There are plenty of talented prospects in the 2014 NBA draft, but a few players haven't gotten the credit that they deserve even if they'll likely be going in the first round.
By now, everyone has heard all there is to know about prospects like Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Joel Embiid. It's understandable that they're getting all of the attention, as they're all expected to be future All-Stars. However, there are a few prospects who haven't been getting enough love, either due to generalizations about how they play or the fact that they come from smaller programs.
Let's go ahead and take a look at a few underrated prospects who will likely go in the first round, breaking down what they do well and what they need to work on to thrive at the next level.
Doug McDermott, SF/PF, Creighton
High-scoring college basketball players don't always make the transition successfully to the NBA. Just ask guys like Jimmer Fredette, Adam Morrison and Michael Beasley. However, Doug McDermott has a legitimate chance to be a starter in the association.
This past season, McDermott led the nation in scoring with 26.7 points per game while shooting an impressive 52.6 percent from the field and 44.9 percent from behind the arc. He was a three-time All-American at Creighton, finishing fifth all-time in Division I scoring, putting up 3,150 points over his career.
Heading into the NBA draft, McDermott has already proven that he can score from just about anywhere on the floor. He has a great shot and is fundamentally sound, not forcing shots and finding open teammates for baskets.
However, many fans are quick to dismiss McDermott due to a "lack of athleticism." Based on his combine numbers, that simply isn't true. As Adam Levitan of Rotoworld pointed out, McDermott's vertical jump of 36.5 inches was actually two inches higher than Australian guard Dante Exum's:
Don't call Creighton's Doug McDermott unathletic. He posted an eye-opening 36.5 inch max vertical at Combine. Dante Exum did 34.5 inches.— Adam Levitan (@adamlevitan) May 23, 2014
Given his size, McDermott might not be able to play power forward in the NBA, but with his ability to score from anywhere, he'll be right at home as a small forward on the wing and will be an instant contributor wherever he goes.
K.J. McDaniels, SF, Clemson
The Clemson Tigers were overlooked for the most part in a highly competitive ACC, but they may have one of the best defensive prospects this draft has to offer.
K.J. McDaniels has flown under the radar all year, but his numbers from this past season are quite impressive. Along with 17.1 points and 7.1 rebounds per game, McDaniels also had an incredible 2.8 blocks per game and led the ACC in blocks per game each of the past two seasons.
According to Sports-Reference.com, McDaniels also led the ACC with 3.1 defensive win shares and 6.7 overall win shares while ranking second in the conference with a 90.8 defensive rating. All of these numbers are impressive, and McDaniels feels confident that his defense will help him once the draft begins.
“I think I stand out defensively, just being able to guard those different positions,” McDaniels told NESN's Ben Watanabe after working out with the Boston Celtics. “I’m probably the smallest guy here, so being able to go out there and compete with those guys and defend them, I feel like it was a good challenge for me.”
McDaniels will be passed up by teams due to the fact that he's still working on developing his offensive game, especially on the perimeter. However, given his skills on defense and his length, it'll be hard for a team that struggled on that side of the ball (like the Utah Jazz) to pass up on him later in the first round.
Shabazz Napier, PG, Connecticut
While he may not have the ideal size to play point guard in the NBA, Shabazz Napier is the playmaker on offense teams need, even if he has to come off the bench.
The AAC Player of the Year helped lead the Connecticut Huskies to another national championship with a 60-54 win over the Kentucky Wildcats, and Napier was named Most Outstanding Player. During the season, he averaged 18 points, 5.9 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game.
At 6'1'' and 180 pounds, Napier isn't the ideal size for a point guard, which plenty of analysts and scouts have pointed out. However, Napier makes up for his lack of size and explosiveness with NBA-caliber range, active defense and the ability to run the offense as well as find open teammates.
Grantland's Mark Titus probably gave the best description of Napier's game, writing:
Never mind that he’s undersize and doesn’t have NBA-level explosiveness. Never mind that he tends to commit some careless turnovers. That only means he won’t ever be the best player on a NBA title contender, but we already knew that. Napier has a great feel for the game on both offense and defense. He plays his ass off. Even though he’s an able scorer with deep shooting range, I think he’ll be able to impact games at the next level without even taking a shot. He’s also a walking bundle of intangibles, most notably whatever talent it is that allows him to make every shot he attempts in crunch time.
Even though Napier might not become a top-tier point guard in the NBA, his skill set could give a number of teams a solid backup point guard who could eventually prove himself as a starter. There are a few teams that could use another point guard late in the first round, including the Memphis Grizzlies and Miami Heat, and they may be getting a steal.