7 Top 2014 NBA Draft Prospects Who Carry the Most Risk
Although the 2014 NBA draft class is deep and richly talented, a few of these studs have some risk attached to them.
Positional questions surround a couple of the most exciting prospects, and uncertainty about future development makes others a little chancy. Injury concerns are also a factor, making a safe basketball option seem like an unnerving one.
We broke down the top candidates in this year's crop who carry the most risk. Most second-round picks are dicey entities to begin with, so we kept our focus on probable first-round selections, where there's more at stake for the teams picking.
Even if the gamble may ultimately be worth the reward, these top-tier draftees do present some precariousness.
*Prospects listed in order of their B/R Big Board rankings.
Jerami Grant, Syracuse F (6'8" Sophomore)
The Risk: He might be a classic 'tweener
Thanks to his trampoline jumping, long arms and knack for finishing above the rim, Syracuse forward Jerami Grant has earned first-round attention all year. He owns NBA-caliber athleticism and significant upside if he can expand his skills.
He made some progress as a sophomore, sprinkling in mid-range shots and driving to the tin. However, he's not nearly prepared enough to play small forward in the NBA. Grant has the skill set of a 4 with the size of a 3.
He's simply not tall enough or strong enough to regularly compete with power forwards, which means he needs to be able to create his own shot and connect from beyond the arc.
We don't know if he'll ever accomplish that. If he doesn't, he would be a 'tweener without a substantial role. Is that worth a top-20 pick, especially in 2014's deep group?
That's why it's a gamble taking Grant too high. The team that picks him is hoping his range will go from 15 feet to 25 feet and his ball-handling will markedly tighten up.
Kyle Anderson, UCLA PG/SF (6'9" Sophomore)
The Risk: Will his offense be dynamic enough to warrant defensive liability?
Breakout sophomore star Kyle Anderson showed superb court vision and feel for the game when he dished 6.5 assists as UCLA's point forward in 2013-14. His 6'9" frame allowed him to extend over defenses to pass and shoot from the high post, and he hauled in 8.8 boards per game as well.
The NBA will be much trickier for him. His speed is well below average for a small forward, so he's going to have a ton of trouble guarding anyone. It's almost a given that he'll be a defensive liability during most matchups.
Therefore, he'll have to make sure his offense is worth the trouble. Anderson is a smooth facilitator, but will he be able to break guys down off the dribble? Can he drill triples from NBA range to keep defenses honest? He's not entirely a lock to get those tasks done.
Overall, he's a solid mid-first round choice, despite the risks. One veteran NBA scout told SNY.tv's Adam Zagoria "his strengths outweigh his negatives...Lack of defense and pace of game can be hidden by a good team with defensive concepts."
For the sake of his unique point-forward potential, let's hope he lands in the right spot.
Clint Capela, Switzerland PF (6'10", 1994)
The Risk: He may end up being little more than an athletic asset.
Swiss forward Clint Capela has turned heads and earned mid-first round projections based on his outstanding length and explosiveness.
Sporting a 7'4.5" wingspan, ample foot speed and elite vertical bounce, he's a tremendous force in the open floor. He can outjump and finish over most forwards, not to mention outrun them end-to-end. However, he's miles from where he could be, and he's got a long road to becoming a consistently effective 4-man in the NBA.
Draft Express video analyst Mike Schmitz notes that Capela possesses a "limited offensive skill set" and "lacks a back-to-basket game." Schmitz also added that the 19-year-old has a low basketball IQ and feel for the game.
He displayed some of these deficiencies at the Nike Hoop Summit practices and game, as his offensive productivity was inconsistent and he quickly picked up fouls.
The intangibles struggle is ultimately the biggest reason why he's a risky pick. If he can't figure out how to develop and how to fully utilize his physical prowess, he'll have a small role in the league.
Zach LaVine, UCLA G (6'5" Freshman)
The Risk: Far from reaching his ceiling; may never be more than athletic gunner
With some eye-popping early-season shooting and abundant athleticism, UCLA freshman Zach LaVine burst into the draft discussion this winter. His explosiveness, shooting range and combo-guard potential have garnered some lottery projections, but he's been placed all over the first round in various mocks.
He's got the raw materials to become a lethal creator and scorer, as he showed quickness, athleticism and some shooting streaks in 2013-14.
