While teams that missed the playoffs anxiously await the results of the ping pong ball lottery on May 20 to finally learn where they will be selecting in next month’s NBA Draft, the good news is the lottery is loaded with talent.
Many personnel people and scouts believe this year’s draft could be one of the strongest of the past 20 years. And the emerging consensus is there will be a three-player race to be the top overall pick.
Kansas wing Andrew Wiggins was widely considered to have been last year’s top pick had he been eligible to declare, and he is the front runner this year. Jayhawks teammate big man Joel Embiid and Duke’s Jabari Parker are also strong considerations depending on which team wins the No. 1 selection.
The talent won’t be limited to just the top picks, with an influx of underclassmen providing young talented players throughout the first round and into the second.
The top 50 prospects for the 2014 NBA Draft:
1. Andrew Wiggins, SG/SF, Fr., Kansas. Had Wiggins been allowed to enter last year’s draft he was widely considered to be the top pick. After a year at Kansas, he still has a tentative hold on the top spot with Duke’s Jabari Parker and Kansas teammate Joel Embiid looming as possible competition.
2. Jabari Parker, SF/PF, Fr., Duke. After just one year at Duke, Parker’s size/skill combination has drawn comparisons to Carmelo Anthony.
3. Joel Embiid, C, Fr., Kansas. Athletic 7-footer with 7’5″ wingspan, Embiid has scouts salivating over his already proven shot blocking ability and potential on offense.
4. Julius Randle, PF, Fr., Kentucky. Randle was considered a potential top 5 pick entering this past year due to his size and finesse. After a standout year at Kentucky he has solidified that position.
5. Dante Exum, PG/SG, Int., Australia. Exum is considered a wild card by many because he is not well known. His size and athleticism has people around the NBA intrigued, but look for pre-draft workouts to play a big part in where he lands.
6. Marcus Smart, PG/SG, So., Oklahoma State. After a volatile year that included a suspension, Smart is still one of the top guards in the draft and should go top 10.
7. Noah Vonleh, PF, Fr., Indiana. Vonleh is just 18 years old and sports a 7’4″ wingspan; he is considered by many as having the best natural rebounding instincts in the draft.
8. Aaron Gordon, PF, Fr., Arizona. Also just 18 years old, Gordon is extremely athletic for his size and has drawn some comparisons to Blake Griffin.
9. Doug McDermott, PF, Sr., Creighton. McDermott’s stellar senior year combined with his size and offensive polish should land him in the top 10.
10. Dario Saric, SF/PF, Int., Croatia. Would have been a first-round pick in last year’s draft but withdrew to stay in Europe. At 6-10 and extremely coordinated, many people believe he is the most versatile player in the draft.
11. Gary Harris, SG, So., Michigan State. A very good all-around guard whose stock was helped by a good end of the year and tournament run by Michigan State.
12. Kyle Anderson, SF, So., UCLA. A unique 6-9 jack-of-all-trades type. Scouts love his ball handling and passing for his size.
13. Nik Stauskas, SG, So., Michigan. Sharpshooting guard from Michigan whose stock increased due to an increased role in Michigan’s offense last season.
14. Tyler Ennis, PG, Fr., Syracuse. After one year at Syracuse, Ennis’ natural instincts and maturity are what make him stand out as one of the best point guards in this class.
15. T.J. Warren, SG, So., North Carolina State. An elite wing scorer with nothing left to prove at the college level.
16. James Young, SG/SF, Fr., Kentucky. Highly touted freshman whose play during Kentucky’s deep tournament run aided his decision to declare for the draft.
17. Rodney Hood, SF, So., Duke. The 6-8 southpaw from Duke has the look of a prototypical NBA wing player.
18. Jerami Grant, SF, So., Syracuse. An intriguing athlete whose combination of size, quickness and explosiveness around the basket separates him from other wing players.
19. Adreian Payne, SF, Sr., Michigan State. Payne’s ability to shoot the college 3-pointer at his size was a big reason why Michigan State was so successful last season.
20. Jusuf Nurkic, C, Int., Bosnia. Not well known but a surprise player in Europe earlier this year. Has been ranked as high as a lottery pick by some and as low as late second round by others.
21. Elfrid Payton, PG, Jr., Louisiana Lafayette. Coming from Louisiana Lafayette he’s flying under the radar for most, but his almost 20 ppg average and above average defense have caught the eyes of scouts.
22. Zach LeVine, SG, Fr., UCLA. A wildly athletic prospect who probably should have stayed at UCLA for another year. Will most likely take a couple years to develop, but the payoff could be huge.
23. Clint Capela, PF, Int., Switzerland. Nineteen-year-old 6-11 Swiss born big man currently playing in France. Not a lot of scouts have seen much of him, but his ability to block shots stands out.
24. Shabazz Napier, PG, Sr., Connecticut. Nobody benefited more from a strong tournament than Napier. Considered a second rounder most of last season, Napier’s hot tournament looks to have propelled him into the first round.
