Ranking the Most Versatile 2014 NBA Draft Prospects

Daniel O'BrienFeatured ColumnistDecember 25, 2013

Ranking the Most Versatile 2014 NBA Draft Prospects

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    Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

    If you want versatility for Christmas, we've got it for you, in the form of thrilling NBA draft prospects who can do it all.

    Before they invade the Association in 2014, they're impacting every dimension of the college game. Opponents can't shut down these studs because they can inflict damage in a number of ways, and pro executives can't wait to put those multi-talented stars to use.

    To build our list of most versatile prospects, we used a rating system that scored them in each major aspect of the sport. We assessed the players based on current skills and productivity, rather than projecting or imagining how versatile they could be.

    Who topped our list? Find out as we break down the cream of this bumper crop. 

8. Shabazz Napier, Connecticut G (Senior)

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    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    Creating Offense: 8.5

    Outside Shooting: 8.0

    Finishing: 4.0

    Passing: 7.5

    Defense: 8.0

    Rebounding: 7.5

    Awareness: 7.5

    Versatility Rating: 51.0

    UConn guard Shabazz Napier is just 6'1", but he registers a high versatility rating because he's all over the place.

    He generates offense for himself and his fellow Huskies, crashes the glass and is a defensive pest for opposing backcourts. Jacob Stallard of NBADraft.net noted Napier's increased productivity across the board, stating that he "has become a legitimate triple-double threat this year with his increased rebound and assist totals."

    Some aspects of Napier's game don't translate perfectly to the pro game, and his short stature isn't attractive. Consequently, he's not a can't-miss prospect like most of the other standouts in these rankings.

    Nevertheless, he's one of the most versatile candidates in the entire class. He'll help his NBA squad in a bunch of ways, even if he doesn't stuff the stat sheet.

7. Dante Exum, Australia G

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    Sam Forencich/Getty Images

    Creating Offense: 8.0

    Outside Shooting: 5.0

    Finishing: 8.0

    Passing: 8.0

    Defense: 7.5

    Rebounding: 6.5

    Awareness: 8.5

    Versatility Rating: 51.5

    One NBA general manager nailed it when he told Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix that 6'6" Australian guard Dante Exum is the "whole package."

    We docked him a sizable chunk of points in the shooting department, but the 18-year-old prodigy has the wherewithal to become a perimeter threat.

    Everywhere else, he's already torching foes. His ball-handling skills and deceptive quickness allow him to slice through defenses and rack up assists, and his length and fluidity enable him to finish around the bucket. Tremendous instincts and awareness don't hurt, either.

    Exum also uses his size to rebound effectively and guard multiple positions. He can cover so much space in a short amount of time, and that gift is something NBA decision-makers covet.

6. Spencer Dinwiddie, Colorado G (Junior)

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Creating Offense: 8.0

    Outside Shooting: 8.0

    Finishing: 7.5

    Passing: 7.5

    Defense: 6.5

    Rebounding: 6.0

    Awareness: 8.0

    Versatility Rating: 51.5

    Colorado's Spencer Dinwiddie cracked our list because he can play three different positions and make big plays on both offense and defense.

    When the ball is in his hands, he can create almost anything. He uses hesitation dribbles and exquisite footwork to get past defenders. Once he's through the first line of defense, he can finish adroitly in the lane or unselfishly find a cutting comrade.

    Tom Kensler of the Denver Post explains why Dinwiddie is so influential for the Buffaloes and has NBA appeal:

    A point guard who is as big as a forward but with the ball handling and passing skills of a conventional distributor can give a defense headaches...Dinwiddie is a budding star who plays the game like a veteran.

    Don't be surprised if he's picked in the top 20 on draft night; he's polished enough to hold his own on the wing or run the show as a facilitator. Defensively, his instincts and length will be a huge plus.

5. Andrew Wiggins, Kansas F (Freshman)

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    Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

    Creating Offense: 7.0

    Outside Shooting: 7.5

    Finishing: 9.5

    Passing: 5.0

    Defense: 8.5

    Rebounding: 7.5

    Awareness: 7.0

    Versatility Rating: 52.0

    His draft stock may not be as otherworldly as it was in autumn, but Kansas star Andrew Wiggins is still an extraordinarily versatile prospect.

    Entering college, scouts salivated over his rim-to-rim athleticism and ability to overwhelm opponents when he attacks the hoop. Now, they're enjoying his flashes of deep outside shooting and remarkable defense.

