As the NBA Finals wind down, the NBA draft represents the first major phase of the offseason's roster construction process. Most teams have already compiled thorough scouting portfolios on all the relevant prospects, meaning that they are simply finalizing opinions at this point.
With just over two weeks until the June 26 draft night, there is still certainly time for those opinions to change. However, with workouts in the rear-view mirror, there is enough buzz circulating that we can begin to a derive each team's intentions.
Though it's nearly impossible to forecast future trades, we can determine which prospects fill each team's biggest needs. Using that "draft-for-need" criteria, here's one first-round scenario that could satisfy each team with a pick on draft night.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Joel Embiid, C, Kansas
2. Milwaukee Bucks: Andrew Wiggins, SG, Kansas
3. Philadelphia 76ers: Jabari Parker, SF, Duke
4. Orlando Magic: Dante Exum, PG, Australia
Though the Cavs currently have 31-year-old center Anderson Varejao under contract, Cleveland will need a long-term replacement for the oft-injured veteran. Joel Embiid may not represent the surest thing in the draft, but he does fulfill a valuable long-term need. If his back checks out medically, it appears he's destined for Cleveland:
#Cavs will obviously want 2C that in person&run their medicall tests.But my source said if Embiid is 100%Cavs would be crazy not 2 draft him— Kenny Roda (@TheKennyRoda) June 3, 2014
Embiid does not need the ball in his hands constantly, something that has caused friction between backcourt starters Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters. The latter may be trade bait as a result, and Embiid would offer a much more tenable contrast in skills for Irving.
That leaves Embiid's collegiate teammate Andrew Wiggins for the Milwaukee Bucks. In truth, any of the remaining "Big Four" prospects would fit Milwaukee just fine, as the Bucks are bereft of talent outside of the frontcourt duo of John Henson and Larry Sanders (if he can put his ornery temperament behind him).
Wiggins has enough holes in his offensive game that he will not be the Bucks' consistent go-to-scorer immediately. But though he may need a few years to realize his ceiling, Wiggins would also provide hope to a staggering franchise.
The Sixers would then be left with Jabari Parker, who would presumably take over the starting three spot after the team finally trades Thaddeus Young. Parker provides the highest floor of the top prospects and could emerge as an immediate go-to scorer in Young's stead. For a team in need of some tangible pro-ready talent to complement the upside of Michael Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel, Parker is the best possible outcome.
Meanwhile, Dante Exum to Orlando looks like one of the surest outcomes of the draft. Experts such as Bleacher Report's Ric Bucher have opined as such, and most mock drafts are following suit:
The much-ballyhooed big backcourt of Exum and Victor Oladipo would certainly cause tremendous headaches for opposing defenses. More importantly, Exum is a better passer and ball-handler than the converted shooting guard Oladipo, creating a backcourt with enough traditional guard skills to complement their slashing ability and athleticism.
5. Utah Jazz: Noah Vonleh, PF, Indiana
6. Boston Celtics: Aaron Gordon, PF, Arizona
7. Los Angeles Lakers: Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State
8. Sacramento Kings: Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky
These next four prospects seem like a relative lock to go between picks No. 5 through 8. Indiana's Vonleh has emerged as the front-runner of the next Big Four, and it appears he could go to Utah with the fifth pick:
Even if Vonleh isn't a starter, FO thinks he can come in and instantly make the Jazz' regular rotation because of rebounding and defense— Tony Jones (@Tjonessltrib) June 5, 2014
Frontcourt isn't the Jazz's biggest need with a pair of young prospects in Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, but neither is a particularly refined offensive player. Vonleh's range and ball-handling would add an entirely different element to Utah's big-man rotation, making him versatile enough to play with either Favors or Kanter.
That would leave Gordon to the Boston Celtics with the next pick. According to SI.com's Chris Mannix, Celtics general manger Danny Ainge is reportedly "locked in" on the Arizona forward, apparently enamored with his athleticism and shot-blocking ability. Gordon has Shawn Marion-like upside but has a long ways to go in terms of developing an all-around offensive arsenal before he reaches that All-Star potential.
The Lakers might want to take the plunge on a Pau Gasol replacement in Randle, but Marcus Smart might be too enticing to pass up. Smart has already worked out for the Lakers, via the team's official Twitter account:
Los Angeles has an exceedingly barren roster, so whoever they pick might simply be trade bait for the Kevin Love sweepstakes. However, Smart is not a bad player to rebuild around, as his size and basketball IQ would make for a more seamless transition to the pros.
The Kings would almost certainly take Randle in this scenario. Considering what they have in DeMarcus Cousins, Randle's post-heavy offense and defensive challenges aren't necessarily the best fit. However, as one of the most pro-ready prospects in the draft, he would at least make for a worthy future trade chip.
