The 1 Eye-Popping Play from Every Top 2014 NBA Draft Prospect

Daniel O'Brien@@DanielO_BRFeatured ColumnistApril 9, 2014

The 1 Eye-Popping Play from Every Top 2014 NBA Draft Prospect

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    The 2014 NBA draft class was much-anticipated, so throughout the year it's been highly scrutinized and cut down to size.

    You can debate whether it's truly a special class, but you cannot deny that this group has big-play ability.

    These prospects showcased everything from nimble moves and colossal dunks to lightning-quick steals and jaw-dropping blocks. When they blend their physical gifts with basketball talent, it amazes scouts and rocks arenas.

    In honor of an exciting year of hoops, we're dishing out the one eye-popping play for each projected lottery pick. Most of these prospects had numerous astounding plays throughout the year, but we're giving you the one that impressed us the most.

    Proceed with caution.

Nik Stauskas: Gliding for the Reverse Layup

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    Michigan's super-sophomore Nik Stauskas delivered a smorgasbord of impressive plays throughout the year: step-back jumpers, emphatic dunks, picturesque alley-oop lobs and long-range triples.

    We had to choose just one, so we settled on this sweet reverse layup. Stauskas drove baseline and encountered a help defender, so he faked the left-side lay-in and drifted to the other side of the lane for an off-glass finish.

    He sold the initial upward motion really well, which gave him room to hang and hit on the reverse.

    Most of his NBA points will come courtesy of the jump shot, but the ability to drive and score creatively will enhance his impact.

Clint Capela: Swiss Posterization

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    It was just a summer game, but Clint Capela of Switzerland made a big statement with this throwdown.

    After grabbing a steal on the defensive end, he loped right down Main Street and made his EuroCamp foe regret chasing him.

    The defensive effort was tenacious, but Capela didn't seem bothered by it at all.

    The 19-year-old forward is the proud owner of a 7'4.5" wingspan and some serious bounce, not to mention the foot speed to go end-to-end in a hurry. If an NBA team can ever channel those physical tools into consistent productivity, he'll be a rebounding and transition monster.

Doug McDermott: NBA-Range Triple to Eclipse 3,000 Points

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    This play by Creighton's Doug McDermott is awesome for several reasons

    1. It's a deep, deep three-pointer, and it's no fluke.
    2. It gave him 3,000 points.
    3. It was part of his career-high 45-point night.
    4. It was on Senior Night.

    If that's not eye-popping, then I don't know what is.

Tyler Ennis: Cool, Calm and Clutch vs. Pittsburgh

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    Tyler Ennis' buzzer-beating rainmaker against Pittsburgh was much more than just a lucky toss.

    He's built for the pressure-packed moments, staying even-keeled at all times. Syracuse's floor general is confident and competitive enough to take the reins, yet he remains quiet and outwardly placid.

    Ennis' ball-handling skills and alertness enabled him to drive two-thirds of the floor and time his delivery. From there, it's all about balance and touch...and yeah, a little luck didn't hurt.

Dario Saric: A Little Shake 'n' Bake and Spin Cycle

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    Although he's a 6'10" forward, Croatian star Dario Saric is a versatile playmaker. During the 2013 EuroBasket tournament, he showed why he's an attractive asset for NBA executives.

    He toyed with Greece on this pretty drive to the rim.

    Saric first put a hitch in his right-hand dribble, freezing the defender, and then he paired a smooth crossover with a spin move on his way to the bucket. Shielding his man with the lefty finish was the icing on the cake.

    As you can see, his combination of size and creativity could make him a dangerous frontcourt addition to a lottery team.

Gary Harris: Instincts and Speed on Full Display

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    As Michigan's Caris LeVert looked around to find a target, Michigan State's Gary Harris was ready, licking his chops.

    Watch him time his interception perfectly, as he bolts into the passing lane and turns LeVert's pass into a Spartans fast break. In the blink of an eye, Harris was feasting of the Wolverine's giveaway.

    Granted, it was an ill-advised pass, but credit Harris for making the most of the opportunity and cashing in on the other end.

    Harris' awareness, footwork and talent on defense have tremendously solidified his NBA draft stock. He's a an outstanding scorer, but unlike several of the top offensive weapons in this draft crop, he can defend his position at a high level.

Aaron Gordon: Protecting 'Zona's Turf

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    Some players rely on length for shot-blocking. Others utilize impeccable timing and exemplary footwork, while others employ elite athleticism.

    Aaron Gordon has all of those gifts, and he put them to good use against Colorado's Xavier Johnson.

    Thanks to his upper-echelon explosiveness and terrific coordination, Arizona's rim protector was able to deny the Buffalo's dunk attempt. Gordon even absorbed a blow to the noggin while stuffing Johnson's slam.

