College basketball season is over, which means the next stop for the this generation of players is the NBA draft.
It's one thing to just revel in the spectacular individual performances that make March Madness great, but it's another to determine which ones are translatable to the pros. Certain skills and players may shine only against college competition while other, more relevant abilities get covered up.
The draft strives to make that determination, parsing out the polished players and the upside guys and reshaping the NBA landscape in the process. In the aftermath of the NCAA tournament, what that league-wide change might look like is as clear as it has been in this anticipation-filled lead-up.
Draft order accurate as of April 8, 2014.
1. Milwaukee Bucks: Andrew Wiggins, SF, Kansas
Outside of Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Bucks don't have anyone with anything resembling star potential. Enter Andrew Wiggins, who has displayed the capacity for greatness with his athletic, versatile play on both ends of the floor. For a team that needs a ton of help, someone who can do just about everything is a solid bet.
2. Philadelphia 76ers: Jabari Parker, SF, Duke
Michael Carter-Williams needs help carrying the offensive burden, and next year's arrival of Nerlens Noel isn't going to get the job done.
Parker will be able to serve as a kick-out option for when MCW slashes through the defense, and he can put the ball on the deck himself and score at the rim or get his point guard some much-appreciated spot-up looks. Opportunities galore for the Philadelphia 76ers.
3. Orlando Magic: Joel Embiid, C, Kansas
Joel Embiid only falls this far because Milwaukee has Larry Sanders and Philly has Noel—two lengthy rim protectors like the Kansas product. It's not that the Magic really need a center with Nikola Vucevic in the fold, but the incumbent is not much of a threat to opposing drivers. Whether the Magic build big around both centers or deal Vucevic, they won't let Embiid slide any longer.
4. Boston Celtics: Noah Vonleh, PF, Indiana
Boston could use some more frontcourt talent, but Julius Randle doesn't make sense to pair with Jared Sullinger if the Celtics have any interest in playing interior defense. Vonleh isn't a superb shot-blocker, but he'll help in that regard while still giving Boston a potent pair of offensive bigs.
5. Utah Jazz: Dante Exum, PG, Australia
Even at 6'6", Exum could be a starting NBA point guard, but he would be best served in a situation that doesn't thrust the role upon him. Playing him alongside Trey Burke in Utah would give the Jazz great versatility on the offensive end without sacrificing size at shooting guard.
6. Los Angeles Lakers: Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky
Randle has the strength to bully his way through the paint from Day 1. That's imperative for the Los Angeles Lakers, who will be desperately trying to squeeze the last drops of prosperity out of the Kobe Bryant era. Giving him a big who can score inside and out to play with is the best thing they could do.
7. Sacramento Kings: Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State
THIS JUST IN: Oklahoma State PG Marcus Smart has declared for the NBA draft. pic.twitter.com/fANzEabpAc— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) April 7, 2014
Same situation here as with Utah. The Kings don't necessarily need a point guard with Isaiah Thomas running things, but another ball-handler would help create opportunities for DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay. Plus, Smart would be a very welcome addition to try to shore up the miserable Kings defense.
8. Detroit Pistons: Tyler Ennis, PG, Syracuse
This is a pure need draft pick. Brandon Jennings doesn't look like the answer at point guard for Detroit, and the interior is overloaded between Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe and Josh Smith. Adding Tyler Ennis to the mix might not be enough to make this team play cohesively, but at least he can selflessly run an offense.
9. Cleveland Cavaliers: Dario Saric, SF, Croatia
Dario Saric also says that its his "dream" to play in the NBA, will see about the timing still: http://t.co/VLmgjBRoUR— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) April 4, 2014
If the Cavs want Kyrie Irving to be happy, they need to get him more weapons. Cleveland has not had a legitimate offensive option at small forward during his tenure. Saric will provide inside scoring from that spot as well as a little bit of three-point shooting. He'll also allow Cleveland to try out Irving in some small-ball lineups.
10. Philadelphia 76ers (via New Orleans): Adreian Payne, PF, Michigan State
This is a way for Philly to build an imposing frontcourt while also bolstering its high-tempo offense. Payne gives the Sixers a power forward who can finish inside and rain threes to play next to Noel, a defense-first player. When MCW gets motoring in transition, Payne will be the recipient of some juicy trail-shooter opportunities.
11. Denver Nuggets (via New York): Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State
Denver has a high-energy core built around Ty Lawson and Kenneth Faried, but the shooting guards on that roster are not cutting it. The best pure 2-guard in this draft is Harris, able to capitalize on the open looks Lawson helps him get or putting the ball on the floor and attacking off the bounce himself.
12. Orlando Magic: Rodney Hood, SF, Duke
Though occasionally overshadowed by Parker, Hood proved last season just how adept he also is as a scorer. Tobias Harris and Moe Harkless have been spotty in their development, so it wouldn't hurt Orlando to bring in another wing scorer with this pick.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves: Doug McDermott, SF, Creighton
Here's another team that has been sorely lacking in firepower from the small forward spot. Not anymore. Putting the sweet-shooting McDermott in the same lineup as Kevin Love with Ricky Rubio distributing is a horrifying prospect for opposing defenses.
14. Memphis Grizzlies: Nik Stauskas, SG, Michigan
The grit-and-grind mentality isn't going anywhere, but the Grizz know they won't win unless they surround Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph with shooters. Stauskus is right up there with McDermott as one of the best in this class from beyond the arc. He'll be a great asset when it comes to spacing.
