While the elite teams in the NBA still have their eyes on the Larry O’Brien trophy, the Association’s bottom-dwellers are locked in on May 20.
That is the date of the draft lottery, and the immediate fortunes of squads like the Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers and even the once-mighty Los Angeles Lakers will hang in the balance. The draft class of 2014 is loaded with difference-makers, so the upcoming Ping-Pong ball bounces will be very important.
With that in mind, here is a look at an updated mock draft for the entire first round. The order of the picks was borrowed from Draft Express’ latest mock.
1. Milwaukee Bucks: Andrew Wiggins, Kansas
Anytime a squad lands the No. 1 pick in the draft, it will look for a potential game-changing talent with incredible upside that can be the face of a franchise for years to come.
Jabari Parker may be the more polished prospect right now, but Andrew Wiggins has the higher upside thanks to his elite athleticism. He can dominate at both ends of the floor, contribute in the rebounding department and has the versatility necessary to play a number of different positions.
2. Philadelphia 76ers: Jabari Parker, Duke
If the Bucks take Wiggins, the Philadelphia 76ers will pull the trigger on Parker.
However, Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com pointed out that it hasn’t been all positive reviews for the Duke product leading up to the draft:
Nevertheless, Parker’s talent will be too much to ignore come draft day. He can hit the three, post up smaller defenders and take over games on the offensive end. He will be the productive wing player that the 76ers desperately need.
3. Orlando Magic: Dante Exum, International
The Orlando Magic will pass on Joel Embiid considering he is a big man with serious health concerns already, and they will take Dante Exum of Australia instead.
Exum will pair nicely with Victor Oladipo in an athletic backcourt that will create havoc, turnovers and easy opportunities on the other end.
4. Utah Jazz: Joel Embiid, Kansas
Health concerns or not, the Utah Jazz won’t pass on a chance to land a potential franchise center to pair with Trey Burke.
Embiid is a shot-blocking machine who controls the glass and can score from the low block with ease. He will give the Jazz an intimidating interior presence that they simply didn’t have last year.
5. Boston Celtics: Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State
Julius Randle or Aaron Gordon may be the pick here, but the Boston Celtics already have a young Jared Sullinger in place and will look for a scoring guard instead.
Marcus Smart can play either point or shooting guard, and that type of versatility will be important if Rajon Rondo isn’t there for the long term. Smart has a solid stroke from behind the three-point line and is an impressive defender who racks up steals every time he steps on the floor.
6. Los Angeles Lakers: Julius Randle, Kentucky
Julius Randle is about to make his dreams come true, via Kyle Tucker of USA Today: “Growing up, I dreamed about playing in the NBA. I came here (Kentucky) to win a national championship, I came here to mature. We came one game short.”
Even though he fell just short of a title, the fact that Randle matured in college will put a smile on the faces of NBA executives. The Los Angeles Lakers will select Randle as a post presence to possibly replace Pau Gasol.
Randle’s rebounding and interior defense will help the Lakers turn things around quickly, and he will benefit from open looks from the extra defensive attention that Kobe Bryant draws.
7. Sacramento Kings: Noah Vonleh, Indiana
DeMarcus Cousins patrols the paint for the Sacramento Kings, but he could use a running mate. Noah Vonleh, who may just be the best rebounder in this draft class, will provide just that.
Vonleh has room to grow on the offensive side, but his rebounding and defense will help him find playing time as a rookie.
8. Detroit Pistons: Gary Harris, Michigan State
The Detroit Pistons need outside shooting, and Gary Harris is as good as it comes in that department in the 2014 draft class. The Michigan State product does more than just shoot the three, though, and he brings the tough-nosed defense that Spartans almost always do.
9. Cleveland Cavaliers: Aaron Gordon, Arizona
Doug Haller of AZCentral Sports doesn’t necessarily agree with the order of this mock, but he does point out that Aaron Gordon is a game-changing prospect:
The Cleveland Cavaliers need an infusion of energy on both sides of the ball, and Gordon will control the boards and get out in transition alongside Cleveland’s talented guards. Don’t be surprised when Gordon ends up averaging a double-double in his rookie season.
