2014 NBA Mock Draft: How First Round Looks at Start of College Basketball Season
As demanding as we are, I'm not sure we could have asked for a better start to the 2013-14 college basketball season.
And the same goes for the race to the top of the NBA-prospect pyramid.
All the top prospects have looked as good as advertised so far. Though there's only one No. 1 overall pick, there might be multiple teams that end up with No. 1 overall value.
Don't overreact just yet, but the hype surrounding the upcoming draft might actually be real.
The following mock-draft order has been set based on the combination of current standings and future predictions.
1. Utah Jazz: Andrew Wiggins, Kansas, 6'8'', SF
With his direct competitors having monster starts to their careers, the ice under Andrew Wiggins might have lost a layer of thickness.
Having said that, his long-term NBA potential is still intact. And that potential remains through the roof.
Though clearly not as refined as Duke's Jabari Parker in the half court, Wiggins was still able to rack up 22 points and eight boards against the Blue Devils using mostly speed, athleticism and natural ability.
Just imagine what he'll look like when he eventually does improve his skill set.
He made 9-of-15 shots in Kansas' State Farm Championship Classic win. Though most of his production came in spurts, one of them came at just the right time.
After nailing an NBA-level step-back jumper to go up by four down the stretch, Wiggins finished Duke off with an emphatic and-one finish on the break.
He's going to make some mistakes, but franchises thinking long-term probably won't care. Wiggins remains No. 1 on the board after his first real test.
2. Sacramento Kings: Jabari Parker, Duke, 6'8'', SF
There isn't a more refined, skilled and polished offensive player in the country.
Jabari Parker looks like a seasoned NBA scorer out there. From step-back jumpers and pull-up threes to acrobatic finishes and high-flying alley-oops, Parker can get off a shot of his preference from any spot on the floor.
He went for a cool 27 points and nine boards against Kansas, dazzling with the ball in front of dozens of NBA scouts.
He looks like the most NBA-ready of any upper-tier prospect in the class. It might be tough for the lottery winner to pass on Andrew Wiggins' upside, but Parker might ultimately offer a better risk-to-reward ratio.
An absolute lock without a legitimate question or red flag, Parker offers No. 1 overall value whether he goes first, second or third.
3. Phoenix Suns: Julius Randle, Kentucky, 6'9'', PF
Julius Randle as a potential third pick speaks to the talent atop this projected draft class. Because after just a few games, Randle even seems like a reasonable possibility at No. 1 as well.
When this guy's blood and adrenaline start pumping, there's just no stopping him from getting what he wants.
With Kentucky desperate for offense in the second half against Michigan State, Randle went to work possession after possession. And he continued to execute.
One-on-one, double-teams, triple-teams—you name it. Michigan State had no answer for Randle on the block. The dude is ferocious. And he loves contact. What NBA team wouldn't want to hear that?
He finished with 27 points and 13 boards while showcasing a rare blend of physicality and skill.
Randle looks like an early top-five lock with No. 1 overall upside.
4. Orlando Magic: Dante Exum, Australia, 6'6'', PG/SG
By now, most of you have seen college basketball's elite top three freshmen. But Dante Exum is in that same can't-miss tier.
He's a standout wherever he goes, whether it's been at the Nike Hoops Summit, Adidas Nations or Eurocamp, where scouts from across the world gather to evaluate their assignments.
This summer, Exum led Australia to a bronze at the FIBA Under-19 World Championships. Not only is this kid one hell of a prospect, but he's a winner.
Exum is everything you could ask for in a guard. He's 6'6'' with incredible athleticism, yet can handle the ball and facilitate an offense or completely take it over as a scorer.
Offensively, he can burn defenses with the jumper or one of the most explosive first steps you'll see.
A humble kid whose father played at North Carolina, Exum has the makeup of a future NBA star.
Though he's still deciding whether to declare in 2014 or attend college and put the draft off, the latter option just seems far-fetched.
Exum will get looks from every general manager in the lottery, including the one who wins it. He's just that special.
5. Milwaukee Bucks: Joel Embiid, Kansas, 7'0'', C
He might not have done much damage in the box scores yet, but if that's where you're looking for upside, you're looking in the wrong place.
Joel Embiid has a towering ceiling, given his two-way potential as a dominant offensive and defensive center.
A former soccer player, Embiid just started playing basketball within the last five years. And he's picked it up rather fast.
This isn't the case of just another raw 7-footer who may or may not be average in 2019. Embiid can play, and possesses actual basketball footwork and touch.
