Ranking Biggest Offensive Threats in 2014 NBA Draft Class

Daniel O'Brien@@DanielO_BRFeatured ColumnistMarch 5, 2014

Ranking Biggest Offensive Threats in 2014 NBA Draft Class

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    There are a bunch of talented scorers and playmakers in the 2014 NBA draft class, but we wanted to pinpoint the elite prospects who will enter the league as the biggest offensive threats.

    We based our rankings on a blend of collegiate/international production and proven skills. Who are the most effective scoring and playmaking weapons as we near the end of the season?

    Promising youngsters like Joel Embiid and Noah Vonleh could eventually develop into offensive standouts, and competitors such as Julius Randle and Marcus Smart will find a way to produce. But they didn't make our list because their skills aren't comprehensive enough to warrant the "elite offensive threat" label as they turn pro.

    So who did crack our list? We included first-round caliber prospects who not only produce lots of points per possession statistically, but also demonstrate the skills required to fuel offense at the next level.

    *Statistics gathered from Sports-reference.com, accurate as of 3/5/2014

Advanced Stats Glossary

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    For your reference, here are brief explanations of the advanced stats we used for some of our prospects. Definitions courtesy of Sports-reference.com:

    Offensive Rating: For players it is points produced per 100 possessions, while for schools it is points scored per 100 possessions.

    Per 40 minutes: A statistic (e.g., points) divided by minutes played, multiplied by 40.

    Points Produced: an estimate of the player's offensive points produced.

    True Shooting Percentage: A measure of shooting efficiency that takes into account field goals, 3-point field goals, and free throws. The formula is PTS / (2 * (FGA + 0.475 * FTA)).

    Usage Percentage: An estimate of the percentage of team's plays used by a player while he was on the floor.

8. Andrew Wiggins, Kansas SF (6'8" Freshman)

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    NBA Tools: Athletic slasher, acrobatic finisher, jump-shooter

    Key Stats: 16.3 points per game, 7.6 free-throw attempts per 40 min, 116.2 offensive rating

    While his overall draft value is based on otherworldly potential, Andrew Wiggins is also one of the biggest offensive threats today.

    He may not put up gaudy numbers, and his ball-handling skills are a bit sloppy, but boy can he attack the rim.

    Wiggins' quick first step and ability to slash toward the basket have earned him loads of buckets and free-throws at the college level, and that's going to immediately translate to the next level.

    With the right team and the right spacing, he's going to make some awesome plays. As long as he maintains an aggressive approach, he'll be difficult to contain. Mix in a solid perimeter shot (37 percent on threes in Big 12 play), and you've got a player to be reckoned with.

    No, he's not going to be LeBron right out of the gate (or ever, for that matter). There's nothing wrong with being a younger blend of Tracy McGrady and Dominique Wilkins.

7. T.J. Warren, N.C. State F (6'8" Sophomore)

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    NBA Tools: Smooth scorer, agile finisher, mid-range touch, great off-ball mover, capable range

    Key Stats: 27.9 Points per 40 min, 21.4 points produced per game, 34.5% usage

    Despite not having exceptional ball skills or a remarkable three-point shot, N.C. State's T.J. Warren is the most productive major-conference scorer not named Doug McDermott. 

    Why? Because he moves craftily without the ball and finishes fluidly when he gets it.

    Whether it's a high-post jumper, a floater in the lane or a spot-up triple, Warren makes sure to sink it smoothly. He's got a great feel for the game, and ESPN's Fran Fraschilla noted he's "as effortless a scorer as there is in (the) country."

    Consequently, he's a first-round lock. An NBA outfit can incorporate him and allow him to produce within the flow of the offense. Warren definitely won't be a first option or an isolation attacker, yet he'll serve as one of the most potent supplementary scorers on his team.

6. Doug McDermott, Creighton F (6'8" Senior)

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    NBA Tools: Outstanding shooting, cutting to the ball, post footwork, touch off glass

    Key Stats: 31.5 points per 40 min, 64% true shooting, 35.7% usage, 126.7 offensive rating

    Through his junior year at Creighton, Doug McDermott had already put together a draft resume rivaled by few collegiate players ever. 

    We knew his senior year would be icing on the cake, but it was even sweeter than we expected.

    Although his Bluejays moved up to a more competitive conference, McDermott didn't skip a beat and actually improved his production. He's worked his way into the lottery conversation because NBA teams would love to add his flawless footwork and sniper accuracy. 

    McDermott will be overmatched athletically almost every night, so he'll have to rely on his off-ball movement, timing and exceptional ability to use angles and positioning. When those talents afford him some daylight to shoot, he won't waste the opportunity.

    Stardom isn't in the cards for him, but ridiculous efficiency and a valuable role are.

5. Rodney Hood, Duke SF (6'8" Sophomore)

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    NBA Tools: Smooth from all ranges, great footwork, creative off the dribble, deft finisher

    Key Stats: 20.1 Points per 40 min, 44% 3PT, 123.2 offensive rating

    At this point in the season, hopefully everyone has had a chance to look beyond Jabari Parker's talents and appreciate the work of Rodney Hood.