9. Charlotte Hornets: Doug McDermott, SF, Creighton
10. Philadelphia 76ers: Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State
11. Denver Nuggets: Dario Saric, SF, Croatia
12. Orlando Magic: Nik Stauskas, SG, Michigan
Creighton's McDermott might not be the flashiest prospect, but his shooting will make him a valuable weapon in a league increasingly predicated upon spacing. It's becoming increasingly clear that the Hornets could take him with the ninth pick they received from the Detroit Pistons:
Charlotte is in desperate need of shooting, as the ex-Bobcats ranked 25th in true shooting percentage during the regular season, per NBA.com. With Michael Kidd-Gilchrist's broken shooting form, McDermott would provide a worthy complement that could finally allow the Hornets to play a tenable lineup with MKG.
With Parker in tow, the Sixers could opt for another pro-ready wingman in Gary Harris. The Michigan State product is one of the few lockdown defenders available, and he also has the potential to become a versatile scorer from anywhere on the floor. Like Parker, he would become an immediate starter in 2014-15.
Croatia's Dario Saric is one of the draft's biggest unknowns, and it's not even clear if he'll come to the league next year. Moreover, Saric is the type of player where team fit is especially critical given his skill set:
Yes but right team critical. Really knows how to play but some deficiencies. But not alone.RT @BPilatzke: Is Saric worthy of a lottery pick?— Fran Fraschilla (@franfraschilla) June 7, 2014
If all pans out, Saric's skilled ball-handling and passing could make for a nice fit in Brian Shaw's uptempo system that relies on ball movement. The Nuggets can afford to have him stay overseas for another year with Danilo Gallinari on the roster, but Saric is undeniably a top talent.
With their second pick, Orlando could select another ball-handler and shooter off the bench. The Magic will have very little backcourt depth if they trade away Jameer Nelson, so Stauskas should be able to fit into the rotation relatively seamlessly.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves: James Young, SF, Kentucky
14. Phoenix Suns: Zach LaVine, PG, UCLA
15. Atlanta Hawks: Adreian Payne, PF, Michigan State
16. Chicago Bulls: Tyler Ennis, PG, Syracuse
The Timberwolves are likely to need an eventual Kevin Love replacement, but if Flip Saunders stays true to his word, then Minnesota will attempt a last-ditch Hail Mary to keep its All-Star power forward. Thus, the T-Wolves might seek to goose their relatively barren wing rotation with Young, whose shooting would provide a significant upgrade at the three over Corey Brewer.
Though the Suns already have a nice two-point guard backcourt in Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe, Zach LaVine is enough of a project that he is not really worth penciling into next season's rotation. However, during a workout with the Lakers, LaVine again reinforced why he is a potential lottery pick:
The Hawks are one of the NBA's most unorthodox teams in that they often employ five stretch shooters on the floor, a style that gave the big Pacers fits in the first round. Payne would add to that element, as the ex-Spartan possesses three-point range that can continue to stretch defenses all over the floor.
Meanwhile, the Bulls might finally want to take out a long-term insurance policy for Derrick Rose. Syracuse's Tyler Ennis is among the most polished passers in the game, and while he's not the same scorer as Rose, he should provide immediate backcourt aid:
"Tyler Ennis is 1 of the most poised players to have entered the Draft in recent memory." Read his Draft Profile here http://t.co/we092fB7iE— Boston Celtics (@celtics) May 30, 2014
Though Chicago got away with scrap-heap signing D.J. Augustin last season, the Bulls should not bank on being so fortunate once again. Ennis is a quality backup point guard and one that could keep Chicago's painfully static offense moving in Rose's absence.
17. Boston Celtics: T.J. Warren, SG, N.C. State
18. Phoenix Suns: Clint Capela, PF, Switzerland
19. Chicago Bulls: Rodney Hood, SG, Duke
20. Toronto Raptors: Cleanthony Early, PF, Wichita State
After selecting a poor shooter at No. 6, the Celtics need to add some quality perimeter shooting. T.J. Warren reminds some of ex-Celtics legend Paul Pierce because of his unorthodox scoring, something Boston has noticed:
Austin Ainge on T.J. Warren: "If you put him on the court he'll find a way to score. I don't think you need to run plays for him."— Boston Celtics (@celtics) June 3, 2014
Warren may not have the athleticism to emerge as a true No. 1 scorer in the NBA, but his precocious feel for the game compensates for his lack of tools. The N.C. State product possesses one of the highest floors among non-lottery picks and should turn into a quality secondary scorer in this league.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Clint Capela is all about upside. The Serge Ibaka comparisons have been rampant, as his elite length and athletic ability could make him a borderline All-Star in a few seasons. The Suns have proven capable at developing young talent, making Capela a potential long-term frontcourt fit.
The Bulls need shooting more than almost any team in the league, something Rodney Hood can certainly provide. The 2-guard had been a black hole in Chicago for a few years, but pairing Hood with Jimmy Butler would suddenly give the Bulls an extremely promising outlook at the position.
