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Best NBA Comparisons for Every Top-50 2014 Draft Prospect

Daniel O'BrienFeatured ColumnistMay 21, 2014

Best NBA Comparisons for Every Top-50 2014 Draft Prospect

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    We know the 2014 NBA draft class is deep, but to get a better idea of each prospect's impact, we must point to similar current and former pros.

    Drawing comparisons is an imprecise exercise, yet it lends a more tangible reference as to how these draftees will play in the Association.

    We covered the top 50 draft prospects in this year's class, bringing you the best NBA translations. To whom does your favorite prospect compare favorably?

     

    *Rankings 1-30 based on Bleacher Report NBA Lead Writer Jonathan Wasserman's May 17 Top 30 Big Board, with Nos. 31-50 based on his April 22 Top 50 Big Board. Substitutions made for withdrawals Mario Hezonja, Andrew Harrison and Aaron Harrison (Kristaps Porzingis, Artem Klimenko and Jahii Carson).

Method of Comparison

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    Leon Halip/Getty Images

    Our predictions are based more on style of play than projected statistics, and it's important to note we aimed our comparisons on the optimistic end.

    The main factors we used when trying to make comparisons include:

    Player size: Which includes height, frame and length.

    Playing style: Their movements on the court, their fluidity or rigidity and tendencies.

    Potential skills: What kind of ball skills or defensive skills could they have in their prime?

    Role and impact: What role will they play on their pro team, and what kind of production can we expect?

Prospects 50-46

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    USA TODAY Sports

    50. Jahii Carson, Arizona State PG (5'11") - Nate Robinson

    Speed, change of direction and a mix of facilitating and outside shooting: That's what Jahii Carson can deliver. Pair those traits with a ridiculous 43.5" max vertical, and you're looking at a potential Nate Robinson-esque playmaker. Carson's a risky pick, but the payoff could be exciting in 15-20 minute doses.

     

    49. Artem Klimenko, Russia C (7'1") - Less-polished Timofey Mozgov

    Maybe it's something about Russians or Eastern Europeans, but Klimenko has a similar skill set and style to that of Mozgov. He's mobile for his size, can finish short hooks over either shoulder, and works hard for high-percentage opportunities. It took a few years for Mozgov to earn 20-plus minutes per night, and it looks like Klimenko may have a similar career path.

     

    48. Dwight Powell, Stanford PF/C (6'11") - Poor man's Elden Campbell

    I can't take credit for this one. Jason McIntyre of The Big Lead pointed to former Los Angeles Laker Elden Campbell as Powell's NBA translation. Campbell was great at cleaning up caroms and stuffing home alley-oops, and he was quite mobile and a soft shooter for his size.

     

    47. Johnny O'Bryant, LSU PF/C (6'9") - Stronger Udonis Haslem

    Although he'll be undersized in most matchups in the paint, O'Bryant can look to Haslem as an example. Like Haslem, LSU's big fella can scrap on the boards, face up and hit mid-range shots. Bryant may play a stronger brand of hoops with his back to the basket, though.

    On the other end, O'Bryant has the wherewithal to develop into an overachieving defender like Haslem.

     

    46. Patric Young, Florida PF/C (6'10") - Ben Wallace

    Speaking of underdog SEC bruisers, Patric Young is trying to prove he can hang with NBA post players.

    Enter his comparison, the muscle-bound Ben Wallace who didn't even play Division-I hoops. The former Detroit Piston is a prime example of battling for defensive position and dominating the glass. Patrick Hayes of Piston Powered said "Patric Young should get his hands on all the Ben Wallace footage he can find."

Prospects 45-41

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    45. James McAdoo, North Carolina PF (6'9") - More-athletic Ed Davis

    McAdoo won't land in the first round, but for his comparison we found a UNC Tar Heel who was over-drafted: Ed Davis. Both players get most of their production near the basket, and neither one has advanced post footwork. McAdoo can hit the 12-footer like Davis, but he's also more athletic.

