The 2014 NBA draft order is set, and the league's general managers now have plenty of time to scout, interview and project each of the prospects that could be available at the time of their selection.
Drafting players can be tricky. There's a big difference between drafting guys based on potential and drafting them based on how NBA-ready they are. I tend to lean towards taking guys who are NBA-ready, but it's hard to argue with GMs when they select players with ridiculously high ceilings.
Sometimes that can backfire, however. Not all prospects pan out, and there are only a few "can't-miss" guys in this year's crop of talent.
Here's a prediction of how each team will use its first-round selection.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Joel Embiid, C, Kansas
Cleveland Cavaliers GM David Griffin is a big, big fan of Joel Embiid. Chris Mannix of SI.com tweets that obtaining Embiid's medical files are priority No. 1 for Griffin:
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
With the No. 1 overall pick, the Cavaliers obviously can do whatever they want. Embiid is clearly the best center in the class. He's probably the best center prospect since Anthony Davis. That said, it's hard to fathom the Cavaliers passing up on Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker.
Because of Griffin's interest, though, they'll probably go with Embiid on draft day.
2. Milwaukee Bucks: Andrew Wiggins, SF, Kansas
Projected to get the No. 1 overall selection and Wiggins in the first place, the Milwaukee Bucks will end up with their man regardless. Wiggins is a guy who can come in right away and dominate for the Bucks. He is absurdly athletic and will learn to put the ball in the basket with more efficiency as he gets used to the league.
3. Philadelphia 76ers: Jabari Parker, SF, Duke
Jabari Parker is the most NBA-ready prospect in the draft. He can score from anywhere on the court, and he is a fit in any system.
Not an ideal set-up for the Sixers who were after Wiggins. But Parker gives the a terrific scoring option to pair with their young athletes in Michael Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel. Parker could average 20 PPG as a rookie in Philly. Look for Dante Exum to be a real possibility here, too. They could end up shopping Carter-Williams or just pairing the two together in the backcourt.
A backcourt of Carter-Williams and Parker would challenge the Washington Wizards' duo of John Wall and Bradley Beal for the title of best young backcourt in the NBA.
4. Orlando Magic: Dante Exum, PG, Australia
The Orlando Magic have a ton of holes on their roster, but going with a young point guard to facilitate an inconsistent offense is the best bet. Dante Exum could very well become the best player of this class given his skills. The Magic should not hesitate to grab him if he's still available at No. 4.
5. Utah Jazz: Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky
Drafting Julius Randle will make Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors expendable, and in an effort to acquire more top-notch talent, that's probably the best option for the Utah Jazz.
Dealing talented (let alone expensive) big men will allow Utah to improve. Randle is a solid replacement for either Kanter or Favors. While sometimes a lack of hustle has plagued him, the skills are obvious.
6. Boston Celtics: Aaron Gordon, PF, Arizona
Aaron Gordon struggles offensively. That's not a secret.
It's also not a secret, though, that he is stellar on defense and is arguably one of the top athletes in the draft. Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe would actually go so far as to say that Gordon is on par with Blake Griffin in terms of athleticism:
That's high praise.
Gordon will take some time to develop into a strong offensive player, but Griffin took some time as well.
7. Los Angeles Lakers: Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma
The Los Angeles Lakers are in a similar position to that of the Magic—they don't have much talent anywhere. Outside of Kobe Bryant (and maybe a healthy Steve Nash), this Lakers roster is barren.
Going point guard, then, is the best option. Marcus Smart can also play shooting guard, so he'll likely see big minutes right away as a rookie. Better yet, Nash will be able to teach him the tools of the trade.
8. Sacramento Kings: Noah Vonleh, PF, Indiana
Noah Vonleh can score inside and outside, block shots and rebound efficiently. At No. 8, the Sacramento Kings would be foolish to pass him up. As a power forward that can stretch the floor, Vonleh is a fit in nearly any coach's system.
9. Charlotte Hornets (via Detroit): Doug McDermott, SF, Creighton
The Hornets are back in Charlotte, and they'll want to bring a young player in that's capable of being the face of the franchise. That is most definitely Doug McDermott.
