One of the many big men available in the 2014 NBA draft is arguably the most intriguing potential selection in years.
Joel Embiid, an incredible but very raw talent who still has plenty of room for growth, could turn into the next Hakeem Olajuwon or the next injury-riddled Greg Oden. Embiid will likely finish somewhere in between the all-time great and the all-time disappointment, but that is part of what makes the NBA draft so enticing.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at Embiid and a couple of the other top big men available in the 2014 draft. For the purposes of this article, big men are defined as centers and power forwards.
Joel Embiid, Kansas
Embiid is the rare 7' prospect who could completely alter the course of a downtrodden franchise for years. Olajuwon led the Houston Rockets to the promised land, Shaquille O’Neal did so for the Los Angeles Lakers and Tim Duncan is still shaping his legacy in San Antonio.
Comparing Embiid to those greats is certainly premature, but we are talking about someone who just started playing basketball a few years ago and has transformed himself into a possible No. 1 pick.
Embiid's combination of length and athleticism helps him score both with his back to the basket and facing up. His body control when attacking the rim is certainly impressive as well.
However, it is his defense that jumps out the most. He can completely control the pace of a game from the lane for years to come for whichever team drafts him thanks to his rebounding and shot-blocking abilities.
The only real risk with Embiid, and it is a significant one, is the fact that he missed so much time due to injury in his brief stint at Kansas.
CBS Sports’ Gary Parrish projected Embiid to go No. 2 overall to the Milwaukee Bucks in the draft, but he also pointed out the incredibly volatile nature of his draft stock:
Embiid might go a spot higher than this or several spots lower, depending on what doctors tell franchises about his back. He's a special and unique talent. But that back problem is an undeniable concern until doctors say it isn't.
Noah Vonleh, Indiana
Noah Vonleh is arguably the best rebounder in this draft, and his measurements at the NBA combine did nothing to change that perception. Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders was there to capture it:
That massive wingspan is a major reason why he is such a talented rebounder. With 11.3 points and nine rebounds a game, Vonleh basically averaged a double-double in only 26.5 minutes a night at Indiana. Imagine if those totals were extended to nearly 40 minutes of playing time a game in the NBA.
Vonleh can score inside and outside and boasts a gradually improving mid-range jumper, but he never truly established himself as a consistent scoring threat every night in college.
He isn’t quite explosive enough yet with the ball in his hands to be a premier scorer as a rookie, but he will be a defensive star and rebounder who certainly finds a way to crack into a rotation and possibly a starting lineup—depending on which team drafts him.
Adreian Payne, Michigan State
Adreian Payne posted nightly numbers of 16.4 points and 7.3 rebounds behind 50.3 percent shooting from the field, 42.3 percent shooting from downtown and 79 percent shooting from the free-throw line.
That shooting touch is what makes Payne such an intriguing option in this draft.
He can take a big man outside of his comfort zone and away from the paint, which will open up lanes for his future teammates. Of course, if the defender doesn’t drift outside with Payne, the Michigan State product will make him pay with three-pointers.
Payne is also capable of banging around down low on both ends of the floor, as the rebound numbers and field-goal percentage indicate, so he is more than just a shooter. What’s more, Payne has gotten advice from a good source leading up to the draft, via Kyle Austin of MLive.com:
I’m close to Draymond (Green), we talk a lot. They just try to tell me do be myself and have fun through the process…He was my mentor, when I first got there that’s who I looked up to and hung out with. We worked out together. That’s a guy I just tried to learn from.
If Payne turns into a player of Green’s quality, whichever team drafts him will be pleased.
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