     

    44. Jarnell Stokes, Tennessee PF (6'9") - Chuck Hayes

    You don't find too many basketball players with the strength of Jarnell Stokes, but Chuck Hayes is comparable. The veteran forward used his wide frame to grab rebounds and find high-percentage baskets, and he was a tough defender as well. Stokes could be a bit more productive offensively but a bit worse defensively.

     

    43. Russ Smith, Louisville G (6'1") - Patrick Beverley

    DraftExpress scout Jonathan Givony explains how Russ Smith can earn a substantial role in the NBA: "Patrick Beverley looks to be the perfect NBA blueprint for Russ Smith to try to emulate."

    Apply pressure defensively, use speed in transition and make calculated attacks in the half-court. That's what Beverley does well, and Smith can do it as well if he becomes more efficient.

     

    42. Markel Brown, Oklahoma St. SG (6'4") - Shannon Brown meets Allan Ray

    That's Allan Ray, not to be confused with Ray Allen.

    Markel Brown developed the ability to make outside shots over the course of his career in Stillwater, and he also sharpened his ability to create them. That prompts translations to the disappointing Allan Ray. But Brown blew the doors off the NBA Draft Combine leaping test, registering a 43.5" leap. Those pogo-sticks at the 2-spot scream Shannon Brown.

     

    41. DeAndre Daniels, UConn F (6'9") - Less-athletic DerMarr Johnson

    Daniels didn't hit the NBA radar until his breakout NCAA tourney, but he quickly drew multiple comparisons to journeyman DerMarr Johnson. The resemblance is close, with one noticeable difference: Johnson was more athletic than Daniels is. He bounced more easily toward the rim and jumped higher on his outside shots.

Prospects 40-36

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    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    40. Isaiah Austin, Baylor PF/C (7'1") - Alexis Ajinca

    NBADraft.net nailed it with their comparison of Austin to French big man Alexis Ajinca. Without a powerful frame, Ajinca does most of his damage on pick-and-rolls and pick-and-pops. His length is mind-boggling, as is Austin's (7'4.5" wingspan), so there's at least a role-player spot for him in the league.

     

    39. Spencer Dinwiddie, Colorado PG (6'6") - Poor man's Michael Carter-Williams with a jumper

    It's difficult to gauge Dinwiddie's career due to his ACL injury, but his length and creativity are intriguing assets for a club willing to take a risk on him. Blessed with similar size and fluidity as Michael Carter-Williams, Colorado's star won't be as prolific a playmaker but will be a better shooter.

     

    38. Kristaps Porzingis, Latvia PF (7'0") - Donatas Motiejunas/Andrea Bargnani hybrid

    Porzingis' late addition to the draft field presents an enticing combination of towering size and outside shooting. He can finish above the masses in the paint, but is almost more comfortable stepping out for jumpers. That's quite similar to a couple other Europeans: Lithuania's Donatas Motiejunas and Italy's Andrea Bargnani, for better or worse.

     

    37. Nick Johnson, Arizona G (6'3") - Tyronn Lue meets Shannon Brown

    Nick Johnson is spring-loaded (41.5" max vertical) and can wreak havoc in the open floor, which is reminiscent of Shannon Brown. And he's also a speedy perimeter defender and decent facilitator, which explains the Lue designation.

     

    36. Deonte Burton, Nevada G (6'1") - Point version of James Harden

    Meaning, a shorter version of Harden, one that might need to pass a little more. And yes, this is a best-case scenario.

    The similarities are striking, though. Burton is a fearless driver who absorbs contact on the ground and in the air. He gets to the line a lot, but he also finishes successfully through traffic due to his strength and agility. Burton also shares the Beard's trampoline hops, passing skills and confident (yet inefficient) shooting.

Prospects 35-31

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    Bill Wippert/Associated Press

    35. Jerami Grant, Syracuse F (6'8") - Darius Miles/Harvey Grant

    There aren't many legitimate NBA comparisons for Jerami Grant, which is a little nerve-wracking because we don't know what his optimal role will be.

