NBA Draft 2014: Best Defensive Prospects Projected to Go in 1st Round

Tyler BrookeSenior Analyst IIJune 20, 2014

ANAHEIM, CA - MARCH 27:  Aaron Gordon #11 of the Arizona Wildcats smiles in the second half while taking on the San Diego State Aztecs during the regional semifinal of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at the Honda Center on March 27, 2014 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

Fans love to see offense, but NBA franchises thrive on defense, and scouts will be looking at these select few prospects expected to go in the first round of the 2014 NBA draft due to their defensive skills.

While these aren't the top prospects like Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker, they're solid players who made their way through college as defensive anchors for their teams. While they may need some time to develop offensively, these prospects will get plenty of minutes thanks to their effort on the other side of the ball.

With that being said, here are a few projected first-round prospects with some of the best defensive skills.


K.J. McDaniels, SF, Clemson

There was a ton of NBA talent in the ACC this past season, but Clemson Tigers forward K.J. McDaniels went relatively unnoticed. However, as the draft gets closer, more and more people are starting to learn about the aggressive wing defender.

Mar 2, 2014; Clemson, SC, USA; Clemson Tigers forward K.J. McDaniels (32) during the second half against the Maryland Terrapins at J.C. Littlejohn Coliseum. Tigers won 77-73. Mandatory Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

As a junior, McDaniels averaged 17.1 points, 7.1 rebounds and a very impressive 2.8 blocks per game. According to Sports-Reference, he was first in the ACC in blocks per game, defensive win shares and overall win shares and second in defensive rating.

A terrific athlete, McDaniels stands at 6'6" and 200 pounds. His length and athleticism help him a lot defensively, making him the best shot-blocker at small forward in this draft class. While he'll have some work to do on the other side of the ball, McDaniels already looks like a pro-ready defender. 

Steve Fall from The Sports Resource noted that McDaniels is the first prospect in the past decade to have 100 blocks and 40 made three-pointers.

Jason Martin, McDaniels' agent, feels that his defense along with his developed jump shot have helped his draft stock.

"He's defending at a high level, of course, but shooting better than teams were expecting," Martin said, according to Brandon Rink from The State. "The executives I've talked to feel he's shooting up draft boards."

McDaniels will likely go late in the first round, but for a team like the Utah Jazz that desperately needs help defensively, the ACC Defensive Player of the Year could end up being a steal.


Patric Young, PF/C, Florida

ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 05:  Patric Young #4 of the Florida Gators reacts against the Connecticut Huskies during the NCAA Men's Final Four Semifinal at AT&T Stadium on April 5, 2014 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Based off of what we saw at Florida, Patric Young is the definition of a strong defensive prospect, but his limited skills on offense have him projected as either going late in the first round or early in the second.

Young finished his last season at Florida averaging 11.0 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game while shooting 54.1 percent from the floor. His numbers defensively were more impressive, posting a defensive rating of just 92.2 with 8.1 defensive win shares over his career with the Gators (h/t Sports-Reference).

Just by looking at him, you can tell that Young is one of the strongest players in this draft class. At 6'9" and 240 pounds, he has an ideal physical frame to bang with NBA big men down low. He can crash the glass and defend the basket like few in the class, but his offensive game is still very much a work in progress.

While he won't come in and start, Young has a lot of skills that make him an intriguing backup for a number of teams. If he's going to go in the first round, it'll be late, but a team that desperately needs frontcourt depth like the Los Angeles Clippers could reach for him and hope to have him learn from players like Blake Griffin and DeMarcus Cousins.


Aaron Gordon, PF, Arizona

People are quick to compare Aaron Gordon to Blake Griffin, but the two have differing skill sets, and the young man out of Arizona looks like he could be a top-tier defender one day in the Association.

During his time at Arizona, Gordon's offense was on display time and time again with big dunks and impressive athleticism, averaging 12.4 points per game while shooting 49.5 percent. However, his defense tended to go unnoticed; he averaged 8.0 rebounds, 1.0 blocks and 0.9 steals per game. 

Per Sports-Reference, Gordon led the Pac-12 Conference with an impressive 88.6 defensive rating while leading the entire nation with 3.3 defensive win shares. Gordon understands that playing tenacious defense is important to thrive in the NBA, and he enjoys the challenge.

"I love defense just as much as I love scoring," Gordon told Josh Robbins from the Orlando Sentinel. "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."

There are a few prospects at power forward who will all likely go in the top 10, but with Gordon's defense, he may be able to make the case to be selected before Noah Vonleh or Julius Randle.