The 2014 NBA draft receives most of its attention for the awe-inspiring lottery prospects tasked with rescuing floundering franchises. For the remainder of the teams in the draft, the name of the game is roster building, especially if the team is looking to take that next step towards an NBA championship.
Now that the NBA playoffs are nearing their conclusion, the fan bases of teams that were once so full of hope join the masses left out in the cold this postseason in poring over mock drafts and frantically sifting through advanced statistics. They will be looking for redemption next season, and the NBA draft is a critical component of the offseason push to build a championship-worthy roster.
Fortunately, there are a few prospects out there who could prove to be the missing puzzle piece for some teams that missed out on an NBA championship this season.
Adreian Payne, PF, Michigan State
The Washington Wizards are in desperate need of some fresh legs off the bench, especially at forward. Drew Gooden and Al Harrington are 34 and 32 years old, respectively. In fact, both members of the starting frontcourt, Marcin Gortat and Nene, are at least 30 years old as well.
Adreian Payne would provide the Wizards with a new, dynamic dimension in the frontcourt. He's much quicker and more athletic than either Gortat or Nene and has the ability to attack the basket when facing up his opponent.
He's also a highly efficient scorer. He averaged 16.4 points per game in 2013-2014 and shot 54.6 percent from two-point range and 42.3 percent from beyond the arc. He would give the Wizards the ability to stretch the floor by moving outside while either Gortat or Nene remain the focal point around the basket.
Payne has displayed the kind of grit and determination that NBA teams love and would serve him well coming off the bench at the next level. Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insider's reports this startling revelation via Twitter.
Adreian Payne played the last three months of the college season with mono. It makes that 41-point tournament game even more impressive.— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) May 14, 2014
Payne's energetic, all-around game would do wonders in tandem with the young backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal in Washington, D.C.
P.J. Hairston, SG, Texas Legends
The Portland Trail Blazers need much more efficient guard play than what they got out of C.J. McCollum and Will Barton last season.
Wesley Matthews is a solid starter, averaging 16.4 points per game during the regular season, but the Blazers don't have another swingman who can take on players when Matthews is off his game.
The playoffs exposed the lack of depth at this position. McCollum was seldom used in the postseason, averaging just four minutes per game in six total appearances. That lack of confidence means the team may need to look elsewhere if it is to build upon its success in 2014 and beyond.
Hairston turned to the NBA's D-League after the NCAA ruled him ineligible to return to North Carolina for the 2013-2014 season. He put up consistently jaw-dropping displays for the Texas Legends and may prove to be more NBA ready than most due to the competition he faced this year.
Hairston noted the D-League provided a different challenge and opportunity to grow as opposed to college, as per Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer:
“It’s a professional league, not like college where you have someone holding your hand, saying, ‘Shoot this, don’t shoot that!’ It’s basically up to you,” Hairston said. “You’re a man and you have to take care of your business on the court.”
Hairston's statistics in the D-League prove he's liable to be a serious threat on offense.
PJ Hairston's NBDL season is over. Final stats in 26 games: 21.8 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 1.5 spg, 45% FG, 36% 3FG— InsideCarolina (@InsideCarolina) April 7, 2014
The Blazers need a reliable option off the bench to take them to the next step, and they can find one in Hairston.
Mitch McGary, C, Michigan
DeAndre Jordan's considerable game went AWOL during the latter portion of the Clippers series against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Jordan was the only player capable of matching the size and athleticism of Serge Ibaka, and the team suffered without his usual stellar play.
Jordan was especially awful in Game 5, scoring zero points and grabbing four rebounds before fouling out midway through the fourth quarter. The Clippers had no answer on defense as the Thunder made a late run to a 105-104 comeback victory.
Ryan Hollins has reached his ceiling as a pro and was seldom used in the playoffs. Glen Davis isn't a long-term answer at center, either. There is very little behind Jordan at center on the Clippers, upsetting for a team that easily goes two-deep at every other position.
Mitch McGary, at 6'10" and 263 pounds, was excellent at center for the Michigan Wolverines. He averaged 9.5 points and 8.3 rebounds per game in just over 24 minutes of play in 2013-2014.
McGary excels at pulling down offensive rebounds, which could create excellent second-chance opportunities for Jamal Crawford and J.J. Redick if he can kick the ball back out from the scrum inside.
Which of these three players will have the most success in their rookie season?
Throwing in a big, solid center to backup Jordan would provide balance to the Clippers' wonderfully deep roster. McGary could operate on the block and get the feed from the ultra-quick Darren Collison and provided much needed lane-clogging assistance to Davis, who lacks the ideal height and stamina to anchor the defense in the absence of Jordan or Blake Griffin.
McGary is projected as a late first-round pick and missed the NBA combine while recovering from a back injury. He could very easily fall to the Clippers at the end of the first round and might provide the central stability they need to make an even greater playoff push next season.