NBA Draft 2014: Playing "Boom or Bust" with Incoming Prospects
The NBA offseason will officially kick into high gear with the commencement of the 2014 draft, which is primed to be the most memorable since 2003.
With potential franchise-changing talents littering the lottery and future starters available throughout Round 1, this year's prospect parade has the chance to define the future of the Association.
But once highly touted names like Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Joel Embiid depart Barclays Center on June 26, it will be time to explore how they can assist their new teams.
Before they're selected, though, we've chosen to break down the biggest prospects' strengths and weaknesses in order to project whether they will prosper or falter at the next level.
As a guide, please note that players are listed alphabetically by first name, starting with Arizona's Aaron Gordon.
Aaron Gordon, F, Arizona
Projected Draft Range: 6-10
Knock his lack of offensive development all you want, but Aaron Gordon is the sort of above-the-rim playmaker perfectly suited for the NBA.
While the majority of his early-career offensive production may come via second-chance opportunities, transition and lobs, that shouldn't stop Gordon from establishing himself as a force on both ends of the floor.
Arguably the draft's best athlete, Gordon turned in the NBA draft combine's seventh-fastest time in the lane agility drill (10.81 seconds) and top shuttle time (2.76 seconds).
That blinding speed figures to translate into some exceptional defense at the next level, which is where Gordon made hay under Sean Miller at Arizona.
During his freshman season with the Wildcats, Gordon flashed tremendous defensive instincts, which resulted in some gaudy numbers.
Per Sports-Reference.com, Gordon posted a defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions) of 88.6, which was tops among all players in the country.
Additionally, Gordon led the nation in defensive win shares (3.3) and ranked first in the Pac-12 in total offensive rebounds (102).
A vicious defender whose length resulted in consistently disruptive closeouts, it's no wonder Gordon has drawn comparisons to Shawn Marion throughout the predraft process.
It's going to take Gordon some time to develop a clean and consistent jumper, but lottery teams should feel comfortable selecting him knowing that he has the tools necessary to contribute right away.
Adreian Payne, PF, Michigan State
Projected Draft Range: 15-20
Adreian Payne may slip out of the lottery after deciding to play out the entirety of his collegiate career in East Lansing, but the former Michigan State Spartan has one of the more versatile skill sets in this year's class.
Capable of putting the rock on the deck or spotting up and stretching the floor, Payne possesses the tenacity and well-rounded game necessary to torment NBA defenses.
A simply explosive leaper at the rim, Payne torched opponents to the tune of 16.4 points per game during his senior season while shooting 50.3 percent from the floor. He also shot 68 percent at the rim, which was the second-highest mark among Michigan State players who attempted at least 100 field goals last season, per Hoop-Math.
And while most 6'10" power forwards are typically restricted to playing within 15 feet of the basket, Payne is unconventional in that he can space the hardwood and knock down threes with surprising consistency.
Last season, Payne made 42.3 percent of his looks from beyond the arc, which represented a roughly four percent increase over the previous year.
A marginal role may await Payne in year one, but if he can learn to take care of the ball (career-high two turnovers per game last season) and improve his defensive awareness, he'll emerge as a key bench cog in due time.
Andrew Wiggins, SF, Kansas
Projected Draft Range: Top three
Opinions vary wildly regarding Kansas swingman Andrew Wiggins after the former high school phenom put forth a hot-and-cold showing during his freshman season in Lawrence.
Detractors point to Wiggins' lack of a killer instinct as a reason he may fall flat in the NBA, but there were a number of encouraging signs down the stretch.
When Wiggins was given the keys to Bill Self's offense with Joel Embiid out of the lineup, he looked far more comfortable, dropping 41 points on 12-of-18 shooting against West Virginia and 30 points on 9-of-17 shooting in an overtime win against Oklahoma State.
Granted, it was a small sample size, but Wiggins also consistently flashed a clean jump shooting stoke with very little wasted motion.
And with the burst necessary to get to the rim, Wiggins has laid the foundation for what could one day be a potent and versatile offensive game.
That said, there are some legitimate concerns about his ability to handle the ball in traffic, which contributed to 2.3 turnovers per game last season.