Offensively, he's learning to create his own shot in the post, and has the confidence to take and make face-up jumpers from outside.
You can't miss him out there. His 7'5'' wingspan stretches across the entire interior, where he dominates space and protects the rim.
Embiid won't be a volume college scorer like some of the other top prospects, but for an NBA team looking for long-term potential, this is a good place to start.
6. Boston Celtics: Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State, 6'4'', PG/SG
The decision to return to college might ultimately lower the value of Marcus Smart's first NBA contract, but his long-term upside still looks awfully promising.
He racked up nine steals against Utah Valley, along with 14 points, five boards, four assists, a block and four three-pointers.
Smart will be in the hunt for National Player of the Year throughout the season, given his ability to impact a game in so many different ways.
The Oklahoma State-Kansas matchup can't come soon enough.
7. Philadelphia 76ers: Aaron Gordon, Arizona, 6'9'', PF
Aaron Gordon has looked explosive and been productive through two games, double-doubling against both Cal Poly and Long Beach State.
He's getting time at both forward positions, letting his insane athletic ability and terrific hands do most of the talking. Gordon has 20 boards, five blocks and a number of dunks in just 58 minutes of action, illustrating his high activity level and presence above the rim.
You can also mark him down for two three-pointers, a promising sign moving forward.
Gordon still has to refine his post game, considering his top method for getting separation is simply jumping away from his defender.
But regardless, he's got Blake Griffin-like upside. Expect Gordon's exposure to rise as the season gets cooking.
8. Denver Nuggets: James Young, Kentucky, 6'6'', SF
James Young isn't as high-profile as some of the other guys, but that won't last.
He kept Kentucky in the game against Michigan State the first 20 minutes. Young caught fire from deep, showing off his range with three first-half three-pointers.
And with a beautiful lefty stroke, it just didn't seem like they were fluky.
Young also had some nice finishes on the way to the rim, and showcased his athleticism on both ends of the floor throughout.
At 6'6'', he's got the physical tools, outside game, a developing in-between repertoire and defensive potential. And he's a top recruit from Kentucky. Sounds like a lottery-pick description to me.
9. Detroit Pistons: Glenn Robinson III, Michigan, 6'6'', SF
It's been a good start for Glenn Robinson III, whose role in Michigan's offense has gotten a nice little boost.
So far, Robinson looks comfortable with his higher rank in the pecking order, showing what appears to be tighter and more confident handles. He's gotten to the line 15 times in two games, averaging 14 points, eight boards and three steals.
An excellent finisher around the rim and spot-up shooter around the arc, Robinson's in-between game is next to come. He's already shown some growth here early on, where he's put the ball on the deck before stopping and popping in the mid-range.
A defensive stud with an evolving offensive game and NBA genes, all signs are pointing upward for Robinson III.
10. Toronto Raptors: Montrezl Harrell, Louisville, 6'8'', PF
Montrezl Harrell enters the year with legitimate expectations, following a strong stint this summer playing for USA's Under-19 FIBA World Championship team.
After getting only 16 minutes a game as a freshman, Harrell has earned himself 30 a game through two as a sophomore. And if that's any indication of his role moving forward, Harrell could be poised for a monster season.
He's averaging 14.5 points and 6.5 boards early on, making plays around the rim in transition and in the half court. An insane athlete at 6'8'', Harrell is simply automatic inside when he's got room to launch himself upward.
It looks like he's also extended his range as a finisher, scoring a couple of baskets at tougher angles early on.
NBA teams in need of frontcourt athleticism and activity will likely have Harrell highlighted on their boards throughout the year.
11. Washington Wizards: Jerami Grant, Syracuse, 6'8'', SF
Jerami Grant was a prospect to watch coming in following a promising freshman season in a limited role. That role has now expanded, with Grant expected to do some big things in year No. 2.
For an NBA small forward, he aces the eye test at 6'8'' with a 7'2.5'' wingspan. He sports effortless athleticism, with the ability to make plays off the ball above the rim or on the floor.
In his sophomore debut against Fordham, Grant went for 16 points, 10 boards and three steals in 27 minutes. He's a guy who makes things happen with his motor, along with some developing touch in the mid-range.
Improving that touch and extending its range could really take Grant to another level. He's got lottery upside if he continues to develop.
12. Charlotte Bobcats: Gary Harris, Michigan State, 6'4'', SG
With scouts mostly focused on Kentucky's star freshmen, Gary Harris might have shifted their attention. At least for 20 minutes.
