NBA Mock Draft 2014: Complete 1st-Round Projections and Outlook from Workouts
As the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat prepare to cement the Association's hierarchy, the hierarchy of the NBA draft is beginning to coalesce.
We're still three weeks removed from the annual collection of bad suits, instant superstar significant others and the raucous cheers surely awaiting commissioner Adam Silver. Or maybe boos. Tradition being tradition and all.
This should go without saying, but the NBA's draft does not mirror its NFL counterpart. There are not wildly variant stocks for players depending on who needs what when. When someone pulls a Johnny Manziel and "slips," it is one or two spots down their tier—the awkward green-room tears are decidedly few.
In many ways, that's a good thing. Our human nature conditions us to leer at draft-night descents like they're car crashes. It's how I imagine being in a room with Vince McMahon was as WWE stock went plummeting to earth last month—only without the body-slamming of chairs and (I'd imagine) fewer curse words.
Players who attend the NBA draft have a much more comfortable idea of where they are going. This allows for fewer overwrought storylines and decidedly less awkwardness. It also leads to a rather mundane period between the lottery and draft night.
Fans do not have access to individual predraft workouts, making the war stories seem more from a distant fictional universe than reality. We're almost three weeks removed from the draft lottery—the "breaking news" is now nothing but a pillowy cloud of smokescreens. With that in mind, let's try to cough our way through the dust clouds and make sense of the first round with a few weeks to go.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Joel Embiid (C, Kansas)
The draft waters in Cleveland are muddy enough for a Public Health Service warning. No one seems to have a sense of where the Cavaliers are leaning—just that they like Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid and Jabari Parker a great deal. Each of the three potential top picks has been linked to the top slot since the lottery.
The pick should come down to Wiggins and Embiid. The former Kansas stars are potential All-Defensive team selections on a roster in need of help on the perimeter and down low. Few would argue against general manager David Griffin selecting Wiggins, whose clean bill of health and elite two-way upside give the Cavs an easy out against rolling the dice on Embiid's back.
Everything coming out of predraft workouts indicates Embiid is ready to go. He put on a show for scouts and teams in a May workout in Los Angeles, dunking off both legs, banging down low and flashing a pretty mid-range jumper. He's also the biggest potential first-rounder in this draft, with a 7'5.75" wingspan and 9'5.5" standing reach.
When an opportunity arises to take a transformative 7-footer in a league where elite big men are an endangered species, it's hard not to pull the trigger. Just cross your fingers on the clean bill of health.
2. Milwaukee Bucks: Jabari Parker (SF, Duke)
The Bucks will be satisfied with any outcome at No. 2. Larry Sanders' miserable 2013-14 season put both his character and the big leap he took a season prior into question. Sanders and Embiid would be an awkward spacing fit, but Milwaukee would gladly trade the former and his onerous contract if it meant landing the latter.
In this scenario, things probably work out for the best. The Bucks are desperate for an instant spark and a face of the franchise, and Parker is equipped to offer both right away.
He is the most NBA-ready prospect in this class. He's 20 points per night waiting to happen, a unique and gifted scorer who can beat defenders in myriad ways. He has a sensational set of post moves and a pretty (if unreliable) step-back jumper and is a much better athlete than most admit. The Paul Pierce-Carmelo Anthony comparisons are legit.
The ceiling on Parker is the lowest of the Big Three, yet I'd throw a down payment on a lake house on him being a decade-long starter in this league. You can't necessarily say the same about Embiid or Wiggins.
3. Philadelphia 76ers: Andrew Wiggins (SF, Kansas)
Cut to everyone in the Sixers war room hugging and thanking whatever deity they praise. Wiggins has been at the top of Philly's draft board all season. It's the worst open secret of the draft process. Sam Hinkie loves long, athletic players who fit into his long-term developmental plan. Look no further than the drafting of Nerlens Noel and Michael Carter-Williams for evidence.
