With Julius Randle, K.J. McDaniels and Isaiah Austin declaring for the 2014 NBA draft on Monday, most notable early entrants have made their decision one way or the other. Four days remain until the official deadline, but we have a relatively clear picture of who will be available and where they might go.
This year’s draft is known for a number of potential star players at the top, but it is also deeper than in years past. Some prospects that are likely to be picked outside of the lottery have the talent to be productive players at the next level themselves.
Adreian Payne, F, Michigan State
Payne was one of the more versatile big men in the nation last season and should fit in with the perimeter-oriented nature of the NBA. The 6’10’’ 245-pound power forward averaged 16.4 points and 7.3 rebounds per game while shooting an impressive 42.3 percent from behind the arc.
His signature moment came in a 41-point performance in the second round of the NCAA tournament against Delaware. DraftExpress highlights the all-around skill Payne showed in the game, including shooting 17-of-17 from the free-throw line, again impressive for his size.
Payne could possibly be selected by the Phoenix Suns and sneak into the lottery, but they also may be looking for a guard in case Eric Bledsoe should leave in free agency.
K.J. McDaniels, F, Clemson
McDaniels was a relative unknown coming out of high school but used his athleticism to have an outstanding season at both ends of the floor. As Clemson sports information director Tim Bourret points out, McDaniels’ offensive and defensive numbers left him in elite company.
The junior averaged 17.1 points per game but was also named the ACC Defensive Player of the Year and led a Clemson team that was one of the best defensive units in the nation. Ed Isaacson of NBADraftBlog.com had good things to say about McDaniels, believing that he "may be the best wing athlete in this draft not named [Andrew] Wiggins,” via ProBasketballTalk.
With Wiggins, Jabari Parker and James Young all likely to be drafted ahead of McDaniels, he will probably fall out of the lottery and into the No. 20-30 range. A hard-nosed defensive team like the Memphis Grizzlies or Chicago Bulls would be a perfect fit.
Zach LaVine, G, UCLA
The team that selects LaVine will be doing so based purely on potential. LaVine did not have a particularly good freshman season at UCLA, but he has the raw talent to one day be a star at the next level.
Despite the fact that LaVine often struggled for playing time with the Bruins, Chad Ford of ESPN thinks he could be a special player, via Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv:
But when you see a combination of shooting stroke, really bouncy athletically and he really seems aggressive when he’s out there playing. And if you watched him in high school you see that he can play the point a little bit, too. To me, he’s a little bit like [Andrew] Wiggins. OK not ready, but when you look at the package and you can say if this keeps developing, he’s a guy who could have a huge impact in the NBA because how do you guard that as a point guard?
Somebody would have to be very high on LaVine to select him in the lottery, but he could go late in the first round and be an exciting project player for a team that doesn’t need an impact contribution right away.
C.J. Wilcox, G, Washington
Wilcox is one of the best pure shooters in the draft, averaging 18.3 points per game with enough athleticism to be a versatile wing player at the next level. As Ford points out, Wilcox was one of the top talents available in the draft that didn’t play in the NCAA tournament.
His upside isn’t quite equal to some of the shooters who will be selected before him, but Wilcox’s raw offensive numbers aren't too far behind, as he was very efficient last season.
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Wilcox won’t be in the lottery, but a team like the Milwaukee Bucks might add him in the second round as a useful scoring threat off the bench.