NBA Lottery Big Board Version 2.0

Image

(Jamie Squire/ Getty)

The NBA Draft is right around the corner, and after Cleveland’s upset victory of the Lottery, it’s time to re-rank the top 20 prospects in this class.

1. Andrew Wiggins. Freshman. Small Forward. Kansas. 6″8.

One photo isn’t enough to draft a dude by, but this one is pretty darn impressive. Wiggins is an athletic monster who will be at the very least a lockdown defender with elite ability to get to the rim. Should he hone in his jump shot and make it consistent, he’ll be absolutely unstoppable. And that’s exactly what any team who drafts Wiggins will be hoping for.

2. Joel Embiid. Freshman. Center. Kansas. 6″8.

I’m not a huge fan of drafting based on potential over proven success, but the upside of Embiid is sky high. Plus, he has a slick post game, superb defense and above average rebounding. While injuries are a concern, there is quite enough in his highlights to sooth the uneasy mind of GMs who have seen what happened Greg Oden. If Embiid ends up even close to as good as the player he’s most often compared to, Hakeem Olajuwon, then the Cavs, Bucks, or Sixers will be well pleased with their choice.

3. Jabari Parker. Freshman. Small Forward. Duke. 6″8.

The safest pick in the draft, Parker leaves Duke with an incredibly developed offensive game. With an under-rated amount of athleticism, great rebounding prowess and solid defense, Parker is no slouch of a third pick. The only thing holding him back from the top 2 spots is that his ceiling is a sizable amount less than the ex-Jayhawk teammates.

4. Dante Exum. 18 Years Old. Point Guard. Australia. 6″6.

Exum is a bit of an enigma, as he is tremendously gifted and has even drawn Magic Johnson comparisons, yet he hasn’t had the production to completely justify it. Still, Exum is the most NBA-ready point guard, and a team in need of a PG like the Magic will be well off with Exum for years to come.

5. Noah Vonleh. Freshman. Power Forward. Indiana. 6″9.

This kid has one of the best NBA bodies for a Power Forward in years. Weighing in around 250 pounds, with a wingspan of 7″4 and massive hands, Vonleh has all of the intangibles that scouts look for, plus an offensive and defensive skill set. Jump shots are in his wheelhouse, along with a strong defensive presence. Vonleh uses his body well to grab rebounds at a high clip.

6. Marcus Smart. Sophomore. Point Guard/ Shooting Guard. Oklahoma State. 6″4.

The transition to the NBA will be interesting to see for Marcus Smart, as there is still debate as to whether he fits best as a 1 or a 2 in the Association. He is magnificent in transition, and while not the best passer, Smart makes up for it with his ability to get to the rim in even the half-court. Also a lock-down defender, Smart will be a very solid choice for anyone outside the top 3.

7. Julius Randle. Freshman. Power Forward. Kentucky. 6″9. This man is an absolute ox. Weighing in at 250 pounds of seemingly all muscle, Randle won’t be easy to guard in the post, especially once he furthers and best uses his post game. He needs some work on defense and on the mid-range jump shot, and he seems to be the second best at his position in this class. Nevertheless, Randle can be very effective at the next level.

8. Nik Stauskas. Sophomore. Shooting Guard, Michigan. 6″6.

Stauskas isn’t merely a catch and shoot type of player, though he does excel in that way. Able to get through his defender and finish at the rim, this is a multi-dimensional player. While limited defensively due to less-than-stellar athleticism, Stauskas projects quite nicely as a Klay Thompson who can finish around the tin.

9. Aaron Gordon. Freshman. Power Forward. Arizona. 6″9.

Gordon can jump out of the gym, plain and simple. Behind Wiggins, Gordon may be the best athlete in the class, and his combine results prove it. While his jumper is inconsistent to put it kindly, and his frame may be an issue, the upside of this man is too sizable to land him outside the top 10.

10. Gary Harris. Sophomore. Shooting Guard. Michigan State. 6″4.

The definition of ready to play at the next level, Harris has a pre-made NBA-style game that suits any team. He can shoot, he can drive, he can pass, he plays very solid defense and he makes big plays. The only downside of Harris is that he may not have the explosiveness nor the high potential that some scouts look for. A lock to be at the least a solid NBA starter, Harris comes in on day 1 and is ready to contribute for whichever team drafts him.

11. PJ Hairston. 21 Years Old. Shooting Guard. Texas Legends. 6″5.

There are certain guys that one has “a feeling” about. I have a strong inclination to believe that Hairston will be an elite level scorer in the NBA, and while his defense and off the court behavior can be suspect, the sweet stroke and ability to get to the bucket outshine all possible issues. At the worst, a team gets a man who is lights out from deep, in the mold of a more complete, smarter JR Smith.

12. TJ Warren. Sophomore. Small Forward. NC State. 6″8.

Warren can flat out score. When this man touches the rock, it’s bound to find bottom of the net. An inconsistent deep shot keeps him from being an “elite” prospect, but a TJ Warren with a jump shot would be a scary thing for opposing teams. Already lethal at getting points from either being near the rim or shooting from mid-range, the offensive possibilities are endless. Unfortunately, Warren isn’t exactly a defensive presence.

13. James Young. Sophomore. Small Forward. Kentucky. 6″7.

Young has all the makings of a “3-and-D” guy, and this is quite a good mold for an NBA player today. His lefty shot, while imperfect, has the look to it that suggests that with a bit of work, he can be deadly. With good length and lateral quickness, stifling defense is a foregone conclusion.

14. Dario Saric. 20 Years Old. “Point Forward.” Cibona Zagreb. 6″10.

If I’m being fully honest, I’m not a huge fan of European players. They often get drafted and don’t perform as they did overseas. While men like Tony Parker or Dirk Nowitzki speak to the potential success, Alexis Ajinca and Darko Milicic show that busts are common. That said, Saric’s length combined with his ball-handling skills and shooting ability make him hard to pass up for a lottery team enamoured with such possibilities that exist in men like Saric or Giannis Antetokounmpo.

