As the top prospects in the world continue to make their decisions regarding their future, excitement for the NBA draft continues to grow.
Many NBA teams have been out of the playoff conversation for months and have instead been preparing for their future. Some organizations are even possibly (or definitely) tanking for a better draft pick in what should be one of the deepest draft classes in years.
They will hope that all of the recent losing will pay off with an impact rookie who is capable of turning things around in a hurry.
It all depends on making the right selection, though. Here is a look at what each team should do in the first round of the upcoming NBA draft. The order is based on current projections as of April 2, per DraftExpress.com.
1. Milwaukee Bucks: Andrew Wiggins, SF, Kansas
After scoring just four points in his final collegiate game, questions about Wiggins' lack of aggressiveness will remain a concern. However, this is something that will come with more confidence and familiarity within a team.
Other than that, there are few holes in Andrew Wiggins' game, as he is a superb athlete who is deadly in the open court. Once he develops, there is little doubt he will be the best player in this entire class.
2. Philadelphia 76ers: Jabari Parker, SF, Duke
There is still a chance that Jabari Parker may return to Duke next season. During a recent online chat, ESPN.com's Chad Ford mentioned that "several scouts are claiming he's coming back to school."
Until he officially makes a decision, though, it is safe to assume that he has played his last game for the Blue Devils. The freshman was named an AP first-team All-American this season and was truly dominant offensively, showcasing the ability to score in many different ways.
The truth is that he does not have much more room to grow in college, as he is clearly the most NBA-ready player in this class. He could step into many NBA lineups immediately and become one of the primary scorers on the team's offense.
Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders believes he will fit in well with the 76ers:
Philly will have a very good core with Andrew Wiggins/Jabari Parker/whoever alongside Michael Carter-Williams, Nerlens Noel, Thaddeus Young.— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) March 28, 2014
The presence of Nerlens Noel will likely prevent them from drafting Joel Embiid, so they will instead draft an elite scorer who can improve the squad immediately.
3. Orlando Magic: Dante Exum, PG, Australia
Dante Exum has all the skills you look for in a point guard. He can hit an outside shot when opponents back off, and he can drive to the lane when defenders get too close. He can also create shots for himself as well as teammates.
The Magic have been looking for a long-term solution at point guard, and Exum can fill that role while keeping Victor Oladipo in his more natural spot at shooting guard.
4. Utah Jazz: Joel Embiid, C, Kansas
There remains a chance that Joel Embiid is selected with the first overall pick in the draft. However, teams might be concerned about the back injury that forced him to miss the last six games of the season.
If he does pass physical evaluations, the upside Embiid presents makes him worth the pick as a potentially dominant shot-blocker. He would be a big-time defensive upgrade over Enes Kanter, and he would help the team get back to its winning ways.
5. Boston Celtics: Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky
The Celtics would love to see Embiid drop to this spot, but without him available they will turn to the next best option in Julius Randle. The power forward has shown all season that he can use his great size and unstoppable motor to post huge numbers on both ends of the court.
Boston needs to find anyone who can put points on the board, and Randle knows how to get easy buckets inside.
Which point guard will have the best NBA career?
6. Los Angeles Lakers: Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State
There are few certainties surrounding the Lakers roster going forward, so adding a franchise point guard is a good place to start.
Marcus Smart has seen his stock drop due to continued poor outside shooting and a few incidents of displaying a short fuse, but his contributions on both offense and defense should overshadow any negatives about the young player.
7. Sacramento Kings: Noah Vonleh, PF/C, Indiana
While Noah Vonleh did not become the star that many Indiana fans hoped he would become as a freshman, he still showcased a wide skill set that makes him an intriguing selection in the draft.
The power forward has the length and athleticism to make him a quality defender and finisher on offense, while he also displays the ability to hit an outside shot when he is open. This ability could help take the pressure off DeMarcus Cousins in the low post and make the Kings much better going forward.
8. Detroit Pistons: Aaron Gordon, PF, Arizona
Aaron Gordon might not be the most polished player in the class, but he has still shown the ability to be a star at the next level.
Gordon averaged 12.4 points and eight rebounds per game in his freshman year at Arizona, even displaying at times the ability to make shots from the outside. However, the first thing you notice with him is the pure athleticism to make plays like this:
If he can develop the rest of his game, Gordon can become one of the bigger steals in this draft.
With Detroit, the forward can ease into action behind Greg Monroe and learn from one of the more complete big men in the game. This will help him get the most out of his ability.
9. Cleveland Cavaliers: Doug McDermott, SF, Creighton
Heading into the regular season, many analysts predicted that Cleveland would be able to make the jump toward playoff contention this season thanks to a young roster full of talented players.
While this did not happen, the fact remains that the Cavaliers still are just a few additions away from achieving this goal. Doug McDermott has the offensive ability to step in right away and be a big-time contributor, giving the squad yet another weapon that could make the difference during a push for the postseason.
10. Denver Nuggets (via New York Knicks): Dario Saric, SF, Croatia
There seems to be conflicting reports about whether Dario Saric will actually enter the NBA draft. However, the Croatian was considered a potential lottery pick last year and has even more hype this time around.
Furthermore, Jonathan Givony of Draft Express reports that Saric will likely be available on draft day:
BTW, from what I'm told it's almost certain that Dario Saric will declare for this year's draft, regardless of which agent he signs with.— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) March 29, 2014
If this is the case, the Nuggets would love to get a versatile player who can be a star after a few years of development.
11. Orlando Magic (via Denver Nuggets): Willie Cauley-Stein, C, Kentucky
After grabbing a point guard with their first pick, the Magic would be well-suited to fill another big need: a true center who can protect the rim.
Even though Willie Cauley-Stein was incredibly inconsistent this season with Kentucky, you cannot teach size, and the big man stands at a true 7'0". He can also make an impact with his shot-blocking ability, something that will at least force teams to give him an opportunity.
12. Philadelphia 76ers (via New Orleans Pelicans): Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State
The 76ers added Parker earlier in the draft and could get even better with the selection of Gary Harris here. The Michigan State product is a prototypical 2-guard who can be a lights-out scorer when he is at his best.
For a team that starts a few players that do not even deserve NBA roster spots, Philadelphia could dramatically upgrade their roster with these two picks.
13. Atlanta Hawks: Rodney Hood, SF, Duke
DeMarre Carroll is in the midst of somewhat of a breakout year after filling the shoes of Josh Smith in Atlanta. Despite this, the Hawks could still upgrade at the position by adding a versatile player like Rodney Hood.
The Duke star does an excellent job of scoring off the dribble while also being able to make an open shot. His defense remains a bit of a concern, but he still could provide plenty of help for a team looking to compete in the Eastern Conference.
14. Chicago Bulls (via Charlotte Bobcats): Tyler Ennis, PG, Syracuse
Derrick Rose remains the star in Chicago, but after he has missed most of last two seasons due to severe injuries, the organization needs to have a backup plan.
This is where Tyler Ennis comes in after showcasing great leadership and composure during his only season at Syracuse. At the very least, he would become a quality backup who could spell Rose and keep him fresh.
15. Minnesota Timberwolves: Nik Stauskas, SG, Michigan
A year ago, Nik Stauskas was just a great outside shooter who was more than willing to let other players on his team make the big plays. This season, he has turned himself into a big-time prospect thanks to his all-around ability.
The Michigan star averaged 17.5 points per game this year while creating shots for himself as well as others. Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports also notes his improved toughness:
There was time I didn't think Stauskas has the grit to go to the hole with authority. Clearly he has it now.— Pat Forde (@YahooForde) March 30, 2014
Meanwhile, he still has the ability to make shots from deep. Kentucky coach John Calipari explained his thought process heading into his team's matchup last weekend with Stauskas and the Wolverines in the Elite Eight, via Ben Roberts of the Lexington Herald-Leader:
Calipari on what happens if you lose Stauskas on defense: "Don't even try to rebound it. Just run back. ... He's that good."— Ben Roberts (@NextCats) March 30, 2014
Stauskas can help add more backcourt scoring to the Timberwolves as they look to get into the playoffs in the Western Conference.
16. Phoenix Suns (via Washington Wizards): Adreian Payne, PF, Michigan State
In the first game of the NCAA tournament, Adreian Payne showed what he was capable of by scoring 41 points in a win over Delaware. He has the strength and athleticism to score inside as well as the range to drill shots from deep.
Payne's offensive ability could help create some balance up front, as he would serve as another weapon to help the Suns improve going forward.
17. Boston Celtics (via Brooklyn Nets): Clint Capela, PF/C, Switzerland
Being a few years away from contention, the Celtics should be willing to draft a raw prospect that can develop into a much better player down the line.
Clint Capela has the size and instincts to be a great defender, either at forward or center, and he has shown plenty of ability on offense as well. If he can live up to his potential, he can be a cornerstone for the future in Boston.
18. Chicago Bulls: T.J. Warren, SF, North Carolina State
After making a relatively safe pick with Ennis, the Bulls should look for a more high-upside player with their second selection. T.J. Warren fits the bill as one of the best pure scorers in the draft.
The ACC Player of the Year ranked third in the nation with 24.9 points per game thanks to his ability to get into the lane consistently and finish with ease. He was not a great outside shooter, but he should be able to help provide scoring depth for a perennial contender.
19. Toronto Raptors: Montrezl Harrell, PF, Louisville
The Raptors already have some high-flying players on the roster between Terrence Ross and DeMar DeRozen. They can add another one in the draft with Montrezl Harrell, a player who made a huge leap from his freshman to sophomore year.
