Although the NBA playoffs are still in full swing, the bulk of the league's fanbases are looking forward to the upcoming 2014 NBA draft.
This year's draft appears to be one of the deepest in recent memory, so every team with a lottery pick, and even those a bit beyond that, will have an opportunity to get an impact player. That isn't always the case in the draft, so the 2014 edition will be exciting, to say the least.
While the true draft order won't be determined until the lottery is conducted, here is a look at the projected order along with a full, first-round mock draft featuring the best possible selections for each team.
1. Milwaukee Bucks: Andrew Wiggins, SF, Kansas
Kansas small forward Andrew Wiggins entered the 2013-14 season as the top freshman in the country and the presumed No. 1 overall pick. Although Wiggins didn't necessarily get off to an ideal start, he earned both of those honors by the time the season came to an end.
Wiggins put up solid per-game averages of 17 points and six rebounds, but he truly started to shine late in the year with star center Joel Embiid on the shelf. The Jayhawks started to lean on Wiggins more from a scoring perspective, which led to a 30-point showing against Oklahoma State and a 41-point explosion against West Virginia.
Those types of games are tough to come by in the college game, but Wiggins flexed his offensive muscle. Largely because of that, Wiggins tops the big board of ESPN NBA Insider Chad Ford ahead of the draft:
Big Board 9.0 is here. Andrew Wiggins remains No. 1. Glenn Robinson III is No. 30. http://t.co/V1odqMVNMR (insider)— Chad Ford (@chadfordinsider) April 30, 2014
While picking No. 1 in a draft this deep is about taking the best player rather than addressing the biggest need, there is no question that the Milwaukee Bucks need help at small forward. Should the lottery stay true to form with Milwaukee picking first, then Wiggins will probably be the selection.
Even if the Bucks don't get the top pick, though, Wiggins has a great shot at going No. 1.
2. Philadelphia 76ers: Jabari Parker, SF, Duke
After picking up Michael Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel in last year's draft, the Sixers have an excellent young core that could be championship material down the line. Parker could very well be the leader of that impressive trio.
3. Orlando Magic: Julius Randle, PF, Duke
Although the Magic have acquired plenty of young talent in drafts over the past few years, they have yet to select a true star. That will change if they are able to net someone like Randle.
4. Utah Jazz: Joel Embiid, C, Kansas
Utah doesn't necessarily have a need at center if Enes Kanter develops into the player many believe he can be, but Embiid represents such great value at No. 4 that the Jazz wouldn't be able to pass him up.
5. Boston Celtics: Noah Vonleh, PF, Indiana
The Celtics have very little depth or star power in their frontcourt currently. Most observers view Vonleh as the first guy outside the top tier of prospects, but he has the tools to be a stud in the NBA.
6. Los Angeles Lakers: Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State
Although Australian star Dante Exum is a definite possibility here due to Kobe Bryant's health issues, the Lakers would get much more immediate use out of a point guard such as Smart.
7. Sacramento Kings: Aaron Gordon, PF, Arizona
Sacramento's starting lineup is quite impressive at four of the five positions, but it is lacking a true factor at power forward. That will no longer be the case if the Kings snag the high-flying Gordon.
8. Detroit Pistons: Dante Exum, SG, Australia
Detroit possesses the skeleton of a potentially great team with Andre Drummond and Brandon Jennings in place; however, another outside scorer is needed to pull it all together. Exum would be a great pick at this juncture and a perfect fit as well.
9. Cleveland Cavaliers: Nik Stauskas, SG, Michigan
The Cavaliers have struggled mightily to surround point guard Kyrie Irving with a good supporting cast. As perhaps the best pure shooter in the entire draft, Stauskas makes a lot of sense as a guy who can take some pressure off Irving by hitting open shots.
10. Philadelphia 76ers (via NO): Doug McDermott, PF, Creighton
As the reigning Naismith College Basketball Player of the Year, there will inevitably be plenty of focus on Creighton forward Doug McDermott on NBA draft night. In this era of one-and-done players, McDermott is a rare breed. He enjoyed four fantastic collegiate seasons with the Jays, and he was dominant in all four of them.
Despite that, there are questions about his ability to translate to the next level. The huge leap in terms of competition is obviously a concern, as is the debate regarding whether he is more of a power forward or small forward. McDermott is a natural scorer who can shoot from anywhere on the court, so he should be able to develop into a dangerous bench weapon at the very least.
Plenty of observers are debating when McDermott will be taken and where he will land, but he seems to have a great state of mind entering the process, per Steven Pivovar of the Omaha World-Herald.
I'm just ready to play basketball. I don't care if I'm the 10th pick or the 25th pick or the 50th pick. I'm still going to come in thinking I want to show I can help my team and that I'm a good player. I think I just need to keep a positive mind-set and not take that chip off my shoulder.
With the 76ers nabbing an all-around scorer in Parker at No. 2 in this mock draft, McDermott would make sense as a complement. Parker and Carter-Williams are dynamic offensive players in terms of getting to the rim, while Noel will be a defensive force in the paint.
McDermott's defensive capabilities are up for debate, but his shooting will play nicely off his teammates and make him a very valuable player in Philly's system.
11. Denver Nuggets: Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State
Denver is a team that has plenty of depth throughout its roster, but it struggles to get over the hump due to the lack of a dominant scorer. Perhaps Harris won't achieve that level of success in the NBA, but he can fill it up when he gets hot.
12. Orlando Magic (via NY): Rodney Hood, SF, Duke
After nabbing a dominant post presence in the form of Randle, Orlando would be wise to bring in some competition along the wing. Hood is somewhat of a forgotten man after playing alongside Parker, but he has star potential.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves: T.J. Warren, SF, NC State
The selection of Shabazz Muhammad hasn't been a success for the T-Wolves thus far. It wouldn't necessarily be fair to label him a definite bust, but getting another high-scoring wing player like Warren is smart just in case.
