Cleanthony Early, Doug McDermott Lead Impact Seniors In 2014 NBA Draft

Cleanthony EarlySo-called “one-and-dones” might be controversial, but they also dominant the 2014 NBA draft board.

The top four players in NESN.com’s mock draft are college freshmen, and that is not atypical. The first and only upperclassmen projected to go in the lottery in most mocks is Creighton’s Doug McDermott.

Yet even though the kids have the upper hand, a few of their elders are still worth an extended look. McDermott is the headliner, naturally, and the field of promising NBA prospects is not as long for outgoing college seniors as it his for outgoing freshmen. Still, seniors can bring a maturity, often coupled with a winning pedigree, that could be valuable at the pro level.

As you agonize over taking Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker or Joel Embiid with the No. 1 pick, these seniors are worth being aware of while evaluating the draft class of 2014.

Doug McDermott, Creighton (F, 6-foot-8, 210 pounds). Among the most popular NBA draft hot takes is, “Will McDermott score in the NBA like he did in college?” The answer is simple: Of course he won’t. McDermott averaged more than 22 points per game in each of his last three seasons. He finished as the fifth-leading scorer in NCAA history. He won’t put up point totals like that in the NBA, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be a versatile shot-maker as a pro.

Adreian Payne, Michigan State (PF, 6-10, 245). NBA teams nowadays love big men that can shoot, and Payne could be the best one available. He memorably rained in four out of five from downtown in the first round of the tournament and shot 42 percent from deep on the season. He brings an added dimension of rebounding to complement his shooting ability.

Cleanthony Early, Wichita State (SF, 6-8, 220). In the right situation, Early’s catch-and-shoot potential and length on defense could make him a highly valuable pro. Though not a go-to guy by any stretch, he has the tools to be a capable complementary player given his off-ball skills.

Shabazz Napier, UConn (PG, 6-0, 180). We have written so much about Napier already, but there seems to be increasing confidence that he will at least develop into a competent backup as a pro.

Deonte Burton, Nevada (PG, 6-1, 190). Elite athleticism and the ability to run an effective pick-and-roll make Burton a strong instant-impact candidate in this draft. He looks for his own shot first, though, something that he may have to change at the next level.

C.J. Wilcox, Washington (SG, 6-5, 195). Wilcox is as pure a shooting guard — as in, the ability to shoot, not the position — as there is in this draft. His handle is suspect and his slashing ability is questionable, but he has a nice stroke and the length to defend the wing.

Russ Smith, Louisville (PG, 6-0, 165). An insanely productive scorer given his size, Smith might find it hard to duplicate his efforts in the NBA. He is incredibly small, not just short but light, too, and he’s projected at the point merely because of his size. He averaged more than 18 points per game over his junior and senior seasons, which gave the Cardinals what they needed but might have hampered his development as a distributor.

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