Every other Wednesday, we’ll be assessing how the top prospects of the 2014 NBA Draft are faring in college and overseas. Stick with us each week for assorted thoughts, including the biggest risers and fallers, the standouts, the sleepers and what we know and don’t know about the next NBA Draft class…
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Not much separates the top three prospects right now on the Big Board and there is an array of talented prospects making waves in both directions. The 2014 NBA Draft is still a long ways away from taking its true form, but most of the characters are fitting into their roles.
Here is the NBA Draft Fast Five.
ONE: What Do We Know?
Basketball Purgatory has always been that middle part of the standings where a team is not quite bad enough to fall into a great pick and not good enough to truly compete for a championship. That area in the standings, between picks tenth and say 17th, has not produced a ton of franchise changing NBA talent over the course of the last five years. Those teams are perpetually in that spot too because they cant get over the hump or are just good enough to justify not blowing it all up to start from scratch.
2008: Brook Lopez, Jerryd Bayless, Jason Thompson, Brandon Rush, Anthony Randolph, Robin Lopez, Marreese Speights and Roy Hibbert
2009: Brandon Jennings, Terrence Williams, Gerald Henderson, Tyler Hansbrough, Earl Clark, Austin Daye, James Johnson and Jrue Holiday
2010: Paul George, Cole Aldrich, Xavier Henry, Ed Davis, Patrick Patterson, Larry Sanders, Luke Babbitt and Kevin Seraphin
2011: Jimmer Fredette, Klay Thompson, Alec Burks, Markieff Morris, Marcus Morris, Kawhi Leonard, Nikola Vucevic and Iman Shumpert
2012: Austin Rivers, Meyers Leonard, Jeremy Lamb, Kendall Marshall, John Henson, Moe Harkless, Royce White and Tyler Zeller
Ironically the dubious 2011 NBA Draft had a very nice middle and produced some of the better role players in the league today from Leonard with the Spurs to Vucevic with the Magic.
Every year, teams that are middling around .500 are looking to land the next Paul George, Roy Hibbert, Michael Carter-Williams or Kawhi Leonard. Most do not. It is rare to change the fortunes of a franchise with a pick here in any draft because the data, scouting and information is readily available for every team to process.
TWO: What Do We Not Know?
How will this year’s middle look? In 2003, a great draft by all accounts, the middle was highlighted by Nick Collison and low-lighted with Reece Gaines, Troy Bell and Zarko Cabarkapa. Go back to 1996 and there are four future All-Stars taken between 10-17, showing that even in a great class of talent, there is the potential to find a gem or two, but more realistic to draft a future role player at best.
THREE: Stock Rising
With basketball becoming increasingly more about playmaking, athleticism, versatility and size, there are very few point guard prospects that can stake a claim to being all of those intangibles more than Jordan Clarkson of Missouri. Coming into the season he was a relative unknown, a transfer from Tulsa, but has shown the ability to be a weapon on the offensive end. He is not a pure point guard–who is anymore?–but creates athletic advantages for his team and can make plays with the ball. Right now he is being looked at as a mid-to-late first-round pick and could move higher in time.
FOUR: Stock Falling
Prospects on fringe tournament teams that might not make it beware… NBA decision-makers might forget about you during all the big games with the bright lights on in March during the NCAA Tournament. High-level talents like Marcus Smart, Isaiah Austin, Le’Bryan Nash, Markel Brown, Cory Jefferson and Keith Frazier are all at risk of suffering that fate.