The NBA draft has become an annual event celebrating the arrival of young one-and-done players looking to play the role of franchise savior. 2014 is no different, with college freshmen like Julius Randle, Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker all essentially guaranteed to become lottery picks.
However, this is one of the deepest draft classes in quite some time, and part of that is due to a few senior players who resisted temptation to join the professional ranks for years and instead honed the finer points of their respective games in college. They are the type of players who won't have to answer questions about maturity or big-game experience once they arrive in NBA locker rooms.
Let's take a look at three seniors poised to become immediate contributors to NBA teams and who are hungry to prove that extra time in college is time well spent.
Doug McDermott, F, Creighton
McDermott spent the majority of his amateur career racking up points and attending awards banquets as essentially a one-man show on offense at Creighton University. He has the poise, leadership skills and talent to immediately become a threat offensively in the NBA.
McDermott, of course, has one skill that works no matter where the hardwood is: his unbelievable shooting stroke.
McDermott shot an astounding 45.8 percent from three-point range during his four years at Creighton. Standing at 6'8", his height and shooting ability should draw larger defenders out of the paint and open up lanes to the basket for his teammates.
He complements his shooting ability with a lethal arsenal of post moves, as his 59.6 shooting percentage from two-point range can attest to. He's no liability with the ball in his hands, either, averaging a mere 1.8 turnovers per game in 2013-14.
His ability to shoulder the load on offense is staggering, and he may find being a role player in the NBA a relief at this point. He accounted for 33.9 percent of his team's total points in 2013-14, according to draftexpress.com.
Some scouts question his athleticism, but McDermott won't let the naysayers affect his attitude entering the draft. Via Steven Pivovar of the Omaha World-Herald:
“I think I just need to keep a positive mind-set and not take that chip off my shoulder.”
He is destined for an early role as a spot-up shooter and occasional post-up presence. His inside-out game would have a huge impact on a team like the Phoenix Suns, or serve as a great complement to slashers like Victor Oladipo of the Orlando Magic.
Shabazz Napier, PG, Connecticut
Napier displayed great resolve during his senior season at UConn and could instantly become a sixth-man specialist upon arrival in the Association.
CBS Sports' Jon Rothstein compared Napier favorably to the Chicago Bulls' D.J. Augustin.
If D.J. Augustin was good enough to lead the Bulls in scoring this yr, then Shabazz Napier is good enough to impact the NBA for a long time.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) April 21, 2014
And CBS Sports' Gregg Doyel believes Napier stacks up well against the Utah Jazz's Trey Burke.
I'm not an NBA scout, wouldn't pretend I am, but if Trey Burke can start as an NBA PG - and I love Trey Burke - then so can Shabazz Napier.— Gregg Doyel (@GreggDoyelCBS) April 8, 2014
The leadership quality and intangibles aren't a question for the quick-witted point guard. Napier was magnificent throughout the Huskies' unlikely tournament run, scoring 20-plus points in four out of six games on the team's run to the 2014 NCAA national championship. He displayed an excellent balance between fiery passion and cool-headed composure.
Everyone remembers him for his scoring outbursts, but he is not a one-dimensional player. Napier works hard on the defensive end, averaging 2.1 steals per 40 minutes, as per draftexpress.com.
He will have to improve his passing and ball-handling skills, as Ryan Boatright relieved him of those duties at times during his senior season. Napier will have no trouble thriving in catch-and-shoot situations and would be a great asset for a team in need of a scoring threat off the bench, such as the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Cleanthony Early, F, Wichita State
Early wasn't quite a household name before March. During Wichita State's undefeated regular season, he was mainly seen as another well-oiled cog in the machine.
He quickly raised his profile in the NCAA tournament, and his 31-point evisceration of the University of Kentucky's defense placed him right at the forefront of the draft discussion.
Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders reported via Twitter that at least one NBA executive believed Early improved his draft stock more than most during March Madness:
"Frank Kaminski, Cleanthony Early and Adreian Payne have helped their stock the most this tournament," one NBA executive just told me.— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) March 30, 2014
Early is notable for his ability to score in a variety of ways. At 6'8" and 218 pounds, he's large enough to post up smaller defenders with ease. Early is also excellent on the dribble-drive and worked hard to improve his shooting statistics between his junior and senior seasons in Wichita.
|Season||Points per game||2-point FG %||3-point FG %||FT %|
Early is projected as a late first-round choice, according to draftexpress.com. He is the kind of athletic marvel that would do well on a team like the San Antonio Spurs, where his slashing style and ability to make quick cuts would fit in perfectly on a team that predicates its offense on quick ball movement.
All advanced statistics courtesy of sports-reference.com unless otherwise noted.