Twenty-eight fan bases care more about 2014 NBA mock drafts than finals previews.
Finals previews for anyone other than Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs fans are for entertainment. Mocks for everyone else are about finding the chosen one who will lead their franchise back to the promise land. (Or—in the case of the Los Angeles Clippers, Denver Nuggets, Minnesota Timberwolves, Charlotte Hornets, Memphis Grizzlies, Toronto Raptors and New Orleans Pelicans—to the promise land for the first time).
Here is an updated first-round mock of the best draft class since 2003.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: C Joel Embiid, Kansas
Freshman stats: 11.2 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game.
Measurables: 7'0", 250 pounds
Bill Simmons of Grantland adamantly guarantees Embiid will hear his name called first overall. Jeff Goodman's ESPN report (subscription needed) supports Simmons' claim: Cleveland will draft Embiid if its trainers can't find a problem with his previously injured back.
Diagnoses can vary from training staff to training staff, but Andrew Gruman of Fox Sports Wisconsin reported the Bucks said Emiid looked healthy:
The Cavaliers finished second-to-last in the NBA in blocks during the regular season. They have quality bigs, but they don't have a quality rim protector.
2. Milwaukee Bucks: SF Jabari Parker, Duke
Freshman stats: 19.1 points, 8.7 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game.
Measurables: 6'8", 241 pounds
According to Chad Ford of ESPN (subscription required), Parker is likely higher on the Bucks' big board than Andrew Wiggins . Wiggins, who Ford also reported recorded a 44-inch vertical this spring, has a higher ceiling than Parker (no pun intended).
Parker makes sense here for two reasons. One, he's less risky. Two, he fits better alongside Milwaukee's 2013 first-round pick Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Antetokounmpo is 6'9", 205 pounds. Wiggins is 6'8", 200 pounds—41 pounds less than Parker. Having two lanky wings could be problematic defensively against stronger opponents.
3. Philadelphia 76ers: SG Andrew Wiggins, Kansas
Freshman stats: 17.1 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game.
Measurables: 6'8", 200 pounds
Philadelphia has the easiest decision to make of the top three teams. It just needs to draft whoever's left between Embiid, Parker and Wiggins. Even if the 76ers picked No. 1, though, they'd still choose Wiggins.
Embiid doesn't fill a need because they already have a young, promising center named Nerlens Noel. Wiggins also fits better than Parker because he's a superior defender. Philadelphia surrendered the most points in the league during the regular season.
4. Orlando Magic: PG Dante Exum, Australia
U-19 World Championships Stats: 18.2 points, 3.8 assists and 1.7 steals per game.
Measurables: 6'6", 196 pounds
Jameer Nelson has started at point guard for the Magic since it traded Steve Francis in 2006. However, Nelson is 32 years old and shooting 39.4 percent from the field. Larry Ridley of NBC Orlando reported the Magic will most likely accept his team option:
But that doesn't mean it isn't desperate for a point guard. Exum is the best in the draft at the position.
5. Utah Jazz: PF Noah Vonleh, Indiana
Freshman stats: 11.3 points, 9.0 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game.
Measurables: 6'10", 247 pounds
Utah's greatest need is for a wing scorer. But with Parker and Wiggins gone, no one worthy of the No. 5 pick fits that description. Finding a 4 that fits better alongside Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter than they do each other should be Plan B.
Vonleh makes more sense than Julius Randle and Aaron Gordon because he can spread the floor, having shot 48.5 percent from downtown. Randle and Gordon can't, having shot 16.7 and 35.6 percent downtown, respectively.
6. Boston Celtics: PF Julius Randle, Kentucky
Freshman stats: 15.0 points, 10.4 rebounds and 0.8 blocks per game.
Measurables: 6'9", 234 pounds
Favors and Kanter can't spread the floor. They're both better at center.
Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk can spread the floor. They shoot 4.4 threes a game. Boston needs a center more than it does a power forward, but—without one worthy of selection—it must settle for a 4 who's a go-to scorer in the post.
7. Los Angeles Lakers: PF Aaron Gordon, Arizona
Freshman stats: 12.4 points, 8.0 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game.
Measurables: 6'9", 220 pounds
Philadelphia may have surrendered the most points in the NBA, but Los Angeles isn't far behind. Gordon, arguably the best defender in the draft, would be a perfect first step to fix the Lakers' pitiful defense.
