8 2014 NBA Draft Prospects Who Could Be 1st-Round Steals

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterFebruary 18, 2014

8 2014 NBA Draft Prospects Who Could Be 1st-Round Steals

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    With so many big names projected to go at the top of the 2014 NBA draft, there are going to be some pretty good players who fall. 

    It's really a good year to own a first-round pick, even if it's not in the lottery. Assuming most of these guys aren't top-14 picks, some lucky teams should end up with contributors on cheap rookie deals. 

    These eight players offer late value after all the perceived stars are off the board. 

T.J. Warren, North Carolina State, 6'8", SF, Sophomore

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    Without explosive hops or standout athleticism, T.J. Warren probably isn't going until the second half of Round 1. But he offers value as a guy who just knows how to get himself buckets. 

    He's averaging 23.1 points a game on 52.8 percent shooting. He is a scoring machine at the college level, and despite his physical and shooting limitations, you can't teach his offensive instincts. 

    “He’s one of the best I’ve ever had,” N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried told Justin Hite of the Rocky Mount Telegram. “I’ve had some good players play for me. He (has) got a knack to score in such a variety of ways. I think it’s unique."

    Warren has scored at least 27 points on eight different occasions already. He most recently went for 34 against Wake Forest. 

    An erratic jumper and a questionable defensive outlook are going to keep teams from reaching on him in the lotto, but for those in search of some offensive firepower, they might be able to get some fairly cheap in Warren. 

Markel Brown, Oklahoma State, 6'3", SG, Senior

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    Markel Brown has been around for a number of years now, and he's gotten progressively better with each. He was always known for his high-flying athleticism, and now his skill set has finally caught up. 

    He's developed a reliable mid- to long-range game. He's shooting a promising 37.3 percent on two-point jumpers and 37.4 percent on three-pointers, per Hoop-Math.

    This year, he's bumped his scoring average up to 17 points per game on 47.4 percent shooting from the floor, showing the ability to create and separate into good looks.

    The knock on him at this stage is that he's undersized at shooting guard. But he can really jump, both at the rim and on jumpers, and that elevation can help make up for the two inches he's lacking in height. 

    Realistically, Brown doesn't have much upside, but between his elite-level athleticism and refined offensive game, there's a role for him if he lands in the right place. I like the Avery Bradley comparison in terms of what type of player he projects as. 

C.J. Wilcox, Washington, 6'5", SG, Senior

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    C.J. Wilcox projects as a specialist, and that label will not get a team to reach. So he'll likely fall outside the top 20, where he'll become a value pick based on his NBA-ready specialty. 

    At 6'6", this kid can shoot the lights out, and he's been doing it for four years. He's shot at least 36 percent from downtown and 80 percent from the line in each year at Washington. 

    This season, he is making a career-high 2.9 three-pointers per game at a solid 39.9 percent clip. 

    As a prospect, he has the size and perimeter-shooting versatility that should allow him to get off shots. And that's really all he needs to be effective, given his accuracy as a shooter. 

    If Wilcox lands in the right spot—like in a veteran lineup surrounded by playmakers—he'll have a good shot to succeed just by playing to his strengths in a shot-making role. 

    Last year, we saw Tim Hardaway Jr. fall in the 20s, and as a consistent shooting presence, he's been a major contributor to the Knicks. In a similar role, Wilcox could be a steal somewhere late in Round 1. 

Jordan Clarkson, Missouri, 6'5", PG/SG, Junior

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    Jordan Clarkson has been a breakout star for Missouri after sitting out last season following his transfer from Tulsa. 

    He's putting up 18.7 points and 3.4 assists per game as the primary decision-maker in the offense. Though not a pure point guard, his ability to lose defenders off the dribble propels him into playmaking mode frequently throughout a game. 

    The NBA guys will love his 6'5" size and athleticism for a ball-handler, and though he's only shooting it 32.5 percent from three, he has the shot-making confidence to heat up and knock down jumpers in bunches. 

    Without a true position, along with an inconsistent jumper, Clarkson might be a lottery long shot. But there's value attached to guards who can seamlessly play on and off the ball. 

K.J. McDaniels, Clemson, 6'6", SG/SF, Jr.

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    Over the past three years, we've seen K.J. McDaniels evolve from just another top-notch athlete into a dynamic two-way wing. 

    He's averaging 17.3 points per game as a junior, up from 10.9 points as a sophomore. He is explosive, both with his first step and his last, which he uses to play high above the rim as a finisher. 

    At 6'6", he's averaging close to three blocks per game, which illustrates how much ground and air he covers. 

    McDaniels' perimeter game has also started to come around. He's shooting 34 percent from downtown and 85 percent from the stripe, while his mid-range game continues to develop. 

    The NBA guys love prospects whose games gradually expand, and given McDaniels' promising foundation as an explosive athlete with size, his offensive progression is noteworthy. 

    He has the physical tools to man the NBA wing, and now his skill level is high enough to match it. It's tough to say whether McDaniels will be a first or second-rounder, but he could be a sneaky pickup outside the top 20.

P.J. Hairston, Texas Legends, 6'6", SG

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    Given his checkered past and the unorthodox route he's taking to the pros, P.J. Hairston will probably get left out of the 2014 lottery. 

    But at the very least, his core strengths should translate nicely into a complementary role. They've translated well to the D-League floor, where he's averaging 24.3 points per game on 37.2 shooting from downtown. 

    At 6'6", 220 pounds, Hairston has excellent physical tools at the 2-guard position—he has the athleticism to get to the rack and the strength to finish through contact. But he's also lethal with his jumper, which he can create for himself off the dribble or knock down as a spot-up threat off the ball. 

    If he is able to keep his head on straight and a team allows him to play to his strengths as an opportunistic driver and shooter, there's no reason he can't evolve into a significant NBA contributor. 

Glenn Robinson III, Michigan, 6'6", SF, Sophomore

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    Glenn Robinson III's stock has fallen this year—his inconsistency has been frustrating, as he just hasn't put together enough standout performances.

    But he looked darn good last season when he played with an NBA-quality point guard in Trey Burke. Without one, he just hasn't picked up as many easy buckets, while his scoring opportunities have been limited. 

    Robinson is one of those guys who's more effective around better players, which is a setting he'll find himself in as a pro. Plus, with extra open floor, he should have a few more chances a game to get out in transition or on the secondary break. 

    As a promising shooter, phenomenal finisher, weapon in transition and versatile defender, Robinson could be a steal if he slips too far down the board. 

Jabari Brown, Missouri, 6'5", SG, Junior

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    Jabari Brown has erupted this year—he's averaging 20.5 points on a scalding-hot 45.7 percent from downtown. 

    He has plenty of range on his three-ball, and at 6'5", 214 pounds, he has an NBA 2-guard body to match it. He has been exceptionally consistent this season—only twice all year has he failed to total 15 points in a game.

    This year, Brown has improved his one-on-one game, becoming a much bigger threat with the ball in his hands. In a recent game against Arkansas, Missouri isolated Brown down one with less than 20 seconds to go, and he came through and took his man for the game-winning bucket. 

    He isn't the quickest or most explosive athlete, and that's likely to limit his draft outlook. But Brown's outside accuracy and scoring instincts will make him a steal on draft night as a late-round pick.