7 College Basketball Stars the Philadelphia 76ers Must Keep an Eye On
The time has almost come for the Philadelphia 76ers to stop being concerned with the quality of the 2013-14 season and start worrying about what college basketball stars they'll take in the draft as a result of it.
There's no magical mathematical formula that determines whether a player will succeed or fail once they reach the NBA. Instead, the best option is to individually look at each player and evaluate every aspect of his game. His offensive and defensive skill is obviously crucial, but athleticism and mentality have proven to be equally important.
The Sixers have lost a staggering amount of games in hopes of having the most successful 2014 draft in the NBA. They will have their own lottery pick as well as the New Orleans Pelicans' if it doesn't land in the top five. Philadelphia also has five—yes, five—second-round draft picks, and you never know what new general manager Sam Hinkie will do with those.
The ball might not be going in the basket for the Sixers, but it will soon be in their court. Here's a look at what top college basketball stars Philadelphia needs to keep its eye on.
We all know the story. Andrew Wiggins is one of the most athletic players the NBA draft has seen in quite some time, but his talent as a basketball player isn't quite at that level yet.
There are definitely times when he flashes signs of brilliant basketball plays. The problem is that not being consistently amazing doesn't live up to the unfair expectations he has faced.
2014 is the first year Wiggins is eligible to enter the draft, but people were saying he would have gone No. 1 in the 2013 NBA draft. Putting that much stock into him before ever seeing him play at the college level made nearly everything Wiggins ended up doing fall short of expectations.
Still, though, Wiggins excels when it comes to specific NBA traits. He likes shooting off of the dribble more than from a stationary position, which is much more suited for the professional game rather than college. He also has a 10-foot floater in his arsenal.
One of his best traits was evident in his game-winner over Texas Tech earlier this year. Wiggins makes the easy five-footer, but is concerned about not making it and jumps to tip in a possible miss. He's off the ground and in the air before anybody else on the floor has even attempted to jump.
You just can't teach his athleticism.
We rarely saw Wiggins absolutely take over a game and be the guy who can take over a franchise. The bottom line is he's still learning the game and finding out how to utilize his athletic gifts in the best possible ways.
If he can do this, then selecting Wiggins is in the Sixers' best interest, as his upside is as high as his vertical.
NBA Player Comparison: Paul George
Expected Draft Spot: Picks No. 1-3 in Lottery
Jabari Parker is widely regarded as the most NBA-ready player in the 2014 NBA draft.
Or should we say, "if" he declares for the draft.
Assuming he does choose to enter the draft, Parker will be in the running for one of the top-3 picks, and potentially land with the Sixers. It has the potential to be a perfect fit.
Parker did a great job of both proving his doubters wrong and raising more questions in other areas. Concerns about his athleticism were quickly answered as he ended up on the finishing end of multiple alley-oops. While not exceptional, he proved he has the foot speed and vertical game to be successful at the next level.
He was also as advertised when it came to his scoring ability. Parker finished the season averaging 19.1 points per game, while shooting 47.3 percent from the field and 35.8 percent from the three-point line. Combine his strength with a near picture-perfect looking jumper, and it's easy to see why he was such a successful scorer.
Parker excelled as an offensive weapon but looked like a defensive liability at times. It never looked like it was a problem with quickness but more so a question of did he really want to play defense? His defensive potential will be one of the most important issues as he enters the NBA.
Parker had a rough end to his first year in college by losing in the second round of the NCAA tournament but still has all of the tools to be a prolific scorer in the league. It'll be interesting to see what his decision regarding the draft ends up being, though.
NBA Player Comparison: Carmelo Anthony
Expected Draft Spot: Picks No. 1-3 in Lottery
Dante Exum has the potential to be a boom or bust player. The kind of guy who never amounts to more than a role player, or the kind of guy who is looked at as the best player in the 2014 draft 10 years from now.
We know that Exum is a 6'6" guard who has the potential to play at point, but he might be better suited for shooting guard. He's got elite athleticism and can get to the paint at will. Combine that with a semi-reliable jumper, and he's got the tools to be a special player with a level of improvement.
Here's a look at how Bleacher Report's Daniel O'Brien sees Exum's offensive game:
For starters, he's got a great handle. Exum is brilliant at changing pace and changing direction, whether it's a hesitation dribble, in-and-out fake or crossover. Combine those moves with his speed, and you've got a recipe for some embarrassed defenders. He's going to be a constant threat in pick-and-roll sequences.
Once he gets near the rim, he finishes the job by scoring deftly with either hand, with the ability to maneuver in the air around obstacles.
Even though Exum's jump-shooting results were inconsistent last summer and autumn, he's quickly developing a mid-range and perimeter arsenal. Exum uses terrific, quick footwork to set up his shots. Those moves include post-up turnarounds, step-backs and lightning-quick dribble pull-ups.
It's clear he has all of the tools to succeed, but the question is: will he? The transition from overseas basketball to the NBA can prove to be a troubling one. There's no other way to say it other than the foreign game is different than it is in the United States.
