We've been so stoked on the 2014 NBA draft for so long, it's going to be hard to live up the hype right?
So far, so good.
A number of the top prospects in the draft looked terrific in their early action, but the first real test is coming Tuesday in Chicago in the Champions Classic. Kentucky plays Michigan State and Duke goes against Kansas on the same court Tuesday night. Together, those four teams have eight projected lottery picks and 13 projected first-rounders. Four others from those squads make our Top 100.
That's the most NBA talent-laden event I've ever seen.
So I'll use our first Big Board of the regular season to, in part, give you a preview of the Champions Classic (7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN).
Remember, the Big Board is a more detailed look at the top 30 players (essentially the first round of the NBA draft) from our Top 100. It tracks player movement and stock fluctuation as well as providing the latest intel from NBA scouts. We'll run this feature every two weeks for the entire season. Without further preamble, here's our second Big Board of 2014.
HT/WT: 6-8, 195
Freshman: No stats
The Wiggins backlash started before he had played his first game at Kansas, but if he plays like he did on opening night, he'll have nothing to worry about. While other freshmen put up better numbers, Wiggins showed off his multidimensional game Friday, with 16 points, three rebounds, two assists and three steals while shooting 2-of-4 from 3 and 5-of-9 overall from the field. Wiggins has the size, athletic tools and balance to his game to be a devastating NBA player down the road. His matchup against Jabari Parker on Tuesday should show off the two most well-rounded freshman wings in the country.
HT/WT: 6-9, 225
Freshman: No stats
Randle is a beast, and, appropriately, started the season in full "beast mode," putting up consecutive double-doubles. He had 23 points and 15 rebounds while shooting 6-of-12 from the field against UNC-Asheville, and then followed it up with 22 points, 14 rebounds and three assists against Northern Kentucky. We've been saying for several months that Randle's a legit contender to be the No. 1 pick in the draft, and if he plays every night like he did in his first two games, all 30 teams in the NBA will want to get their hands on him. Like Wiggins, there is a shocking lack of holes in his game for someone so young. With the athletic abilities he shows and his motor, he has the chance to be an NBA superstar. His matchup against senior big man Adreian Payne (another potential first-round pick) on Tuesday should be the first true test for Randle.
HT/WT: 6-6, 188
18.0 PPG, 4.0 RPG at FIBA U-19s
Exum did all of his work this summer in the FIBA under-19 championships, averaging 18 points and nearly four assists per game. He graduates from high school in Australia in December, and while he's flirted with going to college, a source close to Exum told Insider this week it's now very likely that he'll forgo the NCAA experience and head straight to the draft. While NBA scouts would obviously love to see him play against the top talent in America, what they saw this summer makes him a lock to be a top-five pick, and a potential dark horse for the No. 1 pick.