Make sure you catch some of college basketball’s superstars during March Madness, because they will be making waves in the NBA very soon.
Who would you rather have in the NBA?
The 2014 draft class is arguably one of the best in years (assuming the numerous talented freshmen take their talents to the Association), and the fortunes of the lottery franchises will be altered with the right first-round picks.
With that in mind, let’s dig into a mock draft for the entire first round. The order of the teams is not set yet, so it was borrowed from DraftExpress for the purposes of this exercise.
1. Milwaukee Bucks: Jabari Parker, Duke
The Milwaukee Bucks have needs across the board, but when you have the No. 1 pick, you are looking for someone who can do everything on the floor to build your franchise around.
Jabari Parker fits that description perfectly.
The Duke product will bring a season of Mike Krzyzewski’s tutelage, a gradually improving post game, an effective outside shot and underrated rebounding skills to the table for the Bucks. He is arguably the best overall college basketball player, and he will be the first name taken off the board on draft day.
2. Philadelphia 76ers: Andrew Wiggins, Kansas
Andrew Wiggins is certainly in the mix for the No. 1 pick in the draft, but the thought here is that he goes No. 2 to the Philadelphia 76ers.
The 76ers are making an impressive push to get the No. 1 overall pick. But if they land Wiggins at No. 2, they'll be thrilled. He's currently the No. 1 player on their board. While Wiggins has had a bit of an up-and-down season, he has all the physical tools to be a big-time NBA player. Put him with Michael Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel and the Sixers would be loaded with one of the most athletic teams in the league.
3. Orlando Magic: Joel Embiid, Kansas
Joel Embiid is the third player in the race for the No. 1 draft pick, but his back issues will scare away the top two teams on the board (in what may be an overreaction).
Embiid is a shot-blocking and rebounding force on the inside, and he's someone the Orlando Magic can build their core around. With Victor Oladipo already on the roster, Orlando would instantly have a formidable and young inside-outside combination.
Contention in the weak Eastern Conference wouldn’t be too far away.
4. Boston Celtics: Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State
The thought here is that Marcus Smart will play his way up draft boards more than any other college basketball player in the NCAA tournament.
His draft stock has fluctuated this season alongside his game, but the Oklahoma State Cowboys are on a roll heading into the postseason. A major reason is that Smart has asserted his will on the offensive and defensive end since returning from suspension.
Smart’s talent and willingness to mix it up on defense and in the scoring department will carry him into the top four of the draft.
5. Los Angeles Lakers: Julius Randle, Kentucky
Pau Gasol is an impending free agent, and the Los Angeles Lakers will potentially have a hole to fill down low.
Julius Randle will be their answer in what would be an intriguing pairing with a healthy Kobe Bryant.
Randle is a rebounding machine who has been Kentucky’s best player even in the face of the national powerhouse’s struggles. He may not be big enough to fit the center role in the NBA, but he will be an effective power forward who can score on the block and outmuscle opponents on defense.
6. Sacramento Kings: Gary Harris, Michigan State
Gary Harris is one of the least-discussed college basketball superstars in this year’s presumed draft class, but that doesn’t mean his game won’t translate to the next level.
Zach Harper of CBSSports.com broke down the Michigan State guard’s prospects:
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.
Few players in the country can score like Harris can.
7. Utah Jazz: Noah Vonleh, Indiana
It’s been a somewhat disappointing season for the Indiana Hoosiers, but Noah Vonleh has caught the eyes of NBA scouts, as Brian Snow of Scout.com points out:
Noah Vonleh has been terrific so far. There is a reason NBA guys LOVE him right now.— Brian Snow (@BSnowScout) February 26, 2014
Vonleh is arguably the Big Ten’s best rebounder, which is impressive considering how physical the league is as a whole. He isn’t aggressive enough on offense, but that is partially due to his status as a developing freshman.
If he's paired with the young Trey Burke in Utah, Vonleh’s offense will be given a chance to catch up to his defense and rebounding.
8. Denver Nuggets (from Knicks): Dante Exum, International
Dante Exum may not be playing the type of competition many of the other prospects in the 2014 draft class are at the college level, but that shouldn’t be an indictment of his talent.
He is incredibly athletic and quick in the open floor, and he will fit in nicely with the Denver Nuggets’ high-paced attack. He can turn defense into instant offense for himself or any of his teammates filling the lane, which is exactly what Denver did to get into the playoffs last year.
9. Cleveland Cavaliers: Dario Saric, International
Dario Saric will be the second consecutive international player taken off the board, thanks largely to his overall potential as a scorer.
He fits the mold of a tall and athletic stretch forward, which is something every team in the NBA looks for each year. Saric has a gradually improving outside shot as well, and he may be asked to fill the spot of Luol Deng if Deng departs from Cleveland in the offseason.
