Quick show of hands. Who expected Mason Plumlee and Tim Hardaway Jr. to be two of the best rookies from the 2013 draft class?
Yep, that's nobody.
There was a time when any teams picking outside the top 10 or 15 of the NBA draft rarely got much value from their picks. If a guy stayed in the league for four or five seasons, that was a success.
Now, however, with the influx of international players and increased scouting knowledge, teams are beginning to maximize their value from the draft. Hardaway and Plumlee are two good examples. Draymond Green was drafted in the second round back in 2012, Reggie Jackson and Kenneth Faried both fell to the 20s in 2011, while Chandler Parsons was a second-rounder.
In short, you'd be foolish to only look at the top five for the impact rookies of the 2014-15 season.
Although it's still early, here's a look at how the first round of the 2014 draft might play out. The players underlined are bound to get overlooked and will provide tremendous value for their new teams.
Note: Draft order is via NBA.com.
1. Milwaukee Bucks: Andrew Wiggins, SG/SF, Kansas
Although Andrew Wiggins will need some time to adjust to the NBA, nobody in this year's draft class can touch his potential. Perhaps if the Milwaukee Bucks were primed for a quick turnaround next season, they would opt for a player who can provide more immediate help. But it's clear that they're in a major rebuild, so making Wiggins the cornerstone of the franchise makes a lot of sense.
2. Philadelphia 76ers: Jabari Parker, SF, Duke
The Philadelphia 76ers will obviously be tempted to take Joel Embiid here, but until they finally see what they've got in Nerlens Noel, drafting another big man so soon might not be the best option. Not when a player like Jabari Parker is sitting there.
Fans in Philly underwent a lot of torment this season, but getting a player like Parker makes some of that worth it. The Sixers future is headed in the right direction.
3. Orlando Magic: Dante Exum, PG/SG, Australia
Like the Sixers, the Orlando Magic may have to make a tough decision when it comes to Embiid. Looking at the roster, point guard is arguably a much bigger position of need, so Dante Exum makes more sense from that perspective. Exum is a great athlete and very smart on the court. Pairing him with Victor Oladipo would give Orlando a great backcourt duo.
4. Utah Jazz: Joel Embiid, C, Kansas
The presence of Enes Kanter shouldn't put the Utah Jazz off too much when it comes to pulling the trigger on Embiid. Kanter hasn't shown a ton in his three seasons, and most of his stat increases this year were down to playing 11 more minutes a night. Embiid's back is obviously a concern, the extent of which is unknown. If the Jazz can get him at No. 4, though, he ceases to be much of a gamble and turns into a steal.
5. Boston Celtics: Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State
Even if the Boston Celtics hold on to Rajon Rondo for the time being, it's probably good to get a secession plan in place. Marcus Smart would be the best point guard on the board at this point. Even if Rondo stays and retires as a Celtic, Boston would have good depth at the position and could parlay Smart into a big trade down the line.
6. Los Angeles Lakers: Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky
Look at it this way, Los Angeles Lakers fans, the team won't be worried about whether to draft for value or need, because they need everything. Julius Randle can grow into a beast in the post. He has a number of offensive moves inside, and he really attacks the glass. Drafting Randle would help to make Pau Gasol expendable this offseason.
7. Sacramento Kings: Aaron Gordon, PF, Arizona
The thing you worry about with Aaron Gordon is that he won't grow into much more than a freak athlete. Even if Gordon doesn't elevate his game too much, he could still be a productive player on the defensive end and in transition. Should the freshman phenom improve his jumper, though, look out.
8. Detroit Pistons: Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State
Admit it. There's a part of you that wants to see Marshall Henderson go to the Detroit Pistons if only to have him, Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings on the same team. Maybe Detroit can look for Henderson in the second round, because in the first, the Pistons should look to Gary Harris.
On a team with too many players who are all too happy to shoot, Harris could be the kind of efficient scorer Detroit needs. The Michigan State star isn't afraid to chuck it, but he's smart enough not to take too many bad attempts.
Kyle Neddenriep of The Indianapolis Star made the comparison to Bradley Beal:
If Harris is the next Beal, then Detroit would be getting great value.
