2014 NBA Mock Draft: Predicting Every Pick of Round 1 in Early June
With around three weeks to go until the 2014 NBA draft, most prospects are currently auditioning for multiple teams per week. Organizations will continue to work out and interview guys until June 26, though it's tough to get any legitimate info regarding how each of the top players fared.
Obviously, teams have nothing to gain by revealing who they liked versus who they didn't.
Expect to hear plenty of rumors over the next few weeks, with most of them likely manufactured or leaked by clubs looking to blow some smoke.
Team needs, along with each prospect's NBA potential, were taken into account when deciding how we project the draft to play out.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Joel Embiid, Kansas, 7'0", C, Freshman
Joel Embiid will allow the Cleveland Cavaliers to take a look at his back, with the hopes that a clean report will trigger a promise at No. 1, per ESPN.com's Andy Katz.
Whether he gets that promise or not, a clean bill of health should result in Embiid going first, especially if the Cavaliers keep the pick.
This team needs a game-changer in the lineup. And they need one quickly. If adding a veteran like Luol Deng to the wing couldn't make this team a threat, it would be hard to imagine Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker being able to do it as rookies.
Not only does Embiid have the highest long-term upside, but his size, length and instincts should translate immediately on defense. Anderson Varejao blocked 39 shots last year. Tristan Thompson blocked 35 in 82 games.
Embiid gives Cleveland an anchor in the middle, a go-to option for offense and a potential top-shelf rim-protector.
As long as doctors clear him, Embiid has to be the favorite.
2. Milwaukee Bucks: Jabari Parker, Duke, 6'8", SF/PF, Freshman
If I'm the Bucks, I like the fact that not only is Parker a safe yet high-reward option, but his ability to play inside complements Giannis Antetokounmpo's preference for the perimeter.
Wiggins and Antetokounmpo are two similarly skinny, unpolished wings who occupy the same spots on the floor. Both of their outlooks are tied to potential, and potential is uncertain.
Parker gives Milwaukee a guaranteed building block and the bigger impact player in 2014-15. And let's be honest: The Bucks haven't been relevant in a while.
But he shouldn't just be the favorite here because he's NBA-ready; it's because he still offers All-Star upside as a highly skilled 6'8" face-up or post-up scorer.
Brandon Knight, Larry Sanders, John Henson—these are nice players. But franchise cornerstones? Parker gives Milwaukee its first without a question or red flag.
3. Philadelphia 76ers: Andrew Wiggins, Kansas, 6'8", SF, Freshman
The Andrew Wiggins-Philadelphia 76ers match sounds too good to be true.
Wiggins gives the Sixers a high-upside scorer and defender in between Michael Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel. And given his elite-level athleticism, he plays to the strengths of a team that finished No. 1 in the NBA in pace last year.
The Sixers give Wiggins a place where he can develop as a go-to guy without the pressure or need to produce. This team isn't going anywhere. Wiggins should have a good two years to fine-tune his game and build up his confidence.
The Sixers are taking one of the Big Three: Embiid, Parker or Wiggins. But I'd be willing to bet it's Wiggins who's atop their board.
4. Orlando Magic: Dante Exum, Australia, 6'6", PG/SG, 1995
The thought process here is simple and obvious—with the Big Three off the board, Dante Exum fills a need for the Orlando Magic at the point while offering the highest upside of any prospect left on the board.
That upside is driven by his 6'6" size, playmaking instincts, potent scoring attack and defensive potential.
Exum has remained adamant about taking on full-time point guard duties in the pros, and in Orlando he'd likely get that green light.
Between Exum and Victor Oladipo, we could be looking at one of the more explosive two-way backcourts in the league some day.
5. Utah Jazz: Noah Vonleh, Indiana, 6'9", PF, Freshman
Unless the Utah Jazz trade the pick or can move into the top four, they will likely be operating in best-player-available mode.
We've had Noah Vonleh on our board as the No. 5 prospect for the majority of the season, and based on Utah's alternative options, you could argue he's also the best fit for the franchise.
The Jazz went 3-34 when Enes Kanter started last year. When Derrick Favors and Trey Burke started with Kanter on the bench, they finished 22-23, per Adi Joseph of USA Today.
That's a pretty wild and possibly telling stat.
Unlike Kanter, Vonleh can actually play away from the rim, where he hit 16 of 33 three-point attempts as a freshman at Indiana.
