The Ideal 2014 NBA Draft Prospect for Every Lottery Team

Alec NathanFeatured ColumnistMay 22, 2014

The Ideal 2014 NBA Draft Prospect for Every Lottery Team

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    With the NBA draft lottery order officially set and speculation ramping up, it's time to try and peg which prospects and teams could be matches made in basketball heaven come June 26. 

    And ordinarily, the focus would be on the draft's few premier talents. 

    But with the 2014 edition possessing the deepest pool of prospects we've seen in more than a decade, lottery teams will have an abundance of intriguing options at their disposal even if they can't nab a name like Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid or Jabari Parker.  

    Whether it's finding an ideal fit for enigmatic combo guard Marcus Smart, scoring wizard Doug McDermott or athletic specimens like Noah Vonleh and Aaron Gordon, there's no shortage of intrigue between picks No. 1-14 this year.

    Before we get started, a few points of emphasis must be established. The slideshow functions in descending lottery order, starting with the Cleveland Cavaliers at No. 1 and concluding with the Phoenix Suns at No. 14. In addition, once a player was selected, he was taken off the board, meaning that there are no duplicate ideal fits.

    The fits were considered ideal not only based off who was selected earlier but also on a team's given draft position.  

1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Andrew Wiggins, SF, Kansas

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    eMar 13, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas Jayhawks guard Andrew Wiggins (22) shoots a jumpshot during the second half against the Oklahoma State Cowboys in the second round of the Big 12 Conference college basketball tournament at Sprint Center. Kansas
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    The Cleveland Cavaliers lucked their way into the draft's top spot once again, so they better make this one count. 

    With their pick of the lot, the Cavs have the ability to add a franchise-changing piece on the wing or in the frontcourt who can help carry the team into a new era of postseason success. 

    So where do they turn? 

    My pick is swingman Andrew Wiggins, namely because of the team's desperate need to add reliability on the wing and a potentially elite defender at small forward, particularly with Luol Deng set to hit free agency. 

    After surrendering 107.7 points per 100 possessions and the most three-pointers made (765) last season, per Basketball-Referencethe Cavs need a plus-defender with elite lateral quickness and unmatched athleticism. 

    And Wiggins has it all. 

    Yes, his offensive game still needs work in a number of areas. An improved handle is necessary to accelerate his development, but with a polished outside shot and the speed to make opponents cringe in the open court, Wiggins feels like the obvious choice. 

2. Milwaukee Bucks: Joel Embiid, C, Kansas

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    The Milwaukee Bucks have needs at virtually every position, which is why they should stick with a best player available strategy at No. 2 overall and scoop up Joel Embiid. 

    Yes, the Bucks shelled out $44 million over four years for Larry Sanders last summer, but according to ESPN's Chad Ford, Milwaukee is one of the teams interested in selecting Embiid should he check out health-wise. 

    He has the potential to be a franchise-defining talent, one who already possesses tremendous shot-blocking capabilities (2.6 blocks per game last season) and the length necessary to be a disruptive force in the center of Milwaukee's defense for years to come. 

    Improved offense will come with time, but he displayed an ability to step out beyond a center's prototypical comfort zone and knock down mid-range jumpers during his breakout freshman campaign. 

    A point guard like Dante Exum would be intriguing here given the Bucks' backcourt woes, but Embiid is too special to pass up. 

3. Philadelphia 76ers: Jabari Parker, SF/PF, Duke

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    Needing perimeter scoring in the worst kind of way, the Philadelphia 76ers should be happy to grab Jabari Parker at No. 3 overall with Andrew Wiggins off the board to the Cleveland Cavaliers. 

    Arguably the draft's most polished scorer, Parker has the positional versatility to play the 3 or the 4 on offense at the next level thanks to his 6'8'', 241-pound frame.

    Duke's leading scorer last season at 19.1 points per game, he shot a steady 47.2 percent from the field and 35.8 percent from three while posting a player efficiency rating of 28.7, per DraftExpress.  

    When you also consider that he is a quality rebounder (8.7 per game, three per game on the offensive glass), he seems like the wise choice for a Philadelphia team in desperate need of a dominant wing presence.

    Parker's flaws will be exposed on defense, where he's seemingly too small to guard NBA-caliber power forwards and perhaps a step too slow to keep pace with small forwards, so his transition on that end will be something to watch. 

    However, the Sixers can't afford to pass up such a pure-scoring talent like Parker, who would slot in nicely next to young cornerstones Michael Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel.  