The Atlantic Division champion Raptors could need a point guard if Kyle Lowry departs in free agency. However, without knowing Lowry's status, Toronto could opt for Cleanthony Early, who believes he has the range to play small forward in the league:
Cleanthony Early thinks he can play small forward in the NBA. "I always could play the 3, but at Wichita State we lacked the 4 position."— Aaron Falk (@tribjazz) June 8, 2014
Early's jump shot is inconsistent, but as an excellent rebounder and versatile forward, he could add depth behind starters Terrence Ross and Amir Johnson.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder: Elfrid Payton, PG, Louisiana-Lafayette
22. Memphis Grizzlies: Kyle Anderson, SF, UCLA
23. Utah Jazz: K.J. McDaniels, SF, Clemson
24. Charlotte Hornets: Jordan Adams, SG, UCLA
25. Houston Rockets: Jusuf Nurkic, C, Bosnia
Reggie Jackson's breakout campaign could eventually price him out of Oklahoma City once his bargain rookie deal expires after next season. As such, the Thunder might seek his replacement in Elfrid Payton, who has garnered buzz as a potential post-lottery steal:
I like UL-L's Elfrid Payton. One of first to find him but he MUST improve J to be effective in NBA unless he's Rondo--and he MIGHT be!— Fran Fraschilla (@franfraschilla) June 4, 2014
Payton's defense would make him playable next season, even as his scoring needs more refinement.
Kyle Anderson is among the most divisive prospects in this draft, as he is the rare power forward with point guard vision and ball-handling ability. He has a polished mid-range game and rapidly improving three-point shot, so even though his defense needs major work, he could be a fit for the shooting-starved Grizzlies.
After taking Vonleh with the fourth pick, Utah could add to its wing rotation with Clemson's K.J. McDaniels. His jump shot needs major work, but as a potential All-NBA defender, McDaniels should bring immediate value to a Jazz squad that employs a minus defender at small forward in Gordon Hayward.
UCLA's Jordan Adams has gained momentum in recent weeks, enough to potentially vault him into the first round. Most see the ex-Bruin as a pure scorer, but he believes his biggest strength is his intelligence:
"My basketball IQ." - UCLA's Jordan Adams on his strength as a player #SunsDraft Workout— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) June 6, 2014
Adams' deep range should play well in Charlotte, who could double down on offensive upgrades after previously selecting McDermott.
The Rockets could be in need of frontcourt depth if they eventually pull the trigger on an Omer Asik trade. Jusuf Nurkic is not ready to contribute in 2014-15, but it seems like a no-brainer to give Kevin McHale an offensively skilled big man to mold for the future.
26. Miami Heat: Shabazz Napier, PG, UConn
27. Phoenix Suns: P.J. Hairston, SG, North Carolina
28. Los Angeles Clippers: C.J. Wilcox, SG, Washington
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Jerami Grant, PF, Syracuse
30. San Antonio Spurs: Kristaps Porzingis, PF, Latvia
The Heat do not have many needs, and Miami has traditionally eschewed developing young talent. However, Shabazz Napier is the rare prospect who could pique Pat Riley's interest, as the UConn product could fulfill a need if Mario Chalmers departs in free agency:
Mario Chalmers is costing himself a lot of $ so far this post-season. If Napier ever slides to the Heat in the draft, he may be done in MIA.— Joe Casale (@sportsJC16) June 6, 2014
Napier possesses the 2-guard skills the Heat demand from their guards and would add a sorely needed shooter to the Miami supporting cast. With Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis potentially retiring in the near future, Napier could emerge as a critical piece as soon as next season.
P.J. Hairston could be a steal if he falls this low. Hairston comes with maturity issues, but also has the polished all-around scoring ability to contribute immediately. Phoenix would likely look to trade away this pick, though Hairston might be too much value to pass up at this point.
C.J. Wilcox is a relatively simple prospect to dissect, a byproduct of his age and limited skill set. However, his one top-level skill makes him a likely NBA rotation player:
The Clippers could always use more perimeter shooting, especially with J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley suffering through subpar campaigns. Wilcox has enough toughness to be a playable defender as well, potentially allowing Los Angeles to give fewer minutes to the offensively limited Matt Barnes.
The Thunder might try to trade this pick to avoid adding more guaranteed salary for the purposes of salary-cap management. If OKC keeps the pick, though, Jerami Grant would fit the profile of long, explosive athletes that the Thunder have stockpiled. Grant is a bit of a tweener, but if he develops his jump shot, he would be a playable small forward.
Rounding out the first round, Porzingis would be a quintessential San Antonio pick. The Latvian forward possesses a droolworthy combination of athleticism, ball-handling and defensive polish. Though he is only 18 years old, Porzingis could be a player for the Spurs to stash away until the post-Duncan era commences.