The 2014 NBA draft will be here before you know it. Half of the current playoff contenders are soon going to be eliminated and joining the lottery-bound franchises in anticipation of the marquee event.
If your team appears to be on the verge of elimination, or you just haven’t been paying much attention to the latest draft buzz, now is the perfect time to start catching up on the top prospects and where they might land this June.
Keep reading for the latest mock draft, which takes an updated look at each potential first-round pick.
1. Milwaukee Bucks: Andrew Wiggins, SF, Kansas
The Bucks have been toiling in mediocrity for the past few seasons and finally imploded in 2013-14, netting the highest shot at landing the top overall selection in the draft. They cannot afford to waste this rare opportunity and must do their best to unearth the player who will be remembered as the best in this class.
With an entire season of college basketball in the rearview mirror, that prospect appears to be none other than Wiggins, the highly touted Jayhawks swingman. He’s still plenty raw and has to improve his jumper and passing ability, but overall his upside is through the roof. His potential to become a First-Team All-NBA selection is readily apparent.
2. Philadelphia 76ers: Jabari Parker, SF, Duke
Parker isn’t a terrible consolation prize for the Sixers, who spent nearly the entire 2013-14 campaign actively looking to get worse after a relatively impressive start. General manager Sam Hinkie got his wish and secured a top pick in the draft, which he should quickly use on Parker in this situation.
The Duke product’s ceiling may not be as high as Wiggins’, but he can immediately come in and start scoring 20-plus points per game. He rounds out a team that already has future talent at the point guard and center positions.
3. Orlando Magic: Dante Exum, G, Australia
Exum is an impressive guard prospect from Down Under and might just be the player the Magic need to finally address the gaping hole in their rebuilding project. Aging veteran Jameer Nelson has likely played his final game in Orlando and must be replaced this offseason by a developmental prospect.
Don’t be surprised if the Magic nab this high-upside guard to play next to Victor Oladipo. He has ideal height, playmaking skills and the potential to become one of the league’s top stars at the point guard position.
4. Utah Jazz: Joel Embiid, C, Kansas
Embiid falls into the Jazz’s lap in this scenario, and it would be foolish for the rebuilding franchise to pass him up. There are some who feel that the Kansas big man should be the No. 1 overall pick this June, so Utah is getting plenty of value by making the selection.
Due to his rare blend of size, scoring ability and motor, Embiid isn’t a typical lottery center who is drafted too early and never lives up to expectations. The Jazz should be able to plug him in their frontcourt from Day 1 and start seeing production immediately.
5. Boston Celtics: Noah Vonleh, PF, Indiana
Vonleh may have the highest upside of anyone not named Wiggins in this draft. The Hoosiers star may not be as hyped coming into this event as some of the other notable names, but his ceiling is tremendously high, and he could end up being regarded as the best player of the 2014 draft.
The Celtics should jump at the chance to develop a versatile big like Vonleh, as he would fill in at the 5 right away and start honing his game.
6. Los Angeles Lakers: Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State
Los Angeles is coming off one of its worst seasons ever and desperately needs to put a winning product back on the floor in the twilight of the Kobe Bryant era. Smart represents the best chance to do so with the No. 6 pick, as the Pokes star is much more NBA-ready than many of these other players.
Smart’s decision to return to Oklahoma State for a sophomore year wasn’t universally lauded, but it did allow him to make some mistakes, learn from them and mature both on and off the court. He can come in and take over the starting point guard duties right away and receive tutelage from the legendary Steve Nash.
7. Sacramento Kings: Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky
The Kings would be downright foolish to pass up Randle at No. 7, which is an incredible value for the Kentucky product after he averaged a double-double during his freshman campaign. The Texas native is more developed than his age suggests, as his scoring ability is polished and he possesses the bulk to bang down low at the next level.
Pairing Randle and DeMarcus Cousins in the same frontcourt would give Sacramento the best young duo of big men in the league and make the franchise a playoff contender in the very near future.
