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Do High School 'Stars' Lead To NBA Success?

As high school rankings gain added intrigue for college basketball fans in the one-and-done era, I couldn’t help but wonder how often the recruiting experts get it right. Do the stars correlate with not only collegiate success, but professional success as well? Of course there’s the LeBron James and Kevin Durant breeds, both five-stars, but also those who slip through the cracks such as Damian Lillard, a former two-star.

I decided to take each playoff roster and break down how each player was ranked by the Rivals.com database coming out of high school. The database was created in 2002, so any player who came out of high school earlier would not be qualified. As a result, I broke my findings into multiple categories.

First, I made seven categories with 5 Stars, 4 Stars, 3 Stars, 2 Stars, 0 Stars, and a pair of “Not Applicable.” The “N/A (Age)” category described players who graduated high school earlier than 2002 and therefore were not in the database. The “N/A (Int’l)” category was used to differentiate international prospects, who aren’t ranked by Rivals.com.

I then split the NBA players into three groups from this weekend’s set of games: Starters, reserves who played over 10 minutes of action, and the rest of the roster.

What the results showed are that most of the time, the rankings held true. Of the 80 NBA Playoff starters this weekend, 29 were ranked as 5 Stars out of high school. The next highest category was the “N/A (Age)” category, which certainly would have had more 5 Stars if the database had been older. For example, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, David Lee, and Zach Randolph were just some of the McDonald’s All-Americans who likely would have been considered 5 Stars.

Another 12 starters were International prospects, 11 were 4 stars, and seven were 3 Stars. Damian Lillard was the lone 2 Star not only in a starting lineup, but also in the entire playoffs. George Hill and Jimmy Butler were the only 0 Stars be in a starting lineup.

When it came to the reserves who played over 10 minutes and the rest of the playoff roster, the results were fairly mixed. There were more players who were too old for the Rivals database in both categories, while the 5 Stars, 4 Stars, and 3 Stars were somewhat even.

As a whole, the NBA playoffs consists of 51 5 Stars and 50 “N/A (Age).” The next highest category was in the 4 Stars, with 35 total, followed by 29 International prospects and 28 3 Stars. There’s a smaller chance for 2 Star and 0 Star prospects to make an NBA roster, but it’s far from impossible.

It’s safe to say that the recruiting experts usually get it right. Sure, there are some misses, but five star prospects are usually the top NBA talents. There are bound to be some “busts” and underrated prospects who outperform expectations, but the experts are right more often than not. At the same time, it doesn’t mean a 5 Star is guaranteed an NBA deal, or a 0 Star has no shot at earning an NBA contract.

This was certainly an interesting research project, but would be even more interesting 10 years from now when most of the league has a high school recruiting profile. Will there be another Damian Lillard?

Interesting Notes:

-The only starting lineup that consisted of purely 5 Stars was the Charlotte Bobcats. Josh McRoberts was the biggest surprise, who left Duke after his sophomore year, but has has developed into a key piece for Charlotte.

-Houston was the next closest team to have the full 25-star starting lineup, with a total of 24 stars. Patrick Beverly, a 4 star prospect, was the lone starter for the Rockets who wasn’t a 5 Star.

-Some surprising 3 Stars included Stephen Curry, Paul Millsap, Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Roy Hibbert.

-The “sleepers” are usually point guards. Of the eleven 0 Stars, five were point guards (Hill, Jeremy Lin, Norris Cole, Patty Mills, C.J. McCollum).

