Prospects sitting atop 2014 NBA mock drafts have more pressure on them than in years past.
Being the chosen one to carry a cellar dweller back to prominence is challenging enough. But they're also drawing comparisons to the 2003 draft class as members LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh compete for their third straight championship.
Here's an updated mock of players who have similar expectations, as unfair as they are.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: C Joel Embiid, Kansas
20 years old, 7'0", 250 pounds
Freshman stats: 11.2 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game.
Grantland's Bill Simmons guarantees Embiid will go first overall. According to ESPN’s Jeff Goodman (Insider subscription needed), Simmons is correct unless the Cavaliers find something wrong with Embiid's back.
The Bucks couldn't find anything wrong with it, according to Andrew Gruman of Fox Sports Wisconsin:
Cleveland is desperate for a center, especially one who can protect the rim. It finished 31st in the NBA in blocks this season. Andrew Bynum led the team in blocks, for crying out loud.
Embiid not only fills a major need, but he also has the most potential in the draft. Centers are also rarer than wings. He's the most logical choice.
Of course, with the Cavaliers, anything illogical can happen (see their recent draft history besides Kyrie Irving).
2. Milwaukee Bucks: SF Jabari Parker, Duke
19 years old, 6'8", 241 pounds
Freshman stats: 19.1 points, 8.1 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game.
According to ESPN's Chad Ford (Insider subscription required), not all teams have Andrew Wiggins higher on their big board than Parker. One of those teams is the Bucks.
Only one Milwaukee player scored more than 12.3 points per game this year. The Bucks aren't a year away from competing for a playoff spot. However, they need someone who can score now if they don't want to win only 15 games again next season.
Parker is more ready to score now than Wiggins is. He's bigger, and he had more production in college due to a superior skill set and basketball IQ. He isn't as gifted defensively as Wiggins, but that's why John Henson and Larry Sanders are there.
3. Philadelphia 76ers: SG Andrew Wiggins, Kansas
19 years old, 6'8", 200 pounds
Freshman stats: 17.1 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game.
Philadelphia's farm sale left it one of the least talented teams in the league. If it nails its two first-round picks, though, it'll boast one of the brightest young cores in the league.
Not only would a core of Wiggins, Michael Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel be promising, but it'd be absolutely explosive athletically. The 76ers' length in the backcourt with a 6'6" point guard and 6'8" shooting guard would also wreak havoc defensively.
Offensively, Wiggins would immediately become one of their go-to scorers. Trading Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes left Philadelphia with only two players who scored more than 13.0 points per game this season.
4. Orlando Magic: PG Dante Exum, Australia
18 years old, 6'6", 196 pounds
U19 World Championships stats: 18.2 points, 3.8 assists and 1.7 steals per game.
Speaking of physically imposing backcourt duos, that's exactly what Exum and Victor Oladipo would be.
Oladipo shouldn't get used to playing alongside Jameer Nelson. He's 32 years old and only has a one-year team option left on his contract. Exum, the consensus top point guard in the draft, would be the perfect successor.
5. Utah Jazz: PF Noah Vonleh, Indiana
18 years old, 6'10", 247 pounds
Freshman stats: 11.3 points, 9.0 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game.
After a recent Vonleh workout, this is what an NBA executive in attendance told Ford (Insider subscription needed): "Vonleh's got elite physical tools and is very skilled. He should be in the same group with Wiggins, Embiid, Parker and [Dante] Exum."
Utah needs a wing more than it needs a power forward. But without a worthy wing available, it must settle for fixing its big-man rotation. Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter both play better at center. Starting them together doesn't work, but then again neither does starting Marvin Williams.
Out of the draft's three top power forwards, Vonleh fits the best here because he's longer than Aaron Gordon, more athletic than Julius Randle and can shoot better than both of them. And with two centers like Favors and Kanter, Utah needs a stretch 4.
6. Boston Celtics: PF Aaron Gordon, Arizona
18 years old, 6'9", 220 pounds
Freshman stats: 12.4 points, 8.0 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game.
Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated used the words “locked in” to describe how sure sources are that Boston will select Gordon. With him, Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley in the same starting lineup, Boston would be one of the most athletic teams in the league.
They'd also be spectacular defensively. Gordon has the most defensive potential in the class thanks to freakish athleticism. At the combine he recorded a 39-inch vertical and was a top performer in the quickness drills, even finishing first in the shuttle run over every guard.
7. Los Angeles Lakers: PF Julius Randle, Kentucky
19 years old, 6'9", 234 pounds
Freshman stats: 15.0 points, 10.4 rebounds and 0.8 blocks per game.
