With the college basketball season winding down, the 2014 NBA draft is starting to become clearer.
Many players have either showcased their ability on the big stage or struggled under the spotlight. Meanwhile, the international players continue to perform at high levels in order to move up draft boards.
The only thing that is still a long way from being set is the NBA. The draft order remains up in the air, as well as many team needs that still must be evaluated.
Still, here is an early look at a mock draft based on which player would most help the team in question. Draft order is based on reverse order of standings as of March 26. Trade information courtesy of DraftExpress.com.
1. Milwaukee Bucks: Andrew Wiggins, SF, Kansas
If Andrew Wiggins does enter the draft as expected, it does not get much more disappointing than what he provided in his final performance. Not only did Kansas lose to Stanford in a third-round upset, but Wiggins only went 1-of-6 from the field for four points.
He clearly was upset with his performance, via Jason King of Bleacher Report:
Wiggins: "If I would've done my part we would've won the game. I let the team down, the fans."— Jason King (@JasonKingBR) March 23, 2014
Still, a person can become more aggressive. Once he gets confidence and gains familiarity with a system, it should be easy to become a bigger factor in every game.
On the other hand, you cannot teach any of the other skills that Wiggins has shown. He has elite athleticism and the ability to be an above-average shooter, slasher, defender and much more. This makes him the smart first pick for whichever team wins the lottery.
2. Philadelphia 76ers: Jabari Parker, SF, Duke
Despite the poor performance in the loss to Mercer, Jabari Parker still proved over the course of the season that he was the best freshman in college basketball. While he might not have as much upside as Wiggins, he is an elite scorer who has the ability to average 20 points per game very early in his career.
After drafting Nerlens Noel last season, the 76ers would be smart to grab a perimeter player like Parker who can put up plenty of points right away.
3. Orlando Magic: Joel Embiid, C, Kansas
Even with Nikola Vucevic bringing down rebounds at an impressive rate, the Magic do not have any rim protectors on the roster. This is where Joel Embiid comes in after showcasing great timing and athletic ability in the low post.
NBA teams might be concerned about lingering back issues after missing the entire postseason, but Embiid has the talent to make him worth the risk for a rebuilding team.
4. Utah Jazz: Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky
There are not too many players in college basketball with a bigger motor than Julius Randle. The forward gets to every rebound because he simply wants it more and it leads to plenty of success.
His strength and ability to create shots will allow his success to translate to the next level.
5. Boston Celtics: Aaron Gordon, PF, Arizona
The Celtics have some young talent that the team can build around, but the squad does not have the skill or athleticism to compete on a daily basis against the best squads in the league. This is where Aaron Gordon can help immediately.
Gordon entered the season known as one of the best leapers in the country and has not disappointed this season. The Arizona freshman has also displayed the ability to hit a jump shot, something that will only improve with time. This makes his upside as good as almost anyone in the class.
6. Los Angeles Lakers: Dante Exum, PG, Australia
Looking at the Lakers roster, there are not too many places they do not need help. Fortunately, Dante Exum can quickly start the rebuilding process while also making Kobe Bryant happy in the short term.
The Australian point guard has great size and quickness while developing his offensive game. With Steve Nash clearly at the end of his career, Exum could be a new beginning at the point guard position for Los Angeles.
7. Sacramento Kings: Noah Vonleh, PF, Indiana
Sacramento has to be happy about the production of DeMarcus Cousins at center, but the team needs a quality power forward to take the pressure off him on offense. Derrick Williams and Jason Thompson have tried but have not been too successful.
Noah Vonleh can stretch the defense with his shooting ability or score inside when given the opportunity. He also has great length to help him on the defensive end of the court.
8. Charlotte Bobcats (via Detroit Pistons): Rodney Hood, SF, Duke
While this might be a bit high for Rodney Hood, the Bobcats have shown that they are not afraid to reach for a player they want. In reality, this would not be a terrible pick with someone who has proven to have all the tools you look for in a wing.
Like Parker, Hood had an awful final game against Mercer. However, this should not overshadow his accomplishments from the entire season. He displayed a great shooting ability all year with the skill to take it to the rim when given a chance. This skill set is enough to be successful in the NBA.
9. Cleveland Cavaliers: Doug McDermott, SF, Creighton
It would be extremely difficult to say anything bad about the college career of Doug McDermott. The Creighton star ended as the fifth-leading scorer in college basketball history and will likely take home the nation's player of the year award.
