Twenty-eight down, two to go.
Nearly every NBA team has officially entered the offseason, and with just under three weeks until the June 26 draft, attention is slowly starting to shift toward what stands as a potentially league-changing class of prospects. Of course, there's some other event going on in the Association right now that's sort of important, too, but it's hard not to look forward.
That said, let's take an updated glance at the how the first round currently stands.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Andrew Wiggins, SG/SF, Kansas
You can go back and forth, and it's never going to get easier. Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid or Jabari Parker? It's a decision that can potentially make or break a franchise, and the Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James karma train has given them the enviable—or possibly unenviable—task of getting to pick whoever they want.
If it weren't for Embiid's injury concerns, it would be incredibly difficult to pass on the burgeoning star center at No. 1. However, according to FOX Sports' Sam Amico, the Cavs are reportedly not interested in the added risk:
Passing on someone with Embiid's potential is a lot easier when there's another player with just as much oozing talent. Wiggins is an athletic freak of nature with all-world ability on both sides of the ball. Pairing him with Kyrie Irving would make for one of the most electrifying duos in the league.
2. Milwaukee Bucks, Joel Embiid, C, Kansas
Of course, while there is risk involved, Embiid's recent workout, in which he looked very healthy, put to rest some of the doubt:
Worst-case scenario, this is a guy with the size to protect the rim and control the glass at a high level. However, with just four years of organized basketball under his belt, Embiid has already shown a ridiculous amount of polish, displaying an array of post moves and an ability to pass out of double teams. If everything goes right, he's a game-changer on both ends of the court.
Players with Jo-Jo's blend of size and skill—at a premium position, no less—don't come along often, and the opportunity to create a defensive frontcourt of Embiid, Larry Sanders and John Henson will be too difficult to pass up for John Hammond and his staff.
3. Philadelphia 76ers: Jabari Parker, SF/PF, Duke
The Sixers have the easiest job of all: picking whoever of the top three is still left.
Parker is rare for a 19-year-old. He has the offensive versatility and basketball IQ to score 20 per game within his first two years in the NBA, and while he's not in Wiggins' class as an athlete, he has plenty in terms of natural gifts:
Moreover, his defensive woes will be quelled in Philadelphia, thanks to the length and athleticism of Michael Carter-Williams, Thaddeus Young and Nerlens Noel.
This is a tremendous fit all around, and Parker will be the early majority pick for Rookie of the Year.
4. Orlando Magic: Dante Exum, PG/SG, Australia
Dante Exum is a bit of a wild card, but most are in agreement that he is the fourth-best prospect in this draft. Built in the Carter-Williams mold, he pairs impressive length with a tantalizing offensive skill set.
He likely wasn't going to slip past No. 4 no matter what team was picking here, but the Orlando Magic are in need of a point guard, making this a no-brainer.
5. Utah Jazz: Aaron Gordon, PF, Arizona
The Utah Jazz were the worst defensive team in the NBA last season, giving up 109.1 points per 100 possessions.
Aaron Gordon may be extremely raw on the offensive side of the ball, and he serves as a bit of a project, but his defense would provide an immediate boost to this team. Moreover, while the Jazz don't need a power forward with Derrick Favors recently extended, Gordon has the elite athleticism and agility to guard the perimeter.
Julius Randle and Noah Vonleh are likely viewed as better prospects in most circles, but Gordon is the better fit for Utah.
6. Boston Celtics: Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky
As the Kevin Love rumors continue to circulate, there's certainly going to be talk about this pick being in play for a trade. If the Celtics stay firm, though, expect them to go with the best player available.
Vonleh has been picking up steam for that spot as of late, but Randle is a more refined low-post player. Throw in his brute strength, relentless motor and presence on the glass, and his skill set nicely complements guys like Kelly Olynyk and Jared Sullinger, who can pull defenders away from the hoop.
7. Los Angeles Lakers: Noah Vonleh, PF, Indiana
With so little guaranteed on the books for next year, the Los Angeles Lakers could go in any number of directions here.
As we alluded to, though, Vonleh's stock has been soaring ever since the combine, and it's difficult to imagine him falling past No. 7. A 48.5 percent three-point shooter, the Indiana standout has stretch-four skills that the NBA covets so dearly, but he's also a promising athlete with length who has shown an ability to play in the post on both ends of the court.