The Complete Results Are Below:

5 Stars: 29
4 Stars: 11
3 Stars: 7
2 Stars: 1
0 Stars: 2
N/A (Age): 18
N/A (Int’l): 12

Reserves Over 10 Minutes
5 Stars: 9
4 Stars: 11
3 Stars: 10
2 Stars: 0
0 Stars: 3
N/A (Age): 16
N/A (Int’l): 8

The Rest
5 Stars: 13
4 Stars: 13
3 Stars: 11
2 Stars: 0
0 Stars: 6
N/A (Age): 16
N/A (Int’l): 9

5 Stars: 51
4 Stars: 35
3 Stars: 28
2 Stars: 1
0 Stars: 11
N/A (Age): 50
N/A (Int’l): 29

Atlanta Hawks
PG: Jeff Teague (4 stars, Wake Forest)
SG: Kyle Korver (N/A, Creighton)
SF: DeMarre Carroll (3 stars, Missouri)
PF: Paul Millsap (3 stars, Louisiana Tech)
C: Pero Antic (N/A, Yugoslavia)

Reserves Over 10 Minutes
PF: Elton Brand (N/A, Duke)
SG: Louis Williams (5 stars, High School)
PG: Shelvin Mack (3 stars, Butler)
PF: Mike Scott (3 stars, Virginia)

The Rest
SF: Cartier Martin (4 stars, Kansas State)
C: Mike Muscala (0 stars, Bucknell)
PG: Dennis Schroder (N/A, Germany)

Indiana Pacers
PG: George Hill (0 stars, IUPUI)
SG: Lance Stephenson (5 stars, Cincinnati)
SF: Paul George (3 stars, Fresno State)
PF: David West (N/A, Xavier)
C: Roy Hibbert (3 stars, Georgetown)

Reserves Over 10 Minutes
PF: Luis Scola (N/A, Argentina)
SG: Evan Turner (4 stars, Ohio State)
C: Ian Mahinmi (N/A, France)
PG: C.J. Watson (3 stars, Tennessee)

The Rest
PF: Lavoy Allen (3 stars, Temple)
SF: Chris Copeland (0 stars, Colorado)
PG: Donald Sloan (4 stars, Texas A&M)
SG: Rasual Butler (N/A, La Salle)

Brooklyn Nets
PG: Deron Williams (4 stars, Illinois)
G: Shaun Livingston (5 stars, High School)
G: Joe Johnson (N/A, Arkansas)
F: Paul Pierce (N/A, Kansas)
C: Kevin Garnett (N/A, High School)

Reserves Over 10 Minutes
SF: Alan Anderson (N/A, Michigan State)
C: Andray Blatche (5 stars, High School)
SG: Marcus Thornton (3 stars, LSU)
C: Mason Plumlee (4 stars, Duke)
PF: Mirza Teletovic (N/A, Bosnia)

The Rest
C: Jason Collins (N/A, Stanford)
PG: Jorge Gutierrez (3 stars, Cal)
SF: Andrei Kirilenko (N/A, Russia)

Toronto Raptors
PG: Kyle Lowry (5 stars, Villanova)
SG: DeMar DeRozan (5 stars, USC)
SF: Terrance Ross (4 stars, Washington)
PF: Amir Johnson (4 stars, High School)
C: Jonas Valanciunas (N/A, Lithuania)

Reserves Over 10 Minutes
PG: Greivis Vasquez (4 stars, Maryland)
PF: Patrick Patterson (5 stars, Kentucky)
SG: John Salmons (N/A, Miami (FL))

The Rest
PF: Tyler Hansbrough (5 stars, North Carolina)
PF: Chuck Hayes (N/A, Kentucky)
PG: Nando de Colo (N/A, France)
SG: Steve Novak (3 stars, Marquette)
SF: Landry Fields (3 stars, Stanford)

Golden State Warriors
PG: Stephen Curry (3 stars, Davidson)
SG: Klay Thompson (4 stars, Washington State)
SF: Andre Iguodala (4 stars, Arizona)
PF: David Lee (N/A, Florida)
C: Jermaine O’Neal (N/A, High School)

Reserves Over 10 Minutes
SF: Harrison Barnes (5 stars, North Carolina)
F: Draymond Green (3 stars, Michigan State)
PF: Marreese Speights (4 stars, Florida)

The Rest
PG: Steve Blake (N/A, Maryland)
SG: Jordan Crawford (3 stars, Xavier)
PF: Hilton Armstrong (3 stars, Connecticut)
C: Ognjen Kuzmic (N/A, Yugoslavia)