However, we'd be remiss if we didn't mention Wiggins' breathtaking defensive potential, which is all centered around his superb combination of length and lateral quickness.
With the physical tools necessary to guard multiple positions (1 through 3, at least) and a 7'0" wingspan that figures to drive opposing ball-handlers nuts, Wiggins looks like he could develop into the real deal.
Dante Exum, G, Australia
Projected Draft Range: Top five
In a league that's constantly redefining positional characteristics, Dante Exum feels like the sort of new-wave point guard who could pay dividends for his future employer.
However, that doesn't mean questions don't abound regarding the hottest international commodity in this year's class.
Here's what we know:
Exum has tremendous size for a point guard at 6'6", which allows him to see over defenders and create for his teammates. His length also figures to be a major plus, considering his 6'9.5" wingspan measured out as the longest among guards at the NBA combine.
Given those physical traits on paper, Exum looks like he could wind up being a quality passer and defender from the jump.
But there are some concerning signs, as an NBA scout recently told the Boston Globe's Baxter Holmes.
“Again, is he not a tremendous prospect? I’m not going to say that,” the scout said, per Holmes. “Is he a potential All-Star? I don’t know. Is he someone who if I was drafting, and I haven’t seen him play other than a one-on-zero workout, would I consider drafting him top five? No [expletive] way.
The Western Conference scout went on to tell Holmes, “I saw him play every conceivable level of basketball. He’s not a point guard. Just because you can dribble in a straight line and dunk doesn’t make you a point guard.”
Combine his inability to play off the ball and inconsistent jump shot, and detractors will have a laundry list of items to point to.
However, Exum's already displayed an ability to score using a variety of off-the-dribble maneuvers while demonstrating unselfish tendencies on an international stage.
Attacking the rim isn't going to be a problem for Exum at the next level thanks to his size and speed, but it'll be crucial that he develops a stronger left hand, for his right-handed tendencies dominate the majority of film that's available on the Australian phenom.
An advanced comfort in the pick-and-roll will work wonders for Exum's game, and it also helps that he excels in transition. Should a team that prefers playing a fast pace—like the Philadelphia 76ers—jump at the opportunity to take Exum, he'll likely thrive sooner rather than later.
Considering he's still just 18 years old, Exum gets the seal of approval as a prospect who should boom with gusto as his game develops more completely in the NBA.
Dario Saric, F, Croatia
Projected Draft Range: 12-17
What are we to make of Dario Saric?
At last check, the versatile Croatian forward had not worked out for a single NBA team during the predraft process, per EuroBasket's David Pick.
Not only that, but Pick also reported back in May that Saric planned on making the transition to the Association only if drafted by the Boston Celtics or Los Angeles Lakers.
Whether he plays in the NBA this season or years down the line remains to be seen, but there's still plenty to break down after Saric tormented international defenses throughout Europe for years.
Possessing one of the most versatile offensive portfolios in his class, Saric showed a determination to take slower defenders off the dribble, particularly along the baseline.
He's comfortable creating on or off the ball, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that his player efficiency rating ballooned to a career-best 23.0 in the Adriatic League last season, according to DraftExpress.
But with all of his offensive pleasantries come a bevy of defensive concerns.
With questions abounding regarding Saric's athleticism and strength, his future position remains unclear.
He's not strong enough to defend 4s in the post, so Saric may be forced to play the 3, which would be problematic given his apparent lack of foot speed.
A creative offensive talent whose shooting stroke could still use a bit of work, we'll pass on Saric as the next big thing from across the pond.
Doug McDermott, F, Creighton
Projected Draft Range: 8-12
Here's what we know about Creighton's Doug McDermott: He can shoot the lights out, regardless of where he is on the floor.
During his breakout Wooden Award-winning senior season, McDermott ran through opponents to the tune of 26.7 points per game on 52.6 percent shooting from the field and 44.9 percent shooting from three.
Those numbers are commendable, but we can't be sure they'll translate to professional success.
Projected as a mid-range lottery pick, it would be foolish to expect McDermott to enter the Association and produce anything that resembles replication of those obscene numbers.
