Updated Report Card Grades for Every Top-10 2014 NBA Draft Prospect
Now that pretty much every big name has thrown his hat into the 2014 NBA draft, it's time to deliver updated grades for our top 10 prospects.
These marks not only account for statistical productivity, but they're also based on the eye test and how fluidly the player accomplishes each task.
A lot has happened since we last served up report cards; however, the postseason didn't transform everyone's grades. Some revealed improved aspects and expanded repertoires, but other thoroughbreds kept doing what they do best.
As with our last installment, these grades are meant to indicate what these ballers are good at right now rather than a projection of their future.
10. Dario Saric, Croatia F (6'10", 1994)
Shot Creation: A
Croatia's Dario Saric is one of the most multifaceted assets available in the 2014 draft, and that's reflected in his robust grades across the board.
He flexed his versatility in a brilliant finish to the Adriatic League season. He led Cibona to the ABA title, earning championship MVP honors after posting 23 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists and five blocks.
The 20-year-old is also quite self-assured. After the title, he offered some perspective on what he offers compared to the draft's other studs, per DraftExpress.com's Jonathan Givony: "All guys that are in this draft, Parker, Wiggins, etc, would not be able to do with this team, what I did this season."
Don't expect gaudy numbers from Saric right away, however. He'll have to adjust to the night-in, night-out explosive athleticism of the NBA. It's not going to be picnic for him to guard NBA forwards, and it won't be easy to break down opponents off the dribble.
In the right system, though, he could develop into a critical role player and potentially flirt with stardom.
9. Gary Harris, Michigan State SG (6'4", Sophomore)
Shot Creation: A-
Although Gary Harris didn't blow us away during March, he supplied plenty of scoring and playmaking throughout Michigan State's Big Ten championship and NCAA Elite Eight run.
He not only executed as a slasher and spot-up threat, he also demonstrated great footwork and alertness defensively. With those types of tools in his arsenal, he'll soon serve as a third scoring option and reliable backcourt defender in the NBA.
"He had a very good sophomore season, and I think that extra year of college really helped him," Chris Monter of Monter Draft News told the Detroit Free Press. Monter added that NBA executives like Harris' size, strength, athleticism, scoring ability, defense and character.
So basically, they like everything he brings to the table.
It's great to see that you don't need to be flashy or a physical behemoth to earn top-10 consideration. That's just the kind of pro Harris will be: not overwhelming but highly effective.
8. Aaron Gordon, Arizona PF (6'9", Freshman)
Shot Creation: B-
The jury is still out on Aaron Gordon's offensive capabilities and ceiling.
He can only generate his own buckets off the dribble when he has lots of room, and his jump shot isn't fluid enough to warrant substantial time on the wing. Meanwhile, his free-throw shooting (42 percent) was puzzlingly abominable.
The remainder of his game, along with the belief that his offense will improve, should be enough to secure a top-10 selection.
Gordon's vertical prowess will afford him plenty of rebounds and transition opportunities, and he'll also be a superb component of his team's offense from a passing and cutting standpoint. And defensively, he's going to excel right away.
As a stopper, he'll be ready to thrive in his matchups as a rookie, just as he was ready to dominate the Pac-12 coming out of high school. According to ESPN Stats and Info, he led all Division I freshmen in defensive win shares. His lateral quickness and IQ will instantly help his NBA club's bottom line.
7. Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State G (6'4", Sophomore)
Shot Creation: B+
Due to his inability to improve as a shooter from his freshman to sophomore campaign, Marcus Smart is more of a question mark now than he was last spring.
Oklahoma State's floor leader connected on just 30 percent of his triples as a sophomore, which is not encouraging when you consider the NBA arc is deeper. In addition, he has yet to demonstrate a healthy diet of mid-range creativity and scoring.
Nevertheless, he remains a solid mid-lottery pick because he attacks, makes plays for teammates and will be an upper-echelon defender in the Association.
CBS Sports' Gary Parrish maintained that "scouts still love his intangibles." Smart is one of the best two-way players in the draft, and that impact is fueled by his willingness to take control on both ends.
For the sake of enjoying his elite defense on a regular basis, we hope his scoring efficiency rounds into shape over the next year or two.
6. Julius Randle, Kentucky PF (6'9", Freshman)
Shot Creation: B+
As we enter draft season, a few of Julius Randle's grades have improved compared to his winter report card. Final Four runs tend to do that.
While Kentucky's surprising run didn't really help him explode up the draft charts, it enhanced his status among scouts and solidified him as a mid-to-early lottery choice.
Games like his six-assist outing against Wichita State or four-assist effort in the NCAA title game proved that he's not always a black hole. As he refines his attack approach and upgrades his shooting skills, he'll be a more versatile offensive option in the NBA.
For right now, his pro coach will settle for his awesome blend of quickness and power. ESPN's Amin Elhassan (subscription required) explained the Wildcat's impact on both ends:
...He has quick feet and likes to face up and attack off the dribble, and can either go around slower defenders or overwhelm and go through smaller ones...Randle is a tremendous defensive rebounder, corralling nearly a quarter of all opponent misses when he's on the floor. Plus, he has good lateral mobility which allows him to hold his own keeping guys in front of him...
