It must be difficult for the NBA teams that did not qualify for the playoffs to sit back and watch the incredible action unfold. After all, it’s not every day (or any day in history for that matter) that fans are treated to five Game 7s in the first round alone.
The surest way for losing NBA franchises to be a part of the postseason thrills for the foreseeable future, outside of landing LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony in free agency, is by rebuilding through effective draft strategy.
The 2014 draft is loaded with talent, so the opportunity is there. With that in mind, here is a look at an updated first-round mock draft for every team in the league.
The order of picks was borrowed from the latest mock draft from DraftExpress.
1. Milwaukee Bucks: Andrew Wiggins, Kansas
Jabari Parker may be the more polished NBA prospect after a season under Mike Krzyzewski, but the ceiling on Andrew Wiggins will be too much to pass up.
The Milwaukee Bucks need a superstar to build the franchise around more than arguably any other team in the league, and that is what Wiggins can be. He is an elite scorer, a solid defender and can crash the boards, and he could be the center of the squad for years to come.
2. Philadelphia 76ers: Jabari Parker, Duke
If the Bucks take Wiggins, the Philadelphia 76ers will gladly scoop up Parker as the consolation prize.
Parker can hit from three, drive the lane, find open teammates when doubled, and he developed a post game as his one college year gradually continued. He will fit in right alongside Michael Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel as the backbone of the 76ers organization for the future.
3. Orlando Magic: Dante Exum, International
The logical pick at No. 3 may be Joel Embiid, but the Orlando Magic will take Dante Exum instead.
The fact that Embiid is so young and already dealing with chronic injury issues will scare the top three teams away, and Orlando will seize the opportunity to pair Exum with Victor Oladipo in the backcourt. That defensive combination alone will win the Magic some games, and the speed will lead to multiple transition opportunities every single night.
4. Utah Jazz: Joel Embiid, Kansas
Injury issues or not, the ceiling for Embiid will be too much for the Utah Jazz to overlook here.
Trey Burke is about the only player in Utah that is a sure bet to be there for years to come, and the high-low combination of Burke and Embiid is certainly intriguing. As long as Embiid can stay healthy, he will swat shots, score on the low post and rebound immediately.
5. Boston Celtics: Julius Randle, Kentucky
The Boston Celtics already have Jared Sullinger, but the rebounding machine that is Julius Randle is the best pick remaining in this scenario. UK Cat Facts broke down just how great Randle is on the boards:
The Randle and Sullinger combination will set Boston up in the paint to perhaps make another run at an Eastern Conference playoff spot next year.
6. Los Angeles Lakers: Aaron Gordon, Arizona
The Los Angeles Lakers were a mess this season, and if Pau Gasol isn’t going to be around next year, Aaron Gordon is a heck of a replacement.
Gordon is one of the most athletic players in the entire draft class and will have no problem deferring to Kobe Bryant in the offense (which Bryant will certainly like). Gordon will bring some showtime back to the Lakers with alley-oop dunks, but he is a formidable defender and rebounder as well.
7. Sacramento Kings: Noah Vonleh, Indiana
The possibility of a Noah Vonleh and DeMarcus Cousins combination in the frontcourt is certainly enticing.
Vonleh is a rebounding machine who can hit from the mid-range and score on the block, but he is still somewhat raw on the offensive side. His defense and rebounding though make him a top-10 pick, and he will take some of the pressure down low off Cousins in the long run.
8. Detroit Pistons: Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State
The Detroit Pistons fell victim to Brandon Jennings’ poor shot selection this season, and they could use a stabilizing force in the backcourt.
Marcus Smart can hit from behind the three-point line, slash to the rim and find open teammates. The offense will be much more efficient if it runs through Smart, and his defense makes him even more intriguing as an early pick.
9. Cleveland Cavaliers: Dario Saric, International
Let’s work under the impression that Luol Deng will not be returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Dario Saric is a potential replacement for Deng because of his versatility, rebounding ability and scoring potential. He is something of a project, but the ceiling is enough to risk a top-10 pick on him. Saric can play either the small or power forward spot and is capable of hitting open shots when Kyrie Irving drives to the basket.
10. Philadelphia 76ers (from Hornets): Gary Harris, Michigan State
In this hypothetical, the 76ers' young nucleus is Cater-Williams, Noel and Parker, so they will look for a shooting guard to join the fold.
Gary Harris is a terrific shooter and capable perimeter defender who will take advantage of the openings he will see with that lineup. Philadelphia may have been a disaster this season, but the future certainly looks bright, especially in a watered-down Eastern Conference.
