Ranking the Best Under-the-Radar 2014 NBA Draft Prospects
Who doesn't love under-the-radar prospects? These are the diamonds in the rough—the guys who don't make national headlines but might ultimately represent prizes in the 2014 draft field.
They're not all All-Star upside players, but many should have a shot at locking down rotation spots in the league. And when general managers are preparing their evaluations and draft boards, that's what most of them will be looking for.
10. Jordan Bachynski, Arizona State, 7'2", C, Senior
Sometimes, it just clicks.
After three underwhelming seasons with the Sun Devils, Jordan Bachynski spent time with the Canadian National Development team at the World University Games this summer. And now he looks like a completely new man.
Bachynski only racked up five double-doubles all season as a junior. Through 11 games as a senior, he's averaging a double-double with 12.9 points and 10 boards per game.
At 7'2", his NBA appeal is obvious. Bachynski is averaging 4.5 blocks per game, which ranks him No. 2 in the country.
But he's also improved his touch and expanded the scoring threat he poses around the rim. He's shooting roughly 66 percent from the field on the year. Only twice so far has he missed more than three shots in a game, and one of those he finished with 17 points.
Guys with this type of size don't come around very often. If Bachynski hasn't hit radars yet, he will soon.
9. Elfrid Payton, Louisiana-Lafayette, 6'3", PG, Junior
He might not be a nationally recognized name, but NBA scouts are familiar with Elfrid Payton. He was invited to play on the Under-19 FIBA World Championship team that won gold in Prague this past summer, where he held his own throughout the tournament.
And it seems he's used the experience as a building block. Payton has taken his game to a new level and is now averaging 20 points, six boards and 5.5 assists on 46 percent shooting. Lightning quick and crafty in the lane, Payton is a pure, breakdown point guard.
He's got NBA size for the position, as well as the dribble creativity and attack game that goes with it. So tough to stay in front of, Payton is averaging a ridiculous 10.5 free-throw attempts, good for No. 2 in the country.
His outside shot is his obvious Achilles' heel, as he's only 4-of-22 from downtown to start the year, after making just 16 threes as a sophomore.
But Payton's ability to run the point, push the tempo and make plays as a scorer and passer could trigger a first-round team to bite. I'm not sure he's got starter upside at the pro level, but as a spark off the bench or backup, Payton could be worth a look.
8. Kendall Williams, New Mexico, 6'4", PG/SG, Senior
Kendall Williams always had that ability to earn your attention—he just couldn't keep it.
Although you might want to check in with him this season. Williams is going off, averaging 19.7 points and 5.3 assists on 50 percent shooting.
He's a scoring point guard with excellent size, quickness and athleticism. And don't forget confidence. This is a kid who erupted for 46 points in a game last year.
Arguably the most impressive stat for Williams is his 9.2 free-throw attempts per game. He shot 16-of-16 at the stripe in a win over San Diego, 12-of-15 in a win at New Mexico State and 13-of-14 in a win over Charleston Southern.
He's also shooting it 45.7 percent from downtown on 1.8 makes per game.
While he's still more of a scorer than natural point guard, Williams has the tools to make an impact in the league.
7. Olivier Hanlan, Boston College, 6'4", PG/SG, Sophomore
Olivier Hanlan has emerged as one of the tougher backcourt covers in the nation, thanks to his dynamic attack game and dangerous outside stroke.
He's hitting nearly two threes and averaging 6.5 free-throw attempts per game, illustrating his ability to light it up from deep or draw contact at the rim.
Hanlan has a refined all-around game—he can score in traffic in the lane, pull up off the bounce or separate for a balanced look in the mid-range. The question scouts will have is whether he can do that in a combo-guard role.
At 6'4", 184 pounds, he's a bit undersized for the 2.
But as an offensive weapon off the bench, I'm not sure his true position really matters. Hanlan is a prolific playmaker who can score and create, and is averaging 19.4 points and 3.5 assists on the year.
NBA teams looking for backcourt depth and firepower might want to give Hanlan a good, hard look later in Round 1.
6. Jordan Adams, UCLA, SG, 6'5", Sophomore
Though it's early, not a single team has been able to contain Jordan Adams so far. He's scored at least 16 points in all 10 of UCLA's games and is averaging 21.2 on the year.
Despite the big production at a high-profile school, NBA radars haven't been flashing uncontrollably. Adams is an average athlete at a position that typically requires above-average athleticism.
Still, you can't ignore this kid's skill set and instincts on both ends of the floor.
Adams can generate offense in a variety of different ways, with the ability to attack the rim, finish after contact, score in the lane or separate in the mid-range. He's also a threatening outside shooter (37 percent on three-pointers, 85 percent on free throws) who can make shots in bunches.
