The college season is over, and the time for evaluating top prospects in live game conditions is through. The 2014 draft class didn’t live up to astronomically high expectations, but it still appears to be the best group in the past few years. There will be a lot riding on the decisions that teams holding lottery picks will have to make, and the greatest amount of pressure will rest on the shoulders of the GM with the No. 1 overall pick.
Andrew Wiggins entered as the most ballyhooed of them all and a surefire top overall pick, but he stumbled, and found himself behind Kansas teammate Joel Embiid, a relative basketball neophyte from Cameroon who surged to the No. 1 spot on draft boards in the middle of the season. Jabari Parker was up and down, but he appears more NBA-ready than Wiggins and Embiid. All three have been the leading candidates for the top pick for much of the season.
Much depends on the health of Embiid’s injured back, and the identity of the team picking first overall won’t be known until the May 20th draft lottery. There are plenty of variables that will go into the equation in the 79 days remaining before the draft, but if you were the GM picking first overall and the draft were tonight, whom would you select?
Feel free to consult our prospect profiles on Embiid, Parker and Wiggins to help you make your decision. When you’re ready, cast your vote below, and explain your choice in the comments.
There are no NBA games scheduled this evening as the spotlight falls on the NCAA title game between Kentucky and Connecticut. Eight players on the rosters of the two teams are among the top 61 prospects in Jonathan Givony’s DraftExpress rankings, though potential lottery pick Willie Cauley-Stein is injured and won’t play for the Wildcats. It’s nonetheless a bevy of talent on display, and with multiple sources telling Gery Woelfel of The Journal Times that just about every one of Kentucky’s decorated freshmen will declare for this year’s draft, it looks like it won’t be long before that talent is in the NBA (Twitter link). Here’s the latest on the next wave headed for the Association:
The Magic have Andrew Wiggins, Dante Exum, Jabari Parker and Marcus Smart, in that order, atop their draft board, Chad Ford of ESPN.com reports in his latest Insider-only “Tank Rank” piece. Exum also has “some traction” with the Sixers, and the Lakers are high on him, too.
The Kings don’t have Wiggins within their top three prospects, Ford hears. The ESPN.com scribe makes note of the draft plans for several other teams, too, though some of it appears to be educated guesswork.
Wiggins has chosen BDA Management’s Bill Duffy for his agent, sources tell Bleacher Report’s Jared Zwerling (Twitter link). Duffy beat out Jay Z’s Roc Nation Sports, and Wiggins was also linked to Rich Paul of Klutch Sports.
Parker, Randle and Joel Embiid are all expected to sign with Arn Tellem of Wasserman Media Group, Woelfel tweets. Woelfel includes Smart’s name on that list, too, reiterating what Zwerling reported last week.
TNT’s David Aldridge ranks the shooting guards expected to be available for the draft in his Morning Tip column for NBA.com, giving Michigan’s Nik Stauskas the slight edge for the No. 1 spot over Gary Harris of Michigan State.
Kennedy believes the biggest sleeper pick in the upcoming NBA Draft is Wichita State’s Cleanthony Early. He also believes the player most likely to be taken too high is Kentucky’s Willie Cauley-Stein.
Pau Gasol is most likely done with the Lakers after this season, opines Kennedy. He cites the Lakers’ desire to have cap flexibility heading into the summer of 2015, as well as Gasol’s reluctance to be part of a rebuild.
On who the Sixers will take in the draft, Kennedy believes the team will simply select the best two players available. His draft scenario has the team selecting Andrew Wiggins and Dario Saric.
He doesn’t believe that Victor Oladipo is the long term answer for the Magic at point guard. Kennedy believes the team should look at drafting Dante Exum and keeping Oladipo at shooting guard.
Kennedy also believes the rumors that Kyrie Irving wants out of Cleveland. He opines that Irving might sign an extension and then demand a trade from the Cavs.
Colorado junior Spencer Dinwiddie is leaning heavily toward leaving for the NBA, writes Jeff Goodman of ESPN.com. The 6’6″ guard, who tore the ACL in his left knee on January 12th, will likely will forgo his final college season, unless the NBA evaluation he receives back says he does not have a chance to go in the first round of the draft, reports Goodman. Dinwiddie was averaging 14.7 PPG, 3.1 RPG, and 3.8 APG at the time of his injury. He is currently ranked as the 46th best prospect by Chad Ford of ESPN.com.
