Although a lot can change before the NBA draft on June 26, the lottery has cleared things up to help make predictions about what will happen.
The Cleveland Cavaliers have been given the first overall pick for the third time in four years and will hope that whoever they draft will finally help them get out of the lottery. While other teams are disappointed that they will have to wait to make their selections, there is enough talent in this deep draft to make everyone happy.
Here is a breakdown of the best fits for each team based on need and value in the first round.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Joel Embiid, C, Kansas
The Cavaliers were not expecting to have a top-three pick, which has left them a bit unprepared when scouting the top players. However, ESPN.com's Jeff Goodman notes that Joel Embiid is the early favorite to be taken No. 1 overall.
Of course, the big question mark is whether his back will hold up, after the center missed the end of last season with an injury. Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated notes that this is a priority for the general manager:
Getting Embiid's medicals--which are being protected like they are the nuclear launch codes--is first on David Griffin's to-do list.— Chris Mannix (@ChrisMannixSI) May 21, 2014
If Embiid is healthy, he could be a franchise cornerstone at center and will help improve the squad a great deal going forward.
2. Milwaukee Bucks: Andrew Wiggins, SF, Kansas
While he was a bit passive at times, Andrew Wiggins has done little to change the mindset that he can be an All-Star in the NBA. The highly athletic wing has few holes in his game and the potential to get even better.
While the Cavaliers would be drafting for a bigger need, the Bucks would be crazy to pass on a talent like Wiggins.
3. Philadelphia 76ers: Jabari Parker, SF, Duke
Everyone seems to have a different opinion on which of the top three players will have the best NBA career. It appears as though the people who watched a lot of college basketball tend to agree that Jabari Parker is the best of the group.
Pat Forde of Yahoo states that he would take Parker first overall:
Taking need and fit out of the equation, I believe I'd take Jabari Parker 1 and Joel Embiid 2. But it's close. Wiggins 3.— Pat Forde (@YahooForde) May 21, 2014
ESPN's Dick Vitale also believes this would be the smartest option:
Cavs did not listen last yr as we said take VICTOR OLADIPO - THIS yr listen take JABARI PARKER @JPiz1— Dick Vitale (@DickieV) May 21, 2014
This means that the 76ers should not feel bad about missing out on the two Kansas stars. Parker might be the most NBA-ready player in the class thanks to his elite offensive game. He should become a go-to scorer early on in his Philadelphia career.
4. Orlando Magic: Dante Exum, PG, Australia
The Magic need a long-term replacement at point guard for Jameer Nelson, and Dante Exum appears to be the best option to do that. He has good size at 6'6" with the speed and athleticism to get into the lane and do damage.
This could allow Victor Oladipo to move to the more natural 2 position and set up a backcourt that will be stellar for years.
5. Utah Jazz: Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky
Julius Randle was almost impossible to stop last season thanks mostly to his imposing physical presence. At 6'9" and 250 pounds, he uses his strength to back down opponents and get himself in good position in the paint.
Even with better and bigger athletes in the NBA, he should be able to keep contributing inside. He could pair with Derrick Favors to create a quality inside tandem going forward.
Which PF will have the best NBA career?
6. Boston Celtics: Noah Vonleh, PF, Indiana
With a young team, the Celtics need to look for upside in this draft. At this point, there are no better options than Noah Vonleh out of Indiana.
The forward has great length to score inside while also showing the ability to step outside and consistently hit jumpers. Although he lacked the aggressiveness to be a go-to option last season, he could develop into a star in Boston.
7. Los Angeles Lakers: Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State
Marcus Smart is one of the top two-way players in the entire class. He might not be the best shooter, but he can score in other ways as well as create opportunities for others. Additionally, he is a good on-ball defender who can shut down opposing point guards.
Adding Smart could be the first step in a long rebuilding process for the Lakers.
8. Sacramento Kings: Aaron Gordon, PF, Arizona
Aaron Gordon is one of the most athletic players in the class with the ability to make some high-flying plays above the rim. This skill is likely going to help him succeed in the NBA even if he struggles to develop the rest of this game.
The Kings need someone in the frontcourt to take the pressure off DeMarcus Cousins, and Gordon can be that player.
9. Charlotte Hornets (via Detroit Pistons): Doug McDermott, SF, Creighton
While many teams are looking for players with high ceilings, Doug McDermott is special due to his high floor. He is one of the safest prospects in the class as someone who can at least be in a rotation and provide great shooting and the skill to score in many different ways.