    However, he will probably play like his father Harvey, minus the strength. Another name tossed around is Darius Miles, which is a fair translation given Miles' slender frame, athleticism and sporadic mid-range tosses.

     

    34. Damien Inglis, France F (6'8") - Slasher version of Thabo Sefolosha

    Inglis has great length and defensive potential, but he's raw offensively and struggles to finish.

    If he taps into his physical gifts as a stopper and irons out his jumper, he could have a similar role to Sefolosha, plus more slashing production.

     

    33. C.J. Wilcox, Washington SG (6'5") - Anthony Morrow

    Using his 6'9.75" wingspan and gorgeous shooting form, C.J. Wilcox will serve as a valuable rotational shooting guard much like Anthony Morrow. Don't sleep on Wilcox, because when Morrow gets in a groove, he can light up the scoreboard.

     

    32. Vasilije Micic, Serbia PG (6'4") - Poor man's Jose Calderon

    Vasilije Micic sports the same physical tools and athleticism as Jose Calderon, which is a bummer. But fortunately, he shares Calderon's gift for precise, impeccably timed passes.

    Serbia's youngster will have loads of trouble staying in front of NBA guards, which is Calderon's issue. Hopefully the passing talent and shooting ability will give him a solid backup role.

     

    31. Jabari Brown, Missouri SG (6'4") - Less-productive Marcus Thornton

    Former Missouri guard and current French League player Kim English tabbed Marcus Thornton as the best comparison for Tigers star Jabari Brown.

    From a size and shooting standpoint, I like it. Thornton can bury the rock from the perimeter when he gets going, and so can Brown.

Prospects 30-26

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    Morry Gash/Associated Press

    30. Cleanthony Early, Wichita St. SF (6'7") - Poor man's Harrison Barnes

    Harrison Barnes was much-ballyhooed coming out of high school, while Cleanthony Early went to junior college. But they may end up being similar NBA players.

    Their moves aren't fancy, but they manage to score both inside and out. Like Barnes, Early's athleticism is more vertical than horizontal, and he can connect from distance regularly at 6'7.25".

     

    29. Bogdan Bogdanovic, Serbia SG (6'6") - Marco Belinelli

    Serbian sensation Bogdan Bogdanovic can't create offense consistently, but he can take advantage of driving lanes while getting a majority of his buckets from three-point land. That sounds a lot like fellow European Marco Belinelli, who's put together a nice career by tossing in jumpers via catch-and-shoot and spot-up scenarios.

     

    28. Mitch McGary, Michigan PF/C (6'10") - David Lee

    Again, these are optimistic projections, but there's a lot of D-Lee in Michigan's big man. Without quickness or aerial explosiveness, McGary can still be a game-changer with his pick-and-roll exploits, excellent touch around the rim and rebounding instincts. In addition, he has Lee's sneaky-good passing skills and court awareness.

     

    27. Glenn Robinson III, Michigan SF (6'7") - Stronger version of Gerald Green

    GR3 is primarily a slasher and an opportunistic above-the-rim player, which is what Gerald Green was when he entered the league. There's three-point potential in Robinson, just as there was in Green, and when he hones his shot, he'll be a dangerous asset in the lineup. As a bonus, he'll probably surpass Green's dribble-drive skills within the first few years of his career.

     

    26. Jordan Adams, UCLA SG (6'5") - Unathletic version of James Harden

    You've seen James Harden the star. Now meet the unathletic role-player version.

    Adams can fill up the hoop in a similar manner to the Beard, as he scores through contact and hits timely triples. Statsheet.com found comparable collegiate statistics, and their movements and cadence are alike. Take 10 inches off Harden's vertical, and he's roughly a rich-man's Adams.