They're also old and slow. Gordon is so athletic that he's been drawing comparisons to Blake Griffin since high school (as absurd as they are). ESPN Stats and Info justified at least comparing them athletically:
8. Sacramento Kings: PG Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State
Sophomore stats: 18.0 points, 4.8 assists and 2.9 steals per game.
Measurables: 6'3", 227 pounds
Isaiah Thomas will be a free agent this summer. But even if the Kings re-sign him, they need more scoring at guard.
Starting 2 Ben McLemore only scored 8.8 points per game and Ray McCallum, their first guard off the bench, only 6.2.
9. Charlotte Hornets: SG Nik Stauskas, Michigan
Sophomore stats: 17.5 points, 3.3 assists and 0.6 steals per game.
Measurables: 6'7", 207 pounds
Power forward Josh McRoberts, who entered the season with 58 three-pointers made in a seven-year career, led Charlotte starters in three-point field-goal percentage during the regular season. He shot 36.1 percent, compared to 34.8 for Gerald Henderson, 33.3 for Kemba Walker and 11.1 for Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
The Bobcats can't shoot from downtown. Stauskas can. He sunk 44.2 percent of his three-point attempts this past season.
10. Philadelphia 76ers: PF Dario Saric, Croatia
Croatian A-1 Liga 2013-14 stats: 16.7 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game.
Measurables: 6'10", 223 pounds
Thaddeus Young can opt out of his contract next summer. According to Dan Feldman of NBC Sports, Young requested a trade in December. If the 76ers don't trade him by 2015 and he still wants out, they'd need a new starting power forward.
Eurobasket's David Pick reported Saric won't leave Europe this year unless two specific teams draft him:
This doesn't mean he won't come in the future for another team, though. Philadelphia is at least another rebuilding year away from a playoff push. It can afford to wait for Saric, who has the highest ceiling of anyone left.
11. Denver Nuggets: SG Gary Harris, Michigan State
Sophomore stats: 16.7 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game.
Measurables: 6'5", 205 pounds
Denver isn't Philadelphia and Los Angeles-bad defensively. But it still surrendered the third-most points in the NBA during the regular season.
Harris is arguably the best on-ball defender in the class.
12. Orlando Magic: SF Doug McDermott, Creighton
Senior stats: 26.7 points, 7.0 rebounds and 0.2 steals per game.
Measurables: 6'7", 218 pounds
Orlando finished in the bottom third of the league in three-pointers made this season. It also finished sixth-worst in overall points per game.
McDermott would help in both departments. He's one of the greatest scorers in college basketball history and shot 44.9 percent from downtown as a senior (a down year for him).
13. Minnesota Timberwolves: SF James Young, Kentucky
Freshman stats: 14.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 0.8 steals per game.
Measurables: 6'8", 213 pounds
Corey Brewer started nearly twice as many games at small forward for the Timberwolves last season than he did his previous three years combined. They can do better.
14. Phoenix Suns: PG Zach LaVine, UCLA
Freshman stats: 9.4 points, 1.8 assists and 0.9 steals per game.
Measurables: 6'6", 181 pounds
At the combine, LaVine recorded a 41.5-inch vertical and was a top performer in every athletic drill. He's a physical freak and can score from anywhere. Only sub-par stats are keeping the 19-year-old from top-10 consideration.
But Russell Westbrook struggled to find the floor his freshman year at UCLA too.
15. Atlanta Hawks: PF Adreian Payne, Michigan State
Senior stats: 16.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 0.9 blocks per game.
Measurables: 6'10", 239 pounds
Mike Scott and Elton Brand will be free agents this summer. Atlanta doesn't necessarily need a stretch 4 with Paul Millsap attempting 2.9 threes a game., but Payne is the best big on the board.
16. Chicago Bulls: PG Tyler Ennis, Syracuse
Freshman stats: 12.9 points, 5.5 assists and 2.1 steals per game.
Measurables: 6'3", 182 pounds
D.J. Augustin will be a free agent this summer. Derrick Rose played 49 games the past two seasons. Not securing a competent backup is a recipe for disaster.
17. Boston Celtics: SG P.J. Hairston, North Carolina
Sophomore stats: 14.6 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game.
