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Australian wiggles into fluid top portion of NBA Draft board

POSTED: Feb 7, 2014 11:45 AM ET

By Scott Howard-Cooper

BY Scott Howard-Cooper


World Select Team member Dante Exum (with ball) goes up against the USA's Jabari Parker last April.

He waits and works out, an Australia resident far from regular NBA scouting, a high school student whose season has ended.

Well played, Dante Exum.

Without moving, Exum has moved into a very good spot, resting while the others in the lead pack for the June 26 NBA Draft face the challenges of NCAA life, avoiding the scrutiny and likely enjoying a clear path for months. He can hang out and still move Draft boards, and probably will.

All of that is part of what remains a very fluid top five or six -- even for the top one. Jabari Parker is getting votes from executives, Joel Embiid is getting votes; the decision should ultimately come down to the need of the lottery winner.

Until Exum sits his way all the way to No. 1, of course.

The top 30 just before the All-Star break among draft-eligible prospects, after numerous consultations with front offices:

1. Jabari Parker, Duke | SF 6-8 235
A prototype small forward with skill, size and intelligence beyond his freshman standing. Parker is not a great athlete, compounded by shooting struggles lately, but teams feel he has enough pop to become an NBA star.

2. Joel Embiid, Kansas | C 7-0 240
Executives don't care that he is thinking out loud about returning for his sophomore season. There have been top prospects who said flat-out they were staying in school and still shook David Stern's hand on stage in June.

3. Andrew Wiggins, Kansas | SG-SF 6-8 200
The son of former Bulls, Rockets and 76ers guard Mitchell Wiggins has not lived up to the hype, but front offices are not drafting for the best player of 2013-14. Andrew Wiggins still has a game and physical gifts that translate very well.

4. Julius Randle, Kentucky | PF 6-9 250
Randle went from a very impressive start to a cooling trend once he got to SEC play, but nothing changes the fact that he could score inside against NBA defenses right now, part of a varied offensive game that includes passing skills and footwork.

5. Dante Exum, Australia | PG-SG 6-6 190
The decision to turn pro after considering a season at an American university had been expected. There is great interest from front offices over a prospect who starred in the under-19 world tournament last summer.

6. Marcus Smart, Oklahoma St | PG 6-4 220
Smart will be a physical force, has a chance to be very good defensively and shows a great attitude. But what a risk to take a point guard who can't distribute (assist-to-turnover ratio of less than 2-1 as of Feb. 6) or shoot (41.9 percent at the same stage).

7. Noah Vonleh, Indiana | PF 6-10 240
One of the climbers of the early season has maintained his standing with a display of physical play inside and signs of being able to develop a scoring touch away from the paint.

8. Aaron Gordon, Arizona | PF-SF 6-9 225
The lack of a perimeter game is a concern to some, especially for a player who might play small forward. But Gordon is an elite athlete who plays hard and has a good feel for the game and doesn't turn 19 until six weeks before 2014 training camp.

9. Gary Harris, Michigan St | SG 6-4 210
Regarded as a top perimeter weapon who can also get to the rim, Harris has recovered from a slow start while dealing with a sprained ankle to become an offensive factor again.

10. Dario Saric, Croatia | SF 6-10 235
A strong possibility for the 2013 lottery before withdrawing late, Saric has very good instincts and can play in transition or halfcourt. The concerns are that he is turnover prone and has an inconsistent shot.

11. Rodney Hood, Duke | SF 6-8 210
Hood has gone from Mississippi State to sitting out last season as a transfer to immediately pushing into the lottery as a catch-and-shoot specialist with 3-point range.

12. Zach LaVine, UCLA | PG 6-5 180
The late-bloomer wasn't a major recruit until his senior year of high school. But he has moved up the Draft boards without nearly the hype of several other freshmen because he has size, athleticism and a shot.