    His defensive talent goes far beyond shot-blocking, but this play serves as an eye-popping warning to NBA opponents who venture into his territory.

Marcus Smart: Splitting the Defense

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    This play isn't a mind-boggling dunk or a circus shot, but it shows so many great things about Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart.

    He moves quickly and craftily without the ball, darting across the baseline and flaring out to the corner for a clean catch. Then he puts it on the deck, splits the Kansas defense and finishes over fellow prospect Joel Embiid. That's a lot of savvy, talent and gutsiness displayed on one play.

    Smart's aggressiveness in that sequence and during the rest of the game helped the Cowboys beat the Jayhawks, and it will also help him compete in the Association.

Julius Randle: Acrobatic, Agile and Amazing

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    Most of Julius Randle's nightly impact comes from power and speed, but on this tip-in, he showed how nimble he can be.

    The timing was a bit off between Randle and Andrew Harrison on the lob, but he managed to twist in midair and tap the ball in from under the hoop. That's not an easy task when your 250-pound frame is drifting in the opposite direction of the ball.

    It doesn't seem fair that a bulldozer like him could also have the agility and hand-eye-coordination of an NFL wide receiver.

Noah Vonleh: 1-Man SWAT Team vs. Syracuse

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    While Noah Vonleh isn't a spectacular athlete, he makes his presence felt above the rim thanks to his 7'4" wingspan and timing.

    During two consecutive defensive sequences, the Indiana freshman thwarted three different Syracuse attackers and flashed his defensive upside for the next level.

    That first block against Jerami Grant is particularly impressive, because Grant is hyper-athletic and owns a 7'2.5" wingspan of his own. You can tell Vonleh is going to be a talented weak-side shot-blocker in the NBA once he learns the art of rotating.

    Syracuse won that game, but Vonleh was clearly the most physically impressive NBA prospect on the floor.

Dante Exum: And-1 Bucket Sparks Upset over Spain

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    After a botched pass by Spain, Australia's Dante Exum took the rock and launched a one-man fast break capped by an old-fashioned three-point play.

    We weaved through three Spanish defenders on his way to the basket, and then exhibited his scoring instincts by tossing in an off-balance floater through contact.

    This was the signature play of his 33-point outburst, a performance that helped the Boomers upset Spain in the 2013 FIBA U-19 Worlds. From then on, Exum was on the NBA radar and widely considered a top-five pick.

    Even as a rookie, this prodigy is going to be one tough cover.

Joel Embiid: Channeling His Inner Olajuwon

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    Alex Kirk didn't stand a chance.

    The New Mexico center looked silly as Kansas big man Joel Embiid pulled a "Dream Shake" en route to a nifty up-and-under layup.

    He only started playing basketball in 2011, but his superb footwork and fluid moves quickly captivated NBA scouts throughout 2013-14. In this mid-December game, he scored 18 points to fuel a blowout win for the Jayhawks.

    Embiid played volleyball, not basketball, back in Cameroon, but I'm starting to suspect he's secretly been watching Hakeem Olajuwon tapes since grade school.

Andrew Wiggins: Hangtime Alley-Oop in Traffic

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    "If you throw it high enough, he's the only guy in the gym that can go get that."

    Fran Fraschilla's comments after Andrew Wiggins' alley-oop summed up why this kid is so captivating.

    The Kansas freshman has intriguing scoring potential and the upside to become an ultra-versatile player, but the trait that has driven his NBA appeal since high school is his verticality.

    Oklahoma State's duo of defenders were powerless to stop him, and they knew it. At a certain point, they gave up contesting because Wiggins was on one of his trampoline leaps. The flush was a part of a 30-point effort that propelled Kansas to victory over the Cowboys in the Big 12 tourney.

    He can get off the floor so quickly, you don't have a chance to react. And if that wasn't enough of an advantage, he's got hangtime for days.

Jabari Parker: Coast-to-Coast at Champions Classic

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    On the national stage in November, Jabari Parker gave NBA scouts a huge dose of his all-around talent. Against Kansas in the early-season Champions Classic, the freshman forward scored 27 points by lighting up the Jayhawks from every spot on the floor.

    This coast-to-coast masterpiece got a lot of people out of their seats.

    It's rare to see a 6'8", 240-pound forward snatch a steal, glide coast to coast and finish with such finesse. He had a keen awareness of all the defenders around him, and he adjusted beautifully.

    Everyone marvels at Andrew Wiggins' exploits in the open floor (and for good reason), but don't forget that Jabari is supremely gifted on the break as well.


    For more eye-popping NBA Draft coverage, follow @DanielO_BR.