NBA Draft 2014: Rookie Projections for Likely Lottery Picks

Jonathan WassermanNBA Lead WriterMay 7, 2014

NBA Draft 2014: Rookie Projections for Likely Lottery Picks

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    USA TODAY Sports

    I've got a feeling that the 2014 rookie class will make a lot bigger impact than last year's. 

    We decided to go ahead and predict just how much damage each projected lottery pick will do next season. And we've also pegged our 2015 Rookie of the Year. 

    Predictions were based off each prospect's college stats, their current strengths and weaknesses, and how we project them to translate in the pros. 

Joel Embiid, Kansas, 7'0", C, Freshman

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    Orlin Wagner/Associated Press

    Points per game: 13.5

    Rebounds per game: 7.7

    Assists per game: 1.3

    Blocks per game: 1.7

    Field-Goal Percentage: .523

    Free-Throw Percentage: .676

    Though I've got Joel Embiid as the top prospect in the field, I wouldn't bet on him for 2015 Rookie of the Year. Embiid still needs to get a little stronger and more fluid in the post before he starts taking over games offensively. 

    It's also unclear just how many minutes he'll be playing following a back injury that's a result of too much stress.

    However, 7'0", athleticism, quick feet and soft hands should lead to a number of easy buckets a game that he doen't have to work for. 

    And though many refer to him as raw, Embiid's skill set is pretty darn sharp. From righty and lefty jump hooks and up-and-unders to dream shakes and drop-steps, his footwork and touch are phenomenal. And with that insane 7'5" wingspan, he should be able to get his shots off without too much trouble.

    Because of that size and length, Embiid should also block at least a shot per game by default, though his defensive IQ and awareness both have room to improve. 

    Still, as long as he's healthy enough to go, Embiid should be able to make an immediate impact based on his physical tools, motor and advanced offensive skills.  

Andrew Wiggins, Kansas, 6'8", SF, Freshman

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    Points per game: 15.2

    Rebounds per game: 6.6

    Assists per game: 1.8

    Steals per game: 1.4

    Field-Goal Percentage: .445

    Three-Point Percentage: .346

    Depending on where he ends up, I wouldn't be shocked to see Andrew Wiggins put up some solid rookie numbers. In an uptempo system like Philadelphia, where Wiggins can play to his strengths as an open-floor weapon, he should be able to pick up a number of easy buckets per game. 

    But you don't just average 17.1 points in a power conference on a loaded roster like Kansas' without some skills to match the athleticism. As Wiggins' freshman season progressed, so did his half-court scoring arsenal.  He actually finished with more three-pointers and a higher true shooting percentage than Duke's Jabari Parker. 

    When he found that zone, we saw everything from step-backs in the mid-range to pull-up threes over screens. 

    His ability to defend should allow him to play major minutes as a rookie, and the more minutes he gets, the more confidence he'll build. And when Wiggins is playing with confidence, he can be deadly.

Jabari Parker, Duke, 6'8", SF/PF, Freshman

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    Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    2015 NBA Rookie of the Year

    Points per game: 16.9

    Rebounds per game: 7.8

    Assists per game: 1.8

    Steals per game: 1.1

    Field-Goal Percentage: .447

    Three-Point Percentage: .348

    Jabari Parker is a guy who can go get you buckets tomorrow. At 6'8", 235 pounds, he's got the size to bang down low and the skill set to play on the perimeter, where he's a threat spotting up or scoring one-on-one. 

    He can just hurt the defense from so many spots on the floor. 

    Parker also has a big-time motor on the boards, and with great upper-body strength, we've seen him bully the defense for easy hoops around the rim. 

    Defense is where Parker is likely to get burned next season. At this point, he lacks the lateral foot speed to contain dribble penetration and the technique and awareness as a post or help defender. 

    But put him in any lineup next year, whether it's the Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers, Orlando Magic, Utah Jazz or Boston Celtics, and Parker should be able to put up numbers right away.

