2014 NBA Mock Draft: Pre-Combine Edition
With the NBA Draft Combine upon us, scouts will be zooming in with their microscopes. They'll be looking closely at everything from wingspans and vertical leaps to effort in workouts and self-awareness in interviews.
For some prospects who've been limited by playing time or minimal roles, the NBA combine is a chance to stand out on an equal playing field.
From here on out, prospects should be gearing up for one of the most important yet grueling stretches of their careers. A lot of these guys are going to be bouncing around from city to city, day after day, in order to make as many workouts as possible.
For this mock draft, team needs, along with each prospect's NBA potential, were taken into account when deciding how we project the draft to play out.
Note: The draft order was generated based on the final NBA standings and future trades. All stats courtesy of NCAA.com, unless otherwise noted.
1. Milwaukee Bucks: Joel Embiid, Kansas, 7'0", C, Freshman
At 100 percent, there isn't another prospect on the planet who can change a game like Joel Embiid. He has franchise centerpiece potential, given his offensive upside as a post scorer and defensive outlook protecting the rim.
But we won't know how healthy his back is until he undergoes a physical with each team's medical staff, which isn't going to happen until after the lottery. Embiid has decided to skip this year's combine, per Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports.
Once the lottery plays out, Embiid will be able to decide what teams he plans on letting examine him. And assuming he takes a physical for the Bucks, and doctors clear his back as a thing of the past, I'm just not sure how Milwaukee can afford to pass on this type of promise and upside.
This is certainly not set in stone, but until we hear more on Embiid's back, we'll keep him at No. 1 to the Bucks.
2. Philadephia 76ers: Andrew Wiggins, Kansas, 6'8", SF, Freshman
No matter what pick the Philadelphia 76ers get, Andrew Wiggins is likely to be the team's top option.
He couldn't fit this rebuilding plan any better. Wiggins would slide right between Michael Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel, where he'd get immediate starter minutes without the pressure to produce.
Wiggins also plays to this team's new brand and identity. The Sixers finished No. 1 in the NBA in pace last year, and Wiggins just happens to be the most deadly open-floor athlete in the country.
You'd think after drafting an injured center in 2013, the Sixers will avoid center Joel Embiid in 2014. Wiggins makes sense for Philadelphia based on fit and long-term upside as a major franchise building block.
Unfortunately, he, along with other top prospects Joel Embiid and Jabari Parker, won't be attending the combine, per Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski.
3. Orlando Magic: Jabari Parker, Duke, 6'8", SF/PF, Freshman
Though the Orlando Magic have a need at point guard, no team should be passing on Jabari Parker at No. 3. He's the safest bet on the board, yet he still offers that All-Star ceiling worth taking anywhere, including No. 1 overall.
The Magic have a couple of nice forwards in the lineup, but none with this type of go-to scoring potential. Parker has the ability to take over games offensively, whether he's shaking in the post or rising and firing on the perimeter.
He also rebounds, competes and has the intangibles you can't measure or teach.
Parker lacks Joel Embiid's and Andrew Wiggins' upside, but not by much. He's essentially a value pick anywhere outside the top two.
4. Utah Jazz: Dante Exum, Australia, 6'6", PG/SG, 1995
Utah's backcourt is certainly big enough for Dante Exum, who has the size, athleticism and skill set to play off the ball alongside Trey Burke.
Though labeled a point guard by many, Exum is probably a better scorer than facilitator at this stage. At 6'6" with a handle and jumper, he's a mismatch in the half court, where he can get to the rack or heat up on the perimeter.
In the open floor—forget about it. Other than Andrew Wiggins, you won't find a more lethal weapon in transition.
Exum also projects as an excellent defender, thanks to a disruptive blend of quickness, size and length.
We've got him as the best option on the board at No. 4, and given Utah's lack of depth in the back, he makes sense for the Jazz with one of their two first-round picks.
5. Boston Celtics: Noah Vonleh, Indiana, 6'10", PF, Freshman
Noah Vonleh should be salivating at the opportunity to showcase himself at the combine, where he'll be placed on an equal playing field with prospects who received more minutes, touches and time in the spotlight this season.
No coach or system will be able to hide that 6'10", 240-pound frame and massive 7'4" wingspan during measurements or workouts.
