The Best and Riskiest Players of the 2014 NBA Draft
1984. 1996. 2003. Each of those drafts produced a class of superstars that completely shifted the NBA and its future. Drafts like those led not only to the evolution of the league, but also the evolution of its fans.
The 1984 draft saw Hakeem Olajuwon, Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, and John Stockton, arguably four of the top 20 players of all time. 1996 featured the drafting of stars Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Allen Iverson, Ray Allen and Ben Wallace. Fast-forward a few years, and we get the 2003 class of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Carmelo Anthony.
Does 2014—touted by many as the best draft in league history and the main reason for so much tanking this season—have a group of superstars that will soon take over the league like its trio of predecessors? Or is it just a lot of hype?
Let’s analyze the players.
Jabari Parker, SF, Duke: Parker’s scoring mentality should translate well. His height and jump shot make up for his lack of athleticism and his below-par defense. A Carmelo Anthony comparison is within reason.
Dante Exum, PG, Australia: This top 5-projected point guard from Down Under is unknown to many, but his size and shot have people comparing him to Damian Lillard and Russell Westbrook. He looks to be a solid all-star.
Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky: Randle has led his Wildcats team to a surprise Final Four appearance, really upping his draft stock. Nonetheless, he appears to be a slightly undersized but effective double-double machine a la Zach Randolph or David Lee.
Joel Embiid, C, Kansas: The talented Kansas big man is slotted to go No. 1 overall in the draft. His strengths are his athleticism, defense and shot-blocking. His major weaknesses include his post game on the low block and his non-dominant-hand offensive game. Typically in a No. 1 overall pick, a team would like a player who can be an offensive cornerstone. If Embiid can develop his low-post moves, he could be a better version of Andre Drummond, averaging a 20-15 stat line. However, currently he’s a less athletic version of Clippers center Deandre Jordan. Embiid isn’t exactly a safe top overall pick, but he's easily a top 5 player.
Andrew Wiggins, SF, Kansas: Once thought to be the next LeBron, Wiggins’ inconsistent season has dropped him to third in most mock drafts. The risks here are exactly how aggressive the forward will be in the NBA and whether he has the leadership to guide a team to a title. Everything else seems to be there, with a small exception in his passing. He is ultra-athletic with a good shot and superb defensive rebounding. If he lives up to his potential, he could very well be one of the best players at his position. However, there’s a strong chance he could end up as a major bust.
Aaron Gordon, PF, Arizona: Gordon is probably the most athletic player for his size (six-foot-nine). He can dunk with intensity, make difficult layups and rebound. But his jump shot is inconsistent and his defense on the low block remains weak. He is widely touted to be the next Blake Griffin and he certainly has the potential, but only if he can get better on offense. If he doesn't quickly find his range at the next level, he could end up as a position-less player who doesn’t last long in the NBA.