But he's got a lot to learn on both sides of the ball, especially as a dribble-driver and consistent shooter. There's a chance he may never grasp his full role or reach the level NBA scouts hope. ESPN's Kevin Pelton (subscription required) explained the precariousness involved with selecting LaVine:
...He projects as a first-round pick almost entirely on potential. Next season in the NBA, his translated numbers suggest he'll contribute at a below-replacement level. Scoring efficiently could be a challenge, since he rarely got to the free throw line and wasn't a particularly accurate shooter on 2s (49.4 percent)...LaVine will have to hone both his shot selection and his playmaking skills.
Part of the reason he only saw 25.8 minutes per game in conference play (and just 18.3 minutes in conference and NCAA tournaments) was his limited understanding of the game and relative lack of polish. Just because he's a brilliant athlete with a promising jumper doesn't guarantee he'll ever attain the wherewithal to excel in the NBA backcourt.
Let's be clear: He has the tools to become a standout, maybe even a star. There's just a lot of uncertainty about his development, and it will take some boldness to pick him early in this draft.
Aaron Gordon, Arizona F (6'9" Freshman)
The Risk: Will he find a productive offensive role?
Arizona's high-flying forward Aaron Gordon will most likely land in the lottery range of the draft, possibly in the top 10. He's a defensive juggernaut who constantly foils opponents' best scorers, and he's got a chance to be a versatile standout in the mold of Shawn Marion.
He's also got a chance to be an underwhelming offensive threat.
Gordon's jump shot isn't the smoothest, and his ball-handling skills aren't dangerous. He also doesn't have enough strength or pivot moves to produce as a back-to-the-basket option.
B/R NBA Draft Lead Writer Jonathan Wasserman aptly illustrates the youngster's inability to break opponents down: "Gordon struggles to consistently create his own shot away from the rim...He doesn't quite have that built-in navigation—Gordon tends to put it on the deck without a sense of where he's going or what he's going to do with it."
If he never really expands any of these areas and can't routinely influence the game in the half court, he'll become a defensive specialist without a concrete offensive role. With stoppage and hustle as his only true forte, the team that drafted him in the top 10 would regret it.
Andrew Wiggins, Kansas SF (6'8" Freshman)
The Risk: He might not access that next level and become truly great.
Considering his off-the-charts explosiveness and promising skill set, it's safe to bet Andrew Wiggins will at least be a very good NBA player.
But clubs picking at the top of the draft, particularly the franchise with the top selection, want to know if he will be an elite superstar. That's not an airtight bet.
He'll be able to score in the uptempo style of today's NBA with his agility and length. However, when things get tough and his team needs him to generate a key bucket or become a playmaker, there are some doubts as to whether he'll shine. Steve von Horn of Brewhoop.com broke down the risk:
Wiggins is a pretty ridiculous athlete, but my biggest question with him comes within a half-court set. I don't think his motor is too worrisome, but I wonder just how much he can create for others in a condensed court. I'm not saying he's selfish by any means, but from what I've watched, he doesn't seem to have that ability (yet) to break down his defender and find the open man for an easier shot than a reliance on athleticism to get a layup.
Sure, when you line him up next to some of the unknown international prospects and second-round draftees, he doesn't look like much of a gamble.
But this is the No. 1 pick we're talking about. With studs like Jabari Parker and Joel Embiid available, Wiggins' candidacy poses noteworthy risk.
Joel Embiid, Kansas C (7'0" Freshman)
The Risk: Can a 7-footer with recent back issues have a long, durable career?
Joel Embiid's riskiness has little to do with his basketball skills or whether he can access his upside.
Rather, it's about his health and durability.
As a possible No. 1 overall selection, the Kansas center brings with him the somewhat unsettling history of knee issues and a stress fracture in his back. Although he might be a franchise cornerstone, the team that wins the first pick may want to tab Jabari Parker or Andrew Wiggins because they don't want to deal with potential health problems.
When big men get injuries, their careers can often deteriorate because it's so difficult for their joints and backs to support their enormous frames. NBA scouts may not be as heavily concerned about his recent stress fracture as they are about his overall sturdiness and longevity.
If he falls to No. 3 or even No. 4, he'll get scooped up without hesitation. But at the top spot, he presents a different risk than his peers.
Dan O'Brien covers the NBA Draft for Bleacher Report.
Follow him on Twitter: @DanielO_BR