While most teams rank based on talent, I base it on toughness, IQ, hard-work, skill, and such as well. This generates a different list than the herd. There are players I left off such as Ennis that are much safer (others include McDaniels, Clarkson, Grant, Warren, etc..) and will make the league over players listed below.
Some of the players listed below won’t last very long in the league. However, I rank these players as prospects (not as players most likely to make it). It is a very deep draft as there will be many steals outside of the top 3 and many bad picks this year.
1) Jabari Parker (SF, 6’8, 240 lbs., Duke, Freshman) – While Wiggins is more hyped and a better talent, I feel Parker is a safer pick and with appropriate development, can be a Paul Pierce type. Parker is not afraid to take the big shot, can shoot from anywhere, is a high IQ player, and plays hard. While limited defensively and developing a go-to-move is a priority, I really think Parker can shine at the next level. With the bloodlines of his dad and a very mature mindset, I really think he should be a perennial all-star. In time, I think he can play power forward too.
2) Dante Exum (SG, 6’6, 200 lbs., 18 years old, Australia) – It is hard to get a read on this kid with limited exposure. However, he has a very mature game, is a very good athlete, can create for himself and others, has a very high IQ game, and plays hard consistently. Exum must add weight and develop a jumper. He has the game of a combo guard, comes from a father that played college ball, and reminds me some of Penny Hardaway. If he can develop his game, he could be the best player or just an average player. I’m taking a risk putting him above Wiggins, but I believe in his game.
3) Andrew Wiggins (SF, 6’8, 200 lbs., Kansas, Freshman) – Wiggins has the most talent in the draft. He can fly defensively, has a great vertical, and great lateral quickness. Wiggins has a great spin move offensively, has somewhat of a dribble drive game, and a developing perimeter shot. The tools are there. He should be one of the better players in the game and reminds me of Paul George. The issue for me is that he does not always play tough, shies away from contact, and is not consistent. Is this because he needs to add weight or simply lacks an edge? If he develops that nastiness, he probably will be the best player in the draft. It is just very rare that players develop that edge.
4) Joel Embiid (C, 7’0, 240 lbs., Kansas, Freshman) – Embiid has everything you want in a Center. He has good footwork, is a good defender in that he has good lateral quickness, can react and block shots, can rebound, has a good wing-span, has multiple post moves, plays nasty, and a developing mid-range jumper. He's developed all that despite playing only a few years. The obvious concern is his health. Embiid has obvious foot issues and back concerns that have come in the last few months. To me, not many centers recover from either very well. If his health checks out, he could be the best player in the draft. However, I sincerely doubt he will remain healthy over a long career. He is however a risk I would take after the top 3 picks and without injury concerns would be my number one prospect.
5) Elfrid Payton (PG, 6’4, 185 lbs., Louisiana Lafayette, Junior) – I am taking a big-time risk that he will max out his potential. As mentioned in the article I wrote, this guy should be elite defensively from the start. Payton can get to the lane at will has good height at 6’4, is very fast, and has a good basketball IQ. The only issue from being an elite prospect is his perimeter jumper. If Payton can overcome his lack of a jumper by finding ways to score in the lane, he can be very good. If he can add a mid-range jumper, he can be a perennial all-star. His game at his best would be similar to a Gary Payton type. If he maximizes the rest of his game including craftiness around the rim, but not much of a perimeter jumper, he is Rajon Rondo. If he can’t play offensively, he is basically a better defensive version of Patrick Beverley. Special talent.
6) Marcus Smart (PG, 6’3, 230 lbs., Oklahoma State, Sophomore) – Smart is a bulldog that gets after it all the time, great NBA body, good understanding of the game, and can set up others or self. Smart is great defensively and can guard point guards or shooting guards. With great anticipation, good body, and good understanding, he can bully opponents. Offensively, if playing point guard, Smart can post up or bully way into the paint. Smart really needs to develop somewhat of an offensive shot because some of his other skills will not work until he does. He does not have the blow-by speed like an Elfrid Payton nor does he possess the raw point guard skills. However, he is just a basketball player, and should do very well at the next level.
