andrew-wiggins-december-2013This year’s NBA Draft class is supposed to rival the famous draft class of 2003. That’s how good some of these prospects are this year.

There are about 5 players in this year’s class that would have been the consensus number one overall pick last year, and teams are well aware of this.

Hash tags like “#TankforWiggins” or “RigginforWiggins” have blown up on social media, and one NBA general manager even admitted that he wanted to tank this season to get a better chance at the number one overall pick.

It’s a good year to be bad in the NBA, and with that, here are some of the top 2014 NBA Draft Prospects.

Dario Saric, PF, Croatia

dario-saric-december-2013NBA Comparison: Lamar Odom

If Dario Saric had decided to enter his name in the NBA Draft last season, he would have been a lottery pick.

Although Saric is 6-foot-10, he loves to play on the wing and is an exceptional passer and playmaker for his size. His jumper is still a concern, but hopefully another year of development over seas will help sure that up.

Saric has the height of an NBA player, but would definitely benefit from putting on a few extra pounds of muscle. Versatile big men are the new in thing in the NBA right now, and Saric may be the best point-forward in the draft.

Wayne Selden, SG, Kansas

wayne-selden-2013NBA Comparison: Dwyane Wade

Wayne Selden has a long way to go before he’s anywhere near as good as Dwyane Wade, but the way these two play the game is very similar.

Selden has an NBA-ready body and is best at penetrating and finishing near the rim. Like Wade, Selden has a very streaky jumper and is a pretty good playmaker and defender.

It’ll interesting to see how Selden’s offensive game progresses throughout the year with the help of Bill Self.

Aaron Gordon, SF, Arizona

aaron-gordon-december-2013NBA Comparison: Kenneth Faried

Aaron Gordon often draws NBA comparisons to Blake Griffin, but he’s really more of an energy/athletic player like Denver Nuggets' Kenneth Faried. Gordon is a freak athlete, and could walk into any NBA gym right now and be one of, if not the best athlete on the court.

The issue with Gordon is he doesn’t really have a position. His jump shot and perimeter game need a lot of work, and he’s not big enough at 6-foot-8 to play in the post. On the bright side, Gordon is a great rebounder and excels in the open court, often finishing off fast breaks with rim-rattling dunks.

He definitely has a place in the NBA, but he has to figure out his natural position first.

Noah Vonleh, PF, Indiana

noah-vonleh-2013NBA Comparison: Serge Ibaka

Noah Vonleh has NBA All-Star potential. The 6-foot-8 freshman forward from Massachusetts has shown a ton of versatility on the offensive end of the court to make NBA scouts drool over this guy.

He has pretty good touch on his midrange jumper and has shown flashes of a low post game as well. Vonleh has a 7-foot-4 wingspan that helps him grab rebounds inside and change opponents shots at the rim.

The knock on Vonleh is that he’s almost too nice of a person and that he may not have that killer instinct, but cut the kid some slack — he’s only 19 years old. He’s not a natural small or power forward, and will probably see time at both positions in the NBA.

Zach LaVine, PG, UCLA

zach-levine-uclaNBA Comparison: Russell Westbrook

Freshman point guard Zach LaVine may be the 2014 NBA Draft prospect you’ve never heard of yet. This dude can straight up ball.

LaVine possess elite athleticism to go along with his 6-foot-5 frame, which makes guarding him nearly impossible. On top of that, LaVine has a silky smooth stroke from deep, but he often relies on that shot too often.

He’s got a nasty handle and is quick enough to get past defenders and into the lane, but he often settles for deep 3-pointers late in the shot clock. His decision-making has to improve as well, but as far as potential goes, this kid has it all.

He may not be the prototypical NBA point guard, but he’s right in the Russell Westbrook/Derrick Rose mold.

Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky

julius-randle-2013NBA Comparison: Paul Millsap

Julius Randle is a beast and has absolutely dominated college competition thus far this year. When Kentucky played No. 1 Michigan State earlier this season, fellow NBA prospect Adreian Payne was no match for the Kentucky freshman.

Randle has an NBA body right now (6-foot-9, 245 pounds), but isn’t really an elite athlete. Right now he’s able to bully around opposing big men, but that strategy may not work as well in the NBA. Randle has the ability to play on the block and face up his defender, but often settles for a midrange jump shot instead of enforcing his will down low.

To make the transition to the NBA, he’ll need to develop his right hand as well. Right now, Randle goes to his left hand in the post about 75 percent of the time.