10. Philadelphia 76ers (from Hornets): Nik Stauskas, Michigan
The 76ers already got their stretch forward in Parker and have Michael Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel at point guard and center. They will respond by adding a shooting guard to that mix.
Nik Stauskas is one of the best pure scorers in the entire draft and can do more than just hit the three-point shot with ease. The 76ers may have been bad this season, but this young nucleus will bring plenty of victories in the near future.
11. Denver Nuggets: Dario Saric, International
Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders notes just how highly NBA front offices think of Dario Saric:
Saric falls just outside of the top 10, but the Denver Nuggets will be more than happy to add his consistent outside shot and rebounding skills to their squad.
12. Orlando Magic (from Knicks): Doug McDermott, Creighton
With a backcourt of Oladipo and Exum, there will be plenty of open three-point attempts available on kick-outs from penetration.
Doug McDermott is arguably the best shooter in the entire draft, and he would put up serious scoring numbers in Orlando’s hypothetical offense in this situation. He is also a formidable rebounder, although his defense could use some work before he plays significant NBA minutes.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves: James Young, Kentucky
The Minnesota Timberwolves are set at point guard and power forward with Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love, but they could use a scoring wing player who has the versatility to play either small forward or shooting guard.
James Young from Kentucky is just that type of player.
He can hit from behind the three-point line and attack the rim, and he has the rebounding and defensive skills needed to see significant minutes in Minnesota’s system right away.
14. Phoenix Suns: Tyler Ennis, Syracuse
At some point, a team is going to pull the trigger on a point guard with serious upside and the skill set to control the pace of the game with his ball-handling and passing abilities alone.
Tyler Ennis is that guy, and Goran Dragic could slide over and play the shooting guard spot in this situation. Ennis can also score when the moment calls for it, and he would be something of a calming presence on both ends of the floor for a high-paced squad.
15. Atlanta Hawks: T.J. Warren, North Carolina State
It seemed like all the Atlanta Hawks did was shoot and miss three-pointers in the final two games of their playoff loss to the Indiana Pacers, so drafting a slasher who can create and finish through contact would be beneficial.
T.J. Warren fits that description to a tee, although ESPN’s Ryen Russillo may not agree:
Despite that critique, it’s hard to ignore the upside in Warren’s game, especially on the offensive side.
16. Chicago Bulls (from Bobcats): Rodney Hood, Duke
The Chicago Bulls need scoring in a major way, and Rodney Hood provides just that.
He was overshadowed by Parker at Duke, but Hood can hit the three-pointer, post up smaller defenders and hit from mid-range. What’s more, Hood is a solid defender, which is almost a necessity to play in Chicago.
17. Boston Celtics (from Nets): Kyle Anderson, UCLA
Kyle Anderson is such an ideal pick for the Boston Celtics because he can play the point if Rondo isn’t around a few years from now or the shooting guard and small forward spots if Rondo is still running the team.
Anderson is a triple-double threat every time he steps on the floor, and his rebounding, passing and scoring will help get this squad back into the postseason mix.
18. Phoenix Suns (from Wizards): Jusuf Nurkic, International
The Phoenix Suns already landed a point guard in this draft, so they will look down low with Jusuf Nurkic. Nurkic is something of a project, but he will solidify the post defense and rebounding in Phoenix down the road.
19. Chicago Bulls: Adreian Payne, Michigan State
As previously mentioned, the Bulls need offense, and Adreian Payne can provide that from behind the three-point line, mid-range or in the post.
Payne is also a terrific shot-blocker and rebounder who would quickly make Bulls fans forget about Carlos Boozer. Payne can get out in transition, too, and Chicago needs those easy types of opportunities when it plays strong defense.
