For many teams, the entire 2013-14 season was predicated on scoring a high draft pick to take advantage of what looks to be one of the deepest classes in recent memory.
Those teams will finally be rewarded for a season of suffering on June 26 when the 2014 NBA draft commences. The draft order is officially set, but there is a great deal of uncertainty regarding which players will be held in the highest regard.
Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid and Jabari Parker are names that have been mentioned as potential candidates to go No. 1 overall, however, the Cleveland Cavaliers and those picking behind them have yet to tip their hands.
This promises to be one of the most exciting drafts in quite some time, and it could ultimately be looked back upon as an all-time great class. With that in mind, here is a look at the full first-round draft order along with predictions for where the draft's top prospects will land.
Where: Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York
When: Thursday, June 26 at 7 p.m. ET
First-Round Draft Order
|2014 NBA Draft First-Round Order|
|7||Los Angeles Lakers|
|9||Charlotte Hornets (from DET)|
|10||Philadelphia 76ers (from NO)|
|12||Orlando Magic (from NY via DEN)|
|16||Chicago Bulls (from CHA)|
|17||Boston Celtics (from BKN)|
|18||Phoenix Suns (from WAS)|
|21||Oklahoma City Thunder (from DAL via HOU & LAL)|
|23||Utah Jazz (from GS)|
|24||Charlotte Hornets (from POR)|
|27||Phoenix Suns (from IND)|
|28||Los Angeles Clippers|
|29||Oklahoma City Thunder|
|30||San Antonio Spurs|
Where Top Prospects Will Land
Although Kansas' Andrew Wiggins entered his freshman season with the Jayhawks as the odds-on favorite to become the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft, that status is very much in question. The dynamic Canadian got off to something of a slow start in his freshman season, but he got stronger as the season went on and ended the year with some huge performances.
With teammate and fellow draft prospect Joel Embiid on the shelf, Wiggins really stepped up for Kansas head coach Bill Self and shouldered much of the scoring load. Wiggins had a 41-point effort against West Virginia followed by a 30-point game against Oklahoma State in which he really flashed his true potential.
Wiggins also had a penchant for disappearing at inopportune times, though, including Kansas' NCAA tournament loss to Stanford in which Wiggins scored just four points. That type of effort is what could prevent him from being the top selection. According to Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com, it is a major concern of at least one anonymous NBA front-office executive.
Wiggins has had smoke blown (at him), for so long, I don't know that he really looks at every possession as being critical anymore. And it probably isn't. He's probably right. But I have a hard time (when I watch) him disappear. Biggest game of the year and he didn't do anything. Those things bug me. That's not to say he isn't going to be a great player. But it's a bit of a character question mark for me.
When Wiggins is on his game, though, there is no better or more talented player in this draft.
Wiggins may not be the next LeBron James, but he is the closest thing to it. The Cavs can't afford to pass up that type of player having already lost the real LeBron, so they'll roll the dice a bit and bank on Wiggins living up to the hype.
Perhaps no prospect in the entire 2014 draft is more polarizing that Kansas center Joel Embiid. There is no doubt that he has elite talent along with the ability to be a game-changer on both ends of the floor. At the same time, though, his durability is a concern after a back injury caused him to miss the latter part of his freshman season.
Embiid is seemingly recovered from that ailment, but back issues can creep up at any time, especially when it comes to a 7-footer like Embiid. When he is on the court, however, the native of Cameroon is a dominant force.
The well-rounded big man averaged over 11 points, eight rebounds and nearly three blocks per game last season despite the fact that he only played 23 minutes per contest. Embiid has really only scratched the surface as far as his potential is concerned and there are talent evaluators who believe he can reach incredible heights in the NBA, according to Tony Jones of the Salt Lake Tribune:
Embiid is definitely a risk-reward player, but it is tough to imagine the Milwaukee Bucks letting him slip past No. 2. The Bucks have a lot of post players on their roster currently, but none of them measure up to Embiid's talent.
Milwaukee needs a franchise player who the fans can get excited about, and Embiid fits the bill.
It can be argued that no freshman enjoyed a more productive 2013-14 season than Duke forward Jabari Parker. There were huge expectations on his shoulders, but he lived up to them in a major way as he became the Blue Devils' go-to player while averaging 19 points and nearly nine rebounds per game.
Like Wiggins, though, Parker struggled on the big stage.
In Duke's shocking Round of 64 loss to Mercer in the NCAA tournament, Parker was essentially nonexistent as he shot worse than 30 percent from the field. It isn't fair to judge a player's worth based on one game, though, and there is no question that Parker is an elite talent.
Not only does Parker have the overall production that NBA teams look for, he also passes the eye test. Per Sam Amico of Fox Sports Ohio, talent evaluators were thoroughly impressed with the skill set Parker displayed in a recent workout:
Performing in a showcase and doing so in an NBA game are obviously two totally different things, but Parker has all the qualities that NBA teams look for in a superstar.
The Philadelphia 76ers, who will select No. 3 overall, already have an exciting nucleus of young players. With Nerlens Noel at center and Michael Carter-Williams at guard, the Sixers could use a promising forward.
Parker is perhaps the best fit Philly could possibly hope for and there is no way that it will let him slide if Wiggins and Embiid are already off the board.
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