Los Angeles Clippers
PG: Chris Paul (5 stars, Wake Forest)
SG: J.J. Redick (4 stars, Duke)
SF: Matt Barnes (N/A, UCLA)
PF: Blake Griffin (5 stars, Oklahoma)
C: DeAndre Jordan (5 stars, Texas A&M)

Reserves Over 10 Minutes
PG: Darren Collison (4 stars, UCLA)
SG: Jamal Crawford (N/A, High School)
SF: Danny Granger (N/A, New Mexico)

The Rest
SF: Hedo Turkoglu (N/A, Turkey)
C: Ryan Hollins (0 stars, UCLA)
SF: Jared Dudley (0 stars, Boston College)
SG: Willie Green (N/A, Detroit)

Memphis Grizzlies
PG: Mike Conley (5 stars, Ohio State)
SG: Courtney Lee (3 stars, Western Kentucky)
SF: Tayshaun Prince (N/A, Kentucky)
PF: Zach Randolph (N/A, Michigan State)
C: Marc Gasol (N/A, Spain)

Reserves Over 10 Minutes
SG: Tony Allen (4 stars, Oklahoma State)
SF: Mike Miller (N/A, Florida)
PG: Beno Udrih (N/A, Yugoslavia)

The Rest
SF: James Johnson (4 stars, Wake Forest)
PF: Ed Davis (5 stars, North Carolina)
C: Kosta Koufos (5 stars, Ohio State)
PF: Jon Leuer (4 stars, Wisconsin)
SG: Nick Calathes (5 stars, Florida)

Oklahoma City Thunder
PG: Russell Westbrook (3 stars, UCLA)
SG: Thabo Sefolosha (N/A, Switzerland)
SF: Kevin Durant (5 stars, Texas)
PF: Serge Ibaka (N/A, Congo)
C: Kendrick Perkins (5 stars, High School)

Reserves Over 10 Minutes
SF: Caron Butler (N/A, Connecticut)
PG: Reggie Jackson (3 stars, Boston College)
PF: Nick Collison (N/A, Kansas)
PG: Derek Fisher (N/A, Arkansas-Little Rock)
C: Steven Adams (5 stars, Pittsburgh)

The Rest
C: Hasheem Thabeet (4 stars, Connecticut)
SG: Jeremy Lamb (4 stars, Connecticut)
SF: Perry Jones (5 stars, Baylor)
PF: Grant Jerrett (5 stars, Arizona)

Chicago Bulls
PG: Kirk Hinrich (N/A, Kansas)
SG: Jimmy Butler (0 stars, Marquette)
SF: Mike Dunleavy (N/A, Duke)
PF: Carlos Boozer (N/A, Duke)
C: Joakim Noah (4 stars, Florida)

Reserves Over 10 Minutes
PG: D.J. Augustin (4 stars, Texas)
PF: Taj Gibson (4 stars, USC)
SF: Tony Snell (3 stars, New Mexico)

The Rest
C: Nazr Mohammed (N/A, Kentucky)
PF: Lou Amundson (N/A, UNLV)
SF: Ronnie Brewer (4 stars, Arkansas)
PG: Jimmer Fredette (3 stars, BYU)
PG: Mike James (N/A, Duquesne)

Washington Wizards
PG: John Wall (5 stars, Kentucky)
SG: Bradley Beal (5 stars, Florida)
SF: Trevor Ariza (5 stars, UCLA)
PF: Nene Hilario (N/A, Brazil)
C: Marcin Gortat (N/A, Poland)

Reserves Over 10 Minutes
PF: Trevor Booker (3 stars, Clemson)
SF: Martell Webster (5 stars, High School)
PG: Andre Miller (N/A, Utah)

The Rest
PF: Drew Gooden (N/A, Kansas)
PF: Al Harrington (N/A, High School)
PG: Garrett Temple (3 stars, LSU)
SF: Otto Porter Jr. (4 stars, Georgetown)
C: Kevin Seraphin (4 stars, France)