7) Gary Harris (SG, 6’4, 205 lbs., Michigan State, Sophomore) - Harris is not likely to be as good as some people I put below him, but he should be at the minimum an elite 3-and-D guy. While slightly undersized, Harris started to develop more of a slashing game at the end of the this college season. A concern, even though they are unrelated, have been his injuries that seem to pile up. However, recently, it was reported that Harris posted a 40’ vertical. My anticipation is that he is better than he showed even though he was very good his first two years. He plays hard and is a smart player.
8) Jusuf Nurkic (C, 6’11, 280 lbs., Bosnia, 19 yrs. old) – I’m concerned to put him here due to his conditioning. However, Nurkic is an intriguing talent to me due to his ability to seal off players, finish in the post, and show surprising agility. If he can keep his weight as is and keep developing, he will be a load to handle, particularly where the NBA is weak at center position.
9) Julius Randle (PF, 6’9, 250 lbs., Kentucky, Freshman) – A physical and relentless specimen, Randle gets after it all the time. A beast in the low block, Randle played bully ball against college opponents. While relentless, he struggled against height and there will be more height consistently at the NBA level. Occasionally, Randle showed the ability to take opponents off the dribble to get to the rack. The big key between being a player off the bench and being a player that can be really good will be developing a mid-range jumper. There were some concerns on what he showed, but I also have concerns on how Coach Cal coaches also. If Randle adds a mid-range jumper, he will be a top 5 player in this draft.
10) Nik Stauskas (SG, 6’7, 210 lbs., Michigan, Sophomore) – The best shooter in the draft with the ability to handle the ball. He is a super-charged Marco Bellinelli to me. Can he be more? Is his defense and lack of foot speed too much to overlook?
11) Noah Vonleh (PF, 6’9, 250 lbs., Indiana, Freshman) – Coach Crean did not use Vonleh the right way at all. Vonleh has a great amount of skills, size, and length to be a very good player. I see many skills, but I don’t know one particularly well that he is dominant at. If Vonleh is coached well and developed, he could be a star. He can shoot from three, but it was few attempts, he can post, but only has one move right now, and he is built. However, I can’t tell if it was lack of coaching, being raw, or knowing his identity, but I just see a player that showed he doesn't know the game yet. There are also reports that he came to some of the workouts out of shape. To me, Vonleh is a boom or bust player. The only truly consistent thing I see besides potential is rebounding.
12) Doug McDermott (PF, 6’8, 235 lbs., Creighton, Senior) - To me, the second best shooter in the draft. McDermott is one of the best scorers in college history. He can shoot all over, post up smaller opponents, or take opportunistic times to take players off the dribble. He is somewhat slow and will have big-time struggles defensively. Very smart player that is one of the safer players in the draft. Players below might be more successful, but McDermott will be more consistent.
13) Kyle Anderson (SF, 6’8, 230 lbs., UCLA, Sophomore) – Anderson to me is a little bit of a riser. He is so skilled and is a slo-mo player. Anderson is able to use angles to create for others and himself. He developed a perimeter shot this year and is one of the best ball-handlers in the draft. If he can put on weight to be a smaller Power Forward, I think he can make winning plays for a winning team. However, he is a tweener right now with many great ball skills but atrocious defensive. That said, I just like his ball skills and would take that risk for the right team.
14) Shabazz Napier (PG, 6’1, 175 lbs., UConn, Senior) – I keep going back and forth on this cat. I never underestimate this guys heart and he has some skill. My concerns are will he cause friction in a locker room or will teams like his competitiveness. The guy can score, shoot, and is feisty defensively. I don’t think he will be a star, but I do think he can be a good point guard.
15) Jarnell Stokes (PF, 6’9, 260 lbs., Tennessee, Junior) – This guy is a load on the boards and is very skilled. He will set smart screens and has quick lateral speed for a guy his size. I think he will be a good system player, but other players show more potential. I would still take him as the more I study his play the more I like him.
