By Charles Glover, Jr.
On Thursday June 26, 2014, the National Basketball Association (NBA) will hold its annual draft and as usual there is intrigue surrounding the top pick. Even with top prospect Joel Embiid’s foot injury and subsequent surgery, there is great anticipation for the landing spots of other top prospects like Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, and Julius Randle.
However, there are always players that receive less attention heading into the draft and end up becoming valuable players. This past year’s NBA Rookie of the Year winner, Michael Carter-Williams, was drafted 11th overall by the Philadelphia 76ers. Two years ago Damian Lillard won NBA Rookie of the Year after being drafted 6th overall by the Portland Trailblazers. Additionally, this year’s NBA Finals MVP, Kawhi Leonard, was drafted 15th overall in the 2011 draft by the Indiana Pacers (and traded on draft day to the San Antonio Spurs).
This year there are three players that are a bit under the radar, but can make a significant impact in the near future if they go to the right team that provides the best situation.
Zach Lavine (Guard) UCLA: Lavine is expected to be drafted somewhere in the middle of the first round but has top of the first round talent. The 19-year-old 6’6″ guard has dynamic athleticism as illustrated by his 41.5″ vertical jump at the NBA combine. Additionally, Lavine is a combo guard with good ball-handling skills and shooting ability. His inconsistent performance in his only season in college has scouts unsure of how he will translate to the next level. The best fit for him would be the Charlotte Hornets as the 9th pick. His offensive skills, defensive ability, and athleticism would blend excellently with a Hornets team that needs to improve its perimeter play.
Adreian Payne (Foward/Center) Michigan State: Payne is expected to be drafted towards the end of the lottery and there are 14 lottery picks. The 23-year-old senior is ready to contribute right away and sports an impressive 7’4″ wingspan on his 6’10” frame. He is an excellent shooter, making 42 percent of his three-point attempts his senior year in college. He needs to improve on defense but can immediately help a team that can use frontcourt scoring. An ideal fit would be the Denver Nuggets with the 11th overall pick. Their team suffered numerous injuries last season and could be ready to turn things around quickly with a healthy roster and talented draft pick or two.
Cleanthony Early (Small Forward) Wichita State: Early is expected to be drafted towards the end of the first round. The 23-year- old senior gained notoriety with his fantastic play during the NCAA tournament this year. At 6’8″ Early has good size for his position and has demonstrated an ability to create his own shot while also being able to shoot from the perimeter. He has to show improvement on the defensive side but he will be a great addition for a playoff team looking to add bench scoring immediately. The ideal place for Early would be 21at overall, going to the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder have struggled to get consistent scoring from players not named Durant or Westbrook. The team can remain in position to contend for a championship next season with the addition of player like Early who can make an impact right away.–OnPointPress.net–
Charles Glover Jr. is a sports aficionado and a management training consultant. Follow me @OpenWindowMES on Twitter.com.