8. Detroit Pistons: Rodney Hood, SF, Duke
Detroit has to find a swingman who can hit long-range shots and help get the most out of the offense. Josh Smith needs to be moved off the perimeter and back into the paint if the Pistons are ever going to have a chance, so drafting Hood just makes sense for this downtrodden group.
There is a lot of talent on the Motor City-based franchise’s roster, so hopefully Hood, with his athletic skills, defensive prowess and three-point bombing skills, can bring more balance to this team.
9. Cleveland Cavaliers: Aaron Gordon, PF, Arizona
The Cavaliers have more pressing needs at No. 9, but ultimately it is going to be far too difficult to pass up Gordon if he falls this far. The Arizona product is a stud defender who is rapidly improving on the offensive end and can help atone for the likely whiff on No. 1 overall pick Anthony Bennett in 2013.
10. Philadelphia 76ers (via New Orleans): Nik Stauskas, SG, Michigan
Stauskas’ best skill is still his lights-out three-point shooting, but he developed into a more polished overall player during his sophomore season with the Wolverines. The Sixers need to add a tertiary scorer and long-range sniper to stretch the defense, so he makes perfect sense at the end of the lottery.
11. Denver Nuggets (via New York): Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State
Harris is a well-rounded weapon who learned to play smart, disciplined basketball under head coach Tom Izzo at MSU. He’d be the ideal complement to Ty Lawson in the Nuggets backcourt, as the team needs someone who can take the load off the point guard.
The Spartans star can get buckets at will while also displaying a knack for handling the rock, rebounding well for his position and defending at a high level.
12. Orlando Magic (via Denver): Doug McDermott, SF, Creighton
McDermott is a pure scorer who will allow the Magic to launch all-out assaults on defenses next season. While he may not be the best defender and will struggle to guard his position at the next level, the Creighton product can hit from anywhere in the arena and adds a lot of value to a lineup.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves: James Young, SF, Kentucky
The T-Wolves should be looking to hit their lottery pick out of the park, as it doesn’t look like Kevin Love will be sticking around much longer.
Young may not be as great as Love has been, but the swingman can get to the basket at will, is rapidly improving as a shooter and is brimming with athleticism. That should make him a real asset on the perimeter for Minnesota.
14. Phoenix Suns: Cleanthony Early, PF, Wichita State
Early is a hard-working forward who can do just about everything at a high level and was the catalyst behind Wichita State’s undefeated regular season in 2013-14. He’s a blue-collar, high-energy prospect who has proved he can score from anywhere on the court, bang for boards, handle the rock and more.
15. Atlanta Hawks: Kyle Anderson, G/F, UCLA
The Hawks need to put another playmaker on the floor, and the best option at this juncture would be UCLA’s "Slow-Mo." Anderson earned his nickname for the deliberate pace that he plays at, which should translate to the NBA due to his great size (6'9"), amazing handles, focused court vision and pinpoint passing skills.
16. Chicago Bulls (via Phoenix): Adreian Payne, PF, Michigan State
Payne is another Michigan State product who is capable of doing many things at a high level, including banging down low for rebounds and second-chance opportunities while also going beyond the three-point line to knock down shots.
Those abilities will allow the Bulls to replace Carlos Boozer, while Payne will open things up for the offense and give Chicago plenty of new looks.
17. Boston Celtics (via Brooklyn): Tyler Ennis, PG, Syracuse
The C’s may have a stud point guard in Rajon Rondo, but they can render the veteran expendable by bringing in a top prospect at the position with the No. 17 pick. Ennis is one of the most disciplined, collected, confident and mature players in the draft, and those qualities will allow him to shine as a floor general in the NBA.
Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix cited those abilities and more when he ranked Ennis No. 7 on his big board:
NBA executives love playmakers like Ennis who excel in the pick-and-roll. Ennis isn’t a great shooter, but he protects the ball (3.68-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio, ninth in Division I), is rarely rattled and appears to be most comfortable in high-pressure situations. Point guard has become the NBA’s most valued position, and Ennis has the makeup of a very good one.
Boston may actually get a crack at Ennis because his best attributes aren’t the ones that show up during predraft workouts. That could cause his stock to fall as the workout warriors make a late rise in the lottery.
