With the lottery in the rear-view mirror, the 2014 NBA draft order is finally in place. Consequently, non-playoff teams can start planning for their draft nights based upon the slot they have received.
As scouting departments finalize their prospect evaluations following the combine, player-to-team fits have started to crystallize. Draft-night trades could throw things through a loop, of course, but for now, we should have a basic idea of how the first round should play out.
With that in mind, let's take a look at the teams in each of the 30 slots and examine which prospects would fit best.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Joel Embiid, C, Kansas
The fact that the Cavs have landed the top pick for the third time in four seasons is more a sign of their organizational mistakes than anything else. After a year of dysfunction with the young backcourt of Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters, Cleveland could use some no-nonsense reliability.
Thus, despite Andrew Wiggins' upside, Joel Embiid's all-around potential makes him the no-brainer fit to the Cavaliers. Of course, that Embiid is still available is likely a byproduct of his back injury. A stress fracture is a scary long-term proposition, and other teams could be wary of making a huge investment in someone who could turn into an injury-riddled bust:
Would you take Embiid the best player in draft without seeing xray of his stress fracture in his back. Arm tellem is agent. Big decision— Mike Rice (@mikerice6) May 20, 2014
Nevertheless, the Cavaliers still need a true center amid Anderson Varejao's recent injury woes. If Irving and Embiid turn into a more stable duo, the Cavs could still be an attractive free-agent destination in the future.
2. Milwaukee Bucks: Jabari Parker, SF, Duke
The Bucks need talent everywhere on the roster, but most of all, they need some reliability. Currently, the only meaningful long-term upside belongs to Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is likely years away from being a reliable contributor.
Thus, despite Andrew Wiggins' upside, Jabari Parker's scoring prowess makes him the no-brainer fit for the Bucks. Milwaukee has not had reliable scoring on the wings in years, and Parker's high-floor potential should make him a versatile scorer for the Bucks:
Jabari Parker's offensive mix of being able to play off the bounce on the wing and in the post is pretty special and NBA ready— David Locke (@Lockedonsports) May 19, 2014
Parker may not have the same flash as either of the Kansas stars, but he represents the safest of the top three picks. Thus, he is the clear choice for a franchise in need of a surefire foundational star.
3. Philadelphia 76ers: Andrew Wiggins, SG, Kansas
The Sixers have been targeting Wiggins since the middle of the season, per CBS Sports' Royce Young. General manager Sam Hinkie's strategy indicates a clear boom-or-bust mentality, as the Sixers appear hellbent on chasing a true top superstar who could be the best player on a championship squad.
Wiggins may arguably be the only player in this draft who fits that criteria, making him an ideal fit for Philadelphia. Wiggins' ball-handling skills still need work, and there will be lingering questions about his killer instinct for years. However, with incredible length and athleticism, few players in the league can match his upside.
With Wiggins, Philly would suddenly have an uber-athletic and long core with Michael Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel already in tow. Considering that the 76ers are likely to land another top pick in 2015, Philly's tanking strategy, while deplored by many, may be yielding the fruits of a long-term contender.
4. Orlando Magic: Dante Exum, PG, Australia
Orlando tried Victor Oladipo at the point guard spot last year, but Exum's arrival would allow them to pair a true point guard with last year's second overall pick. The Oladipo-Exum pairing would represent an uber-athletic and long backcourt that could create mismatches against nearly any team.
The 19-year-old Australian has remained a mystery throughout much of the draft process. At the combine in Chicago, his performance at the athletic drills illustrated why he is coveted by many teams. Exum was one of the fastest and quickest athletes tested, and he likely solidified his role as a top-five selection.
Exum could still potentially break up the top three that has looked cemented for months. It's the type of risk a team will take on upside, as Exum could be a Russell Westbrook-type of force in transition.
5. Utah Jazz: Aaron Gordon, PF, Arizona
The Jazz have a couple of solid young frontcourt players in Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter. However, the two failed miserably when played together, which could necessitate the need for more offensive skill and spacing at forward.
