The 2014 NBA draft is scheduled for Thursday, June 26 at the Barclays Center in New York, and basketball fans are increasingly excited about where the top prospects in the class will land.
While the conversation has swirled around prospects like Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid and Jabari Parker, this is an incredibly deep class with several names who should become difference-makers in the NBA.
Here is the latest mock draft with the best bets for each selection in the first round.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Andrew Wiggins, Kansas
After winning the No. 1 overall pick in the draft lottery for the third time in four years (there’s nothing suspicious about that, right?), the Cleveland Cavaliers will have the chance to pick any of the top prospects in this class.
While Cleveland will be tempted to take a big man like Joel Embiid, his back injury and the potential of Kansas small forward Andrew Wiggins will make the latter the smart addition the team needs this season.
2. Milwaukee Bucks: Joel Embiid, Kansas
If the Cavaliers take Wiggins No. 1 overall, the easy selection for the Milwaukee Bucks will be Kansas center Joel Embiid. Questions regarding his back injury have raised concerns, but his size and athleticism are worth the educated risk.
3. Philadelphia 76ers: Jabari Parker, Duke
There are times when a team at No. 3 would miss out on all the top talent, but when Duke forward Jabari Parker falls to the Philadelphia 76ers, the team will have a prospect with the potential to make an instant impact.
4. Orlando Magic: Dante Exum, Australia
There is plenty of upside with Australian guard Dante Exum, and with the chance to share the backcourt with Victor Oladipo, the duo would boast the speed and scoring touch needed to lift the Orlando Magic back into the playoffs.
5. Utah Jazz: Julius Randle, Kentucky
The Utah Jazz are looking to add size and strength to the low post without Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap, and there is no better option on the board at No. 5 than Kentucky prospect Julius Randle.
6. Boston Celtics: Aaron Gordon, Arizona
Arizona's Aaron Gordon is a versatile forward with the ability to play several different positions in different lineups. With the Boston Celtics needing help across the depth chart, adding Gordon would be another smart selection.
7. Los Angeles Lakers: Noah Vonleh, Indiana
The Los Angeles Lakers are desperate for some help in the low post. With Pau Gasol possibly on his way out this offseason, adding a talented player like Indiana center Noah Vonleh who can rebound with the best of them would be a fundamental addition.
8. Sacramento Kings: Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State
As the most talented point guard in this draft, Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart was a force in both the offensive and defensive zones during his college career. If the Sacramento Kings draft Smart, they will have another key piece in the backcourt.
9. Charlotte Hornets: Doug McDermott, Creighton
The Charlotte Hornets are looking for veteran leadership, but few big-name free agents will sign with the franchise. One solution is drafting Creighton shooter Doug McDermott and allowing the former senior team leader to be the steadying force in the locker room and on the court.
10. Philadelphia 76ers: Nik Stauskas, Michigan
After taking Parker at No. 3 overall, the Philadelphia 76ers will be looking to add a shooting guard who can take advantage of his open shots on the outside. There are few players in the 2014 class who can drain it like Michigan’s Nik Stauskas.
11. Denver Nuggets: Gary Harris, Michigan State
Another great shooter in the 2014 class is Michigan State guard Gary Harris. The Denver Nuggets need scorers who can capitalize on their opportunities, and Harris is the perfect fit at No. 11 overall.
12. Orlando Magic: Dario Saric, Croatia
While Croatian forward Dario Saric has the size to contend in the low post, he is a finesse player with impressive ball skills. If Orlando has the chance to draft him at No. 12 overall, he will be the perfect fit for the up-tempo Magic.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves: Rodney Hood, Duke
Duke forward Rodney Hood is not great at any one aspect of the sport, but he has a love for the game and a tenacity that makes him a serious threat on every possession. Whether it’s offensively, defensively or on the glass, Hood is the real deal.
14. Phoenix Suns: James Young, Kentucky
There is no doubt that Kentucky forward James Young needs to work on his defensive awareness and consistency at the next level, but he is one of the best offensive players in the draft and an ideal fit for the Phoenix Suns.
15. Atlanta Hawks: Tyler Ennis, Syracuse
One of the biggest needs of the Atlanta Hawks is a reliable point guard who can run the offense and come back to defend. There are several solid players on the board, but few have the upside that Syracuse prospect Tyler Ennis possesses.
