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Pros and Cons of Every Potential Top 10 Pick in 2014 NBA Draft

Daniel O'BrienFeatured ColumnistJune 9, 2014

Pros and Cons of Every Potential Top 10 Pick in 2014 NBA Draft

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    Gregory Bull/Associated Press

    There are pros and cons to every 2014 NBA draft prospect, even the best ones.

    The cons are more nerve-wracking for some players than others, but it all depends on how much the lottery teams like their strengths.

    We put together our projected top-10 draftees and broke down the positives and negatives of each. It's a diverse group with varying advantages and shortcomings.

    What does each standout prospect bring to the NBA party?

     

    *Statistics gathered from Sports-Reference.com/cbb. Player measurements gathered from NBA.com and DraftExpress.com.

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

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Pros: With his ability to connect as a catch-and-shoot or off-the-dribble weapon, Michigan's Nik Stauskas will fire efficiently from long range in the NBA. In late-game situations, his coach can use him to stretch the floor or attack closeouts by driving.

    He'll also be useful as a part-time facilitator, especially in the pick-and-roll. Stauskas' improved handles led to increased scoring creativity in 2013-14 and 3.3 assists per game. He'll make all the right plays with his superb basketball IQ.

    Standing 6'6.5" in shoes, he'll be able to shoot over most 2-guards and contest their shots. His size is also useful when slashing or creating buckets.

     

    Cons: Above-average playmakers will blow by him. He doesn't have the explosive foot speed or next-level agility to stick with the league's top wings.

    In addition, Stauskas won't elevate over NBA-caliber opponents too often when attacking the basket. His damage as an above-the-rim slasher will be somewhat limited. He's also not the greatest scorer through contact, so don't expect too many physical drives.

     

    Bottom line: Stauskas' pros and cons show that he's a relatively low-risk prospect. His offense and basketball IQ heavily outweigh the subpar defense.

9. Dario Saric, Croatia F (6'10", 1994)

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    Petr David Josek/Associated Press

    Pros: One of the biggest advantages Dario Saric offers is his playmaking skills mixed with a 6'10" frame. With that kind of size, the Croatian forward can see over the defense and create shots for himself and others. It's rare to see a big man with his ball-handling ability and scoring repertoire.

    His coach is going to get a player who can play as a wing, run the point or spend time in the paint, depending on the matchups. Saric will thrive in transition as an aggressive attacker, and he'll knock down timely triples. As he acclimates to the NBA style, he'll grow into a versatile scorer.

    He'll also use his size to rebound effectively, and on defense he'll put forth great effort against 3's and 4's.

     

    Cons: Saric doesn't own the athletic burst you normally see in featured offensive players.

    He's going to have trouble creating separation against rangy, athletic wings. When he gets near the bucket, he'll also struggle to score over power forwards and centers with long arms (Saric's wingspan is 6'10").

    Those short arms and his poor leaping ability will hurt his chances to contest shots in the paint. Post players with bounce and a 7'2" wingspan (there are a lot of them out there) will have no problem scoring on him. His defensive ceiling is low.

     

    Bottom line: His offensive upside is much higher than his defensive potential, and his versatility is worth the risk in the late top 10.

8. Aaron Gordon, Arizona PF (6'9" Freshman)

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    Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images

    Pros: Aaron Gordon's elite athleticism will help him on both ends, as will his alertness.

    At Arizona he proved he'll be able to guard multiple positions in the NBA, using his size and lateral quickness to stay in front of the league's top bucket-getters.

    On offense, his biggest immediate contribution will be transition and rebounding opportunities. However, his passing ability and feel for half-court offense makes him a valuable cog. His youth also gives him a chance to improve as a ball-handler and shooter.

    At the very least, Gordon's NBA squad is getting a hyper-athletic, hard-playing youngster who will work tirelessly to expand his game.

     

    Cons: His biggest negative as a prospect is the uncertainty of his offensive role.

    His shooting ability seems to be improving in predraft workouts, but is his scoring touch and ball-handling ability really good enough to operate on the wing?

    In the post, his game might improve, but is he really strong enough to carve out deep position and score over lengthy bigs? His standing reach is 8'9" and he didn't show low-post talent in college.

     

    Bottom Line: One scout told Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports "(Gordon's) free throws are a concern, but his shooting seems to be improving. Big time potential." In other words, he's confident in Gordon's ability to turn those cons into a non-issue.