Portland Trail Blazers
PG: Damian Lillard (2 stars, Weber State)
SG: Wesley Matthews (4 stars, Marquette)
SF: Nicolas Batum (N/A, France)
PF: LaMarcus Aldridge (5 stars, Texas)
C: Robin Lopez (5 stars, Stanford)

Reserves Over 10 Minutes
PG: Mo Williams (N/A, Alabama)
PF: Thomas Robinson (4 stars, Kansas)
SF: Dorell Wright (5 stars, High School)

The Rest
C: Joel Freeland (N/A, England)
SG: Will Barton (5 stars, Memphis)
C: Meyers Leonard (4 stars, Illinois)
PG: Earl Watson (N/A, UCLA)
PG: C.J. McCollum (0 stars, Lehigh)

Houston Rockets
PG: Patrick Beverley (4 stars, Arkansas)
SG: James Harden (5 stars, Arizona State)
SF: Chandler Parsons (5 stars, Florida)
PF: Terrence Jones (5 stars, Kentucky)
C: Dwight Howard (5 stars, High School)

Reserves Over 10 Minutes
PG: Jeremy Lin (0 stars, Harvard)
SG: Francisco Garcia (4 stars, Louisville)
C: Omer Asik (N/A, Turkey)

The Rest
PF: Josh Powell (N/A, N.C. State)
PF: Donatas Motierjunas (N/A, Lithuania)
SF: Jordan Hamilton (5 stars, Texas)
SF: Omri Casspi (N/A, Israel)
SG: Troy Daniels (3 stars, VCU)

Miami Heat
PG: Mario Chalmers (5 stars, Kansas)
SG: Dwyane Wade (N/A, Marquette)
SF: LeBron James (5 stars, High School)
PF: Udonis Haslem (N/A, Florida)
C: Chris Bosh (5 stars, Georgia Tech)

Reserves Over 10 Minutes
PG: Norris Cole (0 stars, Cleveland State)
SG: Ray Allen (N/A, Connecticut)
C: Chris Anderson (N/A, Blinn College)
SF: James Jones (N/A, Miami (FL))

The Rest
PF: Rashard Lewis (N/A, High School)
SF: Shane Battier (N/A, Duke)
C: Greg Oden (5 stars, Ohio State)
PG: Toney Douglas (4 stars, Florida State)

Charlotte Bobcats
PG: Kemba Walker (5 stars, Connecticut)
SG: Gerald Henderson (5 stars, Duke)
SF: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (5 stars, Kentucky)
PF: Josh McRoberts (5 stars, Duke)
C: Al Jefferson (5 stars, High School)

Reserves Over 10 Minutes
SG: Gary Neal (3 stars, Towson)
SG: Chris Douglas-Roberts (4 stars, Memphis)
C: Cody Zeller (5 stars, Indiana)
PG: Luke Ridnour (N/A, Oregon)

The Rest
C: Bismack Biyombo (N/A, Congo)
PF: Anthony Tolliver (3 stars, Creighton)
PF: D.J. White (5 stars, Indiana)
PG: Jannero Pargo (N/A, Arkansas)

San Antonio Spurs
PG: Tony Parker (N/A, France)
SG: Danny Green (4 stars, North Carolina)
SF: Kawhi Leonard (4 stars, San Diego State)
PF: Tim Duncan (N/A, Wake Forest)
C: Tiago Splitter (N/A, Brazil)

Reserves Over 10 Minutes
SG: Manu Ginobili (N/A, Argentina)
PF: Boris Diaw (N/A, France)
PG: Patty Mills (0 stars, St. Mary’s)
SG: Marco Belinelli (N/A, Italy)

The Rest
PF: Matt Bonner (N/A, Florida)
C: Jeff Ayres (formerly Jeff Pendergraph) (3 stars, Arizona State)
SF: Austin Daye, Gonzaga (5 stars, Gonzaga)
PG: Cory Joseph (5 stars, Texas)