16. Chicago Bulls: Adreian Payne, Michigan State
With the possibility of Carlos Boozer leaving this offseason, the Chicago Bulls will be looking to add depth and talent at forward. Michigan State power forward Adreian Payne will be the hard-nosed player the franchise is looking for in the first round.
17. Boston Celtics: Zach LaVine, UCLA
The Boston Celtics are looking to add depth and talent at every position, and bringing in a prospect like UCLA guard Zach LaVine would give the team scoring off the bench and a long-term project who could blossom into a starter.
18. Phoenix Suns: Jerami Grant, Syracuse
Syracuse forward Jerami Grant doesn’t have the outside shooting that the Phoenix Suns need, but with an explosive first step and the ability to attack the rim from anywhere on the court, he would make for a great depth addition to the team.
19. Chicago Bulls: T.J. Warren, NC State
The Chicago Bulls will be looking to add depth and talent at the forward positions, and there is no better option at No. 19 overall than NC State standout T.J. Warren. He will instantly be a contributing factor off the bench.
20. Toronto Raptors: Kyle Anderson, UCLA
UCLA’s versatile point forward Kyle Anderson is one of the most gifted offensive players in this draft and will be a great addition to the Toronto Raptors. With the ability to shoot the ball, rebound and pass with precision, he would fit right in with Toronto.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder: P.J. Hairston, UNC/Texas Legends
While the Oklahoma City Thunder already have a stacked roster, the need for offensive depth behind Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook is undeniable. Add a talented collegiate player like P.J. Hairston who also has some NBA D-League experience, and it would be an instant upgrade.
22. Memphis Grizzlies: Jusuf Nurkic, Bosnia and Herzegovina
International star Jusuf Nurkic would come in and give the Memphis Grizzlies depth in the low post, but it is his ability to rebound in both the offensive and defensive zones that will make him such a valuable addition to any franchise.
23. Utah Jazz: K.J. McDaniels, Clemson
The Utah Jazz are looking for ways to get the ball in the basket, and a talented winger like Clemson small forward K.J. McDaniels would be a smart addition. While his defensive effort is lacking at times, his presence in the offensive zone is undeniable.
24. Charlotte Hornets: Cleanthony Early, Wichita State
There are many areas in which the Charlotte Hornets have improved over the last two years, but the team is still lacking a forward who can finish at the rim. Wichita State’s Cleanthony Early is one of the most dangerous scorers in the draft and can also rebound as well.
25. Houston Rockets: Jordan Adams, UCLA
At some point in the future, the Houston Rockets will need to make some salary cuts at the guard positions, and the franchise must have the depth in place to make those moves. UCLA shooting guard Jordan Adams can add scoring off the bench and has the potential to blossom into a consistent starter.
26. Miami Heat: Shabazz Napier, Connecticut
This is a case of the rich getting richer. Connecticut guard Shabazz Napier proved that he is one of the most talented players in this draft, but his role in the NBA is uncertain. If there's any franchise that could take the time to develop him correctly, it's the Miami Heat.
27. Phoenix Suns: Clint Capela, Switzerland
Despite a lack of experience and mass, there is serious potential for Swiss power forward Clint Capela to develop into a star in the NBA. If the Phoenix Suns take the educated risk, Capela could become a game-changer.
28. Los Angeles Clippers: Elfrid Payton, Louisiana-Lafayette
There are few fans talking about Louisiana-Lafayette point guard Elfrid Payton, but he has some of the best upside of any player in the 2014 class. While the Los Angeles Clippers already have Chris Paul, Payton could be a long-term project who learns under Paul’s tutelage.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Mitch McGary, Michigan
There are undoubtedly questions about the durability of a player like Mitch McGary, but with the need for a scoring presence in the low post, the Oklahoma City Thunder would make a smart decision bringing in the Michigan power forward.
30. San Antonio Spurs: C.J. Wilcox, Washington
The San Antonio Spurs are getting older, but the team continues to win. One player who can step right in and supplement that success is Washington shooting guard C.J. Wilcox. His shooting ability is excellent, and he will play that role off the bench for the Spurs.
*Stats via NBA.com.
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