For some general managers, this could be the first time they're seeing some of these prospects up close. And Vonleh is going to look terrific up close, given his eye-opening physical tools and offensive touch.
He's also nearly a year younger than Kentucky's Julius Randle. Considering the lengthier timetable of the Celtics' rebuilding plan, this is a team that can afford to chase upside and wait for results.
6. Los Angeles Lakers: Julius Randle, Kentucky, 6'10", PF, Freshman
The Lakers should be operating in best-player-available mode, and given the expectations that come with this organization, you'd imagine management will also be leaning toward one of the more NBA-ready bodies.
At No. 6, Julius Randle makes sense as both a short-term solution in the post and a long-term answer at power forward. Randle could probably step in tomorrow and provide that physical presence down low as both a scorer and a rebounder.
He has to add a jumper to keep defenses from sagging or packing the paint, but his blend of athleticism, strength, touch and offensive instincts is just too promising to pass with the sixth pick.
7. Sacramento Kings: Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State, 6'4", PG/SG, Sophomore
You'd have to think the Kings would be leaning toward Marcus Smart here at No. 7, given the physical and defensive upgrade he immediately brings to the backcourt.
Not only should the Kings be targeting his two-way services, but they could really use the competitive edge and motor he brings to the table. Smart is a guy who'd run through traffic to get a win.
He has to improve his decision-making with the ball and shooting range/consistency, but these are areas of his game that can get better over time.
I like the versatility he possesses and the lineup flexibility he offers as a result. The Kings could play Isaiah Thomas as a sixth man with Smart at the point, or they could start both of them in the backcourt together.
8. Detroit Pistons: Nik Stauskas, Michigan, 6'6", SG, Sophomore
The Pistons need some shooting to stretch the floor, given all three of their frontcourt starters play mostly inside the arc.
Though Detroit took a 2-guard last year, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope's shooting credentials can't touch Nik Stauskas', who's coming off back-to-back seasons having finished with a 44 percent three-point clip.
Stauskas also took 204 free throws and averaged 3.3 assists a game as a sophomore. Though shooting is his bread and butter, he also brings skills as a driver, passer and playmaker to the table.
9. Cleveland Cavaliers: James Young, Kentucky, 6'6", SG/SF, Freshman
I'm not sure I'd bet on the Cavaliers overpaying to retain Luol Deng this summer, and with James Young's name trending upward following the NCAA tournament, I could see this as a match.
Young is a shot-maker with a dangerous drive-and-slash game. He nailed 82 three-pointers and averaged 14.3 points as an 18-year-old freshman playing alongside a number of high-profile prospects.
He has to improve defensively, but Young's offensive tools and skill set on the wing should fit right into Cleveland's lineup and rebuilding efforts.
10. Philadelphia 76ers: Dario Saric, Croatia, 6'10", SF/PF, 1994
Dario Saric has put together quite the resume at 20 years old. His team is fresh off winning the Adriatic League Final, in which he was named MVP of, after FIBA honored him as Europe Young Men's Player of the Year.
He's one of the most unique and versatile prospects this draft has to offer. At 6'10", he has the size of a 4, the mobility of a 3 and the playmaking instincts of a guard.
At this point, the only question with Saric is whether he'll be coming over right away. Saric and his camp have hinted at staying in Europe for another season or two.
Either way, the Sixers are one of the teams that can afford to wait.
11. Denver Nuggets: Gary Harris, Michigan State, 6'4", SG, Sophomore
Gary Harris could give Denver a long-term answer and upgrade at the off-guard position, which is currently occupied by Randy Foye and Evan Fournier.
Though not the most explosive athlete, he's smooth on the perimeter as a shooter and scorer—Harris can stretch the floor or separate off the dribble into balanced mid-range jumpers.
He's a guy who just knows how to get himself buckets in the offense without needing to over-dribble or dance around one-on-one.
A disciplined all-around player at both ends of the floor, Harris might not have All-Star upside, but he has the game and mindset to last a long time as a starting supporting 2-guard.
12. Orlando Magic: Aaron Gordon, Arizona, 6'9", PF, Freshman
With Tobias Harris and Andrew Nicholson, two one-way power forwards who play mostly under the rim, Aaron Gordon would give the Magic a defensive-minded high-flyer.