Dallas Mavericks
PG: Jose Calderon (N/A, Spain)
SG: Monta Ellis (5 stars, High School)
SF: Shawn Marion (N/A, UNLV)
PF: Dirk Nowitzki (N/A, Germany)
C: Samuel Dalembert (N/A, Seton Hall)

Reserves Over 10 Minutes
PG: Devin Harris (N/A, Wisconsin)
SG: Vince Carter (N/A, North Carolina)
PF: Brandan Wright (5 stars, North Carolina)
SF: Jae Crowder (3 stars, Marquette)

The Rest
C: DeJuan Blair (4 stars, Pittsburgh)
PG: Shane Larkin (4 stars, Miami (FL))
SG: Wayne Ellington (5 stars, North Carolina)
C: Bernard James (0 stars, Florida State)

Notes From The 2014 Nike Hoop Summit

Five bigs could conceivably become the first five picks of the 2015 NBA Draft. All five of them (Jahlil Okafor, Myles Turner, Karl Towns Jr., Trey Lyles and Cliff Alexander) have been here this week in Portland at the Nike Hoop Summit and all five have radically divergent styles.

Okafor: The highly polished and graceful post scorer.

Turner: The raw athlete with the length to become a Defensive Player of the Year candidate.

Towns: The two-way, multi-dimensional seven-footer.

Lyles: The classic face-up power forward.

Alexander: The bruising hard hat big.

While Alexander has the least amount of talent and upside by a comfortable margin, the other four are remarkably close in terms of talent and how someone ranks them is an indicator of what they value most and least from a big.

Jahlil Okafor continues to look like the most skilled post prospect we’ve seen in years, with a blend of advanced footwork and quickness in spin moves to lose his defender. Okafor almost plays like an ice hockey player in the smoothness of his movements, yet he rarely leaves the ground unless he’s right at the rim and that is more length than lift.

Okafor lacks verticality in the post and not having a reliable jump hook is a liability when he goes to work against a defender as long and athletic as Turner or Towns.

Okafor won’t impact the game too significantly unless he’s the focal point of a team’s halfcourt offense. The World Select Team played a pressing halfcourt zone, which didn’t allow Okafor to get to work until late in the second quarter when they switched to man.

For most of the game, Okafor looked far more ordinary than I’ve seen him on other occasions. 

Myles Turner looks stronger and is also one inch taller since I last saw him in August. He is active on defense and a disruptor to anyone coming into the lane.

Turner is an injury concern due to how awkward he runs and lacks fluidity in his movements. Turner left the game in the second half with an injured ankle.

Turner already has a respectable jumper and hit one in the game just inside the three-point line, but it is doubtful he ever becomes a significant scorer.

Karl Towns had a better looking shot during the practice sessions than nearly anyone on the USA roster. He has the type of range on his jumper that most bigs don’t develop into very late in his career. Towns has the potential to be the best all-around big of this group because he projects as having the capacity to develop every critical aspect of his game.

Towns doesn’t have the athleticism of Turner or skill level of Okafor, but he can be a more active version of a healthy Andrew Bynum, who coincidentally went to the same high school in New Jersey. Similar to Bynum, his lack of seriousness in his approach to the game is concerning. Some players are capable of maximizing their potential regardless, but the fear that he plateaus in his development is legitimate.

Trey Lyles has the complete toolbox for a face-up big. He’s smooth and has a sophisticated game in the 10-20 feet range in the halfcourt. Lyles was more confident and aggressive here than he was at adidas Nations, but he still tends to disappear and has lapses of playing too soft.

Cliff Alexander is not especially skilled or athletic, but does all a lot of little things like boxing out, setting a big screen, etc., that add up to an effective big in aggregate.

Even though Alexander the best rebounder right now of the group, I’m far less bullish on him, but I also believe bigs with his type of skill-set are far less valuable.

Most of the perimeter prospects are not quite at the same level at this point, though Emmanuel Mudiay, Stanley Johnson and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk have been the most intriguing over the course of the week.