Pau Gasol, like most of the Lakers' roster, will be a free agent this summer. As much as Gasol has been criticized over the past couple of years, his 17.4 points and 9.7 rebounds per game will be difficult to replace should he leave.
Randle is the only post player in the draft who's pro-ready enough to potentially put up comparable numbers as a rookie. His size, tenacity and polished skill set should allow him a seamless transition to the NBA.
8. Sacramento Kings: PG Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State
20 years old, 6'3", 227 pounds
Sophomore stats: 18.0 points, 4.8 assists and 2.9 steals per game.
DeMarcus Cousins, Rudy Gay and Isaiah Thomas account for over 60 percent of the Kings' scoring. That isn't a problem if your best three players are James, Wade and Bosh, but Sacramento's Big Three isn't quite on that level.
Not only do the Kings' need a scorer for more offensive balance, but they might need a scoring point guard, as Thomas will be a free agent this summer.
9. Charlotte Hornets: SG Nik Stauskas, Michigan
20 years old, 6'7", 207 pounds
Sophomore stats: 17.5 points, 3.3 assists and 0.6 steals per game.
Guess how many three-pointers the Bobcats' starting wings nailed this postseason. Think low. Yes, correct, you're a freaking genius: Gerald Henderson and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist combined for zero three-pointers.
If the Hornets want to advance past Round 1 in 2015, they must significantly upgrade their outside shooting. Stauskas hit 44.2 percent of his shots from downtown this year.
10. Philadelphia 76ers: PF Dario Saric, Croatia
20 years old, 6'10", 223 pounds
Croatian A-1 Liga 2013-14 stats: 16.7 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game.
According to Dan Feldman of NBC Sports, Thaddeus Young requested a trade in December. This suggests he'll opt out of his contract next summer, thus creating a need at power forward.
Eurobasket's David Pick reported Saric won't leave Europe in 2014 unless the Celtics or Lakers draft him:
Philadelphia should be willing to wait until 2015. It isn't ready to win right away, and Saric has the most potential left in the draft by far.
11. Denver Nuggets: SG Gary Harris, Michigan State
19 years old, 6'5", 205 pounds
Sophomore stats: 16.7 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game.
Only the 76ers and Lakers surrendered more points than the Nuggets did last season.
Adding Harris, one of if not the best on-ball defender in the draft, would be a smart first step toward solving that problem.
12. Orlando Magic: SF Doug McDermott, Creighton
22 years old, 6'8", 218 pounds
Senior stats: 26.7 points, 7.0 rebounds and 0.2 steals per game.
Orlando finished 25th in the NBA in points per game this season.
Adding McDermott, one of if not the best pure scorers in the draft, would be a smart first step toward solving that problem.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves: SF James Young, Kentucky
18 years old, 6'8", 213 pounds
Freshman stats: 14.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 0.8 steals per game.
Corey Brewer started 81 games for the Timberwolves this season. He hadn't started more than 24 in any of the previous three years.
They could use an upgrade at small forward.
14. Phoenix Suns: PG Zach Lavine, UCLA
19 years old, 6'6", 181 pounds
Freshman stats: 9.4 points, 1.8 assists and 0.9 steals per game.
If the Suns start Gerald Green at the 3, they'll have nothing behind Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe at guard next season.
Lavine, who's one of the best athletes in the draft, can play both guard positions.
15. Atlanta Hawks: PF Adreian Payne, Michigan State
23 years old, 6'10", 239 pounds
Senior stats: 16.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 0.9 blocks per game.
Mike Scott and Elton Brand will be free agents this summer.
The only other big worthy of consideration at No. 15 is Kristaps Porzingis, and Payne is far more pro-ready than he is.
16. Chicago Bulls: PG Tyler Ennis, Syracuse
19 years old, 6'3", 182 pounds
Freshman stats: 12.9 points, 5.5 assists and 2.1 steals per game.
D.J. Augustin will be a free agent this summer.
Ennis, the best pure point guard in the draft, would be a quality change of pace compared to Derrick Rose.
17. Boston Celtics: SG P.J. Hairston, North Carolina
21 years old, 6'5", 229 pounds
Sophomore stats: 14.6 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game.
Kelly Olynyk, with his 35.1 percent three-point shooting, is currently the Celtics' second-best outside shooter under contract for next season.
Hairston shot 39.6 percent from downtown this year.
