DimeMag

The 15 Biggest Unknowns In The 2014 NBA Draft

How tired are we all of hearing names like Wiggins, Parker, Randle and Smart? It’s almost as if the basketball world forgot the draft consists of players outside the top five. While it’s great hearing those names, the 2014 NBA Draft class is being considered possibly the best in decades for a reason. It’s covered in future NBA All-Star talent, not just in the top five. With everyone’s focus on the top prospects in the draft, there will no doubt be some fans going “Who did my team just pick?” These fans might even be mad, because their team missed out on one of the bigger names, but that should be no cause for concern.

There are some prospects in this draft class that are relatively unknown, but will make an impact in the league in the near future. You might be hearing some of these names for the first time, but it won’t be the last time. Everyone is keeping their attention on the first few picks, while there are plenty of prospects flying up mock draft boards daily. Regardless if they go in the first or second round, these players deserve as much attention as the top five prospects are garnering, so let’s talk about some of these young guns.

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CLINT CAPELA
Clint Capela is an international prospect that might find his way onto your favorite team on draft night. The 19-year-old, 6-11, 211-pound power forward was born in Switzerland and is playing for Chalon, a Euroleague team from France this season. At this age, Capela is still a very raw prospect, but Draftexpress.com still has him going in the first round. Besides that, Andre Drummond was extremely raw coming out of UConn, right? Capela is a physical freak — his wingspan brings him close to 7-4. That’s scary. Anthony Davis is around 6-10 and has a wingspan close to 7-6. How’s that for an athletic comparison?

Capela isn’t a powerhouse like DeMarcus Cousins or Blake Griffin, he’s more comparable to the new type of center we seen in the NBA like Nerlens Noel and Anthony Davis. In the Eurocup this season (ten games), Capela posted averages of 11.2 points and 6.5 boards along with one block per game. A lot of these international prospects play minimal minutes overseas, so they make the most of their minutes. Capela was only playing 19.8 minutes per game, but he shot a very impressive 71.8 percent from the field. With his freak athleticism and potential to be an elite rim protector, make yourself familiar with the name Clint Capela.

WAYNE SELDEN
Whenever anyone talks about the Kansas Jayhawks this season, the only name you are likely to hear is Andrew Wiggins. Of course, Wiggins is a great prospect and even Kevin Durant already sees Wiggins as a future HOFer. But, there is a lot of talent on this team besides Wiggins, including Wayne Selden. Hardcore basketball followers might know who Selden is, but to the average person, he remains unknown. This will all change by the time the 2014 NBA Draft rolls around.

Wiggins is getting all the attention at Kansas, but Selden’s game should not be overlooked, regardless of numbers. Selden is putting up 8.7 PPG in 26.2 minutes, shooting 49 percent from the field and 37 percent from deep. Those numbers aren’t impressive by any means, but Selden is only taking a shade under seven field goals a game, so the shots aren’t there either. Selden stands as a 6-5 shooting guard, but his wingspan adds another five inches at 6-10, giving him great length for a two guard. One of the things that makes Selden a first-round prospect is the fact that he already has an NBA developed body, especially being 6-5. He has the ability to finish through contact and his midrange jumper is one of the best. Add the fact that Selden can create his own shot from anywhere and Selden rounds out quite nicely. Next time you watch a Kansas game, take your eyes off Wiggins for a second and watch Wayne Selden.

DANTE EXUM
Dante Exum is quite the intriguing prospect. For months, we’ve all seen him extremely high on mock draft boards, but who the hell is he? Exum is only 18 years old and hails from Melbourne, Australia. This international sensation from down under is a 6-6 combo guard that barely tips in on the scales at 188 pounds and has already compared himself to Derrick Rose (pre-injury of course). Even though it’s been reported that Exum is touring some college campuses (per SB Nation), the general notion is that Exum will go pro next season. Exum probably tops the list of top NBA prospects that no one quite knows who they are. Seriously, people have discussed Exum as being better than Wiggins, Parker, AND Randle.

Dante Exum can literally do it all. He has a lightning quick first step that would even make Russell Westbrook take a second look, plus his Australian accent is just awesome. In nine games at the 2013 FIBA U19 World Games, Exum posted stats of 18.2 PPG, 3.8 APG and 1.7 SPG. His 6-6 size (with a 6-9 wingspan) makes him a matchup nightmare at the point guard position and Exum’s excellent post game will just make shorter NBA guards give up when they see him backing down in the post. If he drives past an opponent’s point guard, he will just finish over whatever big man waits in the post. The kid’s nickname should just be “matchup nightmare.” But, his extreme height and length are for more than just creating mismatches. This gives Exum an extreme advantage as a point guard in being able to read the court and become a better distributor. Just look this kid up on YouTube and all these words will come to life. Dante Exum is one of the top prospects in the 2014 class, but little — if anything — is known about him. Trust me, Dante Exum is going to be a star in the NBA.