Harrell is one of the strongest players in the class and knows how to battle inside, making him a tough player to stop at any level.
20. Dallas Mavericks: Jusuf Nurkic, C, Bosnia
After missing out on a number of big-name free agents last summer, the Mavericks settled on veteran Samuel Dalembert. While a team could do worse at center, the 32-year-old player is clearly not the future at the position.
On the other hand, Jusuf Nurkic can be that, despite needing a few years of development. He has the raw ability to succeed in the NBA, and he could be a part of the rebuilding process for the future.
21. Phoenix Suns: James Young, SF, Kentucky
After adding a power forward in Payne with the first of three picks, the Suns will continue to add offensive help with a talented wing in James Young. The Kentucky freshman was inconsistent as a shooter this season, but he was able to score in other ways as a secondary option.
If his shot does come back to what it was in high school, the Suns will be left with a solid player late in the first round.
22. Memphis Grizzlies: Kyle Anderson, SF, UCLA
The biggest question for Kyle Anderson at this stage is what position he will play in the NBA. The versatile player spent much of the season as a point guard for UCLA, which is amazing for someone of his size (6'8").
His lack of quickness will likely force him to play either the 2 or 3 at the next level, but either way he will be able to fill up the box score as a great scorer, passer and rebounder for whichever team is lucky enough to draft him.
23. Utah Jazz (via Golden State Warriors): Jerami Grant, PF, Syracuse
Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim cautioned against his players leaving early, telling Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv:
It’s not even dominate. You gotta have a skillset. They don’t work with you up there. You’re either ready to play up there or you’re not. You go up there and you can’t shoot, you’re not playing. You up there and you’re not strong enough, you’re not playing. People forget how good the players are in the NBA.
Then again, this could have been a ploy to keep Jerami Grant on his roster, as the forward currently remains on the fence in regards to declaring for the draft.
Grant does have the athleticism and rebounding ability to have success in the paint at the NBA level. Unfortunately, he has little perimeter game, which could hurt him, as Boeheim mentioned.
Still, the Jazz could use a quality rebounder who can get easy baskets on the offensive end of the floor.
24. Charlotte Bobcats (via Portland Trail Blazers): K.J. McDaniels, SF, Clemson
Although K.J. McDaniels will likely play on the wing due to his size at 6'6", he plays like a seven-footer. The Clemson product had a great year as an elite rebounder and shot-blocker, and he knows how to score inside.
It is unknown how well he will work out in the NBA, but his motor will make sure he gets the most production possible.
25. Houston Rockets: P.J. Hairston, SG, Texas Legends (NBA D-League)
P.J. Hairston remains one of the bigger mysteries in this entire draft. The former North Carolina player was declared ineligible for the 2013-14 season after receiving impermissible benefits and receiving citations for drug-related charges. He has spent the last year playing for the Texas Legends in the NBA Development League.
Then again, all it takes is one team to look past his issues to see an elite shooter with solid athleticism who can help out on both ends of the court. At his best, he will help the Rockets remain a championship contender going forward.
26. Phoenix Suns (via Indiana Pacers): Zach LaVine, PG/SG, UCLA
Zach LaVine is still a bit of a mystery after not getting much playing time with UCLA in his freshman season. However, he is lightning quick and possesses enough athleticism to succeed either as a point guard or a shooting guard.
The Phoenix Suns could use some depth at both positions as they continue to build a complete roster.
27. Miami Heat: Nick Johnson, SG, Arizona
With Dwyane Wade clearly slowing down due to injuries, the Heat should look to grab a potential backup that has a lot of similar qualities.
The 6'3" Nick Johnson is extremely athletic and knows how to harass opponents with the ball. Offensively, he is a versatile scorer who always seemed to come through with big plays late in games.
He is still not close to being Wade, but Johnson could become a quality replacement off the bench when needed.
28. Los Angeles Clippers: Cleanthony Early, SF, Wichita State
There were plenty of people who doubted Wichita State throughout the season. However, watching one game featuring Cleanthony Early should be enough to prove that he is a legitimate talent.
The small forward does a great job of creating his own shot and is also a quality defender that can guard multiple positions. The Clippers would love his ability as they continue to add depth.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Sam Dekker, SF, Wisconsin
Oklahoma City clearly has plenty of talent, but the team needs to use the draft to add anyone who is capable of providing scoring help to Kevin Durant.
Although Sam Dekker will never be a star, the winger can create his own shot while also being unselfish with the ball. That is something that will help the entire offense when he is on the floor.
30. San Antonio Spurs: Shabazz Napier, PG, Connecticut
If you could choose any college basketball player in the country to take a last-minute shot, Shabazz Napier would likely be your first choice. At the very worst, he should be in your top five.
Napier is a bit undersized for his position, but he is a complete player who led his team during the season in points, assists, rebounds and steals. This versatility would certainly be welcomed by the veteran Spurs.
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