Harris blew up in the first half of the State Farm Championship Classic, knocking down threes, attacking the rim and getting out in transition. He finished the game with 20 points, and likely earned himself a ton of fans in the process.
Scouts love guards who can shoot, drive, defend and play within the offense, and Harris fits the bill.
But what ultimately stands out about Harris is his poise. You don't see too many bad shots, nor do you see much excitement after the good ones.
With Michigan State ready to take over the No. 1 spot in the polls, look for Harris' name to start entering lottery conversations.
13. L.A. Lakers: Wayne Selden, Kansas, 6'5'', SG
Wayne Selden was one of the more impressive players at the State Farm Championship Classic, finishing with 15 points, six boards and four assists.
Playing within the offense, Selden looked sharp in every aspect of the game. He showed off his smooth jumper from deep, his body control attacking the rim and some nice heads-up passes throughout his 37 minutes.
At around 6'6'', he's got excellent size for an NBA 2-guard as well, and projects as a promising defender.
His outside inconsistency and dependency on strength have been his areas of concern coming in. But Selden is definitely a guy to keep an eye on as one of Kansas' complementary scoring weapons.
14. Cleveland Cavaliers: Doug McDermott, Creighton, 6'8'', SF
With all the hype surrounding the State Farm Championship Classic, there wasn't much talk regarding Doug McDermott's 37-point explosion.
Let's change that.
He made 15 shots in 31 minutes. Just to put that into perspective, Colorado State as a team made 18 shots in 40 minutes that same night.
He's a human offensive textbook. There isn't a spot on the floor or angle in the game that McDermott hasn't connected from. Step-back jumpers, spot-up jumpers, one-handed runners, reverse layups, jump-hooks in the lane—he's got every tool in the box, along with unteachable instincts and long-range accuracy.
And though he's more than just a shooter, that accuracy is worth noting. He's shot an unheard-of 48 percent from downtown in back-to-back seasons. Currently seven for his first 13 three-point attempts, it appears he's started right where he left off.
McDermott's lack of athleticism puts a cap on his ceiling, but his offensive skill set will still be worth targeting.
15. Philadelphia 76ers (via New Orleans): Mario Hezonja, Croatia, 6'6'', SF
Though he's not getting much burn for Barcelona's senior team, Mario Hezonja is well-known to those following NBA talent overseas. The former Under-16 European Championship MVP hit radars a few years back, and now has a chance at cashing in at the draft.
Hezonja is an athletic scorer at 6'6" who can create his own offense from multiple spots on the floor.
If he plays well for Barcelona in the limited time he'll be given, expect NBA interest to pick up as we get closer to summer.
16. Portland Trail Blazers: Noah Vonleh, Indiana, 6'10'', PF
Noah Vonleh's upside has been on display early, with two double-doubles to start his NCAA career.
He went for 17 and 11 in a tight win over LIU, using his 6'10'', 240-pound frame to shake and bake for points in the paint.
Though raw, Vonleh has a good idea of what he's doing in the post, and shows a nice touch around the basket. He's also a strong presence on the glass and physical interior defender.
Vonleh might be better off as a two-year college guy, but his two-way potential might generate NBA interest right away. He's averaging 14 points, 12.5 boards and 1.5 blocks through his first-two collegiate games.
If Vonleh isn't on your radar yet, make sure to check him out.
17. Atlanta Hawks: Dario Saric, Croatia, 6'10'', PF
If you're into frontcourt versatility, then Dario Saric is your type of player.
Saric picked up some serious steam heading into last June, but threw the NBA a curveball by withdrawing his name from the draft just before the deadline.
At 6'10", he's a unique player with a diverse offensive game. Scouts love his ability to operate on the wing, where he can put it on the floor or make the pass that leads to a bucket.
A tough rebounder, active body and promising shooter, it's Saric's questionable defensive outlook that has some scouts turned off.
But unless something goes terribly wrong overseas in 2013-14, he had enough supporters last year to keep him in lottery conversations.
18. Dallas Mavericks: Andrew Harrison, Kentucky, 6'6'', PG
Andrew Harrison might have actually lost some fans after a disappointing performance against Michigan State.
He was out of control at times, making a number of questionable decisions with the ball. Harrison finished with more turnovers than assists (four to three), never a good look when under the microscope of dozens of scouts.