Gordon actually finished No. 1 in the country in defensive win shares this season, per Sports-Reference.com. He can guard up to four positions on the floor, with the foot speed to secure the perimeter and the size and length to man the post.
Offensively, he provides his guards with a high-percentage target around the rim. Gordon is a sensational finisher, particularly off the catch, but when given room, he's capable of attacking a lane and slashing for a bucket.
He'll need to improve his jumper and ball skills in traffic, but his defensive versatility and offensive upside are both top-10 worthy.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves: Doug McDermott, Creighton, 6'8", SF/PF, Senior
The Timberwolves should be looking for some immediate help, something Doug McDermott will be offering.
After shooting at least 40 percent from downtown in all four years at Creighton and averaging at least 22 points a game in each of his last three seasons there, McDermott will be entering the NBA with one skill ready to translate tomorrow: shot-making.
McDermott can knock down shots from any spot on the floor, balanced or fading away, open or contested. Creating them is another story, but with a point guard like Ricky Rubio and a magnet like Kevin Love, McDermott should be able to play to his strengths in Minnesota as a spot-up shooter or catch-and-scorer.
14. Phoenix Suns: Jusuf Nurkic, Bosnia, 6'11", C, 1994
Easily the top option at center outside of Kansas' Joel Embiid, Jusuf Nurkic could be a makeup play for last year's lottery pick, Alex Len, who gave the Suns nothing as a rookie.
Nurkic is one of this year's biggest risers following his breakout season for Cedevita. At 6'11", 280 pounds, he's an immoveable object in the interior where he can score, finish and rebound through contact.
He actually finished with the highest Player Efficiency Rating in the Adriatic League, per DraftExpress, thanks to his wild per-40 minute averages of 28.2 points and 13.7 boards on 54.5 percent shooting.
Nurkic still has room to grow, but given his monster physical tools and natural feel for the game, there's reason to believe he will.
15. Atlanta Hawks: Rodney Hood, Duke, 6'8", SF, Sophomore
The Atlanta Hawks showed some encouraging signs in the first round of the playoffs. It would make sense for them to continue adding firepower for the immediate future, something Rodney Hood can provide as a rookie in 2014-15.
Hood has terrific size and shooting range for an NBA small forward. He canned 42 percent of his three-pointers this year, while showing off that refined mid-range scoring arsenal in the half court.
Though not much of a defender, Hood's ability to stretch the floor, knock down shots and finish on the move should give Atlanta an offensive upgrade at the small forward position.
16. Chicago Bulls: Tyler Ennis, Syracuse, 6'2", PG, Freshman
With two picks in the mid-first round, the Chicago Bulls might want to use one of them to secure some point guard insurance and relief behind Derrick Rose.
At this stage, we can argue all day about whether Tyler Ennis is a future star or long-term backup. Either way, he's a guy who can help your offense as a passer, facilitator and opportunistic scorer.
Ennis finished in the top 10 in the country in assist-to-turnover ratio in his first year on the job playing 35.7 minutes a game in the ACC.
It seems reasonable to assume Chicago might want to think twice about playing Rose 30-plus minutes for 82 games next season. And adding Ennis might allow the Bulls to keep Rose as fresh as possible.
It might even be fun to experiment Ennis at the point and Rose off the ball, given Rose's strengths as a score-first floor general. Just a thought.
17. Boston Celtics (via Brooklyn): Zach LaVine, UCLA, 6'5", SG, Freshman
Boston is in the process of starting from scratch, which means it can afford to draft based on long-term potential. And Zach LaVine might have the most of any prospect left on the board.
LaVine should draw plenty of attention at the combine, where he'll be able to showcase his explosive athleticism, nifty handle and lethal shot-making ability up close. LaVine didn't get many playmaking touches as a freshman at UCLA, but in limited doses, he flashed some big-time potential as a scoring combo guard.
Boston would be a perfect place for LaVine to ultimately develop, given the minutes that will be available and the lack of pressure to produce.
18. Phoenix Suns: K.J. McDaniels, Clemson, 6'6", SF, Junior
K.J. McDaniels made big moves this year in terms of his game and NBA draft stock. He might be a top-five athlete in this draft—it really wouldn't be surprising to see the buzz grow louder following the NBA combine, where he's likely to crush the agility, speed and vertical-leaping tests.
