The NBA draft represents a dream come true for prospects to finally become professional athletes. Unfortunately, not every player will enter an ideal scenario to start his career.
Sometimes, a team does not have an opening, or there is not much help around the new draft pick.
Of course, it is up to the organizations to make the pick that is best for them, and there are plenty of good options for each team that is selecting in the first round. Here are predictions for what each team will do in the opening round of the 2014 NBA draft.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Joel Embiid, C, Kansas
The Cavaliers drafted Anthony Bennett with the first overall pick last season and still hope he can become a quality starter at small forward. However, the team does not have any long-term options at center.
Joel Embiid has room to grow, but he can already help Cleveland with his shot blocking as well as finishing inside, as long as his back can hold up.
2. Milwaukee Bucks: Andrew Wiggins, SF, Kansas
The biggest concern about Andrew Wiggins is that he is extremely raw offensively. There are certainly some who do not think he has the assertiveness necessary to reach the next level.
Ryen Russillo of Grantland provides a scout's take, who was a bit more understanding of the situation:
In general, interesting kid. In fairness to him he played in a very restricted system at Kansas. All interchangeable parts with designated spots, a lot of structure. When he got the ball, there wasn’t a lot of room to create. He didn’t force things, dealt with it well, but sometimes it hurt his rep. Not anywhere near ready, mentally, to take things over, which is unfair to say at this stage. Game isn’t to the level of his athleticism. Humble, coachable, a positive kid, all good things.
Wiggins will take his time to develop, which will take even longer with little help around him on the Milwaukee Bucks. However, the team will be patient with a player who has loads of potential.
The good news is he will still be able to help out early on with his defense and ability to score in transition.
3. Philadelphia 76ers: Jabari Parker, SF, Duke
Jabari Parker has the talent to come right into the NBA and score 20 points per game. He is someone who can score in a number of different ways, whether shooting from the outside, driving to the basket or getting to the free-throw line.
While his defense might be an issue going forward, he will more than make up for it with his production on the offensive end of the court.
4. Orlando Magic: Dante Exum, PG, Australia
Although Dante Exum is a bit of a mystery at this stage of his career, he has all the tools you want in a point guard. At 6'6", he has great size for the position with the speed to get into the lane and do damage in the paint.
If Orlando drafts him, he could pair with Victor Oladipo in the backcourt and create a dangerous tandem that will be around for years.
5. Utah Jazz: Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky
This draft has few true low-post players who are capable of scoring with their back to the basket, but Julius Randle is one of them. He uses his big frame to push around opponents, and his strength allows him to consistently finish.
While the Jazz have young options in Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, Randle could represent an upgrade over both of them.
6. Boston Celtics: Noah Vonleh, PF, Indiana
Noah Vonleh has the ability to do it all from the power forward position. He can post up on opponents and finish inside or step out and hit three-point shots with regularity. Although he lacked assertiveness at Indiana, it is something that can come with time.
Boston needs to look for high-upside players who can contribute down the road, and that is exactly what makes Vonleh a great pick.
7. Los Angeles Lakers: Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State
Marcus Smart might struggle with his outside shot, but he has as much upside as anyone in the class. ESPN's Dave Flemming thinks he could be the best player overall:
Since it's a night of focus on NBA Draft - I'll share an unconventional belief -Marcus Smart could turn into best player from this yr IMO— Dave Flemming (@FlemmingDave) May 21, 2014
The point guard knows how to create shots for both himself and others and is also a quality on-ball defender. For a Lakers team that needs to rebuild, Smart is a nice place to start.
8. Sacramento Kings: Aaron Gordon, PF, Arizona
Aaron Gordon is one of the best athletes in the entire class, something that will help him on both ends of the court. He racked up a bunch of blocked shots at Arizona while also throwing some highlight-reel dunks.
Sacramento needs someone in the frontcourt who can take the pressure off DeMarcus Cousins, and Gordon can be that player down the line.
9. Charlotte Hornets (via Detroit Pistons): Doug McDermott, SF, Creighton
Although Charlotte was little more than a punch line for years, the team showed this past season that it is ready to compete in the Eastern Conference. As a result, the squad should look for players who can help soon.
Doug McDermott is one of the safest picks in the class as someone who can step in and stretch the defense with his great outside shooting. He will be a consistent scorer no matter where he lands, and the Hornets should make sure he is playing with them and not against them.
