Predicting the Biggest Risers and Fallers of the 2014 NBA Draft Class

Jonathan WassermanNBA Lead WriterMay 28, 2014

Predicting the Biggest Risers and Fallers of the 2014 NBA Draft Class

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    Stephen Brashear/Associated Press

    We all have expectations regarding where each prospect should land. Some go earlier than expected, and some end up going much later. 

    Based on the results from the lottery and the NBA combine, along with the projected outcomes of upcoming workouts, these are the prospects we're predicting to rise or fall in the 2014 draft.

Riser: Zach LaVine, UCLA, 6'6", PG/SG, Freshman

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    Danny Moloshok/Associated Press

    Playing behind three older guards and alongside the coach's son at UCLA, Zach LaVine didn't have the best place to showcase his game.

    Over the next month, he will audition for teams in open gyms, group workouts, athletic tests and interviews—settings that are suited to highlight his strengths as a prospect.

    Though he struggled this year in creating for others, finishing after contact and defending the perimeter, these three weaknesses are tough to pick up on during the predraft process. 

    You know what's not tough to pick up on? LaVine's sizzling upside that's fueled by his 6'6" size, electric athleticism, tight handle and lethal shot-making ability. 

    I'm betting on a team reaching high on him in an attempt to make a splash with a home run swing. LaVine is a heavy risk-reward play in the lottery, and my money is on someone taking that risk.

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

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    Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

    Tyler Ennis could be vulnerable to a draft-day slide, though it's not necessarily a reflection of his stock slipping. 

    It's a somewhat indirect connection, but the draft order didn't play to his favor.

    If Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker go top three, the Orlando Magic might be inclined to take point guard Dante Exum at No. 4, meaning they probably won't be targeting another point guard at No. 12 with their second pick in the lottery.

    And after the Lakers at No. 7, there just aren't many teams with a hole at the point guard position. 

    Sure, it's possible a team scoops up Ennis to develop him as a backup. But this is a pretty strong draft, and I'm not sure how many teams will be willing to pass on available upside for a backup point guard with a top-20 pick. 

    If Exum goes to the Magic, Ennis might either need a team to trade up for him or a general manager to feel comfortable using a valuable pick on a backup. 

Riser: Thanasis Antetokounmpo, Delaware 87ers, 6'7", SF

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    Chris Covatta/Getty Images

    You should have seen how hard Thanasis Antetokounmpo went at the NBA combine. Though not nearly as tall, long or skilled as his younger brother Giannis, Thanasis' game and appeal are predicated on his energy and motor. And his explosive athletic ability doesn't hurt, either. 

    Having spent the season in the D-League, he will now get to compete on an equal playing field in workouts with the other 2014 prospects. And based on what I saw at the combine, where he was able to rattle opposing ball-handlers with his physical, in-your-grill approach, there's no doubt he can hold his own.

    It wouldn't be unreasonable to think a team might reach on his defensive potential. At this stage, he's entering the draft as a defensive specialist with room for his offensive game to grow. He can lock down three positions on the floor, given his quickness and tools for the wing. And he's shown some promise as a slasher and spot-up shooter (tied for fourth during spot-up shooting drills amongst small forwards at the combine). 

    Throughout the year, Antetokounmpo has been considered more of a fringe second-rounder. Now, I wouldn't be surprised if he drew some interest in the late first round.

Faller: Deonte Burton, Nevada, 6'1", PG, Senior

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    Otto Kitsinger/Associated Press

    Deonte Burton, who averaged 20.1 points per game as a senior, has seemingly been viewed as a fringe first-rounder for the past two years. 

    Unfortunately, it looks like he's going to fall on the wrong side of the fence this June.

    He just hasn't done enough to separate or differentiate himself, something he needs to do, given the strength of this year's field and the fact he'll be 23 years old in July.

    Only one other player finished with a worse shooting percentage at the NBA combine, and Burton reportedly was a "nonfactor," via Mike Schmidt of DraftExpress, at the "mini combine" in Los Angeles. 

