Mar 24, 2014, 9:15 AM EDT
No matter how much buildup a draft receives months before it occurs, the hype usually dies down by draft nights.
1. Not every top prospect declares. 2. Scouts have more time to pick apart players. 3. Executives leak contrary opinions for fear expectations have gotten too high and picks who don’t immediately become stars will be judged too harshly.
No. 2 is already happening with the 2014 draft, and we’re on the cusp of No. 3. But this draft has so far avoided No. 1, and now we have assurance at least one high-end prospect won’t return to school.
Indiana’s Noah Vonleh told CBSSports.com on Sunday that he will enter the 2014 NBA Draft.
NBA sources have told CBSSports.com that he’s guaranteed to go in the lottery, and that the top five of the draft is a possibility.
“I’ve heard the fourth pick to the 12th pick is wide open,” Vonleh said. “[I think I’ll be selected] anywhere in that range.”
If you want to speculate, the Nuggets are pretty locked into the 12 seed in the lottery (3.0 games behind the Timberwolves and 2.5 games ahead of the Pelicans), and that would carry a 93.5 percent chance of picking No. 12 after the lottery. If Vonleh has a guarantee from a lottery team, and he believes No. 12 is his floor, does that mean Denver made him a promise?
The Nuggets already have Kenneth Faried at power forward, but the draft should be about taking the best prospect available. If Denver general manager Tim Connelly likes Vonleh, it shouldn’t matter who else is already on the team.
I suspect, however, the Nuggets won’t land Vonleh.
Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Julius Randle, Dante Exum and Marcus Smart are commonly viewed as the draft’s top-six prospects. After them, the next tier seems to be Vonleh and Aaron Gordon. A few other players could work their way into that group, and either could fall, but I’d be surprised if Vonleh slipped into the late lottery.
He uses his athleticism well to grab rebounds and defend, and the 6-foot-10 power forward made 48 percent of his 3-pointers this season. Even if that was on only 33 attempts, his long-range potential will certainly intrigue scouts. Nothing will impress NBA teams more than Vonleh’s age, though. He won’t turn 19 until August.
That’s the profile of a top-10 pick, even in this stacked draft.
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