NBA Draft 2014: Top Prospects to Watch During Final Four

Alex KayCorrespondent IApril 4, 2014

Kentucky forward Julius Randle (30) grabs the ball against Wichita State during the first half of a third-round game of the NCAA college basketball tournament Sunday, March 23, 2014, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Charlie Riedel

The 2014 NBA draft will be here before you know it and right now is the perfect time to start getting familiar with some of the top prospects.

With only four teams remaining in the 2014 NCAA tournament, it is easy to get a glimpse at some of college basketball’s finest talent on the nation’s best teams.

Keep reading for a closer look at a handful of the premier prospects participating in the upcoming Final Four.


Julius Randle, F, Kentucky

This 6’10”, 250-pound behemoth has been a revelation for the Wildcats during his freshman season in 2013-14, averaging a double-double and serving as his team’s most consistent player during its March Madness run.

Randle is currently putting up 15.1 points and 10.7 rebounds per contest and has yet to score less than 13 points or grab less than 10 boards during the tournament. That kind of hard work and talent on the biggest stage is making it easy for scouts and general managers around the Association to fall in love with this Texas native.

Another major reason Randle should be considered with a high pick in the 2014 draft is his motor and work ethic. The young man is constantly improving and he credits head coach John Calipari for helping him grow during the course of this occasionally trying season.

According to ESPN’s Jean-Jacques Taylor, Randle had this to say about his development:

My game has evolved tremendously, just my mindset toward the game, how I approach games and how I make adjustments throughout game. Coach Calipari has done a great job of developing many different parts of my game.

While the 19-year-old has been limited on occasion, most often by opposing teams devising their entire defensive scheme around clogging the paint and stopping Randle, he has racked up 26 double-doubles on the year and is a major threat to add another against the Wisconsin Badgers on Saturday night.

Keep an eye on this superstar as he fights to keep what may be his only collegiate campaign alive for a few more days.


Shabazz Napier, G, UConn

Napier has long been regarded as a potential first-round draft pick, but UConn’s latest run to the Final Four has bolstered the guard’s stock significantly.

His rise is similar to that of former Huskies star Kemba Walker, who carried his squad to a national title in 2011 and was subsequently drafted with the No. 9 overall pick in that year’s draft.

While Napier still has some work left to do before they can hang another banner in Storrs, he has definitely accomplished enough to convince scouts that he should come off the board within the first 30 selections this June.

An Eastern Conference scout told David Borges of the New Haven Register:

I think he’s a first-round pick. First of all, he’s got the ball on a string, great ball control, great understanding of the game. He’s got tremendous confidence, he’s a knockdown shooter from the perimeter. And he’s got a big heart.

Napier is averaging 18.1 points, 5.9 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 1.7 steals per game during his senior season, not far off from the 23.5 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.9 steals that Walker averaged in his final season with UConn.

SportsCenter pointed out that Napier accounts for 45 percent of the Huskies’ points and noted that Walker was the last person to lead his group to a Final Four with those numbers:

Walker has become a productive professional with the Charlotte Bobcats, a fact that should help assuage the doubts of NBA personnel who have been leery about Napier’s potential at the next level.

It will certainly be tough to pass on this scoring machine with a mid-to-late round pick in the upcoming draft. Napier has all the tools to star in the NBA and will look to further prove that by upsetting Florida for the second time this season on Saturday evening.