8. Sacramento Kings: Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State
The value here is just too good to pass up.
Sacramento has Isaiah Thomas, yes, but the electric point guard is a restricted free agent this summer. Even if he stays, the Kings could either turn him into an instant-offense sixth man, a la fellow Seattleite Jamal Crawford, or keep him at point and slot the bulky Marcus Smart at the two.
Either way, by adding Smart, Mike Malone gets a game-changing defensive presence with the intangibles and fire to inject some energy into the franchise.
9. Charlotte Hornets: Doug McDermott, SF/PF Creighton
Quietly one of the best defensive teams in the NBA last season, the Charlotte Hornets could take another step forward by adding some offensive firepower. They scored just 101.2 points per 100 possessions, which was seventh-worst in the Association.
Doug McDermott is not only the most prolific outside shooter in this class, but he can score from all over the court and has better-than-advertised athleticism, as Rotoworld's Adam Levitan noted:
There are concerns about Mr. McBuckets' defense, but he can come off the bench for Charlotte and be an immediate weapon for a second unit that often struggled to put the ball in the peach basket.
10. Philadelphia 76ers: Nik Stauskas, SG, Michigan
Nik Stauskas' most notable attribute may be his deadly shooting ability, but with a dominant sophomore season, he quickly transformed from corner-three specialist to combo-guard playmaker.
The Sixers have a need at shooting guard, and Stauskas—much like Parker—is someone who is capable of coming in and adding an offensive punch right away.
11. Denver Nuggets: Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State
The Denver Nuggets missed the postseason, but don't expect that to turn into a rebuild. It was the first time away from the playoffs in 11 years for the franchise, and there will be expectations that they make a quick return.
That makes adding an instant-impact player a priority. Although Gary Harris doesn't turn 20 until September, he's already a very polished player for his age. He's a tremendous shooter and one of the best perimeter defenders in the draft.
That all-around game should help him contribute from day one.
12. Orlando Magic: Dario Saric, SF/PF, Croatia
Assuming Dante Exum makes the kind of transition to the NBA many are expecting, the Magic will boast a really talented starting five of Exum, Victor Oladipo, Arron Afflalo, Tobias Harris and Nikola Vucevic.
Time to start adding depth.
Dario Saric, a tantalizing prospect with loads of upside, would provide important versatility off the bench. The talented playmaker can do a little bit of everything, evidenced by his 22.0 points, 13.0 rebounds and 6.5 assists per game at the ABA Final Four with Cibona. This is really solid value near the end of the lottery.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves: Rodney Hood, SG/SF, Duke
As Utah Jazz radio announcer David Locke discovered, Parker wasn't the only tantalizing NBA prospect on Duke's roster:
Rodney Hood can fill it up. He still needs work defensively (although his NBA-ready size means there's potential in that area), but he can get to the hoop, score from mid-range and shoot the lights out from beyond the arc.
It's hard to peg the T-Wolves because of Kevin Love's cloudy future, but Hood gives them an immediate scorer off the bench.
14. Phoenix Suns: James Young, SG/SF, Kentucky
Although James Young shot just 34.9 percent from beyond the arc as a freshman, the smooth lefty bumped that number up to 45.0 percent over his last 10 games. Much like Kentucky as a team, he was looking better and better as the year progressed.
Of course, as he displayed during the national championship, he is much more than just a shooter:
One of the, ahem, youngest players in the draft (he doesn't turn 19 until August), it will take Young a couple seasons to realize his full potential, but with size (measured at 6'6.75" and 213 pounds with a wing-like 7'0" wingspan), athleticism and a really nice offensive game, there is a lot to like here.
Moreover, it fills a need for the Suns, as P.J. Tucker is set to hit restricted free agency in July.
15. Atlanta Hawks: Adreian Payne, PF, Michigan State
If the draft ultimately plays out this way, don't be surprised if this pick is tossed around on the trade market. Atlanta would like to add a perimeter player, but with the recent run of 2s and 3s, that's not ideal at this spot.
With Elton Brand potentially on his way out and both Mike Scott and Gustavo Ayon hitting restricted free agency, though, adding depth in the frontcourt is also an option. Adreian Payne is strong and explosive around the rim, but he also has the inside-out offensive game that the Hawks like in their power forwards.