18. Phoenix Suns: SF Jerami Grant, Syracuse
20 years old, 6'8", 229 pounds
Sophomore stats: 12.1 points, 6.8 rebounds and 0.8 steals per game.
P.J. Tucker will be a free agent this summer.
Phoenix will be incredibly thin on the wings next season if it fails to re-sign him.
19. Chicago Bulls: SG Rodney Hood, Duke
21 years old, 6'9", 208 pounds
Sophomore stats: 16.1 points, 3.9 rebounds and 0.7 steals per game.
The only Bulls who shot over 30 percent from downtown this postseason are 33-year-olds Mike Dunleavy and Kirk Hinrich.
Hood shot 42.0 percent from beyond the arc at Duke.
20. Toronto Raptors: PG Elfrid Payton, Louisiana-Lafayette
20 years old, 6'4", 185 pounds
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.
Toronto needs insurance in case it loses its second- or sixth-best scorer, respectively. It must select the best available point guard here, whether that be Payton or Shabazz Napier.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder: PF Kristaps Porzingis, Latvia
18 years old, 6'11", 220 pounds
Spanish ACB 2013-14 stats: 6.7 points, 2.7 rebounds and 0.9 blocks per game.
According to Ford (subscription needed), Oklahoma City has promised Porzingis that it'll draft him in Round 1.
He's a long, athletic big—as if the Thunder needed more of those.
22. Memphis Grizzlies: SF Cleanthony Early, Wichita State
23 years old, 6'7", 210 pounds
Sophomore stats: 16.4 points, 5.9 rebounds and 0.8 steals per game.
Memphis shot a pitiful 29.0 percent from downtown in the postseason.
Early nailed seven of his 14 three-point attempts in the NCAA Tournament and shot 37.5 percent from deep on the year.
23. Utah Jazz: SF K.J. McDaniels, Clemson
21 years old, 6'6", 195 pounds
Junior stats: 17.1 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game.
Richard Jefferson and Mike Harris will be free agents this summer.
Utah needed an upgrade at the 3 even with them on the roster, but now it's even more desperate for one.
24. Charlotte Hornets: PG Shabazz Napier, Connecticut
22 years old, 6'1", 175 pounds
Senior stats: 18.0 points, 4.9 assists and 1.8 steals per game.
Kemba Walker needs a new backup.
Luke Ridnour will be a free agent this summer and could barely find the floor in the playoffs anyway.
25. Houston Rockets: C Jusuf Nurkic, Bosnia
19 years old, 6'11", 280 pounds
Croatian A-1 Liga 2013-14 stats: 11.1 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game.
The Houston Chronicle's Jonathan Feigen reported that the Rockets are confident in their ability to trade Omer Asik.
If they do deal him, that'd create a huge need behind Dwight Howard for a backup center.
26. Miami Heat: SF T.J. Warren, NC State
20 years old, 6'8", 220 pounds
Sophomore stats: 24.9 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game.
Ray Allen is the only Heat reserve averaging more than 6.1 points per game this postseason.
Miami needs more scoring firepower on its bench, and no one this late in the first round is on Warren's level in that department.
27. Phoenix Suns: PF Clint Capela, Switzerland
20 years old, 6'11", 222 pounds
French LNB Pro A 2013-14 Stats: 9.8 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game.
Three rookies won't be able to crack Phoenix's rotation in Year 1.
With at least one of their three first-round picks, the Suns should take a high-risk, high-reward prospect like Capela.
28. Los Angeles Clippers: PF Mitch McGary, Michigan
21 years old, 6'10", 250 pounds
Sophomore stats: 9.5 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.9 steals per game.
Ryan Hollins will be a free agent this summer, and Glen Davis will join him if he declines his player option.
McGary will add much-needed length to the Clippers' frontcourt, which may not have a single big under contract in a few weeks who isn't named Blake Griffin or DeAndre Jordan.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: PG Jordan Clarkson, Missouri
21 years old, 6'5", 186 pounds
Junior stats: 17.5 points, 3.4 assists and 1.1 steals
Derek Fisher is retiring, and Reggie Jackson will be a free agent next summer.
Oklahoma City needs depth at point guard and insurance if Jackson bolts.
30. San Antonio Spurs: PF Kyle Anderson, UCLA
20 years old, 6'9", 230 pounds
Sophomore stats: 14.6 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game.
Boris Diaw will be a free agent this summer.
No one in this draft besides Dario Saric projects as a better point forward than Anderson.
David Daniels is a columnist at Bleacher Report and editor at Wade-O Radio.
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