14. Phoenix Suns: Adreian Payne, PF, Michigan State
Phoenix surprised a lot of people by just barely missing out on the playoffs this season. The Suns were considered contenders to land the No. 1 overall pick. Even though that almost certainly won't happen, landing a player like Payne, who fits their scheme well, at No. 14 would be a great get.
15. Atlanta Hawks: Dario Saric, SF, Croatia
The Hawks haven't been hesitant to bring in international players, as evidenced by their selection of guard Dennis Schroder last year. Saric is arguably even more talented and would add another dimension to Atlanta's lineup as a sweet-shooting big.
16. Chicago Bulls (via CHA): James Young, SF, Kentucky
Having to trade small forward Luol Deng certainly hurt the overall depth of Chicago's lineup. Young is a guy who needs some time to develop after just one season at Kentucky, but he could certainly be an NBA starter in the near future.
17. Boston Celtics (via BKN): Kyle Anderson, SF, UCLA
While the Celtics boast one of the best distributors in the league in the form of point guard Rajon Rondo, it never hurts to have two great ball-handlers. Anderson is a point guard in a small forward's body and will give the C's some intriguing options moving forward.
18. Phoenix Suns (via WAS): Cleanthony Early, PF, Wichita State
A lack of high-quality bigs held the Suns back from making the playoffs more than anything in 2013-14. Early may not seem like the best option on the surface if Phoenix takes Payne at No. 14, but he is a different type of forward who can play on the wing and knock down shots from long range as well.
19. Chicago Bulls: Tyler Ennis, PG, Syracuse
There is no denying the fact that Derrick Rose is the Bulls' point guard when healthy; however, his status will always be a question mark. If Rose never returns to the level he once occupied, Ennis could be their point guard of the future.
20. Toronto Raptors: Clint Capela, PF, Switzerland
The Raptors' dynamic backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan was the driving force behind the team's success this season. More substance is needed up front, and Capela can provide it when he is ready to make the jump to the NBA.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder (via DAL): P.J. Hairston, SG, North Carolina
Replacing James Harden is a virtually impossible task, but that shouldn't stop the Thunder from trying. They could definitely use another impact player at shooting guard, and taking a chance on a great shooter like Hairston is a definite option.
22. Memphis Grizzlies: K.J. McDaniels, SF, Clemson
The Grizzlies absolutely must start supplementing their dominant presence up front with backcourt and wing players who can score. McDaniels took huge strides forward this past season at Clemson, and he is definitely on the rise.
23. Utah Jazz (via GS): Shabazz Napier, PG, UConn
There comes a certain point in any draft when a player's value is too great to ignore regardless of need. If Connecticut point guard Shabazz Napier is available to the Utah Jazz at No. 23, they simply won't be able to pass on him. Trey Burke is Utah's point guard of the future after being selected in the first round last year, but bringing in a guy like Napier couldn't hurt.
Napier got progressively better with each passing season at UConn, and it reached a fever pitch in 2013-14. Napier averaged 18 points, six rebounds and five assists per game while shockingly leading the Huskies to a national title. Napier was inevitably compared to former UConn star Kemba Walker, and former University of Missouri player Kim English believes that will help Napier's draft stock:
I know the comparison is cliche.. But with every Kemba Walker good play, that HAS to be helping Shabaz Napier's draft stock.— Kim English (@Englishscope24) April 20, 2014
Unfortunately for Napier, there aren't many teams that have a significant need at point guard. Since Utah will have an opportunity to address a different position earlier in the round, it will have the luxury of going with the best available player at this juncture.
Napier definitely has point guard size, but he has combo guard tendencies and could potentially play alongside Burke at times. That is an exciting thought for Jazz fans and something the organization shouldn't pass up if possible.
24. Charlotte Bobcats (via POR): Zach LaVine, SG, UCLA
Having spent high picks on frontcourt players like Cody Zeller and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist in recent years, it is time for the Bobcats to find a running mate for guard Kemba Walker. LaVine is a developmental prospect, but his potential is immense.
25. Houston Rockets: Jarnell Stokes, PF, Tennessee
In order to take some pressure off star center Dwight Howard, the Rockets need to find a big, tough banger who can battle in the paint. Stokes fits the profile and could become Howard's best friend due to his tenacious play.
26. Miami Heat: Jerami Grant, PF, Syracuse
The Heat's seemingly never-ending search for depth and impact players up front will continue in this draft. Grant is extremely raw and needs to grow into his body, but he can sit and learn behind Chris Bosh.
Who is the best prospect in the 2014 NBA draft?
27. Phoenix Suns (via IND): Mario Hezonja, SG, Croatia
Having already picked up a couple immediate roster players earlier in the round, the Suns would be wise to pick and stash at No. 27. Hezonja is a talented guy who can continue to develop overseas.
28. Los Angeles Clippers: Jusuf Nurkic, C, Bosnia
Few teams have more depth than the Clippers, so there isn't much need to take someone who will be stuck at the end of the bench. There aren't a ton of impact centers in this draft, so look for the Clips to take a player like Nurkic and hope that he develops.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Elfrid Payton, PG, Louisiana-Lafayette
Russell Westbrook and Reggie Jackson are both talented point guards, but they aren't traditional point men in the sense of the term. Payton is, and he could pay dividends down the line.
30. San Antonio Spurs: Mitch McGary, C, Michigan
There are definitely some question marks surrounding McGary since his decision to enter the NBA draft stemmed from a failed drug test. If he gets his act together, though, he could become a valuable part of the Spurs rotation.
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