Best Destinations for the Top 5 2014 NBA Draft Prospects
As we all know, draft coverage usually focuses around the needs of the team, not the needs of the player. That makes sense, mainly because the player has very little say in which team drafts him.
But what if the player got to choose where he landed? What factors would he consider? Supporting cast, market size, opportunity, playing time, coaching staff and a variety of other factors would be weighed.
For this exercise, instead of focusing solely on team needs, we're going to look at what the top five prospects might covet from their best possible landing spots. Yes, the Milwaukee Bucks might need Andrew Wiggins, but out of the top lottery teams, would that be good for him? Is there another team in the lottery that would suit him better?
Let's take a look at the best feasible destinations (teams in the lottery) for Wiggins, Joel Embiid, Dante Exum, Jabari Parker and Julius Randle, the current top five prospects on DraftExpress.com.
Best Destinations: Philadelphia 76ers (19.9 percent odds of first pick), Utah Jazz (10.4 percent).
Truth be told, there aren't a lot of bad destinations for Andrew Wiggins in the lottery. Just about every team can use a long, athletic wing on their roster, but Philadelphia and Utah stand out as the best fits.
In Philadelphia, ironic as it is to say this given the reputation of the city's fans, there'd be organizational patience and a clear eye on the future. Wiggins would be a part of an incredibly young core that features a solid distributor in Michael Carter-Williams and a potential rim protector in Nerlens Noel, two things every wing wants next to them.
The fast-paced style Philadelphia plays should also suit Wiggins extremely well, as he often had limited room to work with in Kansas and was unable to really attack the rim and let his athleticism flourish. The numbers would look good right away, and Philadelphia's notable assets going forward (tons of cap space, another lottery pick in this draft) should have them hitting their stride just when Wiggins is beginning to.
This is a perfect fit in a major media market for Wiggins to become a star.
Utah doesn't offer as many of those advantages, but Wiggins could really form a dynamite combo with Gordon Hayward, another big wing who can play either the 2 or 3 and do a lot of different things on the floor. Utah is probably one scorer short of having a pretty good offense, and Wiggins could provide that while also pitching in elite wing defense, something the Jazz are also in need of.
I don't love the Milwaukee Bucks for Wiggins, although the new ownership should change things. Still, without a legitimate point guards and with some bad contracts and two good young wings (Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton), there are better fits. The Boston Celtics don't have an elite interior defender and might put too much pressure on Wiggins to be a pure spot-up guy offensively. The Orlando Magic have a lot of mismatched parts, and again, not having a legitimate point guard for the future isn't ideal.
Wiggins should fit in fine anywhere, but I like Philadelphia as the best destination for him by far.
Best Destinations: Boston Celtics (10.3 percent odds of first pick), Los Angeles Lakers (6.3 percent), Sacramento Kings (4.3 percent)
Many feel Joel Embiid is the best player available in the draft, and teams may be ready to take him regardless of positional need. ESPN.com's Chad Ford had this to say about the young big man:
Embiid is the top center prospect -- a force on both ends. He needs to develop his feel for the game and learn to stay out of foul trouble. But he has the building blocks, and most scouts believe he could be an Olajuwon type eventually.
Of course, since we're focusing on the best fits for Embiid, we have to take in account which teams can give him the most playing time and allocate other assets to make the roster around him better.
That rules out a few teams.
The first is the Milwaukee Bucks, who already have a shot-blocking center in Larry Sanders for $44 million, as well as Zaza Pachulia and John Henson on contract. While we haven't seen Nerlens Noel yet for the Philadelphia 76ers, it doesn't seem like the two would be an ideal frontcourt fit. Orlando already has one of the better offensive centers in the league in Nikola Vucevic. Utah has Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter and Rudy Gobert, last year's first-round pick, in the middle.
Who does that leave? The Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers, two storied franchises in major markets, both in need of potential franchise centers.
Boston gets the nod here, if only because Rajon Rondo will get Embiid plenty of easy buckets while the perimeter defense on the other end (Rondo, Avery Bradley) will be sturdy enough to let Embiid do his thing defensively instead of playing whack-a-mole. Boston doesn't have a player who even closely resembles Embiid's skills or makeup, so he'd get all the minutes and opportunity he could handle from day one.
The Lakers are in a similar situation, but Kobe Bryant isn't exactly easy on young big men. With no plus defensive players to be found on the current roster, the weight of anchoring a defense is probably too much to ask of Embiid right now. Centers typically develop at a slower pace, and the Bryant-led Lakers probably aren't the most patient franchise.