Expectations should be tempered if he's selected in the draft's top 10 picks, namely due to the question marks surrounding his defensive capabilities.
Although his athletic testing numbers at the NBA combine were stronger than expected (36.5" max vertical jump, stronger agility time than Tyler Ennis and Rodney Hood, per Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman), there are some real concerns regarding his ability to stick pro-caliber athletes.
As DraftExpress notes, McDermott doesn't have the ideal size to defend power forwards at the next level, and he's not exactly fast enough to keep up with the league's best 3s.
On tape, it's clear that defenders who have a quick first step are more than capable of blowing by McDermott. And once he falls behind, McDermott often lacks the speed to recover and the length to disrupt shots.
He may very well wind up being a nice complementary scorer off the bench, but his status as a top-10 pick may mar fans' ability to view him as a success should he stumble out of the gates.
Elfrid Payton, PG, Louisiana-Lafayette
Projected Draft Range: 12-18
These days, versatility is the name of the game for NBA point guards.
And if you're a franchise looking for a floor general with a track record of producing in a number of different ways, look no further than Elfrid Payton.
One of the hidden gems of this year's first round, Payton solidified his position as a first-round pick during a breakout junior season at Louisiana-Lafayette, averaging 19.2 points, six rebounds and 5.9 assists over the course of 35 games.
In fact, Payton was the only player in the country last season to average at least 19 points, six boards and five dimes, per Sports-Reference.
And while Payton struggled to find his outside shot (25.9 percent from three), he was particularly strong pushing the pace and scoring on the move.
According to DraftExpress, Payton generated 1.13 points per possession in transition, play types which accounted for 24.4 percent of his offense last season.
With quick hands and even quicker feet, Payton also displayed an ability to disrupt point guards' dribble drives on a consistent basis, which should aid his cause upon making the leap to the NBA.
The hype surrounding Payton doesn't equal that of Dante Exum or even Marcus Smart, but his game is well rounded enough to be valued at the next level.
Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State
Projected Draft Range: 10-14
Gary Harris isn't going to blow fans away with his physical measurements like some overhyped draft prospects, but his reliability on both ends of the floor should make him a lottery lock come June 26.
One of the draft's more polished two-way prospects, Harris has all the makings of a prototypical three-and-D wing at the next level despite his 6'4'' frame.
Not only is Harris capable of knocking down triples at a nice clip (35.5 percent last season, 38.8 percent in conference play), but he also doesn't need the ball in his hands to be productive, as Bleacher Report NBA draft guru Jonathan Wasserman notes.
According to Wasserman, "He also moves extremely well without the ball. Harris knows how to get himself open by rubbing off screens and losing his man through traffic. He's not a guy who needs to rely on one-on-one scoring. He can play without the ball and make shots within his team's offensive flow."
There's also the matter of Harris' plus-defensive chops, which were on display throughout his sophomore season at Michigan State.
Wasserman has the details:
Despite lacking size and length, Harris is a disciplined, active and heads-up defender. He's not afraid to really get in his man's grill and bump him off track, whether he's a point guard or shooting guard. And he doesn't take plays off—Harris always looks engaged at the defensive end of the floor, where he shows high IQ and effort levels.
There's nothing flashy about what Harris has to offer, but that's a positive in this case. Arguably one of the "safer" picks in this year's class, the polished shooting guard has the makings of a long-term starter in the Association.
Jabari Parker, F, Duke
Projected Draft Range: Top three
The pros and cons regarding Duke's Jabari Parker have been well established by this point.
By now, you likely know Parker is the draft's most NBA-ready scorer, one who can step back and knock down threes or go to work down on the blocks with his excellent frame.
A 50.4 percent shooter on two-point shots last season and 35.8 percent shooter from three, Parker should make a seamless transition to the Association when it comes to piling up points.
Additionally, Parker is an exceptional rebounder for a player his size. During his freshman season at Duke, Parker led the ACC in total rebounds (306) and rebounds per game (8.7) while posting a player efficiency rating of 28.4, which graded out as the second-best mark in one of the nation's toughest conferences, per Sports-Reference.com.
