With merely five days of hoops action under our belts, the 2014 big board is just beginning to take shape. Last night’s doubleheader at the United Center was a rare treat for scouts, assembling a perfect storm of talent. The Champions Classic provided stern early season tests for all four squads, and a valuable base-level framework for talent evaluators to build from.
This college season figures to be one of the most exciting ever after rule changes which essentially eliminate charges, sorry Duke, and a bumper crop of talent in the freshman class. The number one pick will likely be an extremely heated debate all season, and amazingly all three of the #1 pick candidates (Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Julius Randle) are on contending teams. Odds are one of them will win the National Championship. A dream scenario for draft fans and college basketball.
Jabari Parker, 6’8 235 Duke
Parker remains a static #2 on our 2014 mock, but for all intents and purposes his stock is soaring into the stratosphere. There was not a hint of shying away from the moment in his first taste of the ultimate collegiate spotlight. Parker took the scoring burden upon his shoulders versus Kansas, nearly doubling up his closest teammate with 18 shot attempts; an efficient 18 shots. He scored 27 points, connecting on 4 three’s and 5/5 free throws.
Parker’s offensive arsenal is vast in the half court, from step back treys to pull up mid-range J’s to utilization of his size advantage in the post. When matched up with Wiggins, Parker went right at his chest. He thrives as well in leading the transition charge, handling the rock with effortless security through traffic and displaying body control to finish at the rim – always under control. He looked fitter and quicker with ball in hand.
While Parker played with strong effort defensively, he was exposed a bit containing his man off the dribble and moving his feet on post D. He also failed to record an assist in his final 32:30 of court time (one total). His second half wasn't nearly as strong as his first half shooting just 3-8, but obviously that is nitpicking after such an impressive performance.
Look for Parker to make a strong push to be the top overall pick all season. Unlike his main competitors (Wiggins and Randle) he will absolutely wow NBA executives during team interviews. And for a franchise without a great foundation (Charlotte, Washington, etc), Parker is the can't miss guy that comes with "no assembly required".
While Parker's shooting display and all around polish was most impressive, Wiggins rose to the challenge at the end of the match up showing that his game is more than just length and athleticism.
His step back fadaway jumpshot was one of the biggest plays of the game, as he extended the lead to 4 with 1:30 left. And as he proved throughout his high school career, when challenged, Wiggins answers the call. He also displayed his great desire after a questionable fourth foul call put him on the bench and he appeared to be on the brink of tears.
Scouts question his heart and ask why his intensity level and apparent competitiveness isn't more consistent. But is it possible that Wiggins got bored in high school due to not being challenged? Obviously this season will help to answer that question. But so far the concerns about heart and competitiveness with Wiggins have been answered.
There is clearly a debate for who should be the number one pick after tremendous big game performances by both Randle and Parker, but Wiggins was the prospect who led his team to victory on Tuesday night. His game and body may not be as NBA ready as the others, and his play probably won't be as consistent as theirs throughout the season. However, it's clear that his ceiling is greater than his counterparts and should show the most development between now and the end of the season.
Julius Randle, 6’9 250 Kentucky
Randle is an absolute load to handle on the interior behind his combination of destructive power and superb agility. Randle made all nine of his shots within 8-feet of the basket, and he got to the free throw stripe 15 times – actually upping his average of 13.5 FTA against the likes of Asheville and Northern Kentucky. He is going to live at the foul line for many years to come.
If he gets the ball down deep, it’s over; there’s no way to contain his strength with one man. Furthermore, he played sound post defense and held his ground on the interior amidst rule changes.
The dribble-drive is certainly an impressive facet of his repertoire – this will particularly be the case on the next level with less congestion – but his first order of business while at UK should be to establish himself as a post threat. Randle was guilty of lackadaisical habit passes on the perimeter, predictable hesitation dribbles when driving right, and an overall lack of ball security (eight turnovers).
There will be growing pains acclimating to a new level of competition (organization), but more often than not he will be a terror for opposing defenses. Randle moved up from #5 to #3 on our latest mock, and suddenly a home at the top spot doesn’t feel entirely farfetched.
Gary Harris, 6’4 210 Michigan State
Harris remains at #10 in our updated mock, mostly a case of the prospects ahead of him showing well in the early stages, but he looks as savvy as ever. The sophomore shooting guard possesses intelligence and on-court maturity well beyond his 19 years. He knows how to get open; he knows when the defense is overplaying; he understands prudent shot selection and plays within his strengths. He scored 20 points versus Kentucky (15 in the first half), with six of his seven hoops coming from two-point range. Harris uses curl screens effectively, comfortably setting his feet in the mid-range or pulling up to use proficient floater in the lane.
Isolation skills will never be his calling card. He lacks great length and his handle needs refinement as well. If he tries to get all the way to the rim amongst traffic, he’s likely to find difficult sledding getting off a reasonable shot attempt. He’s an old school scorer, nothing flashy. But he is extremely crafty, so becoming even better at using fakes, a la Steph Curry to get opponents off balance and free himself for shots is entirely possible.
Harris created easy scoring opportunities for himself via opportunistic defense (three steals). Despite being undersized for the two-guard spot, Harris has a 6’6.5 wingspan and surprisingly economic defensive footwork and lateral quickness.
Perry Ellis, 6’8 225 Kansas
Ellis impressed us at the adidas Nations in August, where we described him as a breakout candidate for this season and potential mid-late first round pick.
He still was not receiving much publicity nationally going into this season, but he opened eyes in a major way Tuesday night. Outside of severely bricking a free throw, Ellis didn’t do a whole lot wrong: he scored inside/outside, posting up and facing up, and even stepped out behind the three-point line. He scored 24 points on 9/13 shooting, grabbed nine rebounds and dished out a pair of assists.
