Posted Apr 10, 2014 12:16 AM
The 2014 NCAA tournament is in the books. Here are the top 30 NBA prospects in the wake of the Big Dance, after conversations with numerous front offices:
1. Joel Embiid, Kansas | C 7-0 240
The feeling among a lot of front offices is that the back injury will turn out to be a temporary setback at the end of his college career, not a serious problem that will last into the pros. Let the rise from unknown to possible No. 1 continue.
2. Jabari Parker, Duke | SF 6-8 235
Parker is the most NBA-ready top prospect, without the same high ceiling as some of the others but also without the same risk. That could become the deciding factor for a general manager who likes job security. He could play some power forward.
3. Andrew Wiggins, Kansas | SG-SF 6-8 200
The son of former Bulls, Rockets and 76ers guard Mitchell Wiggins improved in the second half before exiting the tournament with the much-publicized 1-for-6 shooting against Stanford. Teams still see great upside, with the elite athleticism as a starting point, while acknowledging Wiggins is partly a victim of massive preseason hype.
4. Julius Randle, Kentucky | PF 6-9 250
Randle went from a very impressive start to a lengthy cooling trend once SEC play started to a lead role in Kentucky's unexpected run from to the national championship game. His energy level draws rave reviews and his ability to play physical in the style of a true power forward impresses amid concerns over a limited offensive game.
5. Dante Exum, Australia | PG-SG 6-6 190
The Australian high schooler positioned himself well: Work out on his own while the college prospects were facing real competition, pick his spots for team auditions, and ride the wave of intrigue. But Exum will have to eventually show whether he can handle the ball well enough to be a point guard or shoot well enough to play off guard ... or doesn't have a position.
6. Marcus Smart, Oklahoma St. | PG 6-4 220
Smart will be a physical force, has a chance to be very good defensively and has a great attitude. But what a risk to take a point guard who can't distribute (4.8 assists against 2.6 turnovers on a team with other NBA prospects) or shoot (42.2 percent overall, 29.9 on 3-pointers). He will need to be in the same backcourt with a very good offensive player.
7. Noah Vonleh, Indiana | PF 6-10 240
One of the climbers of the early season maintained the standing with physical play inside and signs of being able to develop a scoring touch away from the paint. Averaging 9.0 rebounds in 26.5 minutes as a freshman in a major conference is promising.
8. Aaron Gordon, Arizona | PF-SF 6-9 225
The lack of a perimeter game is a concern for someone who might play small forward, but Gordon is an elite athlete who defends, plays hard and has a good feel for the game for someone who doesn't turn 19 until about six weeks before 2014 training camp.
9. Doug McDermott, Creighton | SF 6-8 225
It's the same as the Aaron Gordon conflict. Appreciate what he does really well or see the other side of the ball as too much of a drawback to overlook? McDermott is a shooting star and has the experience of four years in college. But the lack of athleticism will hurt on defense and in his ability to create on offense.
10. Tyler Ennis, Syracuse | PG 6-2 180
He is the best true point guard available, a big boost even without the physical wow factor of Exum or Smart. Ennis won over front offices and went from prospect for the future to the immediate impact of one of the best freshmen in the country with steady play and composure beyond his years.
11. 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. There are indications he won't stay in the draft this year either, but nothing has been made official.
12. Jusuf Nurkic, Bosnia | C 6-11 280
On a fast track up the board in recent months to where some teams have Nurkic in the top 10 and he could be the second center off the board. He may lack star potential, but that size with his good energy means Nurkic can become a consistent physical presence.
13. Adreian Payne, Michigan St. | PF 6-10 240
The 41 points in the Spartans' tournament opener was merely the public notice to the masses. Payne showed an expanded offensive game all season and added muscle, the kind of upward trajectory front offices love to see. He already has the athleticism.
