This year's NBA draft class looks nothing like last year's boring, unproductive player pool.
The Cleveland Cavaliers have lucked out twice in recent years, getting the No. 1 pick in drafts featuring LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. Last year, however, was not the right time to test their good fortune again. Their No. 1 pick, Anthony Bennett, is shooting 35.2 percent with a 6.77 PER this season. If his putrid play continues, he's in danger of becoming the worst top overall pick in NBA history.
While high expectations could create some disappointment with this year's draft class, it will at least yield plenty of useful NBA talent. Even if no MVPs materialize, some All-Stars should arise.
The lottery will certainly change the draft order featured in this article, which is based upon the league's current standings, and it could make an unfortunate team pay for being "Sorry for Jabari."
At least this draft offers more than one golden ticket for teams who are desperate to procure another piece to the rebuilding puzzle, though.
1. Milwaukee Bucks: Andrew Wiggins, SF, Kansas
No prospect since LeBron James has garnered as much buzz after leaving high school as Kansas' Andrew Wiggins, but he let down the hype committee by averaging 17.1 points and 5.9 rebounds per game as a freshman.
Still, the 19-year-old sports incredible size (6'8", 197 lbs) and athleticism with great quickness from the forward slot. The Milwaukee Bucks couldn't possibly pass up Wiggins, who should become a two-way star at his peak.
2. Philadelphia 76ers: Jabari Parker, SF, Duke
Jabari Parker, who has yet to declare for the draft, is set to make his decision on Wednesday, per SportsCenter:
Jabari Parker says he plans to meet w/ Coach K Tuesday, make decision Wednesday whether to stay at Duke or go to NBA. pic.twitter.com/hTUuFCdihM— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) April 15, 2014
Knowing he's all but guaranteed to get selected within the top three, it makes sense for the freshman to leave Duke after posting 19.1 points and 8.7 boards per contest last season. Despite worries of how Parker would mesh with Thaddeus Young, the 76ers will grab the best player available if he's there and won't look back.
3. Orlando Magic: Joel Embiid, C, Kansas
Here is where things start to get interesting.
In terms of upside, Joel Embiid is the clear selection. And according to Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix, NBA teams are not worried about the back injury that kept the star center out of the NCAA tournament:
Let's be clear: Embiid's back injury isn't raising red flags among NBA executives -- yet. Several executives with likely lottery picks told SI.com that they will wait to get a closer look at Embiid's medicals before moving him down on their boards. For now, they still see Embiid as a strong defender with high-level physical tools and the form and footwork to develop into an elite two-way center.
Yes, the Magic already have Nikola Vucevic at center, but Embiid is too good to pass up at No. 3.
4. Utah Jazz: Dante Exum, G, Australia
The most unknown commodity of the top talents, Dante Exum has won scouts over with his seamless ball-handling skills and knack for driving to the paint. His shot needs some work, but the Jazz will pair him with Trey Burke to create a dynamic guard duo.
5. Boston Celtics: Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky
Although Julius Randle remained relatively quiet during the NCAA championship game, he led the Wildcats that far by posting four consecutive double-doubles, boosting the freshman's total double-doubles for the year to 24.
Julius Randle: 2nd freshman with double-double in 1st 4 tournament games (Gene Banks, 1978 Duke)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 30, 2014
With Randle roaming the paint, the Celtics have a pro-ready contributor that could propel them to keep Rajon Rondo around in hopes of expediting their rebuilding project.
6. Los Angeles Lakers: Noah Vonleh, PF/C, Indiana
What don't the Lakers need at this point?
They're unlikely to take a guard like Marcus Smart in fear of damaging Kobe Bryant's ego, so they'll instead grab Noah Vonleh, who showed a little bit of everything during his freshman season with the Hoosiers. The big man can score efficiently in the post, make his presence felt defensively and even flash an outside shooting stroke.
7. Sacramento Kings: Aaron Gordon, PF, Arizona
The Kings have plenty of young talent with DeMarcus Cousins, Isaiah Thomas and Ben McLemore occupying the starting lineup, but they need some defensive tenacity to complement their offensive explosiveness.
