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2014 NBA Mock Draft: Joel Embiid Usurps Top Spot in Latest 1st-Round Projection

Jonathan WassermanNBA Lead WriterJanuary 15, 2014

2014 NBA Mock Draft: Joel Embiid Usurps Top Spot in Latest 1st-Round Projection

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    Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

    I'm not sure you can go wrong with any of the No. 1 overall contenders, but one of them has begun to separate from the pack.

    Kansas' Joel Embiid has stolen the show from Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker. He's risen from a raw prospect from Cameroon to the grand prize of the 2014 NBA draft.

    With Parker struggling and Wiggins having lost some of his luster, Embiid's eruption has officially landed him atop our newest mock.

    This draft order was generated based on current NBA standings and previously made trades.

     

    Stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.

     

1. Milwaukee Bucks: Joel Embiid, Kansas, 7'0'', C, Fr.

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    Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

    He's been in the No. 1 overall conversation for a while, but after the past two weeks, Joel Embiid is now the center of it.

    Embiid looks like the best prospect on the planet.

    There have been questions surrounding Andrew Wiggins' skill set and mental approach, and there might be concerns over Jabari Parker's game after his recent struggles, which have him settling for bad shots on the perimeter without the quickness or athleticism to get to the rack (not to mention he doesn't necessarily project as a plus defender).

    With Embiid, you're getting a dominant presence at both ends of the floor—no questions asked.

    His performance against Iowa State sealed the deal for us, when he completely took control of the game, possession after possession (finished 7-of-8 for 16 points, nine boards and five blocks).

    With an array of post moves along with 7'0'' size, a 250-pound frame and a 7'5'' wingspan (half-inch shorter than Anthony Davis'), he's become unguardable one-on-one. Defenses have started double-teaming Embiid the second he gets a touch. But with incredible recognition and a confident command of the ball, he's learned to anticipate the double and find the open man.

    To game-plan around him, there's just no answer that doesn't require sacrificing somewhere else.

    Against Kansas State, Embiid even knocked down a three-pointer and 18-footer, showcasing a promising and fluid jumper rare for a 7-footer.

    He's improving at a rate unlike anyone we've seen.

    If I'm the general manager of the Bucks, I'm not sure I want to be the guy to pass on Embiid because of the presence of Larry Sanders. With Giannis Antetokounmpo looking like a future stud at the wing and some questions surrounding forwards Wiggins and Parker, Embiid has become the top option on the board, regardless of who your team already has at center.

2. Orlando Magic: Jabari Parker, Duke, 6'8'', SF/PF, Fr.

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    Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

    Jabari Parker is in a funk, which has unfortunately helped point out a few troubling weaknesses in his game.

    He's not getting to the basket or the line without that blow-by quickness off the bounce. And as a result, he's forced to take a lot of difficult step-back jumpers 20 feet from the rim.

    Still, we've seen enough to know he's the real deal. Parker's perimeter scoring arsenal is as refined as it gets for a freshman, while his post game, passing, rebounding and ball-handling are all on point.

    Parker won't be able to impact a game defensively like Kansas stars Andrew Wiggins or Joel Embiid, but he'll enter the draft as the most offensive-ready prospect, one with All-Star potential at multiple positions.

    He might have moved down to No. 2, but Parker will realistically remain a threat to No. 1 from now until June.

3. Philadephia 76ers: Andrew Wiggins, Kansas, 6'8'', SF, Fr.

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    Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

    It's tough to knock Andrew Wiggins, but some of his direct competitors have just been more impressive. 

    Still, Wiggins would offer tremendous value as a No. 3 pick in this draft. He recently went for 17 points and 19 boards against Iowa State when he didn't even play all that well. 

    In Kansas' loaded and methodical offense, Wiggins isn't going to put up 20-point games on a regular basis. He's shown improvement since the start of the year, particularly in creating opportunities for himself. He's just struggling to finish them consistently, both at the rim and on the perimeter.

    Wiggins' athleticism and physical tools are simply unmatched at his position. If he's able to build that skill set to the point where he's a dangerous one-on-one threat, there's just no telling how good of a player he can be.