    If I'm making a future bet on the 2015 Rookie of the Year, my money is on Parker no matter where he ends up. “But he is as close to being an NBA prospect right now as you're going to find in college," Grant Hill recently told CBS Sports' Matt Moore.

Dante Exum, Australia, 6'6", PG/SG, 1995

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    Points per game: 13.8

    Rebounds per game: 5.0

    Assists per game: 4.6

    Steals per game: 2.0

    Field-Goal Percentage: .424

    Three-Point Percentage: .334

    Normally, I'd say a soon-to-be 19-year-old from Australia would need more time to develop. But Dante Exum isn't normal. 

    At 6'6" with a point guard's handle and a 2-guard's scoring attack, Exum projects as a tremendous backcourt mismatch. An elite-level athlete, he's a blur in the open floor, and he finishes high above the rim.

    And though he's been painted as a point guard early on, Exum appears just as comfortable playing off the ball, where he clearly has the size and game for that off-guard position. 

    Inconsistent perimeter shooting will likely keep his field-goal and three-point percentages in check, but Exum's ability to score, create, rebound and defend should each translate right away.

Noah Vonleh, Indiana, 6'10", PF, Freshman

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    Points per game: 11.4

    Rebounds per game: 7.2

    Assists per game: 1.0

    Blocks per game: .8

    Field-Goal Percentage: .464

    Three-Point Percentage: .333

    You wouldn't know Noah Vonleh was 18 years old from looking at his 6'10", 240-pound frame and massive 7'4" wingspan. And it's those tremendous physical tools that should allow him to put some points on the board next year. But Vonleh is a little bit too raw to start commanding the ball in the post on a regular basis. He's got the moves—Vonleh just needs a few years to polish them up. 

    Having said that, this is still a guy who can get you buckets as an opportunistic scorer, which was essentially how he did it at Indiana. Vonleh didn't get many touches in Indiana's offense, but when he did in scoring position, he's shown he can capitalize, whether he was isolated down low or left open for a jumper. 

    Vonleh hit 16 of 33 three-point attempts this season, a promising sign moving forward. 

    He also has an excellent nose for the ball on the glass—he led the Big Ten in rebounding playing less than 27 minutes a game. If he gets the minutes as a rookie, he should be able to make an immediate impact on the boards. 

Julius Randle, Kentucky, 6'9", PF, Freshman

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    James Crisp/Associated Press

    Points per game: 13.4

    Rebounds per game: 8.0

    Assists per game: 1.5

    Blocks per game: .7

    Field-Goal Percentage: .440

    Free-Throw Percentage: .667

    The biggest thing going for Julius Randle as a rookie is his ability to take and dish out contact. Randle embraces contact, and that should bode well for him next year, both as a scorer and rebounder on that low block.

    Randle could step in tomorrow and provide a team with a physical presence in the paint.

    He's also got the athleticism to pick an easy bucket here or there, and if he's got space to face his man and attack, Randle can be an awfully tough cover from the high post. 

    But without much of a jumper, Randle leaves himself vulnerable to getting taken out of a game offensively, as defenses can double-team the post or pack the paint to clog the lane. 

    He's had a couple of games this year where he just wasn't a factor on the scoreboard. 

    Regardless, Randle's strength and lefty touch, along with his athleticism in the open floor, should lead to plenty of points in the paint and offensive boards next season. 

Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State, 6'4", PG/SG, Sophomore

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    Points per game: 12.8

    Rebounds per game: 4.4

    Assists per game: 4.2

    Steals per game: 1.8

    Field-Goal Percentage: .408

    Three-Point Percentage: .274

    Marcus Smart certainly has the physical tools to step into an NBA game tomorrow. At 6'4", 220 pounds of fury in the backcourt, Smart is tough, strong and athletic, and he's got two years worth of Big 12 experience. 

    His motor will probably end up being the driving force behind his production early on. Smart's decision-making skills at the point and his jump-shooting accuracy are both a work in progress. But he's a two-way playmaker at both ends of the floor, whether he's forcing a turnover or getting into the lane. 