His impressive box score doesn’t paint the full picture, however. Ellis was absolutely all over the floor. His effort was top notch, diving on the floor consistently for loose balls and attempting to chase down every long rebound. His future position is not yet clear, but he has the mobility, clean movements and hustle to guard opposing wings. Ellis has been in the 20s on this year's mock since August and could climb into the mid teens on draft night with a big season.
Rodney Hood, 6’8 215 Duke
The smooth southpaw moved up 15 spots to 10th between the preseason mock and our November 12th update. Hood is an elite scorer with an underrated knack for playmaking. Including Duke’s two exhibition contests, Hood is averaging 18 points, 3.5 assists and shooting 62% from the floor through four games. After eating up a depleted Davidson roster, Hood looked out of sorts against Kansas making just 3/8 shots and committing five turnovers. However, he still managed to produce an 11 point/5 assist/3 rebound triple slash.
Hood has all the shots. He’s exceedingly comfortable in the mid-range with a deft touch, off the dribble or set, and his range extends out to the NBA three-line. He also possesses the length and athleticism to get out and run and finish at the rim. He just needs to get tougher. Going forward, it would be nice to him get more assertive off the dribble and occasionally play puppeteer in the post at 6’8.
Wayne Selden, 6’5 230 Kansas
Selden looked like an entirely new player under the pressure of the big stage; new in the most positive sense of the word. In the postseason high school showcases he appeared to be over energized and undisciplined, but he looked calm, cool and collected last night.
The level of competition apparently allowed him to slow down, take a deep breath and optimize his well-rounded talents. Selden led the Jayhawks in minutes with 37, scoring 15 points, pulling down four rebounds and playing facilitator/creator with four assists (four asst. in both games). He had a big tip in in the closing minutes breaking a tie score, utilizing his strength around the rim. We all knew the explosive athleticism was there, but he played a really smart and highly efficient game.
Jordan Clarkson, 6’5 195 Missouri
Despite receiving at best modest recognition on a national level, Clarkson was a premiere scorer at Tulsa putting up 17 PPG as a sophomore. He’s not an eye catching athlete, but he plays at a terrific pace and seemingly gets to wherever he needs to on the court – just ask Southern Illinois who Clarkson poured in 31 against with 5 assists and no turnovers.
His size at the point guard position (and high release point) allows him to shoot over defenders and milk high percentage looks. Clarkson is at his best pulling up off the dribble, and certainly has the look of a dynamic pick and roll point guard. His assists numbers should increase dramatically playing alongside a plethora of talent/athletes at Missouri. He basically went at it alone prior to transferring, which occasionally gave off the appearance of selfish play. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
Keep an eye on Clarkson, who with the success of Michael Carter-Williams could be the next big point guard to rise up into the late lottery.
Isaiah Austin, 7’1 215 Baylor
Austin underwent shoulder surgery in the off-season and looks exactly the same from a physical standpoint. He was out muscled and out battled by Colorado sophomore Josh Scott in the opener, and he was a total non-factor on the boards against an active, but undersized, South Carolina front line. He’s 7’1 and has seven rebounds in two games.
Austin is constantly knocked around under the boards and is easily pushed off balance when operating in the post. Foul trouble and lack of aggression have limited him to 5.5 FGA per game in the early going. His skill level for his size will always be world class, but at some point body and mind set must join the party. Austin fell from #35 to #37 and is in danger of a further precipitous decline.
Patric Young, 6’8 240 Florida
Indeed, we have come to that regrettable point – Patric Young has fallen out of the mock. Once upon a time a freakish high school athlete, Young packed on too much muscle and lost much of his flexibility. And for all the muscle he added, that strength doesn’t manifest itself on the court. Now as a senior, Young still looks uncomfortable, indecisive and poorly schooled in the post. His lack of flexibility is most apparent in the fact that he is just an average rebounder.
With his Gators shorthanded at Wisconsin, and with Casey Prather banged up, Young attempt one FG in the final 6:10 and missed three free throws. Despite his physical advantages, he never has and never will be a go-to option. He recorded two points and two rebounds versus North Florida, missing both of his shot attempts.
Andrew Harrison, 6’5 215 Kentucky
Harrison struggled from a basketball perspective versus Michigan State, but his on-court temperament was where he really dropped the ball. It’s easy to play the role of leader when there is no adversity; it’s when times get rough that true colors are revealed. Harrison committed four turnovers early while struggling with rugged man-to-man. He chose to respond by acting disgruntled, pouting and whining towards the officials. He upped his level somewhat in the second half, but all in all it was a forgettable big stage debut. His twin brother, Aaron, shot 1/7 in 18 minutes. They are both Adonis’ but lack of discipline and explosive quickness off the bounce is apparent. Coach Cal has his work cut out for him in turning around their bad HS habits and getting them to buy into putting the team first.
Willie Cauley Stein, 7’0 235 Kentucky
His agility and end to end speed for a 7-footer are undoubtedly rare attributes, but Cauley-Stein still looks completely lost on the offensive end. Watching his tentative actions in the post you’d think he was facing a size disadvantage. He rushes shots, never gets on balance and appears to be suffering from ‘thought racing’.
For now, his duties will be limited to rim protection, offensive rebounding and easy setup finishing. Cauley-Stein remains a long-distance project, and stands a good chance of being leapfrogged by teammake Dakari Johnson.
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Randles challenge for the top spot was never farfetched according to other mock drafts and to NBA scouts who have been saying for months that he is number two at worst. I'm guessing y'all just never really watched him before
Yea, man. You know.. there's a first time for everything.
Why did Wayne Selden drop like 5 spots down?
The latest mock was released on Tuesday afternoon, prior to the Classic. He will move up...