The good news for Exum is the NBA hasn't seen a player with his tools come from Australia or anywhere for that matter. Combine his skill set and size with Michael Carter-Williams' and you've got one of the most athletic and dynamic backcourts in all of basketball.
The fact that they have the potential to be so dangerous so early in both of their careers could spell great things for the Sixers.
Exum is a bit of a wild-card selection but picking him has the potential to be a franchise-changing move.
NBA Player Comparison: Kobe Bryant
Expected Draft Spot: Picks No. 2-5 in Lottery
Julius Randle is one of the most frustrating players to watch.
There is a lot of talk about Wiggins’ athleticism—and rightfully so—but Randle's athletic abilities are downright freakish. There's no reason for a 6'9", 250-pound power forward to be able to move the way he does.
His ridiculous athleticism is the leading factor as to why he's so frustrating to watch, though. He rarely seems to mix it with actual basketball skills, and he would be close to unstoppable if he could.
Randle actually thrives in the open court, as he's able to use his ball-handling ability and speed to create opportunity for others. Surprisingly enough, he struggles when forced to play from the mid-post and low block.
A lack of post moves leaves him resorting to playing "bully basketball" down low. It's very effective against lesser talent, but he becomes limited against a strong player who's ready for it.
Randle is a double-double waiting to happen just because he's a physical specimen. If he were able to add in specific moves in the post along with a 17-foot jumper, then he could be scary at the next level.
The Sixers might not specifically need a power forward, but if they get hosed in the lottery and end up with the No. 4 or No. 5 pick, then Randle is worth a look.
NBA Player Comparison: Stronger Thaddeus Young
Expected Draft Spot: Picks No. 4-6 in Lottery
Michigan State has had a successful season due in large part to its experience, poise and talent.
Gary Harris is the leading contributor toward the talent part.
There's not a shot on the floor Harris doesn't feel comfortable knocking down, and it shows in his confidence. Everything from the deep three-pointer to a mid-range jumper to finishing above the rim. He understands what he's capable of doing and does it very well.
He also possesses one of the most important shots for an NBA player—the floater. Harris isn't one of those players who looks panicked into throwing up a floater because he doesn't have any other options.
Instead, he uses the shot as a specific tool to get his shot over the opposing team's bigs. It's one of the most NBA-ready shots that any prospect in the 2014 draft has at their disposable.
The Sixers would look at Harris with their second selection in the lottery, which could be anywhere from picks No. 9-11 depending on how the Pelicans finish. He could be the shooting guard Philadelphia has been missing.
NBA Player Comparison: Wesley Matthews
Expected Draft Spot: Picks No. 8-12 in Lottery
If you've seen Isaiah Austin anchor Baylor University's defense, then you've likely been a witness to what he does best—blocking shots.
Austin is a 7'1" center with a 7'4" wingspan and recently set the Big 12 tournament's record for blocked shots. What sets him apart from other ridiculously long centers, though, is his ability to handle the basketball and shoot with range. His jumper has range out to the NBA three-point line, and his ball-handling ability is a great tool mixed with his mobility.
If it sounds like he'll be one of the rarer talents at the next level, then you're not alone because that's what most people initially thought when he graduated high school in 2012. In fact, Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman had him being taken with the No. 6 pick in the 2013 draft in his NBA mock draft on October 15, 2012.
Austin's glaring weakness is his strength. Putting on any kind of muscle mass has been a very big problem for the Baylor center. How will he be able to utilize his unique skill set if he isn't able to physically hold his own in the NBA?
That's the major question mark surrounding Austin.
Lack of strength is always a concern when it comes to a center, but he's definitely worth the value of a second-round selection when one of Philadelphia's picks rolls around.
NBA Player Comparison: Marcus Camby
Expected Draft Spot: Early in the Second Round
Shabazz Napier will be one of the more intriguing players in the draft. He's got the talent of a first-rounder, but lacks the elite athleticism needed to be drafted there.
ESPN's Chad Ford was answering questions from readers about players competing in the NCAA tournament, and one of the readers asked for Ford's opinion on Napier and his potential. Here's what Ford had to say:
He's played four years at UConn and has been heavily scouted. If you've watched Shabazz a lot you know he's capable of putting up a huge game one night and an awful one the next. He's also an undersized two guard (most teams don't think he's a true PG) who isn't an elite athlete nor does he have great size. In short, great college player who will likely have to wait until the second round to hear his name called.
Napier's inconsistency from game to game has thrown some teams off. Still, though, there's something about his game that screams Allen Iverson. He's undersized and likely to play as a shooting guard at the next level, but he completely gives his body up and has the killer instinct the former Sixers great played with.
It's highly unlikely Napier will ever get to Iverson's status, but his ability as both a floor leader and scorer could allow him to stick—even as a second-rounder.
NBA Player Comparison: Ben Gordon
Expected Draft Spot: Middle of the Second Round