15. Doug McDermott. Senior. Small Forward. Creighton. 6″8.

There is no greater pure-scorer in the draft than Creighton star Doug McDermott. He can score from the block. He can score from the elbow. He can score from deep. He can drive. He can post up. He can shoot over the top. Sounds like a sure NBA superstar, no? Well, unfortunately, Doug will struggle tremendously to guard any NBA Small Forwards, let alone a guy like a Lebron or Kevin Durant. His defensive incapabilities make him a one way player, thus outside the lottery for me, but whoever gets McDermott will get a man who can score in bunches.

16. Zach LaVine. Freshman. Shooting Guard. UCLA. 6″5.

Many say that this man could be the next Russell Westbrook. And based on athleticism alone, with his 41.5 inch vertical, they have a somewhat fair argument. Unfortunately, LaVine does not possess the same amount of actual basketball talent, and will likely be drafted on potential alone. He could fit nicely with a team like Chicago that wouldn’t need him to step up right away.

17. Rodney Hood. Sophomore. Small Forward. Duke. 6″8.

Rodney Hood steps into the NBA ready to play. He stepped up for the Blue Devils multiple times this season, making big buckets when it counted. Hood has a great deep ball and can also drive to the rim well. Defense isn’t his strong suit, but he’s not bad at all. Hood will be a very solid pick and a likely long-term NBAer.

18. Adreian Payne. Senior. Power Forward. Michigan State. 6″10

Payne comes into the league as a Day-1 starter who can contribute to nearly any team. Payne’s big downside is that his potential isn’t all that great, and he comes in at the ripe old age of 23. Seriously, 23 is quite old for a first year man. Look for a team who wants to make an immediate improvement to pick Payne, such as the Hawks, who will benefit from a big who can shoot the basketball, rebound well, and will go 100% every single time he’s on the court.

19. Elfrid Payton. Junior. Point Guard. UL-Lafayette. 6″4.

A lockdown defender who is also a tremendous ball-handler who is best in transition, Payton has many of the tools looked for in an NBA PG. The Sun Belt Defensive POTY, Payton will be asked to defend top NBA 1s and seems quite capable. His downside is that his shot isn’t consistent, but nevertheless, Payton has the ability to be a quality PG for years to come.

20. Tyler Ennis. Freshman. Point Guard. Syracuse. 6″3.

Last year, I totally slept on Michael Carter-Williams, and I am still taunted about it. I don’t feel that I’m making the same mistake with Ennis. Ennis doesn’t seem ready for the NBA yet, and his lack of athleticism and ability to create buckets for himself makes for a rough transition. That said, he excelled in Boeheim’s pick-and-roll sets and was an unquestionably good passer. Perhaps the young Orangeman will end up turning out alright, but his value is right around the 17-21 range.

Advertisements

NBA Big Board Version 1.1

Image

 

(Credit Rich Barnes/ Getty)

This past week has had a good deal of action around the NCAA and abroad, and the big board certainly needs an update to reflect these changes. Risers this week include James Young, PJ Hairston, and of course, Tyler Ennis. Fallers like Zach LaVine better hold on tight; he’s barely kept in the top 20 with a dreadful week. Note: The scouting information will always be present, plus a blurb for some about why they’ve player has been changed or what they’ve done throughout the week. Last week’s number will be in parenthese.

1. Joel Embiid. Freshmen. Center. Kansas. 7″0.

Though Embiid didn’t have his best week, and the news broke that he was considering staying a Jayhawk another year, no one did enough to unseat him.

To me, Embiid is the best player in this absolutely loaded draft class. To have been playing basketball for just over 2 years and to be as developed as Embiid is certainly impresses myself and other analysts. Embiid has a very solid post game, including quite a few shakes (Dream Shake), a good hook shot, and tremendous passing. The passing is one of his most prominent attributes, and considering the fact that he has played for so long and can find his teammates so easily, his NBA-readiness is quite high. As a 7 footer with 7″5 wingspan, he will certainly be a force on the defensive end in terms of both shot-blocking and actual man-to-man guarding. Averaging nearly 3 blocks a game, 7.5 boards and 11.1 points, with the 7th highest shooting percentage (.696) in all of college basketball, Embiid projects to be the perfect number one overall pick: low floor, high ceiling.

2. Andrew Wiggins. Freshman. Small Forward. Kansas. 6″8.

Again, not the best week from this Jayhawk but his college performances aren’t the reason that he’s this high on the big board. The amount of potential that this man has is unlimited, though more consistent play would surely be appreciated by lottery GMs everywhere.

It is a bit peculiar, as the Kansas Jayhawks have 4 losses yet have the top 2 players on this, and many, big boards. Nevertheless, their two superstars are just that, superstars. This young man had a truly unfair situation coming into college from Huntington Prep: he was “the next Lebron”. It seems that the next ______ comes along every so often, and Seventh Woods is likely to follow, and it really isn’t right. Should Wiggins have come into college as he should have: known as the best high schooler coming to college, no one would be disappointed with his output. And no one should, because this kid has been great. A lockdown defender with a good jump shot and a great ability to get to the rim, Wiggins projects to be a supersized Andre Iguodala. If there were two areas scouts would like to see him improve, it’d be in his aggressiveness and his rebounding. But make no mistake, Wiggins will be special when he hits the next level.

3. Marcus Smart. Sophomore. Shooting Guard. Oklahoma State. 6″4.

Marcus Smart has been slipping on quite a few big boards, and I’m really not sure why. This dude is an athletic freakwith a better jumper than people give him credit for, above average passing, a supreme ability to get to the rim, plus my favorite, a post game. Smart is the type of 2 guard that can change a team, and his stat line of 17.8 and just 4.4 assists certainly shows that he ought to be a shooting guard at the next level. Smart, like those before him and a few after, will be a cornerstone of whichever franchise is lucky enough to get him. And his game certainly backs it up.

