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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We are a few short weeks away from conference tournament play and the NCAA Tournament itself. A few prospects are rising up the boards rapidly while others are taking a step back because of their play or the play of their peers. How is the 2014 NBA Draft shaping up?
Here is the NBA Draft Fast Five.
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ONE: What Do We Know?
We know that over the past few weeks to a month that Marcus Smart has gone from the most mature prospect on the board and a surefire NBA talent to a pariah that attacks fans or beats up chairs. One is a false narrative and the other is an exaggerated truth. Smart is very mature for his age, but his age is still his age. The most relevant element of this season for Smart falling down boards is not those two incidents, but rather his on-court demeanor, lack of impact on winning, and the feeling that he regrets coming back to school this year. Watching Smart play night in and night out that is the impression he is giving with his body language and actions. As a point guard, those are the personality traits that are unacceptable as the primary leader on a team at any level.
TWO: What Do We Not Know?
We do not really know these kids in general. On the court, we can get a sense for their talent, athleticism, and even a glimpse of their personality, but overall we do not know these kids that well right now. Everyone in their circles speak highly of them and they say the right things for the most part in front of cameras. Off camera, though, do we know how these kids are going to react to the NBA life? To money? To travel and a new city? We don’t, but that is the job of an NBA scout and general managers between now and June 26 before they make a multimillion dollar decision.
THREE: Stock Rising
Over the past six years, there has been one prospect that has averaged 26 points, 12.2 rebounds, and is shooting 60.5 percent from the field outside of a down six-point night in-between there. He is a 6-6, 230-pound combo forward that is very exciting to watch, a good athlete, and is having a career year on a Sweet 16 contending team right now. Melvin Ejim is continuing the Canadian trend of really talented athletes making waves in the NCAA and becoming legitimate NBA prospects. Ejim is a little older than his peers, but all signs point to him being an NBA prospect that could sneak into the first round when all things are said and done.
FOUR: Stock Falling
The point guard position in this year’s draft has been down all year and has been talked about on this forum before. As of late, NBA teams are starting to shift their focus from the names that were at the top of the positional rankings early in the season and taking a liking to more productive prospects. One name that is losing steam is Xavier sophomore Semaj Christon with the rise of surprise prospects like Missouri transfer Jordan Clarkson and San Diego State senior Xavier Thames. This season, Christon is playing more efficiently, but has not taken the next step as most point guards do in their second year in college. Christon is a terrific athlete and leader that has the potential to be a first-round pick, but others are moving up the ladder swiftly behind him.
FIVE: Quick Hitter
Every year there are a few seniors (or second-year seniors) that come on strong because of their experience at this level. This year DeAndre Kane, Melvin Ejim, Aaric Murray, and others are playing their best basketball this year. The problem is that they are going to be 25, 23 and 24 years old on draft night. Age in drafts is an important element when considering a first-round pick, which gets two years guaranteed at over a million dollars a year and the potential of three more years after that. It is a major commitment. NBA teams are looking for potential and long-term pieces. That is why 18, 19 and 20-year-olds are more relevant in the first round of most drafts year-by-year.
So when Melvin Ejim has 48 points or when DeAndre Kane is close to a triple-double a night they has to be a medium in there between “they are great and lottery talents” and “these are 24 & 25 year olds.” A contending team might invest a first round pick on an older prospect, but there are only 30 first round picks and building a team starts with youth. It continues with polished talents.
Five Game-Managing Point Guards To Keep An Eye On
1. Quinn Cook: 6-2, 180 pounds â€“ PG, Duke
Stats: (In 31.7 MPG) 12.2 PPG, 4.9 APG, 34.1 percent 3PT
Few players have improved as well and as under the radar as Cook has the past few years. He can shoot the ball consistently now, is a quality defender, and manages the game well. The shooting and defense were not there as a freshman.
2. Aaron Craft: 6-2, 195 pounds â€“ PG, Ohio State
Stats: (In 34.5 MPG) 9.5 PPG, 4.6 APG, 35.9 percent 3PT
Craft is the type of player that when he suits up you know exactly what you are going to get. He is a pit-bull type athlete that digs in on defense and plays through the offense for his team.
3. Siyani Chambers: 6-0, 170 pounds â€“ PG, Harvard
Stats: (In 34.7 MPG) 11.0 PPG, 4.3 APG, 39.6 percent 3PT
With the benefit of a very good former point guard as his coach, Chambers has risen to the NBA radar out in Harvard. He is small, but executes the offense and plays with polish and pace.
4. Keith Appling: 6-1, 185 pounds â€“ PG, Michigan State
Stats: (In 32.6 MPG) 14.4 PPG, 4.7 APG, 40.0 percent 3PT
As a senior, there have been years (or stretches of games) where Appling looks like an NBA point guard and others where you scratch your head. This year Appling has played within himself and looks like a next-level game manager.
5. Chaz Williams: 5-9, 175 pounds â€“ PG, Massachusetts
Stats: (In 34.5 MPG) 15.4 PPG, 7.3 APG, 37.8 percent 3PT
Speaking of undersized, with Williams, there is a lot in a small package. He is a fantastic leader and distributor, very good athlete, and has taken his game to the next level this year, impacting winning every night.
The point guard position always has very talented floor generals slip through the cracks due to age, athleticism, or general preference by NBA teams. Then Nate Wolters and others become terrific backups or even starters at the next level. These are a few names of prospects that might be in that conversation.
What do you think?
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