9. Cleveland Cavaliers: Noah Vonleh, PF/C, Indiana
Some like the Cleveland Cavaliers taking Doug McDermott here. While it makes sense, that would also seemingly mean admitting that drafting Anthony Bennett was a massive mistake after only one year. Tristan Thompson isn't going anywhere, so drafting a 3 would seemingly limit Bennett's playing time.
The nice thing about Noah Vonleh is that he could play the 4 or the 5. If it's the latter, then Vonleh could be the long-term replacement for the oft-injured Anderson Varejao. The sooner the franchise moves away from Varejao, the better.
10. Philadelphia 76ers: Dario Saric, SF/PF, Croatia
Dario Saric is listed as a small forward/power forward by some, but he definitely trends more toward the 4, so there's no threat of Saric and Parker costing each other playing time. Should Saric spend more time in Europe, that wouldn't hurt Philly too much because it's not like the Sixers are poised to win next year.
11. Denver Nuggets: Tyler Ennis, PG, Syracuse
It feels strange to write this, but the Denver Nuggets have never really replaced Andre Miller. They can't afford to roll with just Ty Lawson next season. Tyler Ennis is a safe pair of hands who could give Lawson a break.
12. Orlando Magic: Rodney Hood, SF, Duke
With point guard out of the way, the Magic can focus on improving their scoring. Rodney Hood has an impressive repertoire of skills. He shot 42.0 percent from three-point range at Duke, and he's also adept at attacking the basket.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves: Nik Stauskas, SG, Michigan
The Minnesota Timberwolves will have a decision to make between McDermott and Nik Stauskas. Of the two, Stauskas has the higher potential, so he gets the slight nod. For a team that was largely abject from downtown this year, Stauskas' long-range shooting would be a godsend.
14. Phoenix Suns: Doug McDermott, SF, Creighton
Few players are as pro-ready as McDermott. Although he probably won't get much better than he is now, he's still good enough to be a consistent contributor on a good basketball team. Although Gerald Green shot well from three-point range this year, the Phoenix Suns will be lucky to get that again. They need a player like McDermott for next season.
15. Atlanta Hawks: James Young, SG/SF, Kentucky
Shooting is the only thing holding James Young back. He's a tremendous athlete who can get to the basket. On an Atlanta Hawks team in need of a wing player, Young would be a huge help. And if he can become a more consistent shooter, the Hawks would be getting a huge steal.
16. Chicago Bulls: T.J. Warren, SF, North Carolina State
The Chicago Bulls may want to pursue more of a perimeter option here, but you can't look past T.J. Warren's ability to score in a variety of ways. It doesn't look pretty, but he gets the job done. Warren's also capable of knocking down the occasional three here and there, too.
17. Boston Celtics: Kyle Anderson, SF/PF, UCLA
With both Rondo and Smart standing in his way, Kyle Anderson wouldn't have a path to the point in Boston, which is a good thing because his physical limitations would likely prevent him from being a viable point guard in the NBA. Anderson is a playmaker and skilled ball-handler, though, and head coach Brad Stevens would find a place with him in the offense.
18. Phoenix Suns: Clint Capela, PF, Switzerland
Right about the time the Suns should let Channing Frye go, Clint Capela would be ready to contribute. There's no question that he needs more seasoning, but Phoenix is in a position in which it can afford to let him play in Europe for another year or two.
19. Chicago Bulls: Adreian Payne, PF, Michigan State
Adreian Payne isn't likely to grow much more as a player. But there's something to be said about a player with whom you know exactly what you're getting. There's almost no threat that Payne will become a bust. He's a skilled post player with the ability to stretch the opposing defense. Not only that, he's got great vision with the ball inside and can find the open teammate.
The Chicago Bulls don't have a lot of talented 4s, so Payne could fit right into the current roster and contribute. You could really see Tom Thibodeau getting the most out of the Michigan State star as he has so many other Bulls players.
20. Toronto Raptors: Jerami Grant, SF, Syracuse
Jerami Grant is basically where DeMar DeRozan was coming out of USC. Grant's jump shot needs work, but he's a great athlete who flies around the court. With DeRozan's spot secured, Grant wouldn't be asked to do too much too early, so he could grow organically and improve as a shooter.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder: Jusuf Nurkic, C, Bosnia
You may be asking why the Oklahoma City Thunder might need another big man. They already have Kendrick Perkins, Hasheem Thabeet and Steven Adams. But Perkins and Thabeet don't really count, and Adams is limited on the offensive end. Jusuf Nurkic offers a slightly different game than Adams does, and the Thunder's depth means that he can spend some more time in Europe before he makes the leap to the NBA.
