As if the preseason hype wasn’t enough, two weeks into the college basketball season we’re seeing the top draft prospects live up to expectations. It started on Nov. 12 when over 60 NBA scouts were in attendance at the Champions Classic in Chicago to catch the match ups between Michigan State-Kentucky and Kansas-Duke which featured many freshman phenoms. This past week, a top sophomore reminded everybody not to forget about him with a dominating performance on national television as well.
The 2014 draft class is shaping up to be fully loaded with star potential-the best class since 2003 when LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dywane Wade and Chris Bosh were drafted. Here’s a preview of the top 5 draft picks that could headline next summer’s draft.
1. Andrew Wiggins, SF- Kansas
NBA Player Comparison- Tracy McGrady
Similar to McGrady’s first few years in the league, Wiggins is raw offensively. He’s 6-foot-8 but only weighs just about 200 pounds. The good thing for him is that he has the kind of frame that can add quality muscle and just like T-Mac, it will probably take Wiggins a few years to develop in the league. He scores most of his points based off of his raw athletic ability, in transition and his knack for finishing around the rim. What scouts will want to see as the season progresses though is an ability to create his own shot and attack more off the dribble. Every team in the league feels they can draft any player with star potential and groom them, which is why players like Kwame Brown, Tyrus Thomas, Eddy Curry and Marvin Williams are drafted high. Teams will always gamble on talent–more often than not–and Wiggins has the highest ceiling of all the prospects. Hard to envision him falling out of the top three picks.
2. Jabari Parker, SF- Duke
NBA Player Comparison- Carmelo Anthony
Listed at 6-foot-8 and 235 pounds, Parker is NBA ready right now and has the most polish of anyone in this class. As he demonstrated against Kansas, he has a handle, can post up, shoots the mid range jumper and the three as well. He also can take the ball the length of the court. Simply put, he’s the kind of player that you can build around from day one, where as with the other players you may have to wait a few years to do so. Like Anthony, Parker may struggle defending the perimeter so he could play power forward as well.
3. Julius Randle, PF- Kentucky
NBA Player Comparison- Zach Randolph
He’s only 18 years old, has an NBA body, and plays like a man amongst boys already. Randle is left handed and his strength is a power game on the interior, so it’s easy to draw the Randolph comparison. Scouts have already fell in love with his toughness and how hard he plays. He is more athletic than Randolph though and could develop into an extremely dangerous face up player as well. After five games, Randle is dominating averaging 20.8 PPG and 13.6 RPG.
4. Marcus Smart, PG- Oklahoma State
NBA Player Comparison- Tyreke Evans
Against Memphis on Tuesday night, Smart put on a showcase scoring a career-high 39 points, doing it in a variety of ways. Going back to last season, scouts had questions about his jump shot but he showed great improvement from last season in that area. Smart is a combo guard (like Evans) who is very strong and can defend ball handlers the length of the court. He does not have elite foot speed but he makes up for it with exceptionally long arms which help him create so many turnovers (through four games, he has 17 steals). Smart also likes to play physical and post up smaller (or bigger) guards.
5. Joel Embiid, C- Kansas
NBA Player Comparison- Hakeem Olajuwon
Embiid is a legit 7-footer and it actually looks like he could add an inch or two. This is a young man who only started playing basketball in 2011, so he’s obviously worlds away from being the next Hakeem. He gets the Hakeem comparison because of his agility, which Hakeem had for a center, and it was unmatched in the league. Most of his moves around the rim are somewhat raw right now, but he’s shown decent touch and an ability to knock down the 15-foot jumper. He’s got a frame to thrown on more weight, so it’s a no brainer that some team will take him in the top five. You can’t teach size.