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NBA Draft

An Early Assessment of the 2014 NBA Draft Class

Highly heralded months ago, the tone has quickly changed in regards to this year’s rookie class.

Yannis Koutroupis



They say it takes three years to truly grade a draft, but the 2014 class had as much as hype as any since the star studded 2003 class that included LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh among other high-level players. That created expectations that, 20+ games into the season, they are falling drastically short of meeting. They’re far closer to going down as one of the most disappointing classes, rather than one of the best ever, if they continue on their current pace. In their defense, injuries have taken a toll on this class, and a lot of players have yet to receive a serious opportunity to prove themselves. However, whereas a lot of projections had multiple franchise players coming out of this draft, there’s reason to wonder if that will ever become reality. Until that changes, the overall outlook on this class will never be positive.

Here’s a deeper look at what we’ve seen from the class so far. :

If Rookie of the Year were handed out today…

Milwaukee Bucks forward Jabari Parker would likely run away with it. He’s been an integral part of the Bucks’ resurgence. After finishing with the worst record in the league last year, they’re now 12-12 and in sixth place in the Eastern Conference. While Parker’s averages of 12.5 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.7 assists aren’t mind blowing, it’s important to point out that he’s only playing 30 minutes a night and is really being eased into a feature role by new Bucks head coach Jason Kidd.

Still, Parker has shown the potential to be a true No. 1 option in flashes, like when he went for 22 points on 11-15 shooting in a close loss at the Cleveland Cavaliers or when he dropped 23 points on 8-13 shooting in a road win against the Brooklyn Nets. He’s having a really strong December so far, averaging 14.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.8 assists while shooting 60 percent from the field. He’s gotten away from settling for threes, one of the chief complaints about his game during his lone season at Duke.

Parker made it clear prior to the draft that he wanted to be a Buck and play near his hometown of Chicago. It doesn’t look like the fit could be any better for both parties as Parker is the only lottery pick who can claim he’s at least close to meeting expectations.

The rookies who have let us down

Andrew Wiggins, the top overall selection, had a tumultuous offseason. From the second LeBron James re-signed with the Cavaliers, it became clear that he was no longer in their plans. Trade rumors for Kevin Love surfaced immediately and by the end of August, Wiggins had already been traded to the rebuilding Minnesota Timberwolves. His potential was great enough to go No. 1, but the Cavaliers didn’t think he could help them enough immediately to justify passing on one of the league’s most productive All-Stars. There were actually some cries that the Cavaliers could end up regretting trading Wiggins, but even during their recent struggles, there’s no second guessing going on in Cleveland.

That’s because Wiggins has proven to be as raw and unready as his biggest supporters feared. He’s caught heat from his head coach Flip Saunders for not playing hard enough, which has always been his biggest flaw. Wiggins doesn’t appear to have the killer instinct of a Kobe Bryant or Kevin Durant, but the hope is that he blows up after a slow start in similar fashion to Paul George and Vince Carter.

The jump from the mid-major ranks in the NCAA to the NBA has been a difficult one for Orlando Magic point guard Elfrid Payton to handle so far. He’s received ample opportunity under Jacque Vaughn, a former NBA point guard himself who was thought to be a perfect fit to groom Payton, but has mainly showed how far away he is from being ready to be the starting point guard the Magic hoped for when they drafted him. Payton is shooting a woeful 37 percent from the field, 25 percent from deep and 46 percent from the charity stripe. If he were on a team focused on winning now, it’s hard to imagine he’d be seeing the floor half as much as he is with the rebuilding Magic. They’re showing faith and confidence in him right now, but at some point Payton is going to have to deliver or he’ll find himself watching like most of his other classmates.

While it may not be fair to call any second-round pick a disappointment, this draft analyst was expecting more from New Orleans Pelicans guard Russ Smith. A prolific player in college who stayed for four years and helped Louisville win a championship as a junior, Smith has been unable to carve a niche for himself on a team with one of the thinnest backcourts in the league. He’s been spending time in the D-League and recently had his chances of cracking the rotation made even worse by the signing of Gal Mekel. After a strong summer league in which he looked like a potential difference maker with his speed and scoring ability, there’s reason to wonder now if we’ll just have to watch the D-League in order to see him in action because it doesn’t look like his chance is coming since it hasn’t already despite the Pelicans’ dire circumstances.

