This projected 2014 NBA draft class isn't just about the superstars at the top.
If you've got a first-round pick in 2014, you'll have a good shot at landing a rotation player with upside on a rookie deal for the next few seasons.
Every week, someone new seems to emerge and make a case for lottery or first-round consideration. First, it was Missouri's Jordan Clarkson. Then, it was UCLA's Zach LaVine. This week, it's Syracuse's Tyler Ennis, who seems as poised and disciplined as any freshman guard in the country.
In this week's notebook, we'll look at what makes Ennis special, as well as some other first-round prospects, our top-30 big board, the prospect matchup to watch and the scene overseas.
Tyler Ennis, Syracuse, 6'2'', PG, Freshman
He's not the biggest, fastest or strongest player, but Tyler Ennis' feel for the game is as good as it gets. He does a fantastic job of picking and choosing his spots as the lead guard on the floor.
Ennis has now played a total of 416 minutes (32 per game) and has turned the ball over only 15 times all year against 70 assists. That is a remarkable statistic for any point guard, never mind a freshman.
There's no itinerary with Ennis. If there's a good shot, he'll take it; if not, he won't. He values the ball and each possession. In his last four games, he dished out nine dimes against both Eastern Michigan and High Point, and he dropped 21 points on St. John's and 20 on Villanova.
Ennis seems to have a quality about him that could allow a team to overlook his physical limitations and focus on what he does well. I recently moved him into the first round of our latest 2014 NBA mock draft.
Sam Dekker, Wisconsin, 6'7'', SF, Sophomore
He's not scoring in volume, but Sam Dekker has been consistent, efficient and productive.
Over his last five games, he's 31-of-47 from the floor (65.9 percent). But it's not just that he's shooting it well. Of those 31 buckets, 25 of them have come from inside the arc.
Unlike last season, where 42.3 percent of his made field goals came from downtown, only 22 percent of them this year have been three-pointers. Dekker is a sneaky-good athlete, and with a lethal outside stroke and high IQ, he's definitely got something to offer.
Dekker is averaging over 14 points on 53 percent shooting overall and 37 percent from deep.
Jordan Bachynski, Arizona State, 7'2'', C, Senior
Sometimes, four years in college is just what the doctor ordered. That's how long it took for Jordan Bachysnski to come around, as he is now blowing up as a senior at Arizona State.
He's averaging 6.4 blocks over his last five games and around five per game on the year. Take a second to absorb those numbers, because they're monstrous. Bachynski is also finally rebounding like a 7'2'' big man should, pulling in 9.5 boards a game—roughly four more than last year's average.
There really aren't a lot of center prospects in this year's field. Outside of Kansas' Joel Embiid and Kentucky's Willie Cauley-Stein, Bachynski could very well be the No. 3 center off the board in June.
Guys with Bachynski's size don't come around too often. If he's able to convince a team he knows how to use it, the late-first round shouldn't be out of the question.
Montrezl Harrell, Louisville, 6'8'', PF, Sophomore
Harrell was nowhere to be found in Louisville's loss to Kentucky. I think the ball boys made a bigger impact on the game.
He finished with six points and four boards on two shot attempts. There were stretches where you really didn't know if he was out there.
"What did he do? What did he do? He's a zero. He didn't even get off the bus," one NBA scout told SNY's Adam Zagoria.
Harrell is a scary athlete, but his offensive skill set is just too limited. He's really going to need another year in school to improve both his game and his draft stock.
Andrew Harrison, Kentucky, 6'6'', PG, Freshman
Despite his 18 points against Louisville, Andrew Harrison's point-guard play just hasn't been very convincing.
He's had more turnovers than assists in three of his last four games. Where are the playmaking skills? Harrison hasn't shown much dribble creativity this year—he appears to lack the quickness of a breakdown point guard and the instincts of a pure one.
Averaging just 3.4 assists on the year while shooting an ugly 39 percent, Harrison hasn't looked like your typical one-and-done freshman.
|2014 NBA Draft Big Board|
|6||Marcus Smart||Oklahoma State||PG/SG||6'4''|
|13||Adreian Payne||Michigan State||PF||6'10''|
|14||Gary Harris||Michigan State||SG||6'4''|
|22||Glenn Robinson III||Michigan||SF||6'6''|
|23||P.J. Hairston||North Carolina||SG||6'5''|
|27||Olivier Hanlan||Boston College||PG/SG||6'4''|
Tyler Ennis, Syracuse: Court Vision
One of the most appealing aspects of Ennis' game is his natural feel for the position. He's a true point guard out there, and all true point guards come equipped with unteachable court vision.
Ennis sees everything, and he knows what's coming before a play can even develop.
He's been hitting defenses with slick no-look passes all year, but none have been prettier than the dime he dropped below on Eastern Michigan.
Watch him activate the hesitation dribble before Euro-stepping into the lane, where it looks as if he's run straight into a three-man defensive wall. Only Ennis knows his trailer, Jerami Grant, is quietly following him on the break. Without looking, he's able to spot him and sling him a perfectly timed behind-the-back pass for an uncontested layup.
Ennis just takes the right steps at the right speeds. He's currently running the offense for the No. 2 team in the country. If he's able to guide the Orange to a run deep into March, he won't have a good enough reason to return as a sophomore.