An elite defender with a winning background, Aaron Gordon would be the perfect foil for Cousins in Sacramento's frontcourt.
8. Detroit Pistons: Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State
The Pistons are loaded with individual talents who have no clue how to play together as a team. Marcus Smart is the complete package who could help Detroit's jumbled mess of talent morph into a decent basketball squad.
9. Cleveland Cavaliers: Doug McDermott, F, Creighton
Prepare for Doug McDermott to spark many heated arguments as the draft's most polarizing player. After scoring 26.7 points per game during his senior season with Creighton, his college stats certainly sell him as a lottery pick.
But there are concerns over his game translating into the pros, and he was never a defensive dynamo for the Bluejays. Nevertheless, the Cavaliers will desire a shooter to space the court for Kyrie Irving.
10. Philadelphia 76ers: Nik Stauskas, SG, Michigan
The 76ers have attempted the second-most three-pointers in the NBA this season; imagine if they actually had some better shooters.
Nik Stauskas, who drained 92 shots from behind the arc in his sophomore season at Michigan, will enjoy getting the constant green light in Philadelphia.
11. Denver Nuggets (via New York): Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State
Denver can use a shooting guard to run the court alongside Ty Lawson, and Gary Harris is just the man to complement the explosive point guard. He can shoot, drive and play lockdown defense for a team that could not keep up with the Western Conference's scorching offensive attacks.
12. Orlando Magic (via Denver): Tyler Ennis, PG, Syracuse
Orlando has the chance to build a loaded lineup if it plays the draft right. After claiming a potential franchise player in Embiid, the Magic should acquire Syracuse's Tyler Ennis to run the show.
Ennis filled his freshman season with late-game heroics, and he would allow for Victor Oladipo to no longer bear the burden of running the point for Orlando.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves: James Young, SF, Kentucky
A team with Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio shouldn't be sitting out the playoffs, but the Wolves harbor no depth or talented wings to get over the hump.
James Young can help the two stars by creating some extra points off the dribble or from the perimeter. He's a nice ancillary piece, but Minnesota has to hope he can help convince Love to stay past 2015.
14. Phoenix Suns: Rodney Hood, SF, Duke
The Suns have two sensational guards in Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe along with an assortment of enticing big men. Now, they can use Rodney Hood, a wing man who can buckle down on defense while not hurting their sizzling offense.
15. Atlanta Hawks: Adreian Payne, PF, Michigan State
More of a value grab than one that fills a team need, the Hawks snag an immediate contributor in Michigan State's Adreian Payne, who scored 41 points in the Spartans' first NCAA tournament contest this year.
Payne would provide Atlanta with a strong defensive presence, and he also has developed a deep stroke that their current big men can't offer.
16. Chicago Bulls (via Charlotte): Jerami Grant, SF, Syracuse
One of the draft's highest upside plays, Jerami Grant could sneak into the lottery if a team is feeling daring. The forward oozes athleticism, which would make him a solid addition to Chicago's bench as he works for an enhanced role.
17. Phoenix Suns (via Washington): Cleanthony Early, PF, Wichita State
Although Wichita State's undefeated season ended in an epic showdown against Kentucky in the tournament, Cleanthony Early dazzled in the losing effort, posting 31 points for the Shockers.
Cleanthony Early almost carried Wichita State to a win. Early dropped 31 Pts (12-17 FG) in dramatic loss to Kentucky. pic.twitter.com/IAZzfRETX1— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) March 23, 2014
The Suns will continue to expand their young nucleus here with yet another versatile scoring threat.
18. Boston Celtics (via Brooklyn): Willie Cauley-Stein, C, Kentucky
The Celtics will arrange a Kentucky reunion by taking Randle and Willie Cauley-Stein for their frontcourt. While the center is an unpolished product with offensive limitations, his stout shot-blocking and consistent rebounding warrants the selection for Boston.
19. Toronto Raptors: Kyle Anderson, G/F, UCLA
There are few players built like Kyle Anderson, a 6'9", 230-pound prospect who successfully tried his hand at guard for the Bruins.
He's not quick, yet Anderson can run the floor as a ball-distributor while trading elbows down low. The Raptors can use him as a do-everything sixth man to support their athletic card of starting swingmen.
