NBA Draft 2014: Lottery Prospects Who Will Be Massive Reaches

Adam FromalNational NBA Featured ColumnistJune 17, 2014

NBA Draft 2014: Lottery Prospects Who Will Be Massive Reaches

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    It's hard to believe, but not every pick in the NBA draft is going to be a good value. Not even with a 2014 class that's loaded at the top and quite deep with quality talent. 

    Inevitably, there will be reaches. Massive reaches, even. 

    After all, it only takes one front office falling in love with a player for a reach to be created. If everyone has a certain prospect graded as a late first-rounder and a team in the top 10 ultimately decides to have NBA commissioner Adam Silver call out his name early in the proceedings, then lo and behold, he's a reach. 

    These are the players for whom such a scenario is most likely. They're polarizing guys, players with plenty of perceived upside and men of mystery. And all it takes is one team liking the player in question a lot more than the other squads in the Association. 

    Do note though, calling a prospect—in this case, a prospect with a solid chance of going in the lottery—a potential reach is not tantamount to using the dreaded "bust" label. It's quite possible for each of these five players to have fantastic NBA careers, even if there's a solid chance they come off the boards far too soon. 

Kyle Anderson

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    Gregory Bull/Associated Press

    School: UCLA

    Position: SF

    Age: 20

    Vitals: 6'9", 230 pounds

    2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 14.6 points, 8.8 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 0.8 blocks, 1.8 steals

     

    Can you imagine Kyle Anderson attempting to cover one of the league's more athletic small forwards? Just think of him trying to check LeBron James, keep up with Kevin Durant in the open floor or slow down Paul George during a transition opportunity. 

    It's not a pretty sight. 

    Anderson is one of the most unique players in this draft, largely because he's slower than a mixture of molasses and tar but possesses plenty of ball skills, height and intelligence. His craftiness and smooth play allowed him to excel at UCLA, but will that work at the sport's highest level? 

    The 20-year-old doesn't really have a position, either. Small forward seems to be the best option, even if he plays offense like a point forward and defense like a tree stump. 

    "I've gone sleepless nights trying to decide whether UCLA's Kyle Anderson has a game built to succeed at the NBA level," writes Jonathan Wasserman, Bleacher Report's NBA Draft Lead Writer. "He's just so hard to peg, simply because of the unprecedented blend of physical tools and skills he brings to the table." 

    Everyone seems split right down the middle, as Anderson can play like anything from NBA Finals Boris Diaw to an extremely out-of-shape version of the Frenchman. But remember, it only takes one team to fall in love with him and draft him far too early, even if he belongs as a mid-20s prospect in this talented class. 

    In the right system, Anderson can work wonders. Maybe. 

Zach LaVine

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    USA TODAY Sports

    School: UCLA

    Position: SG

    Age: 19

    Vitals: 6'6", 181 pounds

    2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 9.4 points, 2.5 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.2 blocks, 0.9 steals

     

    If it seems like I'm picking on UCLA, I apologize. That's by no means the intent, as it's merely coincidence that the Bruins are producing two polarizing players in one year. 

    While Kyle Anderson is far too unathletic and slow-footed to justify a lottery slot in the 2014 NBA draft, Zach LaVine sits firmly on the other side of the spectrum. Then again, I'm not so sure this 19-year-old is capable of sitting, given his ridiculous hopping ability and nearly unmatched athletic tools. 

    That's the intrigue when it comes to LaVine; he can jump through the roof and blow everyone away with his physical gifts, ones he routinely uses in workouts to make himself look quite special. Every year, there's an athletic phenom who rises astronomically due to individual workouts, and LaVine seems to be that player in 2014. 

    Even though he looked excellent during live action at the draft combine, LaVine still isn't ready for the NBA. He rarely played big minutes while still at UCLA, and he didn't do much to stand out when he was actually on the court. Quite simply, he's a project player. 

    In this class, there are much safer options in the lottery, even at LaVine's own position. Maybe he becomes one of the true standouts from the 2014 crop down the road, outshining Gary Harris, Nik Stauskas and James Young, but it'll be a few years down that path, and there's plenty of time for him to bust between now and then. 

    I'd love to see LaVine go in the late teens or early 20s, but he's too risky to be taken much sooner than that. In other words, he's too risky for the lottery. 

Doug McDermott

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    USA TODAY Sports

    School: Creighton

    Position: SF/PF

    Age: 22

    Vitals: 6'8", 218 pounds

    2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 26.7 points, 7.0 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 0.1 blocks, 0.2 steals

     

    "I'll really have to be able to guard a 3 or a 2," Doug McDermott explained to Wasserman at the NBA Draft Combine. "It's something I'm going to have to work on, but I really understand the team concept of defense, and I think I'm going to be just fine out there."

    If he really is going to be fine, that's one thing. 

    But he's not. 

    McDermott, talented as he may be on offense, projects as a liability on defense, thanks to his lack of elite foot speed and a scary inability to make any sort of impact there while playing at Creighton. Granted, he was often asked to conserve energy for the more glamorous end of the court, but it's rather troubling that he averaged a combined 0.3 blocks and steals per game during his senior season. Those are hustle stats, and they're often decent indicators of future defensive ability. 

    As Derek Bodner writes for DraftExpress.com

    His excellent feel for the game and consistently high effort level allow him to maximize his physical attributes, qualities that are valuable when projecting a potential change in role from focal point of a team to role player at the next level. His excellent catch and shoot ability forms the basis of a good skill set for a role player, but he'll likely have to improve his defense considerably if he hopes to successfully make the transition to the NBA.

    McDermott's fabulous offense—which I fully expect to translate nicely to the next level—is only valuable if he can afford hemorrhaging points on the other end. And unless he's drafted to a team capable of hiding him on virtually every possession, that's going to require significant improvement on his part. 

    Drafting an extreme one-way player—even when that one side is quite excellent—is a rather risky proposition in the lottery. 

Jusuf Nurkic

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    Team: Cedevita

    Position: C

    Age: 19

    Vitals: 6'11", 280 pounds

    2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 11.2 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.3 blocks, 0.8 steals

     

    It's easy to see where the hype comes from. 

    Jusuf Nurkic is a massive prospect, checking in at 6'11" and 280 pounds, but he also runs the floor nicely for his size and has plenty of strength to back up the frame. He's no stranger to banging around in the post on both ends of the court, though he can also step out and knock down a few mid-range jumpers. 

    That said, he's not even close to ready for the Association. Not at this stage of his young career, as his mental game still lags well behind the physical one. 

    Nurkic gets in foul trouble far too often, which is a death knell for a prospect hoping to make it in an NBA frontcourt. If he's fouling incessantly while playing for Cedevita, he's going to struggle immensely when trying to guard the world's best players during his time on the court. 

    Additionally, he's still figuring out positioning on both ends of the floor, and his rotations can often expose a severe weakness in his team's defensive system. One liability goes a long way in the NBA. 

    As DraftExpress.com's Mike Schmitz explains during a video breakdown of the big man from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Nurkic is in constant foul trouble, primarily because he's a notorious reacher. Additionally, he "takes bad angles and gets burned in the pick-and-roll."

    That's not a good combination, though those weaknesses are admittedly things that can be worked on. 

    Nurkic has a long way to go, though he should continue developing physically while adding even more muscle to his frame. For that reason, he's filled with potential, but it's hard to justify taking a draft-and-stash candidate—whether he'll be stashed overseas, in the D-League or deep on the bench—with a late lottery pick.

    Later in the first round, he's more than worth a flier, but there are well over 14 players who should be taken off the board before his name is called. 

Elfrid Payton

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    USA TODAY Sports

    School: Louisiana-Lafayette

    Position: PG

    Age: 20

    Vitals: 6'4", 185 pounds

    2013-14 Per-Game Stats: 19.2 points, 6.0 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 0.6 blocks, 2.3 steals

     

    I love Elfrid Payton's game. 

    His defensive abilities are astounding, he has plenty of physical tools, he's more than capable of controlling the rock in the face of heavy pressure and he provides quite the boost as a rebounder. On top of that, the small-school tag shouldn't scare anyone away, especially in the wake of backcourt successes like Stephen Curry and Damian Lillard, among others. 

    But as a top-10 prospect? Yikes. 

    Buoyed by a solid workout for the Sacramento Kings, per ESPN.com's Jeff Goodman, he's starting to move up into that range. Wasserman even has him going to those Kings at No. 8 in his post-Finals mock draft

    Thing is, Payton isn't that good.

    Without a reliable perimeter jumper, he's often going to get the Rajon Rondo treatment in the NBA, greeted by sagging defenses that are intent on forcing him into ill-advised shots by cutting off the passing lanes. Between that and the turnover problems he suffered through at Louisiana-Lafayette, created largely by his own attention lapses and lazy passes in non-assist situations, there's no guarantee of immediate offensive success. 

    Payton would be a tremendous value for a point guard-starved team like the Chicago Bulls (No. 16 and No. 19), Oklahoma City Thunder (No. 21 and No. 29) or Miami Heat (No. 26).

    But to go in the top 10?

    That's a reach.