2014 NBA Draft: Top Sophomores With Analysis
The 2012 Recruiting Class did not come in with as much hype and promise as some in previous years, but it produced a lot of talent that, for the most part, has decided to stay in school for a sophomore year.
On the surface 23/30 of the ESPN Top 100 all returned to school highlighted by Oklahoma State star Marcus Smart. There are more sophomores on the NDI 2014 Big Board (25) than any other class.
There is a wealth of talent after Smart including as many as nine potential lottery picks. This class is deep in talent and gave themselves an opportunity to get stronger, smarter, and generally better as basketball players before jumping to the NBA. At the top of the draft this class is all about the freshmen that have star potential, but the depth lies in the sophomores that have the combination of proven talent and tapped potential.
How staked is the sophomore class this year?
1. Marcus Smart — Last Season: 15.4 PPG 5.8 RPG 4.2 APG 40.4% FG
It is well documented that last year many NBA decision-makers were disappointed when Smart decided to return to college after building himself up to a consensus Top 3 pick with his play on the court. Smart made the decision to come back and improve his game, and, at the same time, prove he is a better prospect than the incoming freshmen at his position. There is no doubt that Smart has the potential to be a very effective point with his raw strength, defensive abilities, and the way he adjusted to a new position on the fly as effectively as he did. Smart was not always a point guard which makes his court vision, awareness, and passing that much more impressive.
Oklahoma State is typically not overloaded with NBA talent, but this year with the help from teammates like Markel Brown, Le’Bryan Nash, and an experienced team around him a deep run could keep Smart in the conversation as a Top 5 pick again this year.
2. Isaiah Austin — Last Season: 13.0 PPG 8.3 RPG 1.7 BPG 45.9% FG
Perimeter skills on a big man are always a plus and can even vault a player to a position where NBA decision-makers value them more than the big men with big man skills. It is unique to have a skilled 7-footer like Austin that can handle the ball some, make plays with the ball, and shoot the three as well as he can block shots and play like a 7-footer. He is not as strong or durable as other, traditional big men, but Austin proved last year he can play inside on the defensive end with his shot blocking and then create mismatches on the offensive end with his shooting.
Austin is a more well-rounded prospect than other big men with his ability to shoot the ball, but needs to add strength and prove he can play consistently inside. Unless a 7-footer can shoot the ball at an elite level there has to be more balance to his game.
3. Glenn Robinson III — Last Season: 11.0 PPG 5.4 RPG 1.0 SPG 57.2% FG
Michigan was one of the deepest teams in the country last year in terms of NBA talent. They had two first round picks in the 2013 NBA Draft and could easily have 2-3 more this year, including Robinson III as the best athlete on the team. In his role Robinson is able to roam the baseline for athletic finishes above the rim and at the same time spot-up in the corner for three. He is a quality shooter which allows this to work, but it also limits and stunts the growth of Robinson as a player. There were very few opportunities for him to create offense of handle the ball last year which could change with Trey Burke in Utah playing in the NBA.
Robinson has the athletic tools to be an impact player at the next level on the perimeter if he proves he is a competent ball-handler and can consistently hit the NBA three. Of all the talented prospects on the Wolverines last year Robinson was the most underutilized and at the same time, arguably, having the most potential on the roster.
4. Gary Harris — Last Season: 12.9 PPG 1.4 APG 1.3 SPG 45.6% FG
Basketball IQ and maturity are things that are talked about often with prospects, but it is hard to describe. When you watch Harris play it is clear that he has a feel for the game that is beyond his years with the way he moves around on the court and makes the smart play on the offensive end. He is a good shooter and scored the ball consistently last season off the ball and developed an ability to be a secondary ball-handler late in the season.
While Harris is not particularly explosive he makes up for that with pacing and patience on the offensive end. The ball should be in his hands more allowing Harris to be more aggressive offensively.
5. Willie Cauley-Stein — Last Season: 8.3 PPG 6.2 RPG 2.1 BPG 62.1% FG
Out of necessity Cauley-Stein stepped up his game and over produced despite having numerous other talented prospects that came in with the spot light on them. As a raw athlete last year WCS flashed his potential as an athletic big man tallying four double-doubles and scored in double figures 10 times total. He is not a polished scorer and has a long ways to go in terms of feel in the paint with his basketball IQ, but WCS is as athletic as 7-0 240+ lbs. big man in the world. He already has quality strength and is a blank canvas with as much potential as any other center in this class.
