2014 NBA Draft Preview: 10 Underclassmen Who Should Stay Another Year
To declare or not to declare, that is the question.
The 2014 NBA draft class has been dubbed by some as potentially the best draft class in history. This group of talented freshman, sophomores, juniors and seniors could make for an extremely intriguing night on June 26, that is, if the likes of Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Julius Randle actually declare.
Noah Vonleh, T.J. Warren and Tyler Ennis have been the first star underclassmen to reveal their future plans, and more are likely to follow suit.
But some players who fans think are shoe-ins to leave college early may be better off staying for another year.
Here are 10 underclassmen who would be better off dominating the college ranks until 2015 before turning pro.
10. Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky
Cauley-Stein is really only one of two true centers who could go in the first round this year, along with Kansas' Joel Embiid.
Embiid is a rarity, and Cauley-Stein is no Embiid. The Kentucky big man averages only 7.0 points and 6.2 rebounds for a team that is dominated by freshmen.
If Cauley-Stein were to stay, he'd see 30-plus minutes each game, even though touted big men Trey Lyles and Karl Towns are coming in next year.
Due to the surplus of combo-guard talent atop the draft, not many teams will be willing to go for a modestly productive center when there will be a wealth talent at other positions. If he were to come out next year, Cauley-Stein could potentially be a lottery pick.
9. K.J. McDaniels, Clemson
The ACC Defensive Player of the Year broke onto the scene as a defensive menace, but it was somewhat overlooked that he averaged 17.2 points and 7.1 rebounds as well.
The small forward averaged 2.8 blocks and for some time, Clemson was the best defensive team in the country. The stumbled a bit down the stretch, but the Tigers showed major potential for next year, especially if McDaniels stays for his senior season.
Currently, he is projected as a second-rounder, but with another year of consistent offensive production under his belt, McDaniels would easily vault into the first round.
Here is an instance where staying that last year will benefit a player's draft prospects rather than hurt them.
8. Nik Stauskas, Michigan
Even though the Big Ten Player of the Year has impressed greatly this season, he too would benefit from another year in college.
Stauskas is clearly a shooting guard, but Wiggins and Parker, although considered small forwards, can also play the 2.
This kind of competition will drive Stauskas down the draft board and to a team with a late first-round pick...for the best player in arguably the best conference. Stauskas would also need to put on some muscle, as the majority of combo guards projected to go above him (i.e. Kyle Anderson, James Young and Gary Harris) are noticeably stouter.
Even if the Wolverines make another deep run in the tournament and Stauskas is satisfied with the team's results, staying for his junior year would benefit him individually.
7. Jordan Adams, UCLA
(See slide on Nik Stauskas and repeat for why Adams should stay)
Assuming Anderson and freshman Zach LaVine leave, Adams would be the focal point of the team next year and put up even better numbers than his 17.4 points and 5.3 rebounds from this year.
Those are incredible numbers given the fact that he shares a backcourt with two potential lottery picks.
Adams is currently projected in the same area as Stauskas but would move up closer to the lottery if he stayed another year, especially given the promise UCLA showed this year in its Sweet 16 run.
6. Aaron Harrison, Kentucky
Even though Aaron has come on strong down the stretch for a Kentucky team still alive, his stock would greatly benefit from staying another year.
As noted on an earlier slide, the Wildcats top two recruits are big men, so Aaron would see 30-plus minutes once again. His 14.1 points more than likely increase, especially if his brother stayed to continue feeding him the ball.
Similar to Stauskas, Harrison, even though a clear shooting guard, may fall towards the bottom of the shooting guard-small forward pile in this year's stacked class.
He's currently projected to go in the second round, but he'd easily go in the first round in 2015.
5. Andrew Harrison, Kentucky
Aaron Harrison's brother, Andrew, would also reassume his role as the starting point guard even with the recruits John Calipari is bringing in.
Barring a miraculous run in the latter stages of the tournament, his stock will stay hovering around the bottom of the first round, top of the second. Similar to his brother, Andrew has shown more signs of maturity and ability as the season has gone on.
He has turned early-season questions into late-season compliments, as he's averaged a solid 11.0 points, 3.8 assists and 3.1 rebounds.
Andrew and Aaron, if both returning, would form one of the top backcourts in the entire country.
4. Jerami Grant, Syracuse
After Tyler Ennis declared for the NBA draft, Syracuse fans are even more on edge, wondering if star forward Jerami Grant will do the same.
Grant's point and rebound totals skyrocketed from his freshman to sophomore year, largely in part to his physical maturation and increased playing time. He started off the year as the sixth man but assumed the role of full-time starter once DaJuan Coleman was declared out for the season.
If he were to go pro, Grant would most likely be a mid-first-round pick. But with another year, he'd be a sure-fire lottery selection.
Since Grant's size and stature would put him at either the small forward or stretch 4 position in the NBA, he'd need to develop more of a mid-range or outside game. At times this year, he showed flashes of promise from the elbow, but that area could still use significant work.
3. Montrezl Harrell, Louisville
Similar to Grant, Harrell is a raw, athletic specimen.
After putting his name on the map during Louisville's 2013 championship run, he has emerged as one of the breakout stars of this season.
He has averaged 14.0 points and 8.4 rebounds, both more than double his freshman year totals in those categories. But his game could still use some fine-tuning.
With a bit more of a mid-range jump shot and another year of experience and solid numbers, Harrell would be a top-10 pick instead of the top-20 pick he is projected to be this year.
2. Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State
Many questioned Smart's decision not to come out last year because of the strength of this year's freshman class.
He stayed, and it hurt.
Smart's reputation was severely damaged, as all the flopping accusations and shoving of a Texas Tech fan put him in a negative eye with almost everyone.
He didn't make any drastic statistical improvements from last year, and his high-octane Cowboys bowed out in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Yes, he would most likely be a lottery pick based on talent alone, but character is a huge factor nowadays.
If Smart stayed for one more year, he'd be able to prove he isn't the person he showed at times this year and be an automatic top-five pick in 2015.
1. Aaron Gordon, Arizona
Go ahead. Have at me in the comments section.
But even though Brandon Ashley has been out for a while now, Nick Johnson has stepped up as the Wildcats' best player rather than Gordon.
Granted, the freshman is a freak of nature, but he is much more capable than his mid-first-round projection. He's more capable than his 12.5 points per game suggest as well, especially if he develops more of a mid-range game.
If Arizona doesn't win the title, it will have virtually its entire team back next year. Gordon would be a contender for the best player in the country and easily the best sophomore in addition to his team being a favorite to win it all.