11. Denver Nuggets: Doug McDermott, Creighton
Todd Golden of the Terre Haute Tribune-Star sees some Kyle Korver in Doug McDermott:
While that may not be exactly what the Denver Nuggets are looking for in a lottery pick, Korver is as good as they come from behind the arc. If McDermott becomes something along those lines, he can stretch the floor for the Denver offense and also contribute on the boards.
12. Orlando Magic (from Knicks): Rodney Hood, Duke
The Orlando Magic added an elite point guard in this draft, and now they get one of the most underrated players in the draft.
Rodney Hood was overshadowed by Parker at Duke, but he was an incredible scoring threat, consistently great from behind the three-point line, a solid defender and could contribute in the rebounding department. He will compete for immediate playing time in Orlando and has the chance to be one of the best players in this whole draft.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves: James Young, Kentucky
The Minnesota Timberwolves have Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio in the fold, and James Young can slide right in next to those two as a scoring threat on the wing.
If opponents double Love or crash on Rubio’s penetration, there are few players in this draft who can hit the open three or slash to the lane if defenders rush out at his shot too hard better than Young. He showed the nation he is capable of being an elite scorer in the NCAA tournament and is also an athletic defender that will help Minnesota limit opposing scoring.
14. Phoenix Suns: T.J. Warren, North Carolina State
T.J. Warren’s draft stock soared during his brief two-game stay in the NCAA tournament because he is an absolute scoring machine who can create his own shot and hit from behind the arc.
Phoenix will not hesitate to add someone like that to the roster at No. 14.
15. Atlanta Hawks: Tyler Ennis, Syracuse
Drafting a point guard may not be necessary for the Atlanta Hawks, given the fact that Jeff Teague looked like the second coming of Isiah Thomas for much of the series against the Indiana Pacers.
However, Tyler Ennis has top-10 talent and is much younger than Teague. If he falls to No. 15, Atlanta will gladly add him and figure out the rotation later. Ennis is a tremendous facilitator who is capable of scoring when he has to, and he will keep this Hawks team in the playoff fold for years to come.
16. Chicago Bulls (from Bobcats): Nik Stauskas, Michigan
It’s not exactly breaking new ground to say the Chicago Bulls need scoring, but it was painfully obvious during the playoff loss to the Washington Wizards.
Nik Stauskas is one of the best perimeter scorers in this draft and could compete for serious minutes right away. The temptation is to lump Stauskas in the Mike Dunleavy category as a three-point shooter and not much else, but Stauskas is much more than that.
He can slash the lane off the dribble, is a lengthy and athletic defender and can help the Bulls on the glass.
17. Boston Celtics (from Nets): Kyle Anderson, UCLA
Rajon Rondo’s future in Boston is somewhat murky, so the Boston Celtics may look to the point guard department in this draft.
Kyle Anderson is a perfect fit because he can handle the point duties if necessary but is versatile enough to play off the ball as well. He is a triple-double threat every time he steps on the floor, and his length bothers opponents on both ends of the floor.
Adding Anderson on the outside and Randle on the inside in this draft sets the Celtics up nicely for the future.
18. Phoenix Suns (from Wizards): Jusuf Nurkic, International
We addressed the wing position for the Phoenix Suns with their first pick, so we will look down low with the No. 18 selection.
Jusuf Nurkic is a strong defender and capable rebounder, but his offense could use some work. If the Suns are willing to ride out his development for a couple of years, they could have an all-around guy down low competing for a spot in the starting lineup eventually.
19. Chicago Bulls: Adreian Payne, Michigan State
Joakim Noah did a little bit of everything for the Bulls, and adding Adreian Payne will take some of that pressure off Noah.
Payne is a tremendous rebounder, can hit from behind the three-point line or post up on offense and is a prototypical Michigan State defender who physically imposes his will on the opponent. Assuming Carlos Boozer is no longer on the roster, Payne and Noah (along with Taj Gibson) would be an impressive and versatile frontcourt.
There may just be another triple-double type of player in Chicago soon.
20. Toronto Raptors: Jerami Grant, Syracuse
Apparently, the Toronto Raptors may be interested in bringing back Vince Carter, as Bleacher Report points out:
That is certainly one direction they can go, but they can get a younger slasher in the draft with Jerami Grant from Syracuse. Grant doesn’t have near the shooting touch that Carter does at this stage of both of their careers, but he is the more athletic of the two and can rebound at an effective rate.