4. Jabari Parker. Freshman. Small Forward. Duke. 6″8.

This is not a knock on Jabari Parker by putting him 4th. In fact, in my eyes, he may be the most NBA ready player in the class. The two things that separate him from the preceding three are that his ceiling may be just a bit lower and that there is still a chance that he will not be available for an extra two years, as he may still go on a Mormon mission. This certainly isn’t penalizing him for doing so, but as an NBA executive in this draft class especially, I’d want a player who can play from day 1 if I took him this high in the draft. That said, Parker has a fantastic shot to go along with a Melo-esque post game, good rebounding and a sound defensive game. The comparison to Melo is easy to make for one simply reason: It’s realistic. But he is different in a few ways: He isn’t a ballhog, and he actually plays on both ends of the floor. This man is a bona fide stud, and he’ll be an All Star in The League for many years to come.

5. Noah Vonleh. Freshman. Power Forward. Indiana. 6″10.

Vonleh is the perfect power forward: Long, tall, athletic, good all around offensive and defensive skill set, plus a great rebounding ability (he’s #1). As good as Julius Randle and Aaron Gordon are, this man is the best Power Forward in the class because he is the only one that I can see as the best Power Forward in the league someday. He looks to me like a Lamarcus Aldridge, with a similar jumper and rebounding prowess. As good as his post game is, he will certainly have to work to get to the level of as great of a player as Aldridge, but getting there isn’t impossible. Look for this man to do exactly what Aldridge has done for a long time: thrive as the centerpiece of a franchise.

6. Dante Exum. 18 Years Old. Point Guard. Australia. 6″6.

Yesterday, January the 28th, Exum officially declared for the 2014 NBA Draft, and for good reason. Though it is possible that teams could be scared off by the fact that he hasn’t played much competition, but as the following video shows, he did well against what would be his competition should he have been in the NCAA. While the Shaun Livingston comparison is easy to make for the 6″6 Exum, he is quite a bit more skillful. A good playmaker with a great ability to get to the rim, a formidable jumper and the potential to D up nearly all NBA PGs with his height and athleticism, Exum should be a pretty unique player in terms of his skills and height. All he needs to do is add a bit of weight and he ought to be a great player in the league for quite a while, and add to Australia’s impact on the NBA in terms of superstar point guards.

7. Julius Randle. Freshman. Power Forward. Kentucky. 6″9. 

Julius Randle is an ox in the post, as he has clearly shown so far this year. What he hasn’t shown as much as he could is his impressive and well-developed post game. In the pro’s, where many bigs are just similarly strong , he’ll have to rely much more on it, though that shouldn’t be much of a problem. As well as a good post game and herculean strength, Randle rebounds well and has a very solid mid-range jumper. While not the absolute best defender, Randle is no slouch on the other end. The only problem Randle could run into is the fact that along with his below-average height, he only has a 6″10 wingspan, which doesn’t help much considering former Kentucky wing Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who is 2 inches shorter, has a 2 inch longer wingspan. If Randle can continue to refine his post game and continue to grow stronger, he could well be a standout at the next level, though I don’t see him ever outperforming Noah Vonleh.

8. Aaron Gordon. Freshman. Power Forward. Arizona. 6″8.

Aaron Gordon has a similar problem as Randle due to his size, but he doesn’t have the strength. But, Gordon has what I prefer to height: Wingspan. With a nearly 7″0 wingspan, he can make up for his small size as a power forward. With that in mind, the only NBA position that Gordon will succeed at is the 4, rather than the 3 that some are suggesting he play. The comparison to Blake Griffin is well warranted, as his athletic ability is off the charts. Gordon does have a jump shot, even from three, but his best asset is finishing around the rim. Unfortunately, likely due to advice from his inner-circle, he seems to be trying to make the change from the PF to the SF, as he has begun shooting more 3s and deep 2s. As a stretch 4, Gordon, who can also defend and rebound, can do quite well at the next level, especially with the upside that his athleticism brings. But if he makes the move to the 3, any team interested should be extremely speculative in picking him in the lottery.

9. Dario Saric. 19 Years Old. Small Forward. Croatia. 6″10. 

Saric is likely the most hotly debated lottery prospect in NBA Front Offices, and most GMs either love him or hate him. Due to the many players who’ve failed in the NBA from Europe, many are quick to forget the Nowitzki’s and Parker’s of the world. Prospects really should be judged based solely on talent, and this kid certainly has that. A jump shooter with good vision and a decent rebounder, Saric’s Dirk comparison isn’t all that far off. While not the exact same player, the two share many similar traits, though Saric can’t shoot quite as well but has a much better handle on the ball and better passing. It isn’t unfair to say that Saric could go anywhere from the 8th pick to around the 15th pick, as many teams won’t quite know what to do with the multi-positional Croatian. My personal feeling is that he won’t necessarily reach superstardom as Nowitzki did, but he certainly won’t bust. A long term starter and perhaps an All Star once or twice down the road.

10. Gary Harris. Sophomore. Shooting Guard. Michigan State. 6″4.

Gary Harris has played quite well of late, scoring 27, 24 and 23 in his last 3 contests, going a combined 10/16 from deep. Harris has stepped up and been what many Spartan fans thought he’d be from the get-go, and he’s certainly justifying himself as a lottery pick with 18.8 PPG to go alongside 41% from downtown and 46% all together. A lights out shooter with an ability to drive, Harris is also a capable defender. Any team in need of a shooting guard to start from day 1 would do well to get Harris.

11. Rodney Hood. Sophomore (21 Years Old). Shooting Guard. Duke. 6″8.

Rodney Hood is the definition of NBA-ready. And as ready as Harris is, he’s not quite where Hood is. What separates the two is that Harris looks to have a bit higher of a ceiling, though Hood won’t be too bad himself. With 17.7 PPG, shooting 51% from the field and 45% from three, the man is an offensive firecracker. He can step into a team, even a playoff-level team, and contribute or start right away. His one downfall is his age, as he is at least 2 years older than all other prospects, but that won’t overshadow his sweet lefty stroke and all around capacity to put the ball in the hoop.

12. (19) Tyler Ennis. Freshman. Point Guard. Syracuse. 6″2.

A great performance by Ennis in what may go down as the best game of the season vs Duke  did good things for Ennis’ Draft Stock, placing him where he seemingly deserves to be: the lottery. Plus, an anonymous GM said that he’d take this young Cuse PG over ex-Duke and current Cavs PG Kyrie Irving. The future is looking up.

The potential from the young Orangemen seems limitless, as he has blossomed in place of current 76ers PG Michael Carter-Williams. He is truly the general of Jim Boeheim’s offense, able to drive and finish or kick it to an open teammate, a growing necessity in the long-ball-happy NBA of today. One thing that could separate him from last year’s ‘Cuse PG is his ability to shoot from deep, as he is shooting 41% from deep. Though he may not be an elite athlete like Russell Westbrook, his decision-making is deft, and seeing a turnover from this frosh is rare. A great shooter who can both drive and pass sound a bit like fellow once-underrated point Stephen Curry.

13. (14) James Young. Freshman. Small Forward. Kentucky. 6″7.

A good week of scoring helps Young, with 23 and 20 in consecutive games.

James Young can flat out shoot the basketball. His sweet lefty stroke has the potential to be deadly with some work, but his best area could be on the other side of the ball. With a very appealing 6″11 wingspan and a lot of athleticism, Young could be a defensive nightmare. Your prototypical “3 and D” guy, Young brings two very nice strengths to whichever team takes him in June.

14. (13) Willie Cauley-Stein. Sophomore. Center. Kentucky. 7″0.

Though he had 18 against Ole Miss, that was preceded by 0, 3 and 8 points in decent playing minutes.

Cauley-Stein is not an offensive threat. At all. But as former Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler can tell you, you don’t have to be. The defensive beast is averaging a monstrous 3.4 Blocks per game, good for 8th in the NCAA. Though he may never get passed a simple back down and post hook, his defense alone will likely get him drafted in the lottery. And though I myself am not much a fan of the Tyson Chandlers of the world, there are quite a few teams, especially in the playoffs, who could really use a defensive force down low. And should one of them be in position to get Cauley-Stein, they likely won’t pass the chance up.

 

15. Nik Stauskas. Sophomore. Shooting Guard. Michigan. 6″6.

Stauskas has done it all with the departure of Trey Burke and the lack of Glen Robinson III and Mitch McGary stepping up as the star. While known for his sublime shooting ability, Stauskas has shown ability to do it all on the offensive side of the ball. Don’t be suprised to see Stauskas get the Klay Thompson comparison, and it’s spot on. But the Wolverine’s well-rounded offensive game could separate him from Thompson and others who are simply known for their shooting. He’ll have to improve defensively if he wants to be a two-way player at the next level.

16. Doug McDermott. Senior. Small Forward. Creighton. 6″7.

There is nothing McDermott can’t do, including scoring 39 points last night. A shooter, slasher and a shot-creator, McDermott is much more than ex-Creighton grad Kyle Korver, a knock-down shooter. This man can come into the NBA and, even against an obviously higher level of competition, score the basketball profusely and effectively. Any team who is in need of an offensive spark-plug would certainly get one in McDermott.

17. (18) PJ Hairston. 21 Years Old. Shooting Guard. Texas Legends (NBA D League). 6″6. 

Yet another game in the 40s, this time 45, propels this offensive juggernaut further up the Big Board.

Roy Williams has been coaching for a LONG time, and for him to say that Hairston this year was the best player he’d ever seen in a practice setting is meaningful. Hairston can flat out score, whether with his superb long ball or in driving to the hoop. As you can tell, many of these players are offensively gifted, and Hairston is among them. In just his second D League game, he dropped 40 points. The NBA team to get his services will get a consistent scorer, not unlike Wesley Matthews.

 

18. (12) Zach LaVine. Freshman. Shooting Guard. UCLA. 6″5.

6, 2 and 3 against Oregon State, Oregon and Cal is flat out sorry from a “scorer”. A downward shift was needed.

LaVine is a player who can certainly achieve stardom in the league, but the issue is that he could also fizzle out. In a draft as loaded as this, teams really can’t afford to miss with a lottery pick, and missing is possible here. But though a low floor comes with Mr. LaVine, so too comes a high ceiling. Loaded with athleticism and a pure stroke, LaVine can fill it up from anywhere. Improvements defensively would surely help, as would sticking with being a 2 guard. His 2.4 assists per game justify that statement quite well, and LaVine should would be best served staying as a shooting guard. And should LaVine get picked up by a high tempo team that will properly use his athleticism, then he could do quite well for himself at the next tier.

19. (17) Wayne Selden. Freshman. Shooting Guard. Kansas. 6″5.

Wayne Selden has impressed me since the first game he played as a Jayhawk. His instincts are great and hustle plays like this really show that he’d really bring everything he’s got to a team. He is great at slashing to the hoop, reminiscent of Dwyane Wade, and he consistently finishes through contact. His body is great in terms of his strength. height and weight. If he could improve his shooting to go along with above average passing for a SG, he could slip into the lottery.

20. Adreian Payne. Senior. Power Forward. Michigan State. 6″9.

Adreian Payne has a very finely-tuned skills, which is relatively rare for a first year NBA Big, and his staying this extra year in East Lancing helped greatly. An already great post game and jump shot, Payne is also a great athlete with 7″0 wingspan which helps him on the defensive end. While not a great rebounder, his frame and athletic ability merit more than 7.7 RPG. The one thing that many scouts and GMs won’t love about Payne is that he’s already 22 years old. But hopefully for said GMs and scouts, they’ll get over his age and look simply at his skills, both offensive and defensive.

NBA Mock 1.2

Image

Fresh Mock updated as of February 3rd. Some risers coming in from the second round, including D-League sensation PJ Hairston and Michigan sharpshooter Nik Stauskas.

