Class of 2014: Top Junior Prospects
It is a given that many of the top players in a class will leave as freshmen or sophomores. But some talented players take time to develop at the college ranks, and that often results in a more NBA ready prospect. Last year Thomas Robinson and Damian Lillard both had breakthrough junior seasons to skyrocket up draft boards. Kemba Walker is a prime example in 2011, as he became a lynchpin for UConn's championship in his third season of college basketball.
After a couple weeks of seeing them in action, here are our top 15 junior prospects generating NBA draft buzz:
Top 50 Junior Rankings
1. Andre Roberson 6-7 210 SF Colorado Jr.
Roberson has to be in the conversation as one of college basketball's top rebounders. He has size and athleticism that at times are reminiscent of Shawn Marion, at least in his ability to crash the boards. His offense is still a work in progress, as is his free throw shooting. What makes him stand out is the toughness and defense he brings on the wing. Roberson definitely has teams attention for his role in Colorado's NCAA tournament bid last year and he is expected to be allowed to show more wing ability this year with some added help up front. Roberson may have somewhat of a tweener's game, but with his athleticism being off the charts, he tops our list of juniors.
2. Lorenzo Brown 6-4 180 PG/SG NC State Jr.
There were times last season when Lorenzo Brown would absolutely carry the North Carolina State Wolfpack. Brown proved he can handle the lead guard position as he was 2nd in the ACC in assists, averaging 6.3 last season. He has size that many covet and while he's skinny, he shows true PG skills. Things he will look to improve upon will be cutting down on turnovers and gaining more consistency as an outside shooter. He's got a strong team around him and the ball firmly in his hands.
3. CJ Wilcox 6-5 190 SG Washington Jr.
Washington had two guards go in the first round of the 2012 draft and neither were the team's most consistent shooter last season. Wilcox has shot over 40% from long range in each of his college seasons. In addition to his long range shooting, he can put the ball on the floor and explode off of the court as well. His defense is an area that needs work and it will be interesting to see how he responds to life as the primary option.
4. Deonte Burton 6-1 185 PG Nevada Jr.
His point guard skills may leave some skeptical, just know that Deonte Burton has go to scoring ability. He was the leader of a solid Nevada team and was constantly hitting huge shots in his sophomore season. With long arms and a quick first step, Burton will look to get his teammates more involved this season, while improving his shot selection. Losing a couple of pieces inside, he will asked to do a lot this season and appears up to the task. The Wolfpack may not be the best team in the Mountain West, but they should have the best PG in Burton. He has NBA team's attention after a strong showing at the Deron Williams Skills Academy this past summer.
5. Doug McDermott 6-7 225 SF Creighton Jr.
After finishing runner-up in the CBI as a freshman, Doug blew-up as a sophomore while leading the Bluejays to the NCAA Tournament. The NCAA's leading returning scorer, McDermott is among the favorites for National Player of the Year honors as well. His shooting is of course the first thing many look at, as he has high percentages from the field and three point range. McDermott has also been a very solid rebounder and has a very high IQ of where to be on the court. Expectations are high, but Doug has lived up to them and then some for his first two seasons.
6. CJ Fair 6-7 235 SF/PF Syracuse Jr.
Playing a valued role in the rotation for a strong Syracuse team last season, Fair will be expected to pick up even more of the slack this year. Already a pesky defender, Fair's gaining weight should make him even more deadly on that end this season. The major key will be the development of his outside game, as he is much more of a slasher than anything else right now. Fair still can help on the glass as a SF and he definitely has athleticism that could turn him into a role player at the next level. With Kris Joseph now playing for the Celtics, one could see Fair's role being similar if he shows improvement in his offensive wing ability.
7. Keith Appling 6-1 190 PG Michigan St. Jr.
Appling steadily progressed during his first two seasons at Michigan State and appears ready to take his game to another level as a junior. He's become more than just a flashy athlete, adding the ability to play under control and make good decisions as the primary distributor and ball handler. Appling has stand out athletic ability and an excellent ability to create shots. If he delivers as we expect, look for him to grab a spot in the first round in the next two seasons.
8. Sean Kilpatrick 6-4 215 SG Cincinnati Jr.
Kilpatrick is a scoring machine, and despite being undersized, he has received first round talk from scouts. He's got a strong body and shows no fear in taking the ball to the basket. He has good touch from the perimeter and should be one of the top scoring threats in the Big East. Kilpatrick had a solid showing at last summer's adidas Nations and has received first round discussion from NBA scouts.