Prospects 25-21

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    USA TODAY Sports

    25. Jordan Clarkson, Missouri G (6'5") - Tyreke Evans with a jumper

    As a combo guard with length and a knack for slicing his way to the hoop, Jordan Clarkson reminds us of New Orleans Pelicans guard Tyreke Evans. Like the former Memphis Tiger, Clarkson's best attribute is his slashing, as he loves to attack the rim. Although Clarkson was far from accurate beyond the arc in college, he could be a much better outside shooter than Evans.

     

    24. T.J. Warren, N.C. State SF (6'8") - Trevor Ariza

    Trevor Ariza can score pretty easily from a variety of locales without forcing anything or taking over the game. That's exactly what T.J. Warren could do as the third or fourth scoring option on his team.

    This comparison makes more sense when you realize Ariza wasn't always a 41 percent shooter from downtown. He struggled at UCLA (24 percent) and didn't hit more than 33 percent of his triples until 2012-13. That gives Warren hope, as he shot 31.5 percent at N.C. State.

     

    23. Kyle Anderson, UCLA PG/SF (6'9") - Boris Diaw/Jalen Rose hybrid

    B/R's Jonathan Wasserman broke down why Anderson can be a slow-footed quarterback in the league, and he tabbed Diaw as a worst-case scenario and Rose as a best-case scenario if his jumper connects: "Anderson flashed similar offensive skills to that which Rose used to score a whole lot of NBA points. Still, it was Rose's vision and passing instincts that ultimately set him apart."

     

    22. P.J. Hairston, Texas Legends SG (6'5") - Caron Butler

    With a comparable build and a sweet shooting stroke, D-League standout P.J. Hairston can produce on the wing like Caron Butler. Butler may be a little better creating offense in his prime, but Hairston is a tick more athletic.

     

    21. Clint Capela, Switzerland PF (6'11") - Taller, slimmer Kenneth Faried

    Right now, Clint Capela hasn't shown us much more than sheer length and athleticism. He lopes from one end of the floor to another in a hurry, and he can rise above the competition effortlessly for rebounds, alley-oops and short-range buckets. Few players have the relentlessness of the Manimal, but if Capela applies himself, he'll be a taller version of Faried.

Prospects 20-16

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    USA TODAY Sports

    20. Shabazz Napier, UConn PG (6'1") - D.J. Augustin

    Napier moved himself into the first round with a sparkling NCAA tournament run, but he's not going to be a star point guard at the next level. The Kemba Walker comparisons are fun, but Walker's speed is much better suited for a major NBA role. However, Napier will be creative enough off the dribble and efficient enough as a shooter to ball like D.J. Augustin.

     

    19. Elfrid Payton, La.-Lafayette PG (6'4") - Poor man's Rajon Rondo

    One of the best small-school products could end up thriving like Kentucky-turned-Boston star Rajon Rondo. Payton's shiftiness off the bounce and passing skills will keep opponents guessing, and his length and athleticism will allow him to impact other areas. Like Rondo, he will score despite a flawed jumper, and he'll also rebound at his position and force turnovers.

     

    18. Rodney Hood, Duke SF (6'8") - Jalen Rose (Less productive)

    Smooth-shooting southpaw swingmen. That's who Rodney Hood and Jalen Rose are. But the comparison is deeper than that: they both make the right plays within the flow of the offense, whether it's moving to space the floor or driving and setting up teammates.

     

    17. Adreian Payne, Michigan St. PF (6'10") - Poor man's Rasheed Wallace/Robert Horry

    Payne's stock is high because he has many of the same qualities as these two savvy veterans. He touts the shooting, athleticism and glue-guy impact of a Houston Rockets version of Big Shot Bob. Mix in a bit of defensive potential and turnaround jumpers like Sheed, and you've got a valuable prospect sitting in the middle of the first round.