He may not be a franchise cornerstone like Jabari Parker or Joel Embiid. And he may not have the wingspan of Noah Vonleh or the bounce of Andrew Wiggins. But compared to other draft years, he provides a ton of value at the No. 5 to No. 7 range.
5. Noah Vonleh, Indiana PF (6'10", Freshman)
Shot Creation: C+
Noah Vonleh's grades are superb in some areas and unsightly in others, but don't let it fool you: Odds are he'll crack the top five.
His C-plus in "shot-creating skills" isn't a concern, because he's raw yet quickly developing off the bounce. Within a couple of years, he should have more than enough handles and confidence to drive on opponents or hit step-back jumpers.
As for his C in "passing" and B in "awareness," it's a process. NBA scouts hope Vonleh takes better care of the ball than he did at Indiana. They should also take comfort in the fact that he's an unselfish player who will force less shots as his ball-handling and court vision improve.
The rest of his resume looks magnificent. After seeing him up close, there's no doubting he's strong, long and agile enough to rebound at a high level and finish over most NBA bigs.
In a modest sampling of jumpers, he showed a smooth stroke for a post player (16-of-33 on triples). He could become a legitimate pick-and-pop threat from NBA three-point range as a stretch 4. A lot of teams would love to pick up a double-double power forward with perimeter potential.
4. Dante Exum, Australia G (6'6", 1995)
Shot Creation: A+
Because he's never played high-level hoops in America, Dante Exum is more of a mysterious entity than the rest of his lottery-caliber peers. However, you can glean some important info from his international play, high school exploits in Australia and various interviews.
He's long for a point guard. He's quick and skilled. And perhaps most importantly, he has the instincts of a leader and the demeanor of a winner.
Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders boiled Exum's NBA value down to these indisputable attributes: "Exum has a 6'9 wingspan as a point guard, is a super hard worker and incredibly humble—thats a stock you invest in."
There's always a certain level of risk in drafting an overseas prospect, especially one as young as Exum. Let's remember, though, that he's working with renowned trainer Tim Grover, who has trained the likes of Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade. The 18-year-old prodigy is utilizing one of the game's best resources to minimize his weaknesses and become a less risky asset.
3. Joel Embiid, Kansas C (7'0", Freshman)
Shot Creation: B+
Joel Embiid's draft outlook still hinges on his health and how his back looks during team workouts.
If he looks strong, there's a great case for him to go No. 1 overall. Based on what he showed us at Kansas, he owns the skills and demeanor to control the game on both ends of the floor.
His potential as an offensive weapon is exciting. Embiid will consistently operate deep in the post, especially when his already promising footwork and touch get even better. He'll also be a huge problem for opponents in the open floor, feasting on pick-and-rolls and transition chances.
Meanwhile, he's going to make life difficult for opposing bigs. His 7'5" wingspan, athleticism and instincts will make him one of the best rim protectors in the game. As he learns more about positioning, he'll be a force.
SB Nation's Jonathan Tjarks (via RealGM) broke down how the big fella stacks up against the NBA's top towers: "In terms of his ceiling, Embiid is more fluid offensively than Howard, more athletic than Gasol, more skilled than Hibbert and Bogut and much bigger than Noah."
Hard to pass that up.
2. Andrew Wiggins, Kansas SF (6'8", Freshman)
Shot Creation: B+
Andrew Wiggins just wasn't as dominant in college as we hoped he would be. Even after his late-season outbursts to finish the regular season and conference playoffs, his NCAA tourney ended with a four-point clunker. We have yet to learn whether the Kansas product will actually become an elite featured scorer at the next level.
However, the tools are there. His strong grades across the board reflect his ability to shoot from the outside, attack the basket most of the time and play top-notch defense.
CBS Sports' Gary Parrish reminds us that Wiggins' production was pretty darn good, especially considering he was on a talent-rich team in a monster conference: "Wiggins was regularly criticized for all sorts of weird reasons during his one season in college, and yet he still averaged 17.1 points and 5.9 rebounds for the Big 12 (regular-season) champs."
Right now, he doesn't stand head and shoulders above his peers because he's not consistently strong with the ball and doesn't demand it.
That could change dramatically over the next two to three years. If he puts on some muscle and becomes more confident in his ball-handling skills, he may reach superstar status after all.
1. Jabari Parker, Duke F (6'8", Freshman)
Shot Creation: A+
Those who followed Jabari Parker all year shouldn't be surprised by these marks. And NBA general managers know what they're getting in Duke's highly decorated freshman.
His lone college hoops season indicated that he'll be a terrific offensive weapon but an underwhelming defensive threat.
Toward the end of the regular season and into the ACC tournament, we saw how potent his offensive versatility is. He scored smoothly from inside, outside and in between. That's scary considering how young he is. Sports Illustrated's Peter Bukowski noted how Parker will be able to play both forward positions:
When you have a player like Parker, there's no need to fit a square peg into a round hole. You can go big with him at the 3 and pound teams on the glass, or play him at the 4 without giving up much at the defensive end. His three-point shooting actually makes him the ideal NBA stretch 4.
As a one-on-one stopper and frontcourt help defender, he's going to give up some buckets and won't shine. However, we can't automatically assume he'll be the next version of Carmelo Anthony on that end. He's shown flashes of competent defense, and in the right culture (unlike 'Melo), he could hold his own.
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