2014 NBA Mock Lottery Draft
The 2014 NBA draft is already drawing comparisons to the loaded 2003 class and has the potential to shape the NBA for years to come. Headlined by Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Joel Embiid and Dante Exum, the real draft will begin after these first four picks.
With every team salivating over the chance to acquire one of these prospects, only the worst record in the league is guaranteed a top-four pick. And while it appeared as if Milwaukee had solidified the NBA’s worst record at the All-Star break (9-43), the Bucks now have some competition. After a pathetic 1-26 stretch over February and March, the Philadelphia 76ers are just two games "behind" Milwaukee for the dubious honor.
With the lottery yielding surprises every year, the other 12 franchises have no choice but to place their fate in ping pong balls. Using ESPN’s NBA Mock Draft simulator, let’s look at the selections NBA front offices would make if this were the order revealed on May 20th.
1. Sacramento Kings
Pick: Andrew Wiggins (SG/SF) - University of Kansas
Unable to shake off the lottery curse, the Sacramento Kings haven’t reached the playoffs since 2006. Despite having talent at a few positions, the Kings continue to be plagued by immaturity in the locker room and apathy on defense. Luckily for the Kings, all of this could be changed with once-in-a-lifetime prospect Andrew Wiggins.
The 6’8”, 200-pound shooting guard/small forward would provide an immediate boost on the defensive end for a team allowing 103.5 points per game (25th). Often assigned to guard the opposing team’s best player, Wiggins is an excellent on-ball defender who contests shots well without fouling.
With a beautiful shooting stroke and an impressive ability to drive to the basket, Wiggins has the potential to be unstoppable. But even after averaging an impressive 17.1 points per game, Wiggins’ lack of tenacity and his tendency to disappear during games has scouts worried.
With current small forward Rudy Gay in the final year of his contract, Wiggins would initially start at shooting guard. Once Gay leaves, Wiggins would move to small forward and allow Kansas counterpart Ben McLemore to start at shooting guard. A lineup with two athletic Jayhawk wings and a top-five center in DeMarcus Cousins could be enough for the Kings to return to the playoffs.
2. Philadelphia 76ers
Pick: Jabari Parker (SF) - Duke University
Following the most embarrassing stretch in NBA history, the 76ers are full believers in this year’s draft hype. With two first-round picks and five more in the second round, Philadelphia desperately needs to acquire franchise-altering talent.
Drafting a high character, unselfish small forward in Jabari Parker is an excellent start. Averaging 18.8 points and 8.9 rebounds per game for the Duke Blue Devils, Parker has shown that his athleticism and stocky frame will allow him to overwhelm defenses.
Essentially impossible to stop on offense, Parker’s struggles have mostly come on the defensive end. But with defensive specialist Nerlens Noel protecting the paint, Parker will have excellent help defense as he gains his footing.
Playing in coach Brett Brown’s run-and-gun system, Parker’s smooth mid-range game and ball-handling skills would be an ideal fit. Additionally, Parker wouldn’t be forced to shoulder the scoring load. Paired with likely Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams and versatile forward Thaddeus Young, Parker could start out as much more of a facilitator.
After winning National Freshman of the Year, Parker appears to be the most NBA-ready prospect. Combine that with a roster that will ease Parker’s transition, and the Rookie of the Year Award could remain in Philadelphia for another year.
3. Boston Celtics
Pick: Joel Embiid (C) - University of Kansas
Having experienced much success in recent years, the Boston Celtics are unfamiliar with picking in the lottery. But drafting a player who is already being compared to Hakeem Olajuwon after only playing basketball for two-and-a-half years explains the immense hype surrounding Joel Embiid.
At 7’0” with an 89-inch wingspan, Embiid burst into his freshman season. Averaging 11.2 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game in a mere 23.1 minutes per game, the Cameroon native has shown he can impact the game on both ends. With an array of post moves and an uncanny touch around the rim, Embiid will be one of the few true centers in today’s NBA.
Incredibly agile for a person his size, Embiid would be the perfect rim-protector for a Brad Stevens system that focuses on help-and-recover defense. As a center, Embiid needs to add muscle to his slender 240-pound frame and work on contesting shots without fouling. Once he corrects these weaknesses, he will consistently be in the Defensive Player of the Year conversation.
Allowing Kelly Olynyk and Jared Sullinger to return to power forward, Embiid would give the Celtics some much-needed low-post scoring. With a top-five point guard in Rajon Rondo and a potentially dominant center in Embiid, the Celtics are a few sharpshooters away from returning to playoff prominence.
