The 2014 NBA Draft is stacked. NBA teams have been tanking all season to get the most ping-pong balls in hopes of landing the #1 pick. Two players in particular have NBA teams drooling, Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker.
Not only does this draft have two potential All-Stars, but it’s deep. You could get a player late in the Lottery that could start right away. You don’t see that in most drafts. Actually, the top five players in this draft would have been #1 overall picks in last year’s draft.
Players will begin to announce their intentions to either declare for the draft or stay in school. You have the usual suspects, but there are always a few wild cards that declare, but end up going back to school after the NBA Draft Combine
We list the top 20 prospects in the 2014 NBA Draft.
*This list is compiled assuming everyone on this list will forego their college eligibility and enter the 2014 NBA Draft (a few of these players could wait to enter a later draft).
- Andrew Wiggins – SF – (Kansas): Wiggins didn’t wow anyone in the NCAA Tournament, but teams still drool at the sheer chance of drafting him. He was the best high school player and none of the top freshman really did anything to top his potential.
- Jabari Parker – SF/PF – (Duke): Parker was the second-best high school to enter college and he had his moments. Duke was upset by Mercer in the first-round and he wasn’t much of a factor. He didn’t need to have a outstanding season. As long as he stayed healthy and had a few moments, he would stay in the conversation to be the #1 overall pick.
- Joel Embiid – C – (Kansas): Embiid is still new to the game. He came to this country from Cameroon and started playing basketball in 2011. For a guy who just started playing three years ago and to already be compared to Hakeem Olajuwon is unbelievable. He suffered a back injury late in the season and if proven to be a potential long-term issue, he might drop if he declares for the draft.
- Julius Randle – PF – (Kentucky): At the beginning of the season, Randle looked like he could usurp the #1 overall selection in the 2014 NBA Draft. Well, he couldn’t keep it up and even struggled against sub-par SEC competition. He has improved the last few weeks of the season, so maybe it was just a slump. He already has an NBA body and could step in and be a factor immediately.
- Dante Exum – PG/SG – (Australia): Being the best international player in a draft is a blessing and a curse. You don’t have to face the scrutiny of a college basketball player in the U.S., but many of the recent top international players (Ricky Rubio, Andrea Bargnani) haven’t lived up to the hype. He impressed NBA scouts in 20123 when he played in the FIBA U-19 World Championship. He averaged 18.2 points and 3.8 assists. Standing 6’6, I’ve read Penny Hardaway comparisons and even a young Michael Jordan.
- Aaron Gordon – PF – (Arizona): Same as Randle, Gordon had a lull in the middle of the season. He was playing like one of the best players in college, but once the Pac-12 schedule began, he looked like a freshman. He could be a double-double machine. Even when he struggles to score, his rebound numbers are consistent.
- Marcus Smart – PG – (Oklahoma State): Most people have Smart rated higher than I do, but there’s something about him I don’t like. His emotions get the best of him and when he struggles in a game, he doesn’t bounce back. His game suffers and disappears from the game. He could have been a top-three pick last year, but decided to stay in school to work on his shooting. Well, it didn’t improve much. He could benefit from another season, but he would risk his stock to drop further.
- Noah Vonleh – C – (Indiana): Since IU didn’t make the NCAA Tournament, Vonleh flew under the radar of most NBA fans. He is a strong rebounder, but needs to add weight if he wants to reach his full potential.
- Doug McDermott – PF – (Creighton): I love McDermott (and it’s not because I have an affinity for unathletic white basketball players). Dougie McBuckets is more athletic than one would expect. He scored over 3,000 points in his career and he a proven leader. I know he may not go #8 in the draft, but he could start immediately. He’s definitely more NBA-ready than Gordon Hayward was when he was drafted. I want to compare him to Wally Szczerbiak at Miami (OH), but he could be a much better pro.
- Willy Cauley-Stein – C – (Kentucky): There seems to be a center prospect on Kentucky every season. Cauley-Stein is a sophomore and was overshadowed by Nerlens Noel last season. He has carried the tradition as a blocking machine. His offensive game hasn’t developed yet, but he’s one of the best defensive centers in college. He’s not DeAndre Jordan-lite, since he has a little more range.
- Dario Saric – SF/PF – (Croatia): Saric is another player who appeared on the radar during the FIBA tournaments. He was a part of the 2012 FIBA Europe U-18 Championship team. He averaged 25.6 points and 10.1 rebounds. His comparisons are somewhere in-between Dirk Nowitzki and Mike Dunleavy Jr. If that is his ceiling and basement, he’ll have a nice pro career.
- Jusuf Nurkic – C – (Bosnia & Herzegovina): Nurkic is 6’11, 280 lbs and has a wingspan of 7’2. He could benefit a season in Europe to refine his game, but if you’re drafting him in the lottery, you may want him right away. He’s not very athletic and is more of a bruiser. If can develop his game near Nikola Pekovic, he’s worth a lottery selection.
- Gary Harris – SG – (Michigan State): I’m a big fan of Gary Harris. I’ve seen many Michigan State games and the guy can score in bunches. He’s a plus defender and he’s Victor Oladipo-lite. He’s not as good of a defender as Oladipo, but is a better playmaker. He will be a solid pro in the NBA.
- Tyler Ennis – PG – (Syracuse): I like Ennis, but don’t love him. I hope he stays in college another year. He would become a better point guard and work on his decision making. He put up too many bad shots against Dayton and was upset. If he was drafted by a team that already has a starting point guard and they bring him slowly, it would be the best situation.
- Rodney Hood – SF – (Duke): Hood made the most out of decision to transfer from Mississippi State. He definitely worked on his game in the year he had to sit out. His shooting improved and became the most consistent scorer on the Blue Devils (yes, more than Parker). He can score from anywhere on the court.
- Clint Capela – C – (France): Capela had an amazing EuroCup. He shot 69% and averaged 13 rebounds and 3.2 blocks per game. He has a big frame and wingspan, which NBA scouts often fall in love with. I heard he wants to play smaller and often wanders out of the paint. He would immediately be a nice backup center and could develop into a starter.
- Nik Stauskas – SG – (Michigan): Stauskas could have declared for the NBA draft with his teammate Tim Hardaway Jr., but he would have been a borderline first-round pick. He improved his shooting and help leader Michigan to a Big Ten title. He compares his game to Golden State’s Klay Thompson. I think that is a very fair comparison.
- Adreian Payne – PF – (Michigan State): When Payne was out with an injury, the Spartans were an average team. He comes back before the Big Ten tourney and Michigan State looked like one of the best teams in the country once again. I know seniors don’t often go high in the draft, but Payne could start for a dozen teams in the NBA right now.
- T.J. Warren – SF/PF – (NC State): Warren could have been a lottery pick last season. The draft wasn’t as strong, but he came back to school. His shooting percentage took a hit, but he put up way more shots. His comparison could be a taller Caron Butler. He would be a great sixth man at this point in his career.
- P.J. Hairston – SG – (North Carolina/NBA D-League): Hairston was an NBA prospect last year, but got in trouble when he was caught using luxury cars from a convicted felon. If he didn’t have that on his résumé, he would be a lottery pick. He started playing in the NBA Development League in January and has been a scoring machine. If he cuts ties with criminals, he could be a future All-Star. It’s a tall task since players with troubled college careers often fall back into old habits.
Bobby Roberts (otherwise known as Sweetbob) is the creator of ‘America’s White Boy’ and contributor at Project Shanks. His writing has been featured on ESPN’s ‘SportsNation’, Sports Illustrated’s Hot Clicks, Guyspeed, and various other sites. You can follow him on Twitter at @Sweetbob.