The rookies who have surprised us

On most Basketball Insiders’ 2014 mock drafts, Clemson forward K.J. McDaniels was a lottery pick. We were that high on his talent and ability to help right away. Yet, because of concerns about his perimeter skills and potential to be a positionless tweener, he fell to the second round. That cost McDaniels the security that comes with being a first-round pick, but he fortunately landed with the Philadelphia 76ers. Not only were they willing to give him the option of becoming a restricted free agent this offseason, they’ve also given him ample playing time that he has thrived in. McDaniels is in the Rookie of the Year mix thanks to his averages of 9.6 points, 3.9 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 1.0 steals and 1.5 blocks a game. Questions about whether he belongs in the league have been answered. He has a handsome pay day coming his way that should put him up there with the top 10 picks in terms of annual salary.

The other two rookies who have surprised the most are teammates on the Houston Rockets: Tarik Black and Kostas Papanikolaou. The fact that Black is still on the Rockets’ roster alone is a surprise, but he appears to be the new Greg Smith in town. Like Smith, he’s come in with a great attitude, willingness to learn and been as low maintenance as they come. He simply goes out there and does what Kevin McHale asks of him. He was really solid while Dwight Howard was out due to a knee injury and actually started a handful of games. For a player who was a perennial underachiever in college after disappointing stints in Memphis and Kansas, Black looks more like a late bloomer who is better suited for the pros than NCAA. He should be in the league for a long time, which is not something a lot of undrafted free agents have ever had the luxury of saying.

Papanikolaou came in as a relative unknown after being selected 48th overall by New York in 2012. He was very good internationally after that point, but far from a star who was a certifiable NBA rotation player. In another example of how strong of a scouting department they have, the Rockets tapped him as a good fit for their program and he has been extremely solid. He does a little bit of everything, and at 24 years old he is still far from peaking. The Rockets have a steal in him, just as the Nets appear to have in 2011 second round pick Bojan Bogdanovic, who has come in and established himself as one of the top rookies by scoring just over nine points a night.

Important members of the class we haven’t seen yet

When evaluating this draft class, it wouldn’t be fair if we didn’t point out that some of the better players in it have yet to take the floor, or only taken it for minutes in the case of Los Angeles Lakers rookie Julius Randle. After a really intriguing preseason where he got progressively better as it went on, Randle went down with a broken leg in the season opener that will keep him out the rest of the year. Randle would be seeing major minutes on this struggling Lakers team and potentially be in the Rookie of the Year race if he were healthy. Top picks Aaron Gordon and Marcus Smart have also missed some time with injuries.

Same goes for Joel Embiid, although the Philadelphia 76ers knew when they drafted him third overall that the chances of him playing before the start of the New Year were slim. Now we’re not even sure if Embiid is going to make his rookie debut this year. He may end up going the Nerlens Noel route and making his debut in what should be year two. It’s worked out well so far for Noel, who is 100 percent healthy and seeing extensive action every night as he works to develop into the face of the franchise the 76ers hope he can be.

For a short period, it looked like we may not be seeing much of Dario Saric, who the 76ers acquired in a draft night trade with the Orlando Magic, either this season. Saric signed a two-year contract in Turkey prior to the draft, so it was clear that he’d be overseas for the next 24 months. However, after sparingly playing in his first game of the season, there were rumbles that he could fight to get out of his contract and join the 76ers immediately. That didn’t happen and he’s settled in now, averaging 11.9 points and 6.4 rebounds a game. The 76ers stay in frequent contact with him and have to be pleased with how well he’s been playing as of late.

Phoenix Suns first-round draft pick Bogdan Bogdanovic is having a strong campaign for Fenerbahce, averaging 9.8 points, 2.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game. At 22 years old, the Suns hope to bring him over soon and utilize his versatile offensive skill set in their free-flowing, up-tempo attack.