25. Spencer Dinwiddie, SG, Jr., Colorado. Had he not tore his ACL midway through last season, Dinwiddie would probably be higher on this list. Has the potential to jump up with a healthy knee and good pre-draft workouts.
26. C.J. Wilcox, SG, Sr., Washington. One of the best pure shooters in the draft, Wilcox is deadly in spot up and catch-and-shoot situations.
27. P.J. Hairston, SG, Jr., Texas Legends NBDL. Played in the NBDL after being dismissed from North Carolina. Has NBA 3-point range and can score in bunches.
28. Cleanthony Early, SF, Sr., Wichita State. One of the elder statesmen in the draft at 23 years old, Early clearly benefited from Wichita State’s success the past two seasons.
29. Deonte Burton, PG, Sr., Nevada. Not well known coming out of Nevada, Burton has a pro style game and is a 20 ppg scorer.
30. Mitch McGary, PF/C, So. Michigan. An important piece to Michigan’s 2012-’13 team, McGary had last season cut short with a back injury and declared following a positive test for marijuana.
31. Glenn Robinson III, SF, So. Michigan. Son of former NBA player the “Big Dog,” Robinson is an above average scorer who does most of his damage from the perimeter.
32. K.J. McDaniels, SF, Jr., Clemson. Very good athlete and high flying leaper; possesses an all-around game that should translate well in the NBA.
33. Isaiah Austin, C, So., Baylor. Gangly 7-footer from Baylor who has the size and mobility NBA teams are looking for but needs to add some weight.
34. Jordan Adams, SG, So., UCLA. A natural scorer who plays with a high basketball I.Q. Finds ways to get shots and scoring opportunities despite being labeled an average athlete.
35. Patric Young, PF, Sr., Florida. A rough and tumble 6-9 brute with very good quickness who could fit in nicely in the right role in the NBA.
36. Kristaps Porzingis, PF, Int., Latvia. A raw, wiry 18-year-old 7-footer playing in Latvia whose potential has scouts on notice.
37. Nick Johnson, PG/SG, Jr., Arizona. Undersized for a shooting guard and will need to improve at the point, but possesses elite athleticism and leaping ability.
38. Bogdan Bogdanovic, SG, Int., Serbia. Led his team in scoring at 15 ppg in the Euroleague last season and also made a mark as a solid contributor for the Serbian National Team.
39. Walter Tavares, C, Int., Cape Verde. Raw 7-3 prospect with a long wingspan and big hands. His defensive prowess and shot blocking has people interested.
40. DeAndre Daniels, SF, Jr., Connecticut. Much like Napier, Daniels’ draft stock rose with Connecticut’s national championship run. His biggest strength is his ability to shoot from the perimeter.
41. LaQuinton Ross, SF, Jr., Ohio State. Ross, like Ohio State, failed to meet most people’s expectations this year. However, he has shown enough ability to potentially be an NBA role player.
42. Russ Smith, PG, Sr., Louisville. After explosive but erratic play in previous years, Smith returned for his senior year at Louisville to show scouts he could play point guard and earned First Team All-American status.
43. Vasilije Micic, PG, Int., Serbia. At just 19 years old, Micic has established himself on the international basketball circuit as a top point guard since he was 16 years old.
44. Jordan Clarkson, PG/SG, Jr., Missouri. A Tulsa transfer, Clarkson was a key component to Missouri’s hot start to last season and went on to be named second team All-SEC.
45. Johnny O’Bryant, PF, Jr., LSU. A lack of exposure from LSU’s inability to make the NCAA Tournament while he was there has hurt him. He is a former McDonald’s All-American who ranked among the SEC’s best big men.
46. Jarnell Stokes, PF, Jr., Tennessee. A big man with the potential to rise up the board due to his ability to compete and produce against top flight competition while at Tennessee and playing for U19 USA Basketball.
47. Dwight Powell, PF, Sr., Stanford. Powell’s senior year wasn’t as impressive as his junior campaign, but he was still able to put up good numbers and display an adept offensive game.
48. Khem Birch, PF, Jr., UNLV. Forgoing final year of eligibility after winning consecutive Mountain West Conference Defensive Player of the Year awards.
49. Jahii Carson, PG, So., Arizona State. Carson burst onto the scene as a freshman and followed it up with an up and down sophomore year in 2013-14. He might be the quickest player in the draft and his ability to change speeds and direction is a problem for anyone in man defense.
50. Thanasis Antetokounmpo, SF, Int., Delaware 87ers NBDL. Brother to Milwaukee’s “Greek Freak” Giannis, Thanasis decided against staying in Greece to play in the NBDL this past year and it should pay off with a second-round selection.
Tyler Jamieson (@ty3jamieson) is the Senior NBA Analyst for The Sports Xchange. He has been scouting the NBA for six years.