7 years ago, the 2014 Draft Class was loaded with talent. But nobody expected the following 10 players to blossom into great players in the modern NBA. But this season, we are seeing how deep the class was. The league is loaded with talent and the 2014 draft picks are having field days in both conferences.
Here are the 10 players in the 2014 Draft Class who have become great players in 2021. By analyzing their impact, stats, and growth as players it is clear to see that their potential is getting higher by the year. It is time to rank the 2014 prospects until we have the best in the world at the moment.
10. Marcus Smart - All-Defensive Team Performer
Marcus Smart was drafted by the Boston Celtics in 2014 as the No. 6 overall pick. The stocky guard made the All-Rookie Team thanks to his defensive play and has since made 2 All-Defensive Teams with the Celtics. In terms of hard-nosed defense and a willingness to improve his outside shot, Smart is one of the key players in Boston's system.
Some things are important which do not show up on the stat sheet. Hustle is arguably the most underrated aspect of a player's impact on the court. Marcus Smart, the defensive stalwart of the Boston Celtics, does this better than most players in the league and his value is truly high in the league.
9. Jordan Clarkson - Favorite for 6th Man Of The Year
Clarkson has been the best bench player in the NBA for the best team in the NBA. Clarkson is a go-to scorer off the bench and has been the most consistent 6th Man candidate since the start of the season. As good as Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert have been, Clarkson’s scoring (18.1 PPG) has been arguably key for Utah's hot start to the season.
Clarkson is well ahead of the pack for the 6th Man of the Year race and it hasn't been too close. In terms of offensive explosions off the bench, the Filipino guard has taken the biggest leap of his career. Utah will need Clarkson to be at his best in the postseason because they will truly need it.
8. Aaron Gordon - Flourishing In Denver Alongside Nikola Jokic
Aaron Gordon is one of the best dunkers we have ever seen, but he has developed into more than that. Coming into the league as an explosive athlete with the No.4 overall pick, Gordon has had his ups and downs as a two-way forward. But finally, he has found a home in Denver after he was acquired for basically nothing. Alongside Jokic, Gordon has a chance to be very dominant.
Gordon is 6'8" and 235 lbs, meaning he has the size and ability to defend 4 positions when needed. Gordon has strength, vertical ability, and tremendous explosiveness. That fits well alongside Jokic who plays below the rim, and Denver will be a problem for years to come if Gordon stays with the team.
7. Jerami Grant - Most Improved Player Candidate
Jerami Grant came into the league as a defensive forward with the No. 39 pick. Grant played big roles alongside Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City and also in Denver with Nikola Jokic. But he is having his best season yet with the Detroit Pistons. In 54 games with the Pistons, he is averaging a career-high in 22.3 PPG.
Grant is still an effective defensive forward but he has taken the scoring responsibility with ease. He can explode to the rim, hit the three, and is capable at the stripe when he's fouled. Grant's prior highest-scoring season was 13.6 PPG in his final year with the Thunder, so his play has been a revelation this year. Expect many teams to be interested in trading for the versatile forward this season.
6. Clint Capela - Double-Double Machine And All-Defense Team Performer
Clint Capela blossomed into one of the best defensive centers in the NBA with the Houston Rockets. In 6 seasons with the Rockets, he averaged 12.2 PPG and 10.4 RPG to go along with 1.5 BPG. Not too bad for the No. 25 pick from Switzerland.
This season, Capela has been a legitimate star for the Atlanta Hawks. He is putting up 15.2 PPG and 14.3 RPG while locking down the paint for the 5th seed in the Eastern Conference. Capela is expected to be on an All-Defensive Team this year and his double-double ability has been impressive, to say the least. Capela is the NBA's leading rebounder and nobody expected this kind of production out of him when he was drafted.
5. Andrew Wiggins - Becoming A Great Defensive Player With The Warriors
The No.1 overall pick in the 2014 draft, the Cleveland Cavaliers traded his rights to the Minnesota Timberwolves for All-Star Kevin Love. While Love ended up winning a title with the Cavaliers, Wiggins had a difficult start to his career. Wiggins is averaging 19.5 PPG in his career so his numbers have been solid, but he has faced a lot of criticism.
There have been doubts about the attitude of Wiggins, as All-Star Jimmy Butler made obvious to the world. But Wiggins has put these claims to rest this season, taking a step in his defensive ability. Wiggins is 6'7" with tremendous athleticism, so he is finally breaking through as a dominant defensive player for the Golden State Warriors who have a chance to be in the postseason.
4. Julius Randle - Best Player For Knicks Who Are Making Playoffs As A 4th Seed
Julius Randle is in his bag this year. After spending a few years as a paint player with the Lakers without a jumper, Randle has become an All-Star and one of the best frontcourt players in the Eastern Conference. Randle is averaging 24.1 PPG, 10.2 RPG, and 6.0 APG while nailing 41.1% of his threes. Nobody would have expected this out of him.
Randle looks leaner, more confident, and more explosive than ever. Without Julius Randle playing like an All-Star, the Knicks do not comfortably sit in the 4th seed with a chance to progress out of the first round of the playoffs. With Randle leading the charge in New York, the Knicks are very likely to continue building a great team with a chance to be a contender.
3. Zach LaVine - Developing Into A Superstar
Zach LaVine shocked the world with his Dunk Contest victories, but he has taken his game to another level. With the No. 13 pick in the draft, LaVine was taken by the Minnesota Timberwolves. In his rookie season, LaVine averaged 10.1 PPG and 3.6 APG. Just 6 years later, LaVine is an All-Star and one of the best scorers in the NBA.
LaVine is averaging 27.4 PPG, 5.0 RPG, and 4.9 APG while draining 41.9% of his threes. LaVine has a legitimate sniper in his arsenal and his ability as a shooter cannot be understated. The star shooting guard is climbing the ranks as a superstar and his potential could be groundbreaking for the Chicago Bulls.
2. Joel Embiid - Potential MVP Runner-Up
Joel Embiid is finally dominating the game as he should be. As arguably the only center in the league who has all the physical gifts and talent on his side, the only thing remaining for him was to focus on being dominant. Like a young Shaquille O'Neal, Embiid is doing just that. He is averaging 28.5 PPG and 10.6 RPG while swatting away 1.4 BPG.
Embiid has the Philadelphia 76ers with the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference and has a chance to capture the MVP Award. He would run away with the award in most circumstances if not for the play of a particular center in Denver. Nonetheless, Philadelphia have their franchise superstar and remaining patient with their No. 3 pick has paid off tremendously for them.
1. Nikola Jokic - MVP Favorite
Nobody expected a rather skinny fat center to go on and become the favorite for the league MVP. Jokic has been out of this world, holding his own as a triple-double threat every night. In all 72 games of the season so far Jokic has averaged 26.4 PPG, 10.8 RPG, and 8.3 APG. Nikola Jokic is unstoppable on offense and his raw size makes him a factor on defense as well.
Jokic has taken a big step every season of his career, and as a 26-year old, The Joker might be the best big man in the game. Jokic has made the Denver Nuggets bonafide title contenders single-handedly, and he led them to the Western Conference Finals last year. It will be tough to repeat that again this year without Jamal Murray, but Jokic has the talent to make it happen.
Credit for an idea: u/Tboi96 (NBA Reddit)