But Parker is far from a finished product, which is to be expected of a 19-year-old.
Against quick and lengthy defenders like Arizona's Aaron Gordon, Parker was often unable to free himself up for clean looks, which is a concern that will also translate to his defense at the next level.
Lacking anything close to elite lateral quickness, Parker may find himself struggling to develop on the defensive end.
With positional ambiguity hanging over his head as well (too slow to guard 3s, too small to guard 4s), it may take Parker some time to adjust to life against more physically imposing athletes.
That said, Parker's ability to pack the stat sheet should mask some of his defensive deficiencies early on (it's worked in the past for Michael Carter-Williams, Damian Lillard and Kyrie Irving) and make him one of the gems of this year's class.
James Young, G/F, Kentucky
Projected Draft Range: 13-18
James Young's freshman season at Kentucky doesn't stand out when compared to the campaigns of Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker or Joel Embiid, but that doesn't mean he can't be an impact player moving forward.
As Bleacher Report's Jason King noted back in May, there's plenty to like about Young's pro prospects, including his defensive versatility:
His skill set will transfer well in the NBA. In addition, he has good size (6’6”, 215 pounds) and moves extremely well. He can defend multiple positions and can beat his opponent off the dribble. He’s billed as a shooter—although he made a pedestrian 34.9 percent of his three-pointers as a freshman—but he can do so much more than that.
For his size, Young's max vertical jump (35.5" at the NBA combine) was rather pedestrian, but he should be able to make up for it with his outside shooting stoke and pull-up jumpers off of one or two dribbles.
According to Hoop-Math, 52.2 percent of Young's shots last season came from beyond the arc, and 97.6 percent of his conversions from deep were assisted.
Given those numbers, it's reasonable to think Young could emerge as a nice catch-and-shoot option in the NBA, especially when you consider that he doesn't turn 19 years old until August. The key will be slotting him at the 2 as opposed to the 3, where he'd be tasked with sizing up much more athletic defenders.
The product may not be finished just yet, but the pieces are in place for Young to develop into a steady contributor with some more fine-tuning.
Jarnell Stokes, PF, Tennessee
Projected Draft Range: 22-28
Jarnell Stokes isn't going to wow teams with a loaded offensive arsenal, but his energy and nonstop engine should make him a long-term staple of NBA rotations.
One of seven players in the country to average at least 15 points and 10 rebounds last season, per Sports-Reference.com, Stokes' junior campaign was marked by dominance on the glass and an aggressive attitude on offense.
The SEC leader in offensive rebounds (155) and the NCAA's third-leading rebounder last season, Stokes showed tremendous instincts on the boards while constantly shielding off his man when the ball was in the air.
Also the SEC's most efficient player last season, Stokes posted a player efficiency rating of 27.6, which was higher than fellow prospects like Julius Randle, Patric Young and Jordan Clarkson, per Sports-Reference.
An inability to post up repeatedly in the NBA remains a lingering concern, but Stokes should be able to produce enough via straight drives to the cup and second chances to impress early and often.
Joel Embiid, C, Kansas
Projected Draft Range: Top six
Convention was destroyed last Thursday the moment it was announced that Joel Embiid suffered a stress fracture in his right foot, stripping him of his status as the likely No. 1 overall pick.
Now, with Embiid's future employer uncertain, we have to try to project just how scary this sort of ailment is.
Let's start with the basics.
According to Basketball Insiders' Alex Kennedy, Embiid's injury was not to a metatarsal, but instead to the navicular bone. The concerning news there, per Kennedy, is that Embiid's injury is eerily similar to that of Yao Ming, whose career was shortened to eight seasons due to a litany of foot issues.
What's perhaps more troubling is that Embiid's stress fracture may be indicative of a larger, long-term problem, according to Dr. Ken Jung, via Bleacher Report's Will Carroll:
Having multiple stress fractures can certainly indicate a systemic problem. Stress fractures can occur due to metabolic reasons where the body's ability to heal from the stress of working out is overloaded. Factors affecting bone health include endocrine/hormones, diet, and genetics. Training regimen plays a huge factor, especially if the individual is undergoing intense workouts or a new workout regimen.