Vonleh, just 18 years old, led the Big Ten in rebounding. Given Utah's lengthier rebuilding timetable, it can afford to wait on his tremendous offensive upside.
6. Boston Celtics: Aaron Gordon, Arizona, 6'9", PF, Freshman
At No. 6, the Boston Celtics likely miss out on all their primary targets. But if they can't move the pick, Aaron Gordon would make plenty of sense as an indirect target.
For starters, you won't find many better athletes at 6'9". And with a frontcourt consisting of Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk, Gordon gives Boston a much-needed injection of above-the-rim athleticism.
He's also the most versatile defender in the draft—Gordon has the size and length to man the post and the foot speed to defend the perimeter. He's a high-IQ guy who plays with energy, something coach Brad Stevens and general manager Danny Ainge both likely admire.
With Gordon, we're talking about the youngest prospect in the draft (born Sept. 16, 1995). And Boston can afford to wait a couple of years on his two-way upside.
7. Los Angeles Lakers: Julius Randle, Kentucky, 6'9", PF, Freshman
You have to think the Los Angeles Lakers are looking for that balance between NBA-ready and upside, which leads to Julius Randle at No. 7.
At 6'9", 250 pounds, Randle can immediately provide that physical presence in the paint as a scorer and rebounder. But given his athleticism, ball skills and instincts around the rim, he has big-time offensive potential.
Randle will ultimately need to develop a jumper to maximize that potential. Either way, he's a double-double waiting to happen, whether that jumper comes around or not.
8. Sacramento Kings: Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State, 6'3", PG/SG, Sophomore
Marcus Smart needs to be atop the Sacramento Kings' wish list, given his passing instincts and defensive potential. Isaiah Thomas can certainly play, but you might be able to maximize his strengths and minimize his weaknesses in a "spark" role off the bench.
Smart, who stands 6'3", 227 pounds, gives you a tough, physical backcourt presence at both ends of the floor.
"There’s a lot to like about Marcus Smart," Kings assistant general manager Mike Bratz told Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee. "Having lived in Texas the last 14 years, I’m very aware of him. He’s a very, very impressive kid. Physically tough. Mentally tough. And skilled. You don’t see many kids like him come out."
Between his NBA-readiness and ability to fill a need, Smart makes too much sense for the Kings if he slips to No. 8.
9. Charlotte Hornets: James Young, Kentucky, 6'7", SG/SF, Freshman
With Gerald Henderson and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist the cornerstones at the wing, the Charlotte Hornets desperately need a knockdown shooter.
At 6'7" with a 7'0" wingspan and above-average athleticism, James Young could play either the 2 or 3 while offering a dangerous outside stroke and a crafty drive-and-slash game.
Given his physical tools and shot-making ability, he's a safe pick. And as one of the youngest prospects in the field at 18, he also packs that lottery upside.
10. Philadelphia 76ers (via N.O.P.): Nik Stauskas, Michigan, 6'6", SG, Sophomore
With Michael Carter-Williams, Nerlens Noel and now Andrew Wiggins (or even with Jabari Parker), the Philadelphia 76ers need a shooter and shot-maker.
Cue Nik Stauskas, arguably the deadliest sniper in the field. And at 6'6" with decent hops and athleticism, there's no reason to believe he can't get his shot off in the pros.
Stauskas also improved his off-the-dribble game dramatically. He got to the line 204 times, and with excellent vision and feel for the game, he averaged 3.3 assists as well.
The Sixers got their upside prospect in the top three. At No. 10, they might want to target a sure thing like Stauskas, who offers some valuable offensive strengths almost guaranteed to translate.
11. Denver Nuggets: Zach LaVine, UCLA, 6'6", SG, Freshman
He's in that conversation for most explosive athlete in the draft. And with 6'6" size, a combo guard's handle and a 2-guard's scoring attack, Zach LaVine could provide the Nuggets with a much-needed injection of offensive firepower.
He also gives them upside, something not offered by Randy Foye or Evan Fournier—the team's two shooting guards.
LaVine might need a few years of fine-tuning, but there isn't a player available at No. 11 who's good enough to put Denver over the top. In the meantime, LaVine's showtime athleticism and shot-making ability should translate to a few buckets a night.
