Stars of the celebrated 2003 NBA draft class advancing to their fourth straight finals appearances may pass the torch to prospects gracing 2014 mocks.
Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Joel Embiid headline the most talented draft class since LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh entered the league over a decade ago. And what makes this class special, like 2003, is the depth behind the headliners.
Here is an updated 2014 NBA first-round mock draft.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: C Joel Embiid, Kansas
Freshman stats: 11.2 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game.
Jeff Goodman of ESPN reported—according to sources—Cleveland will not pick Wiggins or Parker, but instead Embiid if inspection of his formerly injured back waves no red flags (subscription needed). And Andrew Gruman of Fox Sports Wisconsin reported no red flags were waved when Embiid worked out with the Bucks:
#Bucks director of scouting Billy McKinney on Joel Embiid workout last Fri: "It didn't appear there were any signs of issues with his back."— Andrew Gruman (@AndrewGruman) May 27, 2014
Embiid would fill a role currently absent on the Cavaliers: rim protector. Andrew Bynum led the Cavaliers in blocks per game this season. No one else averaged over 1.0 block per game.
2. Milwaukee Bucks: SF Jabari Parker, Duke
Freshman stats: 19.1 points, 8.1 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game.
Wiggins has more potential than Parker. But Chad Ford of ESPN reported Parker is likely higher on the Bucks' big board (subscription required). If true, Milwaukee values Parker's superior skill set and basketball IQ over Wiggins' superior athleticism.
Parker is the more pro-ready prospect. As a result, the Bucks would be able to run their offense through him from Day 1. They didn't have a non-point guard this year who scored more than 12.1 points per game.
3. Philadelphia 76ers: SG Andrew Wiggins, Kansas
Freshman stats: 17.1 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game.
Philadelphia's dream comes true, despite the fall from second to third overall in the lottery. The 76ers would've selected Wiggins if they had the No. 1 pick. He has the most potential in the draft besides Embiid, and center is one of the few positions Philadelphia isn't desperate for.
It's desperate for a wing, though. Hollis Thompson started 41 of the 77 games he played in this season, and he only scored 6.0 points per game. Wiggins nearly scored that many points per game in college from the free-throw line.
4. Orlando Magic: PG Dante Exum, Australia
U-19 World Championships Stats: 18.2 points, 3.8 assists and 1.7 steals per game.
The average height of an NBA point guard is 6'2", according to ESPN. Dante Exum is 6'6". If towering over his opponents didn't make it difficult enough for them to guard him, according to ESPN Stats & Info, he's fast too:
Dante Exum's 3/4 court sprint time of 3.19 is better than Chris Paul (3.22), Steph Curry (3.28), Damian Lillard (3.34)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 16, 2014
Orlando doesn't necessarily need more speed in its backcourt. Victor Oladipo ran the three-quarter-court sprint in 3.25 seconds last year, according to NBA.com. The Magic do need a point guard, though, with Jameer Nelson expiring physically and contractually.
5. Utah Jazz: PF Noah Vonleh, Indiana
Freshman stats: 11.3 points, 9.0 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game.
If Trey Burke wanted to drive the lane, he couldn't with Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter clogging it up. Favors and Kanter are the Jazz's best two bigs, but they're also both best at center. And if one comes off the bench to create more floor space, that leaves Marvin Williams at power forward.
That can't happen. Noah Vonleh, Julius Randle and Aaron Gordon are all upgrades over Williams and possibilities here. But Vonleh, who shot 48.5 percent from downtown in college, is the best at spreading the floor.
6. Boston Celtics: PF Julius Randle, Kentucky
Freshman stats: 15.0 points, 10.4 rebounds and 0.8 blocks per game.
Trading away Rajon Rondo or for Kevin Love would alter this pick. But until then, selecting the top power forward who falls to the Celtics is their best plan—not because their greatest needed is for a 4, but because the two or three best available players at No. 6 will be 4s. The tricky part is deciding how to order those 4s.
Even if Vonleh remained, though, Randle would still make the most sense. Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk attempt a combined 4.4 threes per game. Boston needs a post presence, not another floor-spreader.
7. Los Angeles Lakers: PF Aaron Gordon, Arizona
Freshman stats: 12.4 points, 8.0 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game.
Los Angeles surrendered 109.2 points per game this season. Only one defense allowed more. Drafting Gordon wouldn't instantly make the Lakers playoff contenders again, but it would instantly upgrade their defense.
At 6'8", Gordon is a tweener. But having recorded a 39-inch vertical at the combine, he has the athleticism to guard multiple positions effectively. As a result, he has the most defensive potential in the class.
8. Sacramento Kings: PG Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State
Sophomore stats: 18.0 points, 4.8 assists and 2.9 steals per game.
Marcus Smart is not only the best player available by far, but he fills multiple needs for the Kings. One is at guard. Isaiah Thomas will be a free agent this summer, and even if he re-signs, Sacramento's backcourt is thin.
The other need is for leadership. After finishing second in the league in technical fouls in 2012, DeMarcus Cousins bounced back the past two years to lead all complainers. Smart isn't inerrant in that department either, but he's generally regarded as one of the draft's top leaders.