     

7. Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State G (6'3" Sophomore)

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Pros: While at Oklahoma State, Marcus Smart established that he's the type of player who gives 100 percent on both ends. His aggressiveness and eagerness to influence every facet are desirable traits.

    Smart's NBA coach will be able to play him at the point, as the sophomore star attacked and dished 5.8 assists per 40 minutes in 2013-14. He may have a score-first mentality, but he still has the vision and skills required to set up comrades as well.

    Defensively, he's going to wreak havoc. Smart possesses a 6'9.25" wingspan, a tank-like 227-pound frame and top-tier lateral quickness. Good luck to opposing guards.

     

    Cons: Smart didn't improve much as a shooter during his sophomore campaign, so his in-game perimeter accuracy remains a question mark entering the Association. He failed to eclipse 30 percent in both of his seasons at OK-State, so how is he going to fare from the NBA line?

    Intimately linked to that shooting effectiveness is his shot selection and offensive decision-making. Smart was a bit jumper-happy in college, so there are concerns as to whether he'll make the right plays and limit turnovers and bad shots.

    We mentioned that he has vision and passing skills, but his ball-handling ability and mid-range creativity leave something to be desired. His dribbling and footwork must be tighter and smoother, and his in-between scoring touch needs polishing.

     

    Bottom Line: Smart is ready to put pressure on opponents by attacking the hoop and applying stifling defense. But he's not entirely ready to make all the plays a star should make.

6. Julius Randle, Kentucky PF (6'9" Freshman)

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    Layne Murdoch/Getty Images

    Pros: Strength and quickness are Julius Randle's foremost tangible pluses at this point. The Kentucky freshman showcased an awesome blend of speed and power to lead the Wildcats on a Final Four run. It's difficult for opponents to box him out, stay in front of him or get around him.

    When you combine these physical tools with a tireless motor and nose for the ball, you get a monster power forward. Randle loves crashing the glass (13.5 rebounds per 40 minutes in 2013-14), and he aggressively drives and spins to the cup.

    His offensive upside could be considered another pro. Randle's post game and perimeter skills are in the early stages of development, but he has a chance to be an inside-out player.

     

    Cons: Randle needs to work on his right hand. He favored lefty slashes and shots all year, and his predictable moves will be stoppable for quick defenders.

    While his handling could use some polish, his court awareness needs to improve as well. Those two deficiencies led to a host of turnovers (3.3 per 40 minutes) at the power forward spot.

    The other noticeable negative surrounding Randle's future is his length. His wingspan is 7'0", which isn't terrible, but his standing reach of 8'9.50" will put him at a disadvantage against many NBA bigs.

     

    Bottom Line: Despite his weaknesses, his NBA-ready physique, energy and upside provide tremendous value in the mid-lottery range.

5. Noah Vonleh, Indiana PF (6'9" Freshman)

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    Michael Hickey/Getty Images

    Pros: Indiana's Noah Vonleh supplies eye-popping physical tools at the 4 spot.

    His 7'4.25" wingspan and 247-pound frame are great building blocks, but some other numbers jump out at you as well. Vonleh's hands (11.75") and standing reach (9'0") are expansive. He can also bounce 37" and run end-to-end with ease.

    The 18-year-old can operate deep in the paint, using a soft touch with either hand and the ability to score above the fray. He can also step out and drill three-pointers with a promising shooting delivery.

    Vonleh also has the agility and strength to rebound at a high level immediately, and his long reach will challenge opponents' shots.

     

    Cons: He's not ready to take on a full workload in the paint. His post-up footwork isn't too advanced, nor is his ball-handling or passing skills.

    During his limited time at Indiana, Vonleh showed that he still has to learn about making quick plays in the middle of floor. He often failed to hit open teammates and forced up awkward shots. On defense, he didn't display the best footwork and fouled too frequently.

     

    Bottom Line: There aren't any real red flags considering how young he his. The pros heavily outweigh the cons.

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

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    Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    Pros: From a positional standpoint, the biggest plus for Australia's Dante Exum is his size. He can make all the creative point-guard type plays in a 6'6" frame with a 6'9.5" wingspan.

    With those measurements and top-end agility and quickness, Exum will regularly slash past opponents and finish over them. When defenses overcompensate, his handle and unselfishness will deftly facilitate for teammates. His ceiling is ridiculously high as a scorer and a passer.