We might see our first draft-night cartwheel if Wiggins falls to No. 3. And if he does, it might be the steal of the night a half-decade down the line.
I've had nearly an impossible time deciding between Wiggins and Embiid throughout the process. The two have such incredible upside that it's impossible to fault anyone's order on the pair.
Wiggins is one of the best athletes to enter the draft in recent memory. He leaps high enough to kiss the rim and tuck it in goodnight. His lateral quickness is as good as anyone this side of Dante Exum and Zach LaVine, and he projects as a defensive menace on the perimeter. Opposing players shot just 27 percent against him on isolation plays where he was the primary defender, per Synergy Sports.
The LeBron James comparisons coming into college were laughable. Always were. Something tells me the Sixers will be satisfied landing a Paul George type at No. 3, though.
4. Orlando Magic: Dante Exum (PG, Australia)
This is easily the most natural fit on the board. The Magic have been looking for a long-term answer at point guard since the declining Jameer Nelson became better known as Jameer Nelson's contract.
They tried Victor Oladipo as the primary ball-handler in certain lineups last season, which was understandably a failure on most nights. He was turnover-prone and still lacks elite passing instincts. The front office knows Oladipo is a 2 who would be better off as the second ball-handling option.
Though he's the draft's most mysterious prospect, Exum might give the Magic the NBA's most promising backcourt. Listed at 6'6" with elite lateral quickness and a lightning-quick first step, he thrives with the ball in his hand. He has more of a score-first mindset at this point but is nonetheless a solid enough passer who will only get better.
Orlando would be a nightmare with these two defensively. Oladipo and Exum are quick and big enough to switch onto either guard spot, and their length will allow them to gamble a bit more than other players. The Magic aren't passing on Exum if he's available.
5. Utah Jazz: Marcus Smart (PG, Oklahoma State)
The Jazz are the biggest swing pick in the top 10. They could have filled glaring needs with any of the first four players off the board, but they landed at No. 5. It's an untenable position, and it would be easy to imagine Utah blowing away a top-three team in hopes of landing Parker or going backward to acquire more assets.
The choice here comes down to deciding between assets at positions that are already filled. Smart or any of the three elite power forwards (Noah Vonleh, Julius Randle or Aaron Gordon) could come off the board here without a batted eye.
I'm sticking with Smart in large part because he'd be a nice complement to 2013 first-rounder Trey Burke. Smart is an active, aggressive defender with an NBA body. He can defend both guard positions and has an insatiable motor; he could be a legitimate Tony Allen-level defender. Selecting Smart would allow the Jazz to more easily hide Burke, who is small and a shaky defender regardless of size, on lesser threats on the perimeter.
Burke is also a strong outside shooter and would benefit from playing a bit more off the ball. Plus, I'm not entirely sold that the Michigan product will become more than a replacement-level starting point guard. The long-term ceiling with Smart is much higher.
6. Boston Celtics: Aaron Gordon (PF, Arizona)
If you believe the rumblings, the Celtics have been targeting Gordon going back to March Madness. ESPN's Chad Ford reported team president Danny Ainge was a "fan of" (subscription required) Gordon, and little the Arizona product has done since should engender much change.
He is an incredible athlete for his size. His 39-inch max vertical leap was significantly higher than anyone in his position group at the combine, and his shuttle run was the best of anyone in Chicago. Concerns about his ability to play the 3 are valid because of his poor shooting mechanics, but he's going to be a fantastic defender and rebounder.
Boston might also be a perfect fit. The Celtics are a smart, well-run organization that won't try to fit Gordon's talents into a position where he can't succeed. Vonleh and Randle are more projectable NBA types, and either would make a fine choice. If the Celtics think they can mold Gordon, the youngest player in this class at age 18, they shouldn't hesitate.
7. Los Angeles Lakers: Julius Randle (PF, Kentucky)
In this scenario, the Lakers' selection will tell you a ton about the team's brain trust. Randle is an NBA-ready low-post scorer and rebounder, and though there were problems with his jumper at Kentucky, his mid-range game was seen as a plus coming out of high school. He's the best bet to compete with Parker for Rookie of the Year.