There is certainly plenty of upside with this pick.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder (from Mavericks): Clint Capela, International
The Oklahoma City Thunder need depth down low, so they will take a chance on Clint Capela.
Capela is a formidable rebounder and defender, and he won’t be asked to do very much on offense with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in the fold. A few years from now, Capela could develop into a solid center and power forward hybrid for the Thunder.
22. Memphis Grizzlies: P.J. Hairston, North Carolina/NBDL
Much like the Bulls, the Memphis Grizzlies need help in the scoring department, and P.J. Hairston provides just that.
With Mike Conley at point and Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph down low, the Grizzlies' primary need may be more depth at the wing positions. Hairston is a tremendous scorer who can hit his shot from anywhere in the half-court set, and his defense will improve simply by being in Memphis’ system.
23. Utah Jazz (from Warriors): K.J. McDaniels, Clemson
We have the Burke and Embiid combination in place for Utah now, and the Jazz will add an athletic scorer on the wing with K.J. McDaniels.
McDaniels is one of the more underrated players in the draft, simply because he played his college basketball in the always-overlooked Clemson program. McDaniels doesn’t have the best perimeter shot, but he can get to the rim with ease and finish through contact.
The Jazz could certainly use a lot of that.
24. Charlotte Bobcats (from Trail Blazers): DeAndre Daniels, Connecticut
The Connecticut Huskies’ miraculous run to the NCAA title will help Shabazz Napier in the draft, but don’t forget about DeAndre Daniels.
He is capable of carrying an offense for stretches within a game with his three-point shooting and driving abilities, and his length creates problems for opponents on the defensive side. All of that will be enough to land him in the late first round.
25. Houston Rockets: Elfrid Payton, Louisiana Lafayette
The Houston Rockets need point guard depth, especially after Jeremy Lin struggled in the playoff loss to the Portland Trail Blazers.
Elfrid Payton may not be the best-known prospect in this draft, but he can score, find teammates and hold his own on the defensive end. He is athletic enough to create opportunities in transition and control the tempo from the point guard spot.
Payton has also been training hard in the offseason, as these quotes to Scott Prather of ESPN 1420 indicate: “I wake up early. Get in a court workout in for an hour and a half. I follow that with a break, then hit the weight room for an hour. After that, I rest and take care of my body.”
26. Miami Heat: Jordan Adams, UCLA
Dwyane Wade is gradually breaking down before our eyes, and the Miami Heat could use another shooting/point guard who is tremendously talented on the offensive side.
There is very little Adams cannot do on the court, from rebounding to hitting the three to slashing the lane and finishing through contact. He will get serious playing time from the beginning and certainly benefit from the openings that playing with LeBron James creates.
27. Phoenix Suns (from Pacers): Shabazz Napier, Connecticut
The Suns already have a big guy and an athletic scoring wing in this draft, so they will add some point guard depth in the form of Napier.
Napier is an elite prospect on the defensive side of the ball, and he certainly proved himself capable of scoring in the critical moments. He is a solid three-point shooter, finishes through contact at the rim and was even one of the best rebounders on Connecticut’s roster. Not a bad combination for someone going at No. 27.
28. Los Angeles Clippers: Cleanthony Early, Wichita State
The Los Angeles Clippers love to run the floor, excite the fans, shoot three-pointers and finish on impressive dunks.
Cleanthony Early can do all of those things and then some.
His dominant game against Kentucky in the NCAA tournament was no fluke, and he is one of the best scorers in this draft. His versatility allows him to play anywhere from shooting guard to power forward, which will help him find minutes on this deep and loaded Clippers team.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Zach LaVine, UCLA
A backcourt pairing of Westbrook and Zach LaVine is borderline unfair for opposing teams. That’s not even throwing in the fact that someone who goes by the name Durant is spotting up from behind the three-point line anytime either of those two guards drives the lane.
LaVine’s exciting dunking skills are what immediately stand out, but he is a capable shooter and a solid defender. He would fit right in at the shooting guard spot on this squad and can even fill in at point if needed.
30. San Antonio Spurs: Mitch McGary, Michigan
Given his injury history, Mitch McGary is as high risk, high reward as they come in this draft (although Embiid would have something to say about that).
However, is there any doubt that the San Antonio Spurs, of all teams in the league, would get the high reward side of McGary? He is a rebounding machine, can score on the low block and is a solid passer when double-teams come.
The Spurs would find a way to make it work.
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