SEC’s Top 10 NBA Prospects
SEC's Top NBA 10 Prospects
The SEC is not really known for their basketball. They are the powerhouse conference when it comes to football, but some forget about the talent in this league once basketball season rolls around. SEC basketball will never live up to what the football league brings to the table, but there are plenty of talented players in this league that will end up on NBA rosters.
With the 2014 NBA draft set to be the biggest one in over a decade, it's easy to overlook the SEC. The highlight of the SEC this season will be the six incoming freshman that John Calipari has coming into Kentucky. He and Bill Donovan have ran this league for the past fives seasons, and both will be head of the class this again season, but those two coaches would be near the top of coaches in every conference in the country. Calipari and Donovan both bust their tails on the recruiting trails and bring top high schoolers to the SEC. As good as those two are, they are no longer the only coaches in the league luring big names in the SEC anymore. Cuonzo Martin, Johnny Jones and Mike Anderson have pro players on their rosters at Tennessee, LSU and Arkansas respectively.
Last year was a dismal season for the SEC; only three teams from the conference made the NCAA Tournament. With the amount of NBA players brought in by Kentucky's storied freshman class, as well as incoming freshman at Florida and LSU, and the returning players from various other teams, this league will put more than three teams in the NCAA Tournament this year. As a matter of fact, this is the best NBA talent this league has seen in the past four or five seasons. These are just the top 10 players in the SEC, but there are another 10 or so that have a good shot at being drafted.
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10. Jordan McRae
McRae is the second-leading returning scorer in the SEC. Last season, McRae was the best player on the Tennessee team, and one of the best players in the conference. McRae is a scorer in every sense. He can score going to the basket, off the dribble pull-up jumpers, catch-and-shoot and has three-point range. McRae also took over some of the point guard duties when Trae Golden was injured. He isn't a top-flight athlete, but he's no slouch either. McRae is a long-armed defender and plays passing lanes well.
9. Aaron Harrison
Harrison is often the forgotten Harrison twin. Aaron's twin, Andrew, is considered a big point guard, while Aaron is just a normal-sized shooting guard. What's often forgotten is that Aaron is a very good shooter. He will be one of the better shooters in the conference as a freshman. Aaron is also a chiseled athlete that locks perimeter players down on defense. He is a gifted shooter and plays with a very high motor. The biggest knock on Harrison is his lack of ball-handling, but if you can shoot and defend your position there will always be a spot for you in the NBA.
8. Patric Young
Young is a man. He has been terrorizing the SEC on the boards and low-blocks for what seems like a decade now. Young is very powerful and athletic, but not very graceful or agile. When it comes to rebounding and defending, Young is a top talent, but there is another aspect of basketball called offense. He is very limited on the offensive end, and in most cases needs an offensive rebound or a great pass to get any sort of production. Young's size and athleticism will get him drafted, but developing any offense will be key to him succeeding.
7. Jarnell Stokes
Stokes was playing a year ahead of his age group last season, so even though he's technically a junior, he is the age of a sophomore. Stokes, who is Adonis-like in his build, slimmed down in the offseason to be more light on his feet, but there is still plenty of bulk left on him. Stokes is a beast on the glass, and is the returning leader in the SEC in boards (9.6 rpg) He can score in the low-post thanks to strength, balance and a soft touch, but he needs to work on his jump-shot and free throw shooting.
6. Alex Poythress
Poythress had a disappointing freshman season at Kentucky, as he was unable live up to the one-and-done hype that surrounded him. Poythress has gotten bigger and is now 6-foot-9 and 231 pounds. At his new size, Poythress could play some small-ball power forward. He struggled last season with shooting off the dribble, but with a potential real-life point guard -- unlike last season -- he shouldn't have to create his own shot very often. He is very effective going towards the rim with or without the ball. Poythress is a very skilled and aggressive defender and rebounder. He is still rough around the edges, but the potential is evident.
5. Willie Cauley-Stein
Cauley-Stein is the best non-freshman prospect in the SEC. In his first season at Kentucky last year, Cauley-Stein seemed to improve more than any player in the country. He went from not even on the radar, to a guy who would have been a lottery pick if he came out last year. There are still things Cauley-Stein needs to improve on like his rebounding and low-post moves, but for now his length, athleticism and defensive acumen places him among the most desirable prospects in the SEC.
4. Chris Walker
Walker is a tweener, but in a good way. He isn't without a position like most PF/SF, he fits well at both the small forward and power forward spots. Walker is long, versatile and athletic. His shooting range goes out to the three-point line and can score around the basket. Walker has a good motor and uses his long wingspan to be disruptive on the defensive end. He needs to add a little more bulk before heading to the NBA, but if he jumps on that Patric Young workout regimen he should be alright.
3. Andrew Harrison
Anderw Harrison is the best of the Harrison twins, and most of that has to do with the position they play. Andrew is listed as a point guard, and he has some point guard abilities, but he is still more of a scoring-guard. When you are as big as Harrison is (6-foot-5), it's hard for teams to pass on you. He also has a big frame and can bully his way to the hoop with the best of them. Harrison struggles with his outside shot, so expect to see him work on that throughout the season.
2. James Young
Young is considered by many as the third-best prospect on the Kentucky team, but I have a feeling he will rise up draft boards all season long the way Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Victor Oladipo rose. When it comes to motor, athleticism and desire to win, Young is on the same level with MKG and Oladipo. As time goes, the rest of the country will see the passion with which Young plays with, and he will be in the top-half of every mock draft by seasons end.
1. Julius Randle
Randle is not only the best pro prospect in the SEC, he's also one of the best in the country. Randle is No. 2 overall in my 2014 NBA rankings. He is a very good athlete that has a well-rounded, polished offensive game. Randle will need to improve on his defense throughout this season, but that won't be a problem with John Calipari screaming at him from the sidelines. Randle will fit in offensively in the NBA the second he arrives, and if he can improve his shot out even further, he will be a lethal scorer from Day 1.