The good news is that Embiid doesn't figure to fall too far on draft day, despite injury concerns.
"After polling teams, currently Embiid's range appears to be 3-6 right now," ESPN's Chad Ford tweeted last Thursday.
Given his tremendous upside, shot-blocking prowess (4.5 per 40 minutes last season) and continuously developing offensive game, Embiid could wind up being a steal should he fall out of the top three or even top five.
But at a certain point, teams will have to realize that Embiid not only represents the best value on the board, but is far and away the best talent as well.
Averages per 40 minutes of 19.4 points, 14 rebounds and 4.5 blocks, per Sports-Reference.com, point to Embiid's insane potential, which remains the highest in this year's class.
We can talk about Greg Oden, Sam Bowie, Ming and Bill Walton all we want, but Embiid is a case independent of those four.
Common threads link them, sure, but there's no way of knowing whether Embiid will boom or bust. For now, all we have to go on is his tremendous freshman season and the promise that lies ahead.
Prediction: Boom (Tentatively)
Jordan Adams, SG, UCLA
Projected Draft Range: 20-30
One of three likely first-round picks out of UCLA, shooting guard Jordan Adams enters the NBA draft fresh off of a season that saw him finish as the Pac-12's fourth-leading scorer.
The good news is that Adams figures to find at least moderate success in the NBA because he doesn't need the ball in his hands at all times.
Whether he's using his strength on the blocks, cutting backdoor or catching outlets in transition, Adams is capable of finding ways to contribute.
But unlike teammate Zach LaVine, Adams' stock may be dropping due to a lack of athleticism and a jump shot that needs polishing, according to Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman:
Offensively, with a 29.5" max vertical, he lacks that spring to elevate for easy buckets above the rim. And though he improved his three-point percentage, his consistency has suffered. Adams' mechanics tend to change when he's under pressure, and he's sometimes vulnerable to throwing up a brick.
He could also stand to improve his handle—you don't often see Adams create off the dribble.
To reinforce Wasserman's final point, it's worth noting that Adams generated only 8.1 percent of his offense out of isolations and pick-and-rolls, per DraftExpress, which isn't ideal for a prospect with hopes of playing the 2.
Jordan Clarkson, G, Missouri
Projected Draft Range: 25-30
The Missouri Tigers' second-leading scorer behind Jabari Brown last season, combo-guard Jordan Clarkson is seeking to become his school's first first-round selection since DeMarre Carroll in 2010.
At his best when moving toward the rim with a full head of steam, Clarkson averaged 17.5 points per game during his junior season while shooting 50.1 percent on two-point shots.
However, Clarkson's three-point field-goal percentage dipped to a career-worst 28.1, which exposed some flaws in his jump shooting stroke (0.76 points per possession on jump shots, per DraftExpress).
Similar to Jordan Adams in that he's more comfortable using his size to bully opponents below the free-throw line, Clarkson figures to slot in at shooting guard in the NBA given how weak of a passer he was throughout his college career.
Averages of 2.7 dimes and 2.7 turnovers a night over the course of three college seasons exposed some of Clarkson's deficiencies as a distributor, so there will undoubtedly be a learning curve in that regard.
Constantly needing the ball in his hands to create, Clarkson's ball-dominant tendencies likely won't fly in a marginalized role in the NBA—at least not right away.
Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky
Projected Draft Range: 6-10
Once considered a top-five lock, Julius Randle's draft stock has fluctuated a bit in recent weeks due to a number of factors.
Concern regarding Randle's troublesome foot combined with Noah Vonleh's rave reviews and Aaron Gordon's defensive versatility have put the former Kentucky Wildcat in a bit of an unknown position entering draft week.
However, Randle remains one of the more unique prospects in this year's class thanks to his blend of size and speed, which were on full display during his breakout freshman season.
A double-double machine with Big Blue, Randle averaged a gaudy 19.4 points and 13.5 rebounds per 40 minutes, per Sports-Reference, en route to solidifying his spot as the nation's leading rebounder.
Over the course of 40 games, Randle pulled down 416 rebounds, good for the No. 1 mark in the SEC and the nation.
