For the third time in four years, the Cleveland Cavaliers have won the lottery and will receive the first overall pick in the NBA draft. Now it is time to start wondering what will happen next.
The Cavs obviously have a ton of options if they hold on to the top pick in one of the deepest drafts in years. The good news for teams that did not win the lottery is there will be plenty of talented players available as a consolation.
While a lot can change in the coming weeks before draft day, here are early projections for the first round with the best moves for each team.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Joel Embiid, C, Kansas
Thanks to some smart drafting, the Cavaliers have a quality roster full of young players. Even last year's first-round pick, Anthony Bennett, showed signs of life when he got onto the court, averaging 15.7 points and 11.2 rebounds per 48 minutes, according to HoopStats.com.
The one thing the team is lacking going forward is a true center who can be a cornerstone on both ends of the court. This is what makes Joel Embiid such an appealing long-term prospect.
According to ESPN's Jeff Goodman via SportsCenter, the big man is the current favorite to be taken with the first pick:
Of course, that second part will play a big factor. Embiid missed the final few weeks of his college career with back issues, and no team wants to take a risk on something that could end up being a lingering problem.
Still, Embiid represents the smartest long-term option for the Cavaliers to give them one of the best young teams in the NBA.
2. Milwaukee Bucks: Andrew Wiggins, SF, Kansas
Embiid's rise to the No. 1 pick really has nothing to do with Andrew Wiggins. The small forward used his freshman season to showcase a lot of the tools that helped rate him the best recruit in the country coming out of high school.
With elite athleticism and the skills to be a star on both ends of the court, the Bucks should be thrilled to see Wiggins fall to the second pick. Although he might take a few years to reach his potential, the Bucks should be perfectly fine with waiting.
3. Philadelphia 76ers: Jabari Parker, SF, Duke
The 76ers struggled on both ends of the court last season, but Jabari Parker could immediately upgrade on one side. The Duke star is arguably the best offensive talent in the class with a developed game that could make him a go-to player right away.
Parker knows how to score in a number of different ways and should eventually become someone who averages at least 20 points per game in the NBA. Philadelphia could use someone like this to not only win games but sell tickets and jerseys over the next few years.
4. Orlando Magic: Dante Exum, PG, Australia
Although Dante Exum might be one of the biggest mysteries in the draft, he has all the tools you look for in a point guard. He is lightning fast with great size (6'5") and the ball-handling ability to get into the lane and cause damage from there.
Whether he eventually lands at point guard or shooting guard, he can pair with Victor Oladipo in either spot and create a quality tandem for years to come.
5. Utah Jazz: Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky
Julius Randle was one of the most physically dominant players in college basketball in his only season at Kentucky. He would use his massive frame to get into good position in the low post and get easy baskets seemingly at will.
Although things will be tougher at the next level, he is ready to compete now and should immediately help whichever team drafts him. With the Jazz, he will pair with Derrick Favors to create a frontcourt that will be almost impossible to stop.
6. Boston Celtics: Noah Vonleh, PF, Indiana
Noah Vonleh did not need to do any sort of athletic testing at the scouting combine because people were in such awe of his measurements alone, via Jonathan Givony of Draft Express:
Although the Indiana star tends to be passive on the offensive end, he knows how to score inside or step back and make a three, giving him the potential to be a star at the next level for the Celtics.
7. Los Angeles Lakers: Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State
Los Angeles has to get the rebuilding process started, and there is no better way to do that than selecting the best point guard available at this stage.
Marcus Smart is not only a consistent scorer but also an excellent defender who makes any team he plays on better. He can learn from the veteran guards already on the roster to continue his development and truly reach his potential.
8. Sacramento Kings: Aaron Gordon, PF, Arizona
It is true that Aaron Gordon is relatively raw coming into the draft. However, you cannot teach athleticism, which is something that will help the forward throughout his NBA career.
The freshman was on the receiving end of quite a few alley-oops this season and also used his leaping ability to excel on the defensive end. Of course, he is more than just a big jumper. He explained why his versatility will help him at the next level to Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated:
I see myself as a forward. I see myself as a basketball player. Obviously, you have to play a position in the NBA, but I'm going to do a little bit of everything. Post up, hit jumpers, go by people. I'm going to do it all. I'm confident that I can play both the three and four.
Gordon is an exciting player who can develop into an All-Star with the right coaching. He does not need to be a top option right away with DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay on the roster, but he can find a spot between these two and eventually reach his potential.