If the Lakers are looking to appease Kobe Bryant's desire to win now—right damn now—then Randle will be the pick.
Vonleh is the high-upside selection, a freakishly long stretch 4 who has garnered more than one comparison to Chris Bosh. His length left a lot of scouts raving in Chicago, who saw him as a potentially solid rim protector to go along with his ability to stretch the defense. Vonleh is also one of the youngest players in this class, almost exactly nine months Randle's junior.
The three power forwards are mostly interchangeable on my board. The Lakers' predilection toward instant excitement makes Randle a slight favorite.
8. Sacramento Kings: Noah Vonleh (PF, Indiana)
The Kings already have more than enough power forwards and are already shopping this pick. Yahoo Sports' Marc Spears reported Sacramento is willing to package the No. 8 pick with other assets for Kevin Love—even if he's not willing to sign a long-term deal. There probably isn't enough attractive young talent on the Kings roster to get the job done, but if Vonleh is still there on draft night, it will be an interesting few minutes.
Vonleh has the highest potential of the contemporaries at his position. He already knocked down 48.5 percent of his collegiate threes (albeit in a limited sample) and is an emerging player in the post. Working mostly from the left block, he likes facing up or turning over his left shoulder and going over his defender with a right hook.
Sacramento would probably prefer Gordon, a hyperactive defender who would work well next to DeMarcus Cousins. But Cousins and Vonleh would make up a potentially nightmarish duo on the offensive end.
9. Charlotte Hornets: Nik Stauskas (SG, Michigan)
The Hornets need shooting. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist still can't stretch defenses, Kemba Walker made only a third of his threes, and Gerald Henderson seems ready to abandon the deep heave altogether. Their best long-range shooter for most of the season was Josh McRoberts until Gary Neal came over in a trade.
Luckily, Charlotte should have its choice of the draft's best shooters. Stauskas, Creighton's Doug McDermott and Duke's Rodney Hood are all interesting candidates here, with the former two ranked significantly higher on most boards. McDermott brings a National Player of the Year profile and recognizable face that could sway a front office in the midst of a rebrand.
Stauskas is just a better prospect.
A stationary cog in the Michigan wheel as a freshman, he emerged as one of the nation's most deadly guards last season. He hit 44.4 percent of his threes and flashed improved creation skills off the dribble en route to winning the Big Ten Player of the Year award. Teams are as curious about whether he can handle the ball at the NBA level as they are about his lateral quickness and defensive commitment.
These are concerns Charlotte can live with as long as Stauskas lets it fly.
10. Philadelphia 76ers: Zach LaVine (PG/SG, UCLA)
Hinkie will have to wait until the first two picks unfold to form a plan at No. 10. Landing Wiggins earlier puts him into a conundrum. On one hand, the Sixers need actual basketball players. They cannot afford to trot out D-Leaguers, while their lottery picks are learning how to play the sport at a professional level. Wiggins won't be an All-Star rookie, so Hinkie might look long and hard at someone like McDermott—especially with the Sixers' current core in need of shooting help.
The temptation to roll the dice with LaVine is just too much. Though the rawest of any potential lottery pick, he has top-three physical skills. His lane agility drill at the combine was more than three-tenths of a second better than any other player, and he posted a 41.5-inch vertical leap.
The former UCLA product also impressed scouts with the range and fluidity of his jumper. He releases the ball at the height of his jump and is athletic enough to get good shots off even with a defender in his face. In many ways, his so-so shooting numbers are a reminder of Bradley Beal, who never found his stroke at Florida despite a gorgeous release.
LaVine won't be the instant contributor that Beal has been. But...still. Putting LaVine, Carter-Williams and Wiggins on the defensive perimeter with Nerlens Noel protecting the rim is borderline unconstitutional.