 1   Embiid – Kansas 7’0 Center, Freshman

 2   Wiggins- Kansas 6’8 Small Forward, Freshman

 3   Parker- Duke 6’8 Small Forward, Freshman

 4   Exum- Australia 6’6 PG/SG, 18 Years old

 5   Smart- OklahomaState 6’4 PG/SG, Sophomore

 6   Vonleh- Indiana 6’10 PF, Freshman

 7   Randle- Kentucky 6’9 Power Forward, Freshman

 8   Harris- MichiganState 6’4 SG, Sophomore

 9   Lavine- UCLA 6’5 PG/SG, Freshman

10 Hood- Duke 6’8 SF, RS Sophomore

11 Saric- Croatia 6’10 SF, 20 years old

12 Mcdermott- Creighton 6’7 SF, Senior

13 Grant- Syracuse 6’8 SF, Sophomore

14 Ennis- Syracuse 6’2 PG, Freshman

15 Young- Kentucky 6’6 SG/SF, Freshman

16  Gordon- Arizona 6’8 SF/PF, Freshman

17 Anderson- UCLA 6’10 PG/SF, Sophomore

18 Cauley Stein- Kentucky 7’0 C, Sophomore

19 Robinson III- Michigan 6’6 SF, Sophomore

20 PJ Hairston- Texas Legends 6’5 SG, Sophomore

21 Nik Stauskas-Michigan 6’6 SG, Sophomore

22 Selden- Kansas 6’5 SG, Freshman

23 Napier- UCONN 6’1 PG, Senior

24 Dekker- Wisconsin 6’7 SF, Sophomore

25 Walker- Florida 6’10 PF, Freshman

26 Austin- Baylor 7’1 PF, Sophomore

27 Fair- Syaracuse 6’8 SF, Senior

28 Harrell- Louisville 6’8 PF, Sophomore

29 Micic- Serbia 6’5 PG, 19 Years Old

30 Christon- Xavier 6’3 PG, Sophomore

 

NBA Big Board Version 1.0

(Image via Getty)

The NBA Draft lottery is just less than 5 months away, and now is a great time to look at the top 20 overall prospects.

1. Joel Embiid. Freshmen. Center. Kansas. 7″0.

To me, Embiid is the best player in this absolutely loaded draft class. To have been playing basketball for just over 2 years and to be as developed as Embiid is certainly impresses myself and other analysts. Embiid has a very solid post game, including quite a few shakes (Dream Shake), a good hook shot, and tremendous passing. The passing is one of his most prominent attributes, and considering the fact that he has played for so long and can find his teammates so easily, his NBA-readiness is quite high. As a 7 footer with 7″5 wingspan, he will certainly be a force on the defensive end in terms of both shot-blocking and actual man-to-man guarding. Averaging nearly 3 blocks a game, 7.5 boards and 11.1 points, with the 7th highest shooting percentage (.696) in all of college basketball, Embiid projects to be the perfect number one overall pick: low floor, high ceiling.

2. Andrew Wiggins. Freshman. Small Forward. Kansas. 6″8.

It is a bit peculiar, as the Kansas Jayhawks have 4 losses yet have the top 2 players on this, and many, big boards. Nevertheless, their two superstars are just that, superstars. This young man had a truly unfair situation coming into college from Huntington Prep: he was “the next Lebron”. It seems that the next ______ comes along every so often, and Seventh Woods is likely to follow, and it really isn’t right. Should Wiggins have come into college as he should have: known as the best high schooler coming to college, no one would be disappointed with his output. And no one should, because this kid has been great. A lockdown defender with a good jump shot and a great ability to get to the rim, Wiggins projects to be a supersized Andre Iguodala. If there were two areas scouts would like to see him improve, it’d be in his aggressiveness and his rebounding. But make no mistake, Wiggins will be special when he hits the next level.

3. Marcus Smart. Sophomore. Shooting Guard. Oklahoma State. 6″4.

Marcus Smart has been slipping on quite a few big boards, and I’m really not sure why. This dude is an athletic freakwith a better jumper than people give him credit for, above average passing, a supreme ability to get to the rim, plus my favorite, a post game. Smart is the type of 2 guard that can change a team, and his stat line of 17.8 and just 4.4 assists certainly shows that he ought to be a shooting guard at the next level. Smart, like those before him and a few after, will be a cornerstone of whichever franchise is lucky enough to get him. And his game certainly backs it up.

4. Jabari Parker. Freshman. Small Forward. Duke. 6″8.

This is not a knock on Jabari Parker by putting him 4th. In fact, in my eyes, he may be the most NBA ready player in the class. The two things that separate him from the preceding three are that his ceiling may be just a bit lower and that there is still a chance that he will not be available for an extra two years, as he may still go on a Mormon mission. This certainly isn’t penalizing him for doing so, but as an NBA executive in this draft class especially, I’d want a player who can play from day 1 if I took him this high in the draft. That said, Parker has a fantastic shot to go along with a Melo-esque post game, good rebounding and a sound defensive game. The comparison to Melo is easy to make for one simply reason: It’s realistic. But he is different in a few ways: He isn’t a ballhog, and he actually plays on both ends of the floor. This man is a bona fide stud, and he’ll be an All Star in The League for many years to come.

5. Noah Vonleh. Freshman. Power Forward. Indiana. 6″10.

Vonleh is the perfect power forward: Long, tall, athletic, good all around offensive and defensive skill set, plus a great rebounding ability (he’s #1). As good as Julius Randle and Aaron Gordon are, this man is the best Power Forward in the class because he is the only one that I can see as the best Power Forward in the league someday. He looks to me like a Lamarcus Aldridge, with a similar jumper and rebounding prowess. As good as his post game is, he will certainly have to work to get to the level of as great of a player as Aldridge, but getting there isn’t impossible. Look for this man to do exactly what Aldridge has done for a long time: thrive as the centerpiece of a franchise.

6. Dante Exum. 18 Years Old. Point Guard. Australia. 6″6.

Yesterday, January the 28th, Exum officially declared for the 2014 NBA Draft, and for good reason. Though it is possible that teams could be scared off by the fact that he hasn’t played much competition, but as the following video shows, he did well against what would be his competition should he have been in the NCAA. While the Shaun Livingston comparison is easy to make for the 6″6 Exum, he is quite a bit more skillful. A good playmaker with a great ability to get to the rim, a formidable jumper and the potential to D up nearly all NBA PGs with his height and athleticism, Exum should be a pretty unique player in terms of his skills and height. All he needs to do is add a bit of weight and he ought to be a great player in the league for quite a while, and add to Australia’s impact on the NBA in terms of superstar point guards.