    A team like the 76ers would scoop up Wiggins in a heartbeat if he fell to them at No. 3.

4. Utah Jazz: Dante Exum, Australia, 6'6'', PG/SG, 1995

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    Sam Forencich/Getty Images

    It looks like Dante Exum is getting closer to making his introduction, after Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reported he'd met with "eight powerhouse player representation agencies and left them a strong impression that he plans to enter the June NBA draft."

    He should be the first guard selected this June—you won't find a bigger mismatch at the position anywhere else in the field.

    Exum, a 6'6'' combo guard with spectacular athleticism, can run the offense at the point or take it over at the 2. He's a dynamite playmaker and scorer. He's one of those unique prospects whose upside is worth the gamble anywhere on the board.

    Whether you have a point guard or not, Exum should be a potential target for every team drafting in the top five. Not only is he the best player available here for the Jazz, but they could use his size, athleticism and scoring arsenal in their backcourt.

5. Boston Celtics: Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State, 6'4'', PG/SG, Soph.

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    Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    Marcus Smart turned it up this week with back-to-back power performances. He went for 24 points, 11 boards, five assists and six steals against Texas and followed with 22 points, 13 boards and five assists against West Virginia.

    He's a man out there playing with a bunch of college kids.

    Smart's decision to return to school might reduce the size of his rookie contract, but he'll be as NBA-ready as any prospect in this class.

    Teams who already have point guards shouldn't shy away from Smart, whose physical tools, skill set and intangibles should allow him to hold down either backcourt position.

    He's a Brad Stevens type of player. Smart would be a nice fit in Boston.

6. Cleveland Cavaliers: Julius Randle, Kentucky, 6'10'', PF, Fr.

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    Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

    Julius Randle has cooled down following his explosive start at Kentucky. He's still rebounding like a madman, but his scoring opportunities have been of lower quality.

    He recently bounced back with 20 points and 14 boards in a tough overtime loss to Arkansas. Only personal fouls can slow him down once he really gets going. Randle had his way with the Razorbacks' front line, going into bully mode late in the game when the Wildcats needed some life.

    However, he's been somewhat exposed as an under-the-rim athlete, and with short arms, that could scare the NBA guys.

    No matter—Randle's physical presence, energy and post game won't allow him to slip far in the draft. There aren't many wings for the Cavaliers to go after here—Randle makes sense as the best player available.

7. Sacramento Kings: Zach LaVine, UCLA, 6'5'', PG/SG, Fr.

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    Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Spor

    Zach LaVine might be coming off the best game of his career after dropping 19 points off the bench in a beatdown of Arizona State.

    At 6'5'', this is one smooth cat. LaVine is a top-flight athlete who can handle the ball, bring it up the floor and create a little off the dribble.

    He's now got the step-back jumper working, and he even showcased the pretty floater on the move in a loss to Arizona.

    LaVine has also been deadly shooting off the catch, currently making 46.7 percent of his threes on 3.8 attempts per game.

    The Kings are already committed to three power forwards and have an expensive scorer on the wing. LaVine's ability to create off the dribble differentiates his services from the ones Ben McLemore offers. He's got monster upside and more versatility than anyone in Sacramento's backcourt.

8. Los Angeles Lakers: Aaron Gordon, Arizona, 6'8'', SF/PF, Fr.

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    Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

    Aaron Gordon continues to play his role as an opportunistic scorer, meaning his numbers will never stand out among the other high-caliber prospects.

    It's not going to keep teams from targeting him in the top 10. Gordon's first-class athleticism has already been confirmed; now we're learning he's also an excellent passer and a high-IQ presence.

    The concern with Gordon is his NBA position—we've seen a lot of similar combo forwards struggle to make the transition, which might scare off general managers who fear the next Anthony Bennett, Derrick Williams, Thomas Robinson or Michael Beasley. 

    Still, his intangibles, athleticism and ceiling should act as a flotation device for his draft stock. Gordon should float around the late-lottery range from now until June.