4. Orlando Magic: Dante Exum, PG, Australia

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    The Orlando Magic need to find their point guard of the future and figure to do so at No. 4 overall if Dante Exum is still on the board. 

    According to Basketball Insiders' Alex Kennedy, Exum sees himself as a point guard in the NBA despite an impressive 6'6'' frame and near-6'10'' wingspan: 

    I see myself as a point guard, Exum said. I've always played the point guard position, so that’s where I feel comfortable. That’s what I’m entering myself as into the draft, and that’s where I see myself playing. … Most teams looking at me are trying to look at a two point guard set-up, where they can get it to the point guards and they can run the show.

    Pairing Exum with last year's No. 2 overall pick Victor Oladipo would give the Magic the necessary flexibility to try a modified dual-point guard setup, which Kennedy mentions could be akin to the Phoenix Suns' pairing of Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe. 

    Possessing the physical traits necessary to guard several positions, Exum feels like a natural fit alongside Orlando's other prized youngsters in Tobias Harris and Nikola Vucevic. 

5. Utah Jazz: Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State

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    The Utah Jazz are in the unenviable fifth position entering the 2014 draft, which means they're likely to miss out on the consensus top selections outlined previously. 

    But with options aplenty at the top of Tier 2, the Jazz will have plenty of marquee talent to choose from.

    The most intriguing name that comes to mind in this case is Oklahoma State point guard Marcus Smart, who could help Utah fill a number of needs on both ends of the floor thanks to his robust size and physicality.

    Not only can he function as a nice offensive spark off the bench and potentially play in two-point guard lineups with Trey Burke because of his 6'4'', 226-pound frame, but he could help mitigate the potential loss of shooting guard Gordon Hayward, should he depart in free agency this summer.

    With Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter situated in the frontcourt, Utah can feel confident passing on names like Noah Vonleh and Julius Randle in favor of Smart, who posted averages of 18 points, 5.9 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 2.9 steals last season.

    Possessing explosive potential, Smart would help the Jazz improve on offensive and defensive efficiency ratings that ranked among the league's five worst last season. 

6. Boston Celtics: Noah Vonleh, PF, Indiana

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    One of the fastest risers up draft boards in recent weeks has been Indiana big man Noah Vonleh, whose combination of freakish athleticism and All-Star ceiling has lottery teams drooling. 

    Measuring 6'9'' with a gaudy 7'4'' wingspan and nearly 12'' hands, Vonleh has the physical traits necessary to make an impact from Day 1. 

    During his freshman season as a Hoosier, he used his length and leaping ability to secure nine rebounds per contest, which translated to 13.6 per 40 minutes, according to Sports-Reference.com

    And not only was he the Big Ten's leading rebounder last season (269 total), but Vonleh displayed some impressive defensive chops, evidenced by his personal defensive rating of 91.7, which graded out as the fourth-best mark in the Big Ten, per Sports-Reference

    It would be unfair to label him as a project after we saw him produce at such a steady rate in a number of key categories last season, but there's no denying that his offensive game needs some work. 

    Vonleh only attempted 7.2 field goals per game last season, so you have to figure he'll enter the NBA more reliant on second-chance opportunities and lobs early on in his career. 

    But at 18 years old, he has plenty of time for him to improve his back-to-the-basket game and make hay down on the blocks. 

    With the Boston Celtics in need of a long-term solution at the 4 next to Jared Sullinger, Vonleh feels like a natural fit who can help protect the rim in Brad Stevens' system. 

7. Los Angeles Lakers: Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky

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    With the Los Angeles Lakers roster entering a transitionary phase, the Purple and Gold can feel free to take the best available talent on the board at No. 7 overall. 

    In this case, that's Kentucky's Julius Randle, the Zach Randolph-esque power forward who operated as the center of John Calipari's offense last season. 

    While his measurables are hardly earth-shattering (6'9'', 7'0'' wingspan, 35.5'' max vertical jump, per DraftExpress), Randle is more than capable of assuming the role of a physically imposing frontcourt cog. 

    A double-double machine last season, he averaged 15 points and 10.4 rebounds as a freshman at Kentucky while posting a player efficiency rating of 24.5, which ranked No. 4 among all SEC players, according to Sports-Reference.com

    With the ability to torture opponents thanks to his nonstop motor and physicality on the interior, he is a workmanlike piece who can seamlessly integrate into the Lakers' long-term vision. 