At 7’3 with one of the longest wingspans ever recorded at 7’9, Cape Verde big man Walter Tavares is the sleeper we can’t rule out of making a major impact in the NBA one day. He’s averaging just over two blocks in 22 minutes a game in the ACB. He’s extremely raw, but at 22 years of age and a virtual newbie to high-level basketball, it wouldn’t be surprising at all if he starts to make some significant strides really soon and comes over as an immediate-impact player, whenever he does decide to make the jump.

Finally, we’re probably just days away from Turkish big man Furkan Aldemir making his rookie debut. The 53rd pick of the 2012 draft by the Los Angeles Clippers played just six games for Galatasaray before being let out his contract to sign a big money deal with the 76ers. With the recent trade of Brandon Davies, look for Aldemir to get a chance immediately to earn major minutes in the rotation. 76ers GM Sam Hinkie has loved him since his days back in Houston and was willing to take on the problematic Royce White in order to acquire his rights.

With several months still left in the NBA season, a lot can change. There are a lot of members from this draft class that just haven’t gotten their chance yet, but it’s far too early and they’re too talented to seriously make decisive judgments on. This could still go down as one of the better classes in recent memory, they just have a lot of ground to make up in order to get to that point after the first 20 or so games.

Yannis Koutroupis is Basketball Insiders' Managing Site Editor and Senior Writer. He has been covering the NBA and NCAA for seven years.


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NBA Daily: The Road Ahead for Michael Porter Jr.

Michael Porter Jr. is an elite prospect, but questions surrounding his back will determine his landing spot in the NBA.

Steve Kyler



The Road Ahead for Michael Porter Jr.

While some of the highly thought of college players have made their intentions on declaring for the 2018 NBA Draft known, Missouri’s Michael Porter Jr still hasn’t made his proclamation. Most people in NBA circles believe he’ll be in the 2018 NBA Draft class—you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t think he’s in.

Back in November, the Missouri staff was somewhat vague and guarded about Porter’s condition until it was announced that he’d have back surgery on a couple of problematic discs in the lumbar area of his spine. The procedure is called a microdiscectomy and by all accounts was a success.

Porter missed virtually all of his college season but opted to play in the post-season for Missouri, who got eliminated fairly quickly.

There were certainly a lot of ugly things about Porter’s game. He looked out of shape, and certainly wasn’t the overwhelming dominating force he’d been in high school. Some executives applauded his decision to play, even though he wasn’t at a 100 percent. Some pointed to that fact that too many college players play it safe and that’s not always viewed positively. Almost no one Basketball Insiders spoke with was holding the less than stellar outing against him. In fact, most had far more positive things to say than negative. There was one resounding theme from the NBA executives who spoke about this situation—none of it matters until they see his medical.

Assuming Porter does as expected and hires an agent and enters the draft, the next challenge he’ll face is how open he wants to be to teams looking at drafting him.

In recent years, NBA teams have not shied away from using high draft picks on injured or recently injured players. Once a team can get a sense of how the player is recovering, they can make a value judgment.

Agents often use this information and access to the player to help steer their client to the situation they deem most favorable. While fans and outsiders often get caught up in the pick number a player ultimately lands at, more and more agents are concerned with fit, especially for a player that may need time to get back to 100 percent.

Most agents would want to steer their client to a team with favorable medical staff, a team with a proven track record of patience or more importantly, a team with the best chance at a long and fruitful career.

This won’t be good news for some team that could end up in the top 10, as it’s more likely that Porter isn’t made available to everyone. NBA executives will tell you, they can certainly draft him if they wanted to, but most teams won’t draft a player if their medical staff doesn’t sign off, and without information and access how can they do that?

There is a significant financial difference in going third in the draft ($5.47 million) and 10th ($2.964 million) – but several agents commented that the short-term money shouldn’t drive the long-term decision, especially if the player isn’t 100 percent. The fit and situation typically trump everything in these situations.

Another concept to consider is while Porter did play, there are questions about whether he’ll host a pro-day, take part in private team workouts or simply let his body of work drive his draft value.

Almost no one who spoke about this situation believed Porter would take part in the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago, as he’d have to subject himself to the medical testing that’s part of that event.

The common perception on Porter is he’s a top-five talent, although it seems more likely that his camp is going to try and work the process to ensure he lands in a favorable situation. That could mean he falls out of top-five selections, simply because he and his agents choose to.

