by Leigh Klein / @leighalanklein
The 2014 NBA Draft has been seen as the Holy Grail with a dozen impact players who can elevate a franchise. The projected top-five picks have the potential to be All-Stars in their inaugural season. This is an especially tremendous number when it is also considered that typical Drafts have five to 10 rotational players and this Draft could have 15 to 20 depending on development. With the NBA Draft Index, we will track the top players throughout the rest of the college season.
1) Jabari Parker, 6-8, G/F, Duke
The skill package is just too impressive to pass up for the top spot. Return of his bounce and acceleration from last season’s leg injury has surprised scouts. Must become a better perimeter defender or will slide down. Assist/turnover ratio disappointing, must show more trust in teammates.
2) Andrew Wiggins, 6-8, G/F, Kansas
The “wow” factor in this Draft. Has shown incredible bounce and quickness. He’s still continuing to develop as a basketball player. Excels in transition. Has good shooting mechanics, look for continued development of his handle. Should become a better distributor as season goes on. Athletism is in the top one-tenth percentile in the world.
3) Marcus Smart, 6-4, G, Oklahoma State
Consummate winner who has excelled at the point on the collegiate level. New defensive rules make Smart unguardable. Strength, quickness and passing ability impress while three-point consistency remains a question. Fierce competitor, but the Memphis game exposed that he makes errors by forcing the issue.
4) Joel Embiid, 7-0, C, Kansas
Late-blooming skilled 4/5. Has 7-5 wingspan. Terrific touch and face-up skills. Needs to become more assertive in post. Former soccer star has only been playing for three years. His long-term potential is immense. As the season progresses, his confidence will rise and so will his dominance.
5) Julius Randle, 6-9, F, Kentucky
Southpaw has the power and quickness to dominate the game. Most comfortable 15 feet and in, will be tested with NBA defender’s size and length. Tunnel vision has led to over 3 turnovers per game average. Shows consistent motor, good footwork and great balance. Underrated athlete and competitor, averages nearly 9 free-throw attempts per game.
6) James Young, 6-6, G/F, Kentucky
Athletic lefty is Kentucky’s most complete talent possessing deep three-point range to go along with good ability to finish at the rim. Low shooting percentage is more an indicator of lack of time with the basketball as he fights for touches with talented Wildcat cast. Game will translate to the next level at the shooting guard position.
7) Noah Vonleh, 6-10, F, Indiana
Double-double machine has great length and athleticism as he is just starting to unlock his offensive talent. Game has the ability to expand with sneaky perimeter skills including ability to hit three-point shot. 7-4 wingspan needs to add strength and lose tweener label.
8) Aaron Gordon, 6-8, F, Arizona
Understands and is willing to play his role for the top-seeded Arizona Wildcats. Dynamic athlete with quality ball skills. Has really impressed with his passing ability. Efficient player who must improve perimeter shot. Currently projects as a 4 on the next level. Wingspan is 6-11.
9) Montrezl Harrell, 6-8, F/C, Louisville
Lacks refined offensive game, but the long and bouncy above-the-rim performer has room to grow. Terrific motor, “manimalistic” on the glass with a mid-range game. 7-4 wingspan makes up for being a bit undersized for the next level.
10) Rodney Hood, 6-8, G/F, Duke
Prospective 2-guard excels in catch and shoot situations. Scorching this season over 45 percent from behind the arc and over 61 percent on two-point shots. Capable of doing more than score, needs to show ability to distribute the basketball as well as rebound at a higher level. Not an above-the-rim player, will be tested defending the perimeter on the next level.
11) Jerami Grant, 6-8, F, Syracuse
Rising talent is son of former NBA and Clemson standout Harvey Grant. Looks to follow track of former DeMatha Stag, Victor Oladipo. Backing up strong summer with tripling his output for surprising Orange. Explosive, athletic and long with a high motor. Must gain consistency with perimeter shot and extend shooting range.
12) Gary Harris, 6-4, G, Michigan State
Terrific scorer with a fantastic mid-range game but durability is a concern. Harris continues to fight the injury bug. Quality finisher with an array moves around the basket to complement three-point ability. Will need to refine ball-handling skills to progress.
THE NEXT TIER
Andrew Harrison, 6-5, G, Kentucky
Oozes with talent but continues to battle with not being the top option at Kentucky. Can get separation, score at the basket and hit the deep three. Looks to be a better pro if he can lose the selfishness and poor body language. Brother Aaron is quickly closing the gap between the siblings.
Zach LaVine, 6-5, G, UCLA
Freshman scorer doesn’t get the press his game deserves. Talented on the perimeter and even better athlete. Long, thin, has flaws, but this late bloomer is a potential lottery pick.
Brandon Ashley, 6-9, F, Arizona
Has been the unsung hero for the ‘Cats in the early part of the season. Quality scoring option who has become a match-up nightmare for opponents. Does all the little things when it counts. Impressive perimeter skills, looking more and more like a pro each game.
ALL-RIP VAN WINKLE TEAM (Players who have suddenly woken up this season to be valuable for their team)
Casey Prather, 6-5, F, Florida, SR
Has become the Gator’s top gun, tripling his scoring and improving across the board in his contributions.
Perry Ellis, 6-8, F, Kansas, SO
Former McDonald’s All American looked like a bust last season, has quietly been the most consistent Jayhawk.
Brice Johnson, 6-9, F, North Carolina, SO
Confident scorer has been a big part of three notable early season Tar Heel victories. Averaging double-figures in only 20 minutes per game.
Leigh Klein was formerly on staff at Texas and Rhode Island and is a popular guest on radio. He now owns Five-Star Basketball Camps, the nation’s top basketball camp. He contributes to SLAMonline and its coverage of college basketball and the NBA Draft. Klein can be followed at @