Jun 25 2014 11:59AM

The NBAge Draft Rankings 2014


Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images

L-R: NBA Draft prospects Marcus Smart, Tyler Ennis, Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, Noah Vonleh, Doug McDermott and Aaron Gordon

Welcome to the 4th annual NBAge Draft Rankings 2014 where we rate the best pro basketball prospects, based on scouting, analytics, video review and health reports.

As mentioned last week, we have a pretty good head-to-head record of outperforming NBA GMs the past three seasons in these previews (26-8-8 versus NBA GMs with the lottery picks; 43-29-18 versus NBA GMs with the first round overall).

Will that continue? Only God knows.

What we do know is that once again we are going against conventional wisdom with some of our top picks (see McDermott, Gordon, Adams and Nurkic, among others).

If you are an NBA GM, will you pass up Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid for Doug McDermott?

We would.

Would you have the guts (foolhardiness?) to take Aaron Gordon in the Top 3?

Jordan Adams or Jusuf Nurkic in the Top 10?

We would.

NBAge loves McDermott, Gordon, Adams and Nurkic not only for the way they play basketball--a quality often lost in those looking for upside athletes--but also for the way they acclimate themselves to team basketball.

Let me give you an example of how our plus-minus numbers work.

In the following projections, we give each player a Projected Plus Minus and Upside Plus Minus score, based on what their college/overseas numbers say they will get (projected) and what their max potential could be (upside).

Very few projected stars ever hit their Upside Plus Minus, but when they do, it's usually someone who grades out as an A+ teammate who already has an A+ work-ethic.

Because McDermott and Gordon, in my humble opinion, graded out as two of the four highest in those categories in the 2011-thru-2014 NBA Drafts--along with Kawhi Leonard and Steven Adams--I tend to look more at their UPM numbers than their PPM.

It's all subjective, but our foundation is based on analytics as you can see.

By including an Upside Plus Minus score alongside a Projected Plus Minus number, we also give an added boost to players downgraded in PPM because of weak conference play (Elfrid Payton), who still have a chance to succeed at a high level, as shown by UPM.

Hope this helps clarify.

Furthermore, at the bottom of the page, you will see NBAge Birth Year Rankings, which shows how the top prospects measure out against the NBA vets and rookies-to-be in each baby's birth year.

It gives credence to the question: Would you rather have the NBAge's second-best 1992-born player in McDermott or the NBAge's second-best 1995-born player in Parker?

It's definitely a question for the ages.

NBAge DRAFT RANKINGS 2014

(Rank, Player, School & Position, Height & Weight, Birthdate, Projected Plus Minus & Upside Plus Minus)

1. Doug McDermott, Creighton SF, 6-8 218, 01.03.92, +0.20 thru +5.97: McBuckets' greatest quality is that he succeeds in whatever environment you put him in, which makes him a huge plus for a lottery pick likely going to a loser team. His great attitude, supreme work ethic and flawless game makes the prolific scorer (27 points per game on .644 true shooting percentage) an ideal fit on any NBA team. McDermott has stood out playing on USA Basketball against other NBA players. He has stood out as the top collegian in various college all-star games. He has stood out in college basketball, as the game's MVP for three years running, whether he played in the Big East or Missouri Valley Conference. The NBA has not seen a quality rookie long-range shooter like McDermott (274 career college treys at 45.8 percent) since quantity rookie long-range shooter Stephen Curry (414 3s at 41.2 percent), when he joined the league in the 2009 NBA Draft. No one is better on the catch-and-shoot, off screen or off dribble than McDermott. There really is no doubt that McBuckets will be an NBA player for life. The main question is, Will he be a +6 superstar or a +0 starter? With his track record against NBA and top-level competition plus his impressive displays of athleticism at the NBA combine, we are betting on the former.

2. Jabari Parker, Duke PF, 6-8 235, 03.15.95, +3.87 thru +6.26: Despite foolish attempts to convert Parker into a small forward of late ... Despite not being satisfied as yet with his face-up game ... Despite occasional lapses of being overweight, Parker is a can't miss talent. Why do we say that? Well, he had to overcome some aforementioned obstacles and still proved to be the second-most prolific scorer in this 2014 NBA Draft, having an assortment of back-to-the-basket moves and enough of a post-up game, which allowed the 19-year-old NBA prospect to stand out at Duke as an 18-year-old freshman, posting an unprecedented 28.4 Player Efficiency Rating, on 19 points and 9 rebounds per game. It will only be a matter of time until he joins Tim Duncan and Blake Griffin as he only 20-10 men in the NBA. His ability to score in transition will also serve him well at the next level. He's unselfish too. A good team player. He has yet to prove that he is a good defender, but has the 7-foot wingspan and rebounding skills it takes to get most of the job done at his position. In due time, Parker should become a good overall player with potential 25-points-per-game scoring ability.

