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Fast Five: The 5 Best NBA Draft Prospects Right Now

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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Welcome back! The college season is just five days old and we already have seen all the top prospects play, and play at a very high level. The 2014 NBA Draft has been talked about for years, literally, and now that it is time for the young athletes to put up or shut up, so far they have most certainly put up.

In the Fast Five each week we will look at five subjects surrounding the current draft class and then a quick list of five prospects, breaking them down in the process. Let’s get this started.

Here is the NBA Draft Fast Five.

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ONE: What Do We Know?
This freshman class is legit. We already knew that on paper this group “could” be special, but after just a few days “could” has already changed to “is” and the fun has just begun. On Tuesday night a simple double-header turned into a case of “Anything you can do I can do better.”

Julius Randle came out in the second half against Michigan State and dominated with 23 points after halftime before passing on the torch to Jabari Parker in the first half against Kansas with 19 points before Andrew Wiggins, the top overall prospect, closed out the night with 16 points in the second half for the win.

That was one night, two games, and an incredible statement on the potential this season has to offer.

TWO: What Do We Not Know?
There are two things that are very clear at this point. The first is that there is no particular set order to the 2014 NBA Draft. As much as some people want there to be one, there is no guarantee that one specific player goes at the top of the draft. Wiggins, Randle, Parker, and a potential surprise (see: Cleveland’s 2013 No. 1 Overall Pick) could all be the top pick in this summer’s draft.

Then there is the other surprise – how low will NBA teams go to ensure the best odds to get one of these elite prospects?

The Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns, Boston Celtics and Dallas Mavericks have all played .500 or better ball through eight games. All four were expected to be bottom five teams in the NBA this year. Right now the Utah Jazz and the Sacramento Kings are in the driver’s seats for a top pick. Is it time to picture Wiggins in Utah, Randle a King, or Parker out on one of these hard-trodden teams out west?

THREE: Stock Rising
A few prospects stood out that were ranked a little lower than they performed. James Young (Kentucky), Wayne Selden (Kansas), and Adreian Payne (Michigan State) have been very impressive early on. The same can be said for Gary Harris (Michigan State) and T.J. Warren (N.C. State) with their play so far.

Lots of time for some players to outplay their projections, but nobody has come on to the point where we have another Victor Oladipo or Damian Lillard on our hands.

Hit page 2 for a look at the top five prospects in next year’s NBA Draft…

FOUR: Stock Falling
It is far too early for knee-jerk reactions of player’s stock falling after just 1-3 games for most prospects. A few did not come out of the gates like their peers, but nothing that a few good games or moments will not correct. There will be a lot of knee-jerk reactions across the Internet this week after a few big games took place and emotion takes over analysis. Prospects like Andrew Harrison might fall for below average performances while Dante Exum, Mitch McGary, and others might fall because they haven’t played.

Nothing has changed for the worse in less than a week.

FIVE: Quick Hitter
As you are watching the Wiggins, Parkers and Randles of the world, keep an eye on their lesser-hyped teammates. One thing about basketball that has stood true over time is that great players play their best with other great players. This year’s sophomore class is going to look a lot better with the elite freshmen playing alongside them taking pressure off of them and allowing quality role players such as Perry Ellis (Kansas), Rasheed Sulaimon (Duke), and Alex Poythress (Kentucky) slide into more comfortable roles.

NBA decision-makers will see them thrive in a more natural role, and will see how good they are with other NBA level talent around them. This is shaping up to be one of the most intriguing years in college basketball in a long time.

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Top 5 Prospects To Start The 2014 NBA Draft Season
1. Andrew Wiggins: 6-8, 197 pounds – Fr., Kansas
Stats: (In 29.5 MPG) 19.0 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 1.5 SPG, 62.5 percent FG, 40.0 percent 3PT (2-5)
He may have started slow in the spotlight, but Wiggins really stepped up on the offensive end, making great plays with his elite first step, shooting and athleticism.

2. Julius Randle: 6-9, 248 pounds – Fr., Kentucky
Stats: (In 30.0 MPG) 24.0 PPG, 14.0 RPG, 1.6 APG, 63.6 percent FG, 71.4 percent FT (30-42)
It was another amazing second half where Randle went 8-for-9 from the field and dominated the game on the block. He needs to get better with the ball (eight turnovers), but he looked like the best prospect in the world for a half.

3. Jabari Parker: 6-8, 241 pounds – Fr., Duke
Stats: (In 28.0 MPG) 24.5 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 1.5 APG, 60.7 percent FG, 70.0 percent 3PT (7-10)
Offense just comes naturally to Parker whether it is catch-and-shoot, threes, pull-up jumpers, midrange, fast breaks, passing, or getting to the line; this is just an elite offensive talent.

4. Dante Exum: 6-6, 188 pounds – (1994) Australia
Stats: N/A
He didn’t play one minute of college basketball this week, but there is a little Shaun Livingston, a little Penny Hardaway, and a little Michael Carter-Williams in him, which adds up to a really good basketball prospect.

5. Marcus Smart: 6-4, 225 pounds – So., Oklahoma State
Stats: (In 22.0 MPG) 12.5 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 3.5 APG, 42.8 percent FG, 41.6 percent 3PT (5-12)
Right now Smart is the most known quantity at the top of the draft class. He came on strong last year and this year has come out more team oriented, a little less dynamic so far, and letting the game come more naturally to him.

Take your pick of Wiggins, Randle or Parker and there is little margin of error to be wrong or to get a bad basketball player. These freshmen are all the real deal and are going to create a bidding war at the top of the draft like no other year in recent memory.

Buckle up, this is going to be a wild and fun ride all year.

Who would you take No. 1 right now?

Follow Kristofer on Twitter at @NBADraftInsider.

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