For the anticipated top prospects in the draft, particularly the handful of “franchise” freshmen, the college basketball season started with all the tumult and glamour of a NASA launch. The top hoops talent outside the NBA blew the doors off from the get go.
Then came December, and its drifts of snow, and its shrill meandering winds, turning a race that had been a record-paced sprint into a muddy slog. We learned quickly just how good many of these players can be when things are going well. Going forward, its time to see how many will keep pace even when they stumble, and competition ratchets up, and opponents scheme more avidly and aptly to stop them.
Thus far, here are those churning through the slog (all statistics current as of Dec. 8th):
Andrew Wiggins, SF — 6’8” and 197 lbs; 18 years old; Freshman, Kansas. Comp: Kobe Bryant.
My rank: 1st; Draft Express rank: 1st; NBADraft.net rank: 3rd
2013-2014 Stats: 15.3 pts, 5.5 rbs, 1.4 asts, 1.1 stls, 0.6 blks, 1.4 tos, 51% FG, 33% 3P, 66% FT
The rumblings are starting to get louder. Parker is just so good and so polished and so NBA ready now! Embiid is just so freakishly big and athletic at the same time! Exum is so tall and long and, well, he just looked great that time at the place where some guys saw him play! There’s even some anonymous NBA scout griping Wiggins is “Kansas’s third-best freshman.” I don’t buy it. To be clear: right now, Wiggins is not the best college player in the nation. He isn’t top five, or even close, in my opinion. He does disappear in games. His jump shot isn’t consistent. He hasn’t frequently taken control of games, even when it is clear he has the ability to do so. That doesn’t matter a lick. Five years from now, he is not only likely to be the best player in this draft, but possibly a top ten player in the NBA. His numbers thus far are comparable to Ben McLemore’s as a freshman and Wiggins looks like he has yet to really start trying. The anonymous NBA whisperers questioning Wiggins as the first overall pick have only one motive: to do anything possible to increase the chance their team gets a chance to grab him. It will take a lot to unseat Wiggins in this race; it hasn’t happened yet.
Jabari Parker, SF/PF — 6’8” and 241 lbs; 18 years old; Freshman, Duke. Comp: Carmelo Anthony.