More news related to draft matters:
Marcus Smart is close to signing with Wasserman Media Group, notes Jared Zwerling of Bleacher Report (Twitter link). Zwerling also notes that Jay-Z and Bill Duffy are candidates to sign Andrew Wiggins.
The father of lottery prospect Dario Saric reiterated to Tomislav Gabelić of 24sata that he doesn’t feel his son is ready for the NBA, suggesting that Spanish team Real Madrid is in contention to sign the 6’10″ forward, as David Pick of Eurobasket.com notes (Twitterlinks). That lends credence to the notion that his rumored deal with Efes Pilson of Turkey never came to fruition. Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress recently wrote that Dario Saric is almost certain to enter the draft, and while sources confirm to Pick that Saric is indeed draft-bound, they believe he’ll nonetheless sign with a European club, becoming a “draft-and-stash” player. There’s more on Saric amid the latest on the draft, as we detail:
The stumbling block for many European teams that would pursue Saric is that only a few of them can afford his buyout from KK Cibona, the club for which he currently plays, tweets Sportando’s Emiliano Carchia. Saric’s father also confirms that agent Robert Jablan no longer represents his son, who is without an agent, Carchia notes via Twitter.
An earlier report indicated that Andrew Wiggins was expected to sign with agent Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, but Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com hears that Paul never recruited Wiggins. Instead, Jay Z’s Roc Nation Sports and one other agency are contending for Wiggins, Haynes writes.
Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports lists his top 10 international prospects, with Saric right behind Australian point guard Dante Exum, who occupies the No. 1 spot.
Dirk Nowitzki eschews an agent and has mentor Holger Geschwinder negotiate his contracts for him, but the Mavs star isn’t fond of free agency, as he tells TNT’s David Aldridge, who writes in his Morning Tip column for NBA.com. Nowitzki reiterates that he fully intends to re-sign with Dallas this summer.
More from around the league:
Despite Nowitzki’s stated intent to re-sign with Dallas, Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders believes Dirk would be well-served to explore his options. Kennedy cites Nowitzki’s desire to be on a championship contender as the primary reason, and believes if he was willing to take a pay cut, he could fit in nicely with a number of teams that offer him a better chance to win than the Mavericks.
Rich Paul was mentioned earlier as a possible agent for Andrew Wiggins. Paul might also land Duke’s Jabari Parker if he declares for the draft, tweets Sean Deveney of The Sporting News. Deveney also lists former NBA player B.J. Armstrong as a possibility to represent Parker.
Western Michigan Senior Shayne Whittington has signed with agents Ronald Shade and Herb Rudoy of Interperformances, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports (Twitter link). Whittington is currently ranked 195th by Chad Ford of ESPN.com, and is a projected second round pick at best.
The 2014 NBA Draft won’t be held until June 26th, but the fact that it’s still almost three months away won’t dampen the excitement and anticipation of executives and fans around the league. The rush of underclassmen declaring their intent to be a part of the process has already begun. You can check out our latest early entrants list to stay up to date with who teams will have to choose from on draft night. One of the more exciting prospects to declare was Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins. You can check out our prospect profile on him here.
More talk about Wiggins:
The Celtics are hoping for a little luck when the lottery order is determined now that Wiggins has officially declared for the draft, writes Jeff Pini of Boston.com. The Celtics currently have the fifth-worst record in the NBA and have a strong chance of landing a top-three pick in the draft.
Wiggins started the season as the probable first overall pick, and if a knock on Wiggins’ game developed over time, it was that he could be too passive and did not steal the show nightly, writes Deveney in a separate article. Wiggins’ last game where he scored four points on only six shots didn’t help change this opinion. Kevin Durant had similar criticisms as well before he entered the NBA, according to Deveney. The article references this scouting report on Durant that stated, “One aspect of his game that was put on center stage throughout the (NCAA) tournament was his tendency to disappear throughout stretches of the game. For 10 minutes, you will be watching the best player the college game has had to offer in the last 10 years. Then for 5 minutes, you will forget that he is even on the floor offensively.”