The Creighton product has sneaky athleticism and can shoot lights-out from pretty much anywhere. He'll be passable defensively at the next level, but he'll be most valuable on offense.
10. Philadelphia 76ers (via New Orleans): Tyler Ennis, PG, Syracuse
Taking Tyler Ennis with Carter-Williams and Parker already in the fold might cause you to scratch your head, but alas, it will all work out. Here's how.
Parker can pretty much play anywhere on the court. The Sixers can slide him to small forward and then slide Carter-Williams to shooting guard. Ennis can play the point, and Thaddeus Young and Nerlens Noel will round out the starting five in the frontcourt.
That's a potentially potent young core.
11. Denver Nuggets: Rodney Hood, SF, Duke
While streaky at times this past year, Rodney Hood is a very good complementary player. Plus, he fits a need in the backcourt.
The Denver Nuggets will enter next season with Nate Robinson (5'9"), Ty Lawson (5'11") and Randy Foye (6'4") at the guard position. Hood (6'8") gives them an obvious upgrade in terms of height. Height won't be the only reason he's selected, however, as he's also a solid shooter and ball-handler.
12. Orlando Magic (via New York): Dario Saric, SF, Croatia
The Magic are in the position to take the best player available at No. 12. Dario Saric will likely be that guy.
Not only is Saric the best available, as he fits a need Orlando has. The team desperately needs shooters, and Saric is more than capable of stepping back and hitting a three in the defender's face.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves: James Young, SF, Kentucky
James Young can shoot. He can step in right out of training camp and score 12-plus points per game for a Timberwolves team that might be without Kevin Love if he's traded.
That would create plenty of opportunities on offense for Young to shine.
14. Phoenix Suns: Nik Stauskas, SG, Michigan
Nik Stauskas isn't your typical shooter. Sure, he's more than lights-out from beyond the arc, but Stauskas isn't a spot-up kind of guy. He's capable of creating his own shot off the dribble.
His ball-handling skills also allow him to blow by perimeter defenders from time to time. As he continues to develop offensively, that has the potential to become a much larger part of his game.
Phoenix would benefit from adding that talent to the roster.
15. Atlanta Hawks: Clint Capela, PF, Switzerland
Clint Capela (6'11", 222 lbs) doesn't have the ideal size for an NBA big man. He needs to add some weight to really be successful at the next level, but he has the talent to suggest he'll succeed if he adds about 30 pounds or so.
Capela loves to run the floor and play transition basketball. Add in his skills on defense, and Capela is a very active player who isn't just going to stand in the paint and wait to be fed the ball. The Atlanta Hawks have struggled to bring in big men like that recently (aside from Paul Millsap), so Capela is an obvious fit.
16. Chicago Bulls (via Charlotte): Zach LaVine, PG/SG, UCLA
Zach LaVine is explosive and can do some exciting things on the court:
He's a force when it comes to playing above the rim, but he is also effective from beyond the arc. Inconsistencies have plagued him in the past, however, so that's what is preventing him from going earlier.
The prospect of pairing LaVine with Derrick Rose is a scary one.
17. Boston Celtics (via Brooklyn): Gary Harris, PG, Michigan St.
It's a safe pick at No. 17 to take a point guard, just in case Rajon Rondo finds his way out of Boston in the future.
Gary Harris can learn the ropes from Rondo while also playing some shooting guard to find more time on the court. The best way to learn from someone is to play alongside them, after all.
18. Phoenix Suns (via Washington): Adreian Payne, PF, Michigan St.
After taking a sharpshooter in Stauskas, Phoenix will look to grab an efficient rebounder to add to its rotation. Adreian Payne likely won't be an NBA starter in his career, but he's the perfect rotation player for a team in need of a boost on the glass.
19. Chicago Bulls: Kyle Anderson, SF, UCLA
The Bulls don't have much depth on the wing. To solve this issue, they'll take LaVine's college teammate at UCLA, small forward Kyle Anderson.
Anderson is a wing player who plays like a point guard. He can fill the stat sheet, and that's something Chicago will love. He averaged 14.6 points, 8.8 rebounds and 6.5 assists this past season.