There are certainly those who will doubt the Creighton product after college stars like Adam Morrison and Jimmer Fredette struggled in the NBA, but McDermott hopes that will not happen to him. He explained to Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated: "I think it might affect some people's opinions. But for me, I use that as motivation. If it didn't work out for these guys, obviously I have to do something different to try to change that perception. Sometimes it's all about being in the right fit. That's what I'm hoping for."
He should be a quality addition to the Hornets as someone who can provide some balance to the offense outside of Al Jefferson. McDermott's ability to stretch the floor will help Charlotte immediately, as it hopes to return to the playoffs after a big 2013-14 season.
10. Philadelphia 76ers (via New Orleans Pelicans): Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State
After adding Parker with the first pick, the 76ers can continue adding perimeter talent with Gary Harris.
He is a prototypical 2-guard with the skill to make plays on both ends of the court. He will not need to be a go-to option with Parker on the roster, but he can be a quality secondary target who can help out right away. This would create a quality young core for a team that is coming off a miserable year.
11. Denver Nuggets: Dario Saric, SF, Croatia
Dario Saric is one of the most skilled players in the class with the size of a power forward and the handling and passing ability of a guard.
While he is a bit of a risk considering his lack of competition to this point in his career, Denver needs to find stars in this draft, and Saric is the best way to do it.
12. Orlando Magic (via New York Knicks): Adreian Payne, PF, Michigan State
After solidifying the backcourt earlier in the first round, the Magic can upgrade the frontcourt by adding a relatively safe option in Adreian Payne.
The forward was a versatile offensive star for Michigan State and should continue producing in the NBA. His ability to score in different ways should help improve an offense that struggled all last season.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves: Nik Stauskas, SG, Michigan
Even with Kevin Martin on the roster, the Timberwolves need to add backcourt scorers, especially those who can create their own shot. This is the only way to keep up with the fast-paced offenses in the Western Conference.
Nik Stauskas made big strides this year and is now an offensive weapon who knows how to create opportunities for himself and others. He will be able to play right away for the Timberwolves and hopefully help get the squad back into the playoffs.
14. Phoenix Suns: James Young, SF, Kentucky
Even after an impressive season that almost saw the Suns make the playoffs, they still need to add more skill and versatility to the roster.
These are things that James Young can contribute right away as a talented athlete who knows how to get to the rim and score. Even better, he is still improving and has the potential to be a star at the next level if he improves his outside shot.
15. Atlanta Hawks: Rodney Hood, SF, Duke
Although Rodney Hood was overshadowed by Parker this past season at Duke, he is still a talented secondary option who also possesses a wide offensive skill set.
He could step in right away and join the Hawks rotation, which would be huge for an offense that lacked depth throughout the year.
16. Chicago Bulls (via Charlotte Hornets): Tyler Ennis, PG, Syracuse
There have been some doubts about Tyler Ennis heading into the draft, namely about his inability to play defense and his lack of athleticism. However, the point guard does not think this first thing will be a problem, via Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv:
On the defensive end, I think I’m a lot better than people expect. Coming from Syracuse there are a lot of questions on the defensive end, but I think through workouts and through the draft process I’ll be able to show that I have defense. I just try to improve on my speed and improve on my strength for the next level and just get ready to go up against the best PGs in the world.
As for the athleticism, ESPN's Chad Ford notes that this is not an issue:
Tyler Ennis posted the second fastest modified lane agility score in the #NBACombine Is he still unathletic?— Chad Ford (@chadfordinsider) May 16, 2014
Ennis could join the Bulls and be a good contingency plan in case Derrick Rose does not return to his peak ability.
17. Boston Celtics (via Brooklyn Nets): Zach LaVine, PG, UCLA
Zach LaVine did not show much in his short career at UCLA, barely getting onto the floor as upperclassmen got the starts ahead of him. However, he has great speed and athleticism, giving him the potential to become a star at the next level.
Boston needs to continue drafting for upside, and LaVine has as much as almost anyone in the class. Within a few years, he can either pair with Rajon Rondo in the backcourt or replace him.
18. Phoenix Suns (via Washington Wizards): Clint Capela, PF, Switzerland
Another raw European prospect, Clint Capela has shown the ability to be a quality rebounder and shot-blocker. Even if he does not do much more than this, he would represent solid value at this point of the first round.
The good news is that he is still young and could develop the rest of his game to help the Suns in the future.
19. Chicago Bulls: T.J. Warren, SF, North Carolina State
T.J. Warren was one of the best scorers in college basketball this season. He has a deadly mid-range game that allows him to get baskets against any defender.
Chicago had the worst offense in the NBA this past season and need players who are capable of taking over when the rest of the team stalls. Warren could be that player and a necessary piece of the puzzle toward getting back to contention.