3. Aaron Gordon, Arizona PF, 6-9 220, 09.16.95, +3.13 thru +3.74: As mentioned in the intro, Gordon is one of my favorite four prospects when it comes to grading out as an A+ teammate and A+ workhorse. When I find a man like that, I like to rate them high because they seldom let you down. Gordon is as team-first as they get and his defensive-dominating attitude can permeate a team, as it did in college at Arizona. I think this rookie power forward can impact his new NBA team the same way, despite being only 18 years old. He has an explosiveness to his game that is similar to Blake Griffin. Where the two differ is that Griffin uses his power to generate offense, while Gordon fuels his defensive jump on the other side of the court, wreaking havoc on opposing paint penetrators, while getting his own team out on the break en masse. Gordon's open-court flight then really reminds folks of his NBA counterpart because Gordon is impossible to stop when flying anywhere from 12-to-24 inches above the rim. His contributions don't necessarily show up on the stat sheet: 12 points, 8 rebounds, 1 block and 1 steal in 30 minutes per game as an Arizona freshman. But he does affect a team, leading his Wildcats upon his arrival to a 90.2 defensive efficiency score (third in the nation) from a 94.9 points-per-100-possessions score (59th). I would expect Gordon to become a +4 NBA defender by age 20, if not sooner, ranking amongst Serge Ibaka, Taj Gibson and the like. Like those men, Gordon is a flawless pick-and-roll defender on the perimeter, which increases his NBA value even more. You will not find a better defensive player in this draft. Offensively, he finds ways to get it done too, scoring most points on dunks and fast-break action, with his hustle ranking at the next level up there with Griffin and Kenneth Faried. Gordon is a poor free-throw shooter (42.2 percent), but that is just one-year sample size. He has time to improve.

4. Joel Embiid, Kansas C, 7-0 250, 03.16.94, +4.04 thru +4.97: There were times throughout the season that I thought Embiid would grab the No. 1 slot in the NBAge 2014 rankings, with the 19-year-old center having the type of storybook season that just does not happen with players who have just picked up the game at a late stage in life. Embiid rebounded, blocked shots and even hit sweet jumpers at a level that made one wonder what his upside could be. But back injuries sidelined him from seven college games sending up a yellow flag. Then after news of last week's right foot stress fracture surgery that sidelines him 4-to-6 months, one must admit there is a downside now that goes with Embiid's upside. I believe McDermott and Parker are locks to become good offensive NBA performers, while Gordon is similar defensively. So even though the numbers say the 20-year-old Embiid has +4 expectations, I have to rank him after the others because of the injury factor.

5. Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State PG, 6-3 227, 03.06.94, +1.93 thru +4.14: Smart would have been my No. 2 player on the NBAge 2013 list had he gone pro then, so whoever gets the 20-year-old big point guard in the mid-Top 10 is getting themselves quite the prospect. Smart could improve his shooting, but other than that, the lockdown, rebounding floor general has very few weaknesses and no red flags like some other peers in his rookie class.

6. Jordan Adams, UCLA SG, 6-5 209, 07.08.94, +2.42 thru +5.29: OK, here's my first reach (or third, if you think I've overrated McDermott and Gordon). Adams is flat-out a good player, and I am shocked and befuddled why nobody else has him in their Top 20 prospects. I do realize he does not have the NFL combine numbers of other shooting guards and that he may never win a gold medal in the 2016 Olympics as a high jumper. But dude can play basketball. Dude can score. Dude can hit the and-ones. Dude makes 3s. He's just a good all-around teammate. And he even shed 10 pounds since UCLA's season ended to show he can carry himself as a pro at this next level. I know it's risky to rank him sixth, but I took the same risk in 2013 with another hard-working Adams (no relation) and that worked out alright.