McDermott has been a scoring machine over the past few years despite being the focal point of every opposing team's defensive game plan. There isn't a spot or angle on the floor that he isn't a threat from.
He's a below-average athlete at a position that typically requires loads of athleticism in the pros, and that's kept him from reaching can't-miss status as a prospect. But where McDermott lacks physically, he makes up for with phenomenal scoring instincts, basketball IQ and shot-making skills.
Take a look at what a 30-point night looks like for McDermott. Below are all of his made shots against San Diego State. Three-pointers, hook shots, step-backs, post ups, layups, contested shots—he gets himself buckets in more ways than any player in the country:
McDermott: 30 points, 11-of-18 shooting versus San Diego State:
|McDermott vs. SDSU||Spot-up Jumpers||Off-the-dribble Jumpers||Push Shots||Layups||Post Ups||Special Shots||Free throws made|
This is just a typical game for McDermott. The guy has an answer for everything, and most importantly, he knows how to play without the ball.
I like Wally Szczerbiak as a ceiling comparison for McDermott. Either way, worst-case scenario, McDermott gives you a lethal outside shooter to help space the floor. But I've got a feeling he'll pack a little more offensive punch than a three-point specialist.
Dario Saric, Croatia: Versatility
Saric has been a trending name in NBA circles over the past few years. His appeal stems directly from his offensive versatility—at 6'10'', he's a jack-of-all-trades forward with power-forward size and small-forward mobility.
You won't find too many 6'10'' forwards who can change direction with the behind-the-back dribble on the way to the rack like this:
He's also an active rebounder, terrific passer and capable shooter. But it's plays like the one above that allow Saric to stand out overseas.
Joel Embiid, Kansas: Post Skills
We're at the point now where it's becoming routine—Joel Embiid flashes his No. 1 overall upside at least once a game. Against Toledo, it was in the post with his back to the rim, a position he's become awfully comfortable operating from.
On the play below, he gained complete control of the possession from the moment he caught the entry pass. Toledo ultimately sent a double team, which Embiid quickly escaped by using a slippery spin move along the baseline for the easy reverse layup:
Embiid has been pulling off this type of move with regularity as of late. I wouldn't be surprised if he's moved up to No. 1 on plenty of NBA draft boards.
Bogdan Bogdanovic, Partizan, 6'6'', SG/SF
Fresh off a season-high 26-point performance, Bogdan Bogdanovic now has our full attention.
A 6'6'' wing with a diverse offensive game, Bogdanovic is having himself a breakout year abroad. He's averaging 15 points (No. 4 in the league) and 3.7 assists in 13 Adriatic League games, and 13.9 points and 3.4 assists in 11 Euroleague games.
With his team's point guard, Leo Westermann, out with a torn ACL, Bogdanovich has been helping out as a facilitator, doing an admirable job in the playmaking department.
He's also shooting 35 percent from three in the Adriatic League and about 43 percent from deep in Euroleague, which are really impressive numbers to add to his already stellar resume.
His upside is limited, but at 21 years old, Bogdanovich might be able to help out an NBA team sooner rather than later, if he does indeed declare and come over.
Vasilije Micic, Mega Vizura, 6'5'', PG
Vasilije Micic, a 19-year-old point guard as pure as they come, has been a well-regarded name abroad for the last few years. Now draft eligible, Micic is having an excellent season for Mega Vizura of the Adriatic League, where he ranks No. 3 in assists per game.
He's coming off a 17-point performance in his last outing and continues playing heavy minutes despite his age.
Micic is a clever passer with sensational vision and instincts, and at 6'5'', he's got great size for the position. Depending on how he stacks up physically during predraft workouts, the first round could be in play.
International stats courtesy of Eurobasket.com
Prospect Matchup to Watch For
Saturday, Jan. 4: Michigan State at Indiana, 2 p.m. ET
|Physical Matchup: Adreian Payne (MSU) vs. Noah Vonleh (IU)|
|Prospect||Adreian Payne||Noah Vonleh|
|Weight||245 pounds||240 pounds|
|2013-14||Field-goal percentage||Points per game||Rebounds per game||Blocks per game||Three-point percentage|
|Adreian Payne, MSU||.534||17.0||8.1||1.0||.457|
|Noah Vonleh, IU||.548||12.3||9.5||1.1||.333|
- Given his role off the bench as a freshman, nobody really pegged UCLA's Zach LaVine as a one-and-done candidate coming in. But the upside he's flashed in limited action has been tough to ignore. And even though he's far from NBA ready (6'5'', 180 pounds), that might not stop a lottery team from reaching on his potential. "That's my ultimate goal, is to get to the NBA," LaVine told Chris Johnson of Sports Illustrated. "With the one-and-done, I don't know about that yet. I feel like anyone would consider it. It's going to be a decision me and my family make at the end of the year."
- Michigan sophomore Mitch McGary is likely out for the year after electing to undergo back surgery, which is sad when you consider where he was last March and April. He broke out in the NCAA tournament and even generated lottery buzz in the process. But instead of capitalizing and selling high, he returned to school, where he'll now likely have to come back as a junior with something to prove. I'm just not sure how much sense it would make to declare after this season, given the questions that would come with an almost 22-year-old off a significant operation.