4. Milwaukee Bucks
Pick: Dante Exum (PG) - Australia
Assuming Milwaukee holds onto the title of worst record, the Bucks could be slightly disappointed with this pick. While Exum is an intriguing prospect, his overseas competition makes it difficult to gauge how good he really is.
Exum’s only action against fellow lottery selections took place at the U-19 FIBA World Championships. Leading an Australia squad with 18.2 points per game, Exum helped his team to a fourth-place finish. At 6’6” with tremendous floor vision and athleticism, the immediate comparison has been drawn to current Philadelphia point guard Michael Carter-Williams.
With the physical tools to be special, Exum only averages 3.8 assists per game and must work on creating offense for his teammates. Also lacking a consistent jump shot, Exum must work on his mid-range game to avoid being defended like Rajon Rondo. If Exum can improve in these two areas, he will soon terrorize opponents.
Further complicating Exum’s transition to the NBA is the growing suspicion that he is only willing to play for the Lakers. Assuming he will go where he is drafted, though, the Bucks would gladly move Brandon Knight to shooting guard to allow Exum to play the point.
With so little talent around him, Exum will be in the unenviable position of being a rookie expected to carry the franchise. But as seen with Australia’s U-19 team, he is more than capable.
5. Orlando Magic
Pick: Marcus Smart (PG/SG) - Oklahoma State University
It’s no secret that the Orlando Magic love Marcus Smart. With last year’s second overall pick, many believed the Magic would have selected him if he had not returned for another season at Oklahoma State. But with a chance to grab him this time, the Magic will pounce at the opportunity to select one of the feistiest defenders in recent memory.
While Smart has shown some immaturity and tunnel vision at points in the season, his passion and relentless motor outweigh these flaws. Averaging an absurd 2.9 steals per game, Smart has a nose for the ball that will one day earn him NBA All-Defensive Team honors.
Already possessing tremendous defensive abilities, it is Smart’s offensive game that needs improvement. Against bigger, stronger and more athletic defenders, Smart needs to be capable of knocking down shots from the perimeter to keep the defense honest.
After drafting a frighteningly similar player in Victor Oladipo last year, the Magic will have a good idea of how to get the most out of Smart. While neither is a natural point guard, Oladipo and Smart will be a dynamic backcourt if they can improve their perimeter shooting. With two 6’4” lockdown defenders that can get to the rim and make outside shots, Orlando could soon be a matchup nightmare for NBA teams.
6. Utah Jazz
Pick: Aaron Gordon (SF/PF) - University of Arizona
Loaded at the power forward and center positions, the Utah Jazz are in desperate need of a small forward. With the aging Richard Jefferson currently filling the spot, Arizona Wildcat Aaron Gordon would provide an immediate upgrade.
Despite a very unpolished game, Gordon’s athleticism alone makes him an intriguing prospect. Helping lead Arizona’s top-notch defense (58.6 points per game) to an Elite Eight run, Gordon’s ability to defend multiple positions was vital to the Wildcats’ success. With surprising quickness and agility for someone who's 6’9” and 225 pounds, Gordon can play the 3 and overpower his defender, or use his quickness to beat power forwards.
On the defensive end, Gordon is completely ready for NBA basketball. However, his one-dimensional offensive game which mostly centers on dunking is what has teams worried. In the perimeter-oriented offense of today’s NBA, small forwards need to be capable of hitting the three-pointer. If Gordon can improve his jump shot and correct his free-throw woes (42.2 percent), he could be the biggest steal of the draft.
A young Utah Jazz lineup of Trey Burke, Gordon Hayward, Aaron Gordon, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter would be a competitive team in the Western Conference for years to come.
7. Los Angeles Lakers
Pick: Julius Randle (PF) - University of Kentucky
After the most disastrous season in recent memory, the Lakers could go in any direction. With no one on the books besides Kobe Bryant after next season, Los Angeles is hoping to pick Kobe’s successor in Julius Randle.
While the Lakers’ heir to the throne might not be a guard like Kobe, the Kentucky power forward’s tenacity and desire to win is eerily similar. Averaging 15.1 points and 10.7 rebounds per game, Randle is a vicious rebounder who uses his 250-pound frame to bully opponents in the paint.
Randle is slightly undersized for the power forward position and has struggled against tall and lengthy defenders. Relying on his ability to outmuscle his opponents, Randle lacks the finesse and mid-range game necessary to be a dominant power forward. If Randle can continue to improve his jump shot and develop post-up moves, he will soon be unstoppable on the offensive end.
