It is crunch time in the NBA with the lottery in the books and the 2014 NBA draft on approach, as the major event looms large as a force that will change the current landscape of the league as we know it.
Andrew Wiggins and an elite class are set to take the league by storm in a sport widely run by superstars, at least outside of San Antonio. That facet is what makes the controversial lottery so integral for each franchise.
For the teams now slotted into order, maximizing value based on a marriage of need and value is a must. Let's take a look at how each team can do so to best put themselves in a position to improve thanks to an extremely deep draft class.
*2014 NBA draft order according to NBA.com.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers (33-49): Andrew Wiggins, SG, Kansas
Wiggins did not need any help at the combine to improve his stock, but did so anyway via a jaw-dropping vertical, as captured by SportsCenter:
The owner of averages of 17.1 points, 1.2 threes, 5.9 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.0 blocks as a collegiate player, Wiggins is the surefire first pick off the board, regardless of team.
Like most teams that could have landed the No. 1 pick, Wiggins does not solve all the issues in Cleveland, but he's a superstar foundation to build around in combination with Kyrie Irving.
2. Milwaukee Bucks (15-67): Jabari Parker, SF, Duke
The Milwaukee Bucks cannot afford to do anything but take the best player available.
Given there is great debate as to who the No. 1 player in the 2014 class actually is, Jabari Parker is in no way a bad consolation prize.
Parker can post excellent numbers as a rookie right off the bat and does much to solve the offensive issues the Bucks are sure to have next season.
3. Philadelphia 76ers (19-63): Noah Vonleh, PF, Indiana
Michael Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel are already in place in Philadelphia, a front office that has quietly done a nice job of building a foundation of its own.
Add in Noah Vonleh, and the future is bright.
Vonleh is a developmental piece, but can average quality points per game as a rookie, something the offense in Philadelphia desperately needs. Given a needs-based approach, Vonleh is a fantastic get, as long as fans don't expect him to fully blossom right away.
4. Orlando Magic (23-59): Dante Exum, PG, Australia
Victor Oladipo is better suited as a 2-guard, so Orlando adding the best point guard in the class should in no way come as a surprise.
As ESPN Stats & Info reveals, the 18-year-old prodigy stacks up well physically in comparison to some of the NBA's best:
Dante Exum's 3/4 court sprint time of 3.19 is better than Chris Paul (3.22), Steph Curry (3.28), Damian Lillard (3.34)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 16, 2014
Even better, Oladipo and Exum are interchangeable at their positions, giving the Magic the freedom to create mismatches on both ends of the court.
5. Utah Jazz (25-57): Joel Embiid, C, Kansas
Back issues will cause Joel Embiid to tumble on draft day, but he's arguably the biggest game changer in the class when healthy.
That's a risk the Utah Jazz will be more than willing to take with Enes Kanter floundering in the middle. Holes abound on the roster, but a force like Embiid in the middle creates a ripple effect right away that the Jazz can build and rally around.
6. Boston Celtics (25-57): Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State
The Boston Celtics are in rebuild mode, so a sound player like Marcus Smart, with seemingly unlimited upside, may turn out to be a better fit.
Smart projects as a defensive nightmare at the next level, as Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman helps to illustrate:
Not fully sold on Marcus Smart as a primary ball-handler/PG, but I am convinced he'll be a defensive terror at either guard position.— Jonathan Wasserman (@NBADraftWass) May 16, 2014
Smart can knock down shots from range and bang on the defensive end for the Celtics, which gives them versatility both on the court and further down in the draft. He also does much to help deter any concerns about a potential Rajon Rondo exit.
7. Los Angeles Lakers (27-55): Tyler Ennis, PG, Syracuse
With Exum off the board, the Los Angeles Lakers have to get the next best thing at point guard.
Yes, Tyler Ennis lacks the upside of some of his fellow points in this year's class, but he just so happens to be the most pro-ready.
Ennis is the player any team should want in charge of their offense from Day 1. That may not be the case right away in Los Angeles if Steve Nash sticks around, but the Lakers must have an eye on the future effective immediately.
8. Sacramento Kings (28-54): Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky
Julius Randle's sound game that is perhaps the most pro-ready of all in the class fits well next to DeMarcus Cousins, no?
There are holes aplenty in Sacramento, but reinforcing the unit beneath the rim should be a priority for the Kings.
Randle does that on his own at both ends of the court, but his pairing with Cousins is just downright scary and a great franchise centerpiece.
9. Charlotte Hornets (43-39): James Young, SF, Kentucky
The ceiling for James Young is quite high despite being somewhat lost in the shuffle of bigger names last year at Kentucky.
