Ranking Top 10 Most Athletic 2014 NBA Draft Prospects

Daniel O'Brien@@DanielO_BRFeatured ColumnistJanuary 15, 2014

Ranking Top 10 Most Athletic 2014 NBA Draft Prospects

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    There is no shortage of athleticism in the 2014 NBA draft class, that's for sure.

    From lightning-quick point guards to explosively agile power forwards, this group can turn heads and rock the rim as well as any draft class ever.

    But athleticism is more than just slam dunks: It's about defensive speed, rebounding prowess and shot-blocking leaps, too.

    In a loaded year, which ballers stand out the most? Find out as we crown our top 10 most athletic prospects.

Honorable Mentions

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    Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

    Our top 10 is so absurdly athletic that these studs got left out:

    Wayne Selden, Kansas (6'6" Freshman): Serious hangtime

    Alex Poythress, Kentucky (6'8" Sophomore): Flushing it with ease

    James McAdoo, UNC (6'9" Junior): Big target in transition

    Patric Young, Florida (6'9" Senior): Protecting the paint

    Glenn Robinson, Michigan (6'6" Sophomore): Aerial agility and power (360 slam)

    The Harrison Twins, Kentucky (6'6" Freshmen): Flying on offense and defense

    Deonte Burton, Marquette (6'4" Freshman): Southpaw thunder

    Jabari Parker, Duke (6'8" Freshman): Agility and body control on the lob

    Montrezl Harrell, Louisville (6'8" Sophomore): Swooping in to score

    Adreian Payne, MSU (6'9" Senior): Colossal putbacks

10. Jerami Grant, Syracuse F (6'6" Sophomore)

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    Syracuse forward Jerami Grant enjoys some sort of jaw-dropping play every game these days.

    He's got tremendous length and a developing skill set, but those aren't too useful without the gift of flight. Grant is putting it all together this season, as he's regularly completing plays that point to an NBA future.

    It's not just putback dunks or critical rebounds: Grant is also a timely rim protector. Take a look at how easily he rejected Jakarr Sampson of St. John's with two hands.

    In the Association, Grant's surplus of athleticism will empower him to guard 2s through 4s, and he'll be able to find many scoring opportunities. He won't be a creative playmaker or a prolific shooter, but his skyward tendencies will make a substantial impact.

9. Russ Smith, Louisville PG (6'0" Senior)

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    2013 national champion Russ Smith is a blur out on the court, and his quickness and shiftiness are dangerous on both ends.

    With the ball in his hands, he's a threat to dart past his man and cause havoc for adversaries. Smith can push the pace in transition and find a scoring lane before anyone knows what's going on. In half-court situations, he can also bolt to the paint en route to a score or assist.

    As an on-ball and off-ball defender, Smith's extra gear has enabled him to stifle opponents and snag 217 steals in three-plus seasons. Great hands and terrific instincts don't hurt, either.

    Now that we're done talking about his horizontal accomplishments, how about his soaring dunk over Julius Randle? I'm sure young Louisville fans already own posters of that one.

8. Chris Walker, Florida F (6'9" Freshman)

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    When you beat Andrew Wiggins and Aaron Gordon in a dunk contest, you automatically earn placement on this list.

    These rankings aren't based on sheer dunking ability, but Chris Walkers' overall athleticism is readily apparent.

    In addition to dunking over defenders, Walker can hang for jumpers or contest opponents' shots. When you plug his 7'1.5" wingspan into the equation, his vertical adeptness seems all the more daunting.

    Eligibility issues have kept him off Florida's court so far this season. That might hurt his NBA stock a hair because he's an unknown entity. However, he won't fall too far because pro executives love tall McDonald's All-Americans who can catapult to the hoop.

7. Dante Exum, Australia G (6'6")

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    Sure, the competition in this video is far from top-notch. Dante Exum's high school opponents could not match up with him at all.

    Nevertheless, this clip gives you an idea of how the Australian can dash past defenders, glide to the basket and finish above the rim. His physical talents are obviously meant for nothing less than the NBA.

    Exum's size and smooth style of play often disguise how quick he is. He routinely schools challengers with a rapid first step, and then all it takes is a couple long, swift strides for him to arrive at the basket.

    As a point guard, it's a nice bonus to be able to score among the trees. After weaving through NBA backcourts, Exum will be able to score if he hasn't already delivered to a teammate.

    The Russell Westbrook comparisons are probably a bit excessive, but he may soon be in the same neighborhood.