However, there are still questions about how his skill set will translate to the next level. Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv thinks he will be fine:
McDermott will be a lottery pick and and should have a long solid NBA career. Interesting to see how his game translates.— Adam Zagoria (@AdamZagoria) March 24, 2014
McDermott is arguably the best shooter in the class, but he has expanded his game to be more than that. He is a true scorer who can get points with his back to the basket, driving in the lane or getting to the free-throw line.
Cleveland is tired of losing and will want someone who can help out right away. Few players have the ability to make as much of an impact right away as McDermott.
10. Denver Nuggets (via New York Knicks): Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State
While Ty Lawson has been just as good as expected this season, it seems like everyone else on the roster regressed. The Nuggets need someone else on the squad capable of scoring besides the star point guard.
Gary Harris can certainly put points on the board with a great shooting ability and the athleticism to get into the lane and finish at the rim. Consistency is a bit of an issue, but he has all the tools you need in a 2-guard.
11. Philadelphia 76ers (via New Orleans Pelicans): Nik Stauskas, SG, Michigan
Few players in college basketball improved as much as Nik Stauskas over the past year. He only had a supporting role for Michigan last season as Trey Burke led the team to the national championship game, but Stauskas became a leader this year.
Now the guard is a complete player who can score in multiple ways or pass to his teammates if they have a better look at the net. This is what NBA teams are looking for and it should lead to him being taken in the lottery.
12. Atlanta Hawks: Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State
Marcus Smart could have been one of the top picks in the draft a year ago, but he decided to stay in school for another year. What resulted was poor outside shooting as well as a potentially dangerous temper.
While some team will still take a chance on the athletic scoring point guard, it will be later in the draft than Smart hoped.
13. Orlando Magic (via Denver Nuggets): Tyler Ennis, PG, Syracuse
Tyler Ennis does not have the size of Exum or the athleticism of Smart or even a great shooting ability. However, he has as much composure as any freshman in a long time.
Whenever Syracuse needed a big play, Ennis was there to make it and he did it with a great deal of confidence. His ability to manage a game should make him a quality point guard in the NBA.
14. Chicago Bulls (via Charlotte Bobcats): T.J. Warren, SF, North Carolina State
If there was an MVP award in college basketball, T.J. Warren would likely take home the trophy. He basically carried North Carolina State to an appearance in the NCAA tournament as a go-to scorer on almost every possession.
The 6'8" sophomore has a versatile skill set and the ability to get into the paint with ease. This will not change at the next level, and he could provide the Bulls with a much-needed scoring boost.
15. Minnesota Timberwolves: Adreian Payne, PF, Michigan State
Kevin Love has turned into a star, but it is unknown how long he will stay in Minnesota. For this reason, the Timberwolves have to work to fill the hole before it becomes a gaping one.
Although Adreian Payne is not Love, he can consistently score inside while also showing the ability to make open shots from behind the arc. When healthy, he is as difficult to guard as anyone in the country and should make an impact on any team.
16. Phoenix Suns (via Washington Wizards): Clint Capela, PF, Switzerland
When Clint Capela gets his hands on the ball, he makes sure he finishes. The athletic big man is a bit raw but he can develop into a player that can excel on both ends of the court.
Although it is too early to write off Alex Len, the Suns still need more help in the frontcourt if they plan on competing in the Western Conference.
17. Boston Celtics (via Brooklyn Nets): Willie Cauley-Stein, C, Kentucky
Boston prides itself on defense, and this could get even better with the addition of Willie Cauley-Stein. Although the Kentucky sophomore was inconsistent this year, he still changed games when he was on the floor.
Cauley-Stein has the size (7'0", 244 lbs.) to make things difficult for opposing players and his presence will make everyone on the team better.
18. Toronto Raptors: Montrezl Harrell, PF, Louisville
Montrezl Harrell might be a bit undersized for the NBA at 6'8", but his strength and athleticism will certainly have him being selected in the first round.
The Louisville star has been a monster lately, posting a double-double in three games in a row to help his team win the AAC tournament and then reach the Sweet 16. Ben Standig of CSN Washington makes his case to draft the big man:
Seems to me like Montrezl Harrell gets lost in the NBA Draft hype. I so want that guy on my team. Crazy explosive.— Ben Standig (@BenStandig) March 21, 2014
Harrell is a good rebounder and has the athleticism to finish above the rim when he gets the ball. He also throws down dunks with such viciousness that you feel bad for the rim.
Toronto has its fair share of dunkers already on the roster, so Harrell could fit right in and help provide some balance up front.
19. Chicago Bulls: Zach LaVine, PG, UCLA
The Bulls will hope Derrick Rose can return next year and stay healthy the entire season. Of course, it would not be a bad thing to have a bit of a contingency plan.
