Actually I don’t think it is too early to start breaking down the legendary 2014 draft class. Everyone else is on it, so I might as well jump in and join the fray. I may wait a decade or three before doing a 2014 comp with the classes of ’84, ’96 and ’03 though. My MO has always been to wait until January for my first look at the draft class. But this group is clearly different. Last night’s Champions Classic was so much fun, not even Dick Vitale could ruin it. So let’s join the fun and engage in some way-to-early overanalysis.
I’ll just focus on the top 3, Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Julius Randle, for this piece. There is a lot more to talk about and I’ll try to keep up with everything that’s happening. Just in these two games there was some noteworthy improvement from sophs Gary Harris and Perry Ellis, intriguing flashes from Joel Embiid and an incredible game by senior and previous non-prospect PG Keith Appling. So there will be plenty to be hashed out that doesn’t involve Wiggins, Parker and Randle. But to start we’ll look at those three. These are just some notes and observations on their early play. I have them in reverse order of prospectworthiness at this early point in the season.
Julius Randle, PF Kentucky: He’s been terrific on the boards and as a scorer. Not too many players have ever come in and posted a 20-10 in his first 3 games as Randle has. That he’s doing it while hitting 68% of his 2-pointers is even more impressive. His defense has been shaky though. Randle has only 1 block and no steals in 90 minutes, which is an early red flag. The fact that he also posted weak defensive numbers in the HS all-star games makes this a legitimate concern and something that could eventually push him out of the lottery, considering the strength and depth of this class. Another negative is that he committed 8 turnovers last night. While he has plenty of time to get things right, Julius Randle doesn’t belong in the top overall pick discussion until his defense improves.
Andrew Wiggins, SF Kansas: As a player he’s incredibly quick and explosive. Coming off the HS all-star games I was a little concerned he was a one-dimensional player who could score, but lacked an all-around game. So far that hasn’t been the case. Wiggins pulled down 8 rebounds against Duke and had 3 steals in the opener against Louisiana-Monroe, both promising numbers. As a scorer he hasn’t been lights out, but there hasn’t been anything to suggest he won’t be as good as advertised. He has hit 58% of his shots and poured in 22 points in 25 minutes last night after netting “only” 16 in his first game. The early concern would be that he seems to lack some aggressiveness on offense. He was willing to take a backseat to other teammates early on. I don’t know that this is even a concern though, considering he’s just a freshman. As long as Perry Ellis is unstoppable inside, as he was last night, there’s no reason for Wiggins to try to do it himself. I do feel it’s worth mentioning though.
Jabari Parker, SF Duke: I spent about an hour on www.thesaurus.com trying and failing to come up with a clever rhyme that describes an NBA team playing poorly for the right to draft Jabari Parker in late June. The best I could come up with was “A barker for Parker”, ‘barker’ meaning dogging it. Sheesh. I’ll leave this rhyme thing to those more clever than I. think it is safe to say that following the injury his HS senior season, Jabari Parker has definitely re-entered the “next LeBron” debate.
Parker has had the best start of the trio. In 56 minutes he has posted 49 points, 15 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks. He has hit 56% of 2-pointers and 70% of treys. My only concern right now was that in the 2nd half last night he got a little sloppy on offense and missed a lot of shots. That came from taking on a lot of the offensive responsibility. Duke has a solid team, but Parker doesn’t have the talent surrounding him that Wiggins and Randle do. I doubt there’s another first round pick on Duke’s roster, while Kansas and Kentucky have such players coming off the bench. Because of this Parker will likely be asked to carry the team on his back and take the big shot more often than the other two.
It’s early and there are a lot of minutes remaining to be played. Randle’s defense, Wiggins’ aggressiveness and Parker’s shot selection all have plenty of time to develop before the actual, legendary 2014 draft happens. The best thing to do is enjoy what should be a great college basketball season.