At just 6'6", McDaniels led the ACC in blocks per game this year, which reflects his presence above the rim and his all-round motor.
Offensively, he's dynamite in the open floor, can get to the rack and finish plays on the move.
The hole in his game is that shooting stroke, but there's no doubt he's capable. McDaniels hit 42 three-pointers this season—he just has to improve his consistency.
Phoenix would seem like the ideal place for McDaniels to develop, given the fast pace the Suns play at and the team's lack of depth on the wing.
19. Chicago Bulls (via Charlotte): T.J. Warren, North Carolina State, 6'8", SF
The Bulls could use some offense, which happens to be T.J. Warren's specialty. He finished third in the country in scoring this year, doing so at a remarkable 52.5 percent clip for a wing.
At 6'8", Warren can knock down shots in a variety of different ways, from pull-ups and floaters in traffic to runners and finishes on the move. He's got broad shoulders, fluid mobility and some unteachable offensive instincts.
The big question with Warren stems from his shooting stroke—while he's lethal inside the arc, he only made 26.7 percent of his three-point attempts as a sophomore.
Still, shooting can always improve, and he appears capable of making strides. Warren isn't much of an upside play, but he's offering a cheap source for immediate offense anywhere outside the lottery.
20. Toronto Raptors: Kyle Anderson, UCLA, 6'9", PF/SF, Sophomore
Toronto might want to take a chance here on one of the draft's most unique prospects in Kyle Anderson, who at 6'9", plays the game with a point guard's mentality.
It's tough to say just how his game projects in the pros, though nothing can take away from his superb vision and passing instincts. He also gets to his spots on the floor with the size to make plays right over the defense.
Anderson isn't much of an athlete, but he can knock down shots from outside, handle the ball and facilitate from the wing or point.
Worst comes to worst, Toronto gets a versatile glue guy and passing specialist.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Dallas): Shabazz Napier, Connecticut, 6'1", PG
With Reggie Jackson looking more and more like a sixth-man scorer, and Derek Fisher on the way out, the Oklahoma City Thunder will need a true backup point guard. And at this point in the draft, there isn't a better option than national champion Shabazz Napier, who just might be the most NBA-ready one in the field.
After playing four years (two as a role player and two as a star) at Connecticut, he has the confidence that every ball-handler needs in the NBA, along with the floor game and shooting stroke to threaten the defense as a playmaker.
22. Memphis Grizzlies: P.J. Hairston, Texas Legends, 6'6", SG, 1992
After playing two years at North Carolina, P.J. Hairston went on to average 21.8 points a game while balling in the D-League.
Hairston led the Tar Heels in scoring the season before, so it's not as if he'd come out of nowhere. He's lethal from outside, whether he's spotting up, pulling up or stepping back. And he sheds tackles on the way to the rack.
At 6'6", he's a strong, physical guard, which plays to the strengths of this Grizzlies rotation.
Memphis lacks a threatening scoring punch at the 2-guard position, and Hairston should be able to give it one.
23. Utah Jazz (via G.S.): Cleanthony Early, Wichita State, 6'8", SF, Senior
Arguably the biggest thing working against Cleanthony Early this June is his age at 23 years old. But he put himself on first-round radars after his strong game against Kentucky in the NCAA tournament, when he finished with 31 points and seven boards.
Early has NBA size, strength and athleticism for the wing, and he knocked in 37.5 percent of his three-point attempts this season. He can score off the ball via cuts, slashes and transition opportunities, or he can work one-on-one as a line-driver to the rack.
His defensive effort isn't always there, and he's not much of a passer or playmaker, but in the right fit, Early's offensive game should translate in a supporting-scoring role.
24. Charlotte Bobcats (via Portland): Jerami Grant, Syracuse, 6'8", SF/PF, Soph.
Jerami Grant should draw plenty of attention at the NBA combine, where his 6'8" size, 7'2" wingspan and explosive athleticism will stand out.
He's a big-time finisher off cuts, slashes, lobs and offensive putbacks, and given his size, speed and length, Grant projects as a tough defender to shake.
