NBA Draft 2014: Top 60

The 2014 draft is starting to come into focus. Two things I can say for certain is that Joel Embiid has established himself as the best prospect out there and the draft will be dominated by perimeter players after he’s taken #1. After Embiid the big guys are an uninspiring bunch.

I do think the 2014 draft has a chance to live up to its preseason billing of legendary. Embiid and Parker both look like they have the goods to become perennial all-stars. Behind them are as many as 10 players good enough that it isn’t a stretch at all to consider them potential all-stars. They won’t all reach that level, but the fact that there are so many such players says a lot about the potential greatness of the 2014 draft.

Players are listed in order of how I would draft them based on information I have as of 1/31/14. It is mostly stat-based, but other factors like size, age and history also come into play. It is still very early in the 2014 draft analysis process and for that reason these rankings should be considered fluid and certain to change. This is just a look at how I see things right now. The next update will be in a month.

  1. Joel Embiid, C Kansas: Embiid does everything well and has emerged as an easy choice as the top pick.  He’s still improving and seems on his way to once-in-a-decade franchise center status.
  2. Jabari Parker, SF Duke: Parker slumped a bit at the start of the month, but seems to have found his game again. One thing to remember when comparing Parker to Wiggins is Parker has been asked to play out of position at PF in Duke’s perimeter-dominated attack. This has to affect his numbers. His numbers have been stellar, similar to what Carmelo Anthony posted as a freshman.
  3. Andrew Wiggins, SF Kansas: Right now it is hard to call Wiggins a great prospect, let alone a player worthy of dumping an entire NBA season for the 25% chance of winning the lottery to draft him. He has posted no dominant numbers that are typical of a great NBA prospect. He’s been good enough and there have been enough flashes that I have no problem leaving him in the top 3 for now. But he has played over 600 minutes and has the numbers of an ordinary SF prospect. Andrew Wiggins needs to step things up.
  4. Kyle Anderson, Point Forward UCLA: Anderson has the passing numbers of a PG and the rebounding numbers of a PF. He’s done this while hitting 50% of his shots and posting decent defensive numbers. One thing to remember about Anderson is it isn’t like he just emerged out of nowhere this year. He was a top 5 prospect coming in last year. He weathered a difficult freshman year at UCLA and has come back strong in his sophomore year. He improved a major weakness in his game and is now a multi-skilled forward who has all the numbers of a great prospect.
  5. Dante Exum, G Australia: I haven’t seen a lot of numbers on Exum. What I have seen confirms the consensus that he’s an elite prospect.
  6. Jordan Adams, SG UCLA: He was down a little in January, specifically the efficiency. He still has some dominant numbers though and that keeps him up here. It is definitely odd that 2 UCLA guys are in the top 6.
  7. Gary Harris, SG Michigan State: Harris has been one of the more impressive players in college ball this year. He was hyped going in, but his so-so freshman year had me thinking the hype wasn’t deserved. I was wrong.  Harris has improved dramatically as a soph and played his best ball in January. He looks every bit the top SG prospect he was hyped as coming into the season.
  8. Marcus Smart, G Oklahoma State: January started out well for Smart as he was passing the ball better than ever. A late shooting slump hurt, but I still like the progress he has made this year.
  9. Noah Vonleh, PF Indiana: Vonleh is a promising freshman, but his game needs some work, specifically his defense and offensive efficiency could stand to improve.  His combination of upside and talent puts him in the top 10.
  10. Delon Wright, PG Utah: Wright has been totally Rondoesque in his first year playing NCAA ball. Like Rondo he’s long, scores more efficiently than frequently, struggles from behind the arc and posts great defensive numbers. He has built on his great start enough that I have no problem calling him a likely lottery pick.
  11. Tyler Ennis, PG Syracuse: With Ennis there’s still enough to love in his passing and defense that I feel comfortable keeping him in the lottery. There have been many great NBA PGs who struggled with efficiency on offense as freshmen.
  12. Willie Cauley-Stein, C Kentucky
  13. Dario Saric, PF Cibona Zagreb
  14. PJ Hairston, SG Texas Legends : The D-league seems unlikely to replace or even compete with the NCAA as a feeder league any time soon. But the league is a good thing for a player like Hairston who ran afoul of the NCAA’s strict rules last summer and lost his eligibility because of it.
  15. Montrezl Harrell, PF Louisville: His defensive numbers are low, but that could be an effect of the way Louisville plays. Last year Gorgui Dieng was clearly a better defender than his numbers indicated.
  16. Shawn Long, PF Louisiana-Lafayette: Long has seen some decline in efficiency. Such problems plagued him last year after an impressive start. I still like him a lot as a prospect, because despite some erratic play he’s a very good rebounder and shot blocker with 3-point range.  He’s just a sophomore so he has time to smooth out the rough edges.
