2014 NBA Draft Preview: Top Ten Players in five years?

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source: AP

The NBA Draft is on June 26th, meaning that there are less than two weeks until the next crop of potential NBA all-stars find out where they will be headed to begin their professional basketball careers. Over the course of the next few days, we will be using the expertise that we’ve gained from watching far too much college basketball to give you our insights on some of these prospects.

Today, we take a guess at who from this draft will be the ten best NBA players five years from now:

RELATEDUnderrated Prospects | Overrated Prospects | 2014 NBA Draft Preview

1. Andrew Wiggins, Kansas

  • ProjectionsDraft Express (No. 1), Chad Ford (No. 2)
  • Raphielle Johnson: “I’ll take Wiggins over any other player in the pool. The offensive skills are there, and removing Embiid he’s the prospect best equipped to actually defend his position.”
  • Rob Dauster: “Wiggins had a very, very good season that was lambasted because he wasn’t Kevin Durant or Michael Beasley. Consistent effort and a ‘killer’ mindset are red flags, but he already carries himself like a pro: he knows what nights he can take off and what nights he needs to take over.”
  • Scott Phillips: “Wiggins can defend up to four positions at a high level, has elite open-floor ability and was underrated as a jump shooter last year, despite living under a microscope in Lawrence. His ceiling is absurd.”

2. Jabari Parker, Duke

  • ProjectionsDraft Express (No. 2), Chad Ford (No. 1)
  • RJ: “Offensively his skill set is second to none, and that will make him an impact player. Defensively, the hope has to be that he ends up on a team that can cover for his deficiencies as he learns the ropes and (hopefully) improves in that area.”
  • SP: “Your 2015 NBA Rookie of the Year. Parker is one of the most NBA-ready scorers the drafthas seen in the last few years but he still has to improve on the defensive end to really be among the game’s elite.”
  • RD: “He can score like no one else in this draft. He was benched as a defensive liability against Mercer.”

3. Julius Randle, Kentucky

  • ProjectionsDraft Express (No. 7), Chad Ford (No. 7)
  • Terrence Payne: “If his foot stays healthy, he should be a productive forward, who can develop his skillset around his physical style of play.”
  • RD: “Randle seems assured of having a long, productive career, but I’m not sure he’s a franchise-changing talent like a Wiggins or Parker can be. He’s somewhere between the next Zach Randolph and the next David Lee.”
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4. Joel Embiid, Kansas

  • ProjectionsDraft Express (No. 4), Chad Ford (No. 6)
  • RD: “The concerns with Embiid’s health are obvious, which is why he ended up at fourth on this list despite being arguably the best prospect in a loaded draft class. He’s got foot and back issues, which is not a good thing for a big man, but Yao Ming made eight all-star teams with foot issues. Michael Jordan broke his foot. Zydrunas Ilgauskas had a long, productive career after breaking his foot. It’s risky, but Embiid’s career isn’t over just yet.”
  • SP: “You have to remember that Embiid is still rather new to the game and the learning curve is incredibly steep in the NBA. It could take much longer than five years to learn how good Embiid really is. And what if Embiid is drafted by a franchise that doesn’t do a good job of developing big men, or get him a point guard that can get him the ball?”

5. Dante Exum, Australia

  • ProjectionsDraft Express (No. 3), Chad Ford (No. 3)
  • SP: “The only player on this list I’ve never seen extensively in-person, I did get a chance to see Exum take part in the Combine drills and he’s a long and fluid guard who has a ton of upside. He immediately passes the ‘look test’. How Exum acclimates to the American game could determine how quickly he ascends in the league.”
  • RD: “Exum is talented. He’s also untested. We’ve yet to see him spend a full season going up against elite competition.”

6. Noah Vonleh, Indiana

  • ProjectionsDraft Express (No. 5), Chad Ford (No. 4)
  • SP: “I might be a tad high on Vonleh, but his upside is just so tantalizing, given his size, skill level and age. Vonleh worked hard enough to add 25 pounds of muscle in one summer at Indiana and his jumper has improved immensely as well, to the point where he could be a pick-and-pop or maybe even a catch-and-shoot option in the NBA.”
  • RD: “Full disclosure: I had Vonleh as No. 3 on my list. I think he’s a perennial all-star.”

7. Aaron Gordon, Arizona

  • ProjectionsDraft Express (No. 10), Chad Ford (No. 5)
  • TP: “Will be a solid team player given his defensive abilities. Hard to believe he wouldn’t improve his offensive skills in that span, as well.”
  • SP: “I really don’t get why teams aren’t higher on Aaron Gordon? He’s a tremendous athlete and defender, ultra competitive and he doesn’t try to do too much at this point with the ball in his hands. His development on the offensive end will be a big key in how good he’ll really be.”

8. Nik Stauskas, Michigan

  • ProjectionsDraft Express (No. 9), Chad Ford (No. 10)
  • RJ: “The gains Stauskas made from his freshman to sophomore year with regards to his skill set, physical build and athleticism bode well for his future in the NBA.”
  • SP: “His shooting percentages are ridiculous, he’s improved each of the last two years and he’s deceptive as a ball handler in pick-and-roll situations. The body fat percentage and lack of lateral quickness is a bit of a concern on the defensive end, but you know what you’re getting out of Stauskas as an offensive player and there’s a lot to like.”