Zach LaVine still must improve his distributing to become a better point guard, but he is a natural scorer with good athleticism. If he enters the draft, some team will certainly take a chance on his potential.
20. Phoenix Suns: James Young, SF, Kentucky
With the second of three picks, the Suns can simply continue to look for the best available as they try to fill a roster with talented players.
James Young was one of a few players at Kentucky to live up to expectations this season and proved that he can be a reliable scorer and solid defender. Each of these skills could be useful for the Suns next season.
21. Dallas Mavericks: Jusuf Nurkic, C, Bosnia and Herzegovina
The level of competition is not great, but Jusuf Nurkic has shown plenty of potential in his young career out of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
While it might be a few years before he contributes at a high level, he could eventually provide the Mavericks with a true franchise center that could be around for a long time.
22. Memphis Grizzlies: Kyle Anderson, SF, UCLA
Tayshaun Prince is clearly not the player he used to be, meaning the Grizzlies have a big need at the wing. With this in mind, there are not too many players who would be a better fit than Kyle Anderson.
The UCLA wing knows how to fill up the box score, averaging 14.7 points, 8.7 rebounds and 6.5 assists heading into the Sweet 16. Although he lacks the quickness of some other players at his position, his basketball IQ guarantees that he will have success in the NBA.
23. Utah Jazz (via Golden State Warriors): P.J. Hairston, SG, Texas Legends
Utah needs help scoring, and at this point in the draft it is worth taking a major risk. That could lead the squad to take a look at P.J. Hairston, who was unable to compete for North Carolina this season due to eligibility issues.
The good news is that Hairston has found a home in the NBA D-League with the Texas Legends, averaging 21 points per game. Regardless of potential character issues, he is a great shooter and that will carry him far in the NBA.
24. Charlotte Bobcats (via Portland Trail Blazers): K.J. McDaniels, SF, Clemson
Although K.J. McDaniels is listed at only 6'6", he plays like a seven-footer every game. The ACC Defensive Player of the Year averaged 2.8 blocks and brought down 7.1 rebounds per game this season.
It is unknown where he will fit in the NBA, but he knows how to compete and should help out a team that often struggles to rebound.
25. Houston Rockets: Jerami Grant, PF, Syracuse
Houston will probably want someone who can stretch the floor, which is something that Jerami Grant cannot provide. Then again, he is a great offensive rebounder who knows how to finish inside and has the athleticism needed to compete defensively.
If he does enter the draft this year, the Rockets would be getting great value with this selection.
26. Miami Heat: Cleanthony Early, SF, Wichita State
NBA scouts are often scared of small-school prospects because they did not face adequate competition. However, Wichita State proved it was worthy of our respect and so did Cleanthony Early.
In his final game against Kentucky, the senior almost carried the Shockers to victory with 31 points on 12-of-17 shooting. He went up against a loaded Wildcats roster and appeared to be one of the best players on the floor.
Chad Ford of ESPN agreed that he helped his stock in the loss:
Wichita State played great. Shame someone had to lose. Cleanthony Early and Ron Baker both really helped their NBA Draft stock here.— Chad Ford (@chadfordinsider) March 23, 2014
Miami could use scorers off the bench at any position, and Early could be one of the best options available.
27. Los Angeles Clippers: Nick Johnson, SG, Arizona
The longer Arizona stays in the tournament, the higher Nick Johnson's draft stock will continue to rise. He might not always post huge numbers, but the guard always finds a way to come through for his team when needed.
With great athleticism and defensive ability, the only thing holding him back is his height at 6'3". Since he cannot change that, he will have to settle for being one of the top sleepers in the class.
28. Phoenix Suns (via Indiana Pacers): LaQuinton Ross, SG, Ohio State
Consistency has been a major problem throughout LaQuinton Ross' career. At times he seemed too passive and unwilling to take over games when his team needed it.
However, his unique skill set as a shooter and overall athlete give him the potential to be a star in the NBA. The Suns would be smart to grab a player with this much upside at this stage of the first round.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Wayne Selden, SG, Kansas
For most of the year, Wayne Selden was overshadowed by freshman teammates Wiggins and Embiid. However, the wing has plenty of talent on his own and can develop to be a quality secondary scorer with the Thunder.
While Selden might be best served returning to school, it would be a great pick for Oklahoma City if he is available.
30. San Antonio Spurs: Shabazz Napier, PG, Connecticut
Anyone who watched college basketball this season can tell you that if you have the option, you want Shabazz Napier playing for you and not against you.
The senior point guard led his team in points, assists, rebounds and steals during the season and had a knack for making big plays at the end of games. For a team that is always in big games, the Spurs would be smart to add a veteran player like Napier.
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