16. Chicago Bulls: Zach LaVine, PG/SG, UCLA
Zach LaVine is undoubtedly one of the most compelling prospects in this draft. After averaging just 9.4 points in 24.4 minutes per game at UCLA, a lack of production could easily scare teams away on draft day. However, as an athletic specimen nearing the territory of Wiggins and Gordon, it's also easy to see why he could rocket into the lottery.
Comparisons to Russell Westbrook are lofty, but when he starts doing things like this, you start to understand:
LaVine is a project, but the Bulls need someone who can score the ball.
17. Boston Celtics: Kyle Anderson, PG/SF, UCLA
Despite a tremendous sophomore season, Kyle Anderson has plenty of critics—his lack of speed and athleticism cause many to wonder how his skill set will transfer to the next level.
Still, this is one of the most interesting players in the draft, as he stands at just under 6'9" yet has arguably the best vision and passing skills in this year's class.
"Slo-Mo" is one of the most difficult players to peg in this draft, but worst-case scenario, he serves as an offensive-minded distributor off the bench. No matter where he eventually fits, though, this fills a need for Boston with the futures of both Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green so uncertain.
18. Phoenix Suns: Jerami Grant, SF/PF, Syracuse
Jerami Grant is the definition of a tweener. His lack of a consistent outside shot suggests he's a power forward, but his height (just under 6'8") points toward a future at small forward.
Lack of a position or not, though, Grant can help teams. His length (nearly 7'3" wingspan) quells the issues of his size while his explosive athleticism and energy around the rim will help him produce. He may need some time in the D-League, but with three first-round picks, the Suns can afford to use one on the future.
19. Chicago Bulls: T.J. Warren, SF, North Carolina State
The Chicago Bulls continue to address their offensive woes from a season ago, adding one of the best pure scorers in the draft. T.J. Warren isn't the most athletic player, and he needs work on his jump shot, but he found a way around those things en route to 24.9 points per contest and a remarkable 52.5 percent shooting last season.
ESPN's Chad Ford put it simply:
Warren just knows how to score. With the Bulls spending their first pick on the future in LaVine, this gives them an option to help right away.
20. Toronto Raptors: Tyler Ennis, PG, Syracuse
This is how the lottery can change things. For a long time, I had Tyler Ennis going to the Orlando Magic at No. 12, but now that they are able to grab Exum, Ennis slips a bit.
It's not a slight at the former Syracuse floor general. It's just how things work.
Still, don't expect that to stop Ennis from having success at the next level. When asked at the combine if he was the best point guard in this draft, via Basketball Insiders' Alex Kennedy, he displayed immense confidence:
Definitely. I think I have the ability to lead a team, I think I have the ability to make others better and I think I’m able to put those together into a true point guard, who is also able to score when my team needs me. There are a lot of guys who can really score the ball, maybe some who can score better than me, but none that can put together the whole package as a point guard better than I can in this draft.
It's hard to argue his claim as the most rounded.
Known more for his cool demeanor and unflappability in clutch situations, Ennis distributes (5.5 assists per game), takes care of the ball (1.7 turnovers per game), defends (2.1 steals) and can score.
The Raptors may need a point guard with Kyle Lowry (unrestricted) and Greivis Vasquez (restricted) hitting the free-agent market, and Ennis represents tremendous value here.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder: P.J. Hairston, SG, UNC/Texas Legends
Most of the Thunder roster should stay intact over the summer, but they could potentially lose both Thabo Sefolosha and Caron Butler to free agency. Improving the depth on the perimeter will be an important offseason task.
P.J. Hairston is a versatile scorer, boasting a dangerous outside shot and the blend of strength and athleticism to score on the inside. He poured in 21.8 points per game during his stint in the D-League, reinforcing his stock.
22. Memphis Grizzlies: Jusuf Nurkic, C, Bosnia and Herzegovina
No one really knows what the Memphis Grizzlies are doing at this point, but Marc Gasol has just one year left on his contract, and it might be a good idea to put some insurance in place.
It helps that Jusuf Nurkic is the second-best center in this class, displaying size (6'11", 280 pounds, 7'2" wingspan, per DraftExpress), agility, prowess in the pick-and-roll game and production (30.5 PER in 52 games in the 2013-14 Eurocup).