10. Philadelphia 76ers (from Hornets): Tyler Ennis, Syracuse
The Philadelphia 76ers already took Wiggins with the No. 1 pick in this mock, and they will look for a point guard of the future with their second top-10 selection.
Tyler Ennis, Wiggins and a presumably healthy Nerlens Noel will make for a dangerous core, especially in a watered-down Eastern Conference. Ennis is more than happy to act as a distributor, controlling the pace of the game and dishing out assists.
He will fit in nicely alongside Wiggins if he does just that.
11. Charlotte Bobcats (from Pistons): Aaron Gordon, Arizona
Aaron Gordon is the talented afterthought in many of the discussions about the loads of talented freshmen across the college basketball landscape, but that’s more a result of East Coast bias than anything else.
After all, many of his dominating performances have come after most of the country has already shut off the television.
Gordon will make waves at the next level, though, thanks to his high-flying dunk, impressive rebounding ability and knack for making critical plays on the defensive end. He is more talented than the No. 11 pick, so the Charlotte Bobcats will get a steal here.
12. Orlando Magic (from Nuggets): Doug McDermott, Creighton
Doug McDermott is the best scorer in all of college basketball, which will be enough to entice the Orlando Magic with the No. 12 pick.
In this scenario, the future is already being built around Oladipo on the outside and Embiid on the inside, so McDermott is the ideal forward who can stretch the defense from the outside, contribute on the glass and even score in the low post when the other bigs need a breather.
There will always be room for scorers in the NBA, so McDermott will find his place early in this draft.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves: Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky
Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com summed up Willie Cauley-Stein’s potential and flaws perfectly in one sentence: "Cauley-Stein is a long and athletic shot-blocker, and that's enough to make him worthy of a top-10 pick. If he develops any offensive skills, watch out."
If the game were played only on the defensive end, Cauley-Stein would certainly be a top-10 pick. However, he still needs to develop his offensive game, which is why he falls to No. 13 here. The Minnesota Timberwolves get a project who could turn into a long-term asset.
14. Memphis Grizzlies: Rodney Hood, Duke
The Memphis Grizzlies are one of the better defensive teams in the entire NBA, but they could use another scorer, especially at the forward position.
Rodney Hood is one of the most underrated players in all of college basketball, and he will improve Memphis’ scoring from day one. He can hit from outside and attack the rim off the dribble, and he is nearly automatic from the free-throw stripe.
15. Atlanta Hawks: T.J. Warren, North Carolina State
If North Carolina State were a little better this season, more people would realize just how talented T.J. Warren is as a potential first-round pick.
He is incredibly athletic, can attack the rim off the bounce and has a gradually improving inside game . If he works on his shot selection going forward, Warren will become a solid contributor at the next level.
16. Chicago Bulls (from Bobcats): P.J. Hairston, North Carolina and NBDL
Like Memphis, the Chicago Bulls need some scoring to complement their formidable defense.
P.J. Hairston gives the Bulls something of a replacement for the traded Deng, at least on the offensive side of the ball. He can hit the three and finish in traffic, and he would serve as another solid ball-handler alongside Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler.
What’s more, he would become a better defender simply by seeing extended time in the Chicago system.
17. Boston Celtics (from Nets): Jusuf Nurkic, International
Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com points out that basketball fans need to be paying attention to Jusuf Nurkic:
The big move up the draft board belongs to Jusuf Nurkic, a 6-11, 275-pound center from Bosnia. One team has him in their top 10.— Scott Howard-Cooper (@SHowardCooper) March 5, 2014
He is a physical presence down low on the defensive end, and he can control the glass and score from the post. All it will take is one team to take a chance on the international star, and that team will be the Boston Celtics in their quest to land a dominant big of the future.
18. Phoenix Suns (from Wizards): Adreian Payne, Michigan State
Adreian Payne doesn’t get the credit he deserves as a game-changing star at the college level.
In four years at Michigan State, he has exploited mismatches by hitting three-pointers consistently, beating defenders off the dribble and posting up small opponents. He is a shot-blocking machine and is one of the best finishers in transition in the entire class, especially considering his size.
As a senior, Payne is also more polished than many other prospects.
19. Chicago Bulls: Nik Stauskas, Michigan
As previously mentioned, the Bulls need offense, and Nik Stauskas will provide just that.
He has skyrocketed up draft boards as his Michigan Wolverines have dominated in Big Ten play, and he is much more than just an impressive three-point shooter. He is a leader on the floor, and he can attack the rim. He is also a better defender than he gets credit for.
The No. 19 pick may be a bit of a stretch for the sharpshooter, but the Bulls will find a place for him.