    Smart's lack of shooting range and turnover-prone approach might lead to inefficiency as a rookie, but his defense, passing, attack game and motor should all translate to early production.  

Aaron Gordon, Arizona, 6'9", PF, Freshman

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    Denis Poroy/Associated Press

    Points per game: 9.2

    Rebounds per game: 5.4

    Assists per game: 1.1

    Steals per game: 1.0

    Field-Goal Percentage: .445

    Three-Point Percentage: .270

    I wouldn't expect Aaron Gordon to get too many minutes as a rookie, given his current offensive limitations. At this point, it's Gordon's defensive strengths that might be most appealing to a coach.

    With the ability to guard just about every position on the floor, Gordon finished No. 1 in the country in defensive win shares this year. But he won't turn 19 years old until September, and without a post move or off-the-dribble game, Gordon's immediate offensive services will likely be limited to finishing around the rim off dumps and lobs.

Gary Harris, Michigan State, 6'4", SG, Sophomore

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    Young Kwak/Associated Press

    Points per game: 10.2

    Rebounds per game: 3.3

    Assists per game: 1.8

    Steals per game: 1.0

    Field-Goal Percentage: .410

    Three-Point Percentage: .340

    Gary Harris looks to have one of the more NBA-ready games thanks to his ability to score within in an offense. He's not a guy who needs the ball in his hands to make things happen. Harris moves extremely well off the ball and knows how to get himself open, whether he's curling around a screen for a jumper, cutting through the lane or popping out for a spot-up three-point attempt. 

    At 6'4", Harris is a bit undersized for a natural 2-guard, and he lacks that explosiveness to pick up easy buckets at the rim. He only made 25 shots at the rim in the half court all season, and he did so at a poor 45.5 percent clip, per DraftExpress. 

    Harris will ultimately need his perimeter-scoring arsenal—step-backs, pull-ups and spot-ups—to carry him, but he's a good enough shot-maker to immediately step in and knock a few down per game. 

Tyler Ennis, Syracuse, 6'2", PG, Freshman

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Points per game: 9.7

    Rebounds per game: 2.8

    Assists per game: 5.0

    Steals per game: 1.1

    Field-Goal Percentage: .408

    Three-Point Percentage: .338

    It's tough to predict Tyler Ennis' rookie year without knowing where he'll be playing—depending on who picks him, there's a good chance he starts his career as a backup. 

    Ennis is going to struggle finishing in the paint, just like he did as a freshman at Syracuse. He shot just 28 percent on floaters and 50 percent at the rim, per DraftExpress. Ennis just isn't that strong or athletic, but his passing instincts should translate without a problem, and as long as he's got the ball in his hands, the assists should follow.  

    He's also a capable shooter on the perimeter, and when left open, he can make the defense pay (35.3 percent from downtown). 

    But at this point, Ennis' core strength is his passing and ability to facilitate. And I doubt he gets thrown into a full-time role for at least another year. 

Doug McDermott, Creighton, 6'8", SF/PF, Senior

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    Points per game: 11.8

    Rebounds per game: 4.4

    Assists per game: .8

    Steals per game: .2

    Field-Goal Percentage: .465

    Three-Point Percentage: .381

    There's no reason why Doug McDermott can't step right into an NBA lineup and knock down shots that find him in the offense. Just don't expect him to create many of his own. 

    McDermott projects as a complementary shot-maker—a guy who moves without the ball, gets himself open and knocks down shots off the catch.

    Occasionally, when there's an open lane to attack or cut through, McDermott can put it on the floor and score on the move, but his bread and butter in the pros is likely to revolve around his ability to catch and shoot. 

    His defensive limitations are likely to keep him in a part-time role—McDermott finished with just five blocks and eight steals all season in 2013-14. 

    But McDermott should be able to contribute in a similar way that Ryan Anderson does for the New Orleans Pelicans and Mike Miller has done throughout his career. And given McDermott's world-class accuracy, range and fluidity as a shooter, I don't see why he can't get started right away.