We are just a few days away from the 2014 NBA Draft, many prospects have made themselves a household name during team workouts which has improved their draft stock. It is casual for general managers and talent scouts to get caught in the moment of what a player is capable of when nobody impedes their progress. Here are the top five players to keep an eye on while we await draft day.
5. P.J. Hairston
During his time span at North Carolina, sharp shooter P.J. Hairston was becoming a focal point of the Tar Heels’ success. Many would believe Hairston was sorely missed by the Tar Heels in powder during the early portion of the season. However, off-season troubles would derail his college career where the repercussions led to the dismissal from the team this past season. Making the leap to the NBA D-League, Hairston has shown his talents that may translate well to the next level averaging 21.8 points per game in 26 games with the Texas Legends. His ability to perform will not be in question, rather the growth of maturity are bound to raise caution flags to teams.
4. Aaron Gordon
Freshman phenom Aaron Gordon has made himself a hot commodity in the draft process with his athletic abilities that has drawn many comparisons to Blake Griffin. Is that enough to qualify him as a potential lottery pick? The Pac-12 Freshman Player of the Year has displayed his exceptional work ethic along with his versatility as he shows promise to excel at the next level on both ends of the floor. In order to succeed that, he must improve his offensive repertoire outside the paint and a much needed tune up at the free throw line. Can Gordon become a franchise player, or a role player that never could become a star is the question surrounding this Wildcat.
3. Zach LaVine
Coming off the bench for UCLA Bruins this season, Zach LaVine would show flashes of talents in spurts early in his one and done season, averaging 10 ppg on 45% shooting. He has appalled us with his leaping ability at NBA Draft Combine and workouts that has put his name into the lottery discussion. It would not be the first time a player coming off the bench would go on to be selected as a lottery pick. It happened with Cleveland’s Dion Waiters. Even though inconsistency was on display, you could expect changes in the NBA with the right coaching and playing system to fit LaVine’s open court uptempo game, he can flourish as a combo guard at 6’5″. Or perhaps become the next Austin Rivers. Patience will be key with LaVine because of being a raw talent.
2. Dario Saric
The name Dario Saric has surfaced throughout the NBA Draft process of being a top 10 pick. In fact, just before last year’s draft he pulled his name off the big board.
What do we know about him?
He is a 6’10” swing man who can play both forward positions at an efficient rate while being able to handle the ball. Averaging 15.4 ppg and 9.4 rpg in 47 games overseas, the Croatian playmaker is fluid offensively along with a great feel of what’s going on at all times on the court. However, his inconsistency on offense and being a liability on defense may cause his stock to drop. Winning a championship and MVP at the age of 20, his experience and youth will not be undervalued in the NBA going forward.
What we do not know about Saric is the role he will play on a NBA team or when we will make his NBA debut when drafted after recently agreeing to remain in Europe for two more years. It will take the perfect system for Saric can utilize his skill set at the next level. It will be interesting to see what NBA team will commit to him with no certainty of when he will come to America to play. Think of Danilo Gallinari when you hear Saric’s name and ceiling as a player.
1. Joel Embiid
Joel Embiid has the potential to become the best player in this draft in many years to come. Being a game changer on defense now, his offensive game showed improvement throughout the college basketball season. With the back injury and now recently suffering a foot injury, red flags are raised around Embiid that could derail his draft stock. The names of Greg Oden, Yao Ming, and Bill Walton have been mentioned when talking about big men with injuries when it comes to drafting Embiid first overall. Yet, many teams should be weary of missing out on an opportunity to change a franchise around a position that has diminished over years.