That allows general manager Chris Wallace to roll the dice on someone like Jusuf Nurkic. The towering true center could need another season of development before playing in the NBA, but he has the makeup—strength, agility and footwork—to be very good in this league.
23. Utah Jazz: K.J. McDaniels , SF, Clemson
With both Richard Jefferson and Marvin Williams potentially on their way out, the Jazz continue to add depth at the forward positions, and they continue to do it with defensive playmakers.
K.J. McDaniels isn't going to blow anyone away with his quickness, but he has size, strength, athleticism and good defensive instincts. Easily one of the best perimeter defenders in the draft, he blocked an astounding 2.8 shots per game last year.
The 21-year-old won't likely turn into a superstar, but he's a solid role player who will help in a multitude of ways.
24. Charlotte Hornets: Elfrid Payton, PG, Louisiana-Lafayette
Luke Ridnour and Jannero Pargo are both hitting free agency, meaning the Hornets will need to grab a backup point guard.
Shabazz Napier is still on the board, and the clutch Connecticut national champion joining Kemba Walker would provide for a smorgasbord of storylines. However, it will be hard for the Hornets to pass up Payton.
The Ragin' Cajuns star filled up box scores at an unbelievable rate last season, averaging 19.2 points, 6.0 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 2.3 steals. His jumper needs work, and his game needs refinement, but his quickness makes him a penetrating playmaker with the ball in his hands while his height, length and energy make him a disruption on defense.
25. Houston Rockets: Jordan Adams, SG, UCLA
According to DraftExpress, Jordan Adams averaged 23.1 points per 40 minutes and had a true shooting percentage of 60.3 percent last season, quietly making him one of the most efficient offensive perimeter players in the nation.
He has the shooting ability that GM Daryl Morey and the Houston Rockets like along with the competitiveness, energy and production (2.6 steals per game) on the defensive side of the ball that they need.
26. Miami Heat: Shabazz Napier, PG, Connecticut
With Mario Chalmers hitting free agency, the Heat could very well be in the market for another point guard, especially if Napier is still around at No. 26.
The electrifying point guard is a stone-cold killer. You can say what you want about his size, but he makes up for that in toughness, quickness, magician-like ball-handling and a propensity to hit big shots.
Already an established winner, he'll fit in perfectly off Miami's bench.
27. Phoenix Suns: Clint Capela, PF/C, Switzerland
The Suns aren't likely to make room right away for three first-round picks, so expect GM Ryan McDonough to use this selection on the future.
Clint Capela is the perfect way to do that. The Switzerland international is very raw, but at 6'11" with a rangy 7'4.5" wingspan and tremendous athleticism, his future is bright. Give the 20-year-old a year or two to improve his feel for the game and add strength to his lanky frame, and he has the potential to be a dominant shot-blocker and rebounder.
28. Los Angeles Clippers: Cleanthony Early, SF, Wichita State
Early is another intriguing prospect.
He's technically a senior, but after spending just two years with Wichita State following a stint in community college, he has considerably more upside than most players his age.
There are questions about what position he'll ultimately fit in at, but he is an explosive athlete with a solid inside-out game to go with the ability to protect the rim.
He's the kind of high-octane player the Clippers would welcome with open arms.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Mitch McGary, C, Michigan
It became crystal clear during Serge Ibaka's playoff absence how crucial frontcourt depth can be. So even though the Thunder selected Steven Adams last year, don't be surprised if they target another center here.
There are red flags when it comes to Mitch McGary. He dealt with a back injury all year and left Michigan on poor terms. However, with his brand of physical basketball and ability to control the glass, he makes a lot of sense at the end of the first round.
Don't forget that this kid looked like a lottery pick at the end of his freshman season.
30. San Antonio Spurs: C.J. Wilcox, SG, Washington
Manu Ginobili, Danny Green and Marco Belinelli all have just one more year on their contracts, and Green may be the only one who ultimately returns. It could be time for the ultra-deep Spurs to reload their perimeter depth.
C.J. Wilcox would be perfect for this system.
Playing on a bad Washington team where he was the focal point of defenses, Wilcox still managed to score 18.3 points per contest and shoot 39.1 percent from beyond the arc. Let him roam around as a three-point specialist for the Spurs, and he could quickly establish himself as one of the best shooters in the league.
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