11. Denver Nuggets: Dario Saric (SF/PF, Croatia)
The Nuggets don't need any more meaningless depth. Their roster is already loaded with replacement-level players at nearly every position and capped out through at least this summer. Denver is going to be one of the most active teams in trade talks all summer; Ty Lawson might be the only untouchable player on the roster.
Saric landing at No. 11, then, makes a ton of sense. The Nuggets can afford to allow him to return overseas for one or even two more seasons as they work out how to attack the future. Even if he's thousands of miles away, the 2014 Adriatic League MVP can dangle the same carrot of hope that Nikola Mirotic has for Bulls fans.
It's possible Denver can talk Saric into coming over right away. Few expected Evan Fournier in the NBA immediately after the Nuggets drafted him in 2012. Saric is a good value whether he's merely an asset or an immediate contributor this season.
12. Orlando Magic: Doug McDermott (SF, Creighton)
After point guard, outside shooting help is chief on Orlando's summer wish list. The Magic's only reliable three-point shooter currently under contract is Arron Afflalo, whose name has been bandied about in trade rumors since the moment he arrived. He had an excellent season and might be a trade piece to watch on draft night.
That leaves a hole that McDermott could easily fill. The debate between McDermott and Stauskas as the draft's best shooter won't have a verdict for at least a year. McDermott drained 44.9 percent of his threes while taking 57 more than he had any previous season, which was perhaps a sign he knew a radical change to his game was coming.
The post-ups on which McDermott feasted on defenses at the college level are mostly going to disappear. We can also put to bed any idea of him playing as an NBA power forward; he's just not big or tall enough. McDermott is a 3, and his above-average athletic numbers at the combine made teams more comfortable that he won't be a huge defensive liability.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves: Gary Harris (SG, Michigan State)
The Timberwolves are mostly on hold until the Kevin Love fiasco gets settled. The more gasoline that gets poured on the rumor fire, the more likely Love will wear a different uniform by draft night. Flip Saunders' draft strategy would then entirely depend on the type of young talent the team receives in return.
Harris should fit any long-term game plan. He's a better shooter than the 35 percent clip he shot from three as a sophomore and can step onto a professional floor right away and defend most perimeter players. Though undersized for a shooting guard, he is tough and physical and sticks to his man's hip pocket through screens.
Opponents made less than a third of their shots when Harris served as their primary defender last season, per Synergy Sports. He was particularly deadly against spot-up shooters, flashing an almost uncanny ability to know the perfect space needed for a close out. Harris would be a nice fit off the bench behind Ricky Rubio and Kevin Martin.
14. Phoenix Suns: James Young (SF, Kentucky)
Phoenix is overloaded with draft picks and probably won't use all three of its first-round selections. General manager Ryan McDonough has been open with his willingness to compile assets together for a star player and would be a real sleeper in the Love sweepstakes if he'd sign long term.
"I think it's unlikely we bring in three rookies to the Suns next year," McDonough told reporters in April, per ArizonaSports.com. "We obviously have Alex and Archie, who we are high on. With the success that we had this year, it's a good problem to have. But, it's tough to develop rookies and also try to win a lot of games."
We're not mocking trades, mostly because it's ridiculous. McDonough would probably be reluctant to trade out of No. 14 anyway if he knew Young was going to be available.
Young is one of the most interesting talents hanging around the late lottery. He won't turn 19 until August, already has an above-average jumper and is one of the best ball-handling wings in this class. The rim from Young's dunk against Connecticut in the national championship game is probably still dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder.
The Suns have a need on the wing. P.J. Tucker is not someone who should be starting for a playoff contender, and Gerald Green is heading into the final year of his deal.
15. Atlanta Hawks: Rodney Hood (SF, Duke)
Danny Ferry's first two drafts in Atlanta could have gone better. Two of his first-round picks (Dennis Schroeder and John Jenkins) couldn't get off the bench in the playoffs, and the third (Lucas Nogueira) is still overseas. Mike Scott has been Ferry's only draft pick to make a significant impact.
