While the 2014 NBA draft class might not have the next Anthony Davis, LeBron James or Dwight Howard, there is some top-notch talent available that will surely re-shape the futures of several of the Association's middling franchises.
Much of the talent in this year's class is raw in certain aspects of the game. Some are uncanny defenders, but their offensive game needs work. Some are exactly the opposite. A few are a bit undersized, but that's something an NBA conditioning coach can work out.
Regardless, this class has talent. General managers will be tasked with making the smartest selections for their respective franchises, and such a job goes beyond talent level. They need to find the players who fit.
Here's how the first round of the 2014 NBA draft should shape up if each GM makes the smartest selection for his team.
1. Milwaukee Bucks: Jabari Parker, SF, Duke
Jabari Parker is the most NBA-ready scorer in the draft, and the Milwaukee Bucks are in desperate need of another scoring option. He can score in the post or pop out to the three-point line and hit from deep. That type of versatility makes him the smart choice to go No. 1.
2. Philadelphia 76ers: Andrew Wiggins, G/F, Kansas
Despite arguably the highest ceiling in this class, Andrew Wiggins will not go No. 1 overall. Wiggins goes through stretches where it's like he's not even on the court, and that's not something you want to see from your top pick. Just ask the Cleveland Cavaliers about Anthony Bennett.
Wiggins doesn't have the makeup of Bennett, though, so the Philadelphia 76ers will be more than pleased to scoop him up at No. 2. When the team is ready to really compete in a few years, Wiggins will be a stud.
3. Orlando Magic: Dante Exum, G, Australia
The Orlando Magic possess one of the most depleted rosters in the league. They can go many directions with this pick, but the smart move would be to grab Dante Exum, a point guard who can dictate the tempo and facilitate for this team for years to come.
Exum didn't burst onto the scene until a few months ago, but he's the real deal. He's so talented, in fact, that Adidas already locked him up to a shoe deal:
Look for Exum to contend for Rookie of the Year next season.
4. Utah Jazz: Joel Embiid, C, Kansas
The Utah Jazz already have Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, but Joel Embiid is too good to pass up at No. 4. He's by far the best center prospect in this class, and his length makes him a candidate to play important minutes on defense early on in his career.
Utah will have to get creative in using its big men, but having Embiid backing up both Kanter and Favors is a scary thought for opposing teams.
5. Boston Celtics: Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky
Selecting a point guard here might make sense to some people, but there is more depth at the position later in the first round. At No. 5, the Boston Celtics need to be bold and draft a game-changer.
Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk are already on the roster, but adding Julius Randle into the mix is a great move for the future. Stockpiling trade chips is never a bad idea, especially for a team that's rebuilding. Either Sullinger or Olynyk could be on the move this summer if Randle is taken.
6. Los Angeles Lakers: Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State
The Los Angeles Lakers need a young point guard to learn from Steve Nash before he calls it quits. Marcus Smart should be that guy.
There's an off chance that the Lakers can contend next season as well. With Kobe Bryant and Nash presumably healthy, adding Smart into the fold would give them a nice scoring option off the bench. Plus, Pau Gasol might still be a candidate to return. If they can fix their depth, the Lakers are a team that we shouldn't sleep on in the West.
7. Sacramento Kings: Aaron Gordon, PF, Arizona
Aaron Gordon is a miserable shooter from both the field and the charity stripe, so his offensive game when he's not directly under the basket can be embarrassing to watch. That said, Gordon is a fantastic athlete who is quick without the ball in his hands.
The time when the ball is actually in his hands is what needs work.
8. Detroit Pistons: Dario Saric, SF, Croatia
According to Dario Saric's agent, Misko Raznatovic, the Croatian will declare for the NBA draft very soon, via DraftExpress.net:
"Dario will declare for the 2014 draft in the next seven days for sure, what's a logical step after the best season in his career. He was voted the best young player in Europe by FIBA, as well as MVP of the Adriatic League."
Detroit has a few needs to address, small forward being one of them. Saric will need some time to adjust to the NBA, but he'll be a solid contributor.