9. James Young, Kentucky

  • ProjectionsDraft Express (No. 17), Chad Ford (No. 14)
  • RD: “He can score, he’s a better shooter than he showed last season, and he’s a lefty, which always seems to give people problems. The biggest issue is whether he’ll learn to defend at the next level.”
  • SP: “Young is so smooth and so skilled on the wing that it’s hard for me to believe that his shooting percentages will remain as low as they were at Kentucky. Again, as with Julius Randle, Young could benefit from playing around teammates that aren’t so ball-dominant and playing with guards that can put him in a better position to score.”
  • RJ: “He was Kentucky’s best player in the national title game, and his ability to score from the perimeter and put the ball on the deck will help with the transition.”

10. Elfrid Payton, Louisiana-Lafayette

  • ProjectionsDraft Express (No. 12), Chad Ford (No. 12)
  • RD: “The NBA is infatuated with big, athletic, aggressive guards, and that’s precisely what Payton can do. He’s got the length and quickness to be a defensive menace at the next level as well. Now he just needs to learn how to shoot.”
  • TP: “I think this is going to be the mid-first round pick who has the greatest impact. He’s still very young for being a college junior. Has the tools to be a good on both ends of the floor, and that’s without a consistent 3-point shot.”

Also receiving votes: Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State), Gary Harris, (Michigan State), Tyler Ennis (Syracuse), Doug McDermott (Creighton)

The end was disappointing, but Kentucky’s season outpaced all expectation

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In yet another example of what makes March Madness the greatest and most unpredictable sporting spectacle on the planet, Kentucky’s run to the Sweet 16 this season is going to be looked at as a disappointment.

Who saw that coming back in January?

Who thought that this team had second weekend potential when they were in the midst of the first four-game losing streak of John Calipari’s tenure in Lexington?

And please, show me who, at that point in time, predicted that Kentucky media would be calling a loss in the Sweet 16 “the worst loss” in the Calipari era back when there were actual discussions being had over whether or not the Wildcats were going to get into the NCAA tournament?

It’s amazing how quickly the tide turns in college basketball

Kentucky lost on Thursday night. The fifth-seeded Wildcats fell to the ninth-seeded Wildcats of Kansas State in a game that turned into drama-filled slugfest down the stretch. The final score was 61-58. Kentucky had two shots at the end of regulation to force a tie or take the lead. They also gave up an offensive rebound to a 6-foot-3 no-name with 40 seconds left that led to the game-winning bucket.

The narrative is going to be that Kentucky choked this game away, that their inability to run offense — and P.J. Washington’s free throw yips — cost them the Final Four that seemed a given Thursday morning and a pipe dream on Selection Sunday.

The truth is that Kentucky was a flawed basketball team that got hot at the right time before running into a team that executed a game-plan to perfection while getting the benefit of a couple of bounces and whistles going their way.

And let me be perfectly clear: In no way, shape or form am I saying that Kentucky or Big Blue Nation should be happy with this loss. It should be disappointing. It should hurt — more so for the players than the fans, but whatever. The bracket broke perfectly for them. Everyone in their region was a cinderella. We weren’t wrong in thinking that Coach Cal’s kids were the heavy favorites to get to San Antonio out of Catlanta.

But we need to say that while also acknowledging this: There is a reason that Kentucky was a No. 5-seed this season.

This was a flawed basketball team.

They were young. They didn’t have enough shooting. Their offense was entirely too predictable, even when they were winning. If Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Kevin Knox weren’t carrying the load for them on that end, they didn’t really have anywhere to turn. And on Thursday night, they ran into a team that had the personnel and a game-plan to take away Kentucky’s two go-to guys.

Kansas State is not overly talented, but what they have in abundance are tough, athletic and older guards that are going to put in a shift on the defensive end of the floor. Kentucky fans may not know who Barry Brown is, but I guarantee you that fans of every Big 12 team can tell you just how good he can be. I guarantee that coaches in the Big 12 can tell you just how annoying their guards are, and those little guards played that role to perfection.

To put it another way, it wasn’t a fluke that Gilgeous-Alexander struggled to make plays off the dribble the way he has for the last two months of the season. It wasn’t an accident that Kevin Knox struggled to find a way to get the looks he had become accustomed to getting coming off of Kentucky’s circle sets.

And in a 40 minute basketball game, when one team matches up well with another, something as simple as Xavier Sneed catching fire and Washington going 8-for-20 from the foul line will get you beat.

But that’s neither here nor there.

Because the real point that I am trying to make here is that this particular Kentucky team just wasn’t all that good. They were young. They were injured. They had their flaws masked by the improvement of a couple of kids who played out of their minds for long stretches of the season, and I just don’t think that’s something that should be overlooked.

Maybe this is just my mindset as a fan. I enjoy the ride more than I need to celebrate the ending. Give me a reason to tune in every game. Make me excited to have the monotony of a week broken up when the ball tips. I’m good.