The Hawks need someone who can step in and contribute. Hood could do just that by providing an elite shooter to an already three-happy team and adding much-needed depth on the wing. DeMarre Carroll is a fine player but not someone Mike Budenholzer would prefer to play 30 minutes per night.
Hood is an elite shooter who is able to knock down spot-up looks and create for himself off the dribble. He nailed more than half of his shots as a pick-and-roll ball-handler last season, ranking in the 99th percentile on a per-possession basis, per Synergy. That's an incredible and undercited number for someone whom most view as a jump shooter only.
Hood is one of the most underrated players in this draft.
16. Chicago Bulls: Adreian Payne (PF, Michigan State)
Speaking of underrated. Payne's reported bout with mononucleosis as a senior makes the resume for a guy I've graded a lottery pick all the more impressive. That he was able to exert so much effort while improving his numbers across the board is a testament to perhaps the hardest-working player in the first round.
He came to Michigan State as an undersized center. He barely got off the bench as a freshman and stayed largely a secondary figure until his junior season. Even in 2013 he was a second-round talent whose skill set made him hard to project.
Now he and Vonleh are the truest stretch 4s in the draft. Payne shot 42.3 percent from distance on 104 attempts as a senior—more than double his first three seasons combined. He shot a higher percentage and was more active beyond the arc than Parker. A legitimate 6'10" with an NBA body, Payne is a tough, active defender who will eventually be able to guard both frontcourt positions.
With the Bulls again left to consider using the amnesty provision on Carlos Boozer, Payne would be an ideal replacement as a rookie. He'd allow Taj Gibson to take his rightful space in the starting lineup and be able to provide 75-80 percent of Boozer's production.
17. Boston Celtics: P.J. Hairston (SG, North Carolina)
Hairston worked out for the Celtics this week and will get long consideration if he's on the board at No. 17. Boston doesn't need Tyler Ennis, who falls in this scenario, unless it secretly has designs on trading Rajon Rondo. There are other needs to fit elsewhere, though selecting Ennis and holding his rights ransom is a distinct possibility.
With Hairston available and the Celtics needing a wing scorer, going with the best player available might not be the best strategy. He excelled in his short D-League stint, showing off deep range and an NBA-ready body. His strength should allow him to develop into an above-average defender, even if quickness is not a strong suit.
It's possible he would have been a lottery pick if his career at North Carolina had not been cut short. Considering Avery Bradley is the only 2-guard under contract for 2014-15, Hairston is a fine value and might develop into a starter two or three years down the line.
18. Phoenix Suns: Tyler Ennis (PG, Syracuse)
The Suns' asset-collection strategy will get a whole lot stronger if Ennis is available here. For some, the Syracuse product grades out as a lottery pick. I'm a little more bearish—he's ranked No. 17 overall on my board—and the glut of high-quality point guards around the league makes him susceptible for a fall on draft night.
Still, the league-wide opinion on Ennis is varied enough that Phoenix would pounce on him in this spot. The Suns need a backup point guard as is, even with the Eric Bledsoe-Goran Dragic starting backcourt heading into Year 2. Ish Smith, whose contract is nonguaranteed for 2014-15, is the only backup listed on the roster.
Ennis would also bring a pass-first mentality to a backcourt that can often get a little scoring happy. Jeff Hornacek wants Bledsoe and Dragic attacking the rim, so it would be helpful to add someone like Ennis over asking either player to alter his mindset. Phoenix is as good a place as any to improve a player's jump shot, one of Ennis' most glaring weaknesses.
Or the Suns could draft him and send him packing within 15 minutes of the pick. Whatever.
19. Chicago Bulls: Shabazz Napier (PG, Connecticut)
Having already added frontcourt depth, the Bulls can concentrate on landing a reliable backup for Derrick Rose. D.J. Augustin is set to cash in on his Chicago renaissance, and there is little reason to splurge on a backup point guard in free agency.