There is still a lot that needs to play out for Porter, including his announcement that he will enter the draft. But given where things stand with him, it’s more likely than not he’s coming into the draft, and it’s more likely than not he’ll have a lot of questions NBA teams will want to understand before his real draft position is clear.

The NBA Draft Lottery will be held in Chicago this year and is scheduled for May 15th. The annual Draft Combine, also in Chicago, gets underway on May 16th.

More Twitter: Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to ensure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @LangGreene, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @TommyBeer, @MokeHamilton , @jblancartenba, @Ben_Dowsett, @SpinDavies, @BuddyGrizzard, @JamesB_NBA, @DennisChambers_, and @Ben__Nadeau .

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Mock Drafts

NBA Daily: 2018 NBA Mock Draft – 3/20/18

With most of the major NBA draft prospects eliminated from March Madness, things in the mock draft world are starting to get interesting.

Steve Kyler



A Lot of Mock Movement

With the race to the bottom in full swing in the NBA and the field of 64 in college basketball whittled down to a very sweet sixteen, there has been considerable talk in NBA circles about the impending 2018 NBA Draft class. There seems to be a more consistent view of the top 15 to 20 prospects, but there still seems to be a lack of a firm pecking order. Arizona’s Deandre Ayton seems like to the prohibitive favorite to go number one overall, but its far from a lock.

It’s important to note that these weekly Mock Draft will start to take on more of a “team driven” shape as we get closer to the mid-May NBA Combine in Chicago and more importantly once the draft order gets set. Until then, we’ll continue to drop our views of the draft class each Tuesday, until we reach May when we’ll drop the weekly Consensus Mock drafts, giving you four different views of the draft all the way to the final decisions in late June.

Here is this week’s Mock Draft:

Here are some of the pick swaps and how they landed where they are currently projected:

The Cleveland Cavaliers are owed the Brooklyn Nets’ first-round pick as a result of the Kyrie Irving trade this past summer. The Brooklyn Nets traded several unprotected picks to Boston as part of the Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce trades in 2015.

The Philadelphia 76ers are owed the LA Lakers’ 2018 Draft pick, unprotected, as a result of the 2012 Steve Nash trade with the Suns. The Suns traded that pick to the 76ers as part of the Michael Carter-Williams three-team trade with the Milwaukee in 2015. The 76ers traded that pick to the Boston Celtics as part of the draft pick trade that became Markelle Fultz before the draft; it has 2 through 5 protections and based on the standings today would convey to Philadelphia.

The LA Clippers are owed the Detroit Pistons first-round pick in 2018 as a result of the Blake Griffin trade. The pick is top four protected and based on the current standings would convey.

The Phoenix Suns are owed the Milwaukee Bucks’ first-round pick as part of the Eric Bledsoe trade. The pick only conveys if the Bucks pick lands between the 11th and 16th pick, which based on the standings today would convey.

The Phoenix Suns are owed the Miami HEAT’s first-round pick as part of the Goran Dragic trade in 2015, it is top-seven protected and would convey to Phoenix based on the current standings.

The Atlanta Hawks are owed the Minnesota Timberwolves’ first-round pick as part of the Adreian Payne trade in 2015. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.

The Chicago Bulls are owed the New Orleans Pelicans first-round pick as a result of the Nikola Mirotic trade. The pick is top-five protected and based on the current standings would convey.

The LA Lakers are owed the Cleveland Cavaliers first-round pick as a result of Jordan Clarkson/Larry Nance Jr. trade. The pick is top-three protected and based on the current standings would convey.

The Minnesota Timberwolves are owed the Oklahoma City Thunder’s first-round pick as part of the Jazz/Wolves Ricky Rubio trade this past summer. The Jazz acquired the pick as part of the Thunder’s deal to obtain Enes Kanter in 2015. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.

The Brooklyn Nets are owed the Toronto Raptors’ first-round pick as part of the DeMarre Carroll salary dump trade this past summer. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.

The Atlanta Hawks are owed the Houston Rockets’ first-round pick as part of a three-team deal with the LA Clippers and Denver Nuggets involving Danilo Gallinari and taking back Jamal Crawford and Diamond Stone. The pick is top-three protected and based on the current standings would convey.