Conjuring up images of Memphis Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph thanks to his relentless attitude down low, Randle has all of the makings of a potentially dominant low-post presence.
Factor in his ability to break down slower defenders off the dribble and push the rock in transition, and Randle could wind up being a steal if he slips to the Los Angeles Lakers at pick No. 7.
Kyle Anderson, SF, UCLA
Projected Draft Range: 22-28
Versatility, thy name is Kyle Anderson.
The 6'8" swingman out of UCLA stuffed stat sheets last season by averaging more than 14 points and six assists per game, one of six players to accomplish that feat. And according to Sports-Reference.com, Anderson was the only player classified as a forward grouped among those six.
When examining Anderson's game on film, it's hard not to marvel at his length (7'2" wingspan, per DraftExpress) and the problems it caused smaller defenders.
A sensational passer for his size, Anderson feels like a poor man's Andre Iguodala in the regard that he could conceivably play point-forward down the line and doesn't need to knock down shots in order to help his team.
The problem is that Anderson's not nearly as athletic as Iguodala, which is particularly evident on tape.
Blowing past NBA-caliber defenders will be especially challenging for Anderson, and that concern translates to the defensive end as well.
A rotational role may be in the cards for Anderson down the line, but he simply doesn't possess the compelling upside necessary to boom upon arrival.
Marcus Smart, G, Oklahoma State
Projected Draft Range: Top seven
Marcus Smart's controversial decision to return for his sophomore season at Oklahoma State may have affected his draft stock slightly, but indications are that he'll be one of the first seven players selected on June 26.
A 2013 consensus All-American, Smart has the physical structure necessary to compete in the NBA, and then some. At 6'3" and 227 pounds with a 6'9" wingspan, Smart is the sort of durable point guard franchises are looking to build around.
And much like Elfrid Payton, Smart is capable of doing it all. Not only is he a proven scoring threat off the dribble and in the post, but he's also a wrecking ball capable of crashing the glass.
Last season, Smart pulled down 5.9 rebounds per game, one of eight sophomore guards to accomplish that feat, according to Sports-Reference.com.
Thanks to his aggression, Smart is capable of wreaking havoc once he gains a full head of steam, and he demonstrated that ability last season to the tune of 9.9 free-throw attempts per 40 minutes, according to Sports-Reference.
Smart's tenacious on-court personality also resulted in an individual defensive rating of 89.1 over the course of two collegiate seasons, giving him bonus two-way versatility that teams can salivate over.
However, questions arise when discussing Smart's ability to knock down jump shots consistently (42.2 percent from the field last season, an improvement over 40.4 percent the year before).
His shot looks correctable with some coaching and extended practice time, but it's certainly not going to be one of his core strengths entering year one.
If that shot ever comes around, Smart will be a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses.
Nik Stauskas, SG, Michigan
Projected Draft Range: 8-11
It would be unfair to label Michigan's Nik Stauskas as simply a shooter, because he evolved into so much more during his sophomore season at Michigan.
A scoring threat on and off the ball, Stauskas shot 50 percent on two-pointers and 44.2 percent on threes last season en route to earning consensus All-American honors.
Stauskas' smooth jumper will undoubtedly make fans across the league swoon, but there are several qualities to like about his game once you get past the lethal stroke.
Judicious with the ball, Stauskas constantly maximized possessions at the collegiate level, particularly out of the pick-and-roll.
When bigger defenders were switched onto him, Stauskas repeatedly used the additional space on the perimeter to rise and fire, whereas smaller defenders had a difficult time keeping pace when he decided to pound the rock for a few dribbles and create space with his step-back jumper.
Another encouraging sign: After averaging just 1.3 assists per game during his freshman season with the Wolverines, Stauskas dropped 3.3 dimes a night as a sophomore.
Defensive concerns certainly linger after he allowed 109 points per 100 possessions last season, but Stauskas' offensive future in the NBA looks incredibly bright.
Noah Vonleh, PF, Indiana
Projected Draft Range: Top five
No player is rising up draft boards faster than Indiana's Noah Vonleh in the days leading up to the NBA draft, and for good reason.