9. Cleveland Cavaliers: Noah Vonleh, F/C, Indiana
Noah Vonleh is a player who will need to improve offensively before seeing significant time on the court. But the Cleveland Cavaliers can afford to give him that time given how strong he is defensively. His length helps him redirect shots and rise above the rim for rebounds. He'll start as a reserve center or power forward but work his way into more playing time as his offense progresses.
10. Philadelphia 76ers (via New Orleans): Nik Stauskas, SG, Michigan
Trading Evan Turner midseason created a hole at shooting guard that can easily be filled at No. 10. There are multiple options for the Sixers here. Nik Stauskas, Gary Harris and James Young are all talented, but Stauskas is the best fit for Philly.
He is automatic from deep, and his offensive game is improving as a whole. He isn't an all-around scorer yet, but he has the potential to be solid from inside the arc.
11. Denver Nuggets (via New York): Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State
The Denver Nuggets also need a shooting guard, so they'll jump all over Harris after watching Stauskas go off the board a pick earlier.
Harris is a scorer (1,025 points in two seasons at Michigan State), but he can also defend. Last season, Harris earned All-Big Ten Defensive Team honors.
12. Orlando Magic (via Denver): Rodney Hood, F, Duke
You might be surprised to see Rodney Hood going this early, but the Duke product is a fantastic shooter from deep. He shot 42 percent from three last season. He isn't a stud defensively. That's something that can be improved, however.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves: James Young, SG, Kentucky
Despite an inconsistent freshman campaign at Kentucky, James Young is worthy of a relatively early first-round selection. The guy can shoot, and that's what makes him valuable to the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Wolves need a few shooters to take the next step, and Young can be a key part of their progress.
14. Phoenix Suns: Tyler Ennis, PG, Syracuse
Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe run the offense in Phoenix, but the Suns would benefit from throwing their point guard of the future, Tyler Ennis, into the fold next season. Ennis is a fundamentally sound guard who put together a strong season at Syracuse.
The highlight of his season was a buzzer-beater against Pittsburgh:
Ennis will have a small role next season, but look for it to increase in the future.
15. Atlanta Hawks: Jusuf Nurkic, C, Bosnia
Jusuf Nurkic will eventually be able to provide the Atlanta Hawks with the consistency they so desperately crave at the center position. He's a bruiser down low who just needs a little more polish before being deemed completely NBA-ready. That said, he's worth a pick at No. 15.
16. Chicago Bulls (via Phoenix): T.J. Warren, SF, N.C. State
T.J. Warren is a scorer in the truest sense of the word. Even though he's a point forward who doesn't play particularly well on the perimeter, Warren simply has a nose for the basket. He can score in traffic and is capable of putting the ball on the floor. He'd be a great fit on a gritty Chicago Bulls team.
17. Boston Celtics (via Brooklyn): Kyle Anderson, G, UCLA
Who knows how much longer Rajon Rondo will be wearing green?
The answer is nobody (sometimes not even the Boston Celtics, I think), so the team should use the No. 17 pick to take Kyle Anderson. He's not physically gifted, but he's a big point guard who can learn from Rondo and eventually take the reigns if need be.
18. Phoenix Suns (via Washington): Doug McDermott, SF, Creighton
The Suns aren't very far from making real noise in the West. Taking Doug McDermott would be a great decision for their future, as he can come off the bench and score in bunches during his rookie campaign. His defense is iffy, though, and that's what will hold him back from big minutes during his first year in the league.
19. Chicago Bulls: P.J. Hairston, SG, Texas Legends
The Bulls just took Warren at No. 16, and they can pair him with a similar scorer at No. 19. P.J. Hairston is a shooting guard who can score from anywhere. His perimeter game is more polished than Warren's, and his versatility on offense makes him an attractive target here.
This is a pick the Bulls can get creative with, though. They have multiple options.
20. Toronto Raptors: Jerami Grant, F, Syracuse
The Toronto Raptors love athleticism, and Jerami Grant is probably one of the most explosive players in the draft. Unfortunately, that comes with a few impediments.
