Expecting an incoming draft pick to transform an NBA franchise all by himself may be a fool's errand, but that doesn't stop fans from believing.
With one of the deepest classes in the last few years, the 2014 NBA draft has no shortage of potential All-Stars. The top three alone caused many teams to disregard the 2013-14 season in order to get as high a pick as possible.
That's a high-risk strategy because getting the draft pick wrong can set a franchise back years.
With the night drawing near, how the 30 teams are approaching the draft comes more and more in focus.
Below is a projection for the first round, with the riskiest picks underlined.
Note: The draft order is courtesy of NBA.com.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Joel Embiid, C, Kansas
This is the pervading sense among NBA fans regarding the Cleveland Cavaliers and the No. 1 overall pick. If one franchise can mess this up, it's the Cavs.
Strong cases could be made for either Joel Embiid, Jabari Parker or Andrew Wiggins to be drafted here. Considering the scarcity of skilled big men, Embiid might be the best bet:
I've often wondered who the next great center in the NBA would be. Cavs might be staring at him. #TeamEmbiid— Conrad Kaczmarek (@ConradKazNBA) May 27, 2014
Of course, the Kansas star's back is a lingering issue, and Fox Sports Ohio's Sam Amico reported that Cleveland might be shying away from him as a result:
Sounding as if Joel Embiid basically out of running for No. 1 pick. Sources say #Cavs' extremely leery of potential for longterm back issues— Sam Amico (@SamAmicoFSO) May 23, 2014
However, you can't look past the potential. Anderson Varejao needs to be phased out for the Cavaliers going forward, and Embiid would be a fantastic replacement for the Brazilian big man.
2. Milwaukee Bucks: Andrew Wiggins, SG/SF, Kansas
Wiggins may be the best player who will come out of the 2014 draft. He has a ridiculous amount of upside to go with what is a strong defensive skill set and an offensive game that is only improving. The Milwaukee Bucks haven't had a really marketable star for a while, and Wiggins would immediately provide a boost in season ticket sales.
3. Philadelphia 76ers: Jabari Parker, SF/PF, Duke
The Philadelphia 76ers will take whoever is left of the top three, making this one of the most predictable picks in the draft. Parker's perimeter shooting and overall scoring will be a massive help to a Sixers team that finished dead last in offensive rating last year.
4. Orlando Magic: Dante Exum, PG, Australia
Point guard is the biggest area of need for the Orlando Magic. Marcus Smart could be in play here, but that would be a mistake if Dante Exum is still on the board. While he isn't the prototypical point guard, Exum's game varies enough from that of Victor Oladipo so that they could form a stable backcourt duo for years to come.
5. Utah Jazz: Noah Vonleh, PF, Indiana
Derrick Favors has a lock on the 4 in Utah, so Noah Vonleh gives the Jazz a little more versatility. The 6'10" forward has a solid perimeter game, meaning he could be on the floor in the same lineup with both Favors and Enes Kanter.
6. Boston Celtics: Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State
Although Rajon Rondo doesn't appear to be going anywhere at the moment, the Boston Celtics might do well to figure out his long-term successor. Smart's scoring prowess would also provide a nice contrast for Rondo's more defensive approach.
7. Los Angeles Lakers: Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky
The good thing for the Los Angeles Lakers is that they can draft just about anybody and get an immediate upgrade. Julius Randle can step on the floor for the team and play right away. He's a beast on the boards, and his offensive game is extremely underrated.
8. Sacramento Kings: Aaron Gordon, PF, Arizona
Between Aaron Gordon's raw talent and the the Sacramento Kings' disorganization, this could be one of the most boom-or-bust picks.
Gordon is a tremendous athlete, right out of the Blake Griffin mold. He can jump out of the gym, and that in turn helps to make him an above-average rebounder, even right now. Plus, Gordon can run the floor with the best of them.
What gives you pause is his somewhat poor jump shot. With his energy, defending and rebounding, Gordon can become a serviceable player. But if he improves as a shooter, the sky is the limit.
9. Charlotte Hornets: Dario Saric, SF/PF, Croatia
The Charlotte Hornets might opt for a player who can help them right away, but Dario Saric might be worth the gamble. He's more than just a European with size and athleticism. Saric's ball-handling and passing are impressive for his size (6'10"), and he's a good shooter. The only worry is that he might stay in Europe for another season.
10. Philadelphia 76ers: Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State
If the Sixers grab Parker with their first pick, Gary Harris makes sense to give them a 2-guard for the future. Harris is also a good shooter to pair with Michael Carter-Williams, whose shot selection isn't so burdensome that he hampers the offense (see Jennings, Brandon).
11. Denver Nuggets: Nik Stauskas, SG, Michigan
The Denver Nuggets aren't a terrible perimeter shooting team, but they'd be helped with the addition of a guard who has size and can knock down some threes. Nik Stauskas might be the best pure shooter in the draft, so he'd fill an immediate hole in the Nuggets lineup.
12. Orlando Magic: Adreian Payne, PF, Michigan State
I really, really like Adreian Payne. He's not a transcendent talent, but he is a skilled forward who can rebound and score in the post. Payne can also stretch the defense and knock down long-range jumpers. The Orlando Magic could easily choose Doug McDermott if he's available, but Payne is more of the total package.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves: Rodney Hood, SF, Duke
Considering that Kevin Love could be gone very soon, the Minnesota Timberwolves must be hoping that Payne falls to them at No. 13. Since he's gone, Rodney Hood could be a solid Plan B. He's a solid scorer who could help a team that finished 26th in three-point percentage.