Arizona's Gordon represents an entirely different type of forward than what the Jazz currently have. Though his tweener status could relegate him to small-forward status, Gordon's athleticism and explosiveness is off the charts. For a team in need of an offensive catalyst to pair with point guard Trey Burke and small forward Gordon Hayward, Gordon could represent a nice coup.
6. Boston Celtics: Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky
The Celtics may very well trade this pick if they can get into the Kevin Love sweepstakes. If not, Julius Randle represents a nice consolation prize for the Green.
Randle enters the draft as arguably the most pro-ready prospect behind Parker. The Kentucky forward was a double-double machine during his lone collegiate season, finishing with averages of 15 points and 10.4 rebounds per game. However, there are concerns about his short arms, which could hinder him on both ends of the floor in the NBA:
Julius Randle's wing span (7 feet) measured 2 inches shorter than the avg player at his height (6-9).— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 15, 2014
Nevertheless, few players are as polished in the post. Consequently, the offensively challenged Celtics could find it difficult to pass on a player who may develop into a primary scorer.
7. Los Angeles Lakers: Noah Vonleh, PF, Indiana
Vonleh has soared up the charts in recent weeks, with scouts enticed by his combination of range and defense. With a relentless motor and solid ball-handling skills, the ex-Hoosier possesses all the skills necessary to succeed in a league increasingly dominated by wings.
The Lakers desperately need a defensive anchor in the paint, and Vonleh should be able to receive plentiful minutes if Pau Gasol walks in free agency. Vonleh represents a much more tenable long-term option at the 4 than anyone the Lakers currently employ, and he could help turn around a culture of defensive irresponsibility that set in last year.
8. Sacramento Kings: Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State
The Kings already have Isaiah Thomas as a starter, but they could use depth and a better defensive complement. Sacramento has been beset by a lackadaisical defensive mindset in recent seasons, a byproduct of both their youth and bizarre roster composition.
The uber-competitive Smart comes with some maturity questions following his well-profiled suspension, but he also brings a refreshing defensive toughness. The bruising point guard thrives in the paint, but he also became a capable passer in his sophomore campaign. Unfortunately, his inconsistent jump shot still needs development, something that could hinder his early prospects for playing time.
9. Charlotte Hornets (via Pistons): Doug McDermott, SF, Creighton
The Creighton star finished his collegiate career as the fifth-leading scorer in Division I history. Though he is not likely to replicate that kind of success in the NBA, he could still provide terrific three-point range for a shooting-starved team.
The Charlotte Hornets certainly fit that profile. The erstwhile Bobcats struggled behind a total dearth of outside shooting, highlighted by Michael Kidd-Gilchrist's hopelessly broken shooting form. For a Hornets franchise looking to build upon the goodwill from a surprise postseason berth, McDermott is the prospect most capable of providing immediate help.
10. Philadelphia 76ers (via Peicans): James Young, SF, Kentucky
If the Sixers do take Wiggins, they could still use someone who will eventually develop into a wing scorer. With Thaddeus Young perpetually on the trade block, they could select his replacement in Kentucky forward James Young, whose combine measurables have him on the rise:
James Young measured 6' 5.25" in socks. 6' 7.75" in shoes. 7' 0 wing. 8' 8" standing reach. Great measurements.— Chad Ford (@chadfordinsider) May 15, 2014
Young is an excellent scorer, having averaged 14.3 points per game during his lone season at Lexington. Though his three-point shot is still improving, he could bring a versatile offensive presence with his slashing and mid-range game.
11. Denver Nuggets (via Knicks): Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State
Harris could provide a nice backcourt pairing with Ty Lawson, whose size gives him some defensive limitations. Though Harris is not a huge guard either, his toughness and strength allow him to thrive on the defensive end.
With a solid mid-range game and a slashing penetrating skill set, Harris should improve the Nuggets with his jack-of-all-trades profile. As the Nuggets look to rebuild following their disappointing campaign, Harris is a projectable player who could contribute immediately.
12. Orlando Magic (via Nuggets): Tyler Ennis, PG, Syracuse
The Magic tried the point guard experiment with Oladipo last season, but it's clear the former second overall pick belongs at the 2. Thus, it would behoove the Magic to select the best pure point guard in this draft class.