JOEL EMBIID
By now, we’ve all heard about Joel Embiid. But what do we really know about him? Not much. Andrew Wiggins had all the attention coming into this season, but Joel Embiid has taken a lot of the thunder and is climbing up draft boards everywhere. I mean, just a few years ago Embiid was stepping off a plane from Cameroon to Florida, knowing more about volleyball and soccer than the game of basketball. Embiid is a raw prospect, but the player that Embiid can become has NBA GMs dropping a bomb on their rosters in hopes for a chance at the 7-0 center. Just one look at Embiid and it’s quite obvious why. Embiid reminds me of someone like Andre Drummond, who was extremely raw coming out of UConn, but we all see the player he has blossomed into. NBA GMs let Drummond slip to the Pistons at No. 9 in the 2012 NBA Draft, but that mistake won’t be happening with Embiid this time around. The hype is so serious that some people are considering Embiid to possibly be the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. Crazy right? Not really.

In just 21.4 minutes with the Jayhawks this season, Embiid is putting up 10.8 points, 7.0 boards and 2.3 blocks, while converting on 66.7 percent of his attempts. Embiid has had limited playing ability, so let’s look at his per-40 numbers: 18.5 points, 12.3 rebounds and 4.5 blocks. While Embiid is a raw prospect, even Kansas coach Bill Self couldn’t contain his excitement after he watched Embiid for the first time, saying (via Jason King): “Are you frickin’ kidding me? This dude could be the No. 1 pick in the draft. He can run. He’s got good feet. He’s got touch. He’s unbelievable. He’ll be the best big man we’ve ever coached if we can get him.”

Embiid is a terrific shotblocker and will grow to be an elite rim protector at the NBA level. Anyone that has watched Embiid has also noticed his great passing ability, especially in the post to a cutting Wiggins or Selden. To date, Embiid has five games this season with three or more blocks, including a seven-block performance against Texas-El Paso. The past four games, Embiid has averaged 15.3 points, nine rebounds and 3.3 blocks. Just imagine what the rest of the season can hold for Embiid. Could he be the No. 1 overall pick by the time the draft rolls around? There’s a definite possibility. I could sit here and write a novel about Embiid, but just trust me, he’s going to be a star in the Association.

SPENCER DINWIDDIE
First off, how do you not love Spencer’s last name? Dinwiddie is a 6-6, 200-pound guard who plays ball for Colorado. At that height, Dinwiddie is playing two guard right now, but has said that he can play point guard, shooting guard or small forward with no difficulty. On tape, Dinwiddie posses a very fluid and smooth jumper along with the ability to create his own shot. That combination at the two guard position will make Dinwiddie a lethal scoring threat when he gets to the league. Dinwiddie loves scoring in isolation or the PnR, and he can create a lot of his offense by himself. If the defender goes under the pick, Dinwiddie can step back and drill a three (40 percent from deep this season). If the defender fights over, Dinwiddie will get to the rim and finish. Last season at Colorado (per DraftExpress.com), Dinwiddie scored 0.96 points per possession in isolation. Dinwiddie will be able to get his points as he pleases, leaving him high on many draft boards of teams without a legitimate scoring threat.

This season at Colorado, Dinwiddie is scoring 15.8 PPG, along with 4.1 assists and 3.3 rebounds. He’s shooting 47 percent from the field and 42.4 percent from three-point land. Dinwiddie also had a great performance in a victory the other night against No. 10 ranked Oregon, posting 23 points, seven assists and four rebounds. Dinwiddie shot 5-for-9 from the field and 10-for-11 from the line, staying true to his game. One aspect of Dinwiddie’s game that stands out is his ability to create contact and get to the line. This season, Dinwiddie is getting to the line 7.5 times per game, while knocking them down at an 87.5 percent clip. Dinwiddie is only putting up 8.1 shots per game, so a majority of his scoring comes from the free throw line. One player that Dinwiddie reminds me of is Dwyane Wade, with his ability to get to the line and great midrange game. As of now, Dinwiddie looks like a mid-to-late first-round pick, but familiarize yourself with his name. This kid can score at will and will be interesting to watch at the next level.

