Say hello to Andrew Wiggins. You'll be hearing his name a lot.
The members of the 2013 NBA draft class haven't even started signing their rookie contracts yet, but they've been selected. That means that us draft nuts have to turn to the 2014 class in order to get our fill of prospects set to join the ranks of professional basketball.
While the 2013 draft managed to become intriguing thanks to surprises at the top, it was still a weak class. Deep, sure. But weak.
The same can't be said about the 2014 class, which is just absolutely loaded with star power. If all these prospects, in their current form no less, had been eligible for the draft, the lottery would have looked completely different.
I'm guessing here, but only Ben McLemore, Trey Burke, Nerlens Noel and Victor Oladipo would have remained lottery picks. The Cleveland Cavaliers wouldn't have reached on Anthony Bennett, and he'd have gone tumbling out of the top 14. In fact, there's a solid chance no player from the current class would have gone in the top five.
Yep, the 2014 class is strong.
To determine the order here, I used the rankings from my article on title odds that directly followed the most recent draft. It was modified slightly so that only non-playoff teams (again, based on the title odds) would be in the lottery, and draft-day trades have been put into effect as well.
With that in mind, here's the way-too-early mock of the 2014 NBA draft.
Andrew Wiggins is as complete a package we've seen coming into a draft since LeBron James back in 2003. And yes, you may as well get used to that comparison.
Amazingly hyped before he even declared for school, Wiggins is a future superstar in the NBA. He's a lock for the No. 1 pick even without playing a single game for Kansas, which is saying something in a draft class as loaded as this one.
Wiggins will blossom into a fantastic two-way player. The small forward is already a fantastic defender who makes uses of his ridiculous athletic gifts on a nightly basis. With dribbling and shooting skills, his main source of improvement will lie in the passing department.
There's a reason teams are already thinking about tanking, and it's Wiggins.
The Charlotte Bobcats don't need to stick with either a shooting guard or power forward with this pick, which knocks Andrew Harrison, Jabari Parker and Aaron Gordon out of contention. Those three, Wiggins and Julius Randle form the clear top five this early in the process.
Randle is essentially offense personified from the power forward spot, as he'll show during his freshman season at Kentucky.
He's a living, breathing mismatch with his mind-boggling athleticism and ball skills. Add in some advanced post moves plus a mid-range jumper with expanding range, and you can see why he's such a promising recruit.
Expect big things from this Wildcat.
Archie Goodwin will help address the Phoenix Suns' deficiencies on the wing, but Jabari Parker would immediately solve them.
The incoming Duke small forward has been such a talented player for so long that his name is already known throughout more than just recruiting circles, and he has yet to play a game for the Blue Devils. When you watch him play, even at a high school level, you can just feel the offensive potential.
Parker may line up at the 3, but he's a dominant player with the ball in his hands. He can create off the dribble then pull-up, attack the rim or drain three-pointers, and he makes it all look fairly easy.
The versatile small forward must hone his defensive skills a bit, but given his athleticism and offensive talent, that would just be gravy at this point.
During the 2013-14 college basketball season, the easiest way to tell whether Arizona played on any given night will be to turn on SportsCenter near the end of the hour.
If you see an Aaron Gordon highlight, the Wildcats played. If you didn't, they had the night off.
Every single time Gordon takes the court, he's a constant threat to do something special. His athleticism can only be described as so jaw-dropping that your chin will be bruised from hitting the floor. Blake Griffin comparisons are sure to abound throughout his one and only season at Arizona.
Gordon's shooting must improve, especially if he wants to maintain the ability to slide over to small forward, but he's so athletic that he'll be able to dominate even if he doesn't shoot from outside the paint once during the season.
The first thing that stands out about Andrew Harrison is his size. He's a natural point guard, unlike his twin brother who will join him at Kentucky, but he towers over the opposition at 6'5".
Next, you usually notice the smoothness with which he plays. Even when Harrison explodes to the rim, he's under control. The point guard is quite adept at preventing mistakes, and he has a well-rounded offensive game that highlights both his scoring and facilitating skills.