  17. Nigel Williams-Goss, PG Washington: Williams-Goss is has posted some decent numbers so far, which is impressive for a freshman. I would like him to show more dominance but that might come next year. As the top 2 freshmen PGs go, he’s the steady one while Ennis is more spectacular and the better prospect because of it.
  18. Nik Stauskas, SG Michigan: With his range and low turnover rate, Stauskas fits the profile of an NBA zone buster as well as any college player I’ve seen. Defensively he comes up way short, but with 3-pointers becoming more of a weapon in the NBA, it is easy to see how Stauskas would be very valuable as a role player.
  19. Julius Randle, PF Kentucky: There was good news and bad news in January for Randle. First the bad news: he struggled as a scorer, hitting only 45% of his 2-pointers. The good news is he remains a strong rebounder and he improved his anemic defensive numbers. More bad news is his key defensive number, SB40 of 2.8 in January, is still substandard. But improvement is a good thing in a freshman, so I’m going to look at the month as an overall positive for Randle. The fact that a freshman who is considered by most to be a lock for a top 5 pick worked to improve a weakness is a good sign in itself.
  20. Denzel Livingston, SG Incarnate Word: I’m still trying to wrap my head around this guy. His numbers are amazing. I noted as much last month, but was cautious because of UIW’s ridiculously weak non-conference schedule. In the early going the Cardinals have acquitted themselves OK, going 4-4 in their first month of Southland Conference play. As for Livingston, his numbers have improved if anything during the month of conference play. There is still a lot to ponder here including the fast pace UIW plays at. He could go either way as the season progresses, but is definitely a player to watch.
  21. Cameron Ridley, C Texas: Starting in December Ridley has hit over 60% of his shots while shooting more frequently and has improved his rebounding. That makes him a solid late first-rounder.  I’m not sure his upside is anything more than a valuable rotation center, considering he’s only 6’9” and has yet to show he can pass.
  22. TaShawn Thomas, F Houston: His numbers look great, but as an undersized PF it would help his case if he could knock down a 3-pointer once in a while.
  23. Nick Johnson, G Arizona: I made a mistake in not listing him last month. I got a little hung up on his low defensive numbers without taking previous years into account. That’s my fault. Johnson looks like a solid NBA backcourt prospect. He’s a good scorer, can play some point and plays decent defense.
  24. Jordan Mickey, PF LSU: Mickey’s rebounds took a dive in January.  He’s still hitting close to 65% of his FGs and has posted a SB40 of 5.5. Those are 2 very impressive numbers for a freshman.
  25. Elfrid Payton, PG Louisiana-Lafayette: Payton was a good passer/defender last year, but has upped his scoring quite a bit this year. Two parts of his game that need work are improving his outside shot and cutting down on turnovers.
  26. Zach Levine, SG UCLA: As freshmen SGs go I like him better than the 2 Kentucky guys who appear right below him.  Like the Kentucky guys, Levine is on a loaded roster (at least on the wing) and doesn’t get the chances other top prospects might.
  27. Aaron Harrison and James Young, SG Kentucky: I put these two together, because their cases are so similar. Both are freshmen who came in as elite prospects. Both have good size and ordinary numbers. Both still have that upside thing in their favor. Neither one has numbers that are weak enough that I would dismiss them just yet, but neither one has done much to stake a claim as a first round pick.
  28. Aaron Gordon, F Arizona: I’m having a lot of trouble seeing Gordon as a serious prospect. He only hits one important benchmark and that’s 10.3 R40, which puts him barely there. Right now he’s a hard sell as a tweener, because his outside shot hasn’t been falling. He’s young, talented and on a loaded roster, so he has that upside thing going for him.
  29. Fuquan Edwin, SG Seton Hall: Edwin is a senior who has dipped on and off the radar for a couple of years. His profile has been a great defender, but an erratic scorer and passer. He had a good January and could finish with a flourish. He has the tools to be an effective sniper/defender.
  30. Sean Kilpatrick, SG Cincinnati: Kilpatrick is keeping up the strong pace. He gets extra points because his team is doing so well.
  31. Doug McDermott, SF Creighton: McDermott is having a great senior season that will likely win him the Wooden award. As a prospect he still has that great scorer/weak defense combo that usually has little next level impact. I see him as a bubble first rounder at best.
  32. Sim Bhullar, C New Mexico State: He is currently sidelined with a foot injury that is said to be not serious.  Foot injuries are very scary for the extremely tall, so the staff at New Mexico State deserves credit for taking extra caution here. As for Bhullar as a prospect, he remains the same big guy who hits near 70% of his FG attempts and blocks over 5 shots per 40 minutes with decent rebounding numbers.
  33. Adreian Payne, PF Michigan State