7. Julius Randle, Kentucky PF, 6-9 250, 11.29.94, +1.88 thru +3.87: You just know Randle is going to succeed offensively in this league, even though he is still developing many of his go-to moves today. He's a great rebounder. Stronger than most of his teen-aged peers. Plus, he already knows how to play within himself, or within the team's game plan. I think he's a good teammate already, who will meet his projected +2 standard in time, no problem.

8. Andrew Wiggins, Kansas SG, 6-8 200, 02.23.95, +1.67 thru +2.21: Many mock draft experts have Wiggins pegged as the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. I cannot buy into that stock because I have not seen Wiggins play at an All-Star level yet. I am convinced he has the tools to potentially become an All-Defensive player in the league, but I've yet to see the upside and offensive skills worthy of a top pick. Granted, he's only 19, but still. I haven't seen it and the numbers don't support it.

9. Noah Vonleh, Indiana PF, 6-10 247, 08.25.95, -0.60 thru +4.33: There is a lot to like about 18-going-on-19-year-old Vonleh, who is a combine-certified gym rat of a stretch 4 that has one of the higher Upper Plus Minus scores on this list (+4.33). That said, all of his top-of-the-class peers in this 2014 NBA Draft did more in college and overseas than he did. So while I do realize Vonleh has upside, I cannot ignore the fact that the gmae is played in the present too.

10. Dante Exum, Australian Institute of Sports SG (Australia), 6-6 196, 07.13.95, n/a: The reason I have Exum at No. 11 on this list is similar to the reason why I have Vonleh No. 9. Exum just does not have a track record that makes me comfortable spending a higher pick on him. Don't get me wrong, I understand he has been scoring brownie points with his good workouts for teams, along with his impressive YouTube displays of his 2013 game. But I am weary of players who will sit out a year of competition, just so they can protect their Top 5 lottery standing. Remember, Enes Kanter and Darko Milicic tested off the charts at their workouts, but they had no body of work to support their games, and eventually they fell by the NBA wayside. I hope Exum has success, but I need to see more before I spend a higher pick on him.

11. Jusuf Nurkic, Cedavita C (Croatia), 6-11 280, 08.23.94, +1.07 thru +6.11: Nurkic is not the valuable shot-blocking center Embiid can be, but he has a size and overall game that can be quite scary. He is a bull in a China shop who hasn't even turned 20 yet, terrorizing foes in the Eurocup and Adriatic leagues (21.3 and 35.2 Player Efficiency Ratings), while only playing 15 and 17 minutes per game respectively.

12. Jarnell Stokes, Tennessee PF, 6-9 263, 01.07.94, +1.23 thru +4.90: Rebounding got Stokes into the league. If he shows he can score at this next level, the sky is the limit for him.

13. Gary Harris, Michigan State SG, 6-5 205, 09.14.94, +0.94 thru +2.75: If he is as good as I think he can be, Harris could already start for almost a third of NBA squads, playing a Bruce Bowen or Thabo Sefolosha-type role on the team.

14. Kyle Anderson, UCLA SF, 6-9 230, 09.20.93, -0.15 thru +1.98: If you like Boris Diaw, you'll love this 6-9 point forward, who can do it all and fly below the radar while doing it.

15. Clint Capela, Chalon PF (France), 6-10 222, 05.18.94, -0.98 thru +2.85: If he adapts well to the NBA life and works on his game, Capela can become a defensive force off the bench.

16. T.J. Warren, North Carolina State SF, 6-8 220, 09.05.93, -0.71 thru +4.84: On the right team--I see ya, Boston--Warren might put up some surprisingly good point and rebound numbers.

17. P.J. Hairston, Texas Legends SG (NBDL), 6-5 229, 12.24.92, -1.36 thru +3.75: I think Hairston was NBA-ready a year ago when he left North Carolina. But a year with the Texas Legends could prove to be very beneficial to his NBA career.

18. K.J. McDaniels, Clemson SF, 6-6 196, 02.08.93, -1.57 thru +3.02: McDaniels is one of the versatile virtuosos one never finds this low on a draft list. NBAge believes this do-everything wing will make his NBA transition

19. Elfrid Payton, Louisiana-Lafayette PG, 6-4 185, 02.22.94, -4.97 thru +3.13: I am not certain Payton will be an NBA starter. In fact, I would bet against it, based on his -5 PPM. However, he has dominated a weak conference, so I have to leave the window open that he may become a good NBA player, as his +3.13 Upside Plus Minus indicates.

