This year has been a wild one for college basketball. There have been a plethora of upsets, with a couple big ones happening every week. No team is safe heading into March Madness because every team has shown weakness and any team has shown the ability to win. Looking forward to the 2014 NBA Draft, it seems as though the lottery will be full of very young players. As it stands right now, the predicted top 5 players are all either 18 or 19 years old. Taking it further, according to ESPN’s mock draft, there are only 2 players over 20 years old predicted to go in the top 20 (Rodney Hood, 21, and Doug McDermott, 22)
Let’s take a look at the top five players looking to be picked at the top of the lottery. These guys have shown that they are the best basketball players in college right now. There is a ton of talent in this draft and how they are picked will be dependent on which NBA teams get which picks.
Joel Embiid, C – Kansas
Ever since the McDonald’s All American Game and the Nike Hoop Summit last spring, everybody has had their eyes on Joel Embiid. At first, he was viewed as a raw prospect who would need years of hard work to develop into a dominant center. Safe to say, what they said would take years has only taken weeks. He has been improving more and more every game. Not only has he proven to be the most dominant big man in college basketball right now, but his college Player Efficiency Rating ranks second among players in our top 30 (behind Doug McDermott).
His offensive game looks promising. He possesses quickness, excellent footwork and a soft touch on his jumper. His defense is constantly improving as well as his rebounding. To be more appealing to NBA teams for the draft, he first needs to get healthy and prove he is at 100%. Also, he needs to get stronger, improve his in-game basketball IQ and learn how to control his temper when teams get physical with him. However, when it comes to big men in this draft, he is the best. There isn’t a player in the draft with a higher ceiling.
Andrew Wiggins, SG – Kansas
Andrew Wiggins has faced expectations that few players could ever match. Before we get started on his weaknesses, we need to remember that he is only 18 years old. That means that the fact that he is playing at such an elite level so young, he has a lot of room to improve and a lot of time. One of his weaknesses is that he has been inconsistent and passive at times. His jumper has been streaky and his handle can be a little loose. With that being said, he is still in contention to be the first pick in the draft. He has come up big against his toughest opponents. Against the five ranked teams Kansas has played this season, Wiggins has averaged 20 points per game. His performances against Duke, Florida, Kansas State, Iowa State and San Diego State have been his signature games.
Most of his scoring this season has come with no help, since only 10.5 percent of his jumpers have been assisted (Compared to Jabari Parkers 57.5 percent). That shows that Wiggins has had to create most of his scoring opportunities. He has become more aggressive putting the ball on the floor and drawing contact. Combining great athleticism, improving rebounding, high scoring and tough defense will keep him at the top of the lottery in the draft.
Jabari Parker, SF – Duke
Jabari Parker has been the most impressive and most looked at freshman in college basketball. He has probably gotten the most talk from experts and has definitely shown that on the court. Aside from a little skid against ACC opponents, he has been spectacular. He seems to be the most NBA-ready of all the prospects and has been seen as a favorite for the number one pick in the draft. He has been absolutely dominant in the scoring end. He is averaging 19.3 points per game this season, as well as 8.8 rebounds per game, 1.1 steals per game and 1.3 blocks per game. He has become a stat-sheet-stuffer, contributing in any way possible. This has become a big appeal to NBA teams that will hold a lottery pick.
Julius Randle, PF – Kentucky
Julius Randle continues to be one of the best rebounders in college basketball, making double-doubles look very easy. He has become a beast in the paint and continues to be a viable option for the number one pick. He is a super athletic power forward that can score both with his back to the basket and as a face up forward. He is an elite rebounder, explosive leaper, good ball handler, has an amazing motor and all of that in an NBA body. If he could improve his defending, stay in shape and become more consistent with his jumper, he could find himself going very high in the draft.
So far this season, he is averaging 15.0 points per game, 10.5 rebounds per game, 0.8 blocks per game and 0.5 steals per game. He is shooting 50 percent from the field and 71 percent from the free throw line.
Dante Exum, PG – Australia
Exum hasn’t played basketball since December and it’s probably helping his stock right now. Scouts are starting to become disillusioned with the players they see every night, making it easy to pine for players like Exum who left a sweet taste in the mouth the last time they played. He is a long, athletic point guard standing 6’6’’ tall. He’s an excellent penetrator, quick with the ball, pushes the action, an acrobatic finisher and a great passer. If Dante could add strength and become a more consistent shooter form afar, he could see his stock rise in the draft. It seems that he is able to go to the top of the draft, but will most likely fall to the 3-5 pick range.