     

    16. Gary Harris, Michigan St. SG (6'4") - Bradley Beal

    We don't know where Beal's ceiling is yet, so he may accomplish far more than Harris ever will. In all likelihood, Harris will be less productive than Beal. But their size, athleticism, playing style and versatility at the 2-guard spot are alike. Both can work for catch-and-shoot chances, create on slashes and play defense.

Prospects 15-11

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    Gary Dineen/Getty Images

    15. James Young, Kentucky SG/SF (6'7") - Michael Beasley/Michael Redd hybrid

    Young is one of those prospects who hasn't carved out and polished his skill set quite yet. If he does, he'll play like a blend of two talented lefties: Michael Beasley and Michael Redd. Kentucky's freshman gunner could be a prolific spot-up weapon like Redd (but maybe not as productive as Redd's prime), and he could have the inside-out impact of Beasley.

     

    14. Jusuf Nurkic, Bosnia C (6'11") - Shorter, thicker version of Timofey Mozgov

    Nurkic is not a great athlete, but he has a big presence in the paint and can score smoothly from close range with either hand while executing effective back-to-the-basket moves. He can also knock down the mid-range jumper when defenses give it to him. The Bosnian's game may translate to a stockier version of Russian big man Timofey Mozgov.

     

    13. Doug McDermott, Creighton SF (6'8") - Wally Szczerbiak/Tracy Murray hybrid

    If you're looking for an optimistic example of what Doug McDermott could accomplish in the NBA, take a gander at Wally Szczerbiak's prime years and Tracy Murray's quick shooting release.

    Wally sank triples efficiently and notched 15-17 per night in his heyday, but he also scored via mid-post plays and timely cutting. Meanwhile, NBADraft.net tabbed Murray as a comparison, and it fits well because the journeyman had a fast, streamlined shooting delivery.

     

    12. Nik Stauskas, Michigan SG (6'6") - Klay Thompson

    This pairing seemed more and more convincing as the year went on. Stauskas not only has the swift, pretty jumper that Thompson owns; he also can put it on the floor and find mid-range buckets or a seam to the hoop. After testing well athletically at the NBA combine, Stauskas' physical tools are poised to make a similar impact to Thompson's.

     

    11. Tyler Ennis, Syracuse PG (6'3") - Mario Chalmers/D.J. Augustin hybrid

    Ennis has been widely heralded as the coolest point guard prospect around, but don't think his poise alone will lead to NBA stardom. He's not going to blow people away at the next level, but he could be a solid starter. On Sirius XM NBA Radio, ESPN's Jeff Goodman called Ennis "a starting point guard on a bad team, backup on a good (team)," and said that "he's DJ Augustine-ish."

Prospects 10-6

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    Jennifer Pottheiser/Getty Images

    10. Zach LaVine, UCLA G (6'6") - Gerald Green/Poor-man's Russell Westbrook

    The Westbrook comparisons have been controversial all year, but LaVine's ability to slash speedily and then elevate on a dime are quite similar. He also has that explosive combo-guard upside. LaVine's game also is reminiscent of Green, who can burn teams by attacking the rim or splashing from deep. That's a fun set of tools if he figures out how to unleash them.

     

    9. Aaron Gordon, Arizona F (6'9") - Shawn Marion

    With a somewhat unorthodox cadence to his game, Aaron Gordon could be a versatile weapon in the mold of The Matrix. Outstanding athleticism and awareness enable him to feast off cuts and transition opportunities, and his passing skills and rebounding give him value in the half-court setting. Sure, he has a bit of Blake Griffin in him when it's showtime, but his playing style will look much more like Marion.

     

    8. Dario Saric, Croatia F (6'10") - Boris Diaw meets Lamar Odom

    Boasting superb ball-handling and passing skills for a tall forward, Croatia's Dario Saric could supply dynamically versatile production for his NBA club. Much like Boris Diaw, he's a jack-of-all trades forward who's not a great athlete.

    The Odom comparison stems from his ability to initiate the offense as a big man and do brilliant things as a passer and scorer. Corey Hansford of LakersNation.com noted "the ability to grab a rebound and lead a fast break is one that very few players possess."