While Louisiana-Lafayette's Elfrid Payton is ranked higher on my board, Napier is a better match for Tom Thibodeau's preferred style. He's a tough, experienced guard who won't need many adjustments to become a helpful role player. Thibodeau's system will help curtail Napier's overly aggressive play at times, and the Final Four Most Outstanding Player is an excellent defender when he's under control. Augustin also helped prove the Bulls defense won't fall apart with a smaller point guard running the show.
Napier's propensity for making ridiculous, mind-numbingly difficult shots would give Chicago an unpredictability it lacked last year. Nate Robinson ruined the remaining follicles on Thibs' head in 2012-13—and kept a wildly undermanned roster in games at points.
It's a risk/reward juxtaposition, one on which Napier falls more on the latter.
20. Toronto Raptors: Cleanthony Early (SF, Wichita State)
Minus the infinite draft picks thing, the Raptors are in many ways Phoenix East. Masai Ujiri's plan of a full-scale rebuild halted when a surprising group of players led by a veteran point guard making The Leap decided they'd rather contend. Most left Toronto dead in the water after the Rudy Gay trade; it became the team's salvation.
Now, it's decision-making time. Kyle Lowry is a free agent due a hefty raise, one that would muck up the Raptors' bare books after 2014-15. Ujiri already doubled down on the core by signing coach Dwane Casey to an extension and said he's going to make an effort to re-sign Lowry.
If that's the case, Early probably wins out over Payton at No. 21. Casey was so lost for a defensive wing presence in the playoffs that he was forced to send out John Salmons in hopes of slowing Joe Johnson and Paul Pierce. DeMar DeRozan and Terrence Ross haven't been able to parlay their athleticism into defensive wizardry to the point it's fair to wonder (especially with DeRozan) whether they will.
Early is a versatile, tough defender on the wing. He'll have to earn almost the entirety of his minutes as a defender his first year or two, with both his jumper and ball-handling skills needing a ton of work. Early is 23, but he played only two years of high-level college basketball.
He's at once a project and too old to have elite upside. There's a part of me that wonders whether he might slide out of the first round entirely. The part where the Raptors need a defensive wing presence right now swings the pendulum in the other direction.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder: Elfrid Payton (PG, Louisiana-Lafayette)
The Thunder are yearly title contenders with two picks in the 20s. Ideally, they would trade up and target a wing like James Young or Rodney Hood, both of whom would give Oklahoma City much-needed floor spacing. Picks No. 21 and No. 29 sadly aren't going to entice late lottery teams.
That leaves Sam Presti with the choice between going overseas or rolling the dice with the best player available in Payton. The Louisiana-Lafayette product can be instant insurance for Reggie Jackson, who can start negotiating a contract extension this summer. Presti hasn't hesitated in the past to put a talented player on the block when contract negotiations fall apart (see: Harden, James). Jackson is far from being trade bait, but he's not untouchable by any means.
Payton brings many Jackson-esque characteristics to the table. Listed at 6'4" and 185 pounds, he's a lengthy point guard with a quick first step and good athleticism. Payton excels getting into the paint, where he can score near the rim and exhibits a willingness to find open teammates. Shooting isn't his strong suit, nor is it Jackson's.
It's possible the Thunder reach for a C.J. Wilcox type or test the T.J. Warren waters. Payton is the more intriguing option, though.
22. Memphis Grizzlies: T.J. Warren (SF, North Carolina State)
Now that the Grizzlies' off-the-court craziness seems put to bed, we can actually begin assessing the roster. Which is pretty easy considering the same weaknesses and strengths exist that always have. Memphis has a glaring need for perimeter scoring. Mike Conley and the rapidly aging Mike Miller are the only regular rotation players who shot an above-average rate from three during the regular season.
Warren won't help in that regard initially. His scoring was largely done in the post and mid-range, with threes only thrown in to keep the defense honest. It's not a strength, and he'll need some significant work refining his mechanics.