  34. TJ McConnell, PG Arizona: McConnell improved in January and that could have been due to getting comfortable with a new team and role following a year off due to the transfer. After two seasons at Duquense I was hoping he’d get a chance to show what he could do with more scoring opportunities. He’s never averaged more than 9 FGA per game. That won’t happen at Arizona. As a player with 3 years of solid passing, defense and efficiency numbers McConnell has to be looked at as a solid prospect and a possible draft sleeper.
  35. Alan Williams, F UC-Santa Barbara: Impressive player who has improved a lot as a junior. He improved his shooting percentage by almost 100 points this season to .562. If that holds, he should move up next month. There are some height/ position discrepancies on the sites. Draftexpress and the UCSB site list him as a 6’7” center. ESPN has him as a 6’8” forward. Obviously the 6’8” forward is a better prospect.
  36. Alex Hamilton, PG Louisiana Tech: Hamilton is a sophomore worth keeping an eye on. He has good size at 6’4” and promising numbers.
  37. Lamar Patterson, SF Pittsburgh: He’s a 5th-year senior who has worked his way up from redshirt freshman, to rotation glue guy, to star this year. His prospect numbers look very good. He’s been a great scorer and passer with solid defensive numbers. In addition to his being a year older than most seniors, he’s also short for a forward at 6’5” which won’t help his case.
  38. Richard Solomon, PF California: In his 3 previous seasons Solomon hasn’t been much of a prospect. In his final year he has come alive, hitting 58% of his 2-pointers and rebounding as well as any player in the nation. His defense has been good and while he hasn’t attempted any this year he has flashed some 3-point ability in the past. The usual reservations about a player who suddenly emerges as a senior apply here. But in what looks like a subpar year for big guys, Solomon picked the right time to step up his game.
  39. Derrick Marks, G Boise State: Marks has been a mainstay in my rankings as a bubble first rounder since last year. January wasn’t a good month for him as his numbers dropped across the board. Because he has been so good I’ll wait another month before getting too concerned.
  40. Anthony Drmic, SG Boise State: Of the 2 Boise State guards, Drmic’s January was as good for him as a prospect as Marks’s was poor.
  41. Russ Smith, PG Louisville
  42. Taylor Braun, SG North Dakota State: Everything about Braun looks solid. He’s tall enough at 6’7”. He’s an excellent passer. He’s over .400 from behind the arc. His efficiency and defensive numbers are solid enough. He’s a 4-year starter. This a player who is well worth a second round pick.
  43. JJ Mann, SG Belmont: Mann was playing a supporting role to a pair of good guards in Kerron Johnson and Ian Clark for a couple of years. He has paid his dues and is getting his chance to shine this year.
  44. Khem Birch, PF UNLV
  45. Juwan Staten, PG West Virginia: A player with solid numbers across the board. Nothing about him stands out, but there are no red flags. Staten is a junior and has good size at 6’3”.
  46. Kendrick Perry, PG Youngstown State: Solid 4-year player. He’s more of a scorer than a passer, but has posted numbers consistently good enough to be considered a draftable prospect.
  47. Jordan Bachynski, C Arizona State: Bachynski’s seasons have followed a trend for 2 years. He starts fast then fades quite a bit during the conference schedule. This year has been a little different. His rebounding numbers have held up pretty well so far. He’s always been an excellent shot blocker though and such players are always worth a look.
  48. Mike Moser, F Oregon: With Moser the fact that he has been knocking down 3-pointers at a 35% clip is a pretty big deal. That sets him apart from the bevy of undersized PF prospects with decent numbers.
  49. KJ McDaniels, SF Clemson: McDaniels has stepped up his game nicely as a junior. His passing is a weak point in his game and he won’t get much higher than this until that improves.
  50. Briante Weber, PG Virginia Commonwealth: His offense remains anemic overall, but he did hit 6 of 19 3-point attempts in January. That hardly makes him the next Ray Allen, but any sign of offense is a good thing with Weber. Even without the offense, Weber’s defense is strong enough that I consider him a top 60 mainstay.
  51. Eric Moreland, PF Oregon State: Moreland hasn’t been the player he was last year and for that reason he’s close to being dropped from the list.
  52. DeAndre Kane, PG Iowa State: Kane has good size and great numbers. He’s also older than John Wall and Eric Bledsoe.
  53. Shabazz Napier, PG Connecticut: Napier has improved every year. He still projects as nothing more than a reserve. He can run an offense, hit the 3-pointer and play solid defense. As a senior he’s probably more NBA-ready than most.
  54. CJ Wilcox, SG Washington
  55. Brandon Lane, PF Pepperdine
  56. Justin Jackson, PF Cincinnati
  57. Javon McCrea, PF Buffalo
  58. Tymell Murphy, SF Florida International
  59. Melvin Ejim, F Iowa State
  60. Markel Brown, SG Oklahoma State: I rounded the list out with 9 seniors who have stepped up their games and are worth a look. Brown is an interesting prospect. He’s having his best year as a scorer and commits very few TOs. On defense he has only 0.8 S40, which is a huge negative, but he is one of the best shot blocking guards in the nation.

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