Now that we closed the book on what turned out to be one of the strangest draft nights in recent memory, it’s time to turn our attention to more pressing matters, like our predictions for the 2014 NBA Draft! True, the dust has barely settled on the Barclays Center, yet here we are, already looking ahead to next year. That’s because it’s shaping up to be arguably the deepest collection of talent since the landmark 2003 Draft that featured future All-Stars, Olympic Gold Medalists, MVPs and NBA Champions like LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh, as well as one of the most tragicomical draft busts of our collective lifetimes, the surly, frosty-quaffed Serbian himself, Darko Milicic.
Ten years from now, who among these 15 youngsters will be left carrying the torch of a new generation, and who among them will fade away into obscurity and mediocrity? We have absolutely no idea, and that’s partially what’s so exciting about it. If we learned anything last night, it’s that you have to expect the unexpected. Like everything else in life, the draft is unpredictable, and for some, it can be a bitterly disappointing experience, but it can also be thrilling and cathartic. A lot can happen between now and next year, so this list will undoubtedly look dramatically different after another whirlwind college basketball season. But for now, these 15 players (and a handful of others on the bubble) represent one of the most exciting collection of prospects since the turn of the new millennium.
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15. MITCH McGARY – Michigan
NBA Doppelganger(s): Poor-Man’s David Lee, Poor-Man’s Kevin Love
Last season at Michigan, McGrary averaged 7.5 points and 6.3 rebounds and showed flashes of brilliance during the NCAA Tournament (25 points, 14 rebounds against Kansas in the Sweet 16). Like Lee, he has a solid midrange jumper, and like Love, he’s a beast on the boards, and like both of those players, he has great court vision and passing ability for a big man. His size, strength and intensity make up for what he’s currently lacking in terms of an all-around post-game. Another year at Michigan will be good for him.
14. MONTREZL HARRELL – Louisville
NBA Doppelganger: DeJuan Blair
As the video indicates, Harrell is a beast, or at least he has the potential to be. There’s no better way to describe him. Last season at Louisville, he only averaged 5.7 points and 3.6 rebounds in limited minutes, but his intensity and explosiveness make him an intriguing prospect. During his sophomore season, he’ll need to continue developing his post moves, keep working on his midrange game, and improve his defense to make himself more attractive as an NBA prospect. He has the size and athleticism to be an elite shotblocker as well as a force on the offensive end.
13. WAYNE SELDEN – Kansas
NBA Doppelganger: Poor-Man’s D-Wade
For my money, Selden passes all the eye tests as an NBA-level talent. At 6-5, he’s a strong, athletic, high-energy guard who can create his own shot, get into the lane, and finish around the rim while drawing contact. However, he’ll have to improve his jump shot and get better defensively if he wants to be an elite guard in the league.
12. WILLIE CAULEY-STEIN – Kentucky
NBA Doppelganger: JaVale McGee (Sorry, Willie!)
Last season at Kentucky, he averaged 8.3 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.1 blocks. Those numbers aren’t that impressive, but Cauley-Stein is one of those physical specimens who might end up being a better pro than he was a college player. His low-post game is pedestrian and his jump shot virtually non-existent, but with his size and athleticism, he’s an imposing defensive presence capable of blocking and altering shots and providing solid help-side defense. He was smart to stay another year in college and try to further develop his game.
11. JOEL EMBIID – Kansas
NBA Doppelganger: Serge Ibaka
Like Ibaka, he patrols the paint, blocks shots, intimidates opponents, and has nice range on his jump shot. With Embiid, Wiggins and Selden, Kansas will have one of the most athletic teams in the country next season. His all-around game is still raw, but a year at Kansas should help him develop a wider repertoire of skills.
10. GLENN ROBINSON III – Michigan
NBA Doppelganger: a more athletic version of his father, of course!
Wiggins isn’t the only one in his class with NBA pedigree. As the son of O.G. Glenn “Big Dog” Robinson, Robinson III averaged 11 points and five rebounds during his freshman season and was an integral part of Michigan’s Final Four run. He operates effectively on the pick-n-roll, gets out in transition, and finishes strong around the rim, but he relies too much on his teammates for scoring opportunities. He hides this deficiency by playing at small forward in college (partially because he’s a big 6-6), but he’ll have to develop a more all-around offensive repertoire and likely make the transition over to shooting guard to be successful in the NBA.