13. Tyler Ennis, Syracuse | PG 6-2 180
Ennis, originally considered more of a prospect pick, has been as good as any freshman in the country without being spectacular. His steady play for a top program has earned very positive reviews.

14. James Young, Kentucky | SG-SF 6-6 215
It says a lot that Young continues to draw good reviews despite not shooting well and while sharing the ball with other first-round picks.

15. Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky | C 7-0 235
A 7-footer with speed to run and the instincts and physical ability to be a standout shot blocker. But his offensive game mostly consists of rebound put backs and finishing lobs.

16. Doug McDermott, Creighton | SF 6-8 225
The lack of athleticism will hurt on defense and with an inability to create. But that shooting. Plus, McDermott will have the experience of four years in college.

17. Jerami Grant, Syracuse | SF 6-8 210
Harvey's son/Horace's nephew, a reserve for the Orangemen, scores, rebounds and has the kind of wingspan and athleticism that indicates he could become a standout defender.

18. Montrezl Harrell, Louisville | PF 6-8 230
Though still unpolished on offense and slightly undersized, Harrell's energy, 7-foot-4 wingspan and athleticism that gives him the ability to play above the rim translate into a potential impact player as a defender and rebounder.

19. Adreian Payne, Michigan St | PF 6-10 240
The senior has been adding muscle and expanding his offense with each season, something front offices love to see. He already has the athleticism.

20. Glenn Robinson III, Michigan | SF 6-6 215
After sharing the offense last season with 2013 first-rounders Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr., Robinson has not capitalized on the chance to be one of the nation's best offensive stars, but remains a threat to reach late-lottery.

21. Mario Hezonja, Croatia | SG 6-6 200
Hezonja has been one of the top backcourt prospects in Europe for years and is still only 18, indicating he may not declare in 2014, his first time as Draft eligible. His size and ability to score from different spots equal great possibilities.

22. Semaj Christon, Xavier | PG 6-3 190
He has the speed and aggressive nature to be explosive, either in charging to the rim or creating for others, and he has good size. The problem is that it too often leads to playing out of control, with a poor assist-to-turnover ratio. And his range is lacking.

23. Wayne Selden, Kansas | SG 6-6 230
Ben McLemore's replacement in the Jayhawks' backcourt has great strength with the ability to play inside, as a scorer or for rebounding. The next step is to become a better shooter.

24. Sam Dekker, Wisconsin | SF 6-7 200
Dekker would be a particularly good complementary player, a spot-up shooter who uses hard work and good instincts to get open. Not having advanced speed or strength will hold him back.

25. Kyle Anderson, UCLA | SF 6-9 230
He can handle the ball for a forward, is versatile, has good size and a nice feel for the game. A lack of athleticism that will hurt his ability to create and defend is a drawback.

26. P.J. Hairston, D-League | SG 6-4 220
Hairston has had some good early moments with the Texas Legends after leaving North Carolina, reinforcing his standing as a possible first-rounder who can score from the perimeter or go hard to the rim.

27. Clint Capela, Switzerland | PF 6-10 210
Good showings while playing in France have moved him into first-round consideration, with the chance for a continued climb if the NBA continues to see an upward trend in his development.

28. C.J. Wilcox, Washington | SG 6-6 195
Front offices are noting the progress after years of playing in the shadow of Terrence Ross, Isaiah Thomas and Tony Wroten. Wilcox is one of the best deep threats in the Pac-12 and has expanded his game in other areas.

29. Vasilije Micic, Serbia | PG 6-4 190
While he won't beat many people off the dribble, a potential problem, Micic is a pass-first point guard with vision, size and the ability to deliver the ball at the right time and place.

30. Jahii Carson, Arizona State | PG 5-11 180
Problems with the ball -- an assist-to-turnover ratio of 4.6-3.6 -- are a big red flag, especially for someone with the kind of basketball IQ that should get him to better places. But Carson's speed puts huge pressure on defenses and creates scoring opportunities for teammates.

Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

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