While he may not lead the pack, Kansas center Joel Embiid comes in ahead of Duke’s Jabari Parker and Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins when it comes to ESPN.com’s annual analytic projections of NBA Draft prospects.
Led by Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart and three foreign-born players, ESPN.com’s Kevin Pelton’s list breaks down 14 core statistics along the lines of two-point percentage and rebound percentage to their NBA equivalents. Interestingly, despite all of the hype surrounding this year’s draft class, none of the players scored higher than last season’s top-ranked player in Kentucky center Nerlens Noel. Though widely considered to be the consensus top three, Embiid, Parker and Wiggins come in sixth, seventh and nineteenth, respectively.
Some highlights on the top three players:
[Joel] Embiid drops a bit because his statistics are regressed more than other top NCAA prospects, as he played relatively few minutes due to his back injury and foul trouble. Those factors are concerns, but Embiid’s projected true shooting percentage ranks fourth among players in Ford’s top 30, and he projects in the top 25 percent of past center prospects in rebound, steal and block rate, highlighting his defensive potential.
Among likely NCAA first-round picks, only Doug McDermott has a higher projected usage rate than [Jabari] Parker, who should be able to create his own shot immediately. In time, he should also become an efficient scorer, and he’s a good enough rebounder to handle either forward spot. The questions about Parker almost entirely center around his defense.
A possible No. 1 pick, [Andrew] Wiggins didn’t perform like one during his lone NCAA season. Wiggins is better than his projection because of his potential as an on-ball defender, but nothing in his stat line suggests likely superstardom. In particular, his projected usage rate (18.8 percent) is unspectacular for an NBA-bound wing, highlighting the improvement Wiggins needs to make handling the basketball.
This list is pertinent if only because of how the Cavaliers implement analytics along with their eyes and ears in addition to how closely their picks seem to have been aligned over the last several seasons.
In 2011, Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson were ranked Nos. 1 and 3, respectively, by John Hollinger. In 2012, Dion Waiters was listed by Hollinger as the highest-rated wing, placed ahead of Bradley Beal—he was moved below Michael Kidd-Gilchrist only due to size—and ultimately ranked fourth ahead of Andre Drummond and Damian Lillard. And in 2013, Pelton dubbed Anthony Bennett as the “only player in the top 30 without a statistical weakness” who was dinged only due to his age.
Photo: Greg Nelson/SI