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NBA Saturday: What Makes 2014 Draft Special
Posted By Joel Brigham On August 10, 2013 @ 6:00 am In NBA | No Comments
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The NBA’s Next Crop of Superstars
We’ve spent the last several weeks getting to know this year’s crop of incoming rookies, to the point that people who follow the NBA closely know more about Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, C.J. McCollum and Steven Adams than they ever would have thought possible about six months ago.
And somewhere in this crop of rookies, whether it be Victor Oladipo, Trey Burke or Nerlens Noel, there will be an All-Star, even though after watching Summer League it has become pretty clear that this isn’t necessarily going to be a legendary draft class. While we won’t be calling this one of the greatest groups of rookies the league has ever seen, there is a pretty strong chance that we will be saying that about next year’s draft class.
The “2014 draft class” has been talked about almost as much as the “2014 free agency crop,” with the only difference being that we’re all very familiar with the big names heading into free agency next summer. Outside of Andrew Wiggins, however, the names of most of those college stars are probably quite a bit less recognizable. It won’t be that way a year from now, but in case you’re interested in getting a jump on who next June’s lottery picks are likely to be, take a gander at this very early primer for the 2014 NBA Draft.
The following players are likely to be the biggest stars in the NCAA next season and project to be potential lottery picks next summer:
Andrew Wiggins, Kansas, Fr. – As far as sure things go, Wiggins is about as good as they come. Most scouts believe he’s as can’t-miss as guys like Tim Duncan and LeBron James were coming into the pros, so there’s little question that he’ll be the first overall pick in next year’s draft, barring some sort of career-threatening injury. But what makes him so undeniably transcendent? Well, he’s a ridiculously athletic wing with range that extends pretty much everywhere on the court. He’s an elite scorer, plain and simple, but his ability to finish at the rim or sink a shot from deep, paired with unbelievable leaping ability, give him the sort of skill set that has many believing he’ll be the best prospect in his class.
Julius Randle, Kentucky, Fr. – Randle is probably the second-best player available for drafting, and there are more than a few people that think in any other year he’d easily be the favorite to be taken first overall. At 6’9 and 250 lbs., Randle is already built like an NBA power forward, and he has the toughness, drive and post moves to make himself a career down low. But he also can stretch the floor, which means on most nights he’ll be very hard to match up against. Like Wiggins, it’s an inside-outside offensive game that has scouts drooling over this kid, and while Wiggins likely won’t drop from the No. 1 spot on draft boards any time soon, Randle is the guy most likely to give him a run for his money.
Jabari Parker, Duke, Fr. – With Wiggins and Randle hogging so much of the limelight this early in the process, Parker has perhaps been overlooked a bit, but like those other two players, it’s easy to see him transforming very quickly into the type of player that teams build their roster around. He’s not as athletic as Wiggins and Randle, but he can still play both forward positions, has an extremely high basketball IQ and has the maturity to carry himself as an unselfish leader who makes everybody else around him better. He’s an excellent kid from a really good family, and his combination of high character, scoring ability, ball handling and distribution skills make him a likely top three pick. A year of seasoning at Duke shouldn’t hurt anything, either.
Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State, So. – Not only is he the highest-rated non-freshman in the class this early on (North Carolina juniors James McAdoo and P.J. Hairston may be the only upperclassmen with a real shot at getting selected in the lottery next year), but he was in contention for the No. 1 overall selection in the 2013 NBA Draft before deciding to come back to the Cowboys for one more year. Smart is probably going to be the top point guard prospect in the 2014 draft class, and we know from watching him last season that he’s a very competitive leader and plays the position aggressively and well. There’s always a place for elite point guard prospects in the top five picks of the draft, and Smart is the smart choice to be that guy next summer.
Aaron Gordon, Arizona, Fr. – For those that have never heard of Aaron Gordon, get ready to be seriously entertained. In the conversation with Wiggins as the best athlete in the class, Gordon is a walking highlight film, though he’s not quite as polished as some of the other players on this list. Still, his potential is absolutely through the roof and once teams decide whether he’s a small forward or power forward at the NBA level, they can start grooming him to be the star he looks destined to be. This is a high-motor kid who will dunk on absolutely anybody, and he’s also one of the best defenders on this list. He’ll be a little raw by the time he gets to the league, but not even the sky’s the limit for this unbelievable leaper.
Dante Exum, Australia – Probably the best player you’ve never heard of, Exum is a wonder from down under. He’s a 6’6 point guard with a lightning quick first step and elite scoring skills, and really, that’s all NBA teams will need to hear in deciding whether or not to use a lottery pick on the kid. He hasn’t yet decided whether to go pro next summer or play a year at an American college (Indiana and Louisville are reportedly two possibilities for 2014-15), but if he does decide to go pro, there’s a good chance he’s a top five pick. International prospects aren’t as buzzy as they used to be, but Exum is probably the buzziest since Jonas Valanciunas in 2011.
Other Potential Lottery Picks: Glenn Robinson III (Michigan, So.), Andrew Harrison (Kentucky, Fr.), Aaron Harrison (Kentucky, Fr.), Mario Hezonja (Croatia), Mitch McGary (Michigan, So.), Montrezl Harrell (Louisville, So.), Joel Embiid (Kansas, Fr.), Isaiah Austin (Baylor, So.), James McAdoo (North Carolina, So.), Dario Saric (Croatia).
Obviously, the draft picture can change a lot over the course of an NBA season. This time last year, Shabazz Muhammad and Cody Zeller looked like they’d own the top spots in the 2013 NBA Draft, and that obviously changed quite a bit once the college season actually played itself out.
But no matter how the upcoming NCAA season goes, the above six players are the kind of guys teams rebuild around. They’re the reason everybody is so excited about this draft class, so get ready to hear a whole lot more about all of them once college hoops get underway later this fall.
Philadelphia Finally Zeroing In On Head Coach
Since the regular season ended back in April, 12 new head coaches have been hired in the NBA, leaving only one opening—Philadelphia—left up for grabs. That last job may be filled soon by San Antonio assistant Brett Brown, according to Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski.
Nothing has been signed yet, but Philadelphia has reportedly made Brown an offer, and now it’s just a matter of finding out if the Sixers can put enough money on the table to make Brown leave a potential title contender for a team that seems destined to have the worst record in the league this year.
With former Spurs lead assistant Mike Budenholzer now coaching the Atlanta Hawks, Brown was on deck to take over that lead assistant role under Gregg Popovich, but since Popovich is currently the best coach in the game, his disciples obviously are in hot demand for other head coaching positions right now.
Sixers GM Sam Hinkie wanted to rip the old team up and start over completely, which he’s done, but finding a new head coach has been a bit of a challenge. According to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein, Michael Curry is still a short-term solution at head coach should Brown turn down the job, but Boston assistant Jay Larranaga, Chicago assistant Adrian Griffin and Atlanta assistant Kenny Atkinson all received interviews with Philadelphia over the course of the last week, as well.
Brown, however, is the guy they have reportedly offered a contract to, which would give Philly a respectable long-term head coaching solution and would leave San Antonio with quite a bit of restocking to do.
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