     

    7. Marcus Smart, Oklahoma St. G (6'4") - Jarrett Jack/Eric Bledsoe hybrid

    "Any teams interested in drafting Marcus Smart this year need only look to the Phoenix Suns for an example of how he could blossom in the NBA," said B/R NBA scribe Bryan Toporek.

    It's a great comparison, as Smart is a strong, athletic point who looks to attack, and he's a stifling defender. OK State's star may also create offensively like a prime-version of Jarrett Jack.

     

    6. Julius Randle, Kentucky PF (6'9") - Athletic Zach Randolph

    With this comparison, it's important to note two huge differences between Z-Bo and Randle: (1) Randle is far quicker and more explosive than Randolph, and (2) Z-Bo is much more skilled and polished right now.

    That being said, they're quite similar style-wise. They have tremendous rebounding instincts, utilize massive physiques and love to spin and bull their way to the tin.

Prospects 5-1

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    Orlin Wagner/Associated Press

    5. Noah Vonleh, Indiana PF (6'10") - Stronger Chris Bosh

    When you watch Noah Vonleh use his length on the inside and shooting stroke on the outside, you can see the similarities in playing style and size. Vonleh's a tick shorter, but his wingspan (7'4.25") is longer than Bosh's (7'3.5") and he's 10-plus pounds heavier.

    In his best years, Bosh was a 20/10 player and a shoe-in All-Star. Vonleh has a long way to go before he attains that kind of impact, but it's certainly possible for him to flirt with those achievements.

     

    4. Dante Exum, Australia PG (6'6") - M. Carter-Williams/Penny Hardaway hybrid

    This has been my comparison from the beginning, and I'm sticking with it. Exum recently told Basketball Insiders' Alex Kennedy (h/t Sulia) that he sees himself as a blend of Manu Ginobili and Russell Westbrook, and he certainly owns aspects of their games.

    “I can’t look at one player and say that’s who I play like, but I can see different traits that players have that I see: I look at Russell Westbook as that explosive point guard that can get to the rim, and also Manu Ginoboli when he gets into the paint and the way he can finish. It’s just looking at different players and what they can do, and how that can help my game.” 

    But when it comes down to length, deceptive quickness and playmaking ingenuity, there's more Penny and MCW than anyone else. And that's a really good thing, especially if he reaches Hardaway's status.

     

    3. Jabari Parker, Duke F (6'8") - Carmelo Anthony/Paul Pierce hybrid

    Much like 'Melo and Pierce, Duke superstar Jabari Parker has a thick build, elite footwork and craftiness. He also shares their knack for drilling outside shots and scoring in the paint during the same game. Lastly, Parker's mediocre defense reminds us of these two otherwise-brilliant players.

     

    2. Andrew Wiggins, Kansas SF (6'8") - Paul George/Dominique Wilkins hybrid

    Wiggins' NBA opportunities are seemingly limitless—provided he plays with a passion—so it's tough to peg exactly what he might look like in 4-6 years. That being said, the widespread comparisons to Paul George give a good idea of what he could do skill-wise, and a glance at Dominique Wilkins gives you an idea of how he will athletically dominate by getting off the floor in a hurry.

     

    1. Joel Embiid, Kansas C (7'0") - Hakeem Olajuwon

    There are no guarantees Joel Embiid ever reaches the prestigious stature of The Dream. But his lone season at Kansas gave us some exciting glimpses of Olajuwon's game on both ends of the floor.

    A 7'5" wingspan and ample agility allows him to cover a ton of space defensively, and he has a chance to be an elite rim protector like Houston's storied shot-swatter. On offense, he's displayed the type of fluidity and footwork that could make him a nightmare matchup on the block.

     

    Unless otherwise noted, all U.S. prospect measurables via NBA.com; all international prospect measurables via DraftExpress. 

    Follow Dan O'Brien for more NBA Draft coverage.

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