker and Andrew Wiggins were on the same level athletically.
Baring any injuries or setbacks, Parker should become the first or second pick in the draft, and will have every opportunity to become an NBA All-Star for years to come.
Andrew Wiggins came into his freshman year in college as the most heralded recruit since LeBron James. Before Wiggins even played his first college basketball game, he was on the cover of Sports Illustrated and labeled as a "Once in a generation talent." It’s safe to say that would put a fair amount of pressure on anyone, yet alone an 18-year-old kid. So far this season at Kansas, Wiggins is off to a slow start and hasn’t quite lived up to the hype. Not saying he’s been bad, but if you have tuned in to watch Kansas play this season and were looking forward to watching the next LeBron James or Kevin Durant, you probably turned off the TV in a confused state, still wondering where that player was.
The biggest problem with Wiggins is his mindset and demeanor in games. He is bigger, longer and more athletic than any defender that matches up with him, yet he has not yet developed that killer instinct and drive to dominate. Currently he is averaging 14.3 points per game and 5.6 rebounds along with shooting 49 percent from the field.
Wiggins has the highest ceiling and most potential of any prospect on the board by far. His athleticism is unmatched by any player in college basketball, and is a very good defender. Once he polishes up his offensive game, and develops the attitude to dominate, he will be a sure-fire All-Star in the NBA. With a little more time to grow up, Wiggins has the potential to not only be an All-Star, but to match those comparisons to greats like LeBron and Durant.
At 6’9” and 250 pounds, Julius Randle is an absolute beast. ESPN college basketball analyst, Jay Williams commented on Randle saying, "Julius Randle physically is the closest thing I have ever seen to LeBron James.” That is quite a statement considering LeBron is considered arguably the most physically dominant player in the NBA.
Randle has future All-Star written all over him. On an absurdly talented Kentucky roster, Randle is averaging an impressive 18 points and 12.5 rebounds per game along with shooting 54 percent from the field. He is literally a walking double-double machine. His most impressive performance came during Kentucky’s game against Michigan State. Under the bright lights and in front of countless amounts of NBA scouts, Randle posted 27 points and 13 boards against one of the most physical frontcourts in all of college basketball.
Randle is absolutely the most physically imposing player in the country, and will only continue to carry that physicality with him to the next level. He’s obviously a bruiser down low, but he also has the skills to step out and hit a 15-footer, or dribble the ball down on a fast break. The most important thing Randle possesses is his incredible work ethic. With all of this combined, Randle is undoubtedly on the right path to become an All-Star in the NBA.
Most of the American public probably has never heard of Dante Exum. Seeing him on a list predicting future NBA All-Stars may be befuddling to many people, but everyone should start getting to know him because before you know it, you’ll be watching him play alongside our American stars in the NBA. Well, once the kid decides to leave Australia, of course.
Exum is a 6’6”, 188-pound, 18-year-old Australian point guard/shooting guard who just graduated from high school in October. Exum is a superior talent; if he was playing in the NCAA this year, he would be right in the discussion with Wiggins, Parker and Randle for the No. 1 overall pick. An NBA executive who recently spoke with ESPN’s Chad Ford about the top prospects said, “My owner might kill me, but I think you take Exum, regardless of what the other guys do this year. Exum's already proved it to me."
Exum is a scoring point guard that offers an incredible combination of size, skill, quickness and overall athleticism that is unparalleled by any prospect on the board at his position. He is nearly impossible to stay in front of. This summer he led Australia to a bronze medal at the U19 FIBA World Championships, averaging 18 points and 4 assists per game. Later in the summer he went on to score 33 against Spain, and 28 against Lithuania, fully cementing himself as a top NBA prospect.
Technically, Exum has the option to go to college in America for a year before entering the draft, but he will most likely forgo further schooling and enter the draft this coming year. When he does, Exum will be one of the most exciting foreign NBA rookies to ever enter the draft and will certainly be expected to achieve All-Star status in no time.
Marcus Smart is a big, physical combo guard. At 6’4” and 220 pounds, he has drawn comparisons to great NBA combo guards like Dwyane Wade and James Harden. Unlike all of the other top prospects on the draft board, Smart is a sophomore, not a freshman. He declined entering the draft last year to come back to Oklahoma State and hone his skills, and boy, so far this season it sure looks like it was the right decision.
This season, Smart is averaging 20 points, 5.0 boards, and 3.6 assists per game. His versatility is mainly what intrigues teams picking in the lottery. Smart is going to give your team an offensive weapon, as well as a lockdown defender. Offensively, he can create his own shot, and possesses good court vision as a passer. He is so strong and physical when driving to the basket that he averages 11.3 free throw attempts per every 40 minutes. Defensively, he thrives guarding multiple positions using his NBA-ready body.
Smart may not be as flashy as the other top prospects on the board, but he knows how to pick up his construction hat and go to work. He contains a relentless motor and phenomenal drive to win. His versatility on both ends along with his pure physicality and motor will allow Smart to thrive in the NBA and should put him well on his way to becoming an All-Star.
Joel Embiid is a 7-foot, 240-pound center from Cameroon, and might have the most potential out of anyone in the draft class. Although still very raw, he possesses impressive footwork, coordination, ball skills and athleticism for someone of that size. What makes him even more impressive is that this is astonishingly only his third year playing organized basketball.
Kansas head coach Bill Self was quoted talking about Embiid, “He’s literally just getting started. His potential is untapped. From a raw skill set, he’s big, long, quick, athletic, can move his feet, he can shoot over both shoulders, jump hook, things like that. It’s unbelievable for a guy playing three years to have that skill set.”
Usually players like Embiid, who are new to basketball, are not nearly as advanced and are limited skill wise, where Embiid can do it all offensively and is a huge presence down low blocking shots. Through this point in the season he is averaging 9.0 points, 7.0 boards and 2.3 blocks per game, and all of that is produced in only 18 minutes per game. With his minutes bound to go up, and him gaining basketball experience in every game he plays, the sky is the limit for the young Cameroonian.
Although Wiggins, Parker, Randle and those guys get all of the hype, the NBA better watch out for Joel Embiid, as he has all of the tools and potential to become a perennial NBA All-Star.
Aaron Gordon is an absolute freak of an athlete. At 6’9” and 225 pounds, Gordon is most commonly compared to Blake Griffin, mainly pertaining to their freakish athletic ability. The biggest difference between the two, however, is that Blake Griffin has an established position, where Gordon’s NBA position is still up in the air. His lack of a position and also his undeveloped offensive skills are the main reasons why at the moment he’s left just outside the list of future All-Stars.
Yes, he has the potential to develop into an All-Star in the NBA, but until he develops more of an offensive game, he’s going to be limited. In the NBA, Gordon will do well just with his supreme athleticism and defending abilities, however, I just cannot see him being able to put up the scoring numbers that would qualify him to be an All-Star.
Hopefully Gordon can prove me wrong and develop into an All-Star at the next level, however, he has got some work to do before that happens.