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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New Year, same fantastic draft class for the 2014 Fast Five breaking down the happenings inside and out for this year. With conference play ratcheting up and the top prospects starting to play at a high level more consistently, this class is starting to meet the expectations laid upon it over the summer.
Here is the NBA Draft Fast Five.
ONE: What Do We Know?
Per multiple reports, consensus top five prospect Dante Exum has been meeting with NBA agents in Australia with his family to get ready for the 2014 NBA Draft. Another example of an international prospect laying the ground work in the summer like Exum did at a number of camps and tournaments in 2013 showing he is on the level, or even higher than every American prospect in college today.
What does this mean?
It means that one of the top tier talents in this class will be moving into the NBA Draft this summer. Exum has the size and skill to be a very valuable combo guard at the next level.
TWO: What Do We Not Know?
Speaking of having one of the top tier talents in the mix, almost every year there is one or more highly rated prospects that end up staying in school. Marcus Smart did it last year and I’m sure they’ll be more this year.
Who will that be this year? There has been speculation that Joel Embiid (Kansas) is leaning towards returning to school. Aaron Gordon (Arizona) is a smart kid that might value the college experience, and others have been reported about, albeit dramatically too early in the process, about potentially coming back for another year.
THREE: Stock Rising
Before the season, freshman wing Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (Arizona) was ranked in the lottery, ahead of his more highly touted teammate Aaron Gordon. There was no question after the Nike Hoops Summit that RHJ was a special athlete with the upside of being an elite perimeter defender and rebounder. He is a work in progress on the offensive end, but has shown some growth and potential as a ballhandler and playmaker.
Think of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist without as much of an aggressive offensive mindset and less opportunities to attack. In 1-2 years, RHJ could be a better overall NBA prospect (player) than the former No. 2 overall pick.
FOUR: Stock Falling
This season, the point guard position has been inconsistent outside of Marcus Smart, who is more of a combo guard, and there does not seem to be that standout athlete that we have grown accustomed to in recent years. There is no John Wall, Derrick Rose or Russell Westbrook that is going to change the position athletically as an elite prospect. The thought was that Andrew Harrison (Kentucky) would potentially be that top tier athlete for the point guard position this year. But so far, he has shown flashes of being a quality attacking guard that can facilitate offense, yet has also been very inconsistent. In 15 games, he has back-to-back games with four-plus assists only once and registered 10-plus points in back-to-back games just three times.
Harrison is not alone in the inconsistency department. This year has not been a standout one for point guard prospects like Jahii Carson (Arizona State) and there might be only 1-2 lottery picks from the point guard pool. In the last five drafts, the average is 2.8 point guards per lottery.
FIVE: Quick Hitter
Are you bored?
This time of year is notorious for media outlets and pundits to talk down the talent because there are 15-20 games played, lots of film, and personal expectations are not being met. This class is as deep and talented as the 2003 NBA Draft with so many prospects worth talking about that there is not enough time. Is there a LeBron James? Probably not, because he is a generational talent that comes around once every 20-25 years. Is there a Kevin Durant? Probably not, because he is another generational talent that comes around once every 20-25 years or so. There is no need to compare an 18-19 year old prospect like Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Julius Randle to the best two players in the NBA and the best two prospects of the past 30 years. In about three months, the same media outlets and pundits will be selling everyone on the class being elite because that is how this process works.
So again I ask: Are you bored with this class?
Five Shooting Guard Prospects To Keep An Eye On
1. Jabari Bird: 6-6, 190 pounds â€“ SG, California
Stats: (In 24.6 MPG) 11.3 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 1.1 APG, 41.9 percent FG, 40.0 percent 3PT (18-45)
One of the better surprises this season has been the play of Bird as a two-way athlete for Cal before he went down with injury. Bird has shown flashes athletically of being a quality defender and offensive shooting threat.
2. Jordan Adams: 6-5, 220 pounds â€“ SG, UCLA
Stats: (In 29.8 MPG) 18.1 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 2.4 APG, 3.4 SPG, 47.9 percent FG
Big durable guards like Adams that can shoot, make plays with the ball, finish, and absorb contact are a premium. This season Adams has shown the ability to make plays for himself consistently as well as his teammates.
3. Nik Stauskas: 6-6, 190 pounds â€“ SG, Michigan
Stats: (In 34.6 MPG) 17.7 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 3.7 APG, 49.7 percent FG, 45.1 percent 3PT (37-82)
Insert “more than a shooter reference here ____.” Stauskas is more than a shooter. He is proving to be a quality athlete, good secondary playmaker, and a tough overall basketball player. High value for those J.J. Redick types.
4. Buddy Hield: 6-4, 208 pounds â€“ SG, Oklahoma
Stats: (In 31.1 MPG) 16.5 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 1.2 SPG, 43.7 percent FG, 37.6 percent 3PT (38-101)
I have compared the progression in Hield’s game to that of Victor Oladipo before and it is showing with his three-point shooting. Maybe not a first-rounder this year, but a quality two that plays both ends of the floor.
5. DeAndre Kane: 6-4, 200 pounds â€“ SG, Iowa State
Stats: (In 31.8 MPG) 16.8 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 5.9 APG, 1.6 SPG, 52.6 percent FG, 82.9 percent FT
Of this group Kane is the least likely to be a first-round pick, but he is putting up Evan Turner college numbers this year in leading a top 15 team. He is old for the class, but a very productive combo guard.
For as down as the point guard position is this year, there is a quality of depth on the wing for scorers and secondary playmakers. The top of the position is very strong with Dante Exum, Gary Harris, Wayne Selden, and more, while the middle to bottom has some very intriguing talents.
What do you think?
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