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2014 NBA Big Board: Wiggins leads deepest draft in years

Photo: Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images

Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins (8), the projected top pick in '14, headlines a potentially deep draft.

Last fall, NBA executives bemoaned what was expected to be a weak 2013 draft class. This fall? Those same execs are gushing about the next one. An infusion of superior freshman talent and one irresistible Australian import have many believing the Class of '14 could be the best in years.

"Obviously, there is a long way to go," an Eastern Conference executive said. "Remember, how many people thought Shabazz Muhammad [the 14th pick in the 2013 draft after one season at UCLA] was the next big thing? But looking at the pure talent in this class, you can say five or six guys will almost certainly be All-Stars and another five or six could easily get there."

Here is SI.com's first look at the top 20 prospects for the 2014 draft.

Chris Mannix's NBA Draft Big Board
1
Andrew Wiggins
Kansas, Freshman
6-8, 200
SG
Heard the phrase "Riggin for Wiggins" yet? You will. Several league executives predict tanking toward the tail end of this season as lottery teams will look to improve their chances of drafting Wiggins. His greatest strength is athleticism -- not a surprise given that his father, Mitchell, played in the NBA and his mother, Marita, was an Olympic sprinter. Wiggins' vertical reportedly was literally off the charts at the LeBron James Skills Academy last year, and he is just as explosive with the ball. He's a dynamic scorer, can play multiple positions and has a surprisingly polished jump shot. More than one general manager used the word "special" when describing him.
 
2
Julius Randle
Kentucky, Freshman
6-9, 250
PF
Randle is a walking mismatch. He's quicker than most power forwards and stronger than most small forwards. NBA talent evaluators love his first step and ability to create offense off the dribble. His jump shot is suspect and, like most 18-year-olds, his defense needs work. But Randle's offensive package will make him an elite scorer in college.
 
3
Marcus Smart
Oklahoma State, Sophomore
6-4, 220
PG
Remember Smart? The seemingly surefire top-five pick who elected to return to Oklahoma State for his sophomore season, citing a desire to continue the college experience? There is no reason to think he won't be an even stronger prospect next June. With a muscular, 6-4 frame, Smart is a physically imposing playmaker loaded with NBA tools, including a strong drive game, comfort in the pick-and-roll and an ability to make shots coming off screens. In a strong field for point guards, Smart looks to be at the top.
 
4
Jabari Parker
Duke, Freshman
6-8, 235
SF
Parker should join the distinguished list of small forwards -- including Grant Hill, Luol Deng and Shane Battier -- to come out of Duke. Though not especially athletic, Parker is a dangerous perimeter shooter and a threat to score off the dribble. Scouts love how Parker always seems to be playing under control and rarely seems to get rattled. "He doesn't make many of those reckless mistakes," an Eastern Conference executive said. Several team executives said they would like to see him put on more muscle this season.
 
5
Dante Exum
Australia, 18 years old
6-6, 188
PG
A Western Conference executive said Exum could go as high as the top three if he opts for the 2014 draft. "Offensively, he is the whole package," the executive said. "He has an incredible first step and he plays with no fear." His size is comparable to that of Sixers rookie and former Syracuse star Michael Carter-Williams, but Exum is considered a more efficient scorer. "If he went to Kansas, we would be talking about Andrew Wiggins and him," the exec said. Exum, who graduates from high school in October, is reportedly undecided about entering the draft or going to a U.S. college next season.
 
6
Andrew Harrison
Kentucky, Freshman
6-6, 215
PG
Harrison -- who will be joined in the Kentucky backcourt by his twin brother, Aaron -- is a playmaker. He excels at creating offense off the dribble and uses his sturdy frame to draw contact and finish at the rim. Occasionally, some scouts say, Harrison can be too aggressive as a scorer. "He's so good at drawing defenders, I'd like to see him do more drive-and-kicks," a Western Conference scout said. But Harrison has all the physical tools to play in the NBA next season. And at Kentucky, he will be distributing the ball to arguably the most talented roster in the country.
 
7
Aaron Gordon
Arizona, Freshman
6-8, 210
F
Gordon is a ridiculous athlete with a reported 36-inch vertical leap. He runs the floor well, can catch and finish lobs anywhere near the rim and is a solid jump shooter. He is, however, something of a tweener. At 6-8 and a lean 210 pounds, Gordon is a small power forward and lacks the perimeter skills to be a consistent small forward. With a quick first step, Gordon should put up big numbers in college. But he will need to refine his catch-and-shoot skills and low-post game to develop his game for the NBA.
 
8
Dario Saric
Croatia, 19 years old
6-10, 223
SF
Like Smart, Saric looked to be a lottery lock before pulling his name out of the draft. The 6-10 forward, who compares his game to that of Lamar Odom, is a high-level passer and playmaker. An extra year and (presumably) more playing time with Cibona Zagreb will enable Saric to continue to improve his most glaring weakness, the jump shot, and add weight to his slender frame. "I love him," a Western Conference assistant GM said. "He's one of the most versatile guys in the draft."
 
9
Joel Embiid
Kansas, Freshman
7-0, 250
C
Wiggins isn't Kansas' only NBA-bound freshman. Embiid has good size, he's a superior rebounder and he showed good catch-and-finish ability in high school. But he is very raw. Embiid was spotted at a camp in Cameroon by Sacramento Kings forward Luc Mbah a Moute, who steered him to the United States. NBA scouts are eager to see how his offensive game develops. "I think we'll see him become a very good defender this season at Kansas, where they have developed good big men," an Eastern Conference executive said. "But offensively, he has a long way to go."
 
