Predicting Biggest Boom-or-Bust Candidates of 2014 NBA Draft Class

Daniel O'Brien@@DanielO_BRFeatured ColumnistFebruary 26, 2014

Predicting Biggest Boom-or-Bust Candidates of 2014 NBA Draft Class

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    Al Behrman/Associated Press

    In an NBA draft littered with high-upside prospects, there are several ballers with equally severe downsides.

    If these boom-or-bust 2014 candidates don't find their niche or sufficiently expand their games, they'll more than likely be huge disappointments.

    For some, the difference between making it or breaking it is upgrading their jump-shooting skills or developing their half-court creativity. Others aren't as lucky, as they must deal with size disadvantages or an inadequate grasp of their role.

    Which risky prospects landed on our radar, and who topped the list?

7. Jahii Carson, Arizona State PG (5'11" Sophomore)

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    Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

    Jahii Carson is either going to flourish as a playmaker in the mold of Nate Robinson and Isaiah Thomas, or he's going to be an NBA afterthought.

    His quickness and ability to blow by his man are eye-popping, but he may not be able to rely solely on athleticism at the next level.

    Carson came out of the gate on fire this season, but when the Pac-12 schedule commenced, he came back to earth.

    His shot selection and execution against major-conference defenders has been shaky: He's 37 percent from the field and 24 percent from distance since Jan. 1. To make matters worse, he's averaging 4.1 turnovers compared to 3.9 assists.

    Nevertheless, Carson's tools and competitive energy will be appealing for second-round teams looking to add backcourt depth. Will he clean up his shortcomings and prove first-round teams wrong?

6. Clint Capela, Switzerland PF (6'10", 1994)

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    When you watch Swiss forward Clint Capela run the floor like a deer, explode to score or block a shot, you can't help but wonder about his NBA ceiling.

    With the right disposition and skills on both ends of the floor, he could be a handful for opponents.

    Unfortunately, it seems like he needs some extensive schooling. In a recent scouting report for NBADraft.net, Rick Pietro noted Capela "frequently appears lost and often wants to make plays without understanding what is going on around him."

    Pietro added, "his shooting mechanics need to be rebuilt from scratch. The same is true for his post moves."

    Capela's primary flaws stem from a lack of intensity and awareness, and if he doesn't really apply himself in the NBA, he won't be able to fulfill the duties of a true power forward.

    In the event that he matures and expands his game, good luck to the rest of the league.

5. Semaj Christon, Xavier G (6'3" Sophomore)

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    Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

    Xavier guard Semaj Christon's NBA draft value is based on his playmaking speed and potential, as the sophomore standout uses his swift strides to attack the rim and create for the Musketeers.

    The key word there is "potential."

    Christon has displayed some nice passing skills, and his outside jumper has markedly improved from his freshman year, but he's nowhere near an NBA-caliber shooter or floor general.

    He barely averages one three-point attempt per game, so he has work to do if he wants to be a combo guard who gets minutes at the 2. And despite being a great ball-handler who can make nifty passes, he's not the type of quarterback who can guide the whole team and manipulate opposing defenses.

    The fact that he cut down on turnovers and improved his three-point shooting percentage is encouraging; there's a chance he'll grow into an exciting point guard who can also shoot.

    A failure to sharpen those skills would prevent him from cracking the rotation.

4. Kyle Anderson, UCLA G-F (6'9" Sophomore)

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    Arguably the most unique prospect in the entire draft, UCLA's Kyle Anderson operates as a dangerous 6'9" floor general. His height, vision, and smooth skills enable him to distribute the ball, rebound and score when necessary.

    There are some legitimate question marks surrounding his NBA value, however.

    Anderson's athleticism ranks well below the average NBA playmaker, so he may have a tough time creating plays off the dribble. If he has to rely exclusively on his height, he'll struggle.

    The other major question mark is on defense. He needs to find a way to defend NBA forwards, because it's doubtful he'd be able to stay in front of any NBA guards. Stopping those forwards won't be easy, because he'll still be at a disadvantage from a leaping and foot-speed standpoint.

    If Anderson can maximize his ball-handling and passing skills, consistently drill triples from NBA range and play respectable defense, he'll enjoy a thoroughly productive career. If not, he won't see much playing time at all.

3. Glenn Robinson III, Michigan SF (6'6" Sophomore)

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    Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

    Whenever he drives to the bucket with ease, finishes an alley-oop or splashes a three-pointer, Glenn Robinson III passes the pro eye test with flying colors.

    He certainly has a chance to be an outstanding small forward, given his athleticism and scoring ability.

    No one's going to hand him NBA minutes, though. Robinson needs to earn them by proving he can convert from long range and produce off the dribble in tight spaces.

    Michigan's small forward is shooting just 22 percent from deep against Big Ten opponents, and he hasn't delivered consistent scoring. In six different conference games, Robinson has scored in single digits.

    It's not easy to carve out time at the 3 position in the Association, as there are so many proficient wings who can shoot and create at near-All-Star levels. GR3 will either upgrade his skills and move up the ladder, or he'll woefully underwhelm in the process of trying.

2. Jerami Grant, Syracuse F (6'7" Sophomore)

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    At the college level, Jerami Grant has been able to thrive in the paint, relentlessly attacking the rim and taking advantage of his length and bounce. He's also served as an eye-popping defender, and can knock down mid-range jumpers.

    The problem is that he'll be an extremely short power forward (6'7" with shoes on, per Draft Express), and he's not strong enough to handle full-time duties in the post.

    Meanwhile, his ball-handling skills and shooting range aren't swingman material. He can put it on the floor to create his own shot, but only if its one or two dribbles with a simple spin move.

    During his sophomore season at Syracuse, he's spent scant time on the wing, which means he must develop perimeter skills on the job next year.

    I don't think he'll be a complete bust, but he could end up being an open-floor supplementary player who only scores opportunistically. In other words, filling a small role and falling way short of lottery expectations.

    Tapping into his versatile upside, however, would put him on a path to stardom.

1. Zach LaVine, UCLA G (6'5" Freshman)

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    Ringo H.W. Chiu/Associated Press

    Shooting always finds a place in the NBA, but the rest of the tool kit determines whether a player is a star or simply a replaceable piece.

    UCLA's Zach LaVine owns a few weapons to complement his shooting—namely speed and slashing—but it remains to be seen if he'll blossom as a combo guard.

    During his time off the bench for the Bruins, we've seen glimpses of passing talent and scoring moves. He can beat his man when a lane opens up or he's working in space.

    How will he fare in traffic against NBA defenders? Can he bulk up enough and refine his shot-creating repertoire in order to consistently generate offense? 

    Success in those areas will allow LaVine to reach his potential and become an all-around weapon. The alternative is survival that's reliant on catch-and-shoot attempts and transition opportunities.

    At the top of the draft, his boom-or-bust status may not be worth the risk. But if he falls outside the top 15, that ceiling is too high to pass up.

     

    Dan O'Brien covers the NBA Draft for Bleacher Report. 

    Follow him on Twitter: @DanielO_BR