Vonleh's range of skills is among the most versatile in this year's draft, especially when you consider that he's got the size to play down on the blocks and the shot necessary to stretch the floor, like he did last season at Indiana.
And as Bleacher Report's Daniel O'Brien recently opined, don't be surprised if Vonleh sneaks into the draft's top three thanks to those impressive qualities:
Scouts already knew he could finish above the rim with ease, and his 13.6 rebounds per 40 minutes as a freshman speak for themselves. But during the workouts, he's proved that his 2013-14 three-point shooting was no fluke and, perhaps more impressively, that he's agile and can dribble-drive, too.
To expand on O'Brien's observations, take a gander at some of these eye-popping numbers from Vonleh's freshman season, courtesy of Sports-Reference.com:
- 48.5 percent shooting from three on 1.1 attempts per game
- Individual defensive rating (points surrendered per 100 possessions) of 91.7
- Big Ten leader in total rebounding percentage (19.4)
- Big Ten leader in total offensive rebounds (198)
- 1.4 blocks per game; 2.1 blocks per 40 minutes
It's undoubtedly going to take some time for Vonleh to evolve into a deadly force on offense, but the fact that he's already comfortable playing from a variety of spots on the floor should help his cause when sizing up fellow NBA bigs.
P.J. Hairston, SG, Texas Legends
Projected Draft Range: 18-24
A robust shooting guard dismissed from North Carolina in December, P.J. Hairston made a name for himself by scorching the nets with the D-League's Texas Legends last season.
With scoring prowess both inside and outside the arc, Hairston should find points relatively easy to come by at the next level thanks to his ideal size at 6'5" and nearly 230 pounds.
And as Bleacher Report's Daniel O'Brien writes, Hairston should be able to use his long-range shooting capabilities to torment defenses in more ways than one:
Hairston won't handle the ball a ton or create dynamically off the dribble in the NBA, but he'll sprinkle in some forceful plays at the rim.
Defenders often stick to him on the perimeter due to his shooting ability, and he uses that against them by cutting to the basket for layups, dunks and alley-oops. He also makes timely plays at the hoop from weak-side rebounds.
A 35.8 percent shooter from deep in 26 games with the Legends, Hairston consistently flashed an ability to score from three. That said, he'll need to shore up his stroke from the corners (15-of-46, 32.6 percent, per NBA.com) in order to truly stretch defenses out.
Given his build, scoring capabilities, experience and length, expect Hairston to make an instant impact off the bench as a rotational three-and-D wing.
Rodney Hood, G/F, Duke
Projected Draft Range: 12-16
There's a reason why Duke's Rodney Hood has received hype as a potential lottery pick since the winter.
The Mississippi State transfer broke out during his lone season in Durham, averaging a shade over 16 points while shooting 42 percent from three.
With a lethal release that resembles that of the Miami Heat's Rashard Lewis, Hood established himself not just as a three-point specialist, but as a multifaceted offensive weapon capable of scoring in a variety of play types.
Thanks to an NBA-ready frame that's creeping toward 6'9" in shoes, Hood displayed a confidence off the dribble that many wings his size lack.
As a result, the swingman shot 49.4 percent on two-point shots as a sophomore, which helped him generate 122.5 points per 100 possessions, according to Sports-Reference.com.
Questions come into play regarding Hood's defense, and as Mike Schmitz noted in DraftExpress' scouting report, his lackadaisical tendencies could manifest themselves in the form of disappointment at the next level.
It's hard not to love Hood's offerings on offense, but he'll need to be drafted by a club (the Chicago Bulls, perhaps?) that requires players to hunker down on both ends of the floor in order to truly flourish.
Prediction: Bust (Pending defensive improvement)
Shabazz Napier, PG, UConn
Projected Draft Range: 20-25
A household name after leading UConn to two national titles in four years, point guard Shabazz Napier enters the NBA draft with question marks surrounding his pro potential.
Soon to be 23 years old, Napier established himself under Kevin Ollie as a volume scorer, pouring in 18 points per game on an average of 12.4 field-goal attempts last season. Give him space, and Napier can burn you from beyond the arc, where he shot a career-best 40.5 percent last year.
