Is Jerry West onto Something by Questioning 2014 NBA Draft Class?

Jonathan WassermanNBA Lead WriterFebruary 27, 2014

Duke forward Jabari Parker (1) and Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins (22) wait for a free throw during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013, in Chicago. Kansas won 94-83. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

Call him a realist, a pessimist or just a tough judge of talent—Jerry West isn't down with this projected 2014 NBA draft class. 

“And everyone is talking about an incredible draft class this year. I think it’s just the opposite—I think it’s a poor one myself," Jerry West told Scott Van Pelt and Ryen Rusillo on ESPN Radio. "There are going to be prospects there. But these franchises have really struggled. At one time you could get a branded name; these kids are not branded today. They’re not branded."

Talk about rain on a parade for fans and teams that have had the 2014 lottery circled on their calendars all season long. 

And I gotta say, while I respect The Logo's opinion, I've got one slight issue with his choice of words.

In this particular case, you just can't refer to a class as "poor" without giving it some context. 

DENVER - FEBRUARY 18:  (L-R) Carmelo Anthony #15, Dwyane Wade #3 and LeBron James #23 of the Sophmore Team poses for a portrait prior to the 2005 Got Milk? Rookie Challenge at The Pepsi Center on February 18, 2005 in Denver, Colorado.  NOTE TO USER: User
Tim Defrisco/Getty Images

"Poor" compared to what? The LeBron James-Carmelo Anthony-Dwyane Wade draft? Sure, it's going to be poor compared to that 2003 class. Because we're probably not going to see MVPs or first-ballot Hall of Famers. 

But when I think poor, I think of the 2000 NBA draft, when Kenyon Martin, Stromile Swift, Darius Miles and Marcus Fizer were selected with the Nos. 1-4 picks, respectively. I think 2006—Andrea Bargnani, Adam Morrison, Tyrus Thomas, Shelden Williams. When I think about a class that's going to be remembered for its minimal impact, I think about Anthony Bennett, Otto Porter, Alex Len and Cody Zeller from the 2013 class. 

This 2014 class is not like those.

Maybe it's a little overrated or overhyped. Not maybe—it is. But if you're a team counting on landing a long-term talent in the draft, what more can you realistically ask for without sounding greedy or impractical?

Kansas' Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins, Duke's Jabari Parker, Kentucky's Julius Randle, Indiana's Noah Vonleh, Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart, Michigan State's Gary Harris—don't forget Australia's Dante Exum, who could very well be the most promising one of all. These are all terrific NBA prospects. There might not be a LeBron James or Kevin Durant, but when is there ever?

Besides, you just don't know who's going to explode. Otherwise, Chris Paul would have gone before Andrew Bogut, Marvin Williams and Deron Williams back in 2005. And eight teams wouldn't have passed on Andre Drummond in 2012.

Paul George saw three wings (Wesley Johnson, Al-Farouq Aminu, Gordon Hayward) get picked before him in the 2010 draft. 

What if UCLA's Zach LaVine evolves into the weapon his athleticism and skill set give him the potential to be, the way George did after a few years in the league? What if Arizona's Aaron Gordon all of a sudden starts knocking down three-pointers? 

Players evolve, and though there might not be any surefire franchise centerpieces, there are enough prospects in the field who've at least got the potential to be something special. 

EAST LANSING, MI - DECEMBER 28:  Adreian Payne #05 of the Michigan State Spartans drives the ball to the basket during the second half of the game against the New Orleans Privateers at the Breslin Center on December 28, 2013 in East Lansing, Michigan. The
Leon Halip/Getty Images

This class might be poor in terms of the superstar talent it produces at the top, but looking down the board, it could be a tremendously deep one. You've got 6'10", 245-pound bullies who can shoot threes, like Michigan State's Adreian Payne, projected outside the lottery. Creighton's Doug McDermott doesn't even get mentioned with the top dogs, despite his 26 points-per-game average and fourth year in a row shooting above 40 percent from three. 

There are some intriguing international prospects—Croatia's Dario Saric, Bosnia's Jusuf Nurkic and Switzerland's Clint Capela—who we just don't know enough about yet. 

It just seems a little premature and extreme to call this 2014 class "poor," especially before it's even been drafted. The 1996 class might not have looked too hot pre-draft, either, until Kobe Bryant, Peja Stojakovic, Steve Nash and Jermaine O'Neal, all of whom were taken after No. 12 overall, turned out to be All-Star studs. 

Clearly, and not surprisingly, the hype was overblown. But there are a lot of prospects who have the potential to emerge as impact players at the next level. They may not be capable of carrying a franchise, and their impact might not come overnight, but I'm selling on the idea this is a poor draft class. 

And I wouldn't write off those kids expected to go at the top. Embiid, Wiggins, Parker and Exum could all be big-time pieces to build with or around. 

If I'm a general manager projected to select in the lottery, I'm going in confident I can find a valuable addition to my organization.