ESPN’s Chad Ford surveyed executives and scouts from around the league on which college basketball star would be the #1 pick in the upcoming draft. Kansas phenom Andrew Wiggins collected the most votes, but the race is close. I pulled some excerpts from the Insider column:
1. Andrew Wiggins, SG, Fr., Kansas Jayhawks (17 votes)
He’s really destabilized the doubters in his first three games for the Jayhawks. Not only does Wiggins look the part physically and athletically, his performance on the court has been absolutely stellar. Through Monday, Wiggins is averaging 19 PPG, 5.5 RPG and shooting 58 percent from the field. “I think he can be a player that plays a lot like Paul George does,” one veteran NBA executive told ESPN.com. “He’s so smooth that at times it almost looks like he’s coasting. “
2. Julius Randle, PF, Fr., Kentucky Wildcats (10 votes)
“I think he’s the surest thing in the draft,” one GM said. “There’s nothing he can’t do and there just aren’t that many bigs in the NBA with that set of skills. He’s going to be a 10-time All-Star and will make a major impact on your team in Year 1. Wiggins might have a little more upside and [Parker] is so attractive as well, but if you take someone else, you’re really risking your job.”
3. Jabari Parker, SF, Fr., Duke University (9 votes)
Three weeks into the season, the bandwagon is starting to get really crowded again. Parker has just wowed, averaging 22.8 PPG, 8.2 RPG and shooting nearly 60 percent from the field and almost 67 percent from 3-point range in four games. His amazing 27-point performance against Kansas (especially that 19-point first half) caused the scouts in the NBA to rethink their position on Parker.
“I absolutely love him,” a different NBA GM said. “I love guys who just know how to play. Very few players at Jabari’s age are so sophisticated about the game. You see how he’s reading the floor and how he’s thinking the game and you can’t help but get excited. I remember when some guys were wringing their hands about Kevin Durant. Does he play defense? Is he an elite athlete? I just saw a killer out there who would do anything to win. I see that in Jabari.”
4. Dante Exum, PG, Australia (3 votes)
Don’t forget about Exum. This summer, he was the apple of every NBA scout’s eye and was really the first guy to get buzz as a possible contender to Wiggins’ hold on the No. 1 pick. It started with a stellar performance off the bench for the World Team at the Nike Hoop Summit and then carried over to a riveting performance in the FIBA Under-19 Championships.
What NBA scouts saw in Exum was a 6-foot-6 guard who could play the 1 and the 2 and seemingly had the perfect blend of athleticism and skill. He is very quick with the ball and gets to the rim pretty effortlessly. His jump shot is still a work in progress, but that might be the only real weakness in his game.
Oklahoma St. guard Marcus Smart is another name to keep an eye on. He dropped 39 points on Memphis last night.
So.. Who ya got?