What really might have hurt him was his poor body language throughout. You just didn't get those positive vibes you'd want in a floor general. And this is something he was criticized for before back as a high-school baller.
Still, Harrison did have some productive moments, most notably on the perimeter. He knocked down a lengthy three-pointer and a pretty step-back jumper.
But Harrison definitely has work to do to improve his NBA draft stock, both on his game and approach. It will be interesting to see how he bounces back after the loss.
19. Minnesota Timberwolves: Sam Dekker, Wisconsin, 6'7'', SF
A smooth wing with size and grace, Sam Dekker's name is bound to heat up.
After averaging 10 points in only 22 minutes a game as a freshman, Dekker is now a 30-plus-minute guy and a top-two option in Wisconsin's offense.
He's absolutely lethal from downtown with a natural shooting stroke. Dekker has gone for 16 points in back-to-back games against St. John's and Florida to kick off his sophomore year, nailing four of his first eight three-point attempts.
What he lacks in athleticism and explosiveness, he makes up for with skill. Dekker's offensive game is extremely refined, from his perimeter-scoring arsenal to his feel for the rim in the paint.
With a little Gordon Hayward in his game, Dekker is a sneaky candidate to creep towards the back end of the lottery. He's definitely a sleeper to keep an eye on this year.
20. Orlando Magic (via Denver (via NY)) Semaj Christon, Xavier, 6'3'', PG
Though under the radar, Semaj Christon was a trendy name amongst NBA scouts throughout the course of last year.
He averaged 15 points and five assists as a freshman, and appears to have started right where he left off.
Christon went for 14 points and four dimes against Gardner Webb and 18 points in a win over Tennessee.
He's incredibly tough to contain off the bounce, where his hesitation dribble and change of speed allows him to weave through traffic and get to the rim.
The issue with Christon is his outside game. He actually doesn't have one. Christon only hit seven threes all of last season, and hasn't shown it's something he's worked on or improved just yet.
He's only 11-of-23 from the free-throw line so far. Against Tennessee, he even threw one up that hit backboard first.
Christon's athleticism, strength and playmaking ability give him lottery upside, but given how deep this field is, I'd imagine he'll need to develop some form of a jumper to break the top-14-pick barrier.
21. Boston Celtics (via Brooklyn): James Michael McAdoo, UNC, 6'9'', PF
NBA scouts weren't impressed with James Michael McAdoo's sophomore campaign. Despite his standout physical tools, McAdoo shot less than 45 percent from the floor for his second consecutive season.
Finishing scoring opportunities didn't look to be an issue for McAdoo in North Carolina's opener against Oakland, where he converted 9-of-13 shots from the floor for 21 points and nine boards.
Moving without the ball throughout the game, McAdoo was getting buckets within the flow of the offense. When he's cutting through lanes and driving in space, he's a tough cover for big men who lack his foot speed and athleticism.
With a better shot-selection and higher conversion rate, McAdoo should have the chance to revive his slowly-deflating draft stock.
22. Houston Rockets: Mitch McGary, Michigan, 6'10'', PF
Though it's still unclear when he'll return from a nagging back injury, Mitch McGary isn't leaving first-round conversations.
Scouts love his blend of size, energy, mobility and soft hands, which make him a presence on the offensive glass and reliable clean-up man in the paint.
Until his breakout in last year's NCAA tournament, McGary was used sparingly in Michigan's offense. But that won't be the case when he returns from injury as a sophomore.
He should get touches in the post and at the elbow, and if he's able to consistently convert them into points, McGary could soar right back up draft boards. At this point, consider McGary a low-risk, medium-reward draft option.
23. Chicago Bulls: Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky, 7'0'', C
Willie Cauley-Stein looks like the same player as last year—a guy who can dominate the glass, protect the rim and finish around it.
But that's still about it at this point in time.
He hasn't been much of a factor on the scoreboard, getting just about all of his points so far off easy dunks set up by teammates.
On one possession against Michigan State, Cauley-Stein took a lefty hook shot that fell about a foot short of the hoop.
Though his gigantic size and powerful athleticism is a nice combination, he's going to have to show more offensively to generate substantial lottery attention.
24. Memphis Grizzlies: C.J. Fair, Syracuse, 6'8'', SF
The ACC's preseason Player of the Year, C.J. Fair is off to a hot start, having scored 19 points against Cornell and 26 against Fordham.
His skill level has reached new heights, transforming him into a mismatch that nobody seems to be able to solve.