20. Toronto Raptors: P.J. Hairston, SG, NBDL
P.J. Hairston excelled with the Texas Legends of the NBA's Developmental League, averaging 21.8 points and 3.5 rebounds per game. He knows how to score in bunches, but he'll have to improve a bit on the glass. It's rare that one-dimensional players find success at the highest level.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Dallas): T.J. Warren, SF, North Carolina State
T.J. Warren isn't your traditional small forward. Shooting isn't his bread and butter like other wing players. Instead, Warren is adept at getting to the rim and finishing in traffic. The N.C. State product can score almost at will.
It will be hard for him to find time behind Kevin Durant, but the versatility of the Oklahoma City Thunder's stars will possibly allow him to find more time.
22. Memphis Grizzlies: Shabazz Napier, PG, UConn
Shabazz Napier thrust himself into Round 1 after his incredible showing in the NCAA tournament. He's still a late-round pick, however.
His ability to score makes him a candidate to put up big numbers right away. He can shoot and drive, but he has also shown the ability to facilitate and put his teammates in good positions to score. Mike Conley is the point guard in Memphis right now, but Napier can find time as his backup and also at shooting guard.
23. Utah Jazz (via Golden State): Jerami Grant, SF, Syracuse
Jerami Grant is scary athletic. This put-back dunk proves it:
His athleticism helps make up for an overall poor offensive game, but defensively, he is a stud. There's a chance his offense comes around with some seasoning in the NBA.
24. Charlotte Hornets (via Portland): C.J. Wilcox, SG, Washington
C.J. Wilcox is one of the best overall shooters in the class. He excels in catch-and-shoot, pull-up and off-screen situations, making him very valuable to a team in need of an outside presence.
Adding McDermott and Wilcox would represent a great first round of the draft for Charlotte.
25. Houston Rockets: K.J. McDaniels, SF, Clemson
K.J. McDaniels doesn't offer a ton from the perimeter, but he loves to run the floor and play defense. That makes him a great fit with the Houston Rockets.
McDaniels excels at blocking shots, a unique characteristic for a wing player. While Houston's defense was much improved this year with Dwight Howard in the fold, there's still work to be done. McDaniels would help exponentially.
26. Miami Heat: Elfrid Payton, PG, Louisiana-Lafayette
Elfrid Payton is arguably the best mid-major player in the draft.
Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders had nice things to say about Payton:
.@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
Mario Chalmers is set to hit free agency, so the Miami Heat will need to find his replacement. Payton and Norris Cole would make a productive duo for Miami.
27. Phoenix Suns (via Indiana): Jordan Clarkson, PG/SG, Missouri
Jordan Clarkson is a solid athlete that is decent at getting to the rim and finishing at the basket. He has great size for a primary ball-handler (6'4.5", 193 lbs), making him an attractive option for teams looking to add a different look to the offense.
28. Los Angeles Clippers: Glenn Robinson III, SF, Michigan
A potential lottery pick in 2013, Glenn Robinson III saw his stock drop significantly over the course of a year. Still a near lock for Round 1, Robinson will likely find a home with the Los Angeles Clippers.
Prospects should be thrilled to go the Clippers. Other than the fact that they are a team in contention, they have great depth that will take pressure off rookies in their first years. That gives them no excuse not to produce, but the atmosphere there will be much less urgent.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Nick Johnson, SG, Arizona
Nick Johnson loves to run the floor. Durant and Westbrook love to run the floor. Head coach Scott Brooks likes when his team runs the floor.
Johnson is a bit of a reach here at No. 29, but a fit like this is hard to ignore. Thabo Sefolosha will likely remain the starter at shooting guard at first, but Johnson could work his way into the starting five by season's end.
30. San Antonio Spurs: Vasilije Micic, PG, Serbia
Vasilije Micic is a very accomplished international point guard. He represented Serbia in the U16, U18 and U19 tournaments, and he even found time at the senior national level.
Micic likely needs some time overseas before coming over to the States, but the San Antonio Spurs are more than capable of giving him that time. Of course, they'll want Micic here to learn from Tony Parker eventually.