Syracuse fans sad to see Jerami Grant leave will enjoy Chris McCullough, Jim Boeheim told me. "He's got unlimited potential."— Zach Braziller (@NYPost_Brazille) April 18, 2014
He's a tweener forward who only attempted five shots from deep last season, missing all of them. He's too small for a power forward but doesn't really possess the skill set of a small forward. That said, his athleticism is uncanny.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Dallas): Adreian Payne, PF, Michigan State
Adreian Payne is one of the more solid players in this draft. The fact that he's 23 years old probably prevents him from being a lottery pick, but the Oklahoma City Thunder won't complain. He can provide stability at the power forward position with his strong post game and ability to convert from the charity stripe. He's the type of player teams need to win championships.
22. Memphis Grizzles: Shabazz Napier, PG, UConn
The NCAA tournament was exactly what Shabazz Napier needed to prove that he belongs in the NBA. Prior to March Madness, many mocks around the Internet had Napier as a fringe first-rounder. Now, he's a lock to go somewhere in the 20s.
He'll be buried at first behind Mike Conley at the point, but Napier can also score enough to warrant minutes at shooting guard off the bench. He'll step in and play right away. His offensive skills are too polished for the Memphis Grizzlies to sit him.
23. Utah Jazz (via Golden State): Clint Capela, F, France
Clint Capela loves to run the floor, and his athleticism as a big man is notable. He has a high ceiling as a defensive prospect, but that's not a knock on his offense. Capela will be surrounded with enough talent in the frontcourt in Utah to take his time transitioning to the NBA.
24. Charlotte Bobcats (via Portland): Bogdan Bogdanovic, G, Serbia
Kemba Walker can't do it all on his own, and Charlotte will look to upgrade the backcourt alongside him as a result. Bogdan Bogdanovic can shoot, but that's not all. Look for him to also drive to the basket and facilitate for his teammates.
25. Houston Rockets: K.J. McDaniels, SF, Clemson
Chandler Parsons is firmly entrenched at small forward, but the Houston Rockets should take K.J. McDaniels here because of his outstanding defensive potential. He is a shot-blocking machine with supreme athleticism who can run the floor and make plays above the rim.
If he doesn't scream "Houston," then I don't know who does.
26. Miami Heat: Mitch McGary, PF, Michigan
The Miami Heat need to infuse youth that can make an impact right away, and Mitch McGary can do that. He is a candidate to post a double-double whenever he steps on the court. Playing alongside Chris Bosh will help to take the pressure off him during his rookie year. That's if Bosh returns to Miami, of course.
27. Phoenix Suns (via Indiana): Zach LaVine, G, UCLA
Zach LaVine has the speed and athleticism to be a future starter in the NBA, but his inconsistencies shooting the ball are a bit concerning. That's really the only reason why he drops to the end of the first round, in my opinion.
LaVine represents the final selection for the Suns in the first round, and he and his new teammates will likely all play roles in the team's success in 2014-15.
28. Los Angeles Clippers: Vasilije Micic, PG, Serbia
Vasilije Micic, 20, is a smart point guard who knows how to make plays and set up his teammates. Sound familiar?
Chris Paul is the perfect mentor for Micic. While nobody is saying that he'll turn into the next Paul, Micic boasts a somewhat similar set of skills. This is a smart pick for the Los Angeles Clippers.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Nick Johnson, SG, Arizona
The Thunder can always use players who can run the floor, and that's exactly where Nick Johnson excels. Playing alongside Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook will take the pressure off him in transition, making him a candidate to quietly be one of the more productive rookies next season.
Johnson will compete with Thabo Sefolosha and Jeremy Lamb for minutes early, but his skills far surpass theirs.
30. San Antonio Spurs: Glenn Robinson III, F, Michigan
Glenn Robinson III figures to be no more than a rotational player given his current abilities. That can all change, of course, if he improves on the perimeter. A disappointing season at Michigan from beyond the arc seriously hurt his draft stock.
There are plenty of veterans in San Antonio to teach Robinson how to improve, however, so this is the best fit for him.