Defensively, Adams is active and aggressive. He's averaging 3.5 steals per game, good for No. 3 in the country.
He might not make many highlight plays above the rim, but he's got terrific size, skills and a feel for the game. If he continues to dominate in conference play, expect Adams to hit radars sooner rather than later.
5. K.J. McDaniels, Clemson, 6'6", SG/SF, Junior
K.J. McDaniels has really turned it up this year, with his 17-point-per-game scoring average up seven points from a season ago.
He's an explosive athlete with perfect NBA 2-guard size. Offensively, McDaniels is a threat from practically every spot and angle on the floor. He's hitting 1.4 threes per game, scoring in the mid-range and finishing plays high above the rim.
Those terrific springs also contribute to a whopping three blocks per game, a wild number for a wing player.
McDaniels' rebounding numbers are up; he's knocking down 89 percent of his 4.7 free-throw attempts per game, and he's already hit the 20-point mark six times on the year.
I'm not sure he's much of an upside pick, but McDaniels has the two-way skill set that could help him build a long-term career as a serviceable role player.
4. Chris Walker, Florida, 6'9", PF, Freshman
He's tall, long and ridiculously athletic, but he's also currently ineligible. Chris Walker never qualified academically and is patiently waiting on a decision from the NCAA regarding when he'll be able to suit up.
"Whatever role Coach Donovan wants to use me, I'm good with it," Walker told ESPN back in August. "I just want to get there and play college basketball."
Any basketball fan with a pulse should want Walker on the floor, given his unique capabilities as a big man. He's an above-the-rim power forward and easy-bucket machine inside.
At this point, it's his physical tools that drive his NBA upside, and they're impressive enough to generate first-round interest.
It's tough to say whether Walker's eligibility will weigh on his draft stock. Jeff Goodman of ESPN notes that he'll actually be ready to practice on Saturday.
Whether he gets on the floor or not, Walker should be regarded as one of the more intriguing wild-card draft options this June. Expect him to make a whole lot of noise at the NBA combine.
3. Jordan Clarkson, Missouri, 6'5", PG/SG, Junior
Get to know Jordan Clarkson, who transferred from Tulsa and is now blowing up in Missouri.
As lead guard, he's averaging 19.4 points and 3.9 assists on 50 percent shooting for the 10-0 Tigers. Clarkson initiates the team's offense, whether it's as a scorer on the wing or facilitator at the point. And with excellent athleticism and size at 6'5", he's able to consistently get in the lane and create scoring opportunities.
Despite his natural tendency to go on the attack, he's shown an admirable willingness to get his teammates involved. Clarkson's decision-making and shot selection could use work, but his skill set and upside are both first-round worthy.
He'll have to pick up his outside shooting percentage, but after hitting 37 percent of his threes as a sophomore, there's no real need to panic.
Based on how little attention he received over the past few seasons, Clarkson might be the most under-the-radar prospect in the country.
2. Spencer Dinwiddie, Colorado, 6'5", PG/SG, Junior
Spencer Dinwiddie seems to have a much tighter grasp on the game this year.
How's this for improved efficiency: Dinwiddie's field-goal percentage, three-point percentage and assists are all up, while his turnovers and personal fouls are both down a good margin.
He's polished up every area on the checklist that required maintenance.
Though he can be mistaken for a ball-dominant scorer, Dinwiddie has the dribble creativity to create and the passing instincts to find teammates. He dished out seven dimes in a win over Kansas, going to work with the dribble-drive and kick-out to open shooters or finishers.
However, he does maintain takeover ability as an offensive weapon. He dropped 28 points in a win at Colorado State, and he's averaging nearly eight free-throw attempts per game on the year.
But if Dinwiddie just had "scorer" written on his draft tag, I'm not sure how many first-round teams would bite. The fact that he's got a legitimate feel for running the point is what gives that extra shine.
1. Zach LaVine, UCLA, 6'5", PF/SG, Freshman
You gotta see this kid.
A high-flying combo guard with a lethal outside stroke, Zach LaVine is UCLA's ultimate spark off the bench. He's real skinny—6'5", 180 pounds—but the talent and upside here is obvious.
LaVine is averaging nearly 14 points and over two assists per game on 46.5 percent shooting from downtown to start the year.
For a guard, the combination of size, athleticism, ball-handling and outside shooting gets the NBA guys every time.
You may not find a more potent blend of explosiveness and perimeter scoring on the board. LaVine will have to work on creating offense and getting to the rim, but from a long-term potential standpoint, his weaknesses shouldn't dent his stock.
He's playing off the ball at UCLA in an opportunistic scoring and playmaking role. If LaVine can prove he's capable of initiating offense, it should ultimately give his NBA value a significant boost.