For a team that lacks scoring pop, though, Warren is the best all-around scorer left on the board. He's a snowflake of a prospect. No one knows quite what to make of his game because it's so uniquely his. He takes an inordinate amount of floaters and has great touch around the rim, finishing through double-teams and contact.
At the very least he is an upgrade over Tayshaun Prince.
23. Utah Jazz: Kyle Anderson (SF, UCLA)
Anderson is one of the most polarizing prospects in this class. No one knows quite what to make of him. Some see him as a truly unique talent, an elite passer with a developing jumper who will use his length to overcome his below-average athleticism. Others have no clue where to put him on a basketball court and worry his poor defensive skill set will be his downfall before ever finding a niche.
At No. 23, the Jazz can afford to find out.
Scouts are correct when they point out Anderson's lack of natural position. He's most comfortable with the ball in his hands, gliding through the motions and reading the defense before finding an open shot for himself or a teammate. He has an uncanny knack for making the right basketball play.
The Jazz might find he would excel in something approximating the role they gave to Gordon Hayward last season. Hayward, also a very good passer and rebounder for his position, played with the ball in his hands more than ever after the loss of Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap to free agency. The result was career-worst shooting splits across the board.
With Hayward hitting restricted free agency this summer, Utah is one of the better possible landing spots for Anderson.
24. Charlotte Hornets: Jusuf Nurkic (C, Bosnia)
Nurkic probably winds up going higher than this. Teams with multiple first-round picks are going to give the Bosnian center a long look—especially in a draft that is so thin on bigs. The prospect of him not coming over for a year or two is much easier to sell when you can still have an introductory post-draft press conference.
Nurkic lands in Charlotte mostly because I can't see him falling any lower. In this scenario, most of the Hornets' best potential fits are already off the board, and most remaining talents are redundant. Adding Jerami Grant or K.J. Daniels makes little sense when still trying to develop Kidd-Gilchrist. With most point guard prospects off the board as well, the best option here is stashing a talented international player and hoping he hits.
A massive 6'11", 280-pound center, Nurkic is already impossible to handle down low. He uses his size and strength to back down overmatched defenders and finishes with a soft touch using either hand. It's difficult to project his ceiling because his breakout in Adriatic League was so recent—and relatively brief.
With Al Jefferson locked into a deal for the next two seasons, the Hornets can afford to wait and see.
25. Houston Rockets: Clint Capela (PF, Switzerland)
Let Draft-and-Stashapalooza 2014 begin. The Rockets, fully armed with designs of a third superstar to pair with Dwight Howard and James Harden, have the highest likelihood of going international. They need to make every cent count, and adding almost $1 million to the books for a player who won't get significant time is a waste of funds.
Capela's stock is on a bit of a downslide following a shrug-worthy performance at the Nike Hoop Summit. He's not a basketball player at this point. Almost every positive aspect he brings to the table is a product of his jaw-dropping length and athleticism combination. His three skills are essentially rebounding, blocking shots and dunking. NBA bigs would fake him into foul trouble within five minutes of him being on the floor.
For the Rockets, that's perfectly fine. They're looking to win championships now, not develop talent. Capela can do his developmental work overseas for two or three years and with any luck be the final piece of the puzzle.
Remember: Serge Ibaka wasn't knocking down corner threes on his 20th birthday, either.
26. Miami Heat: C.J. Wilcox (SG, Washington)
Regardless of the Finals result, Pat Riley has some work to do this summer. And we're not even talking about convincing LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to come back (which they will). Ray Allen is a free agent and turns 39 in July. Shane Battier is retiring. Mario Chalmers is unrestricted. The only players who are a good bet to return are the Big Three, Norris Cole, Chris Andersen and Udonis Haslem.
Otherwise, it's time to reload.
The Heat can at the very least begin improving their floor-spacing with Wilcox. He is the best shooter in this class without a chance of going in the lottery and is an underrated prospect overall because he'll turn 24 in December. It's interesting that someone of his caliber—an above-average athlete with a solid three-point stroke and willingness to play defense—managed to stay at Washington all four years.