    Jayhawks coach Bill Self broke down Wiggins' multifaceted defensive prowess to Jesse Newell of the Topeka Capital-Journal:

    What gives people problems is he’s quick enough to pressure the ball, but he’s long enough that he doesn’t have to pressure it real hard, and then it’s hard to go around him because he’s so quick. He could be a lockdown defender in time.

    Right now, he doesn't even crack our top three in the versatility ratings. Once he learns how to take advantage of scoring opportunities, however, he'll be an incredibly dominant two-way player.

4. Sam Dekker, Wisconsin F (Sophomore)

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    Mike McGinnis/Getty Images

    Creating Offense: 6.0

    Outside Shooting: 8.5

    Finishing: 9.0

    Passing: 6.5

    Defense: 7.0

    Rebounding: 7.0

    Awareness: 8.5

    Versatility Rating: 52.5

    Wisconsin forward Sam Dekker can burn opponents with or without the ball, and that's what makes him so multidimensional and attractive to NBA executives.

    When he's not busy draining triples or slashing to the bucket, he's cutting to the rim, spacing the floor or sneaking in for a key rebound and putback. CBS Sports' Gary Parrish said Dekker "moves better without the ball than most probably realize."

    His potent mix of size, skill and athleticism will enable him to fill several roles in the NBA. Dekker may never be a dynamic playmaker or featured offensive weapon, but he could still be one of the most important players on his squad.

3. Jabari Parker, Duke F (Freshman)

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Creating Offense: 8.0

    Outside Shooting: 9.0

    Finishing: 9.5

    Passing: 6.5

    Defense: 4.0

    Rebounding: 8.0

    Awareness: 8.0

    Versatility Rating: 53.0

    On the offensive end, there isn't really anything Jabari Parker can't do.

    Duke opponents have tried in vain to stop him on the inside, limit his playmaking impact and prevent perimeter scoring. They haven't found much success: He's notching 28.3 points per 40 minutes and shooting 55 percent from the field.

    NBA minds think he'll be unstoppable in the pros, too. One NBA assistant coach told SNY.tv that Parker is ready to make a splash at the next level:

    That dude could play right now [in the NBA], like today. Like if he left Duke right now and said, ‘I’m leaving,’ he would be Utah’s best player. He would be a lot of teams’ best player.

    Defense has been the knock on him so far in his college days, but he has the capability to be respectable in that area. Meanwhile, he's winning over scouts with his high-IQ offense and productive rebounding instincts.

    If he keeps up the brilliant NBA auditioning, he will be first off the board in June.

2. Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State G (Sophomore)

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    Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    Creating Offense: 8.0

    Outside Shooting: 7.0

    Finishing: 6.5

    Passing: 7.5

    Defense: 9.5

    Rebounding: 7.0

    Awareness: 9.0

    Versatility Rating: 54.5

    He's only 6'4", but Oklahoma State star Marcus Smart is the second-most versatile 2014 prospect because no one has better two-way value. NBA coaches can't wait to feed off his defensive competitiveness and all-around talent. 

    Phenomenal instincts drive his success as a scorer and stopper, and he's also made some masterful plays as a floor general.

    His underwhelming assist numbers are a bit deceiving, because he possesses next-level passing ingenuity. ESPN recruiting analyst Paul Biancardi notes how he makes players around him better: "He does a great job setting up his man on his scoring attempts."

    Smart's combo-guard abilities, impenetrable defense and knack for forcing turnovers form a lethal arsenal. No wonder he's giving the freshman studs a run for their money.

1. Kyle Anderson, UCLA G-F (Sophomore)

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    Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Spor

    Creating Offense: 7.5

    Outside Shooting: 6.5

    Finishing: 8.0

    Passing: 9.5

    Defense: 5.5

    Rebounding: 9.0

    Awareness: 9.0

    Versatility Rating: 55.0

    Not many 6'9" ballers in the world have legitimate point guard passing skills, and that's exactly what UCLA's Kyle Anderson has going for him. Players his size would kill for his dishing talent, and fellow guards would love to rebound like him.

    As a freshman, he could pass the rock and collect boards at a high level, but his outside shooting was suspect. Now he's much more dangerous from the perimeter, and therefore an infinitely more versatile player. Jack Wang of the Los Angeles Daily News explains that Anderson's upgraded jumper is a product of improved form and mental conviction:

    Anderson said last week that he’s worked with the coaching staff to adjust his shooting form, but also attributes the improvement to a mental leap: “I had it in my head that I was going to become a better shooter. I trusted my confidence.”

    Although he's a below-average athlete, Anderson will be extremely useful in the NBA due to his inside-out impact and elite quarterbacking.

     

    Dan O'Brien covers the NBA Draft for B/R. Follow him on Twitter.