With the 2014 NBA draft order finally set after Tuesday night's lottery, teams at the top of the board are in scramble mode to assess which of the elite prospects in the class best fits their system.
Not every team can use the same player in the same way, and certain standouts in this class won't see nearly as much success at the next level unless they're surrounded with the right pieces. For as deep as this draft class is, there's no sure thing, no player for whom a team can afford to abandon their system.
Instead, look for the teams with the first five picks to go in a direction that not only gets them the best player available but also fits with their team in a way that would demand the league's attention.
|2014 NBA Draft Order: First Round|
|7||Los Angeles Lakers|
|21||Oklahoma City Thunder|
|28||Los Angeles Clippers|
|29||Oklahoma City Thunder|
|30||San Antonio Spurs|
Let's break down the top five picks and which players available would be best for those teams.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Andrew Wiggins, Kansas
The Cavs may be picking No. 1 for the third time in four years, but with the way the 2014 class has shaped up, this selection is likely to be their most important of all.
Kyrie Irving is Cleveland's reliable point guard, while Dion Waiters is the elusive scoring sidekick. Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao anchor the post, but one more piece is needed to complete a young starting five that could become something big.
Enter Andrew Wiggins.
Out on the wing, Wiggins can step into a big role immediately—but most importantly, a role that doesn't have to be too big. Irving and Waiters have shown at times that they can score at will, which will allow Wiggins time to develop that killer mentality he lacks rather than it being thrust upon him too early.
But as formidable as the Cavaliers' young core seems on paper, they're far from a championship team. Wiggins can take them to that next level.
Johnny Manziel—Cleveland's newest arrival—seems to agree:
While Cleveland is better than the tank-happy teams picking behind it, they are a few years away from becoming something dangerous. It just so happens that Wiggins—despite being wildly popular—is in the same boat. Both the team and its star will need time, but what better future to look forward to than one with Irving-Waiters-Wiggins-Thompson-Varejao?
2. Milwaukee Bucks: Joel Embiid, Kansas
Joel Embiid started his only college basketball season as the player everyone wanted to know about and is now the player NBA teams are drooling over.
The 7'0", 250-pounder had the best season out of any Kansas Jayhawk—yes, even Wiggins—and showcased a skill set that doesn't just translate well to the next level but does so seamlessly. He's got the size to hang with the biggest players in the league, shot-blocking prowess to make an early impact and the athleticism to develop into some easy offense at the rim.
However, Embiid may not even get to No. 2. ESPN's Jeff Goodman reported Wednesday that the Cavs are apparently targeting Embiid with the pick before the Bucks.
Not only would that be the wrong move for the Cavs in terms of personnel (unless they plan on trading Varejao and/or Thompson), but it would make things tougher for Milwaukee. Embiid is the post presence they don't have, as a lack of players at the rim put the Bucks in the bottom five of the league in both points for and points against—plus 24th in rebounding.
Jabari Parker or Wiggins would excite the fanbase, but Embiid gives you just as much of a franchise player, perhaps with a higher ceiling. It's a risk because of the bad back, but you don't draft Embiid for big minutes in Year 1 anyway.
3. Philadelphia 76ers: Jabari Parker, Duke
Unless they have some diabolical plan to pair Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid in the post, the Sixers will be crossing their fingers, hoping Duke's Jabari Parker falls to them at No. 3.
Philadelphia has been waiting for this moment since the 2013 draft, when it traded point guard Jrue Holiday in the Nerlens Noel trade—one in which the front office seemed to know going in that Noel would be a rookie redshirt. A strong start to the season was washed away by a NBA-record-tying losing streak, and losing Evan Turner meant there was no true player on the wing capable of taking over a game.
That's where Parker comes in. He specializes in personal 6-0 or 8-0 runs, demanding the ball and ripping apart defenders in isolation. Parker can hit threes, perform spin moves in the post and do the dirty work as well.
What's more, the Duke standout would be the perfect face of a franchise that has been searching for one for years. Philadelphia has made some impressive moves to build a youthful lineup, but it's not complete without its go-to guy—Parker could be him.
Wiggins would also be an ideal fit, but the 76ers are more in need of a go-to scorer, which makes Parker the best bet out of any player—even the ones taken before him.
4. Orlando Magic: Dante Exum, Australia
Jameer Nelson is 32 years old. While he's been solid starting the point for Orlando for quite some time, it's time for the Magic to go all in on the future of their backcourt.
Dante Exum is the mystery man of this year's draft, but much of that mystery was cracked in impressive fashion at the recent combine, when he played meaningful basketball in front of scouts for one of the first times.
DraftExpress.com's Jonathan Givony captured Exum's impressive measurements:
His physical tools for a point guard are off the charts. At 6'6", he can use his length to disrupt passing lanes and take the ball to the hoop.
The Magic got probably the best player in last year's draft in Victor Oladipo, who came on strong in his rookie season. Exum doesn't figure to bring as much of an immediate impact but has similarly sky-high potential which could turn Orlando into a force if both players reach their ceilings.
They may be just outside of the top three, but don't expect the Magic to be upset with this pick.
5. Utah Jazz: Julius Randle, Kentucky
Slowly but surely, the Jazz are building an impressive young team. But Julius Randle would take it to the next level.
Trey Burke figures to be their starting point guard for the long term and is only improving. Gordon Hayward—assuming the Jazz hold on to him in free agency—is reaching max-player status with his play, as he took it to another level in 2013-14.
Both Enes Kanter or Derrick Favors are becoming good centers, but the duo is too big and too slow to be a long-term answer in the frontcourt.
One of them paired up with Randle would be different, though.
The Kentucky one-and-done is a pure scorer in the post. He's strong enough to post up some of the NBA's better big men right away, is deceivingly fast in transition and has a beautiful outside shot. The rest of his game is coming together nicely, with improving defense and rebounding prowess, as he led the nation in double-doubles.
The Jazz have scorers in the backcourt but lack that impact down low. Randle would be a huge change in that regard—a change that could take place immediately.
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