Every other Wednesday, we’ll be assessing how the top prospects of the 2014 NBA Draft are faring in college and overseas. Stick with us each week for assorted thoughts, including the biggest risers and fallers, the standouts, the sleepers and what we know and don’t know about the next NBA Draft class…
*** *** ***
Last week the Fast Five was bypassed for the first Mock Draft of the new year to get a feel for where everything was in the first round of the 2014 NBA Draft. Now, back to the basics and we have a lot of things to cover so let’s get right down to it.
Here is the NBA Draft Fast Five.
ONE: What Do We Know?
This year the mid-majors or small schools are not just good, but they have NBA talent as well. When you look at the top 25 rankings in the NCAA there are teams like Wichita State (Cleanthony Early and Ron Baker), San Diego State (Winston Shepard), Creighton (Doug McDermott), Gonzaga (Przemek Karnowski and Sam Dower), and even Massachusetts (Chaz Williams) and New Mexico (Kendall Williams) have potential NBA talents. The top recruits still go to Kentucky, Kansas, Duke, and a handful of other schools, but quality athletes are being groomed in smaller venues more often.
Opportunity sometimes trumps bright lights as Damian Lillard (Weber State) proved by going to a small school by design because it benefited him more in his situation. Basketball is no longer a small, confined world anymore, but an expansive universe where nearly unheard of schools produce NBA All-Stars.
TWO: What Do We Not Know?
How will that translate to NBA teams evaluating the prospects? All of these teams are winning, playing well, and are ranked higher than most would have expected in the preseason, but they are also not playing the top-tier athletic competition like their big conference peers are. That level of athletic competition is important when evaluating a prospect. Scoring and rebounding as the best athlete in the gym is one thing, but doing it with equal level athleticism across the court is another. In the NBA, every night, there will be 10 good to great athletes on the court at all times, which makes evaluating these small school athletes unique.
THREE: Stock Rising
No prospect in the country or world is rising faster than Syracuse freshman point guard Tyler Ennis right now. Not only is he playing on the No. 1 team in the country, but he is the engine driving them right now. He has shown a proficiency late in games to make plays and score off of the pick-and-roll at a level that far exceeds a typical freshman. Coming into the year Ennis was grouped with other talented freshmen point guards like Kasey Hill and Nigel Williams-Goss, but has separated himself from them as a potential late first-round prospect.
FOUR: Stock Falling
Injuries are the worst and right now Brandon Ashley is experiencing that with his broken foot after playing very, very well early in the season. That could be a deal breaker on whether or not he declares for the draft, where he is considered a consensus top 60 prospect.
Then there is Spencer Dinwiddie of Colorado, who over the past few years established himself as a late lottery to mid first-round prospect. As a combo guard, he can create offense in unique ways and has a high basketball IQ, which has NBA teams high on his game. This injury could cost him millions of dollars if he declares and slips into the second round, which is a huge loss for a young athlete. This type of thing happens every year where a lock first-round talent gets hurt, comes back to declare for the draft, and becomes a “second-round value” pick, costing him millions and guaranteed years on a contract.