14. Phoenix Suns: Doug McDermott, SF/PF, Creighton
The Phoenix Suns have both guard positions covered at the moment, so drafting a forward who can space the floor makes sense here. McDermott is one of the most NBA-ready players in the draft. Even if he doesn't become a better defender, he could carve out a role as a three-point specialist.
15. Atlanta Hawks: James Young, SG, Kentucky
Looking past James Young's 40.7 percent shooting percentage may be hard for some to do. He has the prerequisite athleticism to thrive as a 2 in the NBA, so if he can figure out his jump shot, Young would be a steal for the Atlanta Hawks at No. 15.
16. Chicago Bulls: Tyler Ennis, PG, Syracuse
By now, the Chicago Bulls should've figured out hedging all of their bets on Derrick Rose would be ill-advised. Tyler Ennis offers a steady hand in the offense, and he wouldn't shy away from being the floor general on a team as good as Chicago.
17. Boston Celtics: Cleanthony Early, SF/PF, Wichita State
Cleanthony Early's perimeter shooting is sorely needed on the Celtics. His ball-handing is a concern at this point, but Early is a solid overall talent and more than worth a mid-first-rounder.
18. Phoenix Suns: Clint Capela, PF, Switzerland
The nice thing about this pick for the Suns is that they can draft a foreign-based player and keep him stashed away until he's ready to contribute. Clint Capela is very good around the rim, and if the rest of his game can catch up, he can become a consistent starter. Plus, Capela's ability to run the floor would fit well with Phoenix's more up-tempo style.
19. Chicago Bulls: T.J. Warren, SF, NC State
"Unorthodox" is one of the first words that comes to mind when describing T.J. Warren's offensive style. He doesn't have the prettiest shot, but he found a way to score in bunches at North Carolina State. Although Warren isn't a great defender, you'd back Tom Thibodeau to coax out Warren's best on that end of the court.
20. Toronto Raptors: Zach LaVine, SG, UCLA
The Toronto Raptors may be without the services of Kyle Lowry very soon. Although Zach LaVine is more of a combo guard, he could transition to becoming more of a point. He'll need to focus more on being a floor general rather than a scorer.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder: Jusuf Nurkic, C, Bosnia
The Serge Ibaka injury showed how thin the Oklahoma City Thunder are on the inside. Steven Adams is still improving, but he looks to have a limited skill set. Teams can never have too many big men, so the Thunder could draft Nurkic in the hopes that he can be the offensive player that Adams isn't. Since the need for the Bosnian big man isn't there right now, OKC could also let him grow and develop in Europe a little bit longer.
22. Memphis Grizzlies: Jerami Grant, SF/PF, Syracuse
Whatever team drafts Jerami Grant will have to figure out whether he's a 3 or a 4. He lacks the athleticism of a prototypical 3, but his size may limit him as a 4. Grant is a very good defender, which means that he has a role to play immediately in the NBA, and if he can work on his jumper, the Memphis Grizzlies could afford to take the gamble.
23. Utah Jazz: K.J. McDaniels, SF, Clemson
The Utah Jazz were one of the worst defensive teams in the league during the regular season. That could change if they draft K.J. McDaniels. He's one of the best perimeter defenders in the draft. McDaniels is also a great shot-blocker for somebody 6'6". He swatted 2.1 and 2.8 shots per game over the last two years, respectively.
24. Charlotte Hornets: P.J. Hairston, SG, Texas Legends
This Charlotte Hornets team is screaming out for a shooter like P.J. Hairston. The Hornets improved by leaps and bounds defensively, but they didn't have many players who could stretch the defense. Not only is Hairston a deadeye shooter from long range, he's strong enough to penetrate and handle himself in the paint.
25. Houston Rockets: Vasilije Micic, PG, Serbia
The Houston Rockets don't have any immediate needs, so they could draft Vasilije Micic and keep him in Europe for a little while. Patrick Beverley has proved to be an invaluable asset for Houston, but Micic could replace Jeremy Lin over time.
26. Miami Heat: Shabazz Napier, PG, Connecticut
This would seemingly be one of the best fits in the draft. The Miami Heat are only worried about the short term while Shabazz Napier is one of the most NBA-ready players in the draft. He seems to have a limited ceiling, but he could become a solid rotation player.
27. Phoenix Suns: Bogdan Bogdanovic, SG, Serbia
Keeping Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic may prove tough for the Suns, so drafting Bogdan Bogdanovic would provide the franchise with a long-term solution. He's a good shooter from long range and possesses the penetrating ability to keep opposing defenses honest.
28. Los Angeles Clippers: Elfrid Payton, PG, Louisiana Lafayette
The Los Angeles Clippers have the best point guard in the world, but even Chris Paul needs a break. The team can't afford to keep Darren Collison around, so drafting Elfrid Payton would help solve the problem. He's a pass-first point guard who can more than hold his own on the defensive end.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: C.J. Wilcox, SG, Washington
The Thunder might not be able to keep Reggie Jackson around much longer, so C.J. Wilcox could be another guard OKC grooms for stardom. He's a very good shooter—which Oklahoma City needs—and he isn't afraid to get into it on the defensive end.
30. San Antonio Spurs: Jahii Carson, PG, Arizona State
Jahii Carson has plenty of flaws in his game, but he is a talented player. You could see him going to San Antonio and being turned into an All-Star. The Spurs have the magic touch, and Carson has the potential to be an impact player in the NBA.