As the All-Star break and Feb. 20 trade deadline draw near, it’s becoming increasingly clear to the neutral observer which teams are going to compete for the remainder of the regular season, and which teams are content on limping to the finish line.
Their hopes will then rest on securing a high lottery pick in this, the much hyped 2014 NBA draft. It’s been a while between mock drafts here at SheridanHoops since Joe Kotoch’s ‘Very Early Mock Lottery‘ was published, and we thought it was about time we revisit this freshmen- dominant cluster of NBA prospects.
As it stands now, in early February, here is how I see things panning out on the 26th of June.
It’s important to note that this list is purely based around who are currently the best overall prospects. Once we know who is picking where, and which players decide to stay in school, things will obviously change.
1. Joel Embiid, Center, Kansas, FR
The Kansas big has overtaken both Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker on most boards to be the consensus No. 1 prospect in the draft. Possessing a 7-4 wingspan, Embiid is a defensive game changer and as a result of his insane intangibles has become somewhat of an underrated offensive commodity.
He shoots at a high percentage, hits free throws at a reasonable rate for a freshman and doesn’t take many bad shots.
His main issue at the moment however, is foul trouble (playing only 22.7 minutes a night). That being said, he is still averaging 10.9 points, 7.6 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game for the Jayhawks this season.
2. Andrew Wiggins, Shooting Guard/Small Forward, Kansas, FR
Wiggins’ freshman campaign has been viewed by many as a disappointment thus far. The Canadian has seen his fellow freshman teammate Embiid leapfrog him on most big boards. We have seen spasmodic glimpses of brilliance from Wiggins in the first half of his freshman year.
He has great physical tools, is an amazing athlete, and when his jump shot is dropping he is damn near unguardable. Perhaps at times he needs to be a bit more aggressive. But he will learn when he needs to take over the game and when he needs to take a back seat. I’m still very confident that the son of former NBA player Mitchel Wiggins can be the All-Star many experts predicted coming out of high school.
The highlight of his season without doubt, was in January when he put up 56 points over a two-game stretch, giving potential NBA lottery teams a mouthwatering preview of what he is capable of producing at the next level. Zach Harper of CBS Sports wrote a terrific piece recently, outlining how Wiggins was growing in confidence and starting to reach his potential.
All those teams still ‘Riggin for Wiggins’… don’t panic yet.
3. Jabari Parker, Small Forward, Duke, FR
Jabari is probably the most NBA ready of the top 3 prospects. He is a ‘basketball player’ in the true sense of the term. Not as athletically brilliant as Wiggins and Embiid, but his overall basketball skill-set, at this stage at least, is more developed.
It’s worth mentioning however that given his skill set and dimensions — 6-8 and 240 lbs, Jabari falls right in the Jeff Green and Anthony Bennett (dare I say it) category of an ‘In-between Forward’.
After starting the season on a tear – Parker averaged 23 points per game and 8 rebounds in November, he hit somewhat of a shooting slump. That being said, Parker has the game and the coach (Legendary Duke mastermind Mike Krzyzewski) to overcome the proverbial ‘Freshman wall’ he’s faced with.
“Without Embiid and Parker, you can stick a fork in the Class of ’14, which would go from “vaunted” to “mediocre” faster than you can say “biggest hype in NBA draft history.”
4. Julius Randle, Power Forward, Kentucky FR
Julius is a big kid ready to bang with big bodies now. As a freshman he has had a solid season thus far in John Calipari’s system at Kentucky. Randle averages 16 points and almost 10 boards per contest, has respectable field goal and free throw percentages and figures to be a lock to go in the first six of this draft.
For a man of his stature (6-8 and 225) he possesses terrific quickness, rebounds efficiently and he uses his Basketball IQ to draw fouls around the basket.
All things considered, to me Randle appears to be a relatively safe selection. Randle’s obvious weakness appears to be his length and whether or not he can mix it with taller, longer bodies on a nightly basis. A few players that he reminds me of are Zach Randolph, Brandon Bass and Paul Millsap. Physical, tough and slightly undersized 4’s.
Jonathan Tjarks of SB Nation recently outlined the struggles Randle may face in the NBA with his relatively small wingspan.
5. Dante Exum, Point Guard – Australian Institute of Sport
Dante will always get the ‘special treatment’ from me. He is a fellow Aussie who I’m going to defend until the sun stops coming up. In all seriousness though, Exum is the real deal. A little part of me actually wanted to squeeze him up to another spot on this list.
A little over a week ago, ESPN’s Chad Ford confirmed that Exum, will indeed declare for the draft. Exum will join Kyrie Irving and Andrew Bogut on the list of recent lottery picks from Down Under.
A few weeks ago I illustrated exactly Why Australia’s Dante Exum Will Be A High Lottery Pick. I am extremely confident that he is the best guard not named Wiggins in this draft class, and I can’t wait for him to represent Australia in the National Basketball Association.
6. Marcus Smart, Point Guard, Oklahoma State, SO
To me, he is clearly a lesser prospect than Dante because his ceiling figures to be much lower. That being said, probably the second best ‘point guard’ on the board. He, at 6-4 and close to 220 lbs is a big, solid guard who has great intangibles and is a determined competitor.
Smart is not explosive like Exum and Wiggins, instead he uses his hustle, intensity and hunger to beat opponents. A small question still remains on Smart though, teams must decide whether he is ready, given his skill set, to be a proper NBA point guard? Because if he’s not, and he is selected as a ‘combo guard’ he may slip to the 8, 9, 10 region.
Best case, he does an incredibly good rendition of a poor man’s Jason Kidd. Worst case, he does an incredibly good rendition of a poor man’s Jarrett Jack.
7. Noah Vonleh, Centre/Power Forward, Indiana, FR
Vonleh is hard-nosed and rangy with a huge 7-3 wingspan. The Indiana big man has averaged 11.7 points and 9.4 rebounds per game for the Hoosiers in season 2013/14. At the moment he get’s a lot of his points from offensive rebounds and put-backs but his offensive game has potential for improvement. Vonleh has allegedly grown two inches since joining IU which would now make him somewhere around 6-10.
Possessing great intangibles and a big upside, Noah is a very intriguing prospect who has flown under the radar a little bit due to the media hype surrounding some of his counterparts.
I really like Vonleh and wouldn’t be surprised at all if he sneaks up the board another spot or two come April and May.
Gordon is a tricky one and would be a huge gamble to take any higher than 7 or 8 based on what we have seen so far. He has unbelievable athleticism, length and body control but is a poor mid-range shooter and also a bad free throw shooter (less then 50% from the stripe).
Gordon is another young prospect without a clearly defined NBA position. At 6-8 and 220lbs Gordon reminds me more of a slashing NBA small forward then a power forward. Well, at the very least he is not a traditional power forward. Not yet, anyway. He can however, defend his position very well and should mature into the role as he goes on.
Gordon has drawn comparisons to LA Clippers forward Blake Griffin.