That won't be the case in Charlotte after long, as the Hornets need help in the scoring department, and Young does that right away. He averaged 14.3 points per game as a freshman, not typically given the credit he deserved, so Young will be more than comfortable to put points on the board.
10. Philadelphia 76ers (from New Orleans [34-48]): Nik Stauskas, SG, Michigan
The 76ers need some offense next to Carter-Williams and can get it in a big way with Michigan's Nik Stauskas.
Stauskas is quite raw, but is easily the best shooter in the class and gives Philadelphia flexibility on offense, which has been a rather stagnant end of the court for some time.
Like some above, Stauskas won't be a wildly popular pick, but a necessary one fans will look back on and be happy about down the line.
11. Denver Nuggets (36-46): Rodney Hood, SG/SF, Duke
It's rather simple—Denver needs scorers.
Rodney Hood is one of the purest in the class in that regard, after averaging 16.1 points per game and shooting better than 40 percent from deep last year with Duke.
He's a nice young addition who can play multiple spots in Denver.
12. Orlando Magic (from Denver via New York [37-45]): Adreian Payne, PF, Michigan State
Let's sum up Adreian Payne in one Tweet, via Mike Wilson of Scout.com:
Adreian Payne had 41 points in an NCAA Tournament game while playing with undiagnosed mono. Carry on.— Mike Wilson (@MikeWScout) May 14, 2014
Look, Payne isn't that flashy pick fans will desire. But, toss him and his ability to stretch the court via jump shots into the Orlando lineup, and everyone on the court profits.
It's an added wrinkle to an offense that is suddenly extremely potent.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves (40-42): Doug McDermott, SF, Creighton
Regardless of what happens with the interior of the roster, Minnesota continues to lack elite shooters.
Doug McDermott solves that problem rather quickly. He's more athletic on the outside than most will give him credit for, and his shooting stroke is downright wicked.
McDermott is a building block who produces offense and makes those around him better. At No. 13, that's hard to hate.
14. Phoenix Suns (48-34): Aaron Gordon, PF, Arizona
The Phoenix Suns, despite being one of the best young teams in the league with room to grown, need more athletic bodies down low.
Aaron Gordon's historic combine numbers, via Numbers Never Lie, tell the story about his fulfilling need value at No. 14:
Aaron Gordon's 39-inch vertical is 3rd highest for PF/C position in combine history, behind Miles Plumlee and Tyrus Thomas.— Numbers Never Lie (@ESPN_Numbers) May 16, 2014
Gordon does it all and can as a rookie for the Suns. He's a great way to keep up with what is a physically dominant conference beneath the rim.
15. Atlanta Hawks (38-44): Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State
Jeff Teague and the surprising Atlanta Hawks showed a lot of fight in the playoffs this season, but that 2-spot is going to need an upgrade as soon as possible.
Gary Harris fits the bill well enough. He's a slasher who can get to the rim and create for others when not scoring in droves.
That's an element the Hawks have lacked from the spot and that has hurt them in the playoffs.
16. Chicago Bulls (from Charlotte [43-39]): Clint Capela, PF, Switzerland
Fans will cry foul at a power forward being added via the draft, but Clint Capela is a long-term solution at a spot supposedly owned by Taj Gibson.
Gibson is the starter no doubt, but Capela is a great rotational piece and defensive force. He gives the Bulls options now and long into the future. For a team with multiple picks, locking up a player with such a high ceiling is an easy decision.
17. Boston Celtics (from Brooklyn [44-38]): Zach LaVine, PG, UCLA
Boston does not exactly have a stellar set of shooters with Rondo and Avery Bradley, and who knows what the future even holds for the former.
Zach LaVine does much to resolve both issues. He has the potential to be a force on both ends of the court as a pro, but can act as a great rotational piece right away.
18. Phoenix Suns (from Washington 44-38): Cleanthony Early, SF, Wichita State
The hype around Cleanthony Early is finally beginning to build, as encapsulated by ESPN's Chad Ford, via NBA on ESPN:
Early is yet another young offensive piece with extreme upside for the Suns, a team that needs all the help it can get in the western conference arms race.
19. Chicago Bulls (48-34): Dario Saric, PF, Croatia
Dario Saric will freak out Chicago faithful because of his positional listing, but, as ESPN's Fran Fraschilla points out, he is more than able to play small forward:
One scary thing about Croatia's Dario Saric is his ability to play NBA SF. Last two pro seasons, he's been mobile PF who drives slow guys.— Fran Fraschilla (@franfraschilla) April 18, 2014
Questions about whether Saric will come to the NBA or not drop him this far, where the Bulls will be more than happy to scoop him up and throw his elite scoring ability into the lineup right away.