Ennis is an extremely crafty guard blessed with excellent vision, which contributed to his 5.5 assists per game last season. Though he is not an elite athlete, Ennis could thrive alongside Embiid and Oladipo, as those two represent primary scoring options.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves: Dario Saric, PF, Croatia
Though the Croatian forward declared for the draft, it appears he will remain overseas for at least another year, per ESPN.com's Chad Ford (subscription required). Nonetheless, he will still likely go in the lottery due to his versatility and scoring prowess:
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
The Timberwolves could use more shooting, even more so if they eventually lose Kevin Love's skill set. Saric is not a Love replacement, but he will provide similar shooting capability when he comes to the U.S.
14. Phoenix Suns: Zach LaVine, PG, UCLA
Though the Dragic-Bledsoe backcourt pairing was excellent for the Suns last year, Phoenix could still use some depth behind their starters. LaVine is a developmental prospect who is years away from being a regular rotation player, but considering his upside, getting him this late in the draft could turn into a steal.
LaVine needs to add tons of strength, but with an explosive first step and leaping ability, he could turn into a three-point shooter with elite athletic abilities. He tested well at the combine, so some team could take the leap on LaVine in the lottery.
15. Atlanta Hawks: Nik Stauskas, SG, Michigan
Stauskas took home Big 10 Player of the Year honors last season, powering the Wolverines to a No. 2 seed and an Elite Eight appearance. Though primarily a shooting guard in college, teams have evidently talked to the Canadian prospect about being a 1 as well:
Stauskas said a lot of teams have already been talking to him about playing point and shooting guard— Mark Snyder (@Mark__Snyder) May 15, 2014
Stauskas could add depth to a backcourt where Jeff Teague is currently the lone ball-handler. Along with Kyle Korver, Stauskas could continue to make the Hawks a quirky "five-out" team that could give larger lineups fits.
16. Chicago Bulls (via Bobcats): P.J. Hairston, SG, North Carolina
The Bulls are in desperate need of scoring, and North Carolina's P.J. Hairston could help remedy that issue. Hairston averaged 14.6 points per game during his sophomore campaign at Chapel Hill. The Bulls have extremely little backcourt depth, so Hairston should be a plug-and-play spark plug off the bench right away.
17. Boston Celtics (via Nets): Adreian Payne, PF, Michigan State
The Celtics are in desperate need of a rim protector, something they attempted to address during the Omer Asik sweepstakes. However, with Payne available, Boston could have its man with its second first-rounder. Payne's age works against him, as he possesses less upside than most prospects, but the C's could use a reliable big man to anchor the defense.
18. Phoenix Suns (via Wizards): Jusef Nurkic, C, Bosnia
The 6'11" Bosnian center is certainly a project, though he also possesses a soft offensive touch. However, Nurkic is nowhere near ready for playing time, especially if he does not improve his conditioning level. At 19 years old, Nurkic could be the type of prospect for the Suns to stash away.
19. Chicago Bulls: Elfrid Payton, PG, Louisiana-Lafayette
The Bulls have been without a reliable insurance plan behind Derrick Rose the last two seasons. After undergoing the D.J. Augustin experience last year, Chicago could draft a player with big upside late in the first round:
The "next Rajon Rondo" could be Elfrid Payton. New column on five Diamond in the Rough draft prospects: http://t.co/eIxVTzGhdC— Chris Sheridan (@sheridanhoops) May 17, 2014
Payton's small-school pedigree should not hurt, as he held his own in Louisiana-Lafayette's NCAA tournament game against third-seeded Creighton. Should he be available at pick 19, the Bulls would be wise to finally invest in a Rose insurance policy.
20. Toronto Raptors: Cleanthony Early, SF, Wichita State
Early is among the safer picks in the draft, in part due to his age. However, the Wichita State star opened eyes during the tournament, as he was the best player on the floor in the Shockers' round of 32 loss to Kentucky. The Raptors have a pair of nice young wings in DeMar Derozan and Terrance Ross, but Early could add immediate depth for a team with higher expectations.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Mavericks): Clint Capela, PF, Switzerland
A huge 6'11" forward from Switzerland, Capela's length and athleticism should turn him into a plus defender at the NBA level. An excellent transition player, Capela is a raw prospect who evokes some memories of Serge Ibaka. Thus, the Thunder could pick Capela and develop him into a rotational player within a few seasons.