    Exum's potential is exciting on defense, too. His length, athleticism and work ethic will fuel his versatility on that side. Who wouldn't want a tall, rangy player who can guard positions 1-3?

     

    Cons: The only notable negative surrounding Exum's game is his shooting ability.

    He's gone through some rough stretches in international and Australian play, and he's never been a prolific perimeter threat. In the past his delivery has looked a bit flat, as he lacked arc on the ball.

    Shooting coach David Nurse broke down the problem for Hoopshype.com: "Currently, his release is too slow and his motion is not consistently fluid. Without the correct mechanics it will be a challenge to become a great shooter."

     

    Bottom Line: Exum has a good head on his shoulders and looks to be a dangerous offensive player. The shooting concerns aren't enough to bounce him out of the draft's elite group.

3. Andrew Wiggins, Kansas SF (6'9" Freshman)

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    Orlin Wagner/Associated Press

    Pros: I hope you have seen this guy's athletic dominance in the open floor.

    If not, you're late to the Andrew-Wiggins-is-special party. He can blow by opponents and trampoline over everyone, and he makes it look easy. Wiggins' explosiveness will be in the 99th percentile in the NBA, and his lateral speed will fuel his defensive prowess. In the paint, his second and third-effort jumps are bouncier than most player's first tries.

    He showed stretches of scoring talent at Kansas, as he can connect fluidly from deep or slash using his first step and length. Wiggins' sporadic outbursts indicate that he could be an elite star in the league.

     

    Cons: He struggled to consistently produce in Kansas' half-court offense.

    A big part of this was the stagnancy of the Jayhawks offense and that there were other talented options. However, Wiggins' could have been much more assertive, and sometimes his rawness hindered his shot-creating effectiveness.

    It's pretty simple: He needs to take his assertiveness up a notch, and he needs to refine his ball-handling skills a couple notches. He's not an absolute lock to accomplish those tasks, but we're confident he'll get it done.

     

    Bottom Line: The cons reveal some risk, but the tangible pros and potential reward are well worth it.

2. Jabari Parker, Duke F (6'9" Freshman)

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Pros: Jabari Parker's NBA team will get someone who's ready to be a featured scorer, yet young enough to improve over the years and grow into a true star.

    Parker's offensive polish—the ball-handing, footwork and shooting from all ranges—make him the best immediate-impact weapon in the draft and the favorite to win Rookie of the Year. His 25 points per 40 minutes at Duke and 6'9" frame will translate to inside-out success in the NBA.

    We could elaborate on his low-post moves or agility on the wing, but it all adds up to the most important "pro" he offers: He's the safest pick in the draft. Parker's maturity and skill set give him a high basement.

     

    Cons: We're not quite sure what kind of defender he'll be at the next level.

    He got beat off the dribble several times as a freshman, and he was caught out of position too often. For example, he'd end up in no-man's land against pick-and-rolls, leading to easy buckets for opponents.

    Parker's not quite tall enough to guard the biggest power forwards, and he'll have trouble checking the quicker wings. Can he overcome these challenges, and can his squad effectively hide these shortcomings?

     

    Bottom Line: Offense is valued much higher than defense in the NBA, and Parker's offense is better than anyone else's.

1. Joel Embiid, Kansas C (7'0" Freshman)

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Pros: Even more than his size, which is mountainous, Joel Embiid's most attractive quality is his rapid growth as a basketball player. He started playing organized hoops in 2011, and he's expanded his skills exponentially since. As a 20-year-old coming off one season in college, he's already showing confidence in the post and next-level scoring ability.

    Embiid can do more than face up, post up and finish over everybody. He's also got a nice shooting touch, great passing instincts and shows promise as a pivot distributor.

    Defensively, he'll alter countless shots with his length (7'5.75" wingspan) and agility, and he'll likely grow into a productive rebounder as well.

     

    Cons: Embiid is still trying to grasp some areas of the game, as he's learning when to pass, when to shoot, etc. His defensive footwork also needs improvement, as he was sporadically out of position last year.

    And there's the back questions. All of his predraft work and scrutiny indicates his March injury is a thing of the past, but that doesn't mean we're totally confident something won't crop up in the future. After all, he's a mobile seven-footer who will see high usage over the next five years.

     

    Bottom Line: He's got a better chance to be the NBA's next great big man than the next Greg Oden.

     

    Follow @DanielO_BR for more rim-rocking NBA Draft coverage

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