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Taking closer look at Wiggins, Parker, Embiid, other top underclassmen in draft

May 2, 2014, 4:30 PM EDT

Andrew Wiggins AP

These NBA playoffs have been so much fun it’s been easy to forget about the NBA Draft.

However, on May 20 the ping-pong balls will bounce (not literally, I know) and the fates of teams in the NBA Draft Lottery will be decided. Maybe this NBA Draft class is not going to be as transcendent as it was once cracked up to be, but it is still very good.

Ed Isaacson of NBADraftBlog.com and Rotoworld is PBT’s draft expert and he took a look at 39 of the college underclassmen who declared and entered the draft for Rotoworld, ranking them. Those rankings, BTW, go Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Joel Embiid, Marcus Smart, Julius Randle for the Top 5. It goes on from there.

Isaacson writes a graph on each one. Here are just a few highlights, but you should go read the entire thing.

1. Andrew Wiggins, Freshman, F, Kansas
The most-heralded freshman in a class full of them, Wiggins showed why people have been raving about him for a few years. The expectations may have been a bit high, but when Wiggins was able to show his athleticism and skill in action, it was guaranteed to have people talking. His play could be inconsistent, but he impressed when he had chances. There was concern about his jumper heading into the season, but it looked fine, and he showed range to the NBA three-point line. Wiggins’ defensive skills are often underplayed, but he is capable of guarding multiple positions and can be a pest on the perimeter.

2. Jabari Parker, Freshman, F, Duke
One of the highly-touted freshmen this season, Parker lived up to his reputation as a high-level scorer, while also proving to be a very good rebounder on both ends of the floor. He is his most effective when playing from 15 feet in, but he has shown that he can knock down NBA-range three-point shots. Defensively, he has a lot of work to do just to become an average defender, but I think many teams will take his scoring and worry about the defense later.

3. Joel Embiid, Freshman, C, Kansas
Embiid made the most rapid improvement of any freshman in the country, showing some developing skill to go with great athleticism for a 7-footer. Still, he is very raw on both ends of the floor and will likely need some time before he has any impact in the NBA. The right coaching can make him a star for many years.

4. Marcus Smart, Sophomore, G, Oklahoma State
Smart shocked everyone when he decided to return to Stillwater for his sophomore year, even though he was a likely top-5 pick in last year’s draft. The season was certainly not what he had hoped for, and his frustration led to him pushing a fan at Texas Tech, landing him a suspension. However, Smart also showed why he is so highly-regarded as a point guard, scorer and defender, and the past season is now firmly behind him. Like last year, Smart’s biggest area of concern is his jumper, where he just forces too many bad shots. The problem is easily fixable, though, and I expect Smart to thrive at the NBA level.

8. Aaron Gordon, Freshman, F, Arizona
Gordon came to college with a reputation as a strong rebounder and spectacular dunker, and he didn’t disappoint in either of those areas this past year. He also showed to be a versatile defender who could guard multiple positions. The rest of his offensive game, aside from dunks and put-backs, can be awkward, but his energy on both ends of the floor should be helpful to many teams.

10. TJ Warren, Sophomore, F, North Carolina State
Warren was one of the top scorers in the country, averaging 25 points-per-game on over 52% shooting, including 31 games where he scored at least 20 points. The remarkable part of Warren’s scoring for a 6’8, 215-pound player, is that almost none of it comes from behind the arc. He hit only 31 three-pointers all year, and instead, he relies on a solid mid-range jumper to go with his ability to find open spaces in the defense quickly for good shots. Warren also does a good job hitting the offensive boards where he finds easy buckets. He will still need to develop his long-range jumper, but he’ll find ways to put up points regardless.

15. Tyler Ennis, Freshman, G, Syracuse
Ennis built his reputation early this past season as a young point guard with great composure and a talent for making winning plays. Though the second half of his season was more inconsistent, Ennis is still a very reliable ballhandler and distributor. He will need to work on being more of a creator on the offensive end, while also showing he can be a consistent offensive threat. Defensively, he made some plays, especially corralling turnovers caused by his teammates’ length, but he will likely struggle early on guarding man-to-man.

  1. duhwighthoward - May 2, 2014 at 4:44 PM

    Last night I looked up an NBA draft scouting report on DeAndre Jordan and it said, “He needs to add upper-body strength and tone his legs.” Ha!

    • Kurt Helin - May 2, 2014 at 7:29 PM

      He did at the time.

  2. sumkat - May 2, 2014 at 4:59 PM

    First 4 picks are basically set (Embiid, Wiggins, Parker, Randle), just a matter of who goes where. But those next 7-8 picks are going to be very interesting. I’ve seen guys like Exum, Gordon, Smart and Vonleh going anywhere from 5-12 in mocks, with guys like Saric, Harris, Ennis, Stauskas and Levine going in different spots depending on the mock.

    That “2nd tier” of pick has MUCH more talent than in a normal draft, and could make a huge differnce in who make the playoffs next year. Especially in the east

    • sumkat - May 2, 2014 at 5:01 PM

      Actually, I’ve seen Exum sneak into the top 3 also, depending on the mock

    • spursareold - May 2, 2014 at 5:41 PM

      I can really see Ebiid dropping like Sullinger a couple of years ago, and for the same reason: back issue red flags. Embiid’s supposedly date back to HS.

      Sully was projected top 3, and was never projected lower than 7 until the doctors got a look at him. His projection dropped to 20 in the final mock, and he was picked 21.

  3. jattsoorma - May 2, 2014 at 5:21 PM

    Wiggins is too raw to go number 1. its either Embiid or Parker right now.

    • spursareold - May 2, 2014 at 5:53 PM

      His upside his higher. Embiid is at LEAST as raw as Wiggins, and Parker isn’t going to improve a whole lot. He’s better now, but with that #1 pick, you go for the home run, unless character issues raise their ugly head.

      You want a guy who can take you from 20 wins ultimately up to 50-60 wins, and I don’t see Parker being that guy.

      • sumkat - May 2, 2014 at 6:15 PM

        I generally agree, but I think Parker has more upside than people give him credit for. I agree that on offense, he probably doesn’t have a lot. Not that it’s a bad thing, i think he’s a 20+ scorer right now. I just don’t think he’ll get much better

        But defensively, if he puts the work in, he could be a much better player. He has all the tools. I don’t think he’ll ever be a guy that can defend multiple positions like Wiggins, but if he can just get to a point where he’s not going to be getting torched on a regular basis, it would be a big boost to his overall game.

        But I totally agree that Wiggins has the most “star” upside of anyone in this draft. Parker is going to be a very solid player for a long time, but I don’t know that he’ll be a franchise changer. Wiggins has that potential. It doesn’t mean he’ll reach that potential, but it’s there. If I’m picking #1, it’s Wiggins without a 2nd thought

    • sumkat - May 2, 2014 at 6:10 PM

      Embiid is more of a raw talent than Wiggins….and has back issues

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