The NBA draft is months away, but with so much talent at the collegiate level this season, it is hovering over many of the transactions that have occurred this year as well as those that did not.
Teams were more reluctant to trade draft picks out of fear of missing out on the next can’t-miss prospect, which is part of the reason there weren’t that many league-altering moves at the trade deadline.
With the importance of the next draft in mind, let’s dig into a mock NBA draft. Keep in mind that team needs were given less weight this time around than they will be closer to the actual draft because there will likely be plenty of roster changes between now and then.
Since the draft order is not established yet like it is in the NFL, credit for the order of the teams goes to the mock draft at Draft Express. All underclassmen presented in this mock are assumed to be turning pro.
1. Milwaukee Bucks: Jabari Parker (Duke)
The most intriguing development regarding the 2014 draft will be which of the superstar trio between Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid will be taken first.
The guess here is Parker, as a full year under Mike Krzyzewski’s tutelage will have him better prepared to contribute right away than any other player in the draft. Parker is capable of scoring from anywhere on the floor, contributing in the rebounding department and providing solid defense.
He is poised to be a superstar at the next level.
2. Philadelphia 76ers: Andrew Wiggins (Kansas)
The consolation prize at the No. 2 pick will be Wiggins, who isn’t far removed from being called the next LeBron James before he even played a collegiate game.
Wiggins is a freak athlete who, much like Parker, can score from anywhere on the floor. He gets out in transition, is probably a better defender than Parker and is a solid rebounder. The upside with Wiggins is enticing for any NBA team.
3. Orlando Magic: Joel Embiid (Kansas)
Speaking of upside, it doesn’t get much higher than Embiid, who will be the No. 3 pick
Associated Press writer Luke Meredith compares Embiid to two legendary centers in the form of Ralph Sampson and Hakeem Olajuwon:
Not bad company.
4. Sacramento Kings: Dante Exum (Australia)
Dante Exum from Australia is perhaps the most intriguing pick in the 2014 draft, as the level of competition he faces isn’t up to par with elite colleges.
However, he oozes potential and has the speed and athleticism to instantly transform an offense with his transition game. Based on pure talent alone, Exum is worth a top-five pick.
That is exactly what he will be.
5. Utah Jazz: Julius Randle (Kentucky)
Julius Randle has been an absolute force down low for Kentucky in his freshman season, and the only question is whether he has the size to do so at the NBA level.
While he may not be as tall as other big men in the Association, Randle has incredible strength and the willingness to mix it up in the paint. He is also a fantastic rebounder, which is a skill that translates well to the next level.
6. Boston Celtics: Gary Harris (Michigan State)
CBS Sports’ Zach Harper discussed the upside and risk involved with drafting Gary Harris:
I'm worried about his lack of 3-point accuracy this season but not enough to feel like it's a long-term issue. Everything else with him on the court is superb and his scoring ability will help boost the stature of shooting guards in the NBA. His improved accuracy at the free throw line and ability to get there more than he did last year is extremely encouraging.
Harris has proven at the college level that he is capable of shooting the three-pointer, so if that is the one concern, he is in good shape. His long-range shooting will probably be better in the NBA if he is paired with someone like Rajon Rondo, who can find him plenty of open shots.
7. Cleveland Cavaliers: Noah Vonleh (Indiana)
Noah Vonleh still needs some polishing on the offensive end, but he is as good as it gets in terms of rebounding in this draft class.
Vonleh’s wingspan alone means he will be a formidable defender who can challenge for rebounds and swat shots. He will protect the rim at the next level and contribute right away, at least from a bench position.
8. Los Angeles Lakers: Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State)
Marcus Smart’s draft status will be picked apart from now until the actual draft, considering the disappointment that has been his sophomore season, but he is still one of the most talented players in the entire class.
Smart is an elite scorer and thrives on the defensive end, which is a combination you don’t always see from college guards, especially ones who could have gone pro in the past and elected to return.
9. Denver Nuggets (via New York Knicks): Aaron Gordon (Arizona)
From a talent standpoint alone, Aaron Gordon is better than the No. 9 pick.
However, there are so many excellent players in this class that Gordon will be a solid consolation prize at No. 9. He is a formidable rebounder, can fly above the rim on offense and is a solid defender.
10. Charlotte Bobcats (via Detroit Pistons): Tyler Ennis (Syracuse)
Tyler Ennis is arguably the best point guard in college basketball, and his skill set translates to the next level.
He is a leader on the floor, can score on his own from anywhere in the half-court set and is a decent defender. Look for him to challenge for a starting spot wherever he ends up.
11. Philadelphia 76ers (via New Orleans): Willie Cauley-Stein (Kentucky)
Willie Cauley-Stein’s strength is on the defensive side of the ball. His length and wingspan allow him to challenge shots, get in the passing lanes and disrupt the offensive flow of opposing offenses.
If he can develop a more reliable offensive arsenal, he will be a quality big guy in the NBA.
12. Minnesota Timberwolves: James Young (Kentucky)
James Young doesn’t get the attention that many of the other players do at Kentucky, but his game translates to the next level.
He is versatile and athletic—which will allow him to play shooting guard or forward—and can shoot from behind the three-point line. He needs to become a more consistent player, but that will come with experience.
13. Orlando Magic (via Denver Nuggets): Dario Saric (Croatia)
Harper of CBS points out why Dario Saric may just end up being a lottery pick when the draft rolls around:
He's a really tall small forward that has improved his scoring output as of late and has a good-looking outside stroke right now. Throw him in some one-on-one workouts and it would be easy for GMs to be dazzled by him. Could be lottery bound.