Harrison's size and athleticism are his two primary assets when making the leap to the NBA, but we'll also get to see how much of a leader he is when he attempts to steer a young Kentucky squad to a title.
The Sacramento Kings could use a true point guard, so it's perfect that the last of the five über-elite recruits here lines up at the 1.
With Brandon Knight, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond locked into their spots for the future, it's time for the Detroit Pistons to find a franchise small forward.
Glenn Robinson III is a nice, versatile small forward who needs to spend his next season in Ann Arbor honing his long-range shot. He can already finish at the rim with ease, and he's a solid shot-creator who thrives on the defensive end of the court.
Defense was Robinson's speciality during the Wolverines' latest run, but that was partially due to the presence of Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. He'll now play a much more prominent part in the offense, and that should bode well for his development as a scorer.
Marcus Smart made a decision few players make nowadays.
Although he could have gone in the top five of the 2013 NBA draft with a chance to rise all the way up to No. 1, Smart spurned the ranks of professional basketball for a chance to have more success with the Oklahoma State Cowboys. It was a shocking decision, but it was also one that oozed confidence.
The combo guard is more of a natural point guard than anything else. His size is what allows him to line up at the 2 as well.
Smart's versatile skill set makes him special, as he can effectively function as the go-to scorer or a playmaker. He stuffs the stat sheet on a nightly basis, and he'll do that to an even greater extent with another year of college ball under his belt.
The Milwaukee Bucks, even if they retain both Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, can't afford to pass up Smart at No. 7.
Dante Exum may be listed as a combo guard, but much like Marcus Smart, that's due to his size and skill. It should be a positive not a negative, as the Australian guard is one of the few players who can claim to play both positions at a high level rather than struggling to fit into either.
There's a chance Exum won't be a lottery pick in 2014, but that's only if he chooses to play a year of college basketball before entering the draft. If he chooses to go from Australia to the Association, he's a near lock for the top 10.
Exum thrives off the dribble. He's terrific at creating his own looks, and he has the athleticism and explosiveness you'd typically expect from a premier shooting guard. Defenses live in constant fear that he'll either dart to the basket or pull up and sink a mid-range jumper.
The Orlando Magic found their shooting guard of the future in Victor Oladipo, but unless they deal Arron Afflalo for Eric Bledsoe, they're still looking for a player who can hold down the fort at the 1.
At the end of his freshman season with Kansas, Wayne Selden should write Andrew Wiggins a thank-you note for three reasons.
First, Wiggins is going to be the primary source of a lot of wins. Selden will certainly contribute at a high level, but this will clearly be the consensus No. 1 pick's team. And that ties into reason No. 2.
Selden, while he'll be getting constant attention from draft scouts and NBA front offices, won't be the focus of much media attention. He won't feel that pressure weighing him down every time he makes a move on the court.
Finally, Wiggins is going to draw a lot of the defensive attention, leaving this strong, sharp-shooting, shot-creating 2-guard to torture defenders attempting to stop him in one-on-one situations.
The two have the making of a legendary duo in Lawrence.
Dario Saric may have worked his way up into the lottery of the 2013 NBA draft, but he chose to withdraw his name and return to Croatia for another year of seasoning.
Obviously he's doing so in order to move up into the top 10, where the Atlanta Hawks will greedily snatch him up so that they can boast a Croatian, German and Brazilian in the same lineup during the 2014-15 season.
Saric is a fantastic shooter, but he brings a lot more to the table. His versatility can be staggering, as he creates shots off the dribble, finds teammates well and finishes around the basket with his 6'10" frame. Defense is a problem, but the combo-forward has time to work on that now.
Willie Cauley-Stein is one of the more intriguing prospects in this draft class because he has the potential to rise all the way up the board into the top five. He has that many tools.
A true 7-footer, Cauley-Stein somehow looks even bigger than that when he takes the court. He needs to add weight to take away from some of that perceived lankiness, but not if it comes at the expense of his explosive leaping abilities.