9. Charlotte Hornets (via Detroit Pistons): Doug McDermott, SF, Creighton
Charlotte was near the bottom of the league in three-pointers made last season. Considering how well Al Jefferson played inside and Kemba Walker's ability to drive and dish, there should have been plenty of openings.
As a result, the Hornets need to take the best shooter in the class. Doug McDermott was the top scorer in college basketball last season and one of the safest picks in the draft. His presence will immediately help a team hoping to remain a playoff contender.
10. Philadelphia 76ers (via New Orleans Pelicans): Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State
The 76ers were an embarrassment last season, but they are using the draft to quickly build a quality young core. Michael Carter-Williams was the Rookie of the Year this past season, and Nerlens Noel will return from injury to hopefully live up to his potential.
If they were to add Parker with the No. 3 pick and then bring in one of the best two-way players in the draft in Gary Harris, the team would be developing one of the better young rosters in the league.
11. Denver Nuggets: Dario Saric, SF, Croatia
Dario Saric has a skill set that is not often seen from players his age. He can shoot, dribble and pass like a guard, but at 6'10" he has the size of a power forward. This rare combination could make him an extremely difficult player to guard in the NBA.
Although he is a bit unproven, making him a risk for any team that takes him, the Nuggets should be looking for star power and could find it in Saric.
12. Orlando Magic (via New York Knicks): Adreian Payne, PF, Michigan State
In this scenario, the Magic will take a relatively risky backcourt player with the first pick. With the second selection, they would be smart to go the other way and draft a frontcourt player considered one of the safest players in the class.
Adreian Payne can get the tough points inside or drain shots from the perimeter, greatly helping a team that struggled to score for most of the season.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves: Nik Stauskas, SG, Michigan
While the Timberwolves already have Kevin Martin, the team could use even more perimeter scoring to help balance out the lineup and keep up with the rest of the fast-paced Western Conference.
Nik Stauskas improved his game from being a spot-up shooter as a freshman to becoming an all-around offensive star who can create shots for himself and others. He will find ways to keep this up in the NBA if he can just get onto the floor.
14. Phoenix Suns: James Young, SF, Kentucky
Phoenix had an impressive offense this past season, but James Young could give the squad even more versatility from the wing. The Kentucky star has the athleticism to drive into the lane and score either at or above the rim.
Although his outside shot was a bit inconsistent as a freshman, he has all the tools to be a quality contributor at the next level.
15. Atlanta Hawks: Rodney Hood, SF, Duke
It is almost a miracle that the Hawks were able to make the playoffs last year with such little depth. They need more players capable of contributing on the offensive end and taking some of the pressure off the stars of the team.
Rodney Hood can do that almost immediately with a developed offensive game as both a shooter and a slasher. Although he might not have the upside of some of the others in the class, he will be able to contribute right away for Atlanta.
16. Chicago Bulls (via Charlotte Hornets): Tyler Ennis, PG, Syracuse
Although Derrick Rose is still expected to return to his MVP level, it is time that the Bulls develop a long-term contingency plan at point guard. D.J. Augustin had a fine season but still doesn't do a great job of running the offense.
Tyler Ennis could be a useful addition either as a starter or off the bench thanks to his impressive composure for such a young age. He always seems to make the right decision with the ball, and his presence will help improve the worst offense in basketball.
17. Boston Celtics (via Brooklyn Nets): Zach LaVine, PG, UCLA
Zach LaVine might not have even been a starter at UCLA but is quickly becoming one of the hottest names in the class. The guard shot up draft boards after the NBA scouting combine, according to Seth Davis of CBS Sports:
While his shooting display was impressive, it was his athleticism which blew away onlookers like ESPN's Chad Ford:
LaVine is an unfinished product but is capable of playing either guard position at the next level. Regardless of the future of Rajon Rondo, the Celtics would love to have a player of this caliber join the roster and develop with the young team.
Considering Boston is still a few years from contention, they should be fine waiting for LaVine to develop his game.
18. Phoenix Suns (via Washington Wizards): Clint Capela, PF, Switzerland
As the Suns continue to develop for the future, they have to keep drafting long-term prospects who can flourish down the line. Clint Capela could be the next in line as a big man who can be a dominant shot-blocker and rebounder in the NBA.
Allowing him to develop alongside Alex Len could create quite a duo for Phoenix in a few years.
19. Chicago Bulls: T.J. Warren, SF, North Carolina State
Besides adding a point guard who can actually play, the Bulls need to add scorers. No matter what offense you run, there comes a time where every squad needs a player capable of creating his own shot and getting the ball in the basket.
