NBA Draft

NBA Draft 2014: Predicting Prospects Who Will Slip to End of Round 1

ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 07:  Shabazz Napier #13 of the Connecticut Huskies reacts during the NCAA Men's Final Four Championship against the Kentucky Wildcats at AT&T Stadium on April 7, 2014 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Andrew GouldFeatured ColumnistApril 30, 2014

Some NBA prospects are going to leave this year's deep draft disappointed, as there's not enough room for all of them to garner cushy lottery selections.

Things will get especially interesting after the top seven or eight guys go off the board. This is the type of draft where one person's No. 10 guys falls outside another person's top-20 rankings.

A few players are bound to fall in between the cracks to make room for the dearth of talent. While the drop will cost them some money, it at least gives them a chance to mature on a contender.

Some will say these youngsters warrant higher picks, but they'll make due with a late first-round call.

 

Shabazz Napier, PG, Connecticut

Shabazz Napier's NCAA tournament success gives him ample momentum heading into the draft, but don't expect his late-season heroics to propel him anywhere near the lottery.

During his senior season, Napier scored 21.2 points per game on 46.3 percent shooting during the Huskies' championship run. He added 5.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists and stellar defense, fortifying his case as a first-round selection.

ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 07:  Shabazz Napier #13 of the Connecticut Huskies celebrates on the court after defeating the Kentucky Wildcats 60-54 in the NCAA Men's Final Four Championship at AT&T Stadium on April 7, 2014 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

But he was hardly as efficient over the long run, earning a 42.9 field-goal percentage throughout his final season. For an NBA guard, he's not particularly big or fast compared to the incredible batch of little men invading the league.

By the time draft day arrives, memories of Napier's superb March Madness won't be as sharply entrenched into everyone's mind. Instead, he'll have to jump through the rigors of a highly analyzed prospect.

The same worries that kept him outside of Round 1 projections before March will pop up again, tugging against cries to spend a premium pick on the point guard.

A Massachusetts native, Napier expressed his desire to play for the Boston Celtics, who hold the No. 17 pick courtesy of the Brooklyn Nets, on Comcast Sportsnet New England after throwing out the first pitch for the Boston Red Sox:

That would be crazy. That would be insane, man. Growing up, that’s something that I always envisioned, myself playing for the Celtics. Every Boston kid envisions himself as a Celtic. The Boston Celtics are so big. When you’re from the New England area, you just want to be a part of it because you know how special it is.

Unfortunately, that's setting the bar too high. A more realistic target would be a well-rounded playoff team that can use a decent guard off the bench. One such squad, the Miami Heat, is led by an avid Napier supporter.

Teams have done far crazier things to keep their stars happy.

 

Jerami Grant, SF, Syracuse

BUFFALO, NY - MARCH 20:  Jerami Grant #3 of the Syracuse Orange blocks a shot by Shayne Whittington #21 of the Western Michigan Broncos during the second round of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at the First Niagara Center on March 20, 2014 in B
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Jerami Grant could pay huge dividends if he pans out, but he's a raw prospect with concerning holes in his game.

The Syracuse forward is a fierce athlete who makes plays happen at the rim. But as of now, he doesn't have much of a jumper to work with. His long-range game is non-existent, having failed to make a single three-pointer during his sophomore season. 

In the NBA, that's a problem for a combo forward whose size (6'8", 210 pounds, according to ESPN) is more suited for the 3 or a stretch 4. Teams are looking to space the floor with as many shooters as possible, and they can't afford a small forward clogging the court.

Although he has the reach to wreak havoc on defense, the 20-year-old has yet to properly utilize his long arms. He has the capability of becoming a plus on that side, but he's an unfinished product all around.

Of course, most draftees are works in progress. Kawhi Leonard couldn't shoot the ball much in college either, but the San Antonio Spurs have turned him into a major asset in their ball movement-heavy offense.

Despite his high ceiling, Grant remains best served as a long-term investment scooped up after pick No. 20 by a well-rounded organization. He'd fit in with the Memphis Grizzlies or Oklahoma City Thunder.

 

Zach LaVine, G, UCLA

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 23:  Zach LaVine #14 of the UCLA Bruins dribbles past Robbie Lemons #10 of the Stanford Cardinal during a 91-74 UCLA win at Pauley Pavilion on January 23, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

Zach LaVine's draft stock is going to be interesting to monitor.

One of the tougher prospects to peg, he didn't do much as a freshman with UCLA. The guard averaged 9.4 points, 2.5 boards and 1.8 assists per contest through 24.4 minutes. After scoring a combined eight points through three NCAA tournament games, staying in school for another year made sense.

Yet the 19-year-old is coming to the NBA, where he is expected to draw a first-round selection. Although he didn't get a prolonged chance to strut his stuff with the Bruins, he flashed enough pure explosiveness to excite scouts.

In the video above, B/R's Jonathan Wasserman said he has heard LaVine draw comparisons to Russell Westbrook. Part of that is a matter of convenience since they're both combo guards from UCLA, but it provides a glimpse at LaVine's athleticism and untapped potential.

He's another player who won't make a splash during his rookie season, but the end game is lucrative if he can fine-tune his offensive arsenal. There's enough risk for teams in the teens to shy away, but someone holding a selection toward the end of Round 1 will take the plunge.

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