T.J. WARREN
Small forward T.J. Warren is currently playing for the Wolfpack of North Carolina State. In 14 games this season, Warren is playing 34.6 minutes per game while scoring 23.9 PPG and grabbing 7.9 RPG. Warren is an efficient scorer, shooting 53 percent from the field this season. His 6-8 height gives him the ability to be an excellent rebounder at the small forward position, which also makes him lethal in transition with his elite scoring ability. Last season at N.C. State, Warren used transition for 26.8 percent of his offense, while scoring 1.32 points per possession from his transition attempts (per DraftExpress.com).

One of the most impressive parts about Warren’s game is his ability to move without the ball. A lot of college prospects, especially guards, get criticized for not being able to move without the ball. How many times have you seen Andrew Wiggins just standing on the perimeter waiting for someone to give him the ball? This is an area that Warren excels in, as cuts made up 18.8 percent of his possessions last season (1.5 points per possession from cuts). Warren also converted 66.4 percent of his attempts at the rim. The ability to finish in the lane is necessity for someone who gets to the rim as much as Warren does. Warren is a solid player and should translate nicely at the next level. He already has three 30-point performances this season, including his latest, which was a career-high 32 points on 14-for-23 shooting in a win against ECU. Also, Warren has only scored less than 20 points twice this season, with two 13-point performances. He’s slated as a late first-round selection, but anyone who picks up someone who is scoring close to 24 points per game in the late first round is getting a steal.

SEMAJ CHRISTON
Semaj Christon of Xavier might be the most underrated player in the 2014 NBA Draft. Playing for Xavier this season, Christon is putting up 14.7 PPG on 45 percent shooting, while getting to the line 7.0 times per game and hitting 61 percent of his free throws. When Christon laces up his shoes before a game, he means business. He’s most comparable to John Wall with his ability to explode at any given moment. Semaj Christon can make the best out of a bad situation, he can rescue his team from a bad possession in a heartbeat.

Semaj Christon is known by some as “The Point Guard That The Big Schools Missed.” I love this nickname, because it means that Christon is playing with a chip on his shoulder. The A-10 Rookie of the Year in 2012-2013 has proved a lot in just a season with Xavier, which shows in his first-round draft status. Semaj Christon isn’t playing at a Duke, Kentucky, or Kansas with a ton of national spotlight. Most of you have probably never seen Semaj dribble a basketball once. He’s worked for everything, he’s taken playing at a school that barely gets any national exposure and put them on another plateau. Semaj Christon has taken his struggles and made them his success, which is a reason he will be a first-round pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. You can continue to sleep on Semaj, but eventually you’ll notice him when he’s crushing your NBA team.

JAHII CARSON
Jahii Carson is a name that has been getting some recognition lately, but still rather unknown to the regular basketball eye. Carson is limited by size, being only 5-11, but that never stopped Allen Iverson, Nate Robinson or Isaiah Thomas and it won’t stop Jahii Carson. One thing I love about Carson’s game is his instincts to run the floor and push the tempo whenever the ball gets in his hands (19.3 percent of his offense came from transition last season, per Draftexpress.com). Carson can use his elite speed to blow by anyone, making him a nightmare for anyone drawing his assignment. This boy can fly too — his first dunk was in the SEVENTH GRADE and his flat foot vertical is 42 inches (per azcentral.com). Carson just reminds me of Nate Robinson crashing into the lane and leaping over seven-footers for an insane putback dunk.

For the Arizona State Sun Devils this season, Jahii Carson is averaging 18.7 points, 4.9 assists and 3.9 rebounds per game. He’s also shooting 48 percent from the field and 51.2 percent from beyond the arc. Don’t overlook his four rebounds per game, that’s impressive for a player that doesn’t even crack six feet tall. Jahii Carson is a name to become familiar with, he’s an explosive point guard that will create a bunch of high-flying highlight reel plays that would even make Gregg Popovich crack a smile. The next Nate Robinson? Possibly, he could be even better. Right now, he’s looking like a mid first-round pick, and an improved jump shot and cut down on turnovers could push him into the lottery. Regardless of where he goes, Carson will be in the league and everyone will know who he is very early into his rookie season.

DARIO SARIC
Saric is an international prospect from Croatia. You might not know much about him but he’s projected as a lottery pick. He’s one of those names that gets called on draft night and everyone is like “Who did my team just draft?” Saric was supposed to come out in the 2013 NBA Draft, but he had a rough season overseas and decided it would be more beneficial to stay overseas another year. He’s a versatile 6-10 player that can play both forward positions.