Check out the Basketball Insiders’ Top 100 NBA Draft Prospects –

More Twitter: Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to ensure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @LangGreene, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @TommyBeer, @MokeHamilton , @jblancartenba, @Ben_Dowsett, @SpinDavies, @BuddyGrizzard, @JamesB_NBA, @DennisChambers_, and @Ben__Nadeau .

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NBA Daily: The Draft Is More Than One Thing

Eveluating an NBA Draft prospect is more than just one thing, and getting caught up on just a player’s college career is often a mistake.

Steve Kyler



It’s Not Just One Thing

With the main part of the NCAA Tournament getting underway today, there will be a lot of focus on the top players in college and how they may translate to the NBA. The challenge NBA teams face in evaluating talent is not only to avoid the hype that comes with tournament success but also to peel back what a player does for his team versus what the player may be capable of in a different environment.

The NBA Draft’s history is littered with NBA misses on NCAA tournament darlings as well as overlooking talent based on a bad read of a player based on how he may have played in college.

No one is suggesting that how a player plays in college is not important, but there is no question that players can and do evolve once they advance in age and their career. Equally, the player with obvious defects in their game often improves once they get into 24/7 professional life and have the resource to train smarter and more intensely.

There are hundreds of examples both ways.

Indiana’s Victor Oladipo was labeled as a bad shooter. As Oladipo closes his fifth NBA season, he’s seen his shooting percentages increase every year to a very respectable 36.9 percent three-point average and 80.4 percent from the foul line.

Miami’s Edrice “Bam” Adebayo wasn’t highly thought of offensively coming into the NBA Draft and has demonstrated in the NBA a much wider skill set than anyone expected. Adebayo was on a stacked Kentucky team and wasn’t a primary focal point, so judging him solely on how he played at Kentucky would have been a mistake.

Adebayo’s Miami teammate Justise Winslow was often considered one of the top players in the 2015 NBA Draft; many expected him to go in the top five. He was a college darling and has yet to make a meaningful impact in Miami, mostly due to constant injuries but also that his college skill set hasn’t translated as many had expected.

Orlando’s Aaron Gordon was an elite college defender in his lone season in Arizona. So far, through four NBA seasons, Gordon has shown flashes of that defensive presence but has yet to crack the top 100 in defensive rating in any of his NBA seasons. Does being an elite player in college translate? Very rarely.

A glance at the Naismith Awards winners over the last 20 years shows how infrequently in the last decade the elite in college become elite in the NBA.

Naismith Award Winners

2017 Frank Mason III 2007 Kevin Durant
2016 Buddy Hield 2006 J. J. Redick
2015 Frank Kaminsky 2005 Andrew Bogut
2014 Doug McDermott 2004 Jameer Nelson
2013 Trey Burke 2003 T. J. Ford
2012 Anthony Davis 2002 Jason Williams
2011 Jimmer Fredette 2001 Shane Battier
2010 Evan Turner 2000 Kenyon Martin
2009 Blake Griffin 1999 Elton Brand
2008 Tyler Hansbrough 1998 Antawn Jamison

Again, no one is suggesting that college performance doesn’t matter, its simply no longer the best measure of a player’s potential or ability in the NBA for a number of factors.

The situation is often the biggest factor in success at any level. It is not uncommon in college basketball for a player to play out of position or in a role that isn’t always ideal for their skill set. Equally, in college, some players are asked to do more than they’d be asked to do in the NBA, which can also skew the results.

There is no doubt that some things translate more easily than others – rebounding, shot blocking and free throw shooting. However, historically, even some of the best college players have struggled in the NBA.

Judging a player based solely and exclusively on what you see in college has historically been a mistake on both sides. Draft history is littered with NBA All-Stars and MVP candidates falling in the draft process, while the number of top 10 picks that were elite in college that have washed out is extremely high.

There is no question the more you can see a player, the more you can learn, but there is a balance to the process and something to consider when you see a player erupt on the big stage this week.

More Twitter: Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to ensure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @LangGreene, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @TommyBeer, @MokeHamilton , @jblancartenba, @Ben_Dowsett, @SpinDavies, @BuddyGrizzard, @JamesB_NBA, @DennisChambers_, and @Ben__Nadeau .

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