    If I'm the Lakers, I'm into Gordon's upside at a position in which they have none.

9. Denver Nuggets (Via NY): Noah Vonleh, Indiana, 6'10'', PF/C, Fr.

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Though still raw in terms of offense, Noah Vonleh has the skill set to go with his monster 6'10'', 240-pound frame (7'4''wingspan)—he just has to fine-tune it.

    He's consistently able to get position and seal his man off in the post, and with phenomenal interior instincts, Vonleh finds ways to finish in traffic. 

    But maybe the most promising sign for Vonleh has been his perimeter game—he's made six of his last seven three-pointers, and he's starting to look a whole lot like Chris Bosh out there.

    A physical rebounder (nine boards a game) and defender, Vonleh has top-10 upside once he hits his NBA stride.

    Unlike Kenneth Faried, Vonleh projects as a big man to whom you can actually go to for points. He'd be a nice long-term addition for the Nuggets up front.

10. Atlanta Hawks (via Brooklyn): Rodney Hood, Duke, 6'8'', SF, Soph.

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    Grant Halverson/Getty Images

    Rodney Hood opened up conference play on a tear—he rattled off back-to-back 27-point games against Notre Dame and Georgia Tech and went for 20 in a loss to Clemson.

    He's been lights-out from downtown with that sharpshooting lefty stroke, and he is now at 46.8 percent on the year.

    With the ability to take his man off the dribble, score in the post or spot up off the ball, Hood is a serious offensive weapon as a 6'8'' wing.

    Atlanta has nobody who can generate consistent offense at the small-forward position. Hood or Kentucky's James Young would seem like ideal fits here for Atlanta, but Hood's size and more consistent stroke might make him more appealing at this point.

11. Philadelphia (via NO): Gary Harris, Michigan State, 6'4'', SG, Soph.

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    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Gary Harris has seemingly solidified his status as one of the safer bets in the field. Unlike most 2-guards in college, his game isn't reliant on a jumper, though it's a weapon that certainly enhances the threat he poses.

    He's having a down year shooting the ball—only 32.7 percent from three. However, he's averaging nearly five more points a game at 17.8 and looks much more aggressive on the offensive attack.

    Harris can shoot, slash and defend, and he rarely forces the issue or jeopardizes a possession to get off a tough shot.

    Though he's not an All-Star upside pick, Harris definitely has starter potential as a rock in someone's lineup. How about the Philadelphia 76ers, whose top 2-guard now is Hollis Thompson?

12. Memphis Grizzlies: James Young, Kentucky, 6'6'', SF, Fr.

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    Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

    Though his shooting has been erratic, there's no denying that stroke. Once he finds a rhythm, James Young can cook.

    He's making 2.2 threes a game with plenty of NBA range on his jumper. Mesh that stroke with active athleticism and loads of energy, and you get a guy who's averaging 14.6 points yet doesn't have a real go-to move.

    Athleticism, shooting and defense from the wing—that's what teams will be getting with Young. Given their lackluster crop of small forwards, the Memphis Grizzlies could be a strong suitor.

13. Minnesota Timberwolves: Dario Saric, Croatia, 6'10'', SF/PF, 1994

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    Sam Forencich/Getty Images

    Dario Saric has been a monster in the Adriatic League—he recently went for 29 points on 4-of-5 shooting from three after dropping a 22-point, 12-rebound double-double the previous game. 

    He's one of the more versatile prospects in the field. At 6'10'', Saric can put it on the deck, clean the glass, make the pass or knock down the shot.

    Saric has the chance to evolve into the ultimate glue guy, something the Timberwolves could use smack in the middle of their lineup.

    A potential lottery pick a year ago before pulling out of the 2013 draft, don't expect Saric to withdraw his name this year.

14. Orlando Magic (via Denver): Doug McDermott, Creighton, 6'7'', SF, Sr.

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    Dave Weaver-USA TODAY Sports

    The early favorite for National Player of the Year, Doug McDermott just continues to make defenses look silly.