With Pau Gasol eventually leaving the Lakers, Randle would be the perfect player to assume the power forward role. And while there is continued speculation that Kevin Love may be coming in 2015, there are no guarantees that a player will sign with his hometown team (ask Cleveland). As Kobe Bryant’s career winds down, the Lakers must get back to their winning ways, and that begins with selecting Julius Randle.
8. Detroit Pistons
Pick: Doug McDermott (SF) - Creighton University
In a 2012 trade with the Charlotte Bobcats involving Ben Gordon, Detroit’s first-round selection is only top-eight protected. Sitting with the eighth pick, the Pistons would openly admit that they don’t want to lose their selection in this loaded draft.
Currently playing with oversized Josh Smith at small forward, Detroit should take a more natural small forward in Naismith Player of the Year Doug McDermott. With a roster starved for shooting, McDermott would provide excellent spacing for big men Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond to operate in the paint. Averaging 26.7 points per game on 52.6 percent shooting, McDermott is a highly efficient player with tremendous basketball instincts.
While there is no better prospect on the offensive end, it is McDermott’s lack of defensive ability that explains why he is not a top-five pick. Because of his lack of quickness and athleticism, McDermott does not have the superstar potential so many teams search for in lottery selections.
Too slow to guard NBA wings and too small to guard players in the post, many teams view McDermott as a liability on the defensive end. But with rim-protector Andre Drummond manning the paint, Detroit can mask many of McDermott’s deficiencies. Adding McDermott’s sharpshooting to a core of Brandon Jennings, Josh Smith, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond may be the key for the Pistons to end their losing ways.
9. Cleveland Cavaliers
Pick: Gary Harris (SG) - Michigan State University
After selecting Anthony Bennett with the first overall pick in last year’s draft, the Cavaliers hope to get more value out of this pick. With two ball-dominant guards in Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters, Cleveland needs to add a player who can be effective without the ball.
Insert Gary Harris, who is a master of coming off screens and slashing to the hoop for baskets. Despite being slightly undersized (6’4”) at the shooting guard position, Harris averaged 16.7 points per game by getting to the rim and utilizing his athleticism. Playing in Tom Izzo’s system, Harris has demonstrated his elite defensive ability by shutting down the opponent’s best perimeter player.
As he was known as a shooter entering college, scouts have been surprised to see that this is the aspect Harris has struggled with most. Harris has shot an unimpressive 42.9 percent from the field and 35.2 percent from beyond the arc this season. But with the proper mechanics already in place, Harris should regain his shooting consistency and become a reliable floor-spacer.
Joining a squad giving up 101.3 points per game, Harris’ ferociousness on the defensive end will be a welcomed addition. Also, the added attention Kyrie Irving commands will give the Michigan State guard more uncontested opportunities. If Harris lives up to his potential on the offensive end, he will be a steal with the ninth overall pick.
10. Denver Nuggets (from the New York Knicks)
Pick: Noah Vonleh (PF) - Indiana University
At 6’10” and 240 pounds, the Indiana Hoosier averaged 11.3 points, 9.0 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game. Perhaps most impressive is that these 11.3 points were scored on only 7.2 field-goal attempts per game. Not needing the ball to be effective, Vonleh uses his athleticism and relentless effort to impact the game.
With a tremendous motor and incredible rebounding skills, Vonleh is a lengthier and more offensively skilled version of Kenneth Faried. Already possessing more of a jump shot than Faried ever had, Vonleh would be a nice complement to center JaVale McGee. Vonleh will need to continue to refine his mid-range game and add muscle, but he has the tools to be a future All-Star.
Decimated by injuries this season, Denver showed the dangers a team faces with no real shot-blocker. With defensive enforcers McGee and Vonleh manning the paint next season, the Nuggets should improve from the 106.2 points per game (28th) they are currently allowing. Combine Vonleh’s defense with his ability to play in an uptempo offense, and the Indiana Hoosier is a perfect fit for the Nuggets.
11. Philadelphia 76ers (from the New Orleans Pelicans)
Pick: James Young (SG/SF) - University of Kentucky
Unless this pick falls into the top five, the Philadelphia 76ers will have the rights to this selection from the New Orleans Pelicans. After locking up Parker earlier in the draft, the 76ers draft the best shooting guard available, James Young.