22. Memphis Grizzlies: P.J. Hairston, SG, Texas Legends
The playoffs illustrated just how much the Memphis Grizzlies need a three-point shooter. Mike Conley and Courtney Lee shot a combined 9-of-46 from downtown, leaving Mike Miller to shoulder the load. P.J. Hairston is one of the best shooters still available, so his presence would be a huge boost to the Grizzlies next year.
23. Utah Jazz: K.J. McDaniels, SF, Clemson
Although he's only listed at 6'6", K.J. McDaniels plays much bigger. He's averaged 2.8 and 2.1 blocks in each of his last two seasons at Clemson. The Jazz struggled mightily on the defensive end, ranking 29th in defensive rating last year.
24. Charlotte Bobcats: Zach LaVine, PG/SG, UCLA
The Charlotte Bobcats don't have a ton of guys who can score in buckets. Zach LaVine showed a lot of promise early in the year before really leveling off. If the Bobcats can get something resembling the first-half LaVine, they'll get exactly what they need.
25. Houston Rockets: Cleanthony Early, SF/PF, Wichita State
It would be a bit ironic if the Houston Rockets are faced with the type of decision that Oklahoma City had with James Harden. Sure the Rockets would love to keep Chandler Parsons, but the finances may make it impossible. After Houston was bounced out of the postseason, the third-year forward refused to divulge any info about a possible new deal, per Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:
'It doesn’t matter to me,' Parsons said. 'The biggest thing for me is to win. When you win, you get whatever you want. We had a chance to do that this year and didn’t do it. Restricted, unrestricted, it doesn’t really matter to me. I just want to be in a good situation. I want to be on a winning team. And I think that can happen here. I’m not trying to go anywhere else. Obviously, I have to do what’s best for my career, but I love it here.'
The Rockets could help themselves out by drafting Cleanthony Early. Although Early is a bit undersized, he's a forward who can stretch opposing defenses. Playing in Houston would be nice, too, because he wouldn't be asked to do too much on offense.
Parsons has one more year left on his deal before he's an unrestricted free agent, so Houston could use Early's rookie season to help decide what to do this time next year.
26. Miami Heat: Shabazz Napier, PG, Connecticut
Speaking of players who may be too costly, the Miami Heat need to save every penny, so bringing Mario Chalmers back might not be the best idea if they can draft Shabazz Napier. Although Napier's ceiling is limited, he can play in the NBA right away. He'd fit in with the win-now Heat.
27. Phoenix Suns: Vasilije Micic, PG, Serbia
It's never too early to start preparing for the future. Maybe the Suns can keep Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe together for a long time. That's an unlikely proposition, so Phoenix will need to ensure that its long term is assured. Vasilije Micic could be the replacement when one of the two leaves.
28. Los Angeles Clippers: Elfrid Payton, PG, Louisiana-Lafayette
Having Chris Paul is great and all, but even he needs somebody to take the pressure off. The Los Angeles Clippers can't afford to keep Darren Collison around, so the draft is a good place to look for a backup point guard. Elfrid Payton is good enough for what the Clippers need, and anybody is bound to improve learning from somebody as good as Paul.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Bogdan Bogdanovic, SG/SF, Serbia
Like Nurkic, Bogdan Bogdanovic is another player the Thunder could opt to stash in Europe and bring him in when he's needed, like if Reggie Jackson is jettisoned. Bogdanovic is a good shooter and in a couple of years could be in a position to get major minutes on OKC.
30. San Antonio Spurs: Jahii Carson, PG, Arizona State
If anybody can get the best out of Jahii Carson, it's Gregg Popovich. Carson is a great athlete, and if he was two inches taller, he'd be a first-round lock. Instead, the Arizona State point guard is right on the fringe. Looking at the San Antonio Spurs' draft record, don't be surprised if Carson is on the All-Star team within five years if he ends up in San Antonio.
Note: All stats are courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.
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