    He's now gone for at least 28 points in three of his last four games. You should see the moves he's been putting on these poor, helpless defenders—step-backs, fadeways, Dirk Nowitzki-like one-legged jumpers.

    McDermott has mastered the college game, averaging over 25 points on 43.4 percent shooting from three.

    He's probably the best prospect available at this point for the Magic, but he's one they could specifically use to spread the floor and knock down outside shots.

    I'm loving the Wally Szczerbiak comparisons at this point.

15. Chicago Bulls (via Charlotte): Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky, 7'0'', C, Fr.

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    Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

    The NBA guys know exactly what they'll be getting with Willie Cauley-Stein, which could work for or against him on draft day.

    He's a 7-footer who finishes, rebounds and protects the rim. If that's what a team is looking for, it'll know where to find it.

    But Cauley-Stein hasn't shown much of an offensive game. And if a team is looking for a prospect with some offensive upside, it might not even consider him given his limited skill set.

    Still, there is a serious shortage of center prospects in this field, and that should benefit Cauley-Stein big-time. 

    With Carlos Boozer a strong amnesty candidate this summer, Cauley-Stein could be an option for a Bulls team looking to rebuild its frontcourt. 

16. Charlotte Bobcats (Detroit): Jerami Grant, Syracuse, 6'8'', SF/PF, Soph.

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    Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

    Jerami Grant is really one of the more extraordinary athletes out there. That combination of 6'8'' size, 7'2'' length, ridiculous hops and unteachable coordination contributes to at least one play a game that drops your jaw to the ground.

    He threw in a full-extension putback dunk against Boston College recently that didn't even seem real.

    Grant even knocked down a few mid-range jumpers against North Carolina. It's noteworthy, because right now a jumper could be the difference between top eight and top 20.

    The fact that he's putting up routine double-doubles without a real offensive skill speaks to how productive his physical tools are. If he ever develops a skill set as a face-up or spot-up threat, he'll offer monster value as a small forward.

17. Chicago Bulls: Tyler Ennis, Syracuse, 6'2'', PG, Fr.

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    Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

    Tyler Ennis is our top-ranked pure point guard in the country. He's as smart and savvy as they come. Nothing seems to faze Ennis, who, despite playing 33.2 minutes a game as a primary ball-handling freshman, is currently ranked No. 4 in the country in assist-to-turnover ratio.

    He's averaging seven dimes a game over his last five, facilitating the Syracuse offense like a seasoned pro.

    Though not overly athletic or explosive, he just knows when to hit the jets or how to shield his defender from challenging. Ennis combines deceptive quickness and a mean hesitation dribble to get to the rack and make things happen.

    Even if Derrick Rose does return to form, the Bulls might want to think about getting him some backup. And a high-IQ, pass-first guard like Ennis makes sense.

18. Phoenix Suns (via Wash.): Glenn Robinson III, Michigan, 6'6'', SF, Soph.

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    Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports

    Glenn Robinson III looks a lot more appealing when he's on the attack, an approach he's taken since Michigan lost Mitch McGary for the season following back surgery.

    Robinson has actually scored at least 15 points in six of his last eight games and is now averaging almost 14 on the year.

    When he's got the pull-up, spot-up, slashing and transition games working, his four go-to avenues for offense, Robinson looks like a lottery pick out there. It's getting them to work consistently that will ultimately propel him back into that conversation.

    Phoenix's small forwards have either reached their ceilings, or their ceilings aren't very high to begin with. Robinson would give them an upside prospect at a position where the Suns have more temporary options.

19. Boston Celtics (via Atl.): Adreian Payne, Michigan State, 6'10'', PF, Sr.

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    Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

    Adreian Payne looks like he could miss some extended time due to plantar fasciitis, which kept him out of Michigan State's overtime win over Minnesota.

    It's too bad—Payne had been experiencing a breakout senior year, averaging 16.2 points and 7.7 boards a game.

    He's already made more three-pointers this year than he did as a freshman, sophomore and junior combined. Payne's size and physical presence on the interior should look a whole lot more attractive now that he's got a perimeter game to complement it.

