The Connecticut Huskies claimed their throne as kings (and queens) of the college basketball world, and now the attention of hoops fans will turn to the NBA playoffs and subsequent NBA draft.
Whether the players on the Huskies and other teams that advanced deep into the Big Dance helped their draft stocks remains to be seen, as individual workouts and pre-draft tryouts will certainly play a factor.
For now, let’s take a look at a first-round mock draft in the immediate aftermath of the tournament.
*Since the order of the draft is yet to be determined, it was borrowed from Draft Express’ latest mock.
1. Milwaukee Bucks: Andrew Wiggins, Kansas
It is a race to futility between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Philadelphia 76ers, and the prize will be super-prospect Andrew Wiggins.
Wiggins was overanalyzed from the start of his brief college career, but he still helped lead Kansas to a Big 12 title behind his scoring and rebounding prowess. He is a terrific athlete who can serve as the centerpiece for a team for years to come.
The Bucks will be that team.
2. Philadelphia 76ers: Jabari Parker, Duke
There is certainly a temptation to take Wiggins’ Kansas teammate in Joel Embiid here, but the 76ers already have one injury-plagued big man in Nerlens Noel and don’t necessarily need another.
With Michael Carter-Williams on the outside and Noel down low, Philadelphia will bolster its roster by taking stretch forward Jabari Parker from Duke. Parker can score from anywhere on the floor, is a solid rebounder and is gradually developing as a defender.
His year under Mike Krzyzewski’s tutelage will also serve him well at the next level.
3. Orlando Magic: Joel Embiid, Kansas
Embiid recently made his intentions to enter the NBA official in a statement to reporters, via Blair Kerkhoff of The Kansas City Star:
I just want to thank God first for giving me this opportunity to come to the (United States) and play ball. I want to thank the coaching staff, my teammates, the fans — everyone that’s helped me through my journey. After thinking a lot, I’ve decided to declare for the NBA Draft.
Embiid may have lingering health concerns, but his ceiling is too high for the Orlando Magic to pass on with the No. 3 pick. He is a shot-blocking force down low who can also score on the block and effectively kick out to teammates when double-teams come his way.
4. Utah Jazz: Julius Randle, Kentucky
The Utah Jazz just drafted Trey Burke last season, so they will pass on the chance to take point guard Dante Exum from Australia.
Instead, Utah will select Julius Randle, even though the Kentucky star didn’t have the dominant game in the national championship that Big Blue Nation was hoping to see.
Randle is a physical force on the boards, can score from the block or take opponents off the dribble by bullying his way to the basket and is a solid defender. He doesn’t necessarily have the size to be an NBA center, but he will be a productive power forward for years at the next level.
5. Boston Celtics: Aaron Gordon, Arizona
Grantland’s Bill Simmons, who just so happens to be a notable Boston Celtics fan, thinks that Aaron Gordon will have a formidable career in the NBA:
Gordon — he’s Shawn Marion 2.0 with a dash of Blake and a dash of Kirilenko thrown in. I came around on Gordon the more I watched him. Crazy athletic, good hoops IQ, super-competitive. I’m in. By the way, Marion 2.0 is no joke — we just got 15 years and counting from the Matrix.
As Simmons said, there is nothing wrong with finding a Marion-type player in the 2014 draft.
6. Los Angeles Lakers: Dante Exum, International
The Los Angeles Lakers would be thrilled if Exum fell to the No. 6 spot in this hypothetical.
He would provide a ball-handling playmaker for Kobe Bryant and any free agent the team added in the offseason who can control the tempo of the game and set up scorers in perfect position. Exum can also use his athleticism to get the Lakers in transition and find easy opportunities for the offense.
It wouldn’t be showtime again, but it would certainly bring more excitement to the Staples Center.
7. Sacramento Kings: Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State
The Sacramento Kings could use an outside scorer to pair with DeMarcus Cousins in the long term.
Marcus Smart provides just that.
The Oklahoma State star is a top-notch scorer who can attack the rim off the dribble, finish through contact and hit from behind the three-point line. He is also a terrific defender and will create scoring opportunities in transition for him and his teammates by forcing turnovers.
As long as he can avoid the fines that the NBA hands out for flopping, Smart will be alright, as Lost Lettermen points out in a tongue-in-cheek fashion:
8. Detroit Pistons: Gary Harris, Michigan State
The Detroit Pistons already have a strong frontcourt in place with Andre Drummond and Josh Smith (even though it’s somewhat of a stretch to call Smith a frontcourt player given his tendency to drift to the outside).
If they draft Michigan State’s Gary Harris, not only would they thrill Spartans fans in the area, they would also add a perimeter scorer to play alongside Brandon Jennings.
Harris is one of the best pure scorers in the entire draft, and it would be difficult to double-team any of the Pistons’ bigs with Harris spotting up from behind the three-point line.
9. Cleveland Cavaliers: Doug McDermott, Creighton
We are working under the assumption here that Luol Deng will not be part of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ roster next season.