The big man is still figuring out how to score in bulk at the collegiate level, and his offensive game requires a good bit of seasoning before it's palatable. That said, his defense is excellent right now, and he could become one of the game's elite rim-protectors.
Andrew Wiggins made it one, Wayne Selden made it two, and Joel Embiid makes it three Kansas Jayhawks going in the lottery here. Only one team can beat that mark in this 2014 mock draft. Take a wild guess which one.
Embiid is a massive physical specimen, but he's not yet a great basketball player.
At 7'0" with a 7'5" wingspan, the center already weighs 240 pounds, and he'll likely bulk up a bit more during his days in Lawrence. He's not going to get pushed around at Kansas, nor will he in the NBA.
Embiid will make a name for himself with great defensive play, but he's definitely a project on offense. It will be a while before he can live up to his full potential.
As for the Los Angeles Lakers making this pick, consider it my way of predicting that Dwight Howard goes elsewhere.
Believe it or not, that's two Croatian players going in the lottery portion of the 2014 NBA draft. Dario Saric was the first, and now Mario Hezonja joins him after being taken by the Portland Trail Blazers at No. 13.
Hezonja projects as a shooting guard, but he's a good enough athlete to play small forward and fit in at Rip City. His 6'6" frame will help with that as well.
The 18-year-old runs the court well, and he's a great scorer from all areas of the court. He can spot up and drain three-pointers, attack the basket and use his athleticism to finish plays or pull up after creating his own shot off the dribble. If the focus of a defense lapses, Hezonja already knows how to make them pay.
Plus, his age allows him to have tons of potential left in the tank.
The Philadelphia 76ers get this pick, their second in the lottery, thanks to the New Orleans Pelicans. As part of the Jrue Holiday deal, the bayou residents agreed to send over their 2014 first-round pick, unless it was in the top five.
Philly has already taken Andrew Wiggins in this mock draft, giving them Michael Carter-Williams, Wiggins, Thaddeus Young and Nerlens Noel to build around, so now it's time to take a shooting guard. James Young, the fourth Kentucky Wildcat off the board, is clearly the best choice.
A left-handed sniper, Young projects as a premier "3 and D" player. He's got lock-down potential on the defensive end of the court, primarily because of his quickness and athleticism, and he already displays a smooth stroke from behind the three-point arc.
It will be tough for him to do much more in Lexington due to the number of offensive options Kentucky possesses, so look for him to do everything possible to show off his defensive prowess.
We're already out of the lottery in this mock draft, and Gary Harris is only the fourth player who has played even a second of basketball at the collegiate level. That's another example of just how strong this class is.
The Michigan State product doesn't create his own shot particularly well yet, but he's another elite "3 and D" guy. Plus, the Boston Celtics have no need for ball-dominant players while Rajon Rondo is still running the show at the point.
Harris also brings a certain element of athleticism to the table. He's by no means the elite athlete that many of the lottery guys are, but he knows how to torque in the air and finish around the basket.
The Spartan flew under the radar during his freshman year, but don't expect that to continue next season.
Remember when James Michael McAdoo seemed to be a possible No. 1 pick in the future?
Back in February of 2011, the forward was projected by DraftExpress to go at No. 2 whether he declared in 2012 or 2013. So much for that, as he's now returning for a junior season at North Carolina and might not sniff the lottery.
The problem was that McAdoo never thrived in a go-to role. He couldn't carry the Tar Heels during their down years, and his efficiency waned as the volume went up. McAdoo is improving the range on his jumper, but he's still not a true alpha male out on the court.
He's a safe pick because he has a high floor, but the ceiling is falling fast here.
Mitch McGary burst onto the scene during March Madness, throwing up monstrous numbers for the Michigan Wolverines. So many draft followers fell in love with his game despite the sample size, and now McGary is returning to Ann Arbor to prove they were right.
The versatility is staggering for a 6'10" power forward with relatively limited athleticism. He's a physical presence in the post, but his game also shows off a lot of finesse.
He'll be one of the better passing big men in college basketball this season, and he'll also score in volume now that Trey Burke isn't eating up most of the opportunities.