20. Toronto Raptors (48-34): Jerami Grant, SF, Syracuse
Depth in the frontcourt is the name of the game for Toronto, as the Raptors look to improve upon their shocking performance last season.
To that end, Jerami Grant is an ideal selection.
Grant can seemingly score at will close to the basket and touts plenty of defensive clout, an issue the depth off the bench had issues with at times a season ago.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder (from Dallas [49-33] via Houston and L.A. Lakers): P.J. Hairston, SG, Texas Legends (NBA D-League)
It is critical the Oklahoma City Thunder nab a piece that can contribute right away in the first round this year.
Thanks to character concerns, P.J. Hairston tumbles down the board and lands in what turns out to be an ideal situation for both parties.
Hairston can be an instant producer from the get go for the Thunder, a team in need of other quality scoring options off the bench.
22. Memphis Grizzlies (50-32): Shabazz Napier, PG, Connecticut
For a contender like Memphis in an elite conference, quality depth is a great way to survive.
Quality character and a history of winning doesn't hurt, either. Shabazz Napier certainly has both, as captured by ESPNU:
"I'm glad I did decide to stay. Not only did I get a National Championship, I also got a degree." --Shabazz Napier pic.twitter.com/z1W4o4EVaG— ESPNU (@ESPNU) May 16, 2014
Napier isn't starter material just yet, but he is the type of savvy prospect who any coach will be comfortable with while the game is on the line.
23. Utah Jazz (from Golden State [51-31]): Kyle Anderson, PG/PF, UCLA
At 6'8", Kyle Anderson is a bit of a risk as a hybrid player who can run the point thanks to his elite vision and court I.Q. on both ends.
Anderson gets bumped to a wing at the next level and makes those around him better thanks to his ability to facilitate offense and get others involved.
For Utah, that's a major win, as the rebuild in a stellar conference continues.
24. Charlotte Hornets (from Portland [54-28]): T.J. Warren, SF, NC State
There's a big, fat question mark next to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist's name at the moment, so some reinforcements and insurance at the spot is in no way a bad idea.
T.J. Warren makes the most sense, given the value on the board.
Warren can get physical on defense and provide consistent scoring, which does much to take some of the immense pressure off of those around him.
25. Houston Rockets (54-28): K.J. McDaniels, SF, Clemson
K.J. McDaniels does not get enough credit for his development this past season, but the Houston Rockets won't complain at No. 25 overall.
McDaniels plays above the rim, is a rebounding machine and touts a defensive prowess that is downright scary next to Dwight Howard.
What's not to like? He has not even come close to his ceiling.
26. Miami Heat (54-28): Jusuf Nurkic, C, Bosnia
It's time the Miami Heat do something impactful to counteract the Indiana Pacers, a team specifically constructed to take them out in the postseason.
Nurkic is a project, but easily the best center in class after Embiid.
27. Phoenix Suns (from Indiana [56-26]): Jahii Carson, PG, Arizona State
Questions abound about Jahii Carson's height are all too real:
If Jahii Carson is drafted, he would be 5th-shortest player to be drafted (5'9 3/4" without shoes).— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 15, 2014
But, at some point, that goes out the window in favor of Carson's immense potential and ability to create offense from the point.
That's a strong set of characteristics the front office in Phoenix will like to combine with Goran Dragic.
28. Los Angeles Clippers (57-25): Elfrid Payton, PG, Louisiana Lafayette
With the future of Darren Collison an unknown, watch for a contender like the Los Angeles Clippers to be proactive in adding to the depth behind Chris Paul.
Elfrid Payton is a suitable addition, given the value, and provides a rotational presence with a knack for scoring. The Clippers' second team is already deep, but Payton manages to be an upgrade while he develops.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder (59-23): Jarnell Stokes, PF, Tennessee
Jarnell Stokes is a nice luxury pick for the Thunder near the end of the first round.
His ability to create from a decent distance, as illustrated by Ben Frederickson of govolsxtra.com, is a nice facet the Thunder will love off the bench:
In off-the-dribble drills from 15 feet out, Jarnell Stokes made 12 of 18.— Ben Frederickson (@Ben_Fred) May 15, 2014
The best part? Stokes still has plenty of growing to do as a player.
30. San Antonio Spurs (62-20): Semaj Christon, PG, Xavier
Recent injury scares to Tony Parker have put a spotlight on the issue behind him at point guard in San Antonio.
Semaj Christon is a nice insurance policy. His superb athleticism, court vision and ball skills make him an obvious fit and a developmental piece that can both learn from and eventually replace Parker in a few years.