A champion has emerged in astounding fashion, and the 2013-14 NBA season is officially behind us. It’s time to look forward now, and there is no better venue to do just that than the NBA draft—especially this year.
The 2014 draft class is loaded with potential franchise-changing prospects at every position, and the dominoes will begin to fall as soon as Adam Silver reads the first name taken off the board. Sure, the most interest will be in the first few picks, but there is talent that could trickle well into the second round.
Still, we want to know about those highly touted prospects and how they will fare at the next level. With that in mind, let’s look at some projections for a few of those names.
NBA Draft Basics
Date: June 26
Time: 8 p.m. ET
Live Stream: Watch ESPN
Full Order of Picks
|2014 NBA Draft Order|
|7||Los Angeles Lakers|
|21||Oklahoma City Thunder|
|28||Los Angeles Clippers|
|29||Oklahoma City Thunder|
|30||San Antonio Spurs|
Top Player Projections
Andrew Wiggins, Kansas
In terms of pure upside, it doesn’t get any better than Andrew Wiggins heading into the 2014 draft.
After all, this kid was pegged as the next LeBron James before he ever played a single minute at the college level and demonstrated just how athletically dominant he can be throughout the year at Kansas. Just his wingspan, overall quickness and smoothness when gliding up the court should have NBA squads salivating.
He can attack the rim with an explosive first step, finish through contact when he gets there, hit from the outside and even post up smaller defenders. However, he may not be a dominant offensive player right away, as Nate Duncan of Basketball Insiders noted:
Still, there is plenty of room for lockdown defenders in this game who can be timely scorers without necessarily pouring in 30 a night (Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler come to mind). With some of the dominant superstars who play the stretch forward role (LeBron and Kevin Durant are just two random names in that mix) defense is very valuable from the small forward spot.
Look for Wiggins to gradually improve on the offensive side as he progresses in his young NBA career and eventually scores 18-to-20 points a night. Most importantly though, he will turn into one of the best defenders in the entire league.
Joel Embiid, Kansas
Wiggins’ Kansas teammate is the classic high-risk, high-reward pick in the draft, and the risk got a lot higher when it was announced that he has a foot injury on top of the back ailments from college.
On one hand (and this is clearly incredibly premature), Joel Embiid could turn into something like Hakeem Olajuwon, dominating the game on both ends of the floor with his incredible height and athleticism. Embiid can swat any shot in sight and rebound over anyone, though he is still learning how to become an offensive force on the blocks.
Still, the injuries at Kansas linger in the back and front of everyone’s mind, although his college coach Bill Self provided some reassurance along those lines on 97.5 The Fanatic (via KUSports.com):
I would have worries if the doctors and experts said there should be worries. He’s got a stress fracture in an area I guess 25 percent of all (football) linemen have and play with. Twelve percent of every gymnast has it. They said every student-athlete coming on campus has potential to have this injury. It happens (and) you don’t do anything for it except rest it and rehab it and you are back to being yourself.
This is one area in his back that will create zero problems for him moving forward. All it did was create symptoms and pain initially but those things are all gone from what I’ve seen.
The problem is that Self said that before the latest injury, so that has to be taken with more than a few grains of salt.
Still, the thought here is that Embiid eventually gets fully healthy and averages 12-to-15 points a night, two or three blocks a game and eight-to-10 rebounds. There will be times when he looks like an automatic double-double every time he steps on the floor, and he will have fans incredibly excited about what is to come.
It just may take a couple of years.
Jabari Parker, Duke
Grantland’s Mark Titus had some high words of praise for Duke’s Jabari Parker recently:
As of today, Jabari Parker is the best player in the 2014 NBA draft and I don’t think there’s a close second. ... Parker was the only guy in college basketball I believed could’ve joined an NBA team overnight in the middle of the season without missing a beat. All season long, Parker was compared to Carmelo Anthony, which is one of the most perfect basketball comparisons in the history of...basketball. They’re both listed at exactly 6-foot-8 and 235 pounds. They can both score against anybody anywhere on the court. They are both strong rebounders.
Comparing anyone to Carmelo Anthony is noteworthy, but Parker fits the bill nicely.
He can score from anywhere on the floor and really developed his mid-range and post-up abilities as the college season progressed. He is also arguably a better rebounder than Anthony now (although he will need to prove that at the NBA level) and had the advantage of playing under Mike Krzyzewski for a season.
He doesn’t quite have the athleticism that Wiggins does, but Parker’s offensive skills alone will carry him to All-Rookie honors. He will average 16 points a night behind 45 percent shooting from the field and grab six-to-seven rebounds a game consistently.
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