It's no secret that the top of this year's NBA draft is loaded with prodigious talent. As a result, some of the players a little lower down the totem pole are getting lost in the shuffle a bit.
The idea that this is the deepest draft in years isn't mere hot air. With Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid and Jabari Parker as virtual locks for the top three, stars who might normally be No. 1 overall picks in other years are getting pushed out of the top five and maybe even the top 10.
Here's a look at how the 2014 draft might unfold. The players underlined offer great bang for their buck and have been undervalued as a result of the amount of talent across the board.
Note: This story was written before Friday's drawing, which determined the selections outside of the lottery.
The NBA will conduct a random drawing to determine draft position. A names in a hat kind of thing. Probably ping pong balls w/team logos— Chris Mannix (@ChrisMannixSI) April 17, 2014
NBA will hold drawing Fri. due to tied records with Hou. Port. to see if Heat draft No. 24, No. 25 or No. 26. Yes, they own their own pick— Ira Winderman (@IraHeatBeat) April 17, 2014
1. Milwaukee Bucks: Andrew Wiggins, SF, Kansas
This would be all worth it, right Milwaukee Bucks fans? Sitting through loss after loss would have served its purpose if the Bucks win the lottery and thus win a chance to draft Andrew Wiggins. Wiggins' lone season at Kansas wasn't a roaring success, but that doesn't change the fact that he's the best player available in the draft.
2. Philadelphia 76ers: Jabari Parker, SF, Duke
If Jabari Parker wasn't sitting here, Joel Embiid would be a no-brainer for the Philadelphia 76ers. Pairing him with Nerlens Noel could make for one intimidating frontcourt. Since they already have Noel, though, and with Parker available, Embiid becomes more of a luxury than a necessity.
3. Orlando Magic: Joel Embiid, C, Kansas
You can pretty much pencil the Orlando Magic to take whomever is left between Wiggins, Parker and Embiid. Although they already have Nikola Vucevic, Embiid is a once-in-a-generation prospect. People are comparing the Kansas star to Hakeem Olajuwon, for crying out loud. At least Orlando could collect a nice trade haul if it puts Vucevic on the market.
4. Utah Jazz: Dante Exum, PG/SG, Australia
Imagine Trey Burke and Dante Exum in the same backcourt. The Utah Jazz wouldn't run into the problem of having two guys too similar to one another since Exum is more of a point forward/combo guard. Burke could be the primary ball-handler, leaving Exum free to wreak havoc on the opposing defense off the ball.
5. Boston Celtics: Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky
Yes, the Boston Celtics already have Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk. But the potential of drafting Julius Randle will still be too much for the organization if it comes to it. It's less an indictment on the Celtics' two current options and more an endorsement of Randle.
6. Los Angeles Lakers: Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State
Despite everything that went wrong for Marcus Smart during the 2013-14 season, what should've never been doubted was his talent. There isn't a pure point guard better than Smart in this year's class, and he'd be a huge addition for the Los Angeles Lakers.
7. Sacramento Kings: Aaron Gordon, PF, Arizona
Aaron Gordon's offensive game is a bit limited for the NBA. He'll definitely need somebody to work with him a lot to improve his shooting. However, that hasn't precluded many talented power forwards from thriving in the league. David Leon Moore of USA Today compared the Arizona freshman to Blake Griffin, who was also a bit of a project coming out of Oklahoma. If Gordon does reach that level, the Sacramento Kings are getting a major steal.
8. Detroit Pistons: Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State
The Detroit Pistons have way too many guys who love to chuck the ball. What they need is a player like Gary Harris who can score but doesn't get too carried away on the offensive end. His defending could also prove invaluable.
9. Cleveland Cavaliers: Noah Vonleh, PF/C, Indiana
The Cleveland Cavaliers probably aren't going to jettison either Tristan Thompson or Anthony Bennett. Thompson's a serviceable player whose value is sometimes understated, while Bennett is a little less than one year removed from being the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. The team couldn't possibly throw in the towel already.
Anderson Varejao's future is a little more cloudy. He's got a $9.8 million option for 2014-15 and isn't signed beyond that. Drafting Noah Vonleh can represent the new generation for Cleveland. The Cavs would have a little more flexibility as to Varejao's option. They can choose to not pick it up or they can keep the Brazilian and let Vonleh learn from the bench. Either way, the Cavaliers' future is assured.
