Now that the second round of the 2014 NBA playoffs has begun, 22 teams are focusing their full efforts on the offseason. The highlight of the summer will be the loaded 2014 NBA draft, which contains a number of high-profile prospects who may just have what it takes to reverse the fortunes of these clubs.
Whether your team never made it into the postseason, was knocked out after a wild first round or is still fighting for a championship, it’s time to start familiarizing yourself with the top prospects and where they might land this June.
Let’s take a look at the entire first round and highlight how it may shake out in the latest mock draft.
1. Milwaukee Bucks: Andrew Wiggins, Kansas
The Bucks will have a lot of options at their disposal if the pingpong balls bounce their way and they land the top pick in the lottery. However, no one is more intriguing than Andrew Wiggins, the Kansas star who has been significantly hyped since high school.
While the Jayhawks freshman failed to meet these lofty expectations at times during a tough 2013-14 campaign, he did put up solid stats while playing the toughest schedule in college basketball. His upside is through the roof, and he is the most likely to develop into a superstar out of all the players in this class.
Expect Milwaukee to use that line of thinking to choose Wiggins over this next swingman and the rest of the premier talents in this crop.
2. Philadelphia 76ers: Jabari Parker, Duke
The 76ers pulled off an egregious tank job during the 2013-14 season and will likely be rewarded for their ineptitude with a top pick in the draft. They cannot go wrong in this situation by nabbing Parker off the board, as the Blue Devils' swingman has all the tools to be a legit star at the next level.
He fills a major hole on the perimeter, and his presence will create a formidable nucleus made up of Michael Carter-Williams in the backcourt and Nerlens Noel anchoring the frontcourt.
3. Orlando Magic: Dante Exum, Australia
Exum is the young point guard the Magic have needed for two seasons now to replace the aging Jameer Nelson. The club should finally be able to complete their overhaul and would have young, promising stars at just about every position on the floor if it makes this selection.
4. Utah Jazz: Joel Embiid, Kansas
The Jazz may have Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors under contract, but the team is lacking depth in the frontcourt and will find it close to impossible to overlook Embiid with the fourth pick. The Kansas product has the makeup and motor to become a superstar big man in this league and may end up supplanting one of the established starters as early as his rookie year.
5. Boston Celtics: Noah Vonleh, Indiana
Boston would take one major step forward toward exiting its rebuilding process with the acquisition of Vonleh. While the team has emerging frontcourt talent in Kelly Olynyk and Jared Sullinger, this Indiana Hoosier has the size, length and wingspan to man the center position full-time.
Factor in his tremendous upside, high ceiling and athleticism, and you are looking at one of the most intriguing prospects in the class.
6. Los Angeles Lakers: Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State
Smart is the steadying presence the Lakers need to fortify their backcourt. Steve Nash has likely played his final minutes with the club, and Kobe Bryant is at the tail end of his Hall of Fame career, so expect L.A. to go with a guard here.
While Exum would be the top choice here, Smart has learned many lessons during his sophomore campaign with the Pokes and seems to be one of the most NBA-ready prospects available.
7. Sacramento Kings: Julius Randle, Kentucky
The Kings should sprint to the podium to scoop Randle if he falls this far, as the Wildcats forward is a downright steal at No. 7. Randle has a big body, polished post moves and nonstop motor that will make him a force when occupying the same frontcourt as DeMarcus Cousins.
8. Detroit Pistons: Rodney Hood, Duke
Hood is an underrated prospect who will round out the Pistons' lineup and correct some of the terrible personnel decisions that the club made last season. His ability to shoot the three and defend on the perimeter will hopefully force Josh Smith to move back underneath the basket and stop taking so many abysmal long-range shots.
9. Cleveland Cavaliers: Dario Saric, Croatia
Saric is the versatile forward Cleveland needs to make the leap from bottom-feeder to playoff contender. He’s an excellent ball-handler who sees the floor and passes like a guard but has the size to defend bigger players and create mismatches all over the court.
10. Philadelphia 76ers (from Pelicans): Gary Harris, Michigan State
The Sixers have a gaping hole at the shooting guard position and will likely address it with their second lottery pick this June. Harris is the most well-rounded of the lot, as he can not only ignite the offense with his accurate shooting but also guard other 2s and handle the rock.
11. Denver Nuggets: Aaron Gordon, Arizona
Gordon is rough around the edges, but the upside is undeniable here. He’s already a terrific defender who can use his length and speed to protect the rim and rotate quickly, but he’ll be a truly dangerous player when he polishes his offensive game. The Nuggets can afford to roll the dice here in order to get a tremendous value at No. 11.
12. Orlando Magic (from Knicks): Doug McDermott, Creighton
Orlando could always use more shooters as it prepares for a transition from perpetual lottery contestant to playoff hopeful. There isn’t a better scorer in this class than McDermott, who found a way to lead the nation in points per game despite seeing a constant stream of double- and triple-teams during his senior season.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves: James Young, Kentucky
Young is an interesting pick for the Timberwolves, as he has an outside chance to become a legit star in the NBA and could help ease the blow of losing Kevin Love in the near future.
The Kentucky product shot well in the NCAA tournament but didn’t display that ability consistently during the regular season. If he adds a consistent outside shot to complement his driving ability, the rest of the league will be forced to take notice.