7. Julius Randle. Freshman. Power Forward. Kentucky. 6″9. 

Julius Randle is an ox in the post, as he has clearly shown so far this year. What he hasn’t shown as much as he could is his impressive and well-developed post game. In the pro’s, where many bigs are just similarly strong , he’ll have to rely much more on it, though that shouldn’t be much of a problem. As well as a good post game and herculean strength, Randle rebounds well and has a very solid mid-range jumper. While not the absolute best defender, Randle is no slouch on the other end. The only problem Randle could run into is the fact that along with his below-average height, he only has a 6″10 wingspan, which doesn’t help much considering former Kentucky wing Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who is 2 inches shorter, has a 2 inch longer wingspan. If Randle can continue to refine his post game and continue to grow stronger, he could well be a standout at the next level, though I don’t see him ever outperforming Noah Vonleh.

8. Aaron Gordon. Freshman. Power Forward. Arizona. 6″8.

Aaron Gordon has a similar problem as Randle due to his size, but he doesn’t have the strength. But, Gordon has what I prefer to height: Wingspan. With a nearly 7″0 wingspan, he can make up for his small size as a power forward. With that in mind, the only NBA position that Gordon will succeed at is the 4, rather than the 3 that some are suggesting he play. The comparison to Blake Griffin is well warranted, as his athletic ability is off the charts. Gordon does have a jump shot, even from three, but his best asset is finishing around the rim. Unfortunately, likely due to advice from his inner-circle, he seems to be trying to make the change from the PF to the SF, as he has begun shooting more 3s and deep 2s. As a stretch 4, Gordon, who can also defend and rebound, can do quite well at the next level, especially with the upside that his athleticism brings. But if he makes the move to the 3, any team interested should be extremely speculative in picking him in the lottery.

9. Dario Saric. 19 Years Old. Small Forward. Croatia. 6″10. 

Saric is likely the most hotly debated lottery prospect in NBA Front Offices, and most GMs either love him or hate him. Due to the many players who’ve failed in the NBA from Europe, many are quick to forget the Nowitzki’s and Parker’s of the world. Prospects really should be judged based solely on talent, and this kid certainly has that. A jump shooter with good vision and a decent rebounder, Saric’s Dirk comparison isn’t all that far off. While not the exact same player, the two share many similar traits, though Saric can’t shoot quite as well but has a much better handle on the ball and better passing. It isn’t unfair to say that Saric could go anywhere from the 8th pick to around the 15th pick, as many teams won’t quite know what to do with the multi-positional Croatian. My personal feeling is that he won’t necessarily reach superstardom as Nowitzki did, but he certainly won’t bust. A long term starter and perhaps an All Star once or twice down the road.

10. Gary Harris. Sophomore. Shooting Guard. Michigan State. 6″4.

Gary Harris has played quite well of late, scoring 27, 24 and 23 in his last 3 contests, going a combined 10/16 from deep. Harris has stepped up and been what many Spartan fans thought he’d be from the get-go, and he’s certainly justifying himself as a lottery pick with 18.8 PPG to go alongside 41% from downtown and 46% all together. A lights out shooter with an ability to drive, Harris is also a capable defender. Any team in need of a shooting guard to start from day 1 would do well to get Harris.

11. Rodney Hood. Sophomore (21 Years Old). Shooting Guard. Duke. 6″8.

Rodney Hood is the definition of NBA-ready. And as ready as Harris is, he’s not quite where Hood is. What separates the two is that Harris looks to have a bit higher of a ceiling, though Hood won’t be too bad himself. With 17.7 PPG, shooting 51% from the field and 45% from three, the man is an offensive firecracker. He can step into a team, even a playoff-level team, and contribute or start right away. His one downfall is his age, as he is at least 2 years older than all other prospects, but that won’t overshadow his sweet lefty stroke and all around capacity to put the ball in the hoop.

12. Zach LaVine. Freshman. Shooting Guard. UCLA. 6″5.

LaVine is a player who can certainly achieve stardom in the league, but the issue is that he could also fizzle out. In a draft as loaded as this, teams really can’t afford to miss with a lottery pick, and missing is possible here. But though a low floor comes with Mr. LaVine, so too comes a high ceiling. Loaded with athleticism and a pure stroke, LaVine can fill it up from anywhere. Improvements defensively would surely help, as would sticking with being a 2 guard. His 2.4 assists per game justify that statement quite well, and LaVine should would be best served staying as a shooting guard. And should LaVine get picked up by a high tempo team that will properly use his athleticism, then he could do quite well for himself at the next tier.

13. Willie Cauley-Stein. Sophomore. Center. Kentucky. 7″0.

Cauley-Stein is not an offensive threat. At all. But as former Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler can tell you, you don’t have to be. The defensive beast is averaging a monstrous 3.4 Blocks per game, good for 8th in the NCAA. Though he may never get passed a simple back down and post hook, his defense alone will likely get him drafted in the lottery. And though I myself am not much a fan of the Tyson Chandlers of the world, there are quite a few teams, especially in the playoffs, who could really use a defensive force down low. And should one of them be in position to get Cauley-Stein, they likely won’t pass the chance up.

14. James Young. Freshman. Small Forward. Kentucky. 6″7.

James Young can flat out shoot the basketball. His sweet lefty stroke has the potential to be deadly with some work, but his best area could be on the other side of the ball. With a very appealing 6″11 wingspan and a lot of athleticism, Young could be a defensive nightmare. Your prototypical “3 and D” guy, Young brings two very nice strengths to whichever team takes him in June.

