2014 NBA Draft Preview: Six first round prospects that will be busts

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The NBA Draft is on June 26th, meaning that there are less than a week 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 look at six first round prospects from this draft will think will be busts in the NBA:

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1. Zach LaVine, UCLA

  • ProjectionsDraft Express (No. 13), Chad Ford (No. 18)
  • Scott Phillips: “LaVine was head-and-shoulders above every other prospect participating in the NBA DraftCombine, but not many potential lottery picks were going through the drills. He’s a ridiculous vertical athlete with a good one-dribble pull-up, but he has no clue how to play the game of basketball. LaVine looked lost in half-court settings and has a step learning curve ahead of him if he wants a long NBA career.”
  • Raphielle Johnson: “Excellent athlete, but I’m not sold on his ability to run a team at this point in time. Maybe he’ll be best as a combo, but we’ll see.”
  • Rob Dauster: “Zach LaVine will win any dunk contest that he enters. He’s got three-point range, too. But beyond that, LaVine’s essentially a blank canvas when it comes to basketball. On the one hand, that means that whoever drafts him can mold him into the player they want. It also means it’s up to LaVine to put in the work to reach his admittedly high ceiling. Drafting him is essentially betting on his work ethic.”

2. Tyler Ennis, Syracuse

  • ProjectionsDraft Express (No. 19), Chad Ford (No. 20)
  • RD: “Ennis is dropping on draft boards as we get closer to the big day, and it makes sense. The NBA is trending towards big, elite level athletes at the point, and for all Ennis does well, he’s not on that level athletically. He knows how to play, so I think he’ll be able to hang around for a few years, but I don’t know what he does at an NBA level.”
  • SP: “Tyler Ennis had a wonderful freshman year at Syracuse, but I don’t think he’s a big-time NBADraft prospect. He’s an average athlete with average shooting percentages (41% FG, 35% 3PT) and that doesn’t even factor the giant question mark he is on the defensive end. With so many elite NBA point guards, I don’t see how Ennis makes a big impact in the league without a good first step or an ability to finish at the rim.”

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3. Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State

  • ProjectionsDraft Express (No. 6), Chad Ford (No. 8)
  • RJ: “What happens when teams force him to hit perimeter shots? That’s the big question.”
  • SP: “For being such a highly-touted player and floor leader, Smart never got better at Oklahoma State and never won a NCAA Tournament game in two seasons. His power game won’t translate nearly as well in the NBA and his jump shot needs to improve a lot for him to be a complete weapon on offense.”

4. Mitch McGary, Michigan

  • ProjectionsDraft Express (No. 30), Chad Ford (No. 26)
  • Terrence Payne: “Six NCAA tournament games in 2013 launched him into the lottery, but he has played eight games in the last 15 months.”
  • RD: “The offensive skill set at this time is a concern. But he works hard, so maybe strides can be made in that area.”

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5. Jerami Grant, Syracuse

  • ProjectionsDraft Express (No. 27), Chad Ford (No. 40)
  • RD: “Grant is an elite-level athlete, but he’s stuck in that spot where he’s not really a small forward but not big enough to play along the front line. Does he have a post move? Can he play on the perimeter? What position does he guard?”

6. P.J. Hairston, North Carolina/D-League

  • ProjectionsDraft Express (No. 23), Chad Ford (No. 24)
  • SP: “Besides the off-the-court questions that Hairston will face from every team, he’s a bonafide shot-jacker that rarely passes — Hairston averaged less than an assist a game in over 32 minutes a game in the D-League — and is prone to mental lapses on the defensive end. The D-League is filled with professional players, but the structure of the league, especially defensively, leaves a lot to be desired and his scoring numbers could end up being inflated because of this.”

No. 1 Kentucky survives without Tyler Ulis in lineup

Tyler Ulis
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Less than a week after giving No. 2 Maryland all they could handle, Illinois State went into Lexington and gave No. 1 Kentucky fits.

The Redbirds never really threatened UK in the second half, but they went into the break tied and were within single digits down the stretch, eventually losing 75-63.

Kentucky was flustered. They turned the ball over 15 times compared to just eight assists, they shot 2-for-12 from three and just 29-for-46 (63 percent) from the charity stripe. They simply did not handle Illinois State’s pressure all that well.

And there was a reason for that.

Tyler Ulis didn’t play.

Sometimes it’s difficult to appreciate just what a player brings to a team until that player is not in the lineup, and that was precisely the case with Ulis on Monday night. It was crystal clear what he provides Kentucky. Beyond leadership and the ability to break a press without throwing the ball to the other team, he’s a calming presence. He doesn’t get rattled when a defender is harassing him and he doesn’t get overwhelmed by a situation like a mid-major threatening the No. 1 team in the country in their own gym.

He’s everything you look for in a pure point guard, and for as good as Jamal Murray and Isaiah Briscoe have looked at times this season, it should be crystal clear who the most important player on this Kentucky team is.

LSU loses to Charleston, eliminates at-large bid margin for error

Ben Simmons
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Ben Simmons scored 15 points and grabbed 18 rebounds, the second time in his six-game career that the LSU freshman has collected that many caroms, but that wasn’t enough for the Tigers to avoid dropping a game on the road to the College of Charleston, 70-58. It was the third straight loss for Simmons’ crew, as they fell to Marquette and N.C. State at the Legends Classic last week.

But here’s the thing: LSU didn’t just lose.

The game really wasn’t close.

LSU was down by as many as 23 points. It was 39-17 at the half, and that was after Charleston had a shot at the buzzer called off upon review. They made a bit of a run in the second half but never got closer than seven. When LSU would cut into the lead, the Cougars would respond with a run of their own, killing LSU’s spirit while keeping them at arm’s length.

[RELATED: Ben Simmons’ one college year a waste?]

Now, there are quite a few things here to discuss. For starters, LSU’s effort was, at best, apathetic, and, at worst, regular old pathetic. The team has a serious lack of leadership that was plainly evident on Monday night; would Fred VanVleet let his team fold against a program picked to finish at the bottom of the SoCon? Would Tyler Ulis? For that matter, would Tom Izzo or Mike Krzyzewski or John Calipari?

Perhaps more importantly, does any of that change when Keith Hornsby and Craig Victor get back?

Simmons did show off his potential — 18 boards, four assists, he even made his first three of the year — but he also showed precisely why there are scouts that are trying to curtail the LeBron James comparisons. Simmons was 4-for-15 from the floor with seven turnovers against a mediocre mid-major team. There are so many things that Simmons does well, but scoring efficiently — particularly in half court setting — and shooting the ball consistently are not on that list.

But here’s the biggest issue: LSU may have put themselves in a situation where they aren’t a tournament team. As of today, they’re 3-3 on the season with losses to a pair of teams that, at best, seem destined to be in the bubble conversation on Selection Sunday in addition to this loss to Charleston. The rest of their non-conference schedule is ugly. The only game worth noting is at home against No. 6 Oklahoma at the end of January.

The NCAA factors in non-conference schedule strength when determining at-large teams. You need to at least try, and LSU didn’t try; they have one of the worst non-conference schedules in the country.

The great thing about being in the SEC — as opposed to, say, the Missouri Valley — is that the Tigers will have plenty of chances to earn marquee wins. Six, by my court: Kentucky twice, Texas A&M twice, Vanderbilt on the road and Oklahoma at home. They probably need to win at least two or three of those games to have a real chance, and that’s assuming they can avoid anymore horrid losses in the process.

The season isn’t over six games in, not by any stretch of the imagination.

But LSU has done a hell of a job eliminating their margin for error.