Grant will need to extend his shooting range—he didn't make one three-pointer all season—to log consistent minutes at the 3. But his physical tools alone should be worth drafting somewhere late in Round 1.
25. Houston Rockets: Adreian Payne, Michigan State, 6'10", PF, Senior
The Houston Rockets could be looking for some depth or even a starter at that power forward position, and at 23 years old, Adreian Payne offers an NBA-ready body and a jumper to go with it.
He nailed 44 three-pointers this year at a scorching 42.3 percent clip. Payne can bang down low or stretch the floor as a shooter in the pick-and-pop or drive-and-kick game.
I'm not sure how much upside is left in the tank, but this late, Payne could be the Mason Plumlee of the 2014 draft.
26. Miami Heat: Clint Capela, Switzerland, 6'11", PF/C
I'm not sure how many guys left on the board can help Miami in 2014-15. The Heat might want to draft-and-stash or develop an overseas big man with upside like Clint Capela, who, at 6'11" with a 7'4.5" wingspan, has tremendous finishing, rebounding and shot-blocking potential.
Capela plays baseline to baseline, thanks to a big-time motor and forward-like mobility for a center. Though not overly skilled, he doesn't project as an option to feed in the post; rather, a target for dump passes and lobs around or above the rim.
He had an extremely productive season for Chalon in France, resulting in an invite to this year's Nike Hoop Summit. Capela is a project, but his upside is worth chasing if there isn't an obvious answer on the board.
27. Phoenix Suns (via Indiana): Elfrid Payton, Louisiana-Lafayette, 6'3", PG
Elfrid Payton had a huge year for Louisiana-Lafayette, where he averaged 19.2 points, six boards and 5.9 assists a game. He's nearly a year younger than most juniors, and with great size and electric athleticism for a point guard, there's still plenty of upside left to tap in to.
Payton is a dynamic playmaker with the ball, and he can get to the rack at will (8.6 free-throw attempts per game). He was also named the Lefty Driesell Defensive Player of the Year after averaging 2.3 steals a game.
The Suns could use a backup point guard, and with the emergence of Goran Dragic, they'd be able to subtly ease Payton into the lineup.
28. Los Angeles Clippers: Mitch McGary, Michigan, 6'10", PF, Sophomore
Mitch McGary will be skipping this year's NBA combine, according to ESPN's Chad Ford, who tweeted that McGary's "back is better, but still not quite ready for drills and athletic testing."
McGary missed most of the season following back surgery earlier in the year, but assuming his back checks out prior to June 26, the injury shouldn't make much of a difference this late in the draft.
The Clippers could really use some depth behind Blake Griffin, and McGary's ability to bang on the glass, score around the rim and run the floor would fill a need.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Bogdan Bogdanovic, Serbia, 6'6", SG/SF, 1994
Bogdan Bogdanovic was just awarded the Euroleague Rising Star Trophy, given out to the top young player in Euroleague under 22 years old.
He averaged 14.8 points and over two three-pointers a game on 37 percent shooting from downtown.
Bogdanovic has a sweet outside stroke with the ability to catch-and-shoot or stop-and-pop. And after starting point guard Leo Westermann went down with an injury, Bogdanovic soon took over as Partizan's primary ball-handler, and he showcased his playmaking ability by averaging 3.7 assists a game.
Bogdanovic has excellent physical tools for a 2-guard or wing, with 6'6" size, a strong frame and a 6'11" wingspan.
He's not the quickest, most athletic or explosive, but neither was a guy like Manu Ginobili.
"An average feel for the game, but an exceptional feel for scoring," one general manager told NBA.com's David Aldridge. "The game overall he's okay with. Scoring, he's great with. Very crafty, very clever."
30. San Antonio Spurs: Damien Inglis, France, 6'9", SF, 1995
The Spurs haven't shied away from drafting-and-stashing in the past, and without any obvious options left on the board, they might want to go that route again in 2014.
Damien Inglis has some serious upside, given his 6'9" size, 7'3" wingspan and small forward quickness. With those measurements and Inglis' mobility, he should be able to guard up to four positions on the floor.
Offensively, he's a work in progress, but he's shown promise as a shooter, ball-handler and passer.
Inglis might be a year or two away, but his versatility and long-term potential could look awfully enticing this late in the draft.