NBA Draft 2014: Previewing Top ACC Conference Tournament Prospects
The ACC wasn't exactly the powerhouse conference this year that some were expecting it to be. But you can't argue with the NBA talent scattered across the top of the standings.
Duke just might have the toughest prospect duo in the country. And Syracuse has a guy whose stock has risen faster than anyone else's.
And they all don't play for contenders. Clemson and North Carolina State each dress one of the top prospects in the country as well.
Tyler Ennis, Syracuse, 6'2", PG, Freshman
Despite its recent rough patch, Syracuse had itself another tremendous season. Go ahead and dish out a good portion of the credit to Tyler Ennis, who took command of the Orange offense for 35.5 minutes a night in his first year on the job.
He finished the regular season with an impressive assist-to-turnover ratio, as he averaged 5.5 assists to just 1.7 turnovers. A pure, pass-first point guard, scouts have fallen in love with his poise and half-court facilitating ability.
Ennis also knocked in 37.1 percent of his three-point attempts, with just about all of his makes coming within the flow of the offense.
In between, he's got the floater and mid-range jumper, along with some terrific instincts as a scorer on the move.
Ennis has been looking for his shot more frequently lately—he's averaging 16.7 points over his last four games. But now with Jerami Grant back to playing regular minutes, expect Ennis to refocus on getting his teammates involved and putting them in position to make a play.
Ennis' draft stock has skyrocketed this season. And you can only imagine the buzz if he's able to lead Syracuse on a deep postseason run.
Jerami Grant, Syracuse, 6'8", SF/PF, Sophomore
Lucky for Syracuse, Jerami Grant returned to action just in time, after back issues limited him against Virginia and Maryland, and forced him to miss the game against Georgia Tech.
He played 35 minutes in the regular-season finale against Florida State, finishing with 16 points, eight boards and two blocks in signature fashion.
"I felt like I could play in practice. I was moving well for the last couple days. I definitely knew I was going to give it a shot," Grant told Donna Ditota of The Post-Standard. "I didn't know I was going to play the entire game, but it so happened I did and I helped my team."
When Grant is locked in, that size, 7'2" wingspan and remarkable athleticism contribute to tip-ins, offensive boards, wild finishes and alley-oops.
Though not much of a scorer, Grant has been putting the ball on the floor with a little more confidence this season. You'll often see him attack his man off the bounce and spin into the lane for a layup. He's even started hitting mid-range jumpers.
Grant's lack of shooting range (hasn't hit a three-pointer this year) could turn some NBA folks off, but there's no denying those disruptive physical tools.
Jabari Parker, Duke, 6'8", SF/PF, Freshman
Jabari Parker ended his historic regular season at Duke with a bang, going off for 30 points and 11 boards in a convincing win over North Carolina.
He's also notched double-doubles in six straight games heading into postseason play.
I'm not sure there's any debate over who the most complete NBA prospect is. From spot-up three-pointers and pull-up jumpers to big-man moves in the post and one-handed alley-oops, Parker is an offensive machine who can generate points from anywhere on the floor.
He's also been as consistent as any of the premier NBA prospects—only six times all season did he fail to register 15 points.
To find a weakness, you really have to look hard. Parker might not project as an all-league defender, but he did average a steal and 1.4 blocks per game, averages right on par with Kansas' Andrew Wiggins.
If there is a prospect worth betting on to dominate college postseason play, it's Parker, whose NBA-ready game and offensive versatility make him the toughest one-on-one matchup around.
Rodney Hood, Duke, 6'8", SF, Sophomore
After sitting out last season following his transfer from Mississippi State, it didn't take long in 2013-14 to recognize Rodney Hood's potential.
He's got the size and mobility of an NBA wing, along with a sizzling, lefty outside stroke. Hood made over two three-pointers a game at a 42.5 percent clip, and at 6'8", he's often seen shooting right over the top of the defense.
Hood isn't known for his athleticism, but he's effective off the bounce, where he can score on the move with a runner or pull up in space for a jumper.
Arguably the most appealing aspect of his game is his ability to play without the ball. Hood can really stretch the floor, and as a cutter or slasher, you'll frequently catch him sneaking backdoor for an above-the-rim alley-oop.
He'll be entering the ACC tournament coming off one of his better overall performances of late, when he went for 24 points on 8-of-13 shooting in a win over North Carolina. Hood had cooled off a bit in January and February, so look for him to try and keep warm throughout the 2014 postseason.
K.J. McDaniels, Clemson, 6'6", SG/SF, Junior
He always had the athletic ability—K.J. McDaniels is as explosive of leaper as any guard or wing in the country.
But McDaniels added to his game this season. He's expanded his skill set, and he's found more ways to convert that athleticism into winning plays at both ends of the floor.
McDaniels led the ACC in blocks per game this season despite his 6'6" size and position on the wing, which really just speaks to his activity level and presence above the rim.
Offensively, he raised his scoring average to 17.2 points from 10.9 a year ago. He also took 71 more free throws this season. McDaniels has a quick first step, and once he's taken it, he's capable of launching himself at the rim where he's tough to contain.
His jumper is the only thing holding him back, as he converted just 30 percent of his three-pointers in the regular season. He did shoot 84.7 percent from the line, though it's clear the further he is from the hoop, the less comfortable he looks.
But when his confidence is pumping and that jumper starts falling, McDaniels looks like a can't-miss two-way NBA prospect.
T.J. Warren, North Carolina State, 6'8", SF, Sophomore
There isn't a hotter scorer in the country than North Carolina State's T.J. Warren, who just went for 40-plus points for the second consecutive game.
He's averaging nearly 29 over his last 12 contests, and he shot below 50 percent in only one of them.
And there's no go-to offensive move that Warren relies on. He just knows how to get buckets: jumpers, floaters, fadeaways—Warren has a shot for every spot and angle on the floor.
He finished the regular season averaging 24.8 points on 53.3 percent shooting. Not only has he been insanely productive, but he's been consistent and efficient.
There are still questions over his NBA outlook, though. Warren isn't a standout athlete, and he shot below 30 percent from downtown on the year.
But at 6'8", 215 pounds, he's no stiff out there, and he should be able to run alongside wings and small forwards at the next level.
Unfortunately, given his team's so-so record, Warren isn't getting the attention his offensive game deserves. But a string of wins in the ACC tournament could change that quickly.