And while his ability to score in spurts will surely be valued at the next level, he doesn't fit the mold of your average NBA point guard.
With a score-first mindset and turnover-prone habits (2.9 per game last season), Napier's game resembles that of a pro shooting guard.
However, at just 6'1", Napier will need to develop into a more unselfish floor general as he's asked to distribute and potentially lead a second unit down the line.
Far from an efficient scorer, Napier has to show more discipline and a willingness to create for others in order to truly reach his full potential.
T.J. Warren, F, N.C. State
Projected Draft Range: 16-24
When it comes to N.C. State's T.J. Warren, it's all about getting buckets.
Which is both a good and bad thing.
Warren was one of four players to average at least 24 points last season, per Sports-Reference.com, and he did so on a tremendous 52.5 percent shooting from the field.
And because we spent much of last season fawning over Warren's scoring capabilities, it was easy to overlook his shortcomings on defense.
Lacking the lateral quickness necessary to stay in front of NBA-quality small forwards, Warren figures to struggle mightily at the next level when matched up against quicker, more agile 3s.
His measurables don't help matters either, possessing just a 6'10" wingspan and 35.5" max vertical jump.
It's also worth noting that Warren's three-point field-goal percentage plummeted to an alarming 26.7 last season after shooting 51.9 percent from deep during his freshman season while his free-throw conversion rate leveled out at 65.4 percent over the course of two campaigns.
Perhaps a playoff-caliber team can put Warren's scoring touch to use at the back end of its rotation, but he doesn't feel like a reliable two-way talent at this time.
Tyler Ennis, PG, Syracuse
Projected Draft Range: 16-20
As a freshman, Tyler Ennis displayed a flair for the dramatic with his late-game heroics propelling Syracuse to stunning victories.
And like Michael Carter-Williams before him, Ennis turned heads with the Orange thanks to his brilliant court vision and selfless play.
During his lone season at Syracuse, Ennis dropped 5.5 assists per game, which translated to 6.2 per 40 minutes, according to Sports-Reference.com.
What's more encouraging is that Ennis was extremely careful with the ball, turning it over just 1.7 times per game, resulting in an assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.24. Among the NCAA's top 40 assist leaders, only one (Kenneth Smith) boasted a higher ratio.
Always playing with his head up and looking for the open man, Ennis is the sort of unselfish talent that can thrive in a pro offense.
Concerns regarding Ennis' ability to score consistently are valid after he shot 41.1 percent from the field last season, but he wasn't afraid to let it fly from three, knocking down 35.3 percent of his looks on 2.5 attempts per game.
Some added confidence on dribble drives and a more decisive mentality when attacking could help mitigate some of Ennis' deficiencies, but they're not glaring enough to drag his stock down.
Zach LaVine, SG, UCLA
Projected Draft Range: 12-16
At 19 years old, UCLA's Zach LaVine is one of this year's tougher prospects to try to peg.
Look at his positive qualities, and it's hard not to compare LaVine to a poor man's Gerald Green. He can jump out of the gym and is capable of knocking down threes.
But when it comes to the former Bruin, there are just too many unknowns to classify him as a potential boomer.
During his freshman campaign, LaVine shot a respectable 37.5 percent from three. But a player efficiency rating of 14.6 and defensive rating of 104.8, per Sports-Reference.com, exemplified just how much work he needs to put in to develop into a complete prospect.
As DraftExpress notes, LaVine proved to be an inconsistent creator in the half court, mustering just 0.59 points per possession in isolation situations. In addition, he made just 17 shots at the rim in half-court sets over the span of 37 games, which is a troubling number given how much he'll be asked to execute in such situations at the next level.
A 0.65 point-per-possession output in pick-and-rolls further demonstrates how limited LaVine's offense is at this stage, meaning he's constrained to transition opportunities and spot-up situations in order to generate points.
Landing with a team that likes pushing the pace (Phoenix comes to mind as a potential fit) would help mask some of LaVine's inefficiencies, but he has a long way to go in order to become a consistent contributor.
All player measurements courtesy of DraftExpress unless noted otherwise.
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