Bleacher Report's Kevin Ding (h/t Kyle Newport) tweeted this Wednesday: "With a three/four-step lead-up, UCLA's Zach LaVine had a 46" vertical here at his Lakers workout."
12. Orlando Magic: Dario Saric, Croatia, 6'10", SF/PF, 1994
After getting Dante Exum at No. 4, the Orlando Magic pretty much have a solid prospect or young talent at every position on the floor.
Nobody left would be an immediate upgrade over Victor Oladipo, Arron Afflalo, Tobias Harris or Nikola Vucevic.
That's why Dario Saric makes sense as a draft-and-stash option. He's a top-10 talent, and with Orlando not expected to compete in 2014-15, it might as well let Saric continue seasoning abroad with heavy high-level minutes.
He's putting up some monster numbers overseas (16.9 points, 9.3 rebounds, 3.4 assists). With their second pick in the lottery, the Magic can afford to make an out-of-the-box move on the Croatian mismatch.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves: Kristaps Porzingis, Latvia, 7'0", C, 1995
At No. 13, there probably isn't anyone available who's good enough to get the Minnesota Timberwolves over that hump in 2015. And with a Kevin Love trade bound to go down, the Wolves will likely have to take a step back by acquiring draft picks and untested talent.
That's why Minnesota should think about the future here and draft-and-stash overseas. Kristaps Porzingis has been a hot name abroad after surprising many by declaring for the NBA draft at just 18 years old.
Though young, he's gotten good experience playing in the Spanish ACB. I've tuned in to each of his last few games, and though his touches and scoring chances have been limited, he makes a play every now and then that highlights his upside as a skilled, athletic 7-footer who can operate away from the rim.
ESPN's Chad Ford has reported (subscription required) that the Oklahoma City Thunder have given Porzingis a promise at No. 21, but then added it's possible someone could snag him before then.
We've seen interest spread before. If the Thunder are interested, chances are they're not alone. Whether the promise is true, there's no doubt teams are fully aware of Porzingis' potential.
With Croatia's Dario Saric off the board and Bosnia's Jusuf Nurkic a replica of Nikola Pekovic, Porzingis makes sense for Minnesota as a prospect it can groom into its future starting power forward.
14 . Phoenix Suns: Doug McDermott, Creighton, 6'7", SF, Senior
Doug McDermott could be a strong addition for a team in need of NBA-ready offense and shot-making.
Given the Suns' ball-dominant backcourt, McDermott, whose ability to play without the ball separates him as a scorer, should be a welcoming complement at the wing or stretch-4 position.
At No. 14 overall, there's no need to get caught up with regard to measuring McDermott's upside. He's got a few strengths as an offensive weapon that you just can't teach and traits guaranteed to translate in a supporting role at the least.
15. Atlanta Hawks: Kyle Anderson, UCLA, 6'9", PG/SF, Sophomore
You just get the feeling that someone is going to reach on Kyle Anderson's unheard of versatility. And why not the Atlanta Hawks, a team that could use an upgrade on the wing?
Anderson already worked out for the Hawks, and he told SNY's Adam Zagoria, "It went really well. I think I played as well as I could and I enjoyed it."
He must have played well, because Atlanta invited him back for a second workout, per Zagoria.
The Hawks finished No. 2 in the NBA in assists last year, and given Anderson's strengths as a facilitator and passer, he plays to Atlanta's identity.
16. Chicago Bulls: Gary Harris, Michigan State, 6'4", SG, Sophomore
Gary Harris offers nice value in the mid-first round, particularly for the Chicago Bulls, a team that could use some NBA-ready offense and a 2-guard. Chicago gets both in Harris, who played two years at Michigan State in a full-time role, having averaged 16.7 points per game as a sophomore.
At 6'2.5" in socks, Harris is slightly undersized for a guard who plays strictly off the ball, but where he suffers physically, he makes up for with fundamentals. He knows how to score without the ball, and he can knock down shots under pressure.
Between Mike Dunleavy and Tony Snell, Harris might even be able to compete for a starting job as a rookie in Chicago.
17. Boston Celtics (via Brooklyn): Jusuf Nurkic, Bosnia, 6'11", C, 1994
At No. 17, few prospects offer more upside than Bosnia's Nurkic, who, at 6'11", 280 pounds, is practically immovable in the paint yet light on his feet.
And though Nurkic's appeal stems from his long-term potential, he's actually put up big numbers consistently throughout the year, having led the Adriatic League with a 35.2 player efficiency rating, per DraftExpress.