10
Montrezl Harrell
Louisville, Sophomore
6-8, 235
PF
Harrell's playing time was sporadic last season; his biggest moment was a 20-point, seven-rebound effort against Syracuse in the Big East Tournament final. A physical specimen, Harrell loves to face up and attack, though last season he didn't showcase much more than a bull rush to the basket. The departure of Gorgui Dieng will create additional opportunities for Harrell, who will need to display more offensively as a perimeter shooter and post player to enhance his NBA value.
 
11
Mitch McGary
Michigan, Sophomore
6-10, 255
PF
McGary hustles and plays with relentless energy on every possession. He's an avid offensive rebounder with a Tyson Chandler-like knack for back-tapping balls to the perimeter. McGary benefited last season from now-Utah Jazz point guard Trey Burke's ability to draw defenders to him in the paint and dish to the big man for easy finishes. Scouts are eager to see if McGary, in an expanded role (he averaged 19.7 minutes as a freshman), is the player he was in the NCAA tournament -- when he averaged 14.3 points and 10.7 rebounds while hitting jump shots -- or closer to the unpolished, foul-prone big man who struggled with his jumper during the season.
 
12
Isaiah Austin
Baylor, Sophomore
7-1, 225
C
Few prized prospects were more disappointing last season than Austin, whose effort and energy didn't always match his talent. On paper, Austin remains impressive: He's long and athletic with three-point range and ball-handling skills. But Austin was puzzlingly outplayed by lesser players, and NBA scouts expressed concern over his lack of aggression and lean frame. A more dedicated Austin, however, can correct both issues.
 
13
James Michael McAdoo
North Carolina, Junior
6-9, 230
PF
McAdoo was another disappointing prospect last season. He was expected to shine after Harrison Barnes, John Henson and Tyler Zeller departed for the NBA. Instead, his raw low-post and perimeter skills were exposed and some scouts questioned his toughness. McAdoo is a good athlete with a nice face-up game, but he will need to showcase more of a big man's game to team executives who believe his NBA future is at power forward.
 
14
Willie Cauley-Stein
Kentucky, Sophomore
7-0, 244
C
Cauley-Stein reminds several NBA executives of a bigger Kenyon Martin. The most unheralded member of Kentucky's 2012 class, Cauley-Stein's athleticism and shot blocking helped him rise up draft boards as his freshman season progressed. Scouts are hoping to see a more refined offensive game -- aside from an occasional jumper, he was basically a dunker last season -- as well as stronger rebounding numbers. But with big man Randle leading another ballyhooed recruiting class, Cauley-Stein's touches could be limited.
 
15
Gary Harris
Michigan State, Sophomore
6-4, 205
SG
Harris is one of the NCAA's most complete scorers. He's effective from beyond the arc or from mid-range and has a knack for getting to the basket. Though a little undersized, Harris is considered an above-average defender, too. He struggled with injuries to both shoulders last season and is recovering from a badly sprained ankle sustained during a pickup game last month. If Harris can stay healthy, he should see plenty of scoring opportunities on a Spartans team with high expectations.
 
16
Glenn Robinson III
Michigan, Sophomore
6-6, 220
SF
The son of former No. 1 pick Glenn Robinson is as athletic as they come. Robinson has a solid-looking stroke but needs polish. He made only 23 three-pointers in 39 games last season and didn't show much off the dribble. With Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. off to the NBA, Robinson should get plenty of offensive chances.
 
17
Alex Poythress
Kentucky, Sophomore
6-8, 239
SF
Count Poythress among the underachievers last season. A big, physical small forward, Poythress too often looked like a smallish power forward. He made 14 three-pointers in 31 games and didn't create offense off the dribble. Wildcats coach John Calipari said recently that Poythress "is so much better" after a productive offseason. When announcing he was staying at Kentucky, Poythress said, "I want to develop more as a player." If he does, he won't be at UK beyond this season.
 
18
Jahii Carson
Arizona State, Sophomore
5-10, 180
PG
Carson, who led all freshmen in scoring last season at 18.5 points in 37.2 minutes, has made no secret of his intention to turn pro next year, tweeting in August that this was his "last go-round" at Arizona State. The undersized Carson is a dynamic playmaker who is always on the attack. Carson's most glaring weakness is his jump shot. An assistant GM said Carson "did not look comfortable shooting at all" last season from three-point range, where he made only 32 percent (33-of-103) in 35 games. And Carson needs to improve his assist-to-turnover ratio after averaging 5.1 assists and 3.5 turnovers last season. But as an offensive focal point who plays a lot, he will have ample opportunity to get better.
 
19
Wayne Selden
Kansas, Freshman
6-5, 230
SG
Tabbed to replace the departed Ben McLemore, Selden has enticing offensive potential. With an NBA-ready body, Selden excels at penetrating and finishing in traffic, often with a powerful, highlight-reel dunk. Selden isn't the shooter McLemore was for the Jayhawks and he isn't considered much of a playmaker. But his physical tools offer promise for his development.
 
20
Sam Dekker
Wisconsin, Sophomore
6-7, 220
SF
Dekker surged at the end of his freshman year, averaging 11.3 points in his final 12 games to raise his season average to 9.6 in 22.3 minutes off the bench. He is long and athletic with perimeter skills, having shot 39.1 percent (50-of-128) from three-point range last season. Dekker could use a little more muscle, and scouts will likely be watching to see if he develops other aspects of his offensive game to complement his jumper. But Dekker's three-point shooting will be appealing to teams in a league where stretch forwards are on many rosters.
 
 

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