Measurables: 6'5", 229 pounds
Boston traded away almost all its shooting guards (see: Jordan Crawford, Courtney Lee and MarShon Brooks). That didn't help its outside shooting (33 percent).
Hairston, who shot 39.6 percent from downtown in his last season in Chapel Hill, will help solve both of those problems.
18. Phoenix Suns: SF Jerami Grant, Syracuse
Sophomore stats: 12.1 points, 6.8 rebounds and 0.8 steals per game.
Measurables: 6'8", 214 pounds
P.J. Tucker will be a free agent this summer. Phoenix doesn't have another natural small forward on its roster.
19. Chicago Bulls: SG Rodney Hood, Duke
Sophomore stats: 16.1 points, 3.9 rebounds and 0.7 steals per game.
Measurables: 6'9", 208 pounds
Jimmy Butler shot 28.3 percent from downtown during the regular season. It's unacceptable to start someone at shooting guard who's that inefficient from beyond the arc without a sniper as a backup. Jimmer Fredette could be that guy, but he didn't play a second in the playoffs.
Hood shot 42.0 percent from downtown last season.
20. Toronto Raptors: PG Elfrid Payton, Louisiana-Lafayette
Junior stats: 19.2 points, 5.9 assists and 2.3 steals per game.
Measurables: 6'4", 185 pounds
Kyle Lowry and Greivis Vasquez will be free agents this summer. Drafting any position other than point guard here is just asking for a catastrophe.
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.
Measurables: 6'11", 280 pounds
Steven Adams will soon replace Kendrick Perkins in the starting lineup. But then the Thunder will need to replace Adams on the bench.
22. Memphis Grizzlies: SF Cleanthony Early, Wichita State
Sophomore stats: 16.4 points, 5.9 rebounds and 0.8 steals per game.
Measurables: 6'7", 210 pounds
Memphis' starting wings combined for 13.0 points per game in the playoffs. It can do better.
23. Utah Jazz: SF K.J. McDaniels, Clemson
Junior stats: 17.1 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game.
Measurables: 6'6", 195 pounds
McDaniels is no Parker, but he fills the same need. Utah started Richard Jefferson, who'll turn 34 years old later this June, 78 games this season. That's too many starts.
24. Charlotte Hornets: PG Shabazz Napier, Connecticut
Senior stats: 18.0 points, 4.9 assists and 1.8 steals per game.
Measurables: 6'1", 175 pounds
Luke Ridnour will be a free agent this summer and Gary Neal the next. Doubling up on guards wouldn't be irrational for the Hornets.
25. Houston Rockets: SF T.J. Warren, NC State
Sophomore stats: 24.9 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game.
Measurables: 6'8", 220 pounds
James Harden averaged 43.8 minutes per game this postseason, the most in the league. He couldn't come off the floor because the Rockets had no competent wing scorers behind him.
26. Miami Heat: SG C.J. Wilcox, Washington
Senior stats: 18.3 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.0 steals per game.
Measurables: 6'5', 195 pounds
Ray Allen and Shane Battier have roamed this planet a combined 73 years. They're also free agents this summer. They may last another one-year contract or two, but they eventually need replaced.
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.
Measurables: 6'11", 222 pounds
Few teams in the NBA suck enough that three rookies will crack their rotation. Phoenix isn't one of them. It should swing for the fences on a prospect it can take the time to develop with its third first-round pick.
28. Los Angeles Clippers: PF Mitch McGary, Michigan
Sophomore stats: 9.5 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.9 steals per game.
Measurables: 6'10", 250 pounds
The Boston Globe's Gary Washburn reported Glen Davis will decline his player option to become a free agent this summer. Ryan Hollins will be a free agent too, leaving not a single big on the Clippers bench.
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.
Measurables: 6'11", 220 pounds
Oklahoma City doesn't need another big. Porzingis is the Thunder's best option, though, because no prospect this late in the draft will crack its rotation and he has the highest ceiling remaining.
30. San Antonio Spurs: PF Kyle Anderson, UCLA
Sophomore stats: 14.6 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game.
Measurables: 6'9", 230 pounds
Boris Diaw is vital to the Spurs' bench because he can play point forward and shoot threes. He'll be a free agent this summer.
Anderson can play point forward (6.5 assists per game) and shoot threes (48.3 percent from downtown). He entered the draft.
David Daniels is a columnist at Bleacher Report and editor at Wade-O Radio.
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