16) Dario Saric (PF, 6’10, 220 lbs., Croatia, 20 yrs. old) – A very skilled player that can play power forward and small forward. Saric can handle the ball solidly, is a feisty competitor, and plays hard. He can defend a little but being 220lbs and an average athlete may struggle to transition his defense to the NBA. Down the road, the potential along with a good basketball IQ is tremendous. I just wonder if he can get bigger to being a mismatch or will he always be a tweener? Teams will also have to wait at least two years on him after he recently signed a new contract to stay in Europe.
17) Aaron Gordon (PF, 6’9, 220 lbs., Arizona, Freshman) – Probably should have this guy ranked higher, but his tweener status and desire to be a small forward concern me. Defensively, this guy could wreak havoc against small forwards with his length, speed, and basketball IQ. Offensively, Gordon does not really show much outside of passing. However, if he can get his mindset to be a power forward and develop a mid-range jumper, he could be dangerous. If he sticks to power forward and uses that mentality, he is a top 6-7 player in this draft. Will he do that? I’m not interviewing him, so I don’t have the answers.
18) Bogdan Bogdanovic (SG, 6’6, 205 lbs., Serbia, 21 yrs. old) – The more I study on him, the more I like him. Very savvy player that plays hard. I think the fact that he can handle the ball, has defensive potential, and is a solid shooter, has me intrigued. Can he develop the skills to become above average in the league?
19) Jabari Brown (SG, 6’4, 205 lbs, Missouri, Junior) – A capable 3-and-D guy. Brown showed vast improvement in his ability to put the ball on the ground but some of his finishes will not translate to the NBA. He is also a little bit of a black-hole. However, I see a 3-and-D guy and a good pick later in the draft.
20) Adreian Payne (PF, 6’10, 240 lbs., Michigan State, Senior) – I am intrigued by him, but don’t think he will ever be more than a solid role player. A guy that at 6’10 has good lateral quickness, can shoot the 3, and has a post-up jump hook, he shows solid tools. He plays hard, but can only play so many minutes due to health concerns. He makes questionable decisions and can be too weak in guarding power forwards. I still see a guy that can provide spacing, toughness, and good d on pick-and-rolls.
21) Mitch McGary (C, 6’10, 265 lbs., Michigan, Sophomore) – Presents great size, sets hard screens, can rebound, great passer, solid lateral quickness defensively, is a smart basketball player, and can hit a mid-range jumper. What is not to like? I like McGary more than several prospects listed above him. He also has major back concerns and supposedly some major maturity issues. If he can correct the maturity and the back is not an issue, this kid is a winning ball-player. I just have concerns for big-guys that take a whole year to recover from back issues at an early age.
22) C.J. Wilcox (SG, 6’5, 200 lbs., Washington, Senior) – The more I’ve studied the more I like him. He is mainly a 3 point shooter, but an elite one at that while being a solid athlete. I think in the right system, he has potential to be an elite shooter off the bench while not being a liability defensively.
23) Rodney Hood (SF, 6’8, 210 lbs., Duke, Sophomore) – I like Hood and I love his shot at his size, solid athleticism, and solid basketball IQ. He also shows a good dribble off the bounce to get to mid-range. Hood, however, gets blown by regularly defensively and struggles with toughness. The skill is there, but there are reports that he struggles with anxiety recently. My concern is can he play through that when things get tough. If he does, he will be a good player. If not, he might have some major concerns at times.
24) Jordan Adams (SG, 6’5, 210 lbs., UCLA, Sophomore) – Very skilled player offensively that can create a little, shoot the ball above average, and get to mid range. Adams is a very savvy player. He also has some major concerns with lack of foot speed and major lack of vertical. Is he skilled enough to overcome his weaknesses?
Russ Smith (PG, 6’1, 165 lbs., Louisville, Senior) – Smith may never make it in the league, but I just love his heart, being an average shooter, but mainly his aggressiveness and speed in the game. Smith will never be a point guard in this league. However, he has a chance to be an elite bench player that can score in bunches while harassing opponents defensively.