That means Cleveland could use an outside shooter at the forward position who can stretch the floor when Kyrie Irving penetrates. Doug McDermott will have plenty of open looks from behind the arc in the Cavaliers offense, and there are few college players, if any, who are more adept at taking advantage of open shots.
10. Philadelphia 76ers (from Hornets): Dario Saric, International
The 76ers already grabbed Parker in this hypothetical, and they will grab another long-wing player in Dario Saric with the No. 10 pick.
Saric can play either the small or power forward positions thanks to his versatility, length and ability to rebound. He will be something of a mismatch for opposing teams because he is too big for many small forwards, but his athleticism would be difficult for many taller players to handle.
Zach Harper of CBS Sports thinks the 76ers will take the international prospect, and he mentions just why it’s worth taking a flyer on Saric in this draft:
Whether Saric comes over right away or doesn't, it's probably worth it to the Sixers to have a long-term project like Saric to develop. His outside shooting needs a lot of work but he gives them a guy who can play multiple positions and give them lineup flexibility.
11. Atlanta Hawks: Tyler Ennis, Syracuse
The Atlanta Hawks could use a point guard of the future to pair with Al Horford and Paul Millsap, and if Tyler Ennis is still available at No. 11, he will be the pick.
Yes, Jeff Teague is on the roster, but Ennis’ ceiling is much higher.
Ennis isn’t exactly the most explosive point guard in the draft, but he knows how to run an offense, is a solid defender and can control the tempo of the game with his ball-handling and passing skills. He also has a knack for scoring critical baskets when the moment calls for it.
12. Denver Nuggets: Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky
Willie Cauley-Stein is one of the best shot-blockers and rebounders in the draft, and he will fit right in alongside the Denver Nuggets’ frontcourt.
The problem in Denver is a leaky defense, and Cauley-Stein would immediately provide an upgrade on the back line of the defense. Not only would he rebound effectively (something Denver already does), but he will alter shots at the rim and prevent many of the easy looks Denver allowed this year.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves: James Young, Kentucky
If we are working under the assumption that Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio will be in Minnesota for the long term, the Timberwolves could use an explosive scorer on the wing.
That is exactly what Kentucky’s James Young is, as so many saw during the NCAA tournament.
He can attack off the bounce or take advantage of the open looks he would get from behind the three-point line playing alongside Love and Rubio.
14. Phoenix Suns: Clint Capela, International
Taking Clint Capela with the No. 14 pick is a bit of a stretch, but the Phoenix Suns could use a reliable big man for the foreseeable future.
Gary Parrish of CBS Sports breaks down why Capela could surprise in the NBA:
“Capela is already one of the best rebounders and shot-blockers in the top professional league in France. He's only 19 years old.”
15. Orlando Magic (from Knicks): T.J. Warren, North Carolina State
Sometimes it is in a team’s best interest to simply look for athleticism and pure scoring, and that is exactly what the Orlando Magic will do with the No. 15 pick here.
T.J. Warren showed the nation how talented he is when he dominated Xavier in the NCAA tournament, and he would fit in nicely alongside Victor Oladipo in Orlando. Not only would Warren be able to finish in transition and create his own shot, he would help in the rebounding department as well.
16. Chicago Bulls (from Bobcats): Nik Stauskas, Michigan
Nobody wants to play the Chicago Bulls in the playoffs because of their stifling and physical defense, but the ceiling for this team is only so high because of its scoring issues, especially with Derrick Rose sidelined yet again.
Nik Stauskas is one of the best scorers in the entire draft, and he would immediately find playing time in the Bulls’ rotation because of his ability to light it up from behind the three-point line.
However, Stauskas is more than just a three-point shooter. He can attack off the dribble, help out on the glass and provide solid defense, which is mandatory in Chicago.
17. Phoenix Suns (from Wizards): Adreian Payne, Michigan State
You would be hard-pressed to find a player who is as versatile as Adreian Payne in this draft.
The Michigan State star is a monster on the boards, incredibly difficult to stop on the block and can stretch the floor by hitting from behind the three-point line. Few NBA bigs enjoy drifting out to the perimeter on defense, but that is exactly what they would have to do against Phoenix if the Suns took Payne.
18. Boston Celtics (from Nets): P.J. Hairston, North Carolina/NBDL
P.J. Hairston has top-10 talent but could fall in this draft because off-the-court issues ended his collegiate career at North Carolina early.
If he does, it will be the Boston Celtics’ gain with the No. 18 pick.
Hairston is an excellent shooter and driver of the basketball who is strong enough to finish through contact when he gets to the rim. If Rajon Rondo is still around in Boston for the long term, he and Hairston would be a difficult matchup in the backcourt.
19. Chicago Bulls: Rodney Hood, Duke
The Chicago Bulls will take Rodney Hood with the No. 19 pick for the same reason they took Stauskas earlier—they need more scoring.