8. Sacramento Kings: Aaron Gordon, PF, Arizona

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    According to NBA.com's Scott Howard-Cooper, the Sacramento Kings may not wind up making a selection at No. 8 overall if they can find a trade partner who is willing to pony up a veteran piece for a future prospect. 

    But if the Kings do stay put at No. 8 overall, this one feels like a no-brainer. The team's biggest position of need is power forward, namely because Mike Malone can't afford to play one more game (let alone a full season) with a committee consisting of Reggie Evans, Derrick Williams and Carl Landry. 

    In need of a dominant athletic presence at the 4, Arizona's Aaron Gordon feels like a natural selection for a Sacramento team that's seeking to accelerate its ascent up the Western Conference ranks over the next few seasons. 

    Although he was rarely the focal point of Arizona's offense under Sean Miller, Gordon found plenty of ways to make an impact, whether it was crashing the boards or using his elite leaping ability and athleticism to act as a disruptive force on defense. 

    According to Sports-Reference, he finished with the Pac-12's top defensive rating (88.6) while pulling down the conference's most offensive rebounds (102) last season. 

    It would be a surprise to see him posting up regularly during his rookie season, but he should find plenty of ways to score in an offense that generated more than 94 possessions per 48 minutes, per Basketball-Reference

9. Charlotte Hornets (via Detroit): Doug McDermott, PF, Creighton

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    The Charlotte defense during the 2013-14 season was a revelation. Under the guidance of Steve Clifford, the Hornets surrendered the league's fifth-fewest points per 100 possessions (103.8) while allowing opponents to shoot just 44.2 percent from the floor (No. 6 overall), per Basketball-Reference

    But the team struggled on the other end of the floor. With few shooters to help space things out, the Hornets were over-reliant on the production of Al Jefferson and Kemba Walker, who scored a combined 2,883 points last season. 

    In need of a partial solution to help mitigate some of the offensive woes (No. 24 in offensive rating last season, per Basketball-Reference), it makes sense for the Hornets to take a long, hard look at Creighton's Doug McDermott. 

    The draft's most esteemed scorer, he waltzed his way into NCAA lore by becoming the eighth player in Division I history to score 3,000 career points during his senior season. 

    Coming off a stellar campaign that saw him average 26.7 points on 52.6 percent shooting from the field and 44.9 percent shooting from three, McDermott feels like a logical addition at No. 9 overall. 

    And while his defensive capabilities remain a concern, he has proved over the last four years that he has the instincts and scoring versatility to contribute immediately, whether it's off the bench or in a starting role. 

10. Philadelphia 76ers (via New Orleans): Zach LaVine, SG, UCLA

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    Should the Philadelphia 76ers wind up selecting Duke's Jabari Parker at No. 3 overall, they'll have the ability to get creative with their second lottery selection. 

    As mentioned previously, they need solutions on the perimeter, and UCLA's Zach LaVine is among the most intriguing wing options in this year's draft. 

    Although he's still considered raw from a technical standpoint in many areas, there's no denying that his athleticism is tailor-made for the NBA and head coach Brett Brown's system in particular. 

    In fact, LaVine is so lethal in transition that such opportunities comprised 32.1 percent of his offensive production last year, and he scored 1.2 points per possession on those plays, according to DraftExpress.

    In addition, he flashed a fairly steady stroke in a shade more than 24 minutes per game last season, knocking down 44.1 percent of his total shots and 37.5 percent of his looks from beyond the arc.

    And according to Bleacher Report's Jared Zwerling, LaVine turned plenty of heads with an impressive showing at the NBA combine:

    Not only did LaVine show off a 41.5" vertical leap and the best time in the lane agility drill (10.42 seconds), but also quick, fluid footwork moving into well-balanced jump shots with high arch. NBA execs and scouts took note of LaVine's form on those jumpers, with better off-hand guide control, and he was able to knock down a good amount—in part a product of his recent work at the renowned P3 performance facility in Santa Barbara, Calif., where he's been training with Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins (they share the same agent, Bill Duffy). 

    Yes, he may be a gamble at No. 10, but if LaVine can create off the dribble more effectively, he could help the Sixers on the wing in much the same way that Gerald Green has aided the Phoenix Suns' perimeter attack. 

11. Denver Nuggets: Dario Saric, PF, Croatia

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    Croatia's Dario Saric remains one of the bigger unknowns to casual NBA fans, but he figures to burst onto the scene with his ability to spot up and shoot or put the ball on the floor at 6'10''.