McGary would do great things for the Washington Wizards, who need to eventually find replacements for their veteran big men.
Jerami Grant is going to rise up the draft boards during his sophomore season at Syracuse. He only played 14.3 minutes per game as a freshman with the Orange, but he was solid whenever he stepped onto the court.
A 6'8" small forward with a 7'2" wingspan, Grant is one of those guys who does all the little things. He's a hustle player, and he thrives cutting to the basket and running the floor in transition.
Grant should receive far more playing time during his second year under Jim Boeheim, and he'll likely develop into a defensive ace. Plus, there's a chance he can maintain his shooting stroke from the outside after hitting 40 percent from the outside during the 2012-13 season.
The small forward is a bit of an unknown commodity, and he could realistically go anywhere in the first round after what's certain to be a breakout season for the Orange.
The Indiana Hoosiers are losing Cody Zeller, Victor Oladipo and Christian Watford, but they're adding Noah Vonleh. So that's a wash, right?
Vonleh is all about offense right now, and he'll have to develop his defensive game to move up the boards in 2014. Right now, he projects as a great scorer, but that's about it.
The future Hoosier has physical tools and skills with the ball in his hand. He's a great dribbler and can score with his jumper from both mid-range and behind the three-point arc. That said, it's all about his body right now.
Vonleh is a natural small forward, but he stands 6'9" with a remarkable 7'4" wingspan.
The Minnesota Timberwolves will eventually need to replace Andrei Kirilenko, and that's the purpose of this high-upside pick.
The Denver Nuggets pick up this pick from the New York Knicks, who are still giving away draft picks for the Carmelo Anthony trade a while back.
With the No. 20 spot, the team grabs this combo-guard out of Colorado. Spencer Dinwiddie is more of a natural point guard than shooting guard, but his 6'5" frame allows him to capably line up at the 2.
Dinwiddie has great speed and athleticism for a floor general, and he doesn't lose any of it when the ball is in his hands. Defenders have a tough time staying in front of him, especially when he comes out of the triple-threat position with a quick first step.
His three-point shooting has been mercurial, and it's time for him to make it more consistent during what figures to be his final season as a Buffalo.
Let's get the obvious out of the way: It's hard to look cooler than Isaiah Austin. Between the Baylor uniforms, futuristic goggles and lanky frame, he just looks like he's too cool for school.
And after his sophomore season with the Bears, he will be.
The Golden State Warriors could use another big man to add some depth, and Austin is the best option on the board. He's a highly skilled offensive player who possesses nice touch on his jumper and can expand his range all the way back behind the three-point arc.
Austin needs to bulk up quickly, but his length has been enough to compensate for his lack of strength thus far during his collegiate career.
T.J. Warren is a potent scorer from the small forward spot, although he could look a bit worse without Lorenzo Brown feeding him the ball. He averaged 12.1 points per game on 62.2 percent shooting from the field, as a freshman, and those numbers will now go in opposite directions.
The 6'8" sophomore isn't particularly great at creating his own shots, and that needs to change quickly. He'll likely average upwards of 16 points per game, but don't be surprised when the percentage drops below 50.
Warren also struggled defensively as a freshman, so that's another area that needs improvement. As the perception of his scoring takes a bit of a dip, other aspects of his game must rise as compensation.
Rasheed Sulaimon's stock is directly tied to how well he shoots the ball during his sophomore season.
He's a solid defender and slasher who shows some nice in-air instincts, but it's all about what he does from behind the arc.
As a freshman for the Duke Blue Devils, he made 1.4 three-pointers per game on 37.1 percent shooting. Both of those numbers are solid, but they still need to improve during his sophomore season. Rodney Hood and Jabari Parker should both help open things up for him too.
The Los Angeles Clippers need a 2-guard who can space out the court, and Sulaimon fits the billing.
The Boston Celtics are set to trade Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry to the Brooklyn Nets once the moratorium lifts on July 10, and one of the assets Danny Ainge is receiving comes in the form of draft picks. Boston gets three future first-round picks, and this is the first of them.