20. Toronto Raptors: Jerami Grant, Syracuse
Jonathan Wasserman of Turner Sports notes the concerns regarding Jerami Grant:
However, that physical part is often all that matters when the draft rolls around. The Toronto Raptors will see serious upside in Grant’s game as a small forward who can attack the rim and pull the trigger.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder (from Mavericks): Clint Capela, International
The Oklahoma City Thunder know that Kendrick Perkins isn’t exactly an All-NBA center, and they will draft accordingly.
Clint Capela isn’t necessarily a physical banger down low, but his ability to stretch the defense or score down low will help with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Basically, Capela is comfortable with any shot in a half-court set, so he will be ready whenever the defense collapses on one of the two stars.
22. Memphis Grizzlies: K.J. McDaniels, Clemson
Much like the Bulls, the Memphis Grizzlies need scoring.
K.J. McDaniels isn’t a knockdown outside shooter, but he can attack the rim and finish through contact when he gets there. What’s more, he is capable of cutting to the basket and scoring when defenses collapse around Memphis’ passing bigs and could get some easy opportunities in his rookie season.
23. Utah Jazz (from Warriors): P.J. Hairston, North Carolina/NBDL
The Utah Jazz got their big man of the future early in this draft, and now they will give Burke a backcourt mate who can score from anywhere on the floor.
P.J. Hairston now has some NBDL experience under his belt, and his three-point stroke will translate to any level.
24. Charlotte Bobcats (from Trail Blazers): Jordan Adams, UCLA
The Charlotte Bobcats need playmakers around Al Jefferson, and that is exactly what Jordan Adams provides.
Adams can score, find teammates in transition and rebound, but his versatility and ability to play anything from point guard to small forward will prove particularly important on this still-developing Bobcats squad.
25. Houston Rockets: Zach LaVine, UCLA
Remember all those Jeremy Lin turnovers in the first round of the NBA playoffs?
The Houston Rockets will, too, when the draft rolls around. Zach LaVine is an explosive athlete who could take some of the ball-handling responsibilities away from Lin and help James Harden and Dwight Howard in the scoring department.
26. Miami Heat: Shabazz Napier, Connecticut
LeBron James would certainly be pleased with this draft pick:
Shabazz Napier proved how dominant he can be at both ends of the floor during the NCAA title run, and he can hit open threes if James draws the attention of the defense. What’s more, he will help a Heat squad on the defensive side that doesn’t always look particularly engaged on that end.
27. Phoenix Suns: DeAndre Daniels, Connecticut
Napier certainly helped his draft stock in the NCAA tournament, and his teammate DeAndre Daniels did as well.
The Suns will grab a wing scorer to match with the point guard and center they snagged earlier in the draft. For a team that just missed the playoffs in a loaded Western Conference this year, a young nucleus like this would set it up nicely in the near future.
28. Los Angeles Clippers: Cleanthony Early, Wichita State
The Los Angeles Clippers run to start the game, and then they run some more.
Cleanthony Early is one of the most athletic players in this draft and will fit in perfectly in the transition system. What’s more, he can hit the three-pointer with consistency if all that running leads to open looks, and he is a solid rebounder.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Isaiah Austin, Baylor
The Thunder already grabbed Capela earlier in this draft, but he is more of a project as a power forward and center hybrid.
Isaiah Austin will be ready to contribute right away, which will give the Thunder’s frontcourt some much-needed depth. Austin is a rebounding and shot-blocking machine, and he will clean up on offensive putbacks when too many defenders are focused on Durant.
30. San Antonio Spurs: Mitch McGary, Michigan
There was once a time when Mitch McGary was seen as a potential top-10 pick, but his stock has taken a fall since he missed almost the entire season with injury problems.
However, if there is one team in the NBA that could hit a home run with a high-risk, high-reward player, it is the San Antonio Spurs. With the veteran leadership in place, McGary could take a year or two to develop and eventually be a force down low in the Spurs’ system.
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