10. Philadelphia 76ers (via New Orleans Pelicans): Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State
Gary Harris does everything you want a 2-guard to do. He can make shots from the perimeter or blow past defenders if they get too close. He was also named to the All-Defensive team in the Big Ten after a solid year on that end of the court.
The 76ers need to keep filling out their starting lineup, and Harris could be a great addition between Parker and Michael Carter-Williams.
11. Denver Nuggets: Dario Saric, SF, Croatia
Although Dario Saric represents quite a risk after facing weaker competition in Croatia, his pure ability is what teams are interested in. While he is 6'10", he can dribble and pass the ball like a guard, making him a versatile option offensively.
The question is exactly where he will play in the NBA, as noted by Fran Fraschilla of ESPN:
One scary thing about Croatia's Dario Saric is his ability to play NBA SF. Last two pro seasons, he's been mobile PF who drives slow guys.— Fran Fraschilla (@franfraschilla) April 18, 2014
He might lack the lateral quickness to defend other wings, but he has the offensive ability to help out almost anywhere. At the very worst, he can be a glue guy who is a key part of a championship team.
Still, the chance that he can become a star who fills up the box score is worth the early pick for the Nuggets.
12. Orlando Magic (via New York Knicks): Adreian Payne, PF, Michigan State
Adreian Payne has the versatility that teams love from a forward. He is strong and athletic enough to bang inside with other bigs while also having the ability to make shots from beyond the arc.
After solidifying the backcourt with Exum, Payne would continue to add to the Magic offense by bringing an upgrade to the frontcourt.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves: Nik Stauskas, SG, Michigan
Outside of Kevin Martin, the Timberwolves had very little backcourt scoring this past season. While there are issues in other areas, every team needs consistent scorers to put up points, especially in the Western Conference.
Nik Stauskas turned himself into a complete player this past season as an elite shooter who can also create his own shot off the dribble. This will help him succeed going forward no matter where he ends up.
14. Phoenix Suns: James Young, SF, Kentucky
As one of the youngest players in the entire class at age 18, James Young has plenty of time to improve. Fortunately, he has already shown plenty of ability in his time with Kentucky. The athletic wing can drive and score at the rim while also developing a quality jump shot.
Phoenix is close to the playoffs, but the squad must still look for potential to grow with a young team, making this a smart selection.
15. Atlanta Hawks: Rodney Hood, SF, Duke
Rodney Hood might not have put up the huge numbers of Parker, but he still contributed to Duke's offense in a bunch of ways with a similar skill set. He should be able to continue to be a productive secondary option in the NBA.
While Atlanta had some quality scorers last season, the squad lacked scoring depth. This is something that Hood can provide from Day 1.
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16. Chicago Bulls (via Charlotte Hornets): Tyler Ennis, PG, Syracuse
Tyler Ennis might not have the athleticism of Exum or Smart, but he knows how to run an offense as well as anyone. He has great composure and always seems to make the right decision with the ball.
His ability to make others better was not seen from other Bulls point guards like Kirk Hinrich or D.J. Augustin. Even if Derrick Rose comes back completely healthy, the Bulls could use Ennis to help out the offense.
17. Boston Celtics (via Brooklyn Nets): Zach LaVine, PG, UCLA
Zach LaVine is one of the bigger boom-or-bust prospects in the entire class. He does have the quickness and athleticism to make him a quality backcourt scorer, but he did not get a lot of playing time in his only year at UCLA.
Although teams that need immediate help should stay away, the Celtics should be willing to take the risk on a player who could be a quality contributor down the line.
18. Phoenix Suns (via Washington Wizards): Clint Capela, PF, Switzerland
While the stereotype for Europeans coming into the NBA is that they sit around the outside and hit jumpers, Clint Capela loves to go inside and do the dirty work.
The forward has a chance to be an elite shot-blocker and rebounder at the next level, something the Suns could use right away. If he is able to develop more of an offensive game, it will be even better for this young team.
19. Chicago Bulls: T.J. Warren, SF, North Carolina State
T.J. Warren is one of the best pure scorers in the class with a mid-range game that is almost impossible to stop. The rest of his game leaves a lot to be desired, but he can put the ball in the basket consistently.
Considering Chicago had the lowest-scoring offense in the league, it should be more than satisfied adding a player of Warren's abilities.
20. Toronto Raptors: Kyle Anderson, SF, UCLA
Kyle Anderson is one of the most versatile players in the entire class. The 6'9" player filled up the stat sheet as a point guard with UCLA last season, but he is capable of spending time all over the court.
Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated asked Anderson if any team had made a plan for his position at the next level, which he responded:
No. They told me what they see me playing in their offense. A lot of the NBA game is interchangeable between the one, two and three positions. It's just talking about where they would have me playing. Nobody has really told me what exact position they would have me play. A few teams told me they have multiple guys bringing up the ball.
Toronto has talented players at every position, but the squad tends to be a bit inefficient when the stars try to play one-on-one games. Anderson will help the flow and improve the depth across the board for a team that is looking to remain in the playoffs.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Dallas Mavericks): Jusuf Nurkic, C, Bosnia
Jusuf Nurkic (6'11", 280 lbs) has the size and bulk necessary to stick around at center for a long time. He knows how to get himself in good position in the low post to contribute on both ends of the court.
With the Thunder's need to add depth in the frontcourt, Nurkic could be a useful addition right out of the gate.
22. Memphis Grizzlies: Cleanthony Early, SF, Wichita State
Cleanthony Early was part of a Wichita State team that went undefeated during the regular season but lacked the respect it deserved. No matter what you felt about the Shockers, it was hard not to come away impressed when you watched Early play.
The small forward knows how to create his own shot and can get points in a bunch of different ways. Along with his solid defense, this ability would be a welcome addition to a Grizzlies team that needs playmakers.
23. Utah Jazz (via Golden State Warriors): P.J. Hairston, SG, Texas Legends (NBDL)
P.J. Hairston was kicked out of North Carolina after receiving impermissible benefits, which led to him playing in the NBDL for the Texas Legends. Although he had less publicity in his new spot, he was able to show his scoring ability against other professionals, further impressing scouts.
Utah could use scorers from any position and would love to add Hairston's outside shooting to the rotation.
24. Charlotte Hornets (via Portland Trail Blazers): Jerami Grant, PF, Syracuse
Jerami Grant might be trying to become a small forward, but he is really just a power forward who cannot shoot well. This is just fine because he is an excellent rebounder with the ability to finish well inside.
Charlotte could use some frontcourt help for Al Jefferson to help compete on the glass with some of the bigger teams in the conference.
25. Houston Rockets: K.J. McDaniels, SF, Clemson
K.J. McDaniels had a solid year offensively, but his true standout ability is on defense. He is an excellent shot-blocker who plays much bigger than his 6'6" frame.
Considering how bad Houston has been defensively over the past couple of years, McDaniels could represent a huge upgrade and someone who can contribute immediately.
26. Miami Heat: Nick Johnson, SG, Arizona
Nick Johnson simply knows how to play basketball. He also had the ball in his hands in big moments in college and had a knack for being in the right position defensively.
Although he is a bit undersized for his position at 6'3", he should be able to succeed at least off the bench. With Miami, he will not be asked to do more than that.
27. Phoenix Suns (Indiana Pacers): Shabazz Napier, PG, Connecticut
Shabazz Napier might be a bit small at 6'0", but he has shown that he is capable of doing whatever it takes to help his team win. He has some big fans, according to Reid Forgrave of Fox Sports:
Ex-NBA scout w concerns on top 3 names told me he'd take Shabazz Napier w FIRST pick. "Superstar." Knows it's a stretch but loves him.— Reid Forgrave (@ReidForgrave) May 16, 2014
While it is extremely unlikely the undersized guard will be taken with the first pick or even in the lottery, he will provide value to whichever team is lucky enough to draft him.
With the Suns, he could be an elite bench player who comes in to spell Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic. He does not have to play big minutes, but he can contribute when he is on the court and provide the playoff contenders with the leadership of a two-time national champion.
28. Los Angeles Clippers: Mitch McGary, PF, Michigan
Mitch McGary is a hard worker who goes after loose balls and gets almost every rebound in the area. Although he missed most of this past season due to injury, his motor will always be there.
This will be extremely useful in short bursts for the Clippers, which could use some depth in the frontcourt.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: C.J. Wilcox, SG, Washington
C.J. Wilcox will not be a star at the next level, but he can get hot in a hurry and be a productive scorer off the bench.
30. San Antonio Spurs: Elfrid Payton, PG, Louisiana-Lafayette
Elfrid Payton has the quickness necessary to be a quality point guard, but he is still very raw and does not do a great job of creating shots for others.
Fortunately, the Spurs do not need a starter at the position anytime soon. Payton can learn from Tony Parker until he is ready to take over down the line.
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