9. Gorgui Dieng 6-10 245 PF/C Louisville Jr.
Louisville was one of the top defensive teams in the nation last season, expected to be amongst the best again this year. A huge reason is that Gorgui Dieng has become a post anchor in their zone. His body has been transformed and he has become an intimidating shot blocker with a long reach. Also a solid rebounder, he has a developing offensive game that will be crucial to his draft status. He will of course needs to work on a post game and staying out of foul trouble. Dieng is a little mechanical in his movements, though he is not really a bad athlete given his size. Having center size and characteristics should put Dieng on a NBA bench next season. His recent broken wrist is expected to have him sidelined for the next 4-6 weeks.
10. Allen Crabbe 6-6 210 SG California Jr.
Having filled out his frame considerably during his time at Berkeley, Crabbe will hope to show a more complete overall game this season. His greatest weapon has been his outside stroke, hovering around 40% from 3-point range. With Cal losing valuable seniors, Crabbe will assume a larger scoring role. Hopefully added strength will help him absorb contact while getting to the foul line. Crabbe also has shown value as a rebounder at the college level and has shown an ability to find teammates. Defensive ability will be something to monitor as well. Still, after two really solid seasons at the Pac-12 level, Crabbe's production and size at the off guard position garner notice.
11. Tim Hardaway Jr 6-6 190 SG Michigan Jr.
Like his Dad, Hardaway Jr. plays with great intensity. He shows excellent athleticism and the ability to score in a variety of ways. What he's lacking is a first step to get by opponents off the dribble, and quick feet to be a bigtime defender. Hardaway has had an excellent start to the season and some feel he is knocking on door for the first round. The Wolverines are one of the top teams in the country and he along with backcourt mate Trey Burke and freshman sensation Glenn Robinson III are the catalysts.
12. Patric Young 6-8 250 PF Florida Jr.
One thing that Patric Young does not need to worry about is having the brute strength to fit in at the NBA level. Young has a sculpted body and wide shoulders that are made for playing in the post. Young's biggest issues are from a skill set perspective at the offensive end. Though he showed some flashes of a low post game last season, he displayed next to no range away from the basket. He can dunk, but one wants to see more versatility from a player who may not have ideal height or length to play in the post at the next level. His rebounding is not bad, though it could also use improvement, especially on the defensive side of the court. Young certainly has the body NBA teams covet, just has to show more of the basketball attributes.
13. Alec Brown 7-1 225 C Wisconsin Green Bay Jr.
The talented 7-footer out of the Horizon League will have scouts flocking out to Green Bay. The Minnesota native has center size and a smooth offensive skill set. Brown has gained a lot of weight in his first few years on campus, though he still will have to add more. What makes him different is his ability as a perimeter threat with a soft shooting touch. His size also makes him a shot blocking threat, though he will need to show improvement on the boards. Match-ups against non-conference foes will be key, though expect him to get another chance to show his stuff at pre-draft camps. If the season goes as planned, expect to see him in Chicago early June.
14. Dwight Powell 6-9 220 SF/PF Stanford Jr.
Powell is coming off an injury plagued sophomore season in which he struggled to play to his abilities. He's long and athletic and if he can find a position and impress scouts he's got tremendous upside. He still needs to add a good deal of weight but his feel for the game appears to be developing nicely. He has started off his junior year very well, as it appears the injuries and struggles that he had last season are behind him.
15. Ray McCallum 6-1 190 PG Detroit Jr.
A McDonald's All-American at the high school level, McCallum decided to turn down major offers to play for his father at Detroit. His first two seasons were successful, but he can really break out this season. Ray does not take your breath away as an athlete, but he has nice change of speed and is quite strong. Not incredibly long, he uses smarts and fundamentals as a defender to still be effective. A major key for Ray to move up draft boards will be the development of his outside shot. He certainly helped himself by having a strong showing at adidas Nations this summer, now he will have to hope it translates to a junior season that grabs scouts attention.
CJ Leslie 6-8 200 SF/PF NC State Jr.
Leslie has shown flashes of being a special player during his two seasons at NC State. He has had his share of highlight dunks and monster blocks that make him a fan favorite. The question just is, where does he fit on a NBA team? Lacking the necessary girth to a be a PF and the wing skills one might covet on the perimeter, he needs to show what makes him valuable at the pro level. The mental game will be a major thing for Leslie this year, his focus has to be evident. Leslie certainly has the ability to be ranked much higher than this, but he needs to provide answers as to where he can play on the court at the next level
Dewayne Dedmon 7-0 255 C USC Jr.
