As the 2014 NBA draft approaches, there are a few prospects who are expected to go in the first round that aren't getting enough attention, and there is a particular team for each of them that would be a perfect fit for both sides.
While these prospects are projected to go in the first round, they arguably should go earlier, as they're unique players that could bring a lot to their respective new teams in the NBA. At the same time, it might not be a bad thing for them to go in the middle or the end of the first round, as each could ultimately end up in the perfect landing spot and thrive at the next level.
Below are breakdowns of a few underrated prospects to watch for along with a look at which team would be the best fit for each player.
Tyler Ennis, PG, Syracuse
Even after a breakout freshman season at Syracuse, Tyler Ennis has seemed to be forgotten about at times, especially with all of the hype at the point guard position going to names like Marcus Smart and Dante Exum. However, at only 19 years old, Ennis has the potential to become the best point guard of this draft class over the next five to 10 years.
In his one season at Syracuse, Ennis put up solid numbers, averaging 12.9 points, 5.5 assists, 3.4 rebounds and 2.1 steals per game. He led the competitive ACC in both steals and assists per game, and according to Sports-Reference, he ranked ninth in the conference with a strong 117.4 offensive rating.
Heading into the draft, Ennis doesn't lack confidence, as he believes he's the best point guard in the draft per Jonathan Santiago of CowbellKingdom.com:
I think (I’m) probably the most true point guard of the group. think I’m able to run a team. I think I’m able to score with the best of them in this class as far as point guards. So I’m just gonna go out there and play my game and whether they draft me higher than anybody else, I’m just worried about getting on the right team and the right fit.
For a team that doesn't need a score-first point guard, Ennis is the ideal target. He's a true floor general that can find open teammates, make good decisions with the ball and be aggressive on defense. Despite only playing a year at college, Ennis has an extremely high basketball IQ and is still improving the rest of his game.
If he wants to make an immediate impact, Ennis could be a great fit with the Chicago Bulls. Even if Derrick Rose is healthy for all of next season, the team still needs a backup point guard. Ennis could come in and learn from one of the best point guards in the league while continuing to develop off the bench.
Perfect fit: Chicago Bulls
K.J. McDaniels, SF, Clemson
While everyone loves to look at the prospects that can light up the scoreboard, players that are solid defensively can make an even bigger impact for their team. While he flew under the radar at Clemson, K.J. McDaniels may very well be the best defensive player in this draft.
As the ACC Defensive Player of the Year, McDaniels averaged 17.1 points, 7.1 rebounds and an ACC-leading 2.8 blocks per game despite playing the small forward position. His 3.1 defensive win shares and 6.7 overall win shares were the highest in the conference, per Sports-Reference.
According to Steve Fall of The Sports Resource, McDaniels is the first prospect in the past decade to have 100 blocks and more than 40 made three-pointers in a season:
K.J. McDaniels had 100 blocks and over 40 made threes this season. No player selected in the past 10 #NBADraft classes did that.— Steve Fall (@StatsMan) April 2, 2014
At 6'6'' and 200 pounds, McDaniels uses his length to shut down opposing wing players. He is easily the best shot-blocking wing player in this draft, but there's also a lot to like about him in terms of offense. He's an athletic player that makes explosive plays near the basket and can make plays in transition. He doesn't have a solid jumper, but that could change with the right coaching staff helping him improve his shot.
Since he's projected to go late in the first round, there isn't a more perfect landing spot for McDaniels than the Utah Jazz. According to NBA.com, the Jazz had the worst defensive rating in the league this past season, allowing 109.1 points per 100 possessions. With Richard Jefferson on the final year of his contract, McDaniels could spend a year as a backup and then take over the starting role.
Perfect fit: Utah Jazz
C.J. Wilcox, SG, Washington
When you have as nice of a shot as C.J. Wilcox has, athleticism is overrated.
After spending four years with the Washington Huskies, Wilcox has become a deadly shooter who is ready to take that shot to the NBA. This past season, he averaged 18.3 points per game while leading the Pac-12 with 90 made three-pointers.
From a physical standpoint, Wilcox has the ideal size for a 2-guard in the NBA. He's 6'5'' and just under 200 pounds, but he isn't particularly strong or athletic. According to Kevin Pelton from ESPN, Wilcox also posted an excellent wingspan of just under 6'10'' at the combine:
C.J. Wilcox's wingspan measured at nearly 6-10 at the NBA Draft Combine, which is excellent for a 2-guard.— Kevin Pelton (@kpelton) May 15, 2014
Wilcox has a beautiful shot with a quick release, and he excels in catch-and-shoot sitations. However, it's unlikely that he's going to get much better as he approaches 24 years old. Still, he could be a great scorer off of the bench who could provide a spark when a starting shooting guard needs a rest.
The Houston Rockets love offense, averaging 107.7 points per game this past season. However, they lack a true scoring threat behind James Harden, which is something they need in order to keep their offense going. Since they pick late in the first round, they could take Wilcox in order to spark a bench that ranked No. 26 in the league in scoring last season, per HoopsStats.com.
Perfect fit: Houston Rockets