Emmanuel Mudiay was the best perimeter shooter of the week, which is particularly scary since he’s one of the biggest and strongest point guards with truly elite talent to emerge in recent years.

Mudiay can lose his man with ease off the dribble with sudden bursts of quickness and power that has some Dwyane Wade to it, but he too often dribbles sloppily into a black hole in the halfcourt and that part of his game will need to mature significantly in order for him to become an NBA starter.

Mudiay will play for Larry Brown at SMU and he’s absolutely capable and talented enough to play his way up draft boards all the way to No. 1 if he shows improved decision-making.

Mudiay had 12 points in the first half and dictated play for the World Select team, before finishing with a game-high 20 points. Mudiay had the most consistently impactful performance in the game and has the intangibles to become a franchise player.

Stanley Johnson is fearless going to the basket with the physicality of a football player. He was the toughest and most active player on the USA roster and is impossible to guard when he’s hitting from three because of how good he is driving the lane.

Johnson had a frustrating game, however, going 1-for-6 from the field.

Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk was a late addition to the roster and it was the first time nearly everyone has seen the 16-year-old out of Ukraine. Mykhailiuk appeared out of his element physically at times, but the purity of his shot and natural instinct were always there.

He turned the ball over on his first touch of the game curling around a screen, but had a nice assist on his next touch.

Mykhailiuk struggled badly with his three-point shot attempts in the first half as the speed of the game.

Mykhailiuk is a legitimate 6’6 and he already is an impressive athlete for his age. Mykhailiuk can dunk with ease on an alley-oop to himself off the backboard and his quickness in creating for himself off the dribble may become his most special ability.

Other Notes

Justise Winslow & Kelly Oubre: These two southpaw wings are extraordinarily similar on the superficial levels. They’re about the same the same height and have similar skill-sets, though Winslow is a little stronger. Both are physically more mature than most of the other players. Oubre has a better perimeter shot but appears prone to mental lapses and erratic misses, while Winslow is extremely serious and will clearly maximize his potential with his work ethic.

Winslow has enough skill and athleticism to convert on most of the opportunities his high motor creates.

With the possible exception of Tyus Jones, both players had the best games of any of the USA players with Winslow scoring 16 and Oubre finishing with 14.

Damien Inglis: One of the better perimeter shooters during the practice sessions, Inglis is an extremely long 6’8 due to his 7’3 wingspan. Inglis should become a useful 3 & D rotation player and has enough length and a wide frame to add strength to play small ball 4.

Inglis had good vision on a first quarter drive, finding Towns for an easy dunk. His playing time and usage was limited with Mudiay dominating the ball in the first half, but had a nice run in the second half.

Tyus Jones: A pure point guard with all of the leadership qualities you want from the position, Jones will undoubtedly have an outstanding college career at Duke. In terms of his NBA potential, it is difficult to gauge how special his skills are because he’ll need to be in order to become a start at that level due to his modest physical profile.

Jones is all runners and drive & kicks without a reliable jumper or sufficient athleticism to get to the rim.

Jones had a particularly strong second half with several key assists and steals to help USA pull away on their way to the 84-73 win.

Theo Pinson: Consistently a disruptor on the perimeter on both sides of the floor with his motor and length. The erratic nature of his game is alternately a benefit and detriment.

Jamal Murray: He picked his spots well with a strong shooting performance, hitting a pair of top of the arc three-pointers in the first half. There’s a lot of Leandro Barbosa in his game.

Clint Capela: The only player from this game that will be in the 2014 NBA Draft, Capela had two moments of impressive play for every seven frustrating ones throughout the week. Big project but he could certainly develop into a rotation big.

Draft Report: Joel Embiid Of Kansas

Ever since a back injury prematurely ended his freshman season, Kansas center Joel Embiid has been out of sight, out of mind when it comes to NBA draft discussions. Embiid, who declared for the draft on Wednesday, is far from a finished product, but he would dramatically improve every team in the lottery. There’s no one else on the draft who can replicate his impact on both sides of the ball. Embiid is the No. 1 prospect in 2014 and it isn’t really close.