20. Patric Young, Florida C, 6-10 247, 02.01.92, -1.29 thru +2.25: A good NBA backup big. Love his defensive pick-and-roll game.

21. Mitch McGary, Michigan C, 6-10 250, 06.06.92, -0.75 thru +1.85: A good NBA backup big. Love his scoring and passing abilities.

22. James Young, Kentucky SG, 6-7 213, 08.16.95, -0.72 thru +0.71: A good scoring guard off the bench--with incredible 7-foot wingspan--who may develop into a starter one day.

23. Tyler Ennis, Syracuse PG, 6-3 182, 08.24.94, -0.98 thru +1.72: He steps onto any team as a good backup point guard candidate immediately.

24. Nikola Jokic, Mega Vizura C (Serbia), 6-11 253, 02.19.95, -1.46 thru +2.09: What he lacks in defense, he makes up for in offense, with game that gets better with time.

25. Nik Stauskas, Michigan SG, 6-7 207, 10.07.93, -1.00 thru +0.32: Stauskas has the range to do many thangs on an NBA court.

26. Jerami Grant, Syracuse SF, 6-8 214, 03.12.94, -1.38 thru +1.14: If Grant can knock down jumpers half as good as dad Harvey or uncle Horace, he'll have a career..

27. Adreian Payne, Michigan State PF, 6-10 239, 02.19.91, -2.03 thru +1.76: Big stretch 4.

28. Glenn Robinson III, Michigan SG, 6-7 211, 01.08.94, -2.29 thru +1.51: Shooting guard who attacks.

29. Spencer Dinwiddie, Colorado PG, 6-6 205, 04.06.93, -2.22 thru +1.68: Work in progress.

30. Khem Birch, UNLV PF, 6-9 209, 09.28.92, -3.58 thru +2.82: Shot-blocking rebounder.

31. Shabazz Napier, Connecticut PG, 6-1 175, 07.14.91, -2.15 thru -0.57: Mr. (College) Big Shot.

32. Dario Saric, Cibona Zagreb PF (Croatia), 6-10 220, 04.08.94, -2.36 thru +0.66: In due time.

33. Cleanthony Early, Wichita State SF, 6-7 210, 04.17.91, -2.93 thru +0.21: Solid backup center.

34. Zach Lavine, UCLA PG, 6-6 181, 03.10.95, -2.76 thru -1.39: The athlete.

35. Rodney Hood, Duke SG, 6-9 208, 10.20.92, -3.50 thru -2.66: Outside shooter.

36. Joe Harris, Virginia SG, 6-6 215, 09.07.91, -4.88 thru -0.69: Efficient scorer.

37. C.J. Wilcox, Washington.SG, 6-5 195, 12.30.90, -5.56 thru -0.03: Steady shooter.

38. Vasilije Micic, Mega Vizura PG (Serbia), 6-5 200, 01.13.94, -4.78 thru -3.18: Passing point guard.

39. Jordan Clarkson, Missouri PG, 6-5 186, 06.07.92, -5.28 thru -3.60:Penetrating point guard.

40. Walter Tavares, Gran Canarias C (Spain), 03.22.92, -5.38 thru -4.13: Shot-blockng project.

NBAge RANKINGS: BIRTH YEARS 1995 THRU 1992

RANK 1995 1994 1993 1992
1. NCAA Joel Embiid Anthony Davis Kyrie Irving
2. Jabari Parker Marcus Smart Andre Drummond Doug McDermott
3. Aaron Gordon Jordan Adams Bradley Beal Jonas Valanciunas
4. Andrew Wiggins Julius Randle Steven Adams Tobias Harris
5. NCAA NCAA Michael Kidd-Gilchrist Jared Sullinger
6. Noah Vonleh Jusuf Nurkic NCAA Victor Oladipo
7. Dante Exum Jarnell Stokes Kyle Anderson Trey Burke
8. NCAA Gary Harris NCAA Cody Zeller
9. James Young Clint Capela T.J. Warren P.J. Hairston
10. Overseas Giannis Antetokounmpo K.J. McDaniels Patric Young
KEY: NBA veterans in boldface; NBA prospects in regular type; NCAA indicates unnamed college player; Overseas indicates unnamed overseas player.