Joel Embiid, C, Kansas

joel-embiid-2013NBA Comparison: Tyson Chandler

Imagine a young Tyson Chandler with a jump shot, and you’d have a pretty good idea of what Joel Embiid is as an NBA prospect right now.

The 7-foot-1 freshman from Kansas is off to a great start to the year and is skyrocketing up draft boards. Embiid is a stud on the defensive end of the court and does a great job protecting the rim. Offensively, Embiid has shown fluid post moves and Bill Self has even given him the ability to shoot 3-pointers in games.

By no means is Embiid an offensive force yet, but the potential is there. According to reports, he’s only been playing basketball for about three years now but you’d never know watching his game.

By the end of the season, don’t be surprised to hear Embiid’s name being thrown around in the same sentence as “No. 1 overall pick”.

Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State

marcus-smart-2013NBA Comparison: Deron Williams

People need to stop hating on Marcus Smart’s decision to return to college for his sophomore season. Just look at his game – it’s obvious he made a good decision.

Smart is a much better player today than he was a year ago, and his jumper is way better than it was as a freshman. Offensively, Smart may be the most versatile player in the country. He’s a great distributor, can knock down open jump shots and is nearly impossible to keep out of the lane.

Smart isn’t the most athletic or explosive player in college basketball, but he uses his athleticism well. Defensively he’s a menace too as he leads college basketball in steals per game.

As far as being a leader, there aren’t many better leaders than Smart in college basketball, and he plays with a certain calmness in his game. When the game is on the line, Smart is the guy you want with the ball in his hands.

Jabari Parker, SF, Duke

jabari-parker-december-2013NBA Comparison: Paul Pierce

Jabari Parker is the best offensive freshman the college ranks have seen since Kevin Durant.

Seriously, this guy can score from every where on the court. The second he crosses the mid-court line, opposing defenses better know exactly where he is.

What he’s done early on this season for Duke has been nothing short of spectacular, and college basketball fans should enjoy Parker while he’s still there. Parker also has a tremendous basketball IQ and is an unselfish player. If he has a good shot and his teammate has a great shot, he’ll gladly make the extra pass.

Parker is a good, not great athlete, and his first step isn’t that quick. After starting the season shooting nearly 60 percent from deep, Parker has cooled off as of late, shooting 2-12 from deep over his last five games. Parker can definitely stroke the ball, but he’s got to become a more consistent shooter from deep.

His game isn’t flashy, but this dude can definitely score the basketball.

Dante Exum, PG, Australia

dante-exum-2013NBA Comparison: Rajon Rondo

If you haven’t heard of Dante Exum yet, study up folks. This guy is a stud.

The 6-foot-6 combo guard from Australia burst onto the scene at the Nike Hoops Summit last year, and has NBA scouts raving over his talent. Exum has a lightning quick first step and has a silky smooth game. He always looks like he’s playing under control, even though he’s constantly getting into the paint and wrecking havoc on opposing defenses.

Onto of his great size and length, Exum is also a very good passer and excels on the fast break. His jump shot is shaky right now, but his form is solid, which shows that he has the potential to develop into a consistent shooter. If he can get defenders to respect his J, Exum will be nearly impossible to guard. His handle is tight and he blows by defenders with ease.

This guy is legit.

Andrew Wiggins, SF, Kansas

Andrew-Wiggins-November-2013NBA Comparison: Tracy McGrady

Andrew Wiggins has been talked up as the best NBA prospect since LeBron James, and for good reason. His potential is through the roof, even though is offensive game is extremely raw right now.

Wiggins is the most athletic college player in the past few years, and he’ll wow you with unbelievable dunks without even breaking a sweat. He makes it look to easy sometimes.

His jump shot is still a work in progress, but he’s already shown improvements in that area this year.

In Kansas’ last game against Florida, Wiggins drained three 3-pointers late in the game to bring the Jawhawks within striking distance. His stroke is pure and simple, but he just needs to develop the consistency. Wiggins also needs to improve his handle as he struggles to deal with immense on-ball pressure.

But as far as potential goes, Wiggins is in a class of his own. The combination of a solid offensive game with his elite athleticism has First Team All NBA written all over it.

Wiggins isn’t as NBA-ready as some of the other top prospects right now, but his ceiling is definitely the highest.

[tps_footer]By Mike Lucas[/tps_footer]


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