20. Toronto Raptors: Jerami Grant, Syracuse
Harper explained the ups and downs of Jerami Grant as an NBA prospect: "I'm starting to warm up on the idea of Jerami 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."
Don’t be surprised if Grant gradually develops a consistent jumper as he becomes more seasoned in the NBA.
21. Phoenix Suns: Clint Capela, International
Clint Capela will make waves at pre-draft workouts, which will lead to an improvement in his draft stock.
He is one of the best shot-blockers in the entire 2014 class and is athletic enough to get out in transition, and he will contribute in the rebounding department in the NBA. That combination of skills will be enough to convince the Suns to take a chance on him in the late first round.
22. Dallas Mavericks: Montrezl Harrell, Louisville
Montrezl Harrell is an intriguing prospect because he is one of the best finishers around the rim as well as a formidable rebounder and a solid defender.
He still needs some improvement in his offensive arsenal on the low block, but that will presumably come with experience in the NBA. At least he is one of the best dunkers in the country, as Matt Stone of The Courier-Journal points out:
23. Utah Jazz (from Warriors): Kyle Anderson, UCLA
The best part about Kyle Anderson’s game is his size from the point guard position.
He will be able to use that to exploit mismatches down low and in the rebounding department at the next level. Anderson is also athletic enough to keep up with smaller ball-handlers, so there shouldn’t be a drop-off on the defensive side of the ball.
His shooting and passing abilities will have the Utah Jazz pleased, even if Burke is already on the roster. Anderson and Burke could certainly play alongside each other if given the opportunity.
24. Los Angeles Clippers: James Young, Kentucky
The Kentucky Wildcats may have their issues this year, but the sharpshooting James Young will still find his way into the first round.
The Los Angeles Clippers have almost all the pieces necessary to at least compete deep into the playoffs, but they could use someone on the wing spot to consistently stretch the defense. Young has the potential to fill that role, and he can also slash to the rim off the dribble.
25. Houston Rockets: K.J. McDaniels, Clemson
K.J. McDaniels is one of the best pure athletes in this entire draft class, and he can absolutely stuff the stat sheet on a given night.
McDaniels can score from mid-range and attack the rim, and he is an impressive rebounder on both ends of the floor. Throw in his shot-blocking prowess, and the Houston Rockets will find space for him in their rotation alongside Dwight Howard.
26. Charlotte Bobcats (from Trailblazers): Jahii Carson, Arizona State
Harper feels that Jahii Carson can thank another small point guard for his spot in the first round: "It's hard to believe GMs will trust such a small point guard, but with the success of Isaiah Thomas on the Kings, it might convince front offices that Carson is worthy of a first round selection. Talent is certainly there for him."
Carson has speed to spare and will use that at the next level to create transition opportunities for himself and his teammates.
27. San Antonio Spurs: A.J. Hammons, Purdue
For as great as he has been his entire career, Tim Duncan isn’t getting any younger.
The San Antonio Spurs will want to find a big man in the next draft, and they will look in the direction of A.J. Hammons.
Hammons will be something of a long-term project, but he is a solid rebounder and has the potential to develop into a defensive stopper down low. If he improves his offensive game down low, he will be a value pick at the bottom of the first round.
28. Miami Heat: Zach LaVine, UCLA
If nothing else, the Miami Heat need to get younger and more athletic in the backcourt, with Dwyane Wade’s health always an overarching concern.
Zach LaVine of UCLA would give Miami an explosive ball-handler who can get to the rim with ease and then slam the ball down when he arrives. LaVine also has a sweet stroke from the outside, which would certainly come in handy when defenses collapse around LeBron James (assuming he is still in Miami next year).
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Wayne Selden, Kansas
Harper is higher on Wayne Selden than many others are:
I'm still extremely high on Selden and what he can be at the NBA level but nobody seems to be talking about him with the same fervor as the preseason. Selden's game is a bit lost with Kansas and yet his shooting numbers are still great. He could use a good tournament season to guarantee a top 10 selection.
There is always room for a shooter at the next level, but Selden will continue to be overshadowed by his talented teammates at Kansas. That will ultimately hurt his draft stock somewhat, although there is nothing wrong with a late first-round selection.
30. Phoenix Suns (from Pacers): LaQuinton Ross, Ohio State
LaQuinton Ross may ultimately be too skinny to truly thrive at the next level. His ball-handling leaves much to be desired, and he isn’t always the best defender.
But he seems to find the basket more times than not. Ari Wasserman of the Cleveland Plain Dealer explains the paradoxical nature of Ross’ offensive attack:
I feel like LaQuinton Ross looks out of control every time he takes it. Then he makes the shot.— Ari Wasserman (@AriWasserman) March 9, 2014
Ross is a formidable scorer and has the height to thrive at the NBA level as a small forward. If he can become a more consistent player, he will have a place in the league.
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