Hood is a value pick at No. 19 thanks to his talent level.
He was one of the few Duke players who actually played effective defense this season, is a solid rebounder and can score in a variety of ways. If the Bulls drafted Hood, they would have a serviceable rotation player who could actually give Jimmy Butler a breather in a game or two.
20. Toronto Raptors: Montrezl Harrell, Louisville
The Toronto Raptors could use a big man to play alongside Kyle Lowry, and Louisville’s Montrezl Harrell could be that guy.
He is a terrific rebounder and shot-blocker and could provide a physical presence for the Raptors in their pursuit of the Indiana Pacers, Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls atop the Eastern Conference. All three of those teams bring lockdown defense to the table when needed, and Harrell would help the Raptors do the same.
21. Dallas Mavericks: Jerami Grant, Syracuse
Parrish of CBS Sports recognizes that Jerami Grant doesn’t exactly fit into any positional mold in the NBA, but his talent speaks for itself:
“I'm not sure where Grant will play in the NBA, exactly. But he's a top-shelf athlete from a top-shelf program, and he's worth taking a flyer on here.”
It would certainly be worth the chance for the Dallas Mavericks with the No. 21 pick thanks to his scoring prowess and rebounding abilities.
22. Memphis Grizzlies: Kyle Anderson, UCLA
Much like the Bulls, the Memphis Grizzlies are a formidable defensive team that could use more scoring.
Kyle Anderson does a little bit of everything on offense, which is exactly what Memphis needs. He is a terrific passer, can attack the rim and stretch the defense with his perimeter jumper. At the college level, Anderson was a triple-double threat any time he took the floor.
23. Utah Jazz (from Warriors): Noah Vonleh, Indiana
If Noah Vonleh is still available when the No. 23 pick in the draft rolls around, the Utah Jazz will jump at the chance to take him.
Vonleh has top-10 talent thanks to his rebounding, ability to score on the low block and defensive presence. The freshman could certainly use some seasoning, especially on the offensive side of the ball, but his ceiling is incredibly high.
24. Charlotte Bobcats (from Trailblazers): Semaj Christon, Xavier
Xavier’s Semaj Christon is something of a sleeper pick in this draft, but head coach Chris Mack let everyone know that the prospect is ready for the rigors of the NBA, via Shannon Russell of The Cincinnati Enquirer:
He's very, very committed to becoming an NBA player and feels like this is the right time. Everybody's going to have their opinions, from the draft boards to people in the media. Ultimately it's one person's decision: Semaj's. And he feels like this is the right time for him to make this next step.
Christon would give the Bobcats another backcourt scorer to compliment Kemba Walker and also help open up the block for Al Jefferson thanks to his slashing and shooting abilities.
25. Houston Rockets: Shabazz Napier, Connecticut
The superstar of the NCAA tournament wouldn’t have been a first-round pick if this mock draft was done a month ago, but nobody helped their stock more in the Big Dance than Shabazz Napier.
The Houston Rockets will take him with the No. 25 pick as another outside shooter to surround Dwight Howard and a backcourt compliment to James Harden. Napier’s all-around game was on full display throughout the month of March, and his defensive pressure and scoring abilities would translate well in Houston.
26. Phoenix Suns (from Pacers): Jordan Adams, UCLA
The Phoenix Suns have already taken two bigs in this draft, so they will look to the backcourt in Jordan Adams from UCLA.
Adams was a terrific college scorer who can shoot from long range and attack the rim. There are some questions about his height, but his college production will earn him a spot in the first round.
27. Miami Heat: Zach LaVine, UCLA
The Miami Heat love having explosive playmakers on the roster, and Zach is just that.
He will take full advantage of the openings in the defense that are created from LeBron James’ penetration because he can shoot from long range or drive to the rim. What’s more, LaVine is a capable passer who will rack up assists by kicking it out to the litany of three-point shooters that are in Miami.
28. Los Angeles Clippers: Cleanthony Early, Wichita State
Much like Napier, Wichita State’s Cleanthony Early helped his draft stock in the NCAA tournament, even if he only played in two games.
He finished with 31 points, seven rebounds, one steal and one block against Kentucky in the round of 32, and the Shockers may have advanced to the Sweet 16 if his teammates looked to get him the ball more down the stretch.
Early is an impressive athlete who will be able to run the floor with the rest of the Los Angeles Clippers and finish from anywhere on the court.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Jusuf Nurkic, International
The Oklahoma City Thunder could use some help on the blocks, because Kendrick Perkins isn’t exactly Bill Russell, especially at this stage of his career.
30. San Antonio Spurs: K.J. McDaniels, Clemson
If K.J. McDaniels is still available at the end of the first round, the San Antonio Spurs would have a steal at No. 30.
The Spurs often take the best player available, and it is almost a sure bet that they will turn him into a productive piece in the NBA. Few players across the country can attack the rim as effectively as McDaniels, and his nose for the basket will earn some playing time right away in the NBA.
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