    He's a spectacular athlete who can score, but at 6'1" without a reliable jumper and questionable instincts as a facilitator, he just doesn't scream first-round prospect. At least not this year. 

Riser: Jordan Adams, UCLA, 6'5", SG, Sophomore

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Jordan Adams wasn't expected to enter the 2014 draft, but now that he has, I'm betting he ends up stealing a first-round bid from someone. 

    Unlike many young prospects who are selling themselves on long-term potential, Adams' sales pitch centers on his convincing production and pro-ready game.

    He averaged 17.4 points and 2.6 steals on 48.5 percent shooting—an extremely efficient number for a 2-guard. 

    He just knows how to score, whether he's attacking the rim, improvising in the mid-range or connecting from the perimeter. And at 6'5", 209 pounds, after being listed at 220 at UCLA, Adams appears to be in shape and ready to roll with his strong, NBA frame.

    He was a standout in two-on-twos and three-on-threes at the NBA combine. He could find himself in position to make a strong impression if he gets the chance to work out with some of the higher-profile prospects in the draft. 

    The safe projection for Adams is in that 30-40 range, but I wouldn't be surprised if he landed somewhere between 15 and 29.

Faller: Jerami Grant, Syracuse, 6'8", SF/PF, Sophomore

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    Nick Lisi/Associated Press

    Jerami Grant will be entering the draft without a true identity. And though that doesn't mean there isn't a place for him in the pros, it's probably not going to entice a team to reach on him in the draft. 

    Is he a small forward? He didn't hit one three-pointer all year, finished tied for the second-worst shooting percentage at the NBA combine and showed little ball skills off the dribble as a sophomore. 

    Is he a power forward? At a quarter inch under 6'8" and 214 pounds, he pulled in 6.8 rebounds per game this season and failed to showcase a post or back-to-the-basket game.  

    At this point, Grant is simply a terrific frontcourt athlete. And I'm just not sure that's a strong enough sales pitch.

    Realistically, he looks like one of those forwards whom you just can't label. He makes plays his own way, mostly as a finisher, one-dribble driver and putback machine off misses. 

    But without a position or identity, it's hard to ignore the possibility of Grant falling between positions in the pros. 

Riser: Kristaps Porzingis, Latvia, 7'0", PF

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    Eighteen-year-old Kristaps Porzingis has been one of the more highly touted young prospects abroad, but many expected him to declare in 2015—not 2014. 

    Still, the height of his NBA ceiling remains the same regardless of when he declares. And given his 7'0" size, athleticism, skill set and two-way potential, that ceiling might be worthy of using a top-20 pick on—even if it means waiting a few years for the reward. 

    He's only getting 14.9 minutes per game for Cajasol Sevilla, though over his last four, he's been playing around 17.7 minutes and averaging 12.2 points on 53.8 percent shooting.

    His body isn't NBA-ready, and if he chooses to stay in the draft (he has until June to withdraw), he'll likely be viewed as a talent to stash overseas.

    But you just can't ignore the potential value attached to a big man who runs the floor, shoots from outside, scores off the dribble and protects the rim.

Faller: Kyle Anderson, UCLA, 6'9", PG/SF, Sophomore

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    Though his unique style of play is appealing, the uncertainty over Kyle Anderson's NBA position can be a turn-off for teams who want to know exactly what they're getting. 

    He put up some incredible numbers as a sophomore, averaging 14.6 points, 8.8 boards and 6.5 assists per game. But his lack of breakdown quickness and athleticism has scouts wondering whether or not he can shake and bake like an NBA point guard. 

    The safe play is to start out Anderson on the wing, though he struggled while playing off the ball as a freshman, when he shot just 41.6 percent. 

    He also lacks a defensive position, something that's likely to haunt him throughout his entire NBA career. 

    Unless a team really feels he can make it work as a point guard, the uncertainty he presents could lead to a number of squads passing in the mid-to-late first round.