10. Philadelphia 76ers: Dario Saric, SF/PF, Croatia
With Vonleh gone, the Sixers double down on point forwards. Dario Saric is more of a long-term option, which is good for Philly. It won't need him to produce immediately, and while he's developing, the Sixers can figure out how best to utilize him on the court.
11. Denver Nuggets: James Young, SG/SF, Kentucky
James Young has officially entered the 2014 draft:
James Young will forego his sophomore season and enter the NBA Draft. News: http://t.co/PGIBX3gAk6— Kentucky Athletics (@UKAthletics) April 17, 2014
This doesn't come as a huge surprise. Young might've improved his draft stock with another year in Lexington, but he's a lock for the first round and could slip into the lottery. The Denver Nuggets will fall in love with his athleticism. If Young can improve as a shooter, this could turn into a steal.
12. Orlando Magic: Tyler Ennis, PG, Orlando
The Orlando Magic need a point guard, and in the likely event Marcus Smart is gone, Tyler Ennis would be the best available. While the Syracuse star isn't a great shooter, he's a playmaker. Ennis is cast right out of the floor general mold.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves: Nik Stauskas, SG, Michigan
Kevin Martin's a good player, but Nik Stauskas would provide the Minnesota Timberwolves with a long-term perimeter threat. Stauskas' ball-handling ability is also underrated. Although he may not be an All-Star every season, the Michigan guard is one of those players who will be productive for a long time.
14. Phoenix Suns: Doug McDermott, SF, Creighton
The Phoenix Suns don't have a guy who can knock it down from anywhere on the floor. If anything in Doug McDermott's game translates to the NBA, it's his shooting. With Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic running around the floor and grabbing the defense's attention, McDermott can sit on the three-point line and fire away.
15. Atlanta Hawks: T.J. Warren, SF, NC State
T.J. Warren isn't your typical wing. He only shot 26.7 percent from three-point range, and he can't jump out of the gym. However, you don't average 24.9 points a game in the ACC by accident. Warren has an eye for the basket. The Atlanta Hawks might opt for a more athletic wing player, but the North Carolina State star would be a solid option.
16. Chicago Bulls: Rodney Hood, SG/SF, Duke
The Chicago Bulls can't go into next season with Tony Snell and Mike Dunleavy as the top two small forwards. Rodney Hood is a good shooter and has the requisite athleticism for a 3. Although his defense is a concern, you'd bank on Tom Thibodeau instilling some discipline into Hood or, at the very least, covering for his defensive failings.
17. Boston Celtics: Kyle Anderson, PG/SF, UCLA
Given the Boston Celtics' massive rebuild, there's the question of whether or not Rajon Rondo will become expendable. According to Ben Watanabe of NESN.com, the veteran point guard is ready to play a major leadership role in the franchise:
I think it’s deserved, Everybody’s different. Every team is different. I wouldn’t mind being that guy. I’ve been that guy the last couple of years. When we needed a guy to recruit or call guys up on the phone, I always did that, so this isn’t new.
Drafting Kyle Anderson gives the Celtics some flexibility. Perhaps the Celtics might be a little more open to trading Rondo if they know they have somebody like Anderson waiting in the wings. Although Anderson isn't a great athlete, Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix argued that Avery Bradley could help defend opposing point guards. At 6'9", the UCLA star will cause matchup problems for opposing defenses, and his ability to pick out a pass is almost unparalleled among the point guards in this year's draft class.
18. Phoenix Suns: Zach LaVine, PG/SG, UCLA
Phoenix doesn't need a ton of help in the backcourt, which means it can afford to take a risk on a player like Zach LaVine. While LaVine only averaged 9.4 points a game in his only season at UCLA, he has boatloads of potential. Having Dragic and Bledsoe in his way might be a good thing, as LaVine won't be thrown into the fire right off the bat.
19. Chicago Bulls: Jerami Grant, SF, Syracuse
The Bulls can really lock down the 3 with Jerami Grant. Chicago could be bold and draft a point guard to back up Derrick Rose, but Grant seems like a smart choice. Rodney Hood can play the 2 or 3, so there wouldn't be a huge risk of he and Grant blocking each other's way onto the court. More importantly, the Bulls are good enough so as to allow the Syracuse forward time to figure out where his future lies in the NBA, whether it's at the 3 or the 4.
