The 2014 NBA Draft has been described as one of the deepest in recent years. Not since 2003 has a class featured so many potential stars.
While the top of the 2003 NBA Draft featured a 21-year-old Dwyane Wade, this year’s draft won’t have an experienced collegiate star going at the top of the first round. The first few picks are all expected to be freshmen.
Below are the top five prospects in the 2014 NBA Draft.
1) Andrew Wiggins
Wiggins entered his freshman campaign with Kansas as the most hyped NBA prospect in the last decade. While he hasn’t shown any signs that he’ll be the next LeBron James, the 19-year-old has as much potential as any player in the draft.
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At 6’8 and 200 pounds, his raw talent and athleticism will make it difficult for the team with the top selection to pass him up. Wiggins didn’t put up earth-shattering statistics this season, but his 17.1 points and 5.9 rebounds per game were impressive on a No.2 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
The biggest concerns surrounding Wiggins are his potential to be an elite scorer. He has the ability to be a top defender in the NBA, though he disappeared offensively, at times, in his first year. When Kansas was eliminated in March Madness, Wiggins scored just four points on six shot attempts.
2) Joel Embiid
Few collegiate centers in recent years have been as impressive as Embiid. While many expected his teammate to be the clear No.1 draft pick, the seven-footer will give Wiggins a challenge at the top of the first round.
Embiid was not a focus of the Jayhawks’ offense, but he still managed to put up 11.2 points per game on nearly 63 percent shooting. He had a major impact, while playing just 23.1 minutes a night, showcasing an array of post moves. On the defensive end, Embiid was a force in the paint, averaging 2.6 blocks and nearly a steal per contest.
If Embiid doesn’t go No.1, it may be over health concerns. The freshman has dealt with back and knee injuries, missing his team’s final six games. General managers could be wary of Embiid becoming another injury-plagued big man like Greg Oden.
3) Jabari Parker
The Duke freshman has yet to make an official decision regarding the draft. While there’s a chance he could play another year of college basketball, his high draft stock makes it likely that he will head to the pros.
It’s hard to imagine Parker not being taken in the top three, and it’s even possible for him to go No.1. Embiid and Wiggins might have higher ceilings, but Parker might be the most NBA-ready player in the 2014 class. As an 18-year-old for almost the entire season, Parker was a dominant offensive player, averaging 19.1 points per game on 47.3 field-goal shooting. At 6’8 and 235 pounds, he’s got the physical tools to compete at the next level.
Parker’s questionable defense might concern some. With just one year at Duke, though, he has plenty of time to improve in that area.
4) Julius Randle
Like Parker, Randle has yet to declare for the draft. If he does decide to leave college after one year, a spot in the draft’s top five likely awaits him.
Randle has the potential to be a highly productive power forward in the NBA. Some have compared him to Blake Griffin, who could finish behind Kevin Durant and LeBron James in MVP voting. While he may never turn out to be as good as the L.A. Clippers star, a career similar to that of Zach Randolph isn’t out of the question. He was a double-double machine at Kentucky, averaging 15 points and 10.4 rebounds, and could make an immediate impact in the pros.
The freshman doesn’t have the wingspan of many players his size, which could hold him back in the NBA. Still, he could be one of the better rookies in 2014-2015.
5) Noah Vonleh
Vonleh doesn’t have the name recognition of the first four prospects, all of whom played for some of the best teams in college basketball. While the freshman played for an Indiana team that didn’t reach the NCAA Tournament, he’s likely to make a name for himself at the next level.
While the Hoosiers went 7-11 in the Big Ten, Vonleh continued to impress, averaging 11.3 points and nine rebounds per game. The 18-year-old was very efficient this past season, hitting over 52 percent of his shots. Standing at just less than seven-feet tall, Vonleh can stretch the floor, with the ability to score from behind the arc.
Down the stretch, Vonleh struggled against elite competition, failing to score 10 points or grab 10 rebounds in his final three games. His potential, though, could launch him into the top five.