Miami needs contributors, not necessarily stars. Wilcox is maybe the best late-round bet to crack an NBA rotation as a rookie.
27. Phoenix Suns: Kristaps Porzingis (PF/C, Latvia)
If the Suns use their first two picks on American-born players, they'll trade out of No. 27 or go international. Porzingis is a promising 7-footer who has enough raw talent to be a lottery pick in a different year.
He is more of the prototypical European stereotype, preferring to use his athleticism and shooting ability than his size down low. Synergy counted only 11 post-ups during the Spanish ACB season. He was also a surprisingly poor pick-and-roll player, making 20.8 percent of his shots as a roll man.
It's clear he's a long way away, and it's possible his representatives even pull him out of the draft in hopes of a better situation next year. On potential alone, Porzingis is worth the risk for a Phoenix team that doesn't want all three draft picks anyway.
28. Los Angeles Clippers: Jerami Grant (SF, Syracuse)
The Clippers would leap on Grant if he were available at No. 28. Anyone with two eyes and a workable understanding of basketball knew all season the Clippers needed a reliable wing defender and third big behind DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin.
Doc Rivers the general manager failed Doc Rivers the coach by failing to deliver.
Grant begins filling one of those gaps on the perimeter. He's a project offensively, a poor shooter whose buckets largely came from an athletic advantage at Syracuse. He would be the polar opposite of the Clippers' wing rotation this season, which was heavy on shoot-first defensive minuses.
NBA teams are going to totally ignore Grant from beyond the arc at first. Using elite athleticism and lateral quickness to bother wing players is the easiest road to early success—if there is one at all. Teams are increasingly moving away from one-dimensional talents, specifically defense-first types without a shot. There is still a place in the league for the elite of the elite (e.g., Tony Allen), but floor spacing is a precious commodity.
Given the Clippers' need and Grant's upside, this is a no-brainer. Grant and the Clippers need to hope his stroke comes to life sooner than later.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Spencer Dinwiddie (SG, Colorado)
Trading out of this pick would be a distinct possibility—if not a likelihood. The Thunder are already using a ton of developmental time on Jeremy Lamb and Steven Adams, and they need to avoid adding unnecessary contracts so they can spend their mid-level this summer.
There are no obvious international fits with Porzingis off the board, other than possibly Serbian shooting guard Bogdan Bogdanovic. Even moving back into the second round, where contracts are nonguaranteed, would be a preferable outcome.
We're sticking Dinwiddie here because he a fine value and the type of player Oklahoma City would consider if it can't move the pick. A midseason ACL tear has kept him out of workouts and sent his draft stock into a tailspin. Had he come out fully healthy, he would have been a lock for the mid-20s.
A solid ball-handler who shot 41.3 percent from beyond the arc, Dinwiddie can fill the bucket despite lacking elite athleticism. The Thunder need a player they can park in the corner and have defenses show him respect. Dinwiddie tops out as a good seventh man, but that's exactly what this roster needs.
30. San Antonio Spurs: Jarnell Stokes (PF, Tennessee)
The Spurs know NBA mortality better than anyone. The grim reaper follows constantly, ready to strike without a moment's notice. Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and to a lesser extent Tony Parker are all old players. Not aging. Old.
R.C. Buford knows he needs to start looking at players who will be around during Kawhi Leonard's prime, and Stokes might be one. The 6'9" power forward was a nightly double-double at Tennessee. He'd bang his grown-(expletive) man body into a defender, knock him off balance and finish through contact with either hand. Rebounding translates from college to the pros better than any counting stat, and Stokes is one of the three or four best in this class.
At the combine, he raised his stock a bit by measuring with a 7'1" wingspan. That will help assuage some of the concerns that scouts had about his length coming into the process. If Stokes can start stretching his game outside the paint, he could be a steal at No. 30.
Combine results courtesy of NBA.com.
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