Who Would the NBA's Worst Teams Take with No. 1 Pick in 2014 NBA Draft?
There are roughly six teams who stink just enough to make a run at the lottery.
And based on their rosters, along with the stage they're at in their rebuilding process, each franchise will likely have a different-looking draft board.
Some teams are searching for an NBA-ready contributor. Others will be in the market for the top long-term prospect on the board, regardless of how long it takes him to hit his NBA stride.
We've lined up who each team is likely to target if it's able to secure that No. 1 overall pick.
Milwaukee Bucks: Joel Embiid, Kansas, 7'0", C, Freshman
The Milwaukee Bucks come out of the All-Star break as your favorites to win the 2014 lottery. That's what a 9-43 record will get you.
Based on their current roster and short-term expectations, the Bucks will ultimately go with the guy who offers the most long-term promise. And that's Kansas center Joel Embiid, whose two-way ceiling sits a story or two higher than any other prospects' in the field.
When it's all said and done, we could be talking about a go-to center on offense and a premier rim protector on D. And given how far Embiid has come playing just three years of organized ball, it's only natural to assume he'll continue to grow with more concentrated NBA coaching.
Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins will be an option, though he seems to occupy similar floor space as prized forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, and while Jabari Parker makes sense for just about every team, it wouldn't be the same caliber home-run swing.
Though the Bucks have a number of bigs, none of them have the same post game of Embiid, who's got an array of moves with his back to the rim, along with a mid-range jumper that's in the works.
Embiid would also allow the Bucks to explore any trade possibilities for Larry Sanders, a guy who can't seem to stay on the floor, yet one who's bound to attract plenty of interest.
Either way, assuming Embiid does enter the draft, he'll do so as the likely No. 1 prospect on our board, as well as dozens of general managers' boards across the league. According to ESPN's Jeff Goodman (subscription required), Bucks general manager John Hammond loves Embiid's "size, skill and rapid progression."
And at the end of the day, that's what the Bucks need—the No. 1 guy regardless of position.
Philadelphia 76ers: Andrew Wiggins, Kansas, 6'8", SF, Freshman
Whether this team drafts Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker, neither is going to move the needle for Philadelphia in the short term. The Sixers have to go with the guy who offers the most long-term promise, and given his electric athletic ability and two-way upside, that guy is Wiggins.
With Wiggins at the wing, Michael Carter-Williams in the back and Nerlens Noel up front, Philadelphia would have world-class athleticism and length spread evenly throughout the lineup. It would also give this team an identity to play to—with these three as part of the core, the Sixers become a team with tremendous defensive upside (unlike Parker, Wiggins can guard to up to four positions with the potential to lock down three of them), and one that can run opposing teams out of the gym with an uptempo pace.
Though Wiggins has been inconsistent as a freshman, he's still averaging an impressive 16.1 points despite lacking polish he'll add over time.
If both Wiggins and Parker max out their potential, it's Wiggins who'll likely pack the meaner punch. And the Sixers have time to let him develop without adding pressure to produce immediate results.
Orlando Magic: Dante Exum, Australia, 6'6", PG/SG, 1995
I just don't know how a team in need of a point guard can afford to pass on Australia's Dante Exum.
Though there is some risk that comes with drafting a player outside of college basketball, there just doesn't seem to be much attached to Exum, who as a 6'6" superstar athlete is about as rare a mismatch as you'll find.
If we're talking upside, he's gotta be on par with Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker. Given his unique physical tools for the position he plays, Exum has the chance to emerge as one of the toughest backcourt covers in the league.
He's got the size and offensive game to take over as either a 1 or a 2, along with an admirable basketball IQ that allows him to facilitate as a distributor.
From a scouting perspective, his first step is next-level explosive, which ignites a last step that propels him above the rim for sensational finishes. It also keeps him in constant playmaking mode, considering how tough he is to contain off the dribble.
Exum's perimeter game is a work in progress, but he's a capable shooter who just needs to improve his consistency.
He's also a big-time defensive weapon—his lateral quickness and length can act as a human blanket against guards, while his size should allow him to defend up to three positions. And if you ask me, a tandem of Exum and Victor Oladipo could provide some serious perimeter defense together.
With the emergence of Nikola Vucevic at center, and wings or forwards like Tobias Harris and Arron Afflalo, now is the time for Orlando to secure its point guard for the future.
Think Michael Carter-Williams, only a better decision-maker and more polished scorer.
Sacramento Kings: Jabari Parker, Duke, 6'8", SF/PF, Freshman
The Sacramento Kings have been looking to pair DeMarcus Cousins with another viable building block for some time now. And based on Jabari Parker's strengths as an inside-outside forward, he'd be a terrific addition to the core.
At 6'8", 235 pounds, Parker should have the size, post game and rebounding tenacity required to fill power-forward duties. And the Kings just haven't gotten much firepower out of the 4 position with Jason Thompson.
Sacramento could also look to develop Parker into its next starting small forward, considering Rudy Gay will be entering the final year of his bloated contract.
This is a team that's been stuck in the same gear for a little too long now. It's time the Kings finally make a move, and Parker is easily the most NBA-ready option on the board.
Joel Embiid might offer the most upside, but there's obvious conflict here with Cousins up front. And Andrew Wiggins just seems a little too far from being able to make a significant impact.
The Kings have messed up too many draft picks over the last couple of years, and they can't afford another blunder—especially in a draft with difference-making potential at the top.
Parker is as safe of a bet as any prospect in the country, while his ceiling should be high enough to justify a No. 1 overall selection.
Los Angeles Lakers: Joel Embiid, Kansas, 7'0", C, Freshman
Given the team's roster and how few long-term assets it has, the Lakers should be operating with a best-player-available approach.
Forget about positions or NBA-readiness—the Lakers need the guy who's going to be the top player five years from now. And for us and likely plenty of NBA executives, that's Kansas center Joel Embiid.
He's got the upside to build around, while playing a position that's usually tough to fill with franchise-changing talent.
Embiid has the footwork, post moves and touch to develop into a primary half-court scoring option. Defensively, he has the potential to evolve into a game-changing anchor in the middle.
Looking ahead, many are under the impression that Kevin Love will inevitably be joining the Lakers in free agency in 2015. "That's a 100 percent certainty,'' one general manager told ESPN's Chris Broussard (subscription required). Given Love's defensive limitations, along with his ability to play behind the arc, Embiid (7'0" tall, 7'5" wingspan, 250 pounds) would seem like a perfect complement at center.
Jabari Parker might be able to contribute a little sooner, but with a team that appears to be starting from scratch, I'm going with the best long-term option, and that's Embiid, who should have the chance to dominate at both ends of the floor.
Utah Jazz: Jabari Parker, Duke, 6'8", SF/PF, Freshman
Jabari Parker couldn't fit any better in Utah, where the Jazz should be looking for an NBA-ready talent, and preferably one who can put points on the board.
And Parker can do so from multiple positions.
Personally, I think he evolves into a tougher mismatch at the 4, where he has the size and skill set to score down low, rebound and take slower-footed power forwards off the dribble. His ability to play inside and out should complement Derrick Favors' interior presence and Gordon Hayward's versatility as a wing.
With Favors and Enes Kanter, there isn't much room to develop center Joel Embiid, while I'm just not sure Andrew Wiggins' raw skill set is a fit.
After losing Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap, the Jazz could desperately use an offensive weapon like Parker to build around moving forward.