While it remains to be seen which players will declare themselves eligible for this draft and which will return to school, I do believe there is a clear group of top four players who could enter the NBA from college: Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Joel Embiid and Julius Randle.
None are perfect, of course. Wiggins is unpolished, Parker lacks top-end athleticism, Embiid has potential injury red flags, and Randle's game isn't quite as well-rounded as we thought coming into the season, but each still has top-four talent.
So, taking a look at the NBA standings and trying to project logically which teams will be in the position to draft them, I've tried to match up the best fits for these players. Let's get into it.
Andrew Wiggins, Kansas
This one is pretty easy, actually. For as much talent as Wiggins has, he is unpolished and will be a bit of a project when he hits the league. And no team is in a better position to be patient with a project than the Philadelphia 76ers.
The Sixers have a rookie center in Nerlens Noel, who has yet to appear in a game. They have a long, athletic rookie point guard in Michael Carter-Williams, who is averaging 16.7 points, 6.2 assists and 6.1 rebounds per game, and is a strong candidate for Rookie of the Year. They have a veteran power forward in Thaddeus Young, who does a little bit of everything for the team.
And that, folks, is it.
Wiggins would have time to grow on a team that is starting from the ground up. Furthermore, he'd be the centerpiece of an extremely athletic Sixers team that also owns the New Orleans Pelicans' first-round pick (top-five protected). That selection looks like it will fall in the eight to 12 section of the draft at the moment.
The Sixers could have quite the young core in place starting with the 2014 NBA draft. Wiggins would be in a great position to grow with that young team, even if the first couple of years were rough.
Jabari Parker, Duke
Parker is the most NBA-ready prospect in this class, and he's surely a top-three pick if he decides to turn pro, which is why I think he'll do just that, even when he says what he did to ESPN's Andy Katz, via SportsCenter's Twitter:
Jabari Parker tells @ESPNAndyKatz that his career is incomplete, and that could affect decision on whether to return for sophomore season.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) March 21, 2014
It wouldn't be shocking if he chose to return to school, but it would also be a major risk. Just ask Marcus Smart.
Parker needs to end up on a team that both needs help on the wing and lacks a true No. 1 scorer. He needs to be given the freedom to develop offensively without being stifled by another player who wants to take the scoring reins for himself.
And that's why the Milwaukee Bucks feel like a great fit. In Milwaukee, Parker would be the guy from day one. And the Bucks feel like a team that is a good player or two away from being decent again. Parker would certainly be a nice start.
Joel Embiid, Kansas
Like Wiggins, Embiid is an unfinished product who wows with his huge upside. And like Wiggins, he needs to find a team where he can grow and develop without needing to be the man from the outset.
The Boston Celtics feel like that team.
For one, they are deep at power forward, and Embiid would be supported down on the block. For another, they already have a superstar point guard in Rajon Rondo, who would not only take some of the pressure off Embiid but likely find ways to get the young center easy buckets. How scary would that combination be two or three years down the line?
Boston is a big market, yes, and the fans would expect Embiid to produce somewhat immediately, but it's not as though Kansas existed in a bubble, either.
Of course, as Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated notes, injuries are a concern:
Missing games in tournament won't change Joel Embiid's stock much. Next step is to dissect his medicals to see if back a long term problem— Chris Mannix (@ChrisMannixSI) March 22, 2014
But if Embiid passes all of the required medical tests and the Celtics find themselves with a top-three pick, the fit between the two parties seems perfect.
Julius Randle, Kentucky
Utah Jazz fans might prefer Parker, but upgrading at the power forward spot is also a major need. In my opinion, Randle is the best player at that position in this draft.
Surely, Randle would have to like his fit in Utah. He'd be paired with an exciting young point guard in Trey Burke. Gordon Hayward would provide versatility on the wing. Derrick Favors would be paired with Randle down on the block. The Jazz would have the makings of a nice, young team, and Randle would have time to develop into the main man for Utah.
If the Jazz find themselves out of the top three, Randle is the man to target.
Pick: Utah Jazz