9. Charlotte Hornets: SG Nik Stauskas, Michigan
Sophomore stats: 17.5 points, 3.3 assists and 0.6 steals per game.
Starting wings Gerald Henderson and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist combined for 0.5 three-pointers made per game this year. Playing them together is a recipe for a lack of floor spacing.
Nik Stauskas and Doug McDermott would solve this problem. But shooting guard is a slightly greater need than small forward for the Hornets. Kidd-Gilchrist is six years younger than Henderson, so he's more likely to be part of their future blueprint.
10. Philadelphia 76ers: SF Doug McDermott, Creighton
Senior stats: 26.7 points, 7.0 rebounds and 0.2 steals per game.
Philadelphia needs two leave the first round with two future starting wings. Gary Harris is the best available player, and the 76ers don't need shooting more than defense at this point. But starting the 205-pound Harris alongside the 200-pound Wiggins would leave them too thin.
The 218-pound McDermott fits better alongside Wiggins than Harris. And having a shooter like McDermott in the lineup would help spread the floor for a driving Wiggins and Michael Carter-Williams.
11. Denver Nuggets: SG Gary Harris, Michigan State
Sophomore stats: 16.7 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game.
Denver already scored the ninth-most points in the NBA this season, and it should score even more next year with Danilo Gallinari back from injury. However, its defense allowed the 28th-most points in the league.
Harris would help in that department. He's one of the best on-ball defenders in the class.
12. Orlando Magic: PF Dario Saric, Croatia
Croatian A-1 Liga 2013-14 stats: 16.7 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game.
If Dario Saric attended Kentucky, he'd be a top-10 lock. However, David Pick of Eurobasket reported that Saric won't even come to America this year unless he's drafted by two specific teams:
Dario Saric, I'm told, has let it be known he plans to go to NBA next season if drafted by Celtics or Lakers.— David Pick (@IAmDPick) May 29, 2014
That shouldn't stop Orlando from selecting Saric this late in the first round, though. The point forward, who can ironically be described as a magician with the basketball, averaged 3.4 assists per game in his latest Croatian action. He'd be worth the wait.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves: SF James Young, Kentucky
Freshman stats: 14.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 0.8 steals per game.
From 2010 to 2013, Corey Brewer started a total of 43 games. He started 81 last year at small forward for the Timberwolves. That's a problem.
Brewer, a career sub-30 percent shooter, likely wouldn't lose his starting spot initially to James Young, but it shouldn't take long. Young is a tremendous athlete and scorer. All he's lacking is consistency on his jumper.
14. Phoenix Suns: PG Zach Lavine, UCLA
Freshman stats: 9.4 points, 1.8 assists and 0.9 steals per game.
Phoenix already has one of the most explosive backcourts in the NBA with Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe. The Suns don't have depth behind them, though.
Zach Lavine, a combo guard, could not only back them both up, but he's one of the best athletes in the draft. He recorded a 41.5-inch vertical at the combine and would give the Suns the fastest trio of guards in the league.
15. Atlanta Hawks: PF Adreian Payne, Michigan State
Senior stats: 16.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 0.9 blocks per game.
Al Horford's injury exposed the Hawks' lack of frontcourt depth. As if they were weren't thin enough, Mike Scott and Elton Brand will be free agents this summer.
Adreian Payne is the best big on the board by far. He's also the last first-round-caliber, pro-ready stretch 4.
16. Chicago Bulls: PG Tyler Ennis, Syracuse
Freshman stats: 12.9 points, 5.5 assists and 2.1 steals per game.
D.J. Augustin will be a free agent this summer. Chicago must bolster its depth behind an injury-riddled Derrick Rose should tragedy strike again.
While point guard is a need for the Bulls, it isn't their largest. Tyler Ennis is just the best player on the board. He's talented enough to hear his name called in the lottery but slipped in this mock due to a lack of need.
17. Boston Celtics: SG P.J. Hairston, North Carolina
Sophomore stats: 14.6 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game.
Avery Bradley is the only Celtics player who shot better than 35.1 percent from downtown this year. If Boston goes big at sixth overall, it should select the best player who can shoot threes here.
P.J. Hairston can shoot threes. He nailed 2.6 per game last season while shooting 39.6 percent.
18. Phoenix Suns: SF Jerami Grant, Syracuse
Sophomore stats: 12.1 points, 6.8 rebounds and 0.8 steals per game.
Leandro Barbosa and P.J. Tucker will be free agents this summer. Assuming Gerald Green starts at small forward, that leaves Archie Goodwin as the only regular rotational wing remaining on the Suns from this season. And Goodwin only averaged 3.7 points in 10.7 minutes per game.
Jerami Grant could sneak into their rotation immediately if Barbosa and Tucker leave.
19. Chicago Bulls: SG Rodney Hood, Duke
Sophomore stats: 16.1 points, 3.9 rebounds and 0.7 steals per game.
Mike Dunleavy is the only Bull who shot over 30 percent from downtown in the playoffs who's under contract next season. He also turns 34 years old in September.