15. Atlanta Hawks: James Young, SF, Kentucky
A second angle of that insane James Young dunk: pic.twitter.com/Q0ceh6Zvib— SLAM Magazine (@SLAMonline) April 8, 2014
Atlanta is also built around a foundation of bigs in Al Horford and Paul Millsap, so shooting is high on the Hawks wish list as well. Young isn't exactly deadeye accurate, but he has the range on his shot and the athleticism to create his own shot when he's not open from deep.
16. Chicago Bulls (via Charlotte): Jerami Grant, SF, Syracuse
As usual, the Bulls have the greatest dearth of talent on the wing. Without Luol Deng, it's an even more significant issue than it has been before. Bringing in a high-potential pick like Grant who can learn from Tom Thibodeau and a veteran roster should pay dividends.
17. Phoenix Suns (via Washington): Zach LaVine, PG, UCLA
Phoenix already has a frightening pair of tall point guards in Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe, but the team has not been nearly as dangerous when they're on the court separately. Adding LaVine, an electrifying 6'5" point guard, will help shore up Phoenix's second-unit lineups without overburdening the rookie with the full responsibility of running the show.
18. Boston Celtics (via Brooklyn): P.J. Hairston, SG, Texas Legends
Off-court issues aside, Hairston is a guy who can rain threes, make himself space in the mid-range and pinball his way into the lane and finish. He's the total offensive package at shooting guard, and he's worth rolling the dice for the Celtics.
19. Toronto Raptors: Montrezl Harrell, PF, Louisville
The Raptors have plenty of size inside, but no one with Harrell's energy. He's absolutely relentless on the block, constantly battling for position and cleaning up the boards. Just by virtue of being a highly-athletic nuisance, he'll pull defensive attention away from Jonas Valanciunas.
20. Chicago Bulls: Cleanthony Early, SF, Wichita State
Getting another athletic tweener forward will help Chicago up its scoring while remaining big at the 3 spot. Early can score from anywhere on the floor and is already a solid defender. Pairing him on the wing with the likes of Jimmy Butler will be a nightmare for opposing scorers.
21. Phoenix Suns: Mario Hezonja, SG, Croatia
Though he's an acrobatic scorer who can hit just about any shot imaginable, Hezonja has been playing just 11.5 minutes per game for Barcelona's senior team. Make no mistake, he's an immense talent, and Phoenix could be getting a steal even if he stays in Spain another year.
22. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Dallas): Willie Cauley-Stein, C, Kentucky
The Thunder have never had a second-unit big to replicate Serge Ibaka's rim protection when he sits. Cauley-Stein won't provide much on the other end of the floor, but he's a true 7-footer and more than willing to send back opposing shots.
23. Utah Jazz (via Golden State): Kyle Anderson, SF, UCLA
Gordon Hayward might prove too pricey for the Jazz to keep around, so another small forward who can facilitate would be ideal. The prospect of Anderson probing the defense with Burke and Exum ready to attack from up top has to make Jazz fans drool—and if Hawyard is still around, all the better for ultra-selfless small-ball looks.
24. Charlotte Bobcats (via Portland): T.J. Warren, SF, North Carolina State
Steve Clifford has somehow turned Charlotte into a defense-first team with Al Jefferson inside, so there's little doubt he can build an offense to match it. Keeping a natural scorer like Warren in-state gives the future Hornets a nice offense-first sub for Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
25. Houston Rockets: Clint Capela, PF, Switzerland
If there's an athletic European prospect with an intriguing skill set, you can bet the Houston Rockets want to stash him a year or two. The Rockets have the depth to wait for Capela to harness his talents abroad, with little downside if this pick fizzles out.
26. Phoenix Suns (via Indiana): K.J. McDaniels, SF, Clemson
Phoenix needs its wings to be able to keep pace with its point guards, making McDaniels a perfect fit. He's more than willing to run the floor, attack the rim, battle on the boards and make whatever other energy plays he can. He'll be a boon to Phoenix's second unit.
27. Miami Heat: Shabazz Napier, PG, Connecticut
Shabazz Napier was named Most Outstanding Player for CARRYING UConn to the title. Sound familiar? pic.twitter.com/vrP7epPMpp— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) April 8, 2014
Miami has a history of nabbing March darling point guards at the end of the first round. In fact, Napier projects as a very similar player to Mario Chalmers. The 2014 tournament Most Outstanding Player will be more than happy spotting up, moving the ball and playing lockdown D for the Heat.
28. Los Angeles Clippers: Nick Johnson, PG, Arizona
The Clippers learned this season just how vital backup point guard play is when Chris Paul separated his shoulder. With Darren Collison set to hit free agency this summer, LA is going to need a new second option. For that, Johnson is a steady option who gives the Clips a step up defensively over Collison.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, SF, Arizona
Sam Presti loves loading up the Thunder roster with freakish athletes who impacted the college game and just waiting for them to find their pro niche. Hollis-Jefferson, an eager defender who craves contact that can play above the rim on offense, should have no problem carving out a role for himself in OKC.
30. San Antonio Spurs: Jusuf Nurkic, C, Bosnia
This is the organization most famous for investing in foreign talent, so it's a sensible fit for the Spurs to take the fourth European of the first round. Nurkic stands 6'11", 280 pounds, and though he needs polish, San Antonio has a history of being patient with developing overseas talent.