6. Zach LaVine, UCLA G (6'5" Freshman)

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    In a matter of days, Zach LaVine's athleticism took him from "little-known freshman" to "projected lottery pick."

    During his stints off the bench for UCLA, the 6'5" shooting guard has burned opponents by rapidly accelerating to create shots or raise up for forceful slams. He uses his quickness to get open for catch-and-shoot tries, and he utilizes his vertical to finish drives or pop skyward for a jump shot.

    LaVine's knack for darting laterally and flying vertically are helpful in a variety of game situations. Watch him plant and turn backdoor in a blink, and then receive the pass and jam over the help(less) defender.

    It's easy to see why this startling freshman is so attractive to NBA decision-makers. His combination of speed and vertical agility aren't regularly found in shooting guards, and his versatility will allow him to run with point men and hang with the swingmen.

5. Tie: Marcus Smart (Okla. St.) and Julius Randle (Kentucky)

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    To tip off our top five, we decided to lob you a two-for-one.

    In their friendly dunk-off, Kentucky's Julius Randle and Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart demonstrated their sensational leaping, agility and power.

    Smart (6'4" Sophomore): The Cowboys' leader doesn't seem like an overwhelming athlete during most of the game. But during those moments when he slams home back-breaking alley-oops, you realize his NBA-caliber propulsion.

    Smart isn't ultra-speedy off the dribble, but his lateral quickness on defense is professional quality.

    Randle (6'9" Freshman): Kentucky's 250-pound bruiser is not only powerful as a bull, but he's surprisingly fleet of foot. In the NBA, he'll get around or through most competitors en route to bushels of rebounds and putbacks.

    And, as the video proves, he's exceedingly agile in the air.

4. Jahii Carson, Arizona State PG (5'10" Sophomore)

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    We showcased this dunk from Jahii Carson because it's amazing, but his speed is equally important, if not more.

    The Arizona State point guard can instantly turn on the jets and blow by defenders, slicing his way into the lane and creating opportunities for himself and his comrades. He also excels on defense because he owns the lateral foot speed to stay in front of attackers.

    In transition, Carson's swiftness separates him from others, and then we get to see the full extent of his leaping skills.

    Since he's only 5'10", he will need to make the most of his lightning movements at the next level; Nate Robinson is someone he can try to emulate as a playmaker.

3. Aaron Gordon, Arizona PF (6'9" Freshman)

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    Not only can Aaron Gordon elevate with the best of them, his body control and agility are outstanding.

    In the video above, you can see how effortless his reverse flush is, as he displays phenomenal hangtime and balance.

    NBA scouts love his ability to vault above opponents for rebounds and buckets. Gordon has a chance to register a ton of double-doubles at the next level, as his 6'9" frame and cat-like burst will overwhelm most opponents.

    In addition to thriving on the hardwood during games, Gordon will likely compete for his fair share of slam dunk titles, as his mid-flight creativity is electrifying.

2. Markel Brown, Oklahoma State SG (6'3" Senior)

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    Oklahoma State's Markel Brown has that "you're kidding me" level of aerial prowess. If you didn't want to watch that dunk twice, something's wrong with you.

    And if you think he's a one-hit wonder, you're sorely mistaken. Brown has been scraping the rafters of Gallagher-Iba Arena for years, putting together a nice collection of posterizations.

    For example, this one-handed alley-oop finish through contact was ESPN's Dunk of the Year two years ago.

    Brown's size and skill level will make it tough to survive as a shooting guard in the NBA. However, his athleticism will give him a fighting chance as a fast-break weapon.

1. Andrew Wiggins, Kansas F (6'8" Freshman)

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    Andrew Wiggins didn't climb up draft boards last year for no reason.

    Kansas' high-flying freshman became a YouTube superstar and a highly coveted prospect largely because he can fly. When he bounces up for a rebound, layup or dunk, it's as if he has springs in his sneakers.

    In transition, Wiggins is more dangerous than anyone in college hoops. He's got great foot speed to gain an edge, and then he can soar to the rim and adjust in mid-air if need be. The ease with which he out-jumps opponents is probably the most impressive aspect of his athleticism.

    An underrated facet of his physical repertoire is his quickness. When he's engaged and aggressive, he can slide and stay with speedy slashers.

    Wiggins' explosiveness will make him a tough matchup as soon as he enters the NBA. If he can learn how to make full use of his gifts, he'll eventually become a superstar.

    Dan O'Brien covers the NBA Draft for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: