LeBron James, Kevin Durant and the San Antonio Spurs may be the kings of the NBA right now, but the future looks bright for whichever teams can land some of the transcendent superstars in the 2014 NBA draft class.
We are one month away from the June 26 draft, when the Cleveland Cavaliers will make their second straight No. 1 pick in hopes of turning around the fortunes of their franchise since James left. Will they take a big man, an athlete on the wing, or will they surprise everyone and select their own guy like they did last year?
Read on to find out in this updated 2014 NBA mock draft.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Joel Embiid, C, Kansas
The Cavaliers will resist the temptation to take "Mr. Upside," Andrew Wiggins, with the first pick and will instead address a glaring need.
This team needs a franchise center to lock down the paint on both ends of the floor, and Joel Embiid is the best bet to do that in this class. Yes, there is an injury risk associated with him, but there is also a risk that Cleveland would be missing out on the next great NBA center if they pass him over.
Embiid will be swatting shots for years in Cleveland.
2. Milwaukee Bucks: Andrew Wiggins, SF, Kansas
The Milwaukee Bucks won’t hesitate to snatch Andrew Wiggins up if the Cavs go with Embiid.
Wiggins is the premier talent in this draft and will become the face of the Bucks franchise. He can score from anywhere on the floor, and he is both a tremendous athlete and a solid defender. His length and athleticism help him dart into passing lanes on one end and then finish in explosive fashion at the other.
3. Philadelphia 76ers: Jabari Parker, SF, Duke
Who would you rather have?
In terms of pure offensive talent, Jabari Parker may be the best player in the draft.
He can do a little bit of everything with the ball in his hands, be it in transition or in the half-court set. Parker has a formidable post game, can shoot the three and can break down defenders off the dribble.
He needs to improve his defense to be a true NBA superstar, though.
4. Orlando Magic: Dante Exum, PG/SG, Australia
Grantland’s Bill Simmons thinks the Orlando Magic will be more than happy to grab Dante Exum with the No. 4 overall pick:
Prediction No. 2: Orlando happily jumps on Dante Exum.
And not just because he might be really good, but because that could ignite Victor Oladipo’s career. He’s not a point guard and he’s too small to defend certain 2-guards … but if he could defend point guards and play 2-guard offensively? Boom! I love the Exum-‘Dipo backcourt.
If Orlando grabs Exum to pair with Victor Oladipo, it will be nearly impossible for opponents to match that athleticism and overall speed on a consistent basis.
5. Utah Jazz: Aaron Gordon, PF/SF, Arizona
The Utah Jazz locked up Derrick Favors for the long term, so it would be somewhat redundant to land select Noah Vonleh or Julius Randle.
Aaron Gordon, on the other hand, is a more versatile and athletic stretch-4 who can play alongside Favors in a particularly tall lineup. Gordon will get out in transition with Trey Burke and finish at the rim in dramatic fashion.
He is also a solid rebounder on both ends of the floor.
6. Boston Celtics: Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State
Marcus Smart fills multiple needs for the Boston Celtics, because Rajon Rondo’s future is up in the air.
If Rondo is not in Boston for the long term, Smart is more than capable of playing the point guard spot and anchoring the squad on both ends of the floor. If Rondo stays, Smart can play off the ball and take advantage of the open looks from behind the three-point line that Rondo can create.
7. Los Angeles Lakers: Noah Vonleh, PF/C, Indiana
Pau Gasol is probably on the way out, so the Los Angeles Lakers need a power forward to build their interior game around.
Noah Vonleh is arguably the best rebounder in this draft, and he can clean up the boards on the offensive end as well when the perimeter players miss. Vonleh’s offensive attack is still developing, but his upside makes him the most enticing power forward in this class.
8. Sacramento Kings: Dario Saric, SF/PF, Croatia
Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix believes the Sacramento Kings will take Dario Saric with the No. 8 pick:
If Saric had entered the draft last year, he likely would have been a lottery pick. He improved his stock this year by leading the Adriatic League in scoring (16.7 points) and rebounding (9.7) and adding 3.2 assists for Cibona in Zagreb, with whom he won league MVP and Finals MVP honors. Saric is a point-forward type with terrific passing and playmaking skills.
Saric’s versatility and ability to stretch the floor make him the ideal forward to play alongside DeMarcus Cousins in this offense.
9. Charlotte Hornets: Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky
A team simply has to take the best guy available when he has top-five talent and falls to it at No. 9.
Julius Randle and Al Jefferson have similar playing styles, but they can play on opposite blocks, which would make double-teams particularly difficult for opponents to implement. Randle's presence would also open up looks for the three-point shooters and allow Jefferson a bit more room to operate on the other block.