14. Phoenix Suns: T.J. Warren, North Carolina State
Phoenix could use another scorer if it plans to compete again for a coveted playoff spot in the Western Conference next season. Warren is extremely gifted when it comes to putting the ball through the bottom of the net, but he has other deficiencies—such as on the defensive end—that prevent him from becoming an early lottery pick.
15. Atlanta Hawks: Kyle Anderson, UCLA
Anderson is nicknamed “Slow-Mo” for the deliberate pace at which he plays the game. Thus far, it has worked well for the New Jersey native, but it remains to be seen how well that will transfer to the professional level.
Regardless, the Hawks should be willing to gamble on him because he can handle the ball like a point guard and also guard forwards, largely due to his 6’9”, 233-pound size.
16. Chicago Bulls (from Bobcats): Nik Stauskas, Michigan
Stauskas is a downright steal for the Bulls here, as the Michigan product has shown an ability to be much more than a shooter. While he will undoubtedly be able to stretch the defense and connect from anywhere in the gym, this kid has improved his handle, slashing skills and off-ball movements tremendously.
17. Boston Celtics (from Nets): Tyler Ennis, Syracuse
Ennis would be a great replacement for Rajon Rondo, should the C’s choose to let the mercurial point guard walk or trade him ahead of his impending free agency in the summer of 2015. The Syracuse guard’s best trait is his control of the game, as he never gets shaken and always keeps a level head.
Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix cited that ability 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.
18. Phoenix Suns (from Wizards): Cleanthony Early, Wichita State
Early is the type of forward the Suns need to put on the floor against some of the game’s top stars. He can handle, shoot, rebound and play defense at an above-average level, making him a versatile weapon on both ends of the court.
19. Chicago Bulls: Adreian Payne, Michigan State
Payne is the ideal replacement for Carlos Boozer, as the Michigan State big man is tough enough to bang inside for boards and get high percentage shots. He’s also capable of going beyond the arc and knocking down shots, opening up options that haven’t been there for Chicago over the past few seasons.
20. Toronto Raptors: Jerami Grant, Syracuse
The Raptors just swallowed a tough pill in the form of a Game 7 loss to the Nets, so they’ll be hungry to improve the roster this offseason and extract revenge next year. Grant could play a part in that, but he still has to hone his raw skills.
Regardless, the Orange swingman has undeniable talent and could far exceed expectations from this draft position.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder (from Mavericks): P.J. Hairston, North Carolina/NBDL
Hairston lit up the D-League and proved that he can hang with NBA-level competition. He won’t need much development time and could immediately contribute on a contender, serving as a spark plug coming off the bench.
Oklahoma City only has so many minutes to allocate to prospects, so this former UNC star would be an ideal pick for the organization.
22. Memphis Grizzlies: Clint Capela, Switzerland
Capela is doing well in the Euroleague and has shown enough flashes to be a contributor on American soil. The Grizzlies' frontcourt is an area of strength right now, but it is far from a youthful bunch. The team could afford to let Capela continue to improve overseas and bring him over in a few years when he's more polished.
23. Utah Jazz (from Warriors): K.J. McDaniels, Clemson
McDaniels is a solid perimeter option possessing decent athleticism, a nice scoring touch, a knack for rebounding and more. He’s exactly what the Jazz need on the wing at this juncture.
24. Charlotte Bobcats (from Trail Blazers): DeAndre Daniels, Connecticut
Daniels’ stock is through the roof after a strong NCAA tournament showing. The Huskies product showed he could knock down shots at a good clip, bang for boards and do just about everything a forward needs to at the next level.
The Bobcats would definitely love to add his talents into the mix after being swept by the Heat.
25. Houston Rockets: Elfrid Payton, Louisiana-Lafayette
The Jeremy Lin era hasn’t been all that successful for the Rockets, who will likely look to replace him with a cheaper option as soon as possible. Payton can replicate Lin’s scoring skills and more at a fraction of the cost, and his work ethic is undeniably a good sign.
He told Scott Prather of ESPN 1420: “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: Zach LaVine, UCLA
The Heat are getting a good value for LaVine, who is nowhere close to NBA-ready but oozing the upside of a lottery pick. Should the Big Three era fall apart in the near future, LaVine is a player on whom this franchise can pin its hopes.
27. Phoenix Suns (from Pacers): Shabazz Napier, Connecticut
While the Suns have an elite point guard in Goran Dragic, Napier could play the role of combo guard and microwave some offense coming off the pine. He’d give this bench a jolt and help Phoenix push into the playoffs in 2015.
28. Los Angeles Clippers: Jusuf Nurkic, Bosnia
Nurkic is a big man who would alleviate some of the heavy minutes that Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan have been logging during the regular season. Anyone who can help reduce the wear and tear on these two stars is a good pick for the Clips.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Jarnell Stokes, Tennessee
Stokes is a serviceable big man who can immediately come in and soak up minutes for a Thunder frontcourt that has to improve. Stokes may not have prototypical height, but the 6’9” forward can score and rebound well.
30. San Antonio Spurs: Mitch McGary, Michigan
McGary is a high-upside prospect who suffered through a miserable season due to injury and an off-court issue. Regardless, he’s a premier talent who would have likely been a lottery pick if he declared for the draft in 2013. The Spurs need to find an heir to Tim Duncan and could unearth one here at No. 30.
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