14. Memphis Grizzlies: Doug McDermott (Creighton)
Doug McDermott is one of the best players to ever play college basketball from a statistical standpoint, and that scoring ability doesn’t just go away when someone is drafted.
McDermott may not have the strength to become a banger in the paint in the NBA, but he will create mismatches because of his propensity to score from the outside. He needs to improve his defense, though.
15. Chicago Bulls (via Charlotte Bobcats): Rodney Hood (Duke)
The Chicago Bulls could use a reliable scorer to pair with Derrick Rose, and Rodney Hood would provide just that.
Hood gets overshadowed by Parker when Duke plays, but he is nearly the offensive player that the potential No. 1 pick is and can score from almost anywhere. Hood is a terrific three-point shooter, can attack the rim in traffic and knocks down his free throws when he draws contact.
16. Atlanta Hawks (via Brooklyn Nets): Adreian Payne (Michigan State)
Adreian Payne will shoot up draft boards with a productive March as he finally gets healthy.
There is very little the Michigan State big man can't do, as he is a fantastic rebounder, can score from the paint, has some ball-handling skills and can even stretch the floor with soft touch from beyond the three-point line.
17. Phoenix Suns (via Washington Wizards): Jerami Grant (Syracuse)
Harper of CBS Sports isn’t particularly sold on Jerami Grant as an impact player, but he is warming up to the idea:
I'm starting to warm up on the idea of Jeremi Grant because I think overall talent and impact are there. However, he's a 3-4 tweener that can't shoot from the outside and is way too small for the inside. He has to develop a jumper but I think he'll be sneaky productive.
If Grant does develop that jump shot, look out.
18. Chicago Bulls: Nik Stauskas (Michigan)
Nik Stauskas will turn heads because of his three-point shooting, but he can do a lot more than just that.
His length allows him to play better defense than he gets credit for, he is a capable ball-handler who can get to the rim, and he provides leadership on the floor. Stauskas is a dark-horse candidate to be an early first-round pick.
19. Boston Celtics (via Atlanta Hawks): Clint Capela (Switzerland)
Clint Capela is another intriguing prospect who will capture the attention of NBA scouts with his athleticism and versatility at predraft workouts.
He is one of the best shot-blockers in this draft and is becoming a better scorer with every game he plays.
20. Toronto Raptors: Wayne Selden (Kansas)
Wayne Selden gets overlooked at Kansas playing alongside Wiggins and Embiid, but he has NBA talent.
Selden can shoot the three, contribute in the rebounding department and create his own shot. That can’t be said about every small forward/shooting guard in this draft class.
21. Utah Jazz: Montrezl Harrell (Louisville)
Gary Parrish of CBS Sports breaks down why Montrezl Harrell could be a first-round pick but not quite a lottery selection: Harrell is a terrific athlete and dunker, which probably makes him a lock for the first round. But does he have good instincts or any offensive skills? Those questions could keep him out of the lottery.
22. Dallas Mavericks: P.J. Hairston (North Carolina/NBDL)
P.J. Hairston never got to play a game at the collegiate level this season for various off-court issues, but the NBA scouts only care about his talent level.
Hairston is a game-changing shooting guard who can score and defend. His ability to attack the rim is impressive, and the experience he gains in the NBDL will help him at the next level.
23. Phoenix Suns: Sam Dekker (Wisconsin)
There are certainly some concerns with Sam Dekker this year, as CBS Sports’ Harper breaks down: "His shooting ability isn't quite what was advertised going into this season and he looks so weak for someone who is supposed to bang around the NBA. Potential to be a key perimeter weapon is still there."
While Dekker’s production needs to improve, he is still incredibly talented and will get a look as a first-rounder.
24. Houston Rockets: Kyle Anderson (UCLA)
Kyle Anderson has serious size for the point guard position, which will help him post up smaller defenders and contribute in the rebounding department.
He is a stat-sheet stuffer, which almost always translates to the next level. Anderson is a formidable passer and shooter—two skills that will clearly help him in the NBA.
25. Los Angeles Clippers: T.J. Warren (N.C. State)
T.J. Warren has a high ceiling, although shot selection is sometimes an issue.
If he limits his shots to those that are open, Warren will be a formidable player at the NBA level.
26. Charlotte Bobcats (via Portland Trail Blazers): Glenn Robinson III (Michigan)
Glenn Robinson III will draw interest on his name alone.
When NBA scouts evaluate him, they will see a small forward with incredible athleticism and the ability to shoot from the outside. He has the tendency to disappear at times on the floor, but his talent will attract some team enough to use a first-round pick.
27. Miami Heat: Semaj Christon (Xavier)
If Semaj Christon played at a bigger school than Xavier, he would get much more attention than he does.
His explosive first step is one of the best in all of college basketball, he is comfortable in a leadership role and is a formidable defender. Look for him to develop into a solid player in the NBA.
28. San Antonio Spurs: Jahii Carson (Arizona State)
In terms of pure speed, Jahii Carson is as fast as it gets.
That obviously translates in the transition game, but it also allows Carson to stay in front of ball-handlers on the defensive end and get to the rim in the half-court set. If Carson cuts down on his turnovers, he will be an impact point guard at the next level.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: A.J. Hammons (Purdue)
A.J. Hammons as a first-round pick is a case study of potential over production.
He is an imposing presence on defense because of his size and is gradually becoming a better defender. If he puts it all together one day, Hammons can be a very good center in the NBA.
30. Phoenix Suns (via Indianapolis Pacers): Zach LaVine (UCLA)
Zach LaVine is an incredible athlete, especially for a point guard.
He can shoot the lights out from the outside and has the explosiveness to get by defenders off the dribble. When he does get to the rim, he is one of the best dunkers in all of college basketball.
Follow me on Twitter: