The 2014 NBA draft features one of the deepest and most well-rounded classes in quite some time. It's highlighted by star power at the top, but even beyond the top-five selections there should be plenty of prospects drafted who make a quick impact.
There is so much talent in the draft that even teams picking in the latter stages of the opening round have a good chance to grab an immediate rotational player. With that many talented prospects, some are always going to generate more attention than others.
With that in mind, let's examine a trio of players who have garnered plenty of buzz leading up to draft day and predict where they may land in the first round. All three possess the "it" factor teams are always looking for from rising stars.
If you watched Wiggins enough during his first and only season at Kansas, you saw a player with the potential to become a massive star at the NBA level. It didn't happen every game, and there's certainly work to do in terms of getting him to become more assertive, but the talent is undoubtedly there.
The 19-year-old Canadian excels in virtually every area. He's a good outside shooter who can also put the ball on the floor and attack the rim. He handles the ball well and can lead the offensive attack. Even his defense is strong for a young player, as he uses his athleticism and length to cause problems.
If he's able to add more bulk to his frame, he'll become the complete package and will be more prepared to handle the wear and tear of an NBA season. Kansas coach Bill Self is clearly confident in what Wiggins is capable of, as noted by Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star:
Bill Self: Andrew Wiggins skill set translates not to becoming a good pro, but a great pro.— Blair Kerkhoff (@BlairKerkhoff) June 17, 2014
It's an accurate assessment, not just coach speak. Wiggins has all the tools to become an elite NBA player once he gains some experience. He's an impact player at both ends of the floor with the athletic ability to make up for any weaknesses in his game. Worthy of the top pick.
Prediction: Cleveland Cavaliers at No. 1
Perhaps the main reason Exum has generated so much hype leading up to the draft is the mystery that surrounds him. The 18-year-old Australian combo guard has an impressive combination of size, athleticism and playmaking ability, but he's a raw talent.
Which of these players will be the best pro?
Not only is he young—even compared to his fellow draftees—but he doesn't have much experience against top competition. He's played in Australia and for the country's youth national teams, but trying to predict how that will translate to the NBA is a tricky task.
In the same vein, it's difficult to project how long it's going to take for him to reach his sky-high potential. Whichever team does take him off the board knows it's taking a risk with the hope it pays off in a major way down the line.
The biggest key for him is working on his shooting mechanics. If he can add a more consistent outside shot to his repertoire to keep opposing defenders honest, everything should fall into place for Exum, maybe even quicker than expected.
Prediction: Orlando Magic at No. 4
Unlike some of his fellow top prospects, Gordon isn't an upper-echelon offensive player. In turn, it took awhile before he started getting the attention he deserved during his only season at Arizona. That changed once he showcased the impact he could have on the defensive end.
A quick glance at the stats (one block and steal per game) wouldn't show it, but few players played better man defense without fouling than him. Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel provided comments from the forward about the pride he takes on that end of the floor:
I love defense just as much as I love scoring. It's really fun for me to make sure that guy can't score, and I love playing both ends of the floor. I think that's what makes a true great basketball player: playing both ends.
The concern surrounds his offensive game, which has lacked variety so far. A lot of his point production comes from offensive rebounds or other close looks around the rim. He needs to develop more post moves and become more reliable at the free-throw line.
Gordon doesn't need to become a main scoring threat to find success at the NBA level. His value lies in his outstanding defense. But if he can at least become a little more efficient offensively, he should easily provide top-10 value.
Prediction: Los Angeles Lakers at No. 7