Don't rule out Sacramento as a good fit either, despite the presence of DeMarcus Cousins. Perhaps a modern-day twin towers could be established, as Cousins could carry the offensive load while Embiid would focus on cleaning the glass and protecting the rim.
Embiid needs that delicate balance of opportunity, a roster that can accentuate his skills and patience. Boston should be able to provide all three better than the other top lottery teams.
Best Destinations: Milwaukee Bucks (25 percent odds of first pick), Orlando Magic (15.6 percent), Los Angeles Lakers (6.3 percent)
It's rare that a player just comes out and states his preference for where he might want to play, but Australian guard Dante Exum did just that earlier this year to Bleacher Report's Jared Zwerling:
Definitely L.A. is one option...I’ve been to L.A. many times and I love the city, and it is a great city. If I get the opportunity to go to L.A. and play for the Lakers, I know I’ll have love for the city. And their fans are loyal and they have the rivalry with the Clippers. But just to be in an environment where you have a great player like Kobe, where you have a mentor in a way as a rookie, I think that would be the best option."
They’re having some point guard problems and they’re trying to get Victor Oladipo into the point guard...Also, having a good relationship with Victor, I think that would be a good fit. He could kind of mentor me a bit coming into the point guard.
It's pretty hard to argue with Exum's assessment. Los Angeles, especially if Mike D'Antoni sticks around, is a great place for a young point guard to land, as Bryant can (at least theoretically) relieve a lot of the scoring duties and draw defenses away. Orlando is also one of the few teams around the league in need of a point guard, and Exum and Victor Oladipo could be an explosive match on both ends of the floor.
While it's probably hard for any young player to get too hyped up about suffering through Milwaukee winters, the Bucks would be a great fit as well. Brandon Knight is a scoring guard who needs a distributor with size next to him, and Exum sounds like he could be just that. Next to Giannis Antetokounmpo and John Henson, the Bucks would probably be the longest and most athletic team in the league with Exum on board.
Not may teams need a point guard, but Exum would be in a good position if any of these three teams selected him.
Best Destinations: Philadelphia 76ers (19.9 percent odds of first pick), Los Angeles Lakers (6.3 percent)
There are a few teams out there in the lottery that Jabari Parker should want to avoid.
The Milwaukee Bucks have a crowded frontcourt already, and Ersan Ilyasova already occupies the perimeter-oriented power forward role. Tobias Harris does a lot of what Parker is projected to do for the Orlando Magic. Boston's Jeff Green and Jared Sullinger both need post touches and probably don't fit well with Parker in the same frontcourt. The Sacramento Kings wouldn't be able to provide Parker with enough touches. Don't get me started on the Detroit Pistons' frontcourt mess.
Ideally, Parker would go to a team that would allow him to float on the perimeter in addition to going down on the block and generating offense. The barren rosters of the Philadelphia 76ers and Los Angeles Lakers would allow for that.
Parker could really thrive in the uptempo, small-ball oriented offenses of either team and get plenty of touches in the halfcourt on top of that. It doesn't hurt that Philadelphia and Los Angeles are both big markets where Parker could put up some great stats, either. It's never too early to think about your next payday, after all.
Because Parker is probably the most NBA-ready of all these prospects, he'd do well to find a team that can offer him plenty of playing time, the chance to be a premium scorer right away and a roster that fits his unique "tweener" skills.
He may be a little more high-maintenance because of that, but the Sixers and Lakers should be able to satisfy his needs.
Best Destinations: Hope for trades
I don't love any of the lottery teams for Julius Randle, and perhaps that's because so many organizations have gone away from building around and coveting traditional post scorers at the 4.
It also might have to do with so many of this season's bad teams having strange amounts of frontcourt depth. That applies to the Orlando Magic and Milwaukee Bucks, even though Randle should be better than just about everyone on both rosters.
Ideally, Randle would share the frontcourt with a three-point shooter at the 3 and a rim protector at the 5. Philadelphia would be a little clunky with Thaddeus Young already there, although he certainly could be dealt. Utah has Enes Kanter, an offensive-minded big who is probably more of a 4. The Lakers don't feed the post enough under D'Antoni. Sacramento, Detroit and Cleveland are bad matches in personnel as well.
Perhaps the best thing Randle can hope for is that a team will trade up to get him or will trade existing players to make room for him...or will give him better frontcourt pairings. Randle could be a great scorer and rebounder at the 4, but he needs a special mix and mentality built around him (like the Memphis Grizzlies and Zach Randolph) for him to really thrive.