    Boston has a ton of picks to work with over the next few years. Payne would give the Celtics an NBA-ready body you can immediately throw in there to bang and knock down shots.

20. Toronto Raptors: Vasilije Micic, Serbia, 6'5'', PG, 1994

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    Vasilije Micic, who's No. 3 in the Adriatic League in assists per game, is our No. 4 point guard on the board this year. And Toronto, which has a history dipping overseas, could be without a floor general in 2014-15 (Kyle Lowry entering free agency).

    Micic is as pure as they come in terms of pass-first point guards—he's stood out abroad over the past two years thanks to exceptional vision and size for the position.

    His three-ball and perimeter game could use work, but Micic projects as the ultimate facilitator.

21. Phoenix Suns: Wayne Selden, Kansas, 6'5'', SG, Fr.

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    Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

    Wayne Selden has come on as of late, recently going for 24 points against Oklahoma and 20 against Kansas State, knocking in eight threes between the two games.

    His NBA appeal stems from his size, strength and balanced game for an off-guard. At 6'5'' and 230 pounds, he's a bully on the way to the rack. Selden also sports incredible body control when attacking in traffic and has shown he can finish.

    He's now up to 40.4 percent shooting from three, and scouts are now seeing a more complete guard than they were through most of November and December.

    Phoenix could use some depth in the backcourt, but more importantly, size at the 2-spot.

22. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Dallas): P.J. Hairston, Texas Legends, 6'6'', SG

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    After North Carolina chose not to seek reinstatement on behalf of P.J. Hairston (suspended for off-the-floor incidents last summer), the 21-year-old off-guard chose to sign on with the Texas Legends of the D-League.

    As a 2014 draft-eligible prospect, Hairston will not be eligible to get a call-up from an NBA team this season.

    “I'm extremely grateful that the Texas Legends organization believes in my abilities, and thank them for signing me to their team,” Hairston said in a statement released by the Legends (h/t Dallas Morning News). “I intend to take full advantage of this opportunity. This is another positive step towards accomplishing the goals I set out for myself. This is an exciting time.”

    It was the right move for Hairston, who will finally get to remind scouts just how dangerous he can be. At 6'6'', he's a physically imposing wing with a lethal three-ball, vicious attack game and lockdown defensive tools.

    The Thunder could be losing Thabo Sefolosha this offseason, and they might want to target Hairston's two-way, complementary skill set.

23. Utah Jazz (via GS): Chris Walker, Florida, 6'10'', PF, Fr.

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    Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

    We're still waiting on a ruling on Chris Walker, who's yet to play a game for Florida.

    Depending on when he's given the green light, Walker might want to declare this June with his sales pitch centering around his long-term potential, rather than return with the chance of disappointing and potentially wasting two years.

    He's your ultimate wild card in this year's field. At 6'10'', Walker could very well be a top-three athlete in the class, one who should be salivating at the chance to shine at the NBA combine.

    However, he's not overly skilled, and nobody has seem him in live game action since the summer.

    Consider Walker a risk-reward option on draft night if he chooses to participate. A team like Utah, which isn't going anywhere anytime soon, might want to take its chances and take its time to develop him for the long term.

24. Houston Rockets: Roy Devyn Marble, Iowa, 6'6'', PG/SG/SF, Sr.

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    Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

    Roy Devyn Marble has taken his game and team to a new level this season, with Iowa now the No. 14 team in the country.

    Coming off a 22-point game in a win over Ohio State and a 27-point game against Wisconsin, it's time for Marble to get some national recognition.

    He's like a Swiss Army Knife out there. Marble plays every position 1 through 3, with the ability to handle the ball, facilitate, attack or shoot from outside. He's averaging 16.4 points, 3.4 assists on nearly 37 percent shooting from three. 

    There's always one senior who comes out of nowhere to surprise late in Round 1—two years ago it was Miles Plumlee, last year it was Solomon Hill. Though still early, Marble has the experience, floor game and versatility to attract a similar type of interest.

25. Los Angeles Clippers: Montrezl Harrell, Louisville, 6'8'', PF, Soph.

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    David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

    It hasn't been the finest showcase of upside we've seen, but every so often, Montrezl Harrell will make you jump out of your seat.