14. Gary Harris, Michigan St. | SG 6-4 210
Harris' stock took a slight hit as a shooting guard who went from 45.6 percent from the field as a freshman to 42.9 in 2013-14 and from 41.1 percent on 3-pointers to 35.2. He has good strength and can get to the rim, but his listed height of 6-4 is another concern.
15. Rodney Hood, Duke | SF 6-8 210
Hood went from Mississippi State to sitting out last season as a transfer to pushing into lottery contention as a catch-and-shoot specialist with 3-point range. The 42 percent from behind the arc and 80.7 percent from the free-throw line draws attention.
16. Montrezl Harrell, Louisville | PF 6-8 230
Though still unpolished on offense and slightly undersized, Harrell's energy, 7-foot-4 wingspan and the athleticism that allows him to play above the rim translate into a potential impact defender and rebounder. He is weighing a possible return to school.
17. Clint Capela, Switzerland | PF 6-10 210
This is a huge week for Capela, with the chance to help/hurt his stock as the biggest name among draft-eligible players at the Nike Hoop Summit set for Saturday in Portland, Ore. Good showings while playing in France already moved him into the first round.
18. Jerami Grant, Syracuse | SF 6-8 210
Harvey's son/Horace's nephew, a reserve for the Orange, scores, rebounds and has the kind of wingspan and athleticism that indicates he could become a standout defender.
19. Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky | C 7-0 235
A 7-footer with speed to run in transition and the instincts and physical ability to be a standout shot blocker. But his offensive game mostly consists of rebound putbacks and finishing lobs.
20. P.J. Hairston, D-League | SG 6-4 220
Hairston finished his season with the Texas Legends at 21.8 points and 32.3 minutes in 26 games, reinforcing his standing as a first-rounder who can score from the perimeter or go hard to the rim.
21. Glenn Robinson III, Michigan | SF 6-6 215
The son of Big Dog Robinson, in the lottery conversation at the start of the season, did not take advantage of the chance to star after the departures of 2013 first-rounders Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. and the injury to Mitch McGary. It helped that GR3 appeared more assertive in the tournament.
22. 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 will hurt his ability to create and defend, though, and some teams see a possible future role as a point forward oversold because NBA defenses will take away a lot of what made him effective in college.
23. Nik Stauskas, Michigan | SG 6-6 205
He shot 47 percent overall (44.2 percent on 3-pointers) packed a lot of experience in pressure situations into two college seasons, and can handle the ball a little -- the Big Ten Player of the Year checks a lot of boxes.
24. 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.
25. Zach LaVine, UCLA | PG-SG 6-5 180
It gotten a lot harder to find NBA teams that still consider him a point guard, a hit to his draft stock. Without that image as the next Russell Westbrook, LaVine is another athletic wing, though 40 percent on 3-pointers is a big selling point.
26. K.J. McDaniels, Clemson | SF 6-6 198
Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown called him a human stat sheet. McDaniels scores, rebounds and blocks shots as a mega-athlete who will be able to use those physical gifts to overcome the size disadvantage waiting for him in the frontcourt in the pros.
27. T.J. Warren, N. Carolina St. | SF 6-8 225
He went into the tournament averaging 24.8 points a game because of a scorer's mentality, not a scorer's touch -- Warren was just 71.1 percent from the line and doesn't make 3-pointers. The hard work on the offensive boards, and rebounding in general, makes a positive difference.
28. 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, the first time he will be draft eligible. His size and ability to score from many places equals great possibilities.
29. Deonte Burton, Nevada | PG 6-1 190
Even a bad season for Nevada could not knock Burton off the radar. He is athletic, plays tough and gets to the line, and makes shots, though with no 3-point range.
30. Elfrid Payton, La.-Lafayette | PG 6-4 185
Payton has good size, ball skills, defends and experience with the United States under-19 national team last summer. He didn't face top competition much in 2013-14, and when he did: 6-for-19 against Baylor, 3-for-11 against Louisville, 9-for-20 against Creighton. The jumper has been a question all along.
Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.
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