The 6’7” Kentucky Wildcat would be the perfect backcourt counterpart to Michael Carter-Williams. With a nucleus of Carter-Williams, Jabari Parker, Thaddeus Young and Nerlens Noel, the addition of Young would provide a desperately needed floor-spacer. Thriving in transition this season for Kentucky, Young would be joining a team that currently has the highest pace rating in the league (102.0).
Surprisingly, the only part of Young’s game that he has struggled with has been his shooting. A better penetrator than many scouts realized, Young has shown that he can still score the basketball if his jump shot isn’t falling. While his defense is not superb, his 83-inch wingspan can disrupt passing lanes and will help him contest shots against opponents.
Young does not exude superstar potential, but he could be an integral part of Philadelphia’s future success. Acquiring Jabari Parker and James Young in the first 11 picks, the 76ers have solidified the shooting guard and small forward positions for years to come.
12. Orlando Magic (from the Denver Nuggets)
Pick: Willie Cauley-Stein (C) - University of Kentucky
As a result of the Dwight Howard trade, the Magic will be given the less favorable of the two Denver Nuggets first-round picks. With their backcourt solidified, the Magic will have to pass on Tyler Ennis and instead make a pick based on pure upside.
At 7’0” with an 86.5-inch wingspan, Cauley-Stein’s height alone makes him an intriguing prospect. Despite being incredibly unpolished, Cauley-Stein has already proven to be a viable rim-protector, averaging 6.1 rebounds and 2.9 blocks per game. With an offensive arsenal that only consists of dunking, Cauley-Stein will need to develop touch around the rim to be a contributor on an NBA roster.
However, shooting is something that can be coached, and current center and mid-range specialist Nikola Vucevic may be an ideal mentor. Since Vucevic is an integral part of the Magic’s team, there is no pressure on Cauley-Stein to come in and start right away. As a developmental project, he may need experience in the D-League to gain more confidence.
Cauley-Stein’s defensive prowess and potential offensive ability makes him worthy of a lottery selection. Combine that with a tenacious backcourt of Smart and Oladipo, and the Magic may soon be one of the best defensive teams in the league.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves
Pick: Tyler Ennis (PG) - Syracuse University
The teams picking in the lottery failed to win games this season, but many are solid at the point guard position. However, Minnesota is not completely sold on Ricky Rubio, as evidenced by his lack of playing time late in games. With sufficient talent at the other four positions, the Timberwolves lock up their franchise point guard by selecting Tyler Ennis.
Tyler Ennis is one of the top eight prospects in this class, and Minnesota would be ecstatic to snag him with the 13th pick. The 6’2” Syracuse point guard isn’t flashy, but he has a maturity and high basketball IQ required of NBA point guards. Possessing phenomenal court vision, Ennis runs the fast break masterfully and would be a perfect fit for Minnesota’s uptempo offense.
Lacking athleticism, Ennis must become a more consistent jump-shooter to prevent defenders from sagging off on him. Playing in Jim Boeheim’s 2-3 zone, Ennis’ ability to play man-to-man defense is also a question mark. While he averaged an impressive 2.1 steals per game, guarding the quickest players in the league is an entirely different challenge.
While Ennis has areas upon which he needs to improve, he has the skills to be a dependable starting point guard. And with the Timberwolves searching for a floor general who can assist on or score the game-winning shot, Tyler Ennis is exactly what they need.
14. Dallas Mavericks
Pick: Dario Saric (PF) - Croatia
With an aging roster that lacks any long-term franchise players, the Mavericks will select the player they believe to have the most potential. As Dirk Nowitzki’s career winds down, Dallas would select the Croatian power forward, Dario Saric.
If there’s any player who can relate to the transition to the NBA that Saric will undergo, it’s Nowitzki. As a unique point power forward, Saric has a steep learning curve that would be made easier from Dirk’s mentoring. With excellent ball-handling skills and court vision, Saric could become a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses.
However, the 19-year-old Croatian needs to improve his physical frame before he can become an imposing force. Weighing in at a meager 223 pounds, NBA power forwards would overpower him down on the block. Saric also needs to work on his decision-making, as he currently averages an unacceptable 3.3 turnovers per game while playing overseas. If Saric is to be a dynamic playmaker in the NBA, he needs to learn to take better care of the ball.
Already possessing a solid mid-range game, Saric will need to work on his three-point shooting to stretch opposing defenses. With Dirk occupying the starting power forward role for another two or three years, Saric will have plenty of time to learn the NBA’s intricacies. Once Dirk retires, the Mavericks can be confident that they have Nowitzki’s successor in Dario Saric.