    The Mississippi State transfer has been effective in so many ways, and it looks like nearly all his tools will translate to the big stage. He can cripple defenses as a spot-up shooter, explore them as a dribble-driver, score above the rim or facilitate from the high post.

    ESPN's Jay Bilas doesn't hand out compliments too often, but he went out of his way to call Hood a "complete player." The 6'8" small forward has simply done everything on the offensive end, showing that he's ready to jump to the NBA and succeed there.

    Hood won't convert as many close-range forays in the Association due to the league's size, strength and athleticism, but he'll still manufacture plenty of opportunities elsewhere. The team that lands him will get a prolific shooter and an underrated playmaker.

4. Gary Harris, Michigan State SG (6'4" Sophomore)

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    NBA Tools: Jump-shooting, terrific off-ball movement, slashing, pull-up shooting

    Key Stats: 21.6 points per 40 min, 28.1% usage, career 42% 3PT in Big Ten

    When Gary Harris steps into an NBA offense, he'll be a dangerous asset because he can create buckets for himself with or without the ball.

    He has the uncanny knack for sliding to the open space or cutting to the open spot for catch-and-shoot chances. And when he's operating off the dribble, he's shown improved pull-up shooting and strong attacking skills.

    To top it off, Harris is shooting over 80 percent from the free-throw line, and nearly doubled his assist-per-minute rate as a sophomore. 

    It all adds up to a robust draft resume. CBS Sports' Gary Parrish put it simply, calling Harris "one of the best scoring guards in college basketball and, perhaps, the best off-guard NBA prospect in the country."

    He may not be dominant at the next level, but he'll make some mid-lottery franchise much better on the offensive end.

3. Nik Stauskas, Michigan SG (6'6" Sophomore)

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    NBA Tools: Deep outside shooting, moving without the ball, shot creation, passing

    Key Stats: 17.1 PPG, 3.5 APG, 63% true shooting, 122.1 offensive rating

    As a freshman in 2012-13, Michigan's Nik Stauskas made a name for himself as a shooting specialist.

    As a sophomore, the Canadian sensation is earning an NBA job for himself as a versatile offensive weapon.

    Not only did he create more jumpers off the bounce, he also attacked the rim better and became a masterful distributor. Stauskas has tremendous passing instincts and open-court athleticism to go along with his highly regarded shooting skills.

    If you're looking for an NBA-ceiling comparison, he would be a hybrid of Klay Thompson and J.J. Redick. His effortless delivery and range are accompanied by the ability to break down defense off the dribble.

    On any given possession, he could dish an assist after a hesitation dribble, drill a step-back jumper or drive all the way to the tin. That kind of resourcefulness will make him productive early in his career.

2. Dante Exum, Australia G (6'6", 1995)

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    NBA Tools: Slashing, shot creation, finishing, passing instincts

    Key Stats (FIBA U-19 Worlds): 18.2 PPG, 3.5 APG, 45% FG

    Despite his youth and jump-shooting inconsistency, Dante Exum ranks high on our list as an offensive threat. His creative repertoire and facilitating skills will turn heads come autumn.

    He uses phenomenal speed and ball-handling to weave through defenses, and then he finds the best shot possible for his team. Sometimes it means rising up for a layup, and other times it involves dishing to a teammate.

    ESPN's Fran Fraschilla spoke with 710 ESPNLA’s John Ireland about Exum's extraordinary instincts and elite talent:

    He’s got great basketball instincts. He’ll drive in, and when you think he’s going to use his right hand, he’ll switch to the left hand at the last minute. He’ll take off about a half step earlier than you think he should, but then he’ll hang in the air and bank it off the glass…Getting your own shot in the league is a skill.

    When you combine his scoring aptitude with the capacity to keep his comrades involved, it's an immense offensive impact. His rookie season will be a learning process, but his opponents will get schooled often as well.

1. Jabari Parker, Duke F (6'8" Freshman)

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    NBA Tools: Post-up polish, face-up finishing, shot creating, jump-shooting

    Key Stats: 24.9 Points per 40 min, 17.6 points produced, 32.5% usage

    One of the only freshmen in this elite group, Duke's Jabari Parker will be an immediate scoring threat as soon as he laces up NBA kicks. He ranks high due to his inside-out versatility and ability to convert in traffic.

    After going through a mini-slump early in conference play, he recharged and reminded us why he's considered the most polished freshman in the country. Although he has the ability to flourish on the wing and burn opponents from deep, he looks for opportunities closer to the rim (only 23 percent of his shots are three-pointers, per Hoop-math.com).

    While in the paint, Parker utilizes an array of drop-steps, turnarounds, up-and-unders and good old-fashioned strong finishes. He won't be able to dominate the low post in the NBA like he does in college, but he'll have Carmelo Anthony-esque success down there against most mid-sized forwards.

    His NBA squad will quickly become more dangerous offensively once he arrives, because he can do damage from any spot on the floor.

    Dan O'Brien covers the NBA Draft for Bleacher Report.

    Follow him on Twitter: @DanielO_BR