The Kansas Jayhawks undoubtedly would have gone further than the second round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament had Embiid’s back not acted up in early March. The Cameroon native didn’t play in his team’s 80-69 win over #15 Eastern Kentucky, nor in its 60-57 loss to #10 Stanford. Embiid’s first sports were soccer and volleyball and has only been playing basketball since 2011, but he astonishes scouts with his natural instincts and feel for the game. A specimen of an athlete, Embiid has adapted to basketball swiftly and has an array of offensive moves that has drawn comparisons to Hakeem Olajuwon. A nice mid-range J, baby hook, and even the ability to stretch out from 3. Embiid needs to perfect his 3 point stroke and back-to-basket post moves, but he continues to polish his game year after year which trends in the right direction for his future success. Defensively, Embiid has the length and weight to be a stalwart in the paint. The biggest knock on him is his intensity and ferocity on the court to put fear in his opponent. That will develop with time, but he is still raw and needs to focus on the other aspects of his game. The fiery attitude will follow. Maybe not 2014-15, but by 15-16, people will be saying, ” I didn’t know he was this good”, in a similar fashion of the present consensus of 2012 first overall pick Anthony Davis.
2. Jabari Parker, small forward, Duke University
6’8″ 240 lbs
2013: 19.1 PPG 8.7 RPG 47 FG% 36 3PT% 75 FT%
The first overall pick can go either way, Embiid or Parker. It depends on which position you deem most important in building a franchise. Parker may be the better scorer, but total package centers don’t come around too often, and having a legitimate 7 footer who can protect the rim and get easy shots is the most important piece of a team. Some will argue that a versatile scorer is the bread and butter of a franchise. That said, Parker has the handle, crossover, and J, everything you want in an All Star. He accelerates hard to the bucket finishing after contact, and still has a sweet 3 stroke. Parker isn’t your average small forward. Not many players currently in the NBA can bang down low and still step out deep or anywhere on the court for that matter. Parker’s near 7 foot wingspan should allow him to transition pretty smoothly when guarding 3s and some 4s, and his work ethic is strong. Will have trouble with quicker 3s such as Kevin Durant and Paul George, which is concerning. Did fracture his foot senior year in high school, and athleticism isn’t off the charts. Carmelo Anthony + Jared Sullinger.
3. Dante Exum, pointguard, Australia
6’6″ 200 lbs
2013: 18.2 PPG 3.8 APG
Exum is an incredible talent, but the questions about his play against low level competition make NBA executives unsure about his transition to big boy basketball. He dominated on the Australian National Team in competitions such as the Under 19 World Championships in Prague, but that playing field is no where near the NCAA. Still, Exum has the best handle in the Draft and runs like a gazelle in the open court. His lanky, yet calculated drives to basket make him tough to defend, especially with his long strides. Exum is unselfish, and creative in transition and half court. He’s pesky on defense and competes. Exum’s main flaw is his shooting. He has years to improve it and is already viewed as a better shooter than fellow foreign talent Ricky Rubio. Exum reminds me of Michael-Carter Williams, and watching MCW play against Rajon Rondo opened my eyes to how valuable a big pointguard is. MCW is the real deal and nearly impossible to stop on the break. Once Exum hones his shooting mechanics in the NBA he will fill up the stat sheet and be a tough player for opposing teams to control.
4. Andrew Wiggins, small forward, University of Kansas
6’8″ 200 lbs
2013: 17.1 PPG 5.9 RPG 45 FG% 34 3PT% 78 FT%
For all the hype Wiggins got going into the college basketball season, I was underwhelmed. Though there were flashes, I didn’t see a lot of domination from Wiggins throughout the year. Of course, it’s tough as an 18 year old to meet all of those expectations, especially while balancing being a team player and not too much of a ball hog. Wiggins is the raw total package. He can score from anywhere in whichever way, has a 7 foot wingspan, and is the most athletic player in the Draft. From what I’ve watched, his shooting isn’t pinpoint like Kevin Durant’s was coming out of Texas, which scares me. Wiggins also scored just 4 points on six shot attempts against Stanford in the second round of the Tourney. 39 FG% in losses. Has to put on weight, period. Sky is the limit for defensive ability due to elite lateral quickness.
5. Julius Randle, power forward, University of Kentucky
6’9″ 250 lbs
2013: 15 PPG 10.4 RPG 50 FG% 71 FT%
Randle has the potential to be a force in the paint. He could stand to pack on more mass, but handles his current weight well. Randle is a bully down low, utilizing smooth spin moves, and lightning quick first steps for a player his size. He catches passes with soft hands and isn’t turnover prone. Very polished offensively. Randle didn’t dominate as much as he could have. Sometimes shied away from asserting himself as Wildcats’ number one scoring option. Had just 10 points and 6 rebounds in National Championship. Promising catch and shoot J, needs to refine face up and fall away. A lefty, can get predictable with moves and isn’t great with right hand yet. Passing from paint needs work Not active on defense, that part of his game must change. Not a shot blocker. A more athletic Jared Sullinger (I’d take Sully if both were in same Draft).