Draft talk is beginning to heat up around the NBA now that all of the NCAA’s biggest stars have declared to bring their games to the next level.
The NBA is a league for stars, so the most intriguing prospects are at the top of the draft. We do not know which teams have the top five picks yet, so for this list we will look at who the top five picks should be, regardless of the team selecting.
Pick No. 1: Andrew Wiggins, Forward, Kansas
It was known before the season began and it is still known today: Andrew Wiggins is the best prospect in the 2014 NBA draft. Heck, this may have even been known since he was 13.
Wiggins is one of the most complete basketball prospects I have ever seen. Not only is he a tremendous athlete, but he also has a high basketball IQ.
Here is an example of a heads up play by Wiggins that shows his awareness and hand skills while defending:
He is 6’8" with a 7'0" wingspan, taking his great defensive skills and making them elite. He is a dangerous shot-blocker with his length, as shown in the following clip:
Wiggins is a good shooter with great range. He could improve with his passing, but he has great court vision. His best offensive trait, however, is his penetration to the paint and his inside shot. He has incredible touch on the ball when it comes to floaters and layups. The following clip shows a few examples of this:
The one knock many people have had on Andrew Wiggins is his perceived unwillingness to go into attack mode. I believe that when scouts watch his tape against West Virginia and Duke, however, they will have those questions cleared up. Wiggins wants to attack and take over when he can, but often Kansas did not give him the right opportunities to do so.
Pick No. 2: Joel Embiid, Center, Kansas
I know that this is a regardless-of-position ranking, but I have to note that the possibility of Joel Embiid going first overall is great if the right team is picking. He is 7’0” tall with a 7’5” wingspan and the ability to make use of it all. Wiggins is the top player due to his versatility and basketball experience, but Embiid has the potential to become the best center in the NBA.
His athleticism and skill at his height is what makes Embiid such a sought-after prospect. He has already drawn comparisons to Hakeem Olajuwon. This video shows why.
He is great on the boards, and his length and fluid mobility make him an exceptional shot-blocker.
Pick No. 3: Jabari Parker, Forward, Duke
Jabari Parker was the most closely watched prospect when it came time for the players to make their decisions to go back to school or not. He had contemplated the return so much that even I became convinced that he would be a Duke Blue Devil once again next season.
Luckily for NBA fans, I was wrong, and he is now on his way to the league.
Parker is considered by many the best prospect in the class and is also still an option for the No. 1 pick. This draft class has a number of players who could grow into superstars at the next level, and Parker is yet another.
His game is much more polished than that of the two players taken before him, and his offensive arsenal is unmatched. Most are expecting Parker to come into the NBA as a scoring machine right away. He has been a highly touted basketball player since before high school.
One critique on Parker that seems to be overblown is the idea that he is not a great athlete. He is not the most agile player, but he is an above-average athlete for sure. You can certainly see that Parker can hop with the best of them.
There is reason to why I have Parker being selected third out of the three elite prospects, however. I see glimmers of a draft bust in his game. One problem I have noticed is that, when matched up with a longer skilled defender, Parker can be off of his game. When you get to the NBA, most of the players you face are as good as or better than those great college defenders.
Another issue is that he needs to get better on defense. I am nitpicking, and if I was predicting here I would say Parker is closer to becoming a better-passing Carmelo Anthony than he is a draft bust. But if we are talking No. 1 pick, I want the sky to be the limit, and that is Wiggins not Parker.
Pick No. 4: Julius Randle, Forward, Kentucky
Coming into the college basketball season everyone talked about the big three freshmen, Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins and Julius Randle. These kids have been projected as NBA draft royalty since the moment they stepped onto their campuses. Now that the season has ended, not much has changed.
Randle is just outside of the tier that the first three players are in because he is not quite at their level athletically.
At 6'9", Randle is not the tallest power forward, but he has reasonable height. He is also stronger than most of his opponents. He uses his strength in great ways to gain separation. For example:
He has tremendous rebounding skills on both sides of the ball. Also, on offense Randle’s post moves are elite.
Defensively he could be better. He does not block many shots, but he does a great job of staying with his man. Despite his large frame he possesses great quickness and footwork to stay in position in front of faster players.
Pick No. 5: Marcus Smart, Guard, Oklahoma State
The top of the draft is easy to sort out, but around here it starts to become a wild card. Marcus Smart should be the fifth player taken, however, because he is the only other player with the same potential as those chosen before him. He is not as good right now, but you can see it in him, and his leadership is tremendous.
The flaw in Smart right now is that we cannot be sure where he will play on the floor. He has the size of a point guard but plays more physical than that and is inexperienced at the position. His skill set is that of a big 2-guard, but he is not that big.
Smart has great defensive skills. His combination of hand quickness and strength makes him a threat to get a steal on every possession. His lack of length is the only downfall there, but his skills won’t allow players to put their guard down with Smart defending.
Smart is a good offensive player, as well. He is great at moving inside without losing the ball and is great around the rim. He is not a very good perimeter shooter most nights, but he does have range and can sometimes heat up from outside.
He is not a complete player just yet, but his potential and unique skill set makes Marcus Smart worthy of a top pick.
Aaron Gordon, Forward, Arizona
Dante Exum, Guard, Australia
Noah Vonleh, Forward, Indiana