20. Chicago Bulls: P.J. Hairston, PG, North Carolina/NBDL
At this point, Chicago has to prepare for the worst regarding Derrick Rose. P.J. Hairston dominated the D-League circuit this season, averaging 21.8 points per game on 45.3 percent shooting. He gives them another pro-ready contingency plan who can at the least log some minutes off the bench as a rookie.
21. Memphis Grizzlies: T.J. Warren, SF/PF, North Carolina
Eventually, the Grizzlies need to put the ball in the basket in order to keep up with the rest of the Western Conference's high-powered offenses. T.J. Warren addresses a dire need by providing them with a wing scorer that can engineer some buckets.
22. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Dallas): Zach LaVine, G, UCLA
Have the Thunder finally had enough of Russell Westbrook holding the Thunder back? Just kidding, but that doesn't mean they can't get another guard to go along with him and Reggie Jackson.
LaVine gives OKC yet another explosive threat, just don't make the mistake of comparing him to his fellow UCLA alum and new teammate just because they're both aggressive hybrid guards.
23. Utah Jazz (via Golden State): Clint Capela, PF, Switzerland
With their second pick of the opening round, the Jazz will be happy to scoop up value in Switzerland's Clint Capela, a 6'11" power forward with immense athleticism but a few questions regarding how he will pan out in the NBA.
At pick No. 23, however, it's worth the taking a chance on him in hopes that he will become this year's version of Giannis Antetokounmpo.
24. Charlotte Bobcats (via Portland): K.J. McDaniels, SF, Clemson
K.J. McDaniels isn't the scoring savior Charlotte needs on the perimeter, but he's another solid option to keep them afloat in the East with his undying motor and playmaking ability on defense and fast breaks.
He's the type of player that typically falls to a winning club with the right environment to foster him into a vital piece, but Charlotte will have to do.
25. Houston Rockets: Nick Johnson, SG, Arizona
The Rockets can shoot opponents out of the building and rely on Dwight Howard's menacing presence down low, but James Harden and Jeremy Lin aren't scaring anybody on defense. Nick Johnson could become Houston's defensive enforcer off the bench when they need some late-game stops.
26. Miami Heat: Shabazz Napier, PG, Connecticut
Are you happy now, LeBron James? Does this mean you'll stay?
No way u take another PG in the lottery before Napier.— LeBron James (@KingJames) April 8, 2014
Connecticut's championship run vaulted Shabazz Napier into the first round. During the tournament, the senior averaged 21.2 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game while playing terrific defense. He'll transition to a behind-the-scenes role in Miami—playing defense, moving the ball and hitting open shots in hopes of keeping his title mojo alive.
27. Phoenix Suns (via Indiana): Bogdan Bogdanovic, SG, Serbia
With their third first-round pick, the Suns will look overseas and draft Bogdan Bogdanovic, a long guard who has shown potential to become a promising two-way player.
Adding three guys who are ready for the NBA would create a log-jam in Phoenix anyway, so the Suns might as well invest in the future and wait for Bogdanovic to develop.
28. Los Angeles Clippers: Jarnell Stokes, PF, Tennessee
Another tournament climber, Jarnell Stokes registered a double-double in all three of Tennessee's March Madness victories. But the junior did it throughout the season as well, averaging 15.1 points and 10.6 boards per contest.
The Clippers hold more than enough depth at guard and small forward, but they can use another big man behind Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. At 6'8", Stokes is still strong enough to handle most NBA power forwards.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Jusuf Nurkic, C, Bosnia and Herzegovina
The Thunder think ahead with Jusuf Nurkic, a center rated No. 12 on DraftExpress' big board. Oklahoma City will store the towering down-low presence overseas in hopes of cashing in their lottery ticket in a few years.
30. San Antonio Spurs: Jordan Adams, SG, UCLA
Manu Ginobli will turn 37 before the 2014-15 season begins, and he has already receded into more of a role player anyway.
At this point in the draft, teams are just throwing darts and hoping something sticks. Jordan Adams showed great scoring upside during his sophomore season while averaging 2.6 steals per game.