NBA Draft Superlatives: A Guide to the Draft’s Best Prospects


The 2014 NBA draft is loaded with talent across the board. Shaping up to be one of the deepest of all time, the draft features no shortage of players with elite, unique skill sets.

But which prospects are the best in each area?

Allow me to attempt to answer that question.

What follows is a wildly arbitrary breakdown of which prospects are the best at everything that matters – and many things that don’t.

Best Leaper: Zach LaVine

LaVine tied for the second-highest max vertical at the combine but followed up with a ridiculous 46-inch jump during a workout with the Lakers a few weeks later. That would have tied the all-time combine record held by Memphis’ D.J. Stephens.

A much lesser-known prospect, St. Joes’ Ronald Roberts, makes a pretty compelling case as well. No official vertical is listed for Roberts, but the video evidence is more than enough to put him in the conversation.

Best Runner: K.J. McDaniels

The junior recorded the top ¾ court sprint time at the draft combine (3.10 seconds). Scottie Wilbekin (Florida), Melvin Ejim (Iowa State), Glenn Robinson III (Michigan) and DeAndre Kane rounded out the top five. 

Best Hands: Eric Moreland

The Oregon State product has both the widest (12 in.) and longest (10.5 in.) hands in the draft. Elite handshaker.

Best Name: Cleanthony Early

This is a loaded name draft. Some real heavy hitters here. I mean, Bogdan Bogdanovic? Talk about a name you can build around.

After a couple down years, we might be looking at the best crop of names since the heralded ’94 class headlined by all-timers Eric Piatkowski, Dickey Simpkins and, of course, Lawrence Funderburke. “Murderer’s row” of NBA names.

Of course, there’s a ton of first name talent at the point guard position: Shabazz, Jahii, Elfrid, Scottie. Some nice abbreviations: K.J. McDaniels, P.J. Hairston, T.J. Warren. Even Jabari Parker is an underrated name. He’ll be a rare first-name-only star if he pans out (unfortunately, the same can’t be said for “Andrew”).

As great as those names are, though, Early is on another plain. A four-syllable first name? Are you kidding me?! 

Best Size: Walter Tavares

At 7-3 (with shoes), the Cape Verde Islands native is significantly taller than the average human being. Considered a fringe first-rounder, Tavares recently worked out in front of a number of NBA teams in New Jersey.

Best At Staying In Europe: Dario Saric

When it comes to staying overseas, Saric is in a league of his own. Widely considered the best European prospect in the draft, Saric signed a three-year deal with a Turkish club team that will prevent him from coming to the NBA for at least another two seasons. The move shouldn’t impact his stock much, though, as he’s still considered a mid-first-round pick.

Best Hair: Elfird Payton

There isn’t a Lucas Nogueira in his draft, but Payton is still the runaway winner.

Best Frame: Patric Young

Young measured in at 6-10 with shoes, 247 pounds and only 5.5 percent body fat at the combine. Basically, some team is getting a 6-10 middle linebacker. 

Best Accent: Dante Exum

Can’t wait for him to sign that first big Outback Steakhouse deal.

Best College Player: Doug McDermott

It’s easy to imagine what some of these guys would’ve done over a four-year career, but McDermott actually has the numbers to back it up. The fifth-leading scorer in NCAA history is not only the best college player in this draft, he’s one of the best college players of all-time. McDermott might not be Larry Bird, but he’s certainly not Adam Morrison either.

Best Defender: Aaron Gordon

Gordon’s numbers (1.0 blocks, 0.9 steals) don’t jump off the page, but he was arguably the best interior defender in the nation last season. His 3.3 defensive win shares were tops in the country at any position.

The draft is loaded with talented wing defenders as well, most notably Andrew Wiggins, Rodney Hood and K.J. McDaniels

Best Brother: Thanasis Antetokounmpo

Guess whose brother he is.

Best Playmaker: Kyle Anderson

The 6-8 Anderson is a point guard in a small forward’s body. Part Andre Miller part Lamar Odom, Anderson isn’t an impressive athlete, but he averaged 8.8 rebounds and 6.5 assists per game while putting up 14.6 points on 48 percent shooting last season at UCLA. If he lands in the right system, he could develop into one of the league’s more unique talents.

Best Shooter: Doug McDermott

P.J. Hairston has a strong case here, as do Nik Stauskas and Gary Harris, but the numbers don’t lie. McDermott shot nearly 45 percent from deep as a senior while attempting more than six threes per game.

Best Canadian: Andrew Wiggins

Easily the strongest Canadian draft class of all-time, Wiggins is clearly a cut above fellow countrymen Tyler Ennis, Melvin Ejim and Nik Stauskas. Three of the four are surefire first-rounders. 

Best Nickname: Russ Smith

Not a ton of nicknames to choose from here, but “Russdiculous” is strong. Very strong.

Best Finisher: Marcus Smart

A relentless attacker, Smart is the best guard in the draft at finishing around the rim.

Via Kirk Goldsberry of Grantland

Best At Leaving North Carolina Then Lighting Up the D-League: P.J. Hairston

Easy choice here. Hairston played two seasons in Chapel Hill before the school suspended him for the Fall 2013 semester for several rules violations. He left North Carolina after the fall semester, joining the Texas Legends of the D-League, where he averaged 21.8 points and 3.5 rebounds in 26 games.

Best At Getting Hurt: Joel Embiid

Everyone knows Embiid is a talented shot-blocker, rebounder and interior defender, but getting hurt just might be his best skill. He underwent surgery to repair a stress fracture in his right foot last week, which will keep him out of action for 4-6 months. Couple that with a back injury that caused him to miss the Big 12 and NCAA tournaments and you have one of the most injured top prospects in recent memory.

Best Fake Twitter Account: Jabari Parker

Twitter parody accounts are right up there with fireworks, spray cheese and Joe Alexander on my list of the worst things ever, but for some reason this is the one exception.

Best Mid-Major Player: Elfrid Payton

Sun Belt represent!! Payton has been the draft’s biggest riser since the end of the college season and will likely hear his name called in the late-lottery.

Best Rebounder: Jarnell Stokes

Julius Randle (Kentucky) and Roscoe Smith (UNLV) had slightly better rebounding numbers last season, but Stokes has the frame (6-9, 265) that suggests his ability will translate most smoothly at the next level.

Best At Sitting Courtside With Rihanna: James Young

Best Overall Prospect: Jabari Parker

I’ve been on Team Jabari all along. Yes, Wiggins has a higher ceiling, but Parker is the better player right now. Is there a good chance I’m wrong? Absolutely. It wouldn’t be the first time.*

*I’m not saying I purchased a Salim Stoudamire Hawks jersey the day after he was drafted, but I’m also not saying I didn’t.