Embiid had good statistics for a freshman - 11 points, 8 rebounds, 2.5 blocks, 1.5 assists and one steal a game - but they don’t fully capture how dominant he was. His biggest problem was foul trouble, which is what you would expect for a guy who started playing basketball three years ago. His per-40 minute numbers were outrageous - 19 points, 14 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.5 steals, 4.5 blocks and six fouls on 63 percent shooting. He’s a 19-year-old center with a 28.2 PER.

When Embiid was in the line-up, Kansas looked like one of the best teams in the country. Without him, they looked like a team that was replacing four senior starters and a lottery pick (Ben McLemore). Their tailspin at the end of the season coincided with Embiid’s absence. They went 3-3 in their last six games, including a loss to an NIT team (West Virginia), struggling with a 15-seed in the first round of the NCAA Tourney and losing to a 10-seed in the second.

Andrew Wiggins, his more celebrated teammate, had 41 points in the game against the Mountaineers, but he wasn’t making his teammates better. Without Embiid, Kansas couldn’t control the tempo of the game or protect the rim, allowing West Virginia to get the game going up-and-down and race out to a 50-38 halftime lead. Wiggins took 18 shots in that game, but he had only two assists on four turnovers. That’s not the ratio you want from your best player.

It’s much harder for a big man to rack up assists than a perimeter player, yet Embiid and Wiggins both averaged the same number on the season. When Wiggins gets the ball on the wing, he’s putting his head down and making a straight-line drive at the rim. When Embiid gets the ball in the post, he’s collapsing the defense and moving it back out. Even though he’s far less experienced, Embiid showed more court awareness than Wiggins this season.

For all the talk of Wiggins’ athletic ability on the defensive end, Embiid averaged only 0.3 fewer steals a game, despite spending most of his time in the paint. A great interior defender, as the second line of defense, is far more valuable than a great defender on the perimeter. Just by standing in the middle of the lane, Embiid covered up a lot of mistakes on the defensive end and made everyone better. There’s no way for a guard to replicate that kind of impact.

When people talk about the draft, everyone brings up Sam Bowie over Michael Jordan and Greg Oden over Kevin Durant. At the same time, you don’t hear many people talking about taking Evan Turner over Derrick Favors or all the teams that passed on Andre Drummond. The media would like you to believe that basketball games are won and lost by which team’s perimeter players can hoist more shots and “impose their will” on a game, but that isn’t the case.

If you make a list of the best centers in the NBA, you will start to notice a trend - they all play on really good teams. Dwight Howard, Marc Gasol, Joakim Noah, Tim Duncan, Roy Hibbert and Andrew Bogut are all centerpieces of good teams. The only good center on a bad team (DeMarcus Cousins) is the exception that proves the rule - he’s the rare center who doesn’t play much defense. If you paired him with Embiid, it would be a serious problem.

It’s no coincidence that Gasol, Noah, Duncan, Hibbert and Bogut all made the second round of the playoffs last season. The other three centers? Tyson Chandler, Chris Bosh and Kendrick Perkins. Unless you have LeBron James or Kevin Durant, you had better have a good center. In case you were wondering, there aren’t any 6’11 235 SG’s with a 7’4 wingspan or 6’9 270 point centers in this draft. Embiid is the one guy who brings instant credibility to the team that drafts him.

Embiid makes his teammates better on both sides of the ball. He’s the rare 7’0 who has a chance to be an elite defensive player and an elite offensive player. He has the physical ability to be a Defensive Player of the Year candidate and the skill-set to be indefensible in the low post. In terms of his ceiling, Embiid is more fluid offensively than Howard, more athletic than Gasol, more skilled than Hibbert and Bogut and much bigger than Noah. His ceiling is Tim Duncan.

There are a lot of parallels between Duncan and Embiid. Both picked up the game later in life - Duncan was an elite swimmer in the Virgin Islands, Embiid grew up playing volleyball and soccer. As a result, neither picked up the bad habits that plague modern big men. They aren’t trying to play point guard or shoot a bunch of 3’s - when you are bigger, faster and more coordinated than everyone you face, you don’t want make the game any more complicated than it has to be.

