By Eugene Jones
With the NBA Draft just a few weeks away, many teams are looking to improve their teams by choosing among the exceptional talent this class has to offer. Headlined by the top prospects of Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, and Joel Embiid, the draft is deep, filled with many players who can make an impact immediately.
While this year’s draft should have great talent at the top, it also projects to be a deep draft as well. The 2014 draft should have some real diamonds in the rough. With that, we discuss five under the radar players – one at each position – that may make an instant impact for a franchise in the upcoming draft.
1) Elfrid Payton- University Louisiana-Lafayette
Junior point guard Elfrid Payton is the best kept secret coming into the NBA Draft. Averaging 19.2 points per game and 6 rebounds per game, along with 5.9 assists per game and 2.3 steals, he has shown he can become a two-way player in this league with his defense and playmaking abilities by penetrating the paint. However, to make an impact at the next level, his perimeter shooting will have to improve, as he shot just 26% from three and 61% at the free throw line. Taking care of the ball will also be a priority if Payton wants to become a successful point guard, as his turnovers increased each year in college. Still, his upside and young age will have general managers and scouts willing to take a chance on him come June.
Projected: Mid to late first round.
2) P.J. Hairston- Texas Legends (NBDL)
After being ruled out of returning for his junior year to the North Carolina Tar Heels, P.J. Hairston decided to take his talents to the NBA D-League to play for the Mark Cuban owned Texas Legends, where he would put many on notice of his talents. Playing 26 games, he scored 21.8 ppg, shooting 55% from inside the 3 point line while shooting 36% from beyond the arc. His strength and ability to shoot the ball gives him the opportunity to wreak havoc on the offensive side of the ball. Even though he has his strong suits, Hairston’s stock may drop due to troubles off the court and his inability to create offense for others, averaging less than 1 assist per game during his tenure in the D-League. However, Hairston has potential as a ‘high risk. high reward’ player who can pay huge dividends for a franchise.
Projected: Mid to late first round.
3) K.J. McDaniels- Clemson University
Coming from an ACC that was headlined by Duke, North Carolina and Syracuse, K.J. McDaniels was able to stand out and step into the upper-echelon of elite talent in the conference. His versatility and athleticism allows him to become a potential role player on a contending team, scoring 17.1 ppg and averaging 2.8 blocks per game as a 6’6” wingman. Although he presents great tangibles, he struggles at times on the offensive end with inconsistent shooting, and has a tendency to force his offense.
Projected: Late first round.
4) Adreian Payne- Michigan State University
Under the tutelage of head coach Tom Izzo, Adreian Payne is the hidden gem of this upcoming draft. Payne has a lot to offer an NBA franchise. He has a great, versatile offensive game, with a nice mix of size and athleticism at 6’10”. He also should be a positive locker room influence, and provides great intangibles and leadership. However, what Payne gives you on the offensive end, he takes away on the defensive end. Also, he struggles with low stamina, needs to improve his lower body strength, and he is foul prone. However, under the right coaching, Payne has a lot of potential and his ceiling is very high.
Projected: Lottery to mid first round.
5) Jordan Bachynski- Arizona State University
One of the more intriguing big men in this draft is this 7’2” center from Canada. Improving every season at Arizona State University, Jordan Bachynski averaged career highs in points, rebounds, and blocks, leading the nation with 4 rejections per game. He has shown his exceptional hands and feet on both end of the floor, showing his soft hands and ability to finish around the basket, while being able to guard the pick & roll effectively at the other end. His ability to guard the pick and roll effectively will be essential at the next level, given the amount of pick and roll NBA teams run. Bachynski is someone that can come to a team, fit into their rotation, and produce immediately.
Projected: Late first round to early second round.
As we await tonight’s NBA Draft, the depth of talent available this year can provide a boost to various teams. And even if a team cannot move up into the lottery, plenty of assets will be available that will pay off for teams in the future.