Saric improved his stock exponentially and his play this season is why he’s projected to go so high in the draft. In 10 games at the Eurocup this season, Saric scored 12.9 PPG on 49 percent shooting, while also grabbing 8.3 rebounds and dishing out 2.7 assists. Also, in 13 games in the Adriatic league this season, Saric averaged 13.7 points on 58.2 percent shooting from the field while pulling down 7.5 rebounds per game and averaging 1.2 steals per game. Saric can score from almost anywhere on the floor and in virtually anyway. Post up, transition, cuts, spot ups — you name it, Saric can do it. His versatility as a 6-10 forward is a reason he’s so coveted as an international prospect. Coming from Croatia, not a lot is known about Saric. He has an international game. He’s not a powerhouse, he’s a finesse player that can do things that players his size aren’t supposed to do. If your team takes Saric on draft night, get ready to see a player that can do it all on the court.

MONTREZL HARRELL
One look at Montrezl Harrell and all you can say is WOW. You might not know his name, but chances are you’ve seen him play before. While the new age centers are all about length and athleticism, Harrell is a flashback to the old school center. At 240 pounds, Harrell is a big body that can take some pain and dish it out as well. Standing at 6-6, Harrell has exceptional length, with a 7-3 wingspan. Want more? Harrell’s standing reach is 8-3… yup, you read that correctly. While his physical tools make him a monster, there’s more to his game than purely brute strength. Last season with Louisville, transition points accounted for 15.6 percent of his offense, scoring 1.21 points per possession (per Draftexpress.com). Harrell likes to run the lane and moves extremely well for a person of his magnitude.

If I had to pick an NBA comparison for Harrell, it would be DeAndre Jordan. Both players are extremely athletic, with the ability to catch any lob pass tossed in the air while still embodying the persona of a brute force in the paint. This season for the Cardinals, Harrell is averaging 11.8 points and 7.9 rebounds. Harrell is grabbing an impressive 3.3 offensive rebounds per game. He’s only playing 24.5 minutes per game, but the raw talent in Harrell is undeniable. His post game needs work, but he can still use his explosiveness and strength to get a high percentage shot in the post. His lack of minutes is a concern, but Harrell is sliding up in the lottery. You might not be too familiar with his name, but make sure you watch some tape of Montrezl Harrell before he makes the jump to the NBA. Just hit play and you’ll understand why this freak of nature is starting to catch NBA GM’s eyes.

BOGDAN BOGDANOVIC
This kid might win an award for best name in the NBA when he gets drafted. Chances are you’ve never heard of Bogdanovic unless you are some sort of international prospect freak. Bogdan is a 6-6, 200-pound small forward with a standing reach of 8-8. Bogdan is the NBA Draft Prospect of the Week on Draftexpress.com and the site had the following to say about him: “Serbian wing Bogdan Bogdanovic is in the midst of a breakout season in his draft-eligible year. He’s strung together a series of impressive performances in the Euroleague and Adriatic League with Partizan Belgrade, and played a crucial role on the Serbian National Team this past summer at the European Championships in Slovenia.”

Citing these performances, Bogdanovic put up 13.8 points in the Euroleague this season while shooting 41 percent from the floor and 44 percent from deep (5.7 threes attempted per game). Bogdan also picked two pockets per game in the Euroleague. His success continued in the Adriatic League, averaging 14.6 points on 42 percent shooting from the floor and 36.4 percent from deep. Bogdan has excellent size to be a small forward in the NBA, along with his ability to hit perimeter shots with consistency. His 6-11 wingspan gives him great length which helps him tremendously on the defensive end of the court, whether it’s closing out on shots or stopping drives to the rim. Bogdan has also showed tremendous ballhandling abilities this season, making him a candidate to play the point-forward position a la Andre Iguodala. Bogdan has a solid and versatile game at the forward position and should be a steal for any team that grabs this prospect slated to go in the second round.

OLIVIER HANLAN
Olivier Hanlan is a 6-4 combo guard for Boston College who is putting up 19.9 PPG this season on 46 percent shooting. Hanlan was the ACC Freshman of the Year after scoring 15.5 PPG his freshman season. Hanlan has returned for his sophomore year and improved his scoring by about five points per game, exactly the growth that scouts want to see. This season, Hanlan has had a knack for getting to the line (8.5 FTA), while converting on 83 percent of his free throws. Even if he isn’t always bringing the ball up for the Golden Eagles, Hanlan is the main shot creator for the offense.