22. Memphis Grizzlies: T.J. Warren, SF, N.C. State
The Grizzlies have lacked reliable wing scoring the past two seasons, derailing their playoff runs. When Memphis plays Tony Allen and Tayshaun Prince at the same time, defenses clog the paint and make life extraordinarily difficult for the other three players.
Warren is capable of alleviating that pressure as one of the draft's best pure scorers. His 24.9 points per game carried an otherwise nondescript N.C. State squad, and he would add sorely needed range to the Grizzlies wing rotation.
23. Utah Jazz (via Warriors): K.J. McDaniels, SF, Clemson
McDaniels is a supremely athletic forward, essentially the opposite of what the Jazz started last season in Richard Jefferson. Though a tweener, McDaniels possesses leaping ability to succeed in transition. Even if he never develops into a reliable offensive weapon, McDaniels could be a lockdown defender to pair with Derrick Favors at the forward positions.
24. Charlotte Hornets (via Trail Blazers): Rodney Hood, SG, Duke
Evidently, there is already interest for the Duke star to stay in state with the erstwhile Bobcats:
I get the sense from Duke's Rodney Hood there's a lot of mutual interest between him and the Bobcats (more)— Rick Bonnell (@rick_bonnell) May 15, 2014
The Hornets need talent everywhere, especially since starting wings Gerald Henderson and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist appear to have plateaued. Hood will not supplant either player as a starter, but he does have the shooting ability to goose Charlotte's spacing woes.
25. Houston Rockets: Glenn Robinson III, SF, Michigan
Robinson may have been a lottery pick had he entered the draft last year. The Rockets could nab him late in the first round and turn him into a backup for Chandler Parsons, rather than filtering through veteran retreads like Omri Casspi and Francisco Garcia. Robinson still possesses tremendous athleticism and pedigree, making him a worthy late first-round investment.
26. Miami Heat: Shabazz Napier, PG, UConn
The Heat have lacked secondary scoring beyond the Big Three this year, a deficiency that could derail their run for a third straight championship. While Napier is far from the prototypical point guard, he could help the spacing that Miami values. Considering that Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole have provided subpar production, gambling on Napier for his offensive value would not be a bad play by the Heat.
27. Phoenix Suns (via Pacers): Jerami Grant, SF, Syracuse
Grant is an explosive athlete who improved his shooting at Syracuse. The Suns could use another wing to supplement to Gerald Green-Marcus Morris tandem, and though Grant is a bit of a tweener, his explosiveness fits in with Phoenix's fun offensive style.
28. Los Angeles Clippers: Jarnell Stokes, PF, Tennessee
The Clippers resorted to signing headache Glen Davis to combat their lack of forward depth this season. Even with a late first-rounder, Los Angeles could find an immediate rotation piece in the massive Stokes:
Jarnell Stokes is simply a huge man, he's impossible to move, solid lower body and just powers through. His shot is looking better too.— Steve Kyler (@stevekylerNBA) May 8, 2014
Stokes is a polished rebounder and post player, and he was a double-double machine at Tennessee. He is not particularly tall for an NBA power forward, so while he could have more difficulty on the defensive end in the pros, he brings toughness and projectability to a thin forward group.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Mitch McGary, PF, Michigan
As hot as McGary was following his breakout NCAA tournament showing last year, he is equally cold this draft season. McGary's has plenty of red flags following a failed drug test and a back injury that cost him most of last season. The passing and post scoring monster that dominated the 2013 tournament lies somewhere within, but it is unclear if any team will be able to extract that player for a considerable stretch of time.
30. San Antonio Spurs: Mario Hezonja, SF, Croatia
Hezonja is a terrific prospect who may not get drafted particularly high because of his lack of playing time overseas. The Croatian is an elite shooter who can beat opponents off the dribble, though his still-developing basketball IQ means he is unlikely to be ready to contribute next year. The Spurs, with their sterling track record of international development, can take him and stash him away for a few years.