NBA Draft 2014: Analyzing Unheralded Prospects Heading Toward Lottery

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistApril 25, 2014

RALEIGH, NC - MARCH 21:  Rodney Hood #5 of the Duke Blue Devils with the ball against the Mercer Bears in the first half in the second round of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at PNC Arena on March 21, 2014 in Raleigh, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Grant Halverson/Getty Images

With the NBA draft lottery quickly approaching, there is a great deal of emphasis on the top few selections. The teams that are lucky enough to land one could get franchise-changing players, but there are some solid consolation prizes for those that don't.

The perception may be that the 2014 NBA draft is top-heavy in nature; however, there is plenty of talent to be had throughout the first round. Even for the teams that miss out on guys like Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid and Jabari Parker, there is still hope in terms of coming away with a superstar.

Here are three prospects who aren't getting a ton of attention currently but will find their way into the lottery and develop into fine NBA players.

NBA Draft 2014 Lottery Odds
TeamChance to Win Lottery (%)
Milwaukee Bucks25.0
Philadelphia 76ers19.9
Orlando Magic15.6
Utah Jazz10.4
Boston Celtics10.3
Los Angeles Lakers6.3
Sacramento Kings4.3
Detroit Pistons2.8
Cleveland Cavaliers1.7
New Orleans Pelicans1.1
Denver Nuggets0.8
Orlando Magic0.7
Minnesota Timberwolves0.6
Phoenix Suns0.5
ESPN.com

*Lottery odds courtesy of ESPN.com.

 

Rodney Hood

Duke and its players were the subject of plenty of criticism at the conclusion of their season after losing to Mercer in the NCAA tournament's round of 64. The criticism was deserved to some degree, but one poor game doesn't erase an entire year of success.

Perhaps that is why forward Rodney Hood isn't receiving much respect ahead of the NBA draft. Hood was a big-time producer for the Blue Devils in 2013-14 as he put up 16 points, four rebounds and two assists per game. He was also deadly from long range as he connected on two trifectas per contest with a three-point shooting percentage of 42 percent.

That skill set should translate to the NBA level, especially since Hood stands 6'8". It isn't easy to find big guys who can shoot the basketball, but Hood certainly fits that description. Perhaps the biggest thing working against Hood, though, is the fact that he wasn't the go-to guy at Duke.

According to Jason McIntyre of The Big Lead, Hood essentially operated in Parker's shadow all season long:

Parker is guaranteed to be off the board at some point in the top five, but Hood's status is more of a mystery. He could potentially go anywhere from 10 to 20 depending upon how the teams in that range feel about him. Once teams truly take time to evaluate him from an overall perspective rather than based on just the Mercer game, though, they will like what they see.

Hood will present some major matchup problems at the next level, and he promises to be a major steal at the tail end of the lottery.

 

Dario Saric

European players are always difficult to get a handle on in the NBA draft. Some of them are able to develop into superstars at the next level, while others bust and barely make an impact. Even so, that hasn't stopped franchises from rolling the dice and hoping that they have the next Dirk Nowitzki on their hands.

One polarizing prospect who may very well crash the lottery is Croatia's Dario Saric. The 20-year-old star has ideal size at 6'10", and he has already shown dominant form at the senior level of play. Despite his age, Saric was among the best players in the Adriatic League this past season for Cibona as he put up over 16 points and nearly 10 rebounds per game, according to EuroBasket.com.

In addition to that, Saric dished out three assists per contest and even did some damage as a long-range shooter. He showed the ability to do a little bit of everything, and that will undoubtedly entice NBA franchises.

Per Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders, Saric has all the makings of a lottery selection:

It is understandable why some teams might be apprehensive due to the long list of Euro players who have fallen short of expectations in the past, but Saric is seemingly ahead of most of them in terms of talent and production.

Don't be surprised if Saric delivers top-five talent late in the lottery portion of the first round.

 

P.J. Hairston

FRISCO, TX - JANUARY 18: P.J. Hairston #21 of the Texas Legends poses for a photo before the game against the Austin Toros on January 18, 2014 at Dr. Pepper Arena in Frisco, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading
Sergio Hentschel/Getty Images

After averaging nearly 15 points per game at North Carolina in 2012-13, P.J. Hairston appeared to be on the fast track to a lottery selection in the NBA draft. Unfortunately, off-court issues resulted in Hairston being kicked off the team. Rather than sulking, though, Hairston took steps to become a better player ahead of the 2014 draft.

Hairston decided to try his hand at the NBA Development League, and he has made an instant impact. According to DraftExpress.com, Hairston racked up nearly 22 points per game, and he continued his penchant for being a three-point marksman. Hairston converted almost three trifectas per game for the Texas Legends, and that should be his bread and butter in the NBA as well.

Per Nate Taylor of The New York Times, Hairston took it upon himself to make lemonade out of lemons after a less-than-ideal departure from North Carolina.

"Everything doesn’t always go as smooth as you want it," Hairston said. "I found another route to try to lead to my dreams. I wasn't going to be sitting around watching everyone else have fun. My way of having fun is being on the court."

It is certainly possible that Hairston's dismissal from UNC will hurt his draft stock to some degree, but the great work that he has done in the D-League should help nullify that.

Hairston is probably more NBA-ready than any other prospect, since he has been exposed to the NBA style, and that could be enough to land him in the lottery. Hairston obviously has some baggage, but he is talented enough to be among the best players in the 2014 draft class.

 

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