The Lottery Picks of the 2014 NBA Draft

Duke Men's College Basketball; Jabari Parker

The Lottery Picks of the 2014 NBA Draft 

The NBA Draft is comprised of 30 franchises attempting to select a young player primed to help them win an NBA title. In this draft, the 16 teams who made the playoffs the previous season are awarded the last 16 picks of each round. The 14 teams who missed the playoffs are relegated to the lottery: a ping-pong-ball picking extravaganza to determine which teams end up with the top selections. But which draft-eligible players are worthy of being selected so high? These are the Lottery Picks.


1. Jabari Parker

After a flying start to his freshman season at Duke, Jabari Parker has slowed a bit as the Blue Devils entered conference play. However his season numbers are still magnificent, averaging 19.5 points and 7.6 rebounds per game with shooting splits of 49.6 / 40.4 / 75.0. The real draw here is that Parker is still growing as a player. He is 6'8", a prototypical stretch four in the NBA game. While his defense is not great, he has no apparent weaknesses on the offensive side.


2. Julius Randle

Randle seemed like the best player in college basketball from the very start of his freshman season. While other players have caught up to him a bit, his season has been tremendous. Randle is a double-double machine, averaging 16.7 points and 10.9 rebounds per contest. NBA scouts always say one of the easiest skills to predict at the next level is rebounding ability, and Randle may be the best rebounding prospect in the draft. He also combines that with an already developed offensive post game.


3. Andrew Wiggins

Everyone's runaway number one pick before the season began was Andrew Wiggins, and although he hasn't played poorly, there have been other guys who seem better. Wiggins' season has been good, no question. He's scoring 15.7 points per game, grabbing nearly a steal and a block per contest, as well as 5.4 rebounds. There is also little doubt about his athletic prowess and ability to do nearly everything on the basketball court. His game is just not all the way there yet. It's not going to happen but, right now, out of the top guys, Wiggins seems like the one who would gain the most, development-wise, by returning to college for his sophomore season.


4. Joel Embiid

As the season goes on, no one's stock is climbing faster than Joel Embiid. A raw talent, Embiid has only been playing basketball for a few years now. Yet, people are already comparing him to Hakeem Olajuwon because of the way he can run and move with his 7-foot frame. The numbers are already impressive even though he hasn't touched his peak performance. It would surprise no one to see Embiid eventually slotted as the draft's top prospect.


5. Marcus Smart

Returning to school for his sophomore year did little to hurt Smart's draft stock. What it did was place him in a draft with better prospects though. While he is still the best point guard out there, other players at different positions have usurped what might have been a top three rating for Smart. He still has all the tools though: great size and power at the point guard position, the ability to finish at the rim or pull up. If his outside shot was further along, he would be vying for that top draft spot even in this loaded crop of players.


6. Dante Exum

While few people have seen Dante Exum play, the ones who have simply rave about the kid. At 18 years old, he's already listed as a 6'6" point guard with athleticism and great handle. Like many young guard prospects, he needs to improve his outside shooting to really become elite.


7. Willie Cauley-Stein

The draw of a defensive anchor is hard to ignore. While Willie Cauley-Stein has little offensive game to speak of, there are NBA veterans who can say the same thing. What Cauley-Stein can do, and do well, is protect the rim and leap. He's a legitimate 7-footer who can run the floor and finish at the rim. He is also blocking nearly four shots per game right now, in just 27.6 minutes of action.


8. Gary Harris

Gary Harris got off to a bit of a slow start this season because of some nagging injuries, but he has all the tools to be an excellent NBA shooting guard. He can drive and create his own shot on the offensive end. He is also perhaps the best on-ball defender in college basketball right now outside of Aaron Craft.


9. Aaron Gordon

Before he even played a college game, Aaron Gordon's "freakish athleticism and explosive leaping" had him being compared to Blake Griffin. After a few months, the comparison seems plausible. Gordon is on a very good Arizona team that never needs him to dominate, which takes away from his upside as a prospect, but his skills are still evident when he gets his chances.


10. Jerami Grant

Previously out-shined by his brother Jerian, Jerami Grant is turning himself into the better pro prospect. At small forward, Grant is a surprising shot-blocker who is improving game after game. His outside shot is not there yet (he's failed to make a three so far this season), but his offense is coming along in bursts.


11. Rodney Hood

A bit overshadowed by fellow Duke newcomer Jabari Parker, Rodney Hood has been stellar in his first year as a Blue Devil. Scoring 18.6 points per game, Hood is shooting lights out from all over the court: 52.2% from the field, 47.9% from three, 84.3% from the line. His shooting is really what is going to carry him as the rest of his game is good but not great.


12. Dario Saric

After pulling out late from last year's draft, Dario Saric has his name in the lottery yet again. A power forward from Croatia, Saric stands just a shade under 7 feet but has the game of a smaller man. He can shoot a bit, is a good ball-handler and excellent passer. The unknown of Saric's ceiling is what is really keeping him outside the top ten.


13. James Young

While many of his Kentucky teammates drew more hype, James Young might be the one with the most skills that translate to the next level. He is a knockdown shooter from the outside (although streaky as a freshman), a good penetrator, excellent defender and great rebounder for his position. Scouts also like his hustle and passing skills.


14. Mario Hezonja

The book on Mario Hezonja, the young small-forward from Croatia, is that he has some issues being a good teammate. Scouting reports indicate he has chemistry issues and plays selfish. This may be the only thing holding him back from going earlier in the draft. Hezonja has no clear holes in his offensive game and is a serviceable defender.