In this mock draft, the C's have already picked Gary Harris out of Michigan State, so it's now time to find a forward who can line up next to Jeff Green. Enter Chris Walker.
Assuming he even gets to play for Florida and doesn't lose his eligibility, Walker will prove that his last name is a misnomer. He's a quick forward with great athleticism, and he likes to spend as much time as possible in the air.
Whether he's in or out of the Gators lineup, Walker needs to beef up significantly. When you look at the picture above, he seems like more of a guard.
The Denver Nuggets have so much depth across the board—especially after picking Spencer Dinwiddie at No. 20 with the pick they received from the New York Knicks—so they can simply draft the best player available here.
That would be P.J. Hairston, the 6'6" shooting guard out of North Carolina.
Legal troubles could rear their ugly head and knock him out of contention for a first-round spot, but let's assume they don't. In that case, Hairston is an elite three-point shooter (39.6 percent from behind the arc as a sophomore), a great defender and an athlete who loves playing around the rim.
There's a lot to like about Hairston so long as he can keep his nose clean.
Montrezl Harrell's long-term upside is too much for the Chicago Bulls to pass up at No. 26. He's a project player, but that project could be quite rewarding down the road.
As a freshman, the Louisville power forward shot 57.7 percent from the field, finishing the majority of his plays around the basket, and played fantastic defense. He was both an energy guy as well as a player who displayed nice instincts when it came to timing his blocks and jumping into passing lanes.
Harrell's athleticism is his primary asset, and he'll move up the boards if he can show that his skills are moving along the learning curve faster than anticipated.
Aaron Harrison isn't quite as talented as his twin brother, who he'll be joining at Kentucky, but he's still the potent scorer the Indiana Pacers could use to shore up their backcourt.
Although he's also 6'5", Harrison doesn't have the ball-handling skills or talent as a distributor to line up at point guard. He also doesn't have the same level of athleticism and explosiveness. That's why he's coming in 22 picks behind his twin.
Aaron does have ridiculous shooting skills, though.
He'll be the sniper at Kentucky, making defenses pay every time they pay too much attention to the other stars in Lexington. He can create his own shot, but expect him to thrive as a catch-and-shoot guy who gets to make good on fewer opportunities than he's used to.
You can't teach size, and at 7'0", 255 pounds, Kaleb Tarczewski has a lot of it.
He won't score a lot at Arizona, particularly with Aaron Gordon controlling the ball for much of the game, but he's a solid defender, rebounder and interior scorer. His stats just won't be gaudy enough for you to learn how to spell Tarczewski without thinking until we're quite close to the 2014 NBA draft.
The Spurs could use some size. With Tim Duncan eventually retiring (I think...), San Antonio has to find its center of the future, and Tarczewski could be that guy.
Never bet against a Spurs pick, after all.
Reggie Jackson will be a free agent after the 2013-14 season, unless the Oklahoma City Thunder pick up his club option. By that point, though, Jackson will be discontent and looking for more money.
The team eventually needs to find a backup point guard for Russell Westbrook, and that's what they're looking for by selecting Semaj Christon out of Xavier. A 6'3" point guard, Christon averaged 15.2 points and 4.6 assists per game as a freshman.
And that was without a potent outside shot. Christon hit only 25 percent of his three-pointers on the season, and he took fewer than one per game. If that changes, his dribble-drive game becomes all the more dangerous.
Expect big things out of this Musketeer during his sophomore go-around in Cincinnati.
Doug McDermott might not have high upside as an NBA player, but he's an absolutely perfect pick for a Miami Heat team that loves adding floor spacers and spot-up shooters.
At Creighton, McDermott has been one of the NCAA's premier volume scorers for about a decade now. He's technically only been a Blue Jay since 2010, but it sure seems like longer. The consensus All-American has improved his scoring average each year, topping out at 23.2 points per game as a junior.
What makes McDermott the perfect fit is that he doesn't need control of the ball to score. He works his way free of defenders quite well, and he can catch and shoot from anywhere in the half-court set.
LeBron James feeding him the ball would make the Heat even more terrifying than they already are.