Tony Parker, Paul George, Kobe Bryant. All three players were first-round picks but not selected in the first five picks of their respective drafts. They are evidence of this simple fact: There are plenty of talented players available besides the top prospects.
To expand on this further, from the 25 players selected for the 2013 All-Star Game (Rondo was injured), 10 of said players were selected after the fifth pick in their respective drafts. Moreover, the entire starting lineup of the Indiana Pacers does not have one player that was selected higher than the 10th pick of their draft.
As for the 2014 NBA Draft, these five names pretty much dominate every mock draft site: Andrew Wiggins (freshman, Kansas), Jabari Parker (freshman, Duke), Julius Randle (freshman, Kentucky), Marcus Smart (sophomore, Oklahoma State) and Dante Exum (18 years old, Australia). Granted, there is no guarantee these exact five players will go to the first five teams selecting in the 2014 NBA Draft due to how the lottery plays out, but it’s safe to say assuming all five declare for the draft, they will all go pretty high.
Outside of these highly-esteemed prospects, this draft is loaded with talent. And as a result of this, basically the entire Eastern Conference is experimenting with lineups, “developing their younger players” and making head scratching trades. So let’s delve into this pool of talent and try to highlight a few with the talent and wherewithal to potentially dawn an All-Star jersey sometime down the road, in no particular order.
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At the Championship Classic on November 12, 2013, all the hype surrounded Randle, Parker and Wiggins and rightly so. But the player that I could not keep my eyes off of was Embiid. At 7-0 and 250 pounds, it was amazing to learn that he had only been playing organized basketball since 2011. A fluid athlete that had been playing soccer and volleyball before picking up basketball, I believe his ceiling is higher than anyone else in this draft. Now, I will also preface this by saying that he might actually benefit from playing another year or two at Kansas because big men tend to take longer to develop. But his footwork, awareness and hand-eye coordination is undeniable. Talent evaluators are already billing him the next Hakeem Olajuwon for obvious reasons, but even if Embiid does not reach that ceiling, I believe at worst he can be a capable starting center in the NBA for a decade, with ease.
This 6-8, pogo-stick is averaging 12 PPG and 9.0 RPG for the No. 1 team in college basketball. Gordon is a ball of energy that plays with an incredibly high motor. Some scouts worry that he is your classic “tweener” that won’t be big enough to guard power forwards in the NBA and not quick enough to stay with small forwards. But Gordon possesses great lateral quickness and verticality, which will more than make up for his perceived lack of height — plus his wingspan seems to be beyond average at his position. Gordon won’t ever make a living as a back-to-the-basket post threat but he has the capability of facing up and shooting it with range (.462 percent on three-point range). Plus he has a very underrated handle that will serve him well at the next level.