Much bigger than Jared Sullinger and over 40 pounds stronger than Kelly Olynyk, Nurkic's two-way ceiling soars above those of Boston's current centers.
With the Celtics looking at a multiyear rebuilding process, they can afford to wait on the reward that Nurkic might offer down the road.
18. Phoenix Suns: Clint Capela, Switzerland, 6'11", PF/C, 1994
Clint Capela recently worked out for the Phoenix Suns, a team that has three picks in the first round and the ability to gamble with one of them.
Although at 6'11" with a massive 7'4" wingspan and effortless hops and athleticism, I'm not sure there's much risk involved at all.
Capela doesn't offer offense except for finishes off cuts, dump passes, lobs and offensive rebounds. But he's got excellent hands and unteachable length, which he uses to defend, rebound and score at awkward interior angles.
"(Capela) snagged a couple of passes that were maybe a little behind him that maybe a big doesn’t grab," coach Jeff Hornacek told Kevin Zimmerman of Valley of the Suns. "Maybe it’s the length of his arms, maybe it was his strong hands. That was impressive."
General manager Ryan McDonough also chimed in on Capela, saying, "I think the competition level there is as good or better than high-major college basketball. He’s playing against men. I think, if anything, that probably helps him."
Between his motor, mobility, athleticism and defensive potential, Capela would seem like a nice fit in Phoenix's frontcourt. It just might take a few seasons before he's able to contribute.
19. Chicago Bulls: Rodney Hood, Duke, 6'8", SF, Sophomore
Rodney Hood would be a tremendous get for the Chicago Bulls with their second first-round pick. He brings an NBA-ready skill set to the table for a team that could use his particular set of skills.
At 6'8", Hood could step right in and offer a lethal three-point stroke to go with excellent size for the position. He's a refined offensive player with the versatility to score off two feet inside the arc or finish on the move with runners and floaters.
He doesn't offer much defensive resistance, but he'd give Chicago a much-needed shot-maker with size on the wing.
20. Toronto Raptors: Tyler Ennis, Syracuse, 6'2", PG, Freshman
The Canadian connection is an obvious plus, but at No. 20 Tyler Ennis just might be the top prospect on the board.
He also gives the Raptors some flexibility and backcourt relief in case Kyle Lowry commands too much money or leaves in free agency.
Without many teams in immediate need of a point guard, it's possible Ennis slips in this year's first round. Though, it wouldn't be surprising to see someone attempt to trade up and grab him.
But if Ennis does fall, I wouldn't expect him to slide past Toronto 20 picks deep.
21. OKC Thunder (via Dallas): Elfrid Payton, Louisiana-Lafayette, 6'4", PG
With Derek Fisher and Thabo Sefolosha likely out the door, and Reggie Jackson having taken on more of a scoring role, Elfrid Payton would be a terrific addition to the Oklahoma City Thunder backcourt.
At 6'4", he gives it more size and athleticism, along with some pretty impressive playmaking instincts off the dribble. He's also an excellent defender.
Payton is making his workout rounds right now, where he's competing against high-profile prospects he didn't get a chance to play against in the Sun Belt Conference. If he's able to show a few of them up, there's a chance he might not even be here at No. 21 for the Thunder.
22. Memphis Grizzlies: P.J. Hairston, Texas Legends, 6'5", SG
P.J. Hairston would be a fitting pickup for the Memphis Grizzlies, a team that doesn't get much offense from the 2-guard position.
Hairston should ultimately be one of the more NBA-ready prospects, considering he spent two years at North Carolina and one in the NBA D-League.
At 6'5", he's physical, athletic and dangerous from outside. Only three teams scored fewer points per game last year than Memphis. The Grizzlies could certainly use a shot-maker and scorer like Hairston in the lineup.
23. Utah Jazz (via Golden State): T.J. Warren, North Carolina State, 6'8", SF
The Utah Jazz could use an offensive punch in the lineup, and with the NCAA's third-leading scorer on the board, they should look to pull the trigger.
There's not much flash or upside tied to his game, but Warren just knows how to get himself buckets. Whether it's a runner off one foot, a pull-up off two or a layup on the break, he's able to make shots in a variety of different ways from every angle on the floor.
And at 6'8", he's got great size, a strong frame and plenty of mobility to play small forward.