    A more fluid and natural mover without the ball than Danilo Gallinari, Saric could have great value to a Nuggets team that is looking for more diverse offensive weapons in the frontcourt, according to Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman

    Denver lacks offensive versatility up front, with Kenneth Faried strictly an interior player and Danilo Gallinari, when healthy, more perimeter-oriented. 

    Saric is like a Swiss Army knife out there—at 6'10", he handles the ball, facilitates, scores and shoots. He also led the Adriatic League in rebounding—the same league of which he was named MVP.

    Of course, Saric isn't going to aid a defense that finished last season ranked No. 28 in opponent's points per game and No. 21 in defensive efficiency, per Basketball-Reference, but it would be hard to pass up such a compelling international talent if he falls outside the top 10.

    In addition, the Nuggets will have the option to draft and stash him if they choose to do so, which would allow him to develop overseas with diminished pressure regarding an immediate role in the Association. 

12: Orlando Magic (via Denver): James Young, SG/SF, Kentucky

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    Kentucky's James Young remains a bit of an unknown professional commodity after just one collegiate season. 

    However, Bleacher Report's Jason King has provided us with several reasons why Young should be considered a quality lottery selection: 

    Young’s skill set will transfer well in the NBA. Young has good size (6’6”, 215) and moves extremely well. He can defend multiple positions and can beat his opponent off the dribbleHe’s billed as a shooter—although he made a pedestrian 34.9 percent of his three-pointers as a freshman—but he can do so much more than that. I would take Young somewhere in the 6-to-10 range, ahead of players such as Marcus Smart, Nik Stauskas, Zach LaVine, Aaron Gordon and Gary Harris.

    During the predraft process, it's hard not to fall in love with his long-range shooting capabilities and his length, which is perfectly suited for the small forward position at the next level. According to DraftExpress, he measured in at the NBA combine just shy of 6'7'' in shoes with a 7'0'' wingspan. 

    In the Orlando Magic's case, Young's numbers, combined with his sweet, left-handed stroke, could make him a compelling option at No. 12 overall. 

    And given that Orlando finished No. 21 overall in three-point field goals made (563) and three-point field-goal percentage (.353), Young could help add some pop to a bench that finished No. 23 overall in scoring, per TeamRankings, by adding some pop from the perimeter. 

13. Minnesota Timberwolves: Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State

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    Entering the summer of 2013, the Minnesota Timberwolves needed to add three-point shooting in the worst kind of way. 

    And while Kevin Martin was a worthwhile addition, Minnesota is still in need of reliable three-and-D threats on the perimeter. 

    After the Timberwolves shot a meager 34.1 percent from three last season (No. 26 overall) and allowed opponents to shoot 36.4 percent from the same range, it became clear that the team still has plenty of work to do on the outside. 

    Enter Michigan State's Gary Harris. 

    He isn't compelling from a physical standpoint the same way prospects like Andrew Wiggins, Noah Vonleh and Aaron Gordon are, but his fundamentally sound and refined game on both ends of the floor could make him an instant-impact contributor. 

    During his two years with the Spartans, Harris knocked down 37.6 percent of his threes and recorded a defensive rating of 97.9, per Sports-Reference

    It's not the sort of pick that's going to draw praise from all corners of the NBA universe, but Harris has the tools and basketball IQ to navigate the Association successfully

14: Phoenix Suns: Nik Stauskas, SG, Michigan

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    The Phoenix Suns are replete with weapons, so why not add another in the form of Michigan's Nik Stauskas? 

    The Big Ten's leading scorer last season, he made it rain to the tune of 44.2 percent shooting from three, which also ranked as the top mark in one of the most daunting conferences. 

    In Jeff Hornacek's offense—which burned opponents behind 109.5 points per 100 possessions and the league's eighth-fastest pace, per Basketball-Reference—Stauskas would have the freedom to snipe away along with fellow perimeter marksmen Channing Frye, Gerald Green and Goran Dragic, among others. 

    Adding a knockdown shooter who posted the Big Ten's top effective field-goal percentage (58.6) last season, per Sports-Reference, would only bolster Phoenix's terrifying run-and-gun attack. 

    But Stauskas isn't just a one-dimensional gunner. According to DraftExpress, he shot a cool 50 percent on two-point field-goal attempts last season and repeatedly showed a knack for attacking the rim off the dribble. 

    A potential pick-and-pop nightmare at the next level, Stauskas would be a gift to the Suns at No. 14 overall.