Dedmon is three years older than his class being a 1989 born player but the fact that he picked up the game late gives him some added interest. His body has not had to withstand the same wear and tear that the average 23 year old bigman has. While his feel for the game and offensive skill set remains extremely raw, he does show a nice form on his shot and some decent touch in around the basket. He struggled with injuries last season, so proving that he can stay healthy will be key. Bigmen with his level of athleticism are a rarity so it's no wonder that NBA scouts remain intrigued despite his lack of polish for an older player.
Jamaal Franklin 6-5 195 SG/SF San Diego St. Jr.
After getting limited PT as a freshman, almost everyone knew the name Jamaal Franklin by the end of his sophomore season. The reigning Mountain West player of the year, Franklin is a big time athlete who stepped up in big games for a strong SDSU team. Averaging almost 8 rpg, Franklin showed versatility on the wing and displays solid effort on both sides of the floor. The question is to which wing position he will play at the NBA level and his size limits his abilities as a SF. More consistency on his outside shot will be a goal this year, as will a tightened handle along with better decision making.
CJ Aiken 6-9 200 PF St. Joseph's Jr.
Shot blocking is an art that CJ Aiken has mastered during his first two seasons at St. Joseph's. The amazing thing is that Aiken rarely got into foul trouble while swatting away 3.5 bpg. This skill may set him apart, along with his speed for a player his size, but Aiken still has a lot to prove. His slight frame leaves one wondering how well he will translate to PF at the next level. His improvement as a rebounder will definitely be monitored as well. Aiken also just turned 22 years old, which does not exactly bode well for his chances of bulking up much. One to watch, but he has a ways to go before being much more than a project.
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Wilcox has been balling out lately! 11-13 shooting en route to 27 points last night in a big win vs. st.louis
why are people not higher on Jamaal Franklin? He's a baller I don't care if he is undersized for the three or considered a combo player. Half the people in the draft are combo players nowadays. He has good length and skills for the perimeter, great rebounding and athleticism. I don't see why he can't at least go late first round this year especially considering how weak this draft is looking. I personally think he could go late lotto.
Underrated player, but will be under everyone's radar by the end of the season..... 7'1 tall can shoot the three, agile, pass, and good developing post moves with great jump shots. Already put on some muscle weights. recently scored 19pts 12reb game against Argentina senior (luis scola, andres nocioni, ginobli, delfino etc) for his native Canada.
Justin Cobbs of California is seriously an underrated player, probably because people don't know about him or perhaps because he's overshadowed by Allen Crabbe. Let me tell you, watch Cal play one game and I guarantee you your mind will change. Cobbs is averaging 20 ppg shooting 64% and 40% from three, 5.2 rpg, 3.7 apg, and 1.5 spg. Yes, all these number (besides maybe rebounds) don't necessarily translate to the NBA, but Cobbs combines good size at 6-3 with high-level athleticism, along with good intangibles and decision-making. In fact, I'd go as far to say that Justin Cobbs might even be a better prospect than Allen Crabbe, simply because he is such a great slasher and has excellent finishing ability at the rim. And what's a great slasher worth without the ability to draw fouls and finish at the line? Cobbs is shooting an 88% free throw percentage with 6 makes out of every 6.8 attempts. Absolutely remarkable. Michael Visenberg or any of the writers for NBADraft.net, enlighten me on what you think about Cobbs and explain to me why he's not even mentioned in this article.
Saw Cobbs in the DirecTV Classic and agree with everything you say. I'd like to watch him at least one more time before jumping on the bandwagon. To answer your question, Cobbs was a three star recruit coming out of Bishop Montgomery in So Cal. Three star recruits never get the benefit of the doubt. They are usually never taken seriously, as if players cannot get better. But another reason is age, he'll be 22 in March, and when you compare someone his age to a 19 or 20 year old, you have to take into consideration the improvement expected of the 5 star younger player. Most guys have a hard time with this, but I hope it answers your question.
these might be the worst rankings ever..cj leslie not in the top 15?! and its not even like they forgot about him cause hes in the honerable mention..smh lol
The man plays point, but is a human turnover machine. In every game I've watched (4 or five so far) he makes bad decision after bad decision. Over dribbling, over penetrating, poor shot selection. I haven't seen ONE game this year that would make me as a GM do anything than wait until after his Senior year, watch him at the PIT and give him an invite to my Summer League roster.