T.J. Warren can do that as well as almost anyone in the class while especially excelling with his mid-range game. He could immediately enter the rotation and help the Bulls get back toward contention.
20. Toronto Raptors: Kyle Anderson, SF, UCLA
The Raptors had a surprisingly good year, but one of the biggest problems was that too much of the offense relied on players winning one-on-one battles. When they failed, the entire team struggled.
Kyle Anderson can help out as a glue guy capable of doing whatever it takes to help the team. He is a great passer who spent most of his time at UCLA playing point guard, and he could immediately improve the flow of the offense in Toronto.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Dallas Mavericks): Jusuf Nurkic, C, Bosnia
When Oklahoma City struggles, it is often due to being outplayed in the frontcourt. While the Thunder drafted Steven Adams last year, they could use another young player down low to continue adding depth.
Jusuf Nurkic will have to be brought along slowly, but his upside makes this a worthwhile pick at this stage of the draft.
22. Memphis Grizzlies: Cleanthony Early, SF, Wichita State
Memphis continues to have an impressive defense, but the squad needs perimeter scorers to keep up with the rest of the conference.
Although Wichita State did not get much respect for having an undefeated regular season, anyone who watched Cleanthony Early knows that he is a quality scorer who can get points on anyone. He will be able to succeed in any offense at the next level and should quickly be part of a rotation.
23. Utah Jazz (via Golden State Warriors): P.J. Hairston, SG, Texas Legends (NBDL)
Although there are some doubts about drafting an NBDL player in the first round, P.J. Hairston has a game that easily translates to the NBA. He is a consistent shooter who is also athletic enough to get points in the paint.
The former North Carolina player could continue to improve a young roster that struggled mightily on the offensive end of the court.
24. Charlotte Hornets (via Portland Trail Blazers): Jerami Grant, PF, Syracuse
Jerami Grant is trying to show that he can be a small forward at the next level, according to Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman:
This seems to be a mistake due to his lack of outside shooting and overall quickness. Besides, he has the length to stick around at power forward:
While he will eventually need to develop the rest of his offensive game, he is someone who can be a force inside early in his career. He is a good rebounder and a solid athlete who will get easy buckets in the paint.
On the Hornets, he could provide Al Jefferson with some much-needed help in the low post to create some balance for the up-and-coming team.
25. Houston Rockets: K.J. McDaniels, SF, Clemson
One of the major problems the Rockets had to deal with this past season was defense. Even adding Dwight Howard was not enough to overcome poor efforts from the perimeter players.
K.J. McDaniels will help in this area after winning the ACC's Defensive Player of the Year award. He is an excellent shot-blocker for his size with the length and athleticism to handle bigger defenders. If he can continue developing his offensive game, it will be even better for Houston.
26. Miami Heat: Nick Johnson, SG, Arizona
While Dwyane Wade has been impressive in the playoffs, injuries continue to be a problem for him, and the Heat need younger players at the position capable of providing depth.
Nick Johnson is far from being Wade, but he has a similar skill set with great athleticism that helps him on both ends of the court. Although he is undersized at 6'3", he should be a quality two-way player off the bench.
27. Phoenix Suns (Indiana Pacers): Shabazz Napier, PG, Connecticut
Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic made quite a formidable backcourt last season. Unfortunately, the squad had little depth at the point guard spot.
If you are going to bring someone in off the bench, why not put in a player who knows how to succeed in big moments? Shabazz Napier was the star of the NCAA tournament, almost single-handedly carrying Connecticut to a national championship.
While many will debate how well he can succeed at the next level, he will at least help a team in small doses throughout his career.
28. Los Angeles Clippers: Mitch McGary, PF, Michigan
The Clippers are close to being a championship-level team, but they need to continue adding players capable of helping the rotation right away.
Although Mitch McGary missed most of the season due to injury, he is a hard worker inside and can help Los Angeles dominate the glass on both ends of the court.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: C.J. Wilcox, SG, Washington
While Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are two of the best scorers in the NBA, the Thunder often need more balance in order to succeed. They must grab players capable of creating a shot and scoring when the first two options are unavailable.
C.J. Wilcox did this throughout his career at Washington and should be another option to create depth for Oklahoma City.
30. San Antonio Spurs: Elfrid Payton, PG, Louisiana-Lafayette
Obviously, the Spurs remain top contenders for a championship every year. However, the team as currently constructed is getting old and will not be around forever.
As a result, San Antonio needs to grab high-upside players like Elfrid Payton who can help out down the line. The guard is incredibly quick with the ability to get into the lane and make plays from there. Learning from Tony Parker should lead to even more success in that area.
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