24. Charlotte Hornets (via Portland): Adreian Payne, Michigan State, 6'10", PF
Adreian Payne could be like last year's Mason Plumlee, who slipped into the 20s with his age and limited upside likely to blame.
That would be good news for a team like the Charlotte Hornets, who could really use an NBA-ready body like Payne to bang inside and stretch the floor as a shooter.
Whether his offensive game continues to grow or not, he'll always have that sweet outside stroke to go with a 6'10" frame built for contact.
25. Houston Rockets: Jordan Adams, UCLA, 6'5", SG, Sophomore
Without a true backup 2-guard behind James Harden, Jordan Adams can fill an immediate need as a scorer off the bench in Houston. He's got unteachable offensive instincts (averaged 17.4 points on 48.5 percent shooting without much hops or athleticism), along with a strong 6'5", 209-pound frame and 6'10" wingspan.
Adams improved his shooting numbers this season, and he continued robbing opposing ball-handlers (168 steals in two years) with his long arms and active hands.
He lacks burst, which likely limits his upside, but Adams' physical tools and scoring instincts should translate in a supporting scoring role.
26. Miami Heat: Shabazz Napier, Connecticut, 6'1", PG, Senior
With Mario Chalmers entering free agency in the prime of his career, the Miami Heat might have to think about adding another point guard to the roster.
Having won two national titles, one as a role player and one as a star, over a four-year span, Shabazz Napier gives the Heat an NBA-ready playmaker.
He's got the confidence one usually needs to be able to command an NBA offense. And few are slicker off the dribble than Napier, who can create and make things happen as a drive-and-disher or pick-and-roll facilitator.
The fact that he's an excellent shooter should seal the deal. If Miami has any fear of Chalmers bolting, and Napier is on the board, he has to be a target in the late first round.
27. Phoenix Suns (via Indiana): K.J. McDaniels, Clemson, 6'6", SF, Junior
I wouldn't bet on the Phoenix Suns keeping all three of their first first-round picks, but if they hold on to No. 27 and K.J. McDaniels is on the board, he'd be a tough prospect to pass on.
McDaniels is an explosive athlete, who at 6'6" led the ACC in blocks per game, which highlights his above-the-rim presence and instincts.
If he ever ends up improving as a shooter, and this is where he's drafted, we'll probably be referring to McDaniels as a steal in the 2014 draft.
28. Los Angeles Clippers: Jerami Grant, Syracuse, 6'8", SF/PF, Sophomore
Jerami Grant doesn't have a position, without the skill set of a 3 (doesn't shoot, handle or create) or the size and inside game as a 4.
ESPN's Fran Fraschilla added, per Mike Waters of Syracuse.com, "The thing that worried me on tape, and then I checked the numbers, he wasn't in the top 100 in offensive or defensive rebounding ratio."
But Grant does have exceptional length and explosive athleticism. And in a role that allows him to play to his strength as a finisher and slasher, Grant will have a better shot at succeeding.
The Los Angeles Clippers do a pretty nice job of maximizing the athleticism in their lineup.
He has to improve his ball skills and shooting ability—he didn't hit one three-pointer as a sophomore—but Grant's eye-opening physical tools are worth targeting this late.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Thanasis Antetokounmpo, Delaware 87ers, 6'6", SF
After playing Thabo Sefolosha just eight minutes over the last four games of their playoffs, it would seem fair to assume the Oklahoma City Thunder will let him walk in free agency.
They could look at Thanasis Antetokounmpo as a replacement, given his athleticism, length and valuable defensive versatility. He has the physical tools (athleticism, length, quickness) to guard up to three positions, along with that in-your-grill approach that can fluster an opponent.
His offensive game needs work, but as a defensive specialist to start his career, Antetokounmpo could hold value late in the first round.
30. San Antonio Spurs: Jordan Clarkson, Missouri, 6'5", PG/SG, Junior
Jordan Clarkson really aces the eye test for a ball-handler. He immediately stood out at the combine, where he was paired with the point guards, following a year in which he fueled Missouri's offense as its primary playmaker.
At 6'5" with smooth athleticism, he's a tough cover off the dribble—Clarkson has the shiftiness to shake and bake, the size to finish inside and the instincts to set up teammates.
In San Antonio, he could step in as Patty Mills' replacement, only he offers a bit more upside.