10. Philadelphia 76ers: Gary Harris,SG, Michigan State
The Philadelphia 76ers grabbed Parker at No. 3, and they have Nerlens Noel and Michael Carter-Williams already in tow. That means they could use a shooting guard in their youth revival.
Gary Harris is a deadeye shooter who will open up the floor for the other players because of the respect defenses have to pay to his perimeter game. What’s more, Harris is one of the best defenders among all of the guards entering the league, which will help a team that gave up plenty of points last season.
11. Denver Nuggets: Adreian Payne, PF, Michigan State
Adreian Payne will help on both ends of the floor for a Denver Nuggets team that failed to reach the playoffs.
Payne can stretch the floor on the offensive end with his three-point shooting and ability to create off the dribble, but he has an underrated post game as well. He is also an elite shot-blocker and an absolute monster on the boards.
12. Orlando Magic: Doug McDermott, SF, Creighton
Last season, the Orlando Magic ranked 21st in the NBA in made three-pointers and 29th in offensive efficiency, so Doug McDermott’s sweet stroke from the outside would certainly help.
For his part, McDermott believes he will be much more than a three-point shooter, via Brian Hamilton of Sports Illustrated:
I really don't think I'm just a shooter. I feel I can make people around me a lot better. I'm not going to be the focal point right away in the NBA like I was at Creighton, so I think I'll have a lot more space to work with. A lot of NBA actions are off the pick-and-roll. I can be a guy that can be in the corner but also move around and find open seams on the floor. Just being able to play off other people, I think that's a strength of mine. It's not going to be the same as it was in college, that's just the way it is. There are a lot better players in the NBA and I'm going to have to be able to adjust to a different role.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves: T.J. Warren, SF, North Carolina State
The No. 13 pick may be a bit early for T.J. Warren, but the Minnesota Timberwolves will be looking for scoring to replace Kevin Love if they do end up trading their superstar.
Warren isn’t the most athletic prospect in the draft, but he certainly finds a way to get the ball in the basket. He is a scoring machine who can also help on the boards, which will help in Love’s absence.
14. Phoenix Suns: Nik Stauskas, SG/SF, Michigan
Steve Lorenz of 247Sports shared a workout video of Nik Stauskas that illustrates why he is such an intriguing prospect:
Stauskas' elite shooting will earn him a spot early in the first round, but he can do more than just that. He can attack the rim off the dribble and plays solid defense, which will mesh nicely with the Phoenix's backcourt.
15. Atlanta Hawks: Jusuf Nurkic, C, Bosnia
The Atlanta Hawks need a better interior presence to go along with Al Horford. The majority of the other big guys on the team are more in the mold of perimeter players who can stretch the floor.
Jusuf Nurkic is a double-double threat every time he steps on the floor, and he will help Atlanta on the offensive glass when some of those threes aren’t falling. He is also a solid low-post scorer who can open up space for Horford down low.
16. Chicago Bulls: Tyler Ennis, PG, Syracuse
The Chicago Bulls have to accept the fact that Derrick Rose may never be a reliable starting point guard again given his health situation, and having a bona-fide backup in place is a must.
Tyler Ennis is a floor general with the ball in his hands who will provide something of a calming presence for the Bulls on the offensive end. He is a tremendous passer and doesn’t force the issue too often. He is also more than capable of scoring when the moment calls for it.
17. Boston Celtics: James Young, SF, Kentucky
The Boston Celtics need more playmakers, and James Young is one of the best offensive players in this draft.
He can finish at the rim in dramatic fashion, is a solid three-point shooter and knows where to find the openings in the defense without the ball in his hands. The trio of Rondo, Smart and Young in transition would be very difficult to stop in the open floor.
18. Phoenix Suns: Rodney Hood, SF, Duke
The Phoenix Suns like to get out in transition and play at an up-tempo pace, so Rodney Hood would fit in nicely as a stretch forward.
He can play the power forward spot in smaller lineups or the small forward one in bigger rotations, as he can find the basket with regularity from either spot. He is a sharp shooter from behind the three-point line, can finish through contact and rarely misses at the free-throw line.
What’s more, he is a solid rebounder and defender when he is engaged in the game.
19. Chicago Bulls: Zach LaVine, PG/SG, UCLA
The Chicago Bulls need explosive athletes to help bolster their offense, and if this picture from Hoopsmixtape (h/t Chris Littmann of Sporting News) is any indication, Zach LaVine fits the bill:
If nothing else, having LaVine on the roster would allow Jimmy Butler to take the occasional breather throughout the regular season. LaVine is a solid shooter, but he is at his best when attacking the rim off the bounce.
