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Early Red Flags In The 2014 Draft Class

The 2014 NBA Draft has a lot of star power, but are the early red flags really deterrents to NBA teams?

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Before we go too far with this, it’s early in the process and in all draft prospect discussions we tend to over analyze, especially when the talent level is almost equal.

In the projected 2014 NBA Draft class, the talent level between the player that will get drafted number one overall and the player taken five to six picks later is not going to be that different. This is a potentially loaded draft class so picking with the number five pick might not be as radical a drop off as in previous drafts.

With that in mind, that the talent level is pretty equal, there are some red flags worth noting as the focus on tanking for draft picks takes center stage for some NBA franchises.

»In Related: 2014 NBA Mock Draft

#1 – Andrew Wiggins

The big knock on Andrew Wiggins is that he does not go hard all the time. That is a real concern for NBA teams, but when you look at the raw talent that’s there and the fact that Wiggins does not seem overly interested in college basketball unless he’s going up against elite competition, devaluing him too much might be a mistake. When you dig into Wiggins’ advanced numbers, he grades out extremely well in the things that should translate to the NBA. He is exceptional in transition and he is a beast on post-up possessions. He is not much of a spot-up shooter, but how many uber-athletes are coming into the NBA? The scary part about Wiggins is how average he is in isolation plays; that has to be the big red flag for NBA teams. When you consider how good Wiggins can be, he should simply be crushing other players in isolation and he is not. It is really hard not to compare Wiggins to former NBA player Tracy McGrady, because the body of work is so similar. When Wiggins wants to be aggressive he is amazing, but much like McGrady he has shown times at Kansas where he’ll simply let you down. The NBA game might suit Wiggins better and surely as a top level pick a team will build more of what they do around Wiggins, but the flags are there that could knock Wiggins off his long standing perch as the best player in the 2014 Draft class.

»In Related: Andrew Wiggins Profile

#2 – Julius Randle

To say Randle has underwhelmed lately discounts how underwhelming the entire Kentucky team has been. The common phrase used to describe the players around Randle is ‘prima donnas’ and while Randle has some impressive skills that translate to the NBA, it’s hard to understand if his declining production is the product of the team or a wearing down of a truly solid post player. Of all the players in the projected 2014 Draft Class, Randle might be the pure post-threat of the bunch, despite having a very short wingspan for a frontcourt player, but when you dig into his stats he grades out as average almost everywhere.  It’s doubtful that NBA teams ding him too much given the overall disappointment of the Kentucky squad, but for a player that could be a top overall pick, he is slowing down and that has to be concerning.

»In Related: Julius Randle Profile

#3 – Jabari Parker

Considered by many to be the frontrunner for the top overall pick (depending on who gets it), Parker has shown some weakness lately that has brought doubts into his candidacy for the top overall pick specifically his shooting from the field and from deep. In terms of all-around skill set Parker might be the best of the bunch in terms of ready for the NBA, but his recent struggles have given his detractors room to talk because he’s struggling against the kind of long, athletic defenders that he’ll see on a nightly basis at the next level. When you dig into his stats, Parker grades out excellent in post-up situations and good to very good almost everywhere else. The lone red flag in Parker’s offensive game is his average rating in spot-up situations. Some of that may be a product of the team and system he plays in, some of that might be how opposing teams are playing him, but as draft stocks gets measured, it seems Parker will need to prove to NBA teams that he can shoot it at the NBA level or that is what his detractors will key in on during the pre-draft process.

»In Related: Jabari Parker Profile

#4 – Marcus Smart

There is a lot to like about Marcus Smart’s game and how it might translate at the NBA level. Smart is having a solid year and more importantly his team is starting to look like the National Championship contender he pledged they’d be when he opted to return for this season. When you dig into Smart’s stats, he grades out well almost everywhere offensively as either very good or excellent in almost all of the major offensive categories. The red flags are how average he’s been in pick-and-roll situations and as a spot-up shooter. The shooting you can discount a little, but a point guard that grades low in pick in-and-roll? To be fair to Smart, that might be more about whom he plays with and the system they run, but when you start dissecting players, he comes off as more of a scoring guard than a playmaker. That might translate in the NBA to a solid career, but it might also put him in the wrong box when it comes to draft night where teams struggle to understand him as a point guard.

»In Related: Marcus Smart Profile

#5 – Joel Embiid

It’s hard to knock how far Embiid has come this year. Most doubted him as a top overall pick candidate coming into the season and now it seems he may have played himself into the top spot on a number of team’s boards. Maybe it is because there was little to no expectations for him this season or because others have come down to earth while Embiid has been much better than expected. When you look at Embiid’s stats, he grades out excellent on cuts to the basket and on offensive rebounds, which are typically putbacks. He also grades out well on post-up plays. The only knock is he’s not overly effective in transition, but how many big guys are? He’s also still raw, but he’s rapidly improving.

»In Related: Joel Embiid Profile

It’s without a doubt that these names will be among the top six to seven called on draft night in June, but to lock any of them in as players without issues avoids the fact that, like most incoming college players, they are far from the complete players some make them out to be. Tempering your expectations on how quickly any of them can alter a franchise would be smart, but keep in mind when there is no talent gap, it’s the nit picking that separates first from fifth.

Steve Kyler is the Editor and Publisher of Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA and basketball for the last 17 seasons.

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