20. Toronto Raptors: Kyle Anderson, SF, UCLA
Some players do not possess elite speed or athleticism but simply know how to play basketball. Kyle Anderson fits that description with a high basketball IQ and the knack for always making the right move with the ball.
On a talented Raptors roster with players who can be a bit selfish, Anderson would be the perfect glue guy to take the team to the next level.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Dallas Mavericks): Jusuf Nurkic, C, Bosnia
The struggles without Serge Ibaka highlight the fact that the Thunder need more depth in the frontcourt. Steven Adams will likely keep improving, but they need to add prospects who can help out in the future.
Jusuf Nurkic is already a solid low-post rotational player with the potential to be a legitimate starter at center. This is something the Thunder cannot afford to pass up in this draft.
22. Memphis Grizzlies: Cleanthony Early, SF, Wichita State
Memphis needs players who can score, and Cleanthony Early is one of the best offensive players remaining on the board.
Seth Davis of CBS Sports is on board with a group that thinks the Wichita State star will be one of the best prospects in the draft:
Early knows how to create his own shot and has the ability to score on most wings in the NBA. He is also a tough defender with the strength to hold his own at the position.
For a team that desperately needs perimeter help, the Grizzlies would love to see the Wichita State star fall to this point.
23. Utah Jazz (via Golden State Warriors): P.J. Hairston, SG, Texas Legends (NBDL)
The Jazz struggled to score all year long, so they need to find players who can put the ball in the basket. P.J. Hairston would be one of those players with a consistent shooting stroke and enough athleticism to succeed near the rim as well as on defense.
While there will be doubts about drafting a player from the NBA D-League, Hairston's basketball ability will be all the Jazz care about.
24. Charlotte Hornets (via Portland Trail Blazers): Jerami Grant, PF, Syracuse
Jerami Grant will scare teams away with his inability to shoot, but he makes up for it with his knack for scoring inside. He is a great rebounder on both ends of the court, something that will help provide depth in this area for the Hornets.
If he can develop a jump shot down the line, it will be even better for Charlotte.
25. Houston Rockets: K.J. McDaniels, SF, Clemson
The Rockets added Dwight Howard last offseason to try to improve the defense, but things were just as bad this year. They need to bring in players who can upgrade the perimeter defense, something that K.J. McDaniels will be able to do immediately.
He was an elite shot-blocker at Clemson and should be productive on that end of the court for Houston.
26. Miami Heat: Nick Johnson, SG, Arizona
Nick Johnson is a bit small for a 2-guard at 6'3", but his impressive athleticism and playmaking ability will help him contribute in the NBA. He was the best player on one of the top teams in the country this past season and made big plays on both ends of the court.
He should be able to provide some much-needed depth to a team that needs to get younger in the backcourt.
27. Phoenix Suns (Indiana Pacers): Shabazz Napier, PG, Connecticut
There seems to be a lot of disagreement concerning Shabazz Napier's future in the NBA, but some experts love him as a player. Reid Forgrave of Fox Sports even found a scout who would take him first overall:
Ex-NBA scout w concerns on top 3 names told me he'd take Shabazz Napier w FIRST pick. "Superstar." Knows it's a stretch but loves him.— Reid Forgrave (@ReidForgrave) May 16, 2014
This is obviously a stretch, but the Connecticut player proved this past season that he can do almost anything to help a team win. He carried the Huskies to a national championship while leading them in points, rebounds, assists and steals during the regular season.
The downside is that he is a bit too small for the league at 6'0", and it is unlikely he will ever be a legitimate starter. The good news is that the Suns do not need a starter with Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic in the backcourt.
Napier could immediately join the rotation and help the squad get into the postseason.
28. Los Angeles Clippers: Mitch McGary, PF, Michigan
When you are close to a championship, you need to find players who can come in immediately and help you get over the top. Of all the prospects left on the board, Mitch McGary has the best chance of doing that.
The Michigan product missed most of this season due to injuries, but he works hard on the boards with a strong motor to get every loose ball. He could provide some depth to an already solid unit to challenge for a title next season.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: C.J. Wilcox, SG, Washington
Although Oklahoma City has two of the best scorers in the NBA, balance has been a problem. The Thunder need someone else who can get points when Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are on the bench or covered.
C.J. Wilcox might never be a star, but he knows how to get points and should be able to quickly contribute to the title contenders.
30. San Antonio Spurs: Elfrid Payton, PG, Louisiana-Lafayette
San Antonio continues to get older and needs players who are capable of coming in and providing depth for the older players to get some rest.
Elfrid Payton would be a valuable addition with his quickness and pure scoring ability. With a few years of learning from Tony Parker, he could eventually become a major contributor.
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