With great instincts and deceptive athleticism, Fair is a good bet for points once he's into the lane.
But it's his face-up game that's ultimately propelled him to go-to status in Syracuse's offense. He's got the balance and outside touch to jab-step into a jumper, along with the foot speed to beat his man and score on the move attacking the rim.
With the ability to play on and off the ball, Fair projects as a sound role player to target late in the first round.
25. Golden State Warriors: Jahii Carson, Arizona State, 5'10'', PG
After tearing up the Pac-12 conference last season for 19 points and five dimes a game, Jahii Carson looks to be back at it again.
He's coming off a 19-point, five-assist sophomore debut, followed by an 18-point, eight-assist effort in a win over Miami of Ohio.
Nearly impossible to contain off the dribble, Carson's breakdown quickness and playmaking ability should attract NBA teams that lack backcourt depth or firepower.
Sure, he's a tad under 6'0'', but so is Shane Larkin, who went first round in 2013, as is Isaiah Thomas from Washington, who's now excelling with Sacramento.
If all the high-upside point guards are off the board, Carson is your next best bet.
26. L.A. Clippers: T.J. Warren, North Carolina State, 6'8'', SF
After averaging double digits as a freshman for a team with four seniors in the starting lineup, T.J. Warren returns as a sophomore as the go-to guy in NC State's offense.
He opened the season by dropping 27 on Appalachian State, though struggled a bit in game No. 2 against a tough Cincinnati defense.
Warren is an interesting prospect, given it's tough to pinpoint his exact strengths.
He's the type of guy who can make 13 shots in a game from 13 different spots and angles on the floor. Warren just knows how to score.
If he can consistently put up big numbers in the scoring column, look for NBA teams in need of offense to start paying close attention.
27. Miami Heat: Adreian Payne, Michigan State, 6'10'', PF
Adreian Payne made some praiseworthy plays against Kentucky's athletic front line, finishing with 15 points in 25 minutes.
Though not a high-profile name, Payne has actually been on NBA radars for years. He just hasn't been able to make a dent.
But Payne broke out down the stretch last year and looks to have carried that momentum over into his senior season.
With a gigantic frame and massive wingspan, Payne is a physical presence down low, as well as a threat facing the rim.
Against Kentucky, he even put it on the floor for a dribble before pulling up in the mid-range like a wing.
He's starting to come into his own, and even though flaws still exist, Payne looks like a trustworthy late-round draft option for a team looking to beef up its front line.
28. Oklahoma City Thunder: Perry Ellis, Kansas, 6'8'', PF
While everyone is buzzing about Kansas' freshmen, Perry Ellis might quietly be the team's rock this season.
Right now, he looks like its most reliable half-court option on offense. He went for 24 points and nine boards against Duke, muscling his way into position down low and using touch and body control to score in the paint.
He's also shown promise as a mid-range shooter and pick-and-pop target.
Though not flashy or athletic, Ellis just has a good feel for the game in the post and isn't afraid to use his body to initiate contact.
A highly touted recruit a year ago, Ellis is a guy who just needed an opportunity. He'll have a great one this season.
29. San Antonio Spurs: Rodney Hood, Duke, 6'8'', SF
Rodney Hood has had a nice start to his career at Duke, opening up against Davidson with 22 points and nine boards, and following with 11 points and five assists against Kansas.
At 6'8'', Hood is a smooth operator in the half court with a good-looking outside stroke and the touch to score on the move.
He's got all sorts of offensive confidence. So far, we've seen Hood pull up from 23 feet away and score in traffic with hands in his face.
Hood is getting himself uncontested looks when the game is slowed down, and he's converting on his opportunities. With physical tools befitting an NBA wing, look for Hood's stock to rise if he continues to produce.
30. Phoenix Suns (via Indiana): Dwight Powell, Stanford, 6'10'', PF
Dwight Powell broke out as a junior with 15 points and eight boards a game, but that doesn't appear to be his college ceiling.
He's super talented, athletic and mobile for a guy his size, showing the comfort to play on the block or out on the perimeter.
After dropping 17 points, 12 boards and five assists on Bucknell, Powell went off for 28 points and seven boards in a wild loss to BYU.
At 6'10'', he's got a really quick first step that few big men are capable of keeping up with. Powell also has a nice touch from outside, particularly in the mid-range, where he can rise and fire over anyone.
He'll have to show scouts he's strong enough to play on the interior, but his size, advanced skills and substantial production have become tough to ignore.