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2014 NBA Draft Preview: The five safest picks in the draft

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source: Getty Images
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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 the five safest projected first round picks:

One name you won’t see on this list: Andrew Wiggins.

There’s a reason for that.

I would take Wiggins with the No. 1 overall pick. A lot of people would, and I can’t think of a situation where a team would be better off with Jabari Parker or Joel Embiid in the long run. That said, I understand that there are inherent risks with picking Wiggins. Does he have that killer instinct, that ability to take over when he needs to take over, that the greats have? Will he get to the point that he is strong enough to finish around the rim? Will he ever develop confidence in his ability to put the ball on the floor?

Wiggins has the highest ceiling of anyone in the draft, a healthy Embiid included. But he could also become the next Rudy Gay — or Gerald Green — if he doesn’t develop. He’s the smart pick, the right pick, at No. 1 overall, but that doesn’t make him a safe pick.

MOREUnderrated Prospects | Overrated Prospects | Top Ten Players in Five Years | Busts?

1. Jabari Parker, Duke

  • ProjectionsDraft Express (No. 2), Chad Ford (No. 1)
  • Scott Phillips: “The favorite for 2015 NBA Rookie of the Year, Parker will be ready to score with advanced moves from his very first game. Parker will also rebound well from his position and showed in high school that he can be a better passer than he might have shown at times at Duke. Defense will be the big question mark for Parker, but he’s going to score and score frequently.”
  • Rob Dauster: “Parker is the most NBA-ready prospect in this year’s draft. He’ll be able to score the minute he arrives in training, and he should have a long and productive career averaging somewhere around 20 points. He won’t be a franchise-changing talent if he doesn’t work on his conditioning and defense, but he should develop into a perennial all-star.”
source: Getty Images
Getty Images

2. Doug McDermott, Creighton

  • ProjectionsDraft Express (No. 9), Chad Ford (No. 9)
  • Raphielle Johnson: “Best pure scorer in the Draft, but he needs to land in the right spot. While he won’t be a league scoring champ he’ll be a mainstay.”
  • RD: “McDermott’s upside is limited given his tweener status. Is he quick enough to defend on the perimeter? Is he big enough to defend in the post? What there are no questions about is his ability to shoot the ball, and while he may end up being a just spot-up shooter for his career, shooting is always a skill in demand. That’s why guys like Ray Allen and Mike Miller will get contracts until they can’t walk.”

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3. Nik Stauskas, Michigan

  • ProjectionsDraft Express (No. 10), Chad Ford (No. 10)
  • SP: “The NBA always needs shooters and always needs players that can operate a pick-and-roll and Stauskas does both things very well. He has a confidence to him that you want in a high-level shooter and he’s gotten much better each of the last two summers heading into the season.”
  • RD: “His rep is as a shooter, and while he does that as an elite level, he’s a much more well-rounded player than people realize: he’s really athletic, he can make plays off the bounce, he can pass, he’s got a swagger to him that will help at the next level. Like McDermott, at minimum his ability to shoot will keep him around.

4. Shabazz Napier, UConn

  • ProjectionsDraft Express (No. 21), Chad Ford (No. 15)
  • RD: “Shabazz isn’t the quickest guy in the draft and he doesn’t have the size or athleticism of guys like Damian Lillard or Russ Westbrook, but he understands how to play and how to run a team. His change-of-pace makes him quicker than he is — he gets defenders off-balance — and he can really shoot the ball. Getting him in the 20s means a playoff team will be adding a quality back up point guard.”

5. Kyle Anderson, UCLA

  • ProjectionsDraft Express (No. 25), Chad Ford (No. 21)
  • RD: “The kid just flat out understands how to play. There are always going to be questions about his athleticism, but he’s such a unique talent. Keep in mind: Boris Diaw is unathletic and slow by NBA standards and he has been a very effective player in two different systems. Anderson needs the right fit, but he’s an NBA player.”

UNLV’s Stephen Zimmerman out with a knee injury

UNLV forward Stephen Zimmerman Jr. shoots against San Diego State during an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in Las Vegas. (L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Sun via AP)
(L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Sun via AP)
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The injury Stephen Zimmerman suffered on Saturday will keep the star UNLV freshman out for at least a week, a source told NBC Sports.

The injury is not thought to be serious, however. Zimmerman may be kept out for longer as a precaution, but that’s a result of the Runnin’ Rebels being in a situation where the rest of their regular season is relatively meaningless.

They’re not getting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament regardless of how they finish out league play. With back-up center Ben Carter out with a torn ACL, it’s more important to make sure that Zimmerman, who is averaging 10.6 points and 9.1 boards this season, is totally healthy for the Mountain West tournament.

That tournament, mind you, will be played at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center.

So the Runnin’ Rebels, regardless of how poor they’ve played this season, will always have a chance to land an automatic bid.

Anyway, the more interesting aspect of this story is how Zimmerman injured the knee. It was a completely avoidable play that came after the whistle, but I’m not sure it was what you would call a “dirty play”. You tell me:

VIDEO: Buddy Hield is ‘all money’ on game-winning three vs. No. 24 Texas

Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (24) takes a shot over Oklahoma State forward Chris Oliver during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Stillwater, Okla., Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)
(AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)
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With a little more than three minutes left on Monday night, No. 24 Texas held a 57-51 lead on No. 3 Oklahoma in Norman as Jordan Woodard struggled again and Buddy Hield failed to find the rhythm that he had throughout the first three months of the season.

At that point in the game, Hield was 4-for-14 from the floor with 15 points and four turnovers. He had just missed a pair of wide-open threes

“I couldn’t make a shot,” Hield said after the game. But that changed down the stretch. First, Hield finally got a three to drop. On the next possession, he got all the way to the rim and scored. On the following two possessions, he was fouled on a drive to the rim and hit four free throws. And after missing a pull-up jumper, Hield did this:

“I told coach I wanted the ball,” Hield said, “I saw Lammert coming to bite, so I pulled up.”

“It’s all money.”

Hield is already the favorite to win National Player of the Year, and this performance is only going to help his cause further. Think about it like this: Buddy was not good on Monday night, at least according to his (admittedly lofty) standards. But he still finished with 27 points and shook off a cold shooting night just in time to take over down the stretch.

Now think about this: Hield’s head coach has enough confidence in him to hand him the keys in the final minutes despite the fact that he’s struggling and on a team that has two other players that Lon Kruger trusts on game-winning possessions. Think about it. When Oklahoma beat West Virginia at the buzzer, it was Jordan Woodard that the play was drawn up for. When they beat LSU, it was Isaiah Cousins that got the rock on the final possession while Hield was used as a decoy. .

Want to talk about coaching luxuries?

Kruger has three guards that can shoot, penetrate and score, and penetrate and kick, and one of them is the National Player of the Year that doesn’t mind being used as a decoy.