More than anything, Chicago is desperate for three-point shooting. Rodney Hood shot 42.0 percent from beyond the arc for the Blue Devils.
20. Toronto Raptors: PG Elfrid Payton, Louisiana Lafayette
Junior stats: 19.2 points, 5.9 assists and 2.3 steals per game.
Kyle Lowry and Greivis Vasquez will be free agents this summer. Both guards played a major role in the Raptors' playoff push. Toronto needs insurance should one of them head south.
The only biggest thing stopping Elfrid Payton from being higher on big boards is his school. He's also raw on offense, but his length and athleticism will allow him to make an instant defensive impact.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder: C Jusuf Nurkic, Bosnia
Croatian A-1 Liga 2013-14 stats: 11.1 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game.
Kendrick Perkins and Nick Collison have one year left on their contracts. Perkins will be 30 years old in November, and he hasn't had a player efficiency rating of at least 10.0 since the Thunder traded for him (the league average is 15.0). Collison will be 34 in October, and Steven Adams has already supplanted him as Oklahoma City's first big off the bench.
The 6'11", 280-pound Jusuf Nurkic would form a young, physically imposing trio of bigs with Adams and Serge Ibaka after Perkins and Collison depart. Nurkic accumulated the numbers above in just 16.5 minutes of action per game.
22. Memphis Grizzlies: SF Cleanthony Early, Wichita State
Sophomore stats: 16.4 points, 5.9 rebounds and 0.8 steals per game.
Tayshaun Prince is done. He started six of the Grizzlies' seven postseason games, but Memphis only used him for 16.1 minutes a pop because he can't score. He averaged 3.0 points per game in the playoffs while shooting 25.0 percent from downtown.
Cleanthony Early could eventually start at small forward in Memphis. It has few better options at the moment.
23. Utah Jazz: SF K.J. McDaniels, Clemson
Junior stats: 17.1 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game.
It isn't ideal to have 33-year-olds start 78 games on rebuilding teams. That's what Richard Jefferson did on the Jazz this year.
Whether Utah rearranges its starting lineup to start Alec Burks alongside Gordon Hayward or not, it needs help on the wing.
24. Charlotte Hornets: PG Shabazz Napier, Connecticut
Senior stats: 18.0 points, 4.9 assists and 1.8 steals per game.
Luke Ridnour will be a free agent this summer. And he could only earn 9.0 minutes of postseason action per game as the backup point guard anyway.
At 22 years old, Shabazz Napier is ready to come in and play for the few minutes Kemba Walker isn't on the floor. He could step into an expanded role after Gary Neal hits free agency in 2015.
25. Houston Rockets: SF T.J. Warren, NC State
Sophomore stats: 24.9 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game.
When an undrafted rookie who played five regular-season games is your second-best bench scorer in the playoffs, you know you're desperate for depth. (That's what Troy Daniels was for the Rockets this postseason).
T.J. Warren may be the only player at this point in the draft capable of cracking Houston's rotation from day one. He'd offer the Rockets instant offense off their bench.
26. Miami Heat: SG C.J. Wilcox, Washington
Senior stats: 18.3 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.0 steals per game.
Ray Allen and Shane Battier are on the wrong side of 35 years old and will be free agents this summer. Even if the Heat re-sign them to short-term deals, they need to be replaced soon.
C.J. Wilcox is the best remaining wing scorer in the class.
27. Phoenix Suns: PF Clint Capela, Switzerland
French LNB Pro A 2013-14 Stats: 9.8 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game.
Phoenix may have missed the playoffs this season, but three first-round picks aren't cracking its rotation as rookies. The Suns would be best served by selecting a prospect like Clint Capela, who could develop overseas for another year or so.
Capela is raw, but 6'11" freak athletes don't grow on trees.
28. Los Angeles Clippers: PF Mitch McGary, Michigan
Sophomore stats: 9.5 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.9 steals per game.
Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe reported Glen Davis will opt out of his contract to become a free agent this summer. If the Clippers can't re-sign him, they'll be left without a single competent big off the bench.
Mitch McGary could be drawing lottery consideration if it weren't for a back injury and yearlong suspension for marijuana use.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: PF Kristaps Porzingis, Latvia
Spanish ACB 2013-14 stats: 6.7 points, 2.7 rebounds and 0.9 blocks per game.
Oklahoma City may be in win-now mode, but most prospects selected in the back-third of the first round can't crack the rotations of win-now teams. The Thunder will get the most bang for their buck by rolling the dice on raw, foreign prospects with high ceilings.
Kristaps Porzingis fits the bill. While his numbers don't impress, the 18-year-old only plays 15 minutes per game.
30. San Antonio Spurs: PF Kyle Anderson, UCLA
Sophomore stats: 14.6 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game.
Boris Diaw will be a free agent this summer. His ability to play point forward off the bench has been vital to the Spurs' success this season.
Kyle Anderson is one of the best point forwards in the class. Like the 6'8" Diaw, the 6'9" Anderson can shoot threes and pass from the 4. He averaged 6.5 assists per game and shot 48.3 percent downtown last season.
David Daniels is a columnist at Bleacher Report and editor at Wade-O Radio.