20. Toronto Raptors: Adreian Payne, PF, Michigan State
If anybody could possibly raise his draft stock in a slam dunk contest, Adreian Payne might have done it. Before the college slam dunk contest, some wondered how athletic Payne was. Then he stole the show with a nasty 360 jam. The senior forward is more than just a one-dimensional post player. He's got some range and possesses the vision to pass out to an open teammate when hounded inside.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder: Jusuf Nurkic, C, Bosnia
You can never have too many big guys, right? Steven Adams has shown some promise this year, so drafting Jusuf Nurkic might not seem like the best idea for the Oklahoma City Thunder. However, OKC can afford to wait on Nurkic overseas until he's ready for the NBA.
Of course, Nurkic's stock might be soaring over the coming months. NBA.com's Scott Howard-Cooper reported back in March that the Bosnian big man was considered a top-10 pick:
The big move up the draft board belongs to Jusuf Nurkic, a 6-11, 275-pound center from Bosnia. One team has him in their top 10.— Scott Howard-Cooper (@SHowardCooper) March 5, 2014
With Willie Cauley-Stein staying at Kentucky, Nurkic jumped up one more place on the list of best centers available in 2014.
22. Memphis Grizzlies: P.J. Hairston, SG, Texas Legends
The Memphis Grizzlies could really use some offensive help at 2-guard. This is where P.J. Hairston comes in. He can score in a variety of ways. Playing on a strong defensive team like Memphis might also force Hairston to apply himself on that end of the court.
23. Utah Jazz: K.J. McDaniels, SF, Clemson
Like many of the other 3s in this draft, K.J. McDaniels is high on athleticism and low on mechanics. His shot needs to improve at the next level, but that's the only thing holding back his game. Don't forget that McDaniels averaged 2.1 and 2.8 blocks a game in each of the last two seasons, respectively. He has a much bigger game than his 6'6" frame would have you believe.
24. Charlotte Bobcats: Cleanthony Early, SF/PF, Wichita State
The Charlotte Bobcats are in need of some perimeter offense. They're 23rd in three-point percentage and 25th in effective field-goal percentage, according to Basketball-Reference. Cleanthony Early is a forward who can stretch the defense. He shot 34.8 percent from behind the arc during his two years at Wichita State.
25. Houston Rockets: Clint Capela, PF, Switzerland
Clint Capela would fit right in with the Houston Rockets' system. He can run the floor about as good as any other big man in the draft. Adjusting to the Rockets' up-tempo offense would be no problem for Capela. Over time, he can blossom into a force down low.
26. Miami Heat: Mitch McGary, PF, Michigan
Both Michael Beasley and Shane Battier are unrestricted free agents after this season, meaning the Miami Heat might lose two key bench contributors. Looking to the draft would be a cost-effective strategy to try and fill that hole.
Had Mitch McGary not gotten hurt this year, who knows where his draft stock would be? In his eight games during the 2013-14 season, he averaged 9.5 points and 8.3 rebounds a game. If the Heat can get him now, they'd be getting a massive steal. This is a player with lottery talent who might slip to the end of the first round.
27. Phoenix Suns: Jarnell Stokes, PF, Tennessee
The Suns have already addressed the 3 (McDermott) and found a possible long-term combo guard option (LaVine). If they keep this pick, Jarnell Stokes might be worth a gamble. Although he may lack the size to play power forward in the NBA, his post-up game is impressive, and if he can find a jump shot, Stokes would be a steal near the end of the first round.
28. Los Angeles Clippers: Shabazz Napier, PG, Connecticut
The NCAA tournament was really good for Shabazz Napier. Before the Big Dance, he was probably a second-rounder. Now, he's knocking on the door of the first round and could even slip to the 15-20 range.
Although Napier might not be happy with going 28th, it would be a great landing spot. With Chris Paul being the undisputed king at point guard, Napier wouldn't be asked to do too much. He could learn from one of the NBA's best. The Los Angeles Clippers would also have a steady backup who could blossom into a starter down the road, offering a possible trade chip.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Elfrid Payton, PG, Louisiana-Lafayette
The Oklahoma City Thunder may have a decision to make soon regarding the future of Reggie Jackson, much as they did with James Harden a few years ago. Perhaps Elfrid Payton could be the replacement for Jackson in the event the Thunder decide it's more cost effective to see him on his way.
30. San Antonio Spurs: Bogdan Bogdanovic, SG, Serbia
The San Antonio Spurs can draft Bogdan Bogdanovic, store him away and let him adjust to the NBA. The organization has done a great job of grooming international players, so there's no reason to think that its development of Bogdanovic would be any different.