15. Nik Stauskas. Sophomore. Shooting Guard. Michigan. 6″6.

Stauskas has done it all with the departure of Trey Burke and the lack of Glen Robinson III and Mitch McGary stepping up as the star. While known for his sublime shooting ability, Stauskas has shown ability to do it all on the offensive side of the ball. Don’t be suprised to see Stauskas get the Klay Thompson comparison, and it’s spot on. But the Wolverine’s well-rounded offensive game could separate him from Thompson and others who are simply known for their shooting. He’ll have to improve defensively if he wants to be a two-way player at the next level.

16. Doug McDermott. Senior. Small Forward. Creighton. 6″7.

There is nothing McDermott can’t do, including scoring 39 points last night. A shooter, slasher and a shot-creator, McDermott is much more than ex-Creighton grad Kyle Korver, a knock-down shooter. This man can come into the NBA and, even against an obviously higher level of competition, score the basketball profusely and effectively. Any team who is in need of an offensive spark-plug would certainly get one in McDermott.

17. Wayne Selden. Freshman. Shooting Guard. Kansas. 6″5.

Wayne Selden has impressed me since the first game he played as a Jayhawk. His instincts are great and hustle plays like this really show that he’d really bring everything he’s got to a team. He is great at slashing to the hoop, reminiscent of Dwyane Wade, and he consistently finishes through contact. His body is great in terms of his strength. height and weight. If he could improve his shooting to go along with above average passing for a SG, he could slip into the lottery.

18. PJ Hairston. 21 Years Old. Shooting Guard. Texas Legends (NBA D League). 6″6. 

Roy Williams has been coaching for a LONG time, and for him to say that Hairston this year was the best player he’d ever seen in a practice setting is meaningful. Hairston can flat out score, whether with his superb long ball or in driving to the hoop. As you can tell, many of these players are offensively gifted, and Hairston is among them. In just his second D League game, he dropped 40 points. The NBA team to get his services will get a consistent scorer, not unlike Wesley Matthews.

19. Tyler Ennis. Freshman. Point Guard. Syracuse. 6″2.

The potential from the young Orangemen seems limitless, as he has blossomed in place of current 76ers PG Michael Carter-Williams. He is truly the general of Jim Boeheim’s offense, able to drive and finish or kick it to an open teammate, a growing necessity in the long-ball-happy NBA of today. One thing that could separate him from last year’s ‘Cuse PG is his ability to shoot from deep, as he is shooting 41% from deep. Though he may not be an elite athlete like Russell Westbrook, his decision-making is deft, and seeing a turnover from this frosh is rare. A great shooter who can both drive and pass sound a bit like fellow once-underrated point Stephen Curry.

20. Adreian Payne. Senior. Power Forward. Michigan State. 6″9.

Adreian Payne has a very finely-tuned skills, which is relatively rare for a first year NBA Big, and his staying this extra year in East Lancing helped greatly. An already great post game and jump shot, Payne is also a great athlete with 7″0 wingspan which helps him on the defensive end. While not a great rebounder, his frame and athletic ability merit more than 7.7 RPG. The one thing that many scouts and GMs won’t love about Payne is that he’s already 22 years old. But hopefully for said GMs and scouts, they’ll get over his age and look simply at his skills, both offensive and defensive/

NBA Mock 1.1

Image

New Mock for Sunday 1/26/14. New Big Board will be up on Wednesday.

 1   Embiid – Kansas 7’0 Center, Freshman

 2   Wiggins- Kansas 6’8 Small Forward, Freshman

 3   Parker- Duke 6’8 Small Forward, Freshman

 4   Exum- Australia 6’6 PG/SG, 18 Years old

 5   Smart-OklahomaState 6’4 PG/SG, Sophomore

 6   Vonleh- Indiana 6’10 PF, Freshman

 7   Randle- Kentucky 6’9 Power Forward, Freshman

 8   Harris-MichiganState 6’4 SG, Sophomore

 9   Lavine- UCLA 6’5 PG/SG, Freshman

10  Gordon- Arizona 6’8 SF/PF, Freshman

11 Hood- Duke 6’8 SF, RS Sophomore

12 Saric- Croatia 6’10 SF, 20 years old

13 Young- Kentucky 6’6 SG/SF, Freshman

14 Grant- Syracuse 6’8 SF, Sophomore

15 Ennis- Syracuse 6’2 PG, Freshman

16 Mcdermott- Creighton 6’7 SF, Senior

17 Cauley Stein- Kentucky 7’0 C, Sophomore

18 Selden- Kansas 6’5 SG, Freshman

19 Robinson III- Michigan 6’6 SF, Sophomore

20 Anderson- UCLA 6’10 PG/SF, Sophomore

21 Payne- Michigan State 6’10 PF, Senior

22 Napier- UCONN 6’1 PG, Senior

23 Harrell- Louisville 6’8 PF, Sophomore

24 Austin- Baylor 7’1 PF, Sophomore

25 Dekker- Wisconsin 6’7 SF, Sophomore

26 Micic- Serbia 6’5 PG, 19 Years Old

27 Fair- Syaracuse 6’8 SF, Senior

28 Walker- Florida 6’10 PF, Freshman

29 Christon- Xavier 6’3 PG, Sophomore

30 Hanlan- Boston College 6’3 PG, Sophomore

Prospect Profile: Marcus Smart

Image

Preview:

At Number 4, Marcus Smart may be the most interesting player in the draft. Smart, a combo guard who plays the point, can do almost everything for OklahomaState. Although he plays the point for the Cowboys, He is a true combo guard by NBA standards. Smart is stuck in the middle of both positions, something I’ll touch on later. As a freshman in Stillwater, Smart averaged 15 Points, 6 Boards along with 4 dimes and 3 steals while shooting 40% from the field and 29% from beyond the arc. Impressive numbers for the freshman who would’ve no doubt been a lottery pick in the NBA.