That’s the most intriguing thing about Embiid - he’s a 19-year-old still growing into his body, yet he’s already bigger and faster than most NBA centers. He won’t come in and dominate his competition as a 20-year-old, but he will be able to hold his own. Even if I had a center on my team, I would draft Embiid and make him a PF, just like Duncan. He’s fast enough to play on the perimeter and he shoots 69 percent from the free-throw line - he’s capable of playing out of the high post.

Andrew Wiggins is a great prospect, but there are super-athletic wings who can’t pass the ball in every draft. If Embiid never gets better, he is a more offensive-minded Tyson Chandler. An NBA team doesn’t get a chance to draft a 7’0 with his ability very often - there aren’t many drafts where Embiid wouldn’t be the No. 1 prospect. He’s the only player in this draft I would seriously consider tanking for. If the doctors clear him medically, you take Embiid without thinking twice.

Way Too Early Top 25 Projections

I break out my lineup-based projections model to predict the 2014-15 season.

Scouting The McDonald's All-American Game

Emmanuel Mudiay, Stanley Johnson, Jahlil Okafor and Myles Turner were on display in Chicago this weekend in what is shaping up to be an impressive freshman class.

Counting Down To Four

Why Bo Ryan deserved a Final Four trip, Michigan St.'s poor half-court offense, and other thoughts as we set the field for the Final Four.

Sweet Sixteen Day 2

A comeback, classic announcers, Michigan St.'s new closer, and Alex Poythress highlight Day 2 of the Sweet Sixteen.

Sweet Sixteen Day 1

What it means to have a Cole Aldrich moment, Scott Drew's enigmatic coaching, UCLA's three point defense, and Aaron Gordon's promotional video highlight Day 1 of the Sweet Sixteen.

All Stars Must Pass

If Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker arenít scoring, they have a hard time impacting the game. While they were eliminated, Julius Randle is in the Sweet 16 thanks to his career-high six assists against Wichita State.

NCAA Tournament Day 4

North Carolina is never predictable, Stanford's perfect tournament lineup, UK vs Wichita St., and Joe Harris' sleep habits highlight Day 4 of the NCAA Tournament.

NCAA Tournament Day 3

Saturday wasn't basketball, it was art.

NCAA Tournament Day 2

Baylor's late season surge continues, why this year's UCLA team is not last year's UCLA team, and other Day 2 observations.

NCAA Tournament Day 1

Aaron Craft, NC State's missed FTs, the irony of Cameron Ridley, and important facts like the worst graphic of the day.

Stats To Pick Apart The Bracket

The right way to measure hot teams, a different way to measure March coaches, and how teams have performed against the rest of tournament field.

Blue-Blood Cinderella

If you are looking for a high-major team with a middling seed to ride in your bracket, you could do worse than UCLA. Steve Alford has enough NBA-caliber talent to compete against any school in the field.

Major Conference Tournaments Underway

How good would Duke, Kentucky, Kansas, and Arizona be if their freshmen stuck around? I also check in on some seniors and the first day of the major conference tournaments.

The RPI Organizational Tool, Conference Tournament Nitty Gritty

Who would gain the most if we used the Kenpom rankings to organize opponents instead of the RPI rankings?

Injury Splits - March Edition

How well has Arizona played without Brandon Ashley? What about Pittsburgh without Durand Johnson? What about Colorado without Spencer Dinwiddie?

Roy Hibbert On Education, Common Sense As Pro Athlete

The extra seasoning Roy Hibbert received in four years in college as an athlete and person was vital to his eventual success. Then a plodding big man, he has transformed himself into a two-time All-Star with Defensive Player of the Year merits through hard work and patience.

Year Four to Six (The Hot Seat Years)

Today I present the probability a D1 college basketball head coach survives in his job for six years and I show the efficiency numbers for 4th through 6th year head coaches.

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