6. Mitch McGary — Last Season: 7.5 PPG 6.3 RPG 1.1 SPG 59.8% FG
Over the last eight games of the season, all tournament style games, McGary averaged 10.25 rebounds per game coming out of his shell as a player. He spent the first two thirds of his freshman season getting himself into playing shape and the speed of the game. Once McGary was on an even playing field with his peers there was not a better rebounder in the NCAA with his tenacity on the glass, especially on the offensive end. That is what McGary can provide at any level, rebounding and energy on the glass. He is not the best athlete or most polished scorer, but he can create extra possessions with his rebounding.
To take the next step and cement his stock as a lottery pick McGary has to show improvement in his conditioning, offensive skill-set, and an ability to defend athletic front-court players.
7. Montrezl Harrell — Last Season: 5.7 PPG 3.6 RPG 0.7 BPG 57.7% FG
One of the best athletes in the country last year was Harrell with his physical presence and style allowing him to dominate on the glass. There were not a lot of minutes to spread around so Harrell did not get on the court for long stretches last season as the Cardinals won the National Championship, but this year that should change with Gorgui Dieng in the NBA. When Harrell was given more than 20+ minutes in a game he responded well with an increase in points (9.1), rebounds (4.8), and offensive rebounding (2.36) flashing the potential he possesses. With an increase to 20-30 minutes a night consistently Harrell has the opportunity to launch himself into the lottery conversation.
8. Semaj Christon — Last Season: 15.2 PPG 4.6 APG 1.5 SPG 44.4% FG
Athleticism and size are requirements for a point guard at the next level and that is what Christon provides. He glides across the court with ease and is one of the more fluid athletes in the college game. He is a little older than his peers with a year of prep school, but that seems to have paid off as Christon plays with a cadence and pace that is not common for a younger point guard. Being older is both a gift and a curse for Christon as he has an edge on the competition with his experience, but is a pitfall when you consider he is 2-3 years older than the incoming freshman.
9. Alex Poythress — Last Season: 11.2 PPG 6.0 RPG 0.7 APG 58.1% FG
Some athletes are trapped in a body that puts them in a position that does not suit their skills. That often happens with tough, physical players that are most effective rebounding, defending, and playing in the paint as a four or a five. With Poythress his game is similar to that where he is a four trapped in a threes body and has to develop the requisite perimeter skills to find consistent minutes on the court. He is a terrific athlete and has a skill-set that translates well to the four, but has a ways to go to be a full-time three. Tweeners have their value as versatile weapons, but they also have handicaps without a defined role in most situations.
10. Sam Dekker — Last Season: 9.6 PPG 3.4 RPG 1.3 APG 47.6% FG
On a very deep and system oriented Wisconsin team there were not a lot of opportunities for Dekker as a freshman to get on the court. When he did he was one of the more effective players in college basketball as a five tool freshman that does a little bit of everything despite not dominating the game in one aspect. Dekker is a terrific spot-up shooter that can score in bunches, but also attacks the rim well with or without the ball. His passing and defensive skills compliment his shooting and scoring giving Dekker a unique, complete package. He is still raw physically and needs to add some strength. This year he has a chance to be the centerpiece of the offense to showcase all of his skills together.
11. Damyean Dotson
12. Jordan Adams
13. Jahii Carson
14. Rasheed Sulaimon
15. Rodney Hood
16. T.J. Warren
17. Kaleb Tarczewski
18. Georges Niang
19. Kyle Anderson
20. Josh Scott
21. Nik Stauskas
22. Denzel Valentine
23. Perry Ellis
24. Jeremy Hollowell
25. Przemek Karnowski
26. Dorian Finney-Smith
27. Olivier Hanlan
28. Brandon Ashley
29. Danuel House
30. Amile Jefferson
31. A.J. Hammons
32. Adam Woodbury
33. Ryan Arcidiacono
34. Patson Siame
35. Jerami Grant
36. Norvel Pelle
37. Dominic Artis
38. Marshall Plumlee
39. Yogi Ferrell
40. Marcus Paige
41. J.P. Tokoto
42. D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera
43. Stephen Domingo
44. Cameron Biedscheid
45. R.J. Hunter
46. Kris Dunn
47. Ricardo Gathers
48. Cameron Ridley
49. Devonta Pollard
50. Tony Parker