Hanlan only averages 2.9 assists per game, which is a concern for some NBA scouts. However, Hanlan is shouldering the load for Boston College, which is shown by his 19.9 PPG. This has led to some confusion about his position in the NBA, but one thing is clear, Hanlan can put points on the board. Someone that can score the basketball as much as Hanlan can should have no trouble finding a home in the NBA. Whether it’s from the perimeter (34 percent from deep) or taking the ball to the bucket, Hanlan can do it. Olivier Hanlan is one of the better scorers in the nation and will be finding his named called on draft night, regardless if you know him or not.

KHEM BIRCH
Khem Birch hails from the same school as the 2013 NBA Draft’s No. 1 overall pick (and bust), Anthony Bennett. While Birch is slated as a second-round selection, one has to wonder if Bennett’s lack of success will affect Birch at all. After transferring from Pitt after 10 games his freshman season, Birch decided to restart his career at UNLV. This season has been Birch’s first full season as a college basketball player at 21 years old. After a rocky start to his college basketball career, Birch is shutting haters down this season. To date, he’s putting up 11.7 PPG and 9.9 RPG in 30 minutes of action. Oh yeah, Birch is also swatting 3.8 shots per game.

Although the 6-9 power forward isn’t much of a post option, he still finds ways to be effective on the offensive side of the floor. Birch is a great athlete for someone his size and his 7-0 wingspan makes him a target for many alley oops at the rim. Last season for UNLV, he completed 67 percent of his non-post-up attempts at the rim (per Draftexpress.com). This is a big man that can run the floor extremely well and his potential is limitless if everything can come together. Khem Birch has gone through adversity trying to start his collegiate basketball career, but he looks to begin his new path in the NBA after this season.

DEONTE BURTON
You may not know the name, but Deonte Burton is putting up impressive numbers in his senior season for Nevada. The 2012 WAC Player of the Year is putting up 21.9 PPG and 1.7 SPG in nearly 40 minutes per game. Yup, Burton is playing 39.1 minutes per game right now (keep in mind there’s only 40 minutes in collegiate games). While playing nearly every minute possible for Nevada, Burton is knocking down 46.3 percent of his shots and 32 percent from deep on 15.2 field goal attempts per game. His stats have dropped considerably in the past few weeks, mainly because he is the only scoring option on the team. Obviously, Burton is more of a scoring point guard, but when someone plays almost every minute of every game, one must assume there aren’t many scoring options on the team to begin with. Even though Burton is putting up impressive scoring numbers, it may hurt his stock as an NBA point guard because of the lack of scoring options on Nevada.

At times, Nevada seems very dysfunctional offensively. Possessions usually come down to Burton in isolation, trying to will the ball into the basket. Even though Burton doesn’t have a lot of opportunities to flash as a point guard, there have been glimpses of his abilities. Burton is averaging 3.7 assists per game with 2.3 turnovers per game. Not the best numbers, but solid for a player in the position Burton is in. One must hope that after playing a whole season as “the man” with Nevada, that Burton won’t have trouble trying to hone his skills as an actual point guard. These things might be the reason why Burton is projected in the second round, but he is talented. Burton can score the ball and has carried a team on his back all year, something NBA GMs will notice and appreciate.

ALEC BROWN
Alec Brown may be little known because he plays for Green Bay (not the Packers, the school) but this 7-1 center has a smooth shooting stroke. Brown has been an excellent shooter during his career at Green Bay and this season is no different. Brown is shooting 48 percent from the field and 43 percent from deep. Those shooting percentages combine for 15.8 PPG, along with 6.4 RPG and 3.6 BPG. Weighing in at only 212 pounds, his durability at the next level is an obvious concern and is a main reason Draftexpress.com has him slated as the last selection in the NBA Draft. That never stopped Isaiah Thomas from becoming a solid player. Alec Brown will need to add substantial weight and muscle to his frame to be able to survive in the NBA.

Still, his lethal shooting touch makes him an interesting and intriguing project for the NBA. He’s worth taking a risk on for his unique set of abilities that are hard to come by in the NBA. At the very least, he is someone that can stretch the floor and take an elite rim protector away from the basket. Who doesn’t love 7-1 centers that can shoot lights out? If they actually knock down their shots at a decent clip (like Spencer Hawes), then they add a serious jigsaw piece for opponents to figure out. If Brown can pack on some weight, he can be a solid prospect. Right now, he’s just an intriguing project that has potential if he works hard enough.

What do you think?

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