And I think this Kentucky team accomplished just that.

But two weeks ago, no one thought this team had a shot of getting to the Elite 8. Two months ago, every Kentucky fan would have taken a trip to the second weekend in a heartbeat.

The ending sucked.

No doubt about it.

But this team kept fighting and kept improving and, in the end, lost because someone took makeup remover to the cosmetics that Calipari applied.

Be disappointed, but don’t lost sight of the big picture.

VIDEO: Townes’ late 3 seals Loyola’s win over Nevada

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Nevada was faced with a dilemma. The Wolf Pack were down just one possession – just one point – and were on defense with with a five-second differential between the game and shot clocks.

Foul and extend the game or play it out and hope for a stop?

Nevada opted to play it straight-up, and Loyola hit them with the worst-case scenario – a 3-pointer at the end of the shot clock.

The 3-pointer from Marques Townes made it a two-possession game and the clock all but ruled out the possibility for two possession.

And that’s why Loyola is now in the Elite Eight.

2018 NCAA Tournament: Saturday’s tip times, TV channels, announcer pairings

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Half the spots in the Final Four are up for grabs Saturday. Be sure you know where your TV needs to be before the nets are cut down.

Atlanta: Brian Anderson, Chris Webber and Lisa Byington

  • 6:09 p.m. – No. 9 Kansas State vs. No. 11 Loyola, TBS

Los Angeles: Kevin Harlan, Reggie Miller, Dan Bonner and Dana Jacobson

  • 8:49 – No. 3 Michigan vs. No. 9 Florida State, TBS

VIDEO: This is the shot that ended Kentucky’s season

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Barry Brown has spent all season being underrated.

And Kentucky found that out the hard way on Thursday night.

This bucket with 18 seconds left gave Kansas State a lead they would never relinquish in a win over Kentucky in the Sweet 16.

Florida State advances past Gonzaga to Elite Eight

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Florida State was an afterthought heading into the season in an ACC that was as loaded as it was top-heavy.

They were a No. 9-seed in the NCAA tournament in part because they were able to pick off North Carolina and Clemson at home by a combined three points.

They needed three overtimes to hold off Miami and Syracuse at home. They needed a win over Boston College on Senior Night to avoid heading into the ACC tournament with a losing record, and they ended up going and losing in the first round of the ACC tournament to a Louisville that never really sniffed the bubble and parted ways with their interim head coach as soon as their NIT run ended.

They were almost universally picked to lose in the first round of the NCAA tournament to Missouri because everyone knew Michael Porter Jr. was back and secretly hoped that the potential top five pick might actually make some noise as a collegian before his run came to an end.

The Seminoles have been written off and ignored for the entire college basketball season.

And now they are a win away from the Final Four.

Terance Mann scored 18 points and Florida State held fourth-seeded Gonzaga to 35 percent shooting as the Seminoles advanced to their first Elite 8 since 1993 with a 75-60 win on Thursday night. The Seminoles will advance to take on No. 3-seed Michigan with a trip to the Final Four on the line. They have not been to a Final Four since 1972, which was the last Elite 8 before their last Elite 8.

Put another way, the program that has been ignored all season long has been to precisely one Elite 8 since 1972.

That’s a long time to be irrelevant.

So I guess it’s time that we all started to pay attention.

And here’s the interesting part of this: The Seminoles are actually a fun team to watch this year. This is not the kind of grind-it-out Florida State teams that we have become accustomed to with Leonard Hamilton at the helm of this program. They don’t try to play as many enormous human beings at one time as they can. Florida State plays a lot of small-ball. They have a lot of physical, athletic and switchable defenders. They press. They try to force turnovers. They get out and run in transition. They have a couple dudes; Mann and Braian Angola and M.J. Carter. They’re not exactly VCU and they’re not exactly West Virginia and they’re not exactly last season’s South Carolina, but there’s a little bit of all of them there.

And that’s what did Gonzaga in.

The Zags entered this game short-handed, as their starting five-man Killian Tillie was unable to go due to a hip injury that he aggravated during warmups, but that would not have made all that much of a difference in the Staples Center.

The issue was guard play.

Florida State’s pressure simply overwhelmed Gonzaga’s guards. Josh Perkins, Silas Melson and Zach Norvell were a combined 10-for-36 from the floor and had a nightmare-of-a-time trying to get the ball into the lane. The Zags committed 13 turnovers, trailed by 12 within the first ten minutes of the game and never really made a run keeping this thing within striking distance.

If there was an issue with Tillie being out, it came when Gonzaga tried to space the floor.

The Zags were playing without enough shooters, particularly in the front court. That clogged the paint and made it difficult for the likes of Johnathan Williams III and Rui Hachimura to get some space down there to operate. Perhaps the most telling stat on Thursday — more than Gonzaga’s 34 percent shooting or the 5-for-20 that they shot from three — was that the Zags were 8-for-27 on layups on the night.


For 27.


And it makes me wonder just how Michigan is going to be able to handle this group, but that’s neither here nor there.

We’ll get to it in time.

For now, it is time for the Seminoles and their fans to basket in this moment.

They were right, we were wrong.