But like most players coming out of college, they all need to work on their game, Smart in particular. As the main scoring threat at OklahomaState, Smart was taking a lot of shots. Per 40 minutes, he was taking 14 attempts and hitting 5 of those. 5 for 14? While he was scoring 15 per game, he wasn’t doing it efficiently. But at the age of 18, Smart had a lot of time to work at that, and work he did at the USA U19 Tournament over the summer. While he didn’t put up crazy numbers that make you gush over his stats, you could tell he was improving. Enter the 2013 season, overshadowed early on by freshman phenoms including KU’s Andrew Wiggins and Joel Emdiid and Duke’s Jabari Parker, Smart had to prove he was NBA ready.

So consider his stats for this year, and make sure you’re sitting down. Per 40 minutes, Smart averages 23 Points on, wait for it….wait for it…..45% shooting!!!!! Yes, he’s averaging 16 shots per game which is a lot for a Point Guard but he’s nailing 7 of them. Forgot about scoring though, remember how I told you he was a combo guard? 8 Rebounds per game, 6 assists and 3 steals…..I know, I know. You’re probably thinking to yourself “Why is he at No.4 then”. BECAUSE HES TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE! Although he’s a stellar player, he has some questions surrounding his game on whether or not he can make the next step. Here are his strengths and weaknesses:

Strengths:

Size and Strength – At 6”4 and 220 Ibs, Smart looks like he could just bowling ball his way down the lane and get a bucket at will(He has does that a lot by the way). With all the strength now in the frontcourt in the NBA, Smart is built for being able to drive in the paint. Remember he averages 8 Rebounds per Game? That’s a lot for a Guard, if he can do that consistently in the NBA he’ll have no trouble getting good minutes on a team.

Post Game – A lost art in the NBA as colleges now try to get players who have an outside game, Smart contradicts everything about a Point Guard (One big reason he isn’t a true point guard). Smart delivers a fantastic post game for a 6”4 guard with plenty of moves that could even make Kevin McHale happy. With his strength, he can be a great low post scorer against smaller guards in the NBA.

Attacks the Rim – Who doesn’t love a player that can attack the rim? Because of his strength, Smart loves to drive and attack the rim and draw’s the whistle quite frequently as a result. He Averages 7.8 FTA’s per 40 minutes, and ranks 3rd among PG’s in the NCAA.

Passing – Like  I said earlier, Smart is not a True Point Guard, yet he can pass out of the Pick N’ Roll nicely, very unselfish, and he averages 6 dimes per game. A stellar number for College.

Weaknesses:

Athleticism: Westbrook, Irving, Parker, Teague, Walker, Curry etc…all of those guards are explosive and quick. Smart? Not so much, which is why that is his biggest weakness if he is to play the Point in the NBA. His defense is superb but has can be beaten off the dribble easily. This is why he isn’t a 1 or 2 as the name “Combo Guard” fits him through and through.

Jump Shot/Shot Selection: Smart has worked on his jumper big time, increasing his 3 Point Percentage form 29% to 33%. Let’s face it, he’s not going to beat you with his mid-range game at all, which is why many players go under the screens set on them. I would compare his shot selection to Brandon Jennings though. Understandably he’s trying to make plays to win, but often times he’ll take a 3 or a mid-range shot when he should pass.

Position He Will Play In The NBA: PG

Although Smart is a Combo Guard, he doesn’t have the shot to play the 2 so we’ll most likely see the Pokie product bringing the ball up the court in his NBA days. He ability to drive and strength will definitely be of help to him, but it will be interesting to see if he can develop a shot in the pros.

NBA Player Comparison:

Dwaron Afflade (Combination of Aaron Afflalo and Dwayne Wade)

Smart is a difficult player to compare too but Wade and Afflalo both possesses qualities of Smart. Wade is one of the best rebounding guards in the NBA currently and may have the best post game of a guard. Both players are able to drive to the basket well and develop a shot later in their career. Wade and Afflalo did so by adding threes to their game. 

NBA Mock 1.0

 

NBA Mock Draft 1.0

Our first Mock does not put consideration into team needs or specific teams. with the standings fluctuating so much at this time of the year we are simply putting the players draft value at this stage. Kansas C Joel Embiid kicks off our first mock as the number 1 prospect in the nation… Enjoy and don’t forget to comment! Mocks will be updated every Sunday.

1  Embiid – Kansas 7’0 Center, Freshman

2  Wiggins- Kansas 6’8 Small Forward, Freshman

3   Parker- Duke 6’8 Small Forward, Freshman

4   Smart- Oklahoma State 6’4 PG/SG, Sophmore

5   Exum- Australia 6’6 PG/SG, 18 Years old

6   Randle- Kentucky 6’9 Power Forward, Freshman

7   Gordon- Arizona 6’8 SF/PF, Freshman

8   Lavine- UCLA 6’5 PG/SG, Freshman

9  Vonleh- Indiana 6’10 PF, Freshman

10 Hood- Duke 6’8 SF, RS Sophmore

11 Harris- Michigan State 6’4 SG, Sophomore

12 Saric- Croatia 6’10 SF, 20 years old

13 Grant- Syracuse 6’8 SF, Sophomore

14 Young- Kentucky 6’6 SG/SF, Freshman

15 Mcdermott- Creighton 6’7 SF, Senior

16 Cauley Stein- Kentucky 7’0 C, Sophomore

17 Ennis- Syracuse 6’2 PG, Freshman

18 Robinson III- Michigan 6’6 SF, Sophomore

19 Selden- Kansas 6’5 SG, Freshman

20 Anderson- UCLA 6’10 PG/SF, Sophomore

21 Dekker- Wisconsin 6’7 SF, Sophomore

22 Payne- Michigan State 6’10 PF, Senior

23 Harrell- Louisville 6’8 PF, Sophomore

24 Napier- UCONN 6’1 PG, Senior

25 Austin- Baylor 7’1 PF, Sophomore

26 Micic- Serbia 6’5 PG, 19 Years Old

27 Fair- Syaracuse 6’8 SF, Senior

28 Walker- Florida 6’10 PF, Freshman

29 Christon- Xavier 6’3 PG, Sophomore

30 Hanlan- Boston College 6’3 PG, Sophomore

 

give us a follow @nbadraftsexperts for all the latest on the Draft.

 

\