MONDAY, 2:10pm: Wiggins made it official, announcing in his press conference today that he’s entering the draft. He’s among nearly 20 underclassmen who’ve made it known that they intend to head to the NBA, as our updated early entrants list shows.
SUNDAY, 8:20pm: Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins will have a press conference tomorrow at 2:00pm CST to announce his decision regarding the draft, per Jeff Goodman of ESPN.com. It has long been widely assumed that Wiggins will declare for the NBA draft, and Goodman says this will be the case tomorrow (Twitterlinks).
As we detailed in our Prospect Profile series, the Canadian phenom has been considered a first-overall talent since high school. Although Wiggins had an inconsistent year at Kansas, including a 4-point dud in the Jayhawks’ elimination game from the NCAA tournament, he still sits atop many draft projections, including those of Jonathan Givony at DraftExpress and ESPN Insider Chad Ford. The only two players believed to threaten Wiggins at the top of the draft are teammate Joel Embiid and Duke’s Jabari Parker. Parker also had an underwhelming tournament exit, and Embiid sat out of the tourney due to a back injury.
Juwan Staten is going to return to West Virginia for his senior year, reports Jeff Goodman of ESPN.com. Staten’s father, Billy, told ESPN.com that Staten, who averaged 18.1 PPG, 5.6 RPG, and 5.8 APG, that his son would come back to Morgantown. Staten had started his college career at Dayton before transferring to West Virginia after his freshman season. He averaged 7.6 PPG as a sophomore, but had a breakout campaign this past season, writes Goodman. Chad Ford of ESPN.com had Staten slotted as a late second round pick or going undrafted in June.
More from the college ranks:
Barring a last second change of heart, Arizona freshman Aaron Gordon is likely to declare for the NBA Draft, reports Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports (Twitter link). Gordon is currently ranked seventh on Chad Ford of ESPN.com‘s Big Board, and you can check out our prospect profile on Gordon here.
Spears also ran down his top ten NBA prospects that competed in the NCAA Tournament in a separate article.
Andrew Wiggins‘ last game wasn’t a very impressive performance. He only scored four points, and made one out of six shot attempts. Tom Moore of Calkins Media doesn’t think it will hurt Wiggins’ draft stock amongst NBA scouts. Moore believes the player will be judged on his overall body of work and future potential. The article uses the final game of Michael Carter-Williams as an example, where the potential Rookie of the Year only scored two points and missed five of six shots. If you want a better look at Wiggins, you can check out his prospect profile.
Another player we have profiled, Jabari Parker, might not enter the draft this year despite being a guaranteed top three selection. If he doesn’t, it will weaken this year’s draft significantly, as well as lower the margin for error for teams picking in the lottery, writes Mitch Lawrence of The New York Daily News.
Chris Mannix of SI.com released a new mock draft, with Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, and Jabari Parker in the top three spots. Here are more rumors surrounding the draft:
Several executives tell Mannix that the poor tournament performances of Wiggins and Parker won’t impact their draft stock, but that concerns over Embiid’s back injury could significantly affect his value.
Jeff Goodman of ESPN.com thinks Zach LaVine is over-hyped as a prospect, saying that the guard out of UCLA looks like a D-League player despite his first-round projections (Twitter link).
Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com thinks that Michigan’s Glenn Robinson III needs to finish the tournament with a big performance, because his lack of assertiveness and spotty play has caused him to slip down draft boards from a potential lottery pick to a late first-rounder.
Scouts tell Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv that Kentucky’s Andrew Harrison would go in the 25-30 range in the draft, and that he needs to stay for another year and improve his stock (Twitter link).
Chris Mannixagrees with that take, tweeting that Harrison has the tools to become a lottery pick in the 2015 draft.
An NBA scout tells Mannix that UConn’s Shabazz Napier already has better ball handling ability than a lot of NBA backup point guards (Twitter link).
An NBA executive tells Mannix that Baylor’s Isaiah Austin is another player who should stay in school for another year, pegging the center as a late first rounder at best in the 2014 draft class (Twitter link).
Louisville’s Russ Smith made the right choice to stay in college after last year’s national championship, writes Adi Joseph of USA Today. Smith will likely be selected in the second round of the draft, and Joseph envisions him as a bench player who could eventually earn a starting job in the NBA.