20. Toronto Raptors: Shabazz Napier, PG, Connecticut
Kyle Lowry may be on the way out via free agency, so the Toronto Raptors will need to dip into the point guard well during the draft.
Shabazz Napier was one of the best college point guards last year and helped lead the Connecticut Huskies to the national title. He can shoot the three, find open teammates in ideal scoring positions and contribute in the rebounding department.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder: P.J. Hairston, SG, Texas Legends (NBDL)
The Oklahoma City Thunder could use another scorer outside of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook on the perimeter, so they will look toward former North Carolina Tar Heel P.J. Hairston with the No. 21 overall pick.
Hairston has a sweet stroke from behind the three-point line and can attack the rim off the bounce. What’s more, he has some professional seasoning from his time in the NBDL, which should help him face NBA defenders.
22. Memphis Grizzlies: Kyle Anderson, SF/PG, UCLA
The Memphis Grizzlies need offense, and Kyle Anderson provides that in spades in the backcourt.
Anderson can play point guard when Mike Conley needs a breather, or he can play small forward, and he is something of a triple-double threat when he is on the floor. Anderson certainly helps in the rebounding and scoring departments, but it is his passing skills that stand out the most.
23. Utah Jazz: Jordan Adams, SG, UCLA
The Utah Jazz grabbed a forward early in the draft, so they will look for a shooting guard to run alongside Burke next year.
Jordan Adams isn’t the best perimeter athlete in this draft, but he is a solid rebounder and can score from nearly anywhere on the floor. His three-point shooting will help open up looks for Gordon and Favors down low as well.
24. Charlotte Hornets: Jerami Grant, SF, Syracuse
The Charlotte Hornets will need playmakers if they pair Randle and Jefferson down low, and Jerami Grant fits that bill perfectly.
He isn’t the best perimeter shooter, but he can get to the rim with an explosive first step and has a solid mid-range shot. Grant’s ability to get to the rim will force defenders to collapse, which will open up Randle and Jefferson for offensive rebounds.
25. Houston Rockets: Glenn Robinson III, SF, Michigan
The Houston Rockets needed playmakers on the perimeter during their first-round loss to the Portland Trail Blazers.
Glenn Robinson III will give them another athlete to surround Dwight Howard with, as his ability to both hit the three and get to the rim will force defenders to pay attention to him. If nothing else, his presence will open up more room for Howard and James Harden to operate.
26. Miami Heat: Elfrid Payton, PG, Louisiana-Lafayette
Mario Chalmers is set to hit free agency, so the Miami Heat may look for another point guard to join the fold.
Elfrid Payton didn’t receive a lot of fanfare due to the fact that he played at Louisiana-Lafayette, but he is one of the most explosive players in the draft. Getting his speed in the open floor with LeBron James would be borderline unfair.
Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders had some positive words for Payton as well:
.@WitnessMurda: who is gonna be a better PG at the next level, Zach LaVine or Elfrid Payton? ---> Payton by a mile, Zach looks like a 2— Steve Kyler (@stevekylerNBA) May 24, 2014
27. Phoenix Suns: Isaiah Austin, PF/C, Baylor
The Suns went guard and forward earlier in the draft, so they will look inside with their third first-round pick.
Isaiah Austin is something of a project, but the Suns can afford to wait his development out with so many early picks in the draft. Austin’s ceiling is a shot-blocking and rebounding force who can anchor Phoenix’s defense for years.
28. Los Angeles Clippers: Cleanthony Early, SF, Wichita State
The Los Angeles Clippers love to load up on athletes who can get out in transition and finish those Chris Paul lob passes. Cleanthony Early would fit in perfectly.
Outside of just his athleticism, Early is a tremendous rebounder who can hit from behind the three-point line as well. He will bolster the Clippers defense and improve an already solid offense.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Jarnell Stokes, PF, Tennessee
Life without Serge Ibaka was certainly difficult in the first two games of the Western Conference Finals for the Oklahoma City Thunder, so they will take an Ibaka-type of player with the No. 29 pick.
Jarnell Stokes is a tremendous rebounder who can score from the low block and hit from mid-range. He is also a shot-blocking force on the defensive end and will give the Thunder some much-needed depth down low.
30. San Antonio Spurs: Mitch McGary, PF, Michigan
Mitch McGary is one of the high-risk/high-reward players in this draft, but if there is one team in the NBA that will capitalize on that, it is the San Antonio Spurs.
At his best, McGary is a double-double machine who grabs any rebound that comes within his vicinity and scores from the low block with ease. However, he missed the majority of his sophomore season with an injury, so whichever team drafts him will need to be sure he is ready to go from a health standpoint.
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