Aside from the games themselves, no event will be more compelling for NBA fans this year than the 2014 NBA draft.
This draft is a far cry from 2013's version, as it is absolutely stocked with depth as well as top-end talent. Fans will have the opportunity to see some future All-Stars taking in the early part of the first round, but players with that type of potential will be available late in the first round and maybe even the second round as well.
The 2014 draft is one that NBA franchises have been waiting on for a very long time. They'll finally kick things off on Thursday night, so here is everything you need to know about when and where to watch it.
Where: Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York
When: Thursday, June 26 at 7 p.m. ET
Live Stream: WatchESPN
Most Intriguing Prospects to Watch
As the top international prospect in this year's class, there is plenty of hype surrounding Aussie guard Dante Exum. While he is somewhat of an unknown due to questionable competition and limited game tape, Exum is a supremely talented scorer, distributor and defender who could cause some matchup problems at the NBA level.
Although most consider Kansas' Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins, along with Jabari Parker of Duke, to be the elite prospects in this draft, Exum may be the one player capable of overtaking them and jumping into the top three. One person who sees that potentially happening is Exum's Australian national team compatriot, Joe Ingles, according to David Pick of Eurobasket.com:
Joe Ingles on Australian NT roommate and NBA prospect Dante Exum: "He's going No. 3 or 4. I have my sources. Let's see."— David Pick (@IAmDPick) June 12, 2014
Of course, there would be a huge amount of risk involved with taking Exum that early. His ceiling may be as high or higher than any other prospect, though, which is why it is easy to fathom teams with high lottery picks champing at the bit to take him.
All it takes is for one team to fall in love with him, but every organization also has to be wary of the potential pitfalls. Per ESPN's Ryen Russillo, one scout compared Exum to one of the biggest busts in the history of the NBA draft:
Talked to a scout last night about Exum who said this has "Tskitishvili written all over it" will be in part2 of @Grantland33 NBA Draft feat— Russillo (@ryenarussillo) June 10, 2014
It takes guts to roll the dice on a player like Exum, but the draft is about limiting risk in many ways as well. It's an easier pill to swallow when a heavily scouted collegiate player busts rather than a total wild card like Exum. However, someone will inevitably cross their fingers and hope that Exum reaches his potential.
If Exum is the biggest unknown in this draft, then forward Doug McDermott may very well be the biggest known. Most top prospects leave college after one or two years at the most, but McDermott is a true throwback in that he remained at Creighton for all four years and enters the 2014 draft as a likely lottery pick.
McDermott made strides with each passing season and put an exclamation point on his collegiate career by winning the Naismith National Player of the Year Award. McDermott averaged a career-high 26.7 points per game and beat the opposition in myriad ways. There isn't much mystery when it comes to McDermott since he has been among the top college players over the past three years, but there are still differing opinions regarding how he might translate to the NBA.
McDermott is a naturally gifted scorer with good size, but an anonymous NBA executive believes that his level of NBA success will come down to which team ultimately takes him more than anything, according to Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com.
I thought McDermott would get drafted mid-first round to late-first round (in 2013), get drafted to a good team and be a very good player because he knows how to play. He can make shots. If he's in the right place, he's going to be successful. But if he ends up getting drafted in the top 10 and he goes to a bad team, it's not going to look good. ... You put him on the Milwaukee Bucks, the Milwaukee Bucks still (stink). You put him on the Spurs and it's like, man, the Spurs found another gem.
It's difficult to imagine McDermott being selected much higher than No. 10 or so, which means he definitely has a shot at immediate success. Some of the teams picking later in the lottery aren't far away from contention, and McDermott could possibly be that missing piece.
McDermott is used to being the centerpiece, so playing a supporting role in the NBA initially will require some adjustments, but he should be a productive contributor in some capacity.
Few expected the Connecticut Huskies to win the national championship this past season entering the NCAA tournament, but guard Shabazz Napier took over and reminded many of what Kemba Walker did just a few years earlier. Walker is starting to come into his own in the NBA as a member of the Charlotte Hornets, and Napier would certainly love to follow in his footsteps once again.
Which 2014 NBA draft prospect intrigues you most?
Napier wasn't quite as explosive as Walker during his time with UConn, but it can be argued that he was a more complete player. Napier put up 18 points per game as a senior with the Huskies and averaged nearly six rebounds and five assists per contest as well. Add in his 40 percent success rate from downtown, and it is fair to say that Napier has it all.
The main thing that could hinder his draft stock, however, is his diminutive size. Napier stands just 6'1" and weighs 175 pounds, so there is some concern that he could get pushed around by bigger defenders. What he lacks in size, though, Napier more than makes up for in terms of intangibles, according to Scott Souza of the MetroWest Daily News:
#Celtics coach Brad Stevens: Shabazz Napier makes big shots when it matters. That's something that doesn't come across in wing-span measure.— Scott Souza (@scott_souza) June 16, 2014
Napier hit countless big shots for UConn down the stretch last year, which is something that every NBA team would love to have. Napier is talented enough to be a lottery pick, but he could easily fall to the latter part of the first round. If that happens, then an already solid team will come away with a potentially great player.
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