18. Phoenix Suns (via Washington): Mitch McGary, PF, Michigan
McGary didn’t leave Michigan in the best of circumstances, but the big man is undeniably talented and had a shot to be a lottery pick last year if he had declared for the draft. His injuries and mediocre play in 2013-14 hurt his standing, but the Suns would be getting an A-plus rebounder who brings 100 percent effort on every play if they make this selection.
19. Chicago Bulls: Jordan Clarkson, SG, Missouri
Clarkson will help the Bulls round out a backcourt that has had its fair share of issues over the past few years. While he’s not a Derrick Rose clone and needs to improve his scoring skills, the combo guard is a top-tier defender, and that will get him on the floor as long as head coach Tom Thibodeau is calling the shots.
20. Toronto Raptors: Dario Saric, SF, Croatia
Saric may end up going much higher than this come June, but right now the swingman who handles and passes like a point guard is slated to come off the board at No. 20 to Toronto.
The Raptors would be adding a new dimension to their offense by bringing the Croatian sensation’s playmaking into the fold. He would allow them to continue making postseason forays in the wide-open Eastern Conference.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Dallas): P.J. Hairston, SG, North Carolina/D-League
Hairston has been dominating the D-League, finishing his first season averaging 21.8 points per game on 45.3 percent field-goal shooting and 35.8 percent three-point shooting.
He won’t need much development time due to the level of competition in the D-League and should immediately start scoring points for OKC’s second unit.
22. Memphis Grizzlies: Clint Capela, PF, Switzerland
Capela is an intriguing international prospect who may end up taking the NBA by storm, or he might struggle to ever make a roster in the United States. Either way, the Grizzlies need to keep swinging for the fences in order to get a star who could push them over the hump in the Western Conference.
This Swiss big has been producing at a high level in Europe and may be able to soak up minutes in the Griz’s aging frontcourt if he can show enough to crack the rotation.
23. Utah Jazz (via Golden State): T.J. Warren, SF, North Carolina State
Warren is a natural scorer who will manufacture buckets in the NBA. He won’t, however, be able to defend or do much else at a level above the average replacement player. Regardless, the Jazz should be willing to overlook his flaws in order to bring in someone who can create instant offense of the bench.
24. Charlotte Bobcats (via Portland): Jerami Grant, SF, Syracuse
The Bobcats aren’t going to advance out of the first round of the playoffs unless they start developing some more young stars. Grant is falling in this draft due to his raw skills, but a few years of NBA coaching and training should turn him into a contributor.
25. Houston Rockets: Shabazz Napier, PG, Connecticut
Napier lit up the NCAA tournament and solidified his stock as a first-round talent. The UConn guard is a transcendent scorer who could take Jeremy Lin’s spot on the roster at a fraction of the cost.
26. Miami Heat: Zach LaVine, G, UCLA
LaVine is an exceedingly raw talent that the Heat should be willing to take in and develop on the end of their bench. Don’t be surprised if the back-to-back champions decide to go in this direction come June.
27. Phoenix Suns (via Indiana): Nick Johnson, SG, Arizona
Johnson is a high-flying local product who plays above the rim and with a ton of heart. He’s a scrappy star and has the grit that Phoenix needs to get back into the playoff hunt next year.
28. Los Angeles Clippers: Jarnell Stokes, PF, Tennessee
Stokes is a serviceable big man who may be able to soak up minutes and allow Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan to rest more during the regular season. Fatigue and injury concerns should dictate this choice for the Clippers.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: K.J. McDaniels, SF, Clemson
The Thunder could always use another athletic perimeter player who can score, hustle and do everything else at a decent clip. McDaniels may take a few years of developing in the D-League, but he could eventually play a role for this club.
30. San Antonio Spurs: Jusuf Nurkic, C, Bosnia and Herzegovina
The Spurs need to start preparing for the loss of Tim Duncan, so adding a developmental big man at the end of the draft would be the best option. Nurkic may not be ready right away, but a year or two more in Europe could prepare him for the rigors of the NBA grind.