Surprisingly, it has only taken one weekend of the NCAA Tournament to knock out my first four projected picks in the NBA draft. It has been six weeks since I did my last Mock Lottery, so expect to see a few changes in the positioning, but the personnel staying relatively the same.
As I have mentioned previously, it is important to note that this list is purely based on the best overall current prospects. Once we know who is picking where and which players decide to stay in school, things will obviously change.
1. Andrew Wiggins, G-F, Kansas
He doesn’t appear to have the motor or drive of fellow freshman sensation Jabari Parker, but he is incredibly talented and a breathtaking athlete. I just don’t think a team like the Milwaukee Bucks can afford to gamble on not taking him.
Forget the LeBron James comparisons coming out of high school; that’s not his fault and they were unrealistic. Wiggins is a super talent and gets the nod ahead of Kansas teammate Joel Embiid and the kid from Chicago.
Best case: Tracy McGrady 2.0.
Worst case: Rudy Gay
2. Jabari Parker, F, Duke
Parker is my favorite of the top three prospects because he is driven. Of this top three, Parker is probably the safest pick in the sense that during his freshman campaign most experts believe he came the closest to reaching his ceiling. Talent evaluators have seen most of the tricks he currently possesses.
Best case: Carmelo Anthony, Paul Pierce
Worst case: Michael Beasley.
3. Joel Embiid, C, Kansas
However, back issues flaring up at such a young age is a red flag for 80 percent of prospects. Fortunately for Embiid, he is so talented that the lowest he should slip to is third.
He will have to avoid getting in foul trouble at the next level, as he is still somewhat raw in that aspect. Perhaps he doesn’t make an impact as quickly as the two guys above him, but as a 7-footer with a soft touch, free-throw shooting ability, shot-blocking, length and rebounding, Embiid has the tools to be a Dwight Howard like, multiple All-Star big man.
Best case: Tim Duncan
Worst case: DeAndre Jordan
4. Dante Exum, G, Australian Institute of Sport
Exum will be flying the Australian flag high on June 26. As someone who has watched quite a bit of him, I still struggle to explain his game to people in America.
As such, putting my finger on an NBA comparison is incredibly hard. Perhaps the best thing I can say is Exum is one of those guys that can create a play off the dribble when the offence isn’t working.
Earlier this year I detailed the reasons why Exum is such a special prospect
Best case: Russell Westbrook
Worst case: Gerald Green
5. Julius Randle, F, Kentucky
He lacks the wow factor of the top bunch and perhaps doesn’t have the ‘multiple All-Star’ potential but he should be a very solid pro.
Best case: Zach Randolph/Paul Millsap
Worst case: Brandon Bass
6. Marcus Smart, G, Oklahoma State
Smart is really not exceptional at anything but is very good at a lot of things. He lacks the athleticism of Exum and Wiggins but has terrific hunger and seems driven to succeed. He can fill up the stat sheet in a number of ways like a young Jason Kidd.
However, the more I watched Smart, the more similarities I drew with James Harden. Smart is by no means a pure point guard but like Harden is a primary ballhandler and a scorer first.
Best case: James Harden
Worst case: Jarrett Jack
7. Aaron Gordon, F, Arizona
He needs to improve his free throw shooting and learn how to best harness his physical attributes, but he is without doubt right up there with the Exums and Wiggins of the world on the excitement factor scale.
Best case: Blake Griffin
Worst case: Kenneth Faried
8. Noah Vonleh, F, Indiana
I am a big fan of Vonleh. Despite the Hoosiers’ failure to even make it to the NCAA Tournament, I think he will go in the top 10 and turn into a very good pro. He is an improving shooter with rangy length.
Best case: Chris Bosh
Worst case: Channing Frye