    He's some kind of athlete out there. Harrell is one of those forwards you fear will tear the rim down with a ferocious dunk.

    However, his post game is lacking, and he's still too limited with the ball in his hands.

    Harrell has flashed glimpses of a mid-range jumper and low-post game, but until those flashes become more regular occurrences, Harrell will likely be thought of more as an athlete than an offensive threat. 

    Still, he's got plenty of room to grow with physical tools you just can't teach or buy.

    With no backup power forward under contract next season, Harrell could be a target for the Clippers if he slips. He's averaging 11.9 points and 8.4 boards a game.

26. Miami Heat: Kyle Anderson, UCLA, 6'9'', PG/SF, Soph.

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Kyle Anderson continues his dazzling play at point guard, most recently going for 17 points, 13 boards and seven assists against Arizona State, 16, 11 and six against Arizona, and 23, 12 and five against USC.

    He's beyond unique, given his size and skill set as a facilitator. Anderson won't beat anyone off the dribble, but his ability to change speeds and keep defenders on his hip allows him to get to his spots and execute with comfort.

    Anderson is also shooting the ball a whole lot better this year, already with four more threes than he hit all of last season.

    Though he's got bust potential, the reward could be worth the risk for a team that isn't relying on rookie production.

27. Oklahoma City Thunder: Nik Stauskas, Michigan, 6'6'', SG/SF, Soph.

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    Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports

    He's more than just a shooter, though a team looking for a three-point specialist might consider Nik Stauskas as a strong option.

    While some might look at his ridiculous 45.1-percent three-point stroke, I'm looking at his 6.5 free-throw attempts per game, which is more than both Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins average.

    He's become a legitimate scoring threat off the dribble, with the ability to change speed and directions and beat his man to the rack.

    Between his jumper, high basketball IQ and improved in-between game, Stauskas now looks like a real-deal first-rounder.

28. Charlotte Bobcats (via Portland): Sam Dekker, Wisconsin, 6'7'', SF, Soph.

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    Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

    Sam Dekker has been up and down recently— he wasn't much of a factor in Wisconsin's loss to Indiana, and he only shot 2-of-12 in a tight win over Iowa. Dekker snuck in a 17-point game in between against Illinois, but he just hasn't done enough to really stand out.

    He's a first-round prospect due to his three-ball, size and athleticism for the wing. Dekker has a nice touch from outside, and with a lane to hit, he can explode to the rim.

    But until he proves to be a little more threatening off the dribble (only 3.9 free-throw attempts per game), I'm not sure he's that can't-miss lottery prospect.

    Dekker would be a nice get for the Bobcats, who could use his perimeter shot-making ability in the lineup.

29. San Antonio Spurs: Jordan Clarkson, Missouri, 6'5'', PG/SG, Jr.

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    Dak Dillon-USA TODAY Sports

    Jordan Clarkson remains one of the more under-the-radar prospects in this year's field.

    He's averaging close to 19 points and 3.7 assists as Missouri's go-to weapon at the point and the wing. And at 6'5'' with the ability to handle the ball and create off the dribble, he's got the physical tools and skill set for both positions.

    Clarkson's jumper has been erratic, but a team looking for some backcourt depth and a physical playmaker might want to target him late in Round 1.

30. Phoenix Suns (via Indiana): Isaiah Austin, Baylor, 7'1'', PF/C, Soph.

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    Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

    Isaiah Austin isn't exactly having the breakout season he was hoping for when he chose to return to Baylor. But while his scoring and rebounding production have fallen off, he's actually blocking 3.1 shots in just 25 minutes (averaged 1.7 blocks in nearly 30 minutes last year).

    Exceptionally long and tall, there are still questions as to what his natural position is—Austin is listed at 225 pounds and tends to shy away from contact inside.

    On the other hand, he's skilled around the key and can knock down jumpers if given the chance.

    Austin has bust potential, but he could be worth a shot this late thanks to a unique blend of size and talent.

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