With the playoffs set to begin on April 19, 14 teams around the league will now turn their attention solely to the 2014 NBA draft on June 26. A deep draft loaded with talent has lottery teams excited to get the chance to grab any number of game-changing players.
The draft includes several freshmen and sophomores from the most hyped crop of college basketball players in recent memory. Four of these young players are already more than ready to take it to the next level.
Parker is expected to announce whether he will return to Duke for his sophomore season later on Wednesday, per The Associated Press (via USA Today). His athleticism and unique skill set are ready to translate to the pros and might possibly be enough to make him the No. 1 overall pick.
At 6'8" and 235 pounds, Parker has great size and length to go with his ball skills. He led a talented Duke team in both points and rebounding, can pass and defend well and also took on a leadership role for the Blue Devils.
Parker's offensive game is already about as polished as anyone's in the draft, and he will be able to contribute on that end right away. His size and athleticism will also help him be a plus defender and rebounder in the pros.
This highlight of Parker running the fast break against NC State showcases his NBA-ready athleticism.
Randle was the gem of Kentucky’s unmatched recruiting class and led the Wildcats’ run to the championship game. He may be just 19 years old, but at 6'9" and 250 pounds, Randle is physically ready for pro competition.
For Randle, it’s all about tremendous upper body strength, which allowed him to finish with contact and get to the free-throw line over seven times per game. That plus a great first step and surprising quickness makes Randle possibly the best big man available in the draft.
Randle was a double-double machine at Kentucky, and his body type is going to allow him to continue that in the NBA. He is already strong enough to handle pro defenders and could turn into the kind of unstoppable force we saw at times in the tournament with more conditioning and development.
Despite reports of his declaration last week, Randle tweeted that he is still undecided, with no update coming since last Thursday.
Idk who reported what but I haven't made up my mind about the draft yet. Haven't even talked to my family about it. So it's all false.— Julius Randle (@J30_RANDLE) April 9, 2014
Stauskas was one of the most prolific scorers in college basketball last season, leading Michigan with 17.5 points per game. He was possibly the best pure shooter in the nation, making 47.6 percent of his shots from the field, including nearly 45 percent from three-point range.
We all know about Stauskas’ scoring ability, but his athletic ability tends to be underrated. Stauskas has great length for a guard and his ability to drive to the basket will make him a difficult cover in the NBA.
Stauskas will be facing more athletic defenders in the pros, but that sweet shot isn't going to change regardless of the competition level. His ability to score from anywhere on the court and his intuition for when to take shots will help Stauskas be an offensive threat right away.
As Ed Feng from Grantland points out, Stauskas was incredibly efficient on the offensive end in 2014.
Nick Stauskas had a 127.9 offensive efficiency with a 24.4% usage rate this season. That's bonkers good. http://t.co/XxYNEI8Ax8— Ed Feng (@thepowerrank) March 31, 2014
If Parker’s athleticism is ready for the NBA, Gordon’s is on another level. Gordon is 6'9" with freakish leaping ability and a huge wingspan, helping him to lead Arizona in rebounding last season.
Gordon was also possibly the single best one-on-one defender in the nation last season and can handle the ball well for his size. Yes, he needs to work on a jump shot, but Gordon is ready to do that in the pros rather than in college.
That level of athleticism is something that cannot be taught and should translate well to the next level. Gordon will already be able to handle most pros on the defensive end, and he has the playmaking aptitude to cause some problems.
He showcased his tremendous above-the-rim ability all season long, including in the Sweet Sixteen against San Diego State.
Parker, Randle and Gordon will all likely be taken in the lottery. It will be interesting to see if Stauskas joins them, as whoever drafts him will be getting a great bench scorer at worst.
Lottery teams have to be worried about Parker and Randle’s upcoming decisions, as they could shake up the draft board. If both stay, Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins likely go one-two. They might have the most potential of anyone, but are not as NBA-ready.