With just hours remaining before NBA commissioner Adam Silver steps to the podium to announce the commencement of the 2014 NBA draft, many selections still appear up in the air.
Andrew Wiggins remains the best player in the draft, but will the Cleveland Cavaliers go in another direction? Which of the Big Three prospects will fall to No. 3 overall? Will Dante Exum be the first guard selected despite never playing a college game in the U.S.?
All of those questions and more will be answered on Thursday night as the NBA draft officially begins. Before the selection process officially gets underway, here's a look at the latest projections for the entire first round.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Andrew Wiggins, SG/SF, Kansas
After making a pick last season that was completely off the radar, the Cavaliers will go with the surefire No. 1 prospect in this year's class.
Andrew Wiggins is the most talented, but the Cavaliers also have a need at the center position. But after the team was gifted with the No. 1 pick yet again, Sam Amico of Fox Sports believes the Cavs will go with Wiggins:
Not only did he prove his worth at the college level, but he also has the most upside of any player in the draft. With potential that could make him even more talented at the NBA level, look for him to shine alongside Kyrie Irving for years to come in Cleveland.
2. Milwaukee Bucks: Jabari Parker, SF/PF, Duke
There is a chance Parker could overtake Wiggins at No. 1, and the Milwaukee Bucks will gladly snatch up whichever top prospect is available.
Unlike Embiid and Wiggins, the former Duke forward appears to be a nearly finished product already. Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com provides analysis of the explosive player:
Parker does not appear to have the ceiling that Wiggins does, but he is more NBA ready. Parker has an offensive game that should make him the early favorite to win Rookie of the Year. He might make more sense for the Sixers than Wiggins does, as he possesses a better offensive game and his questionable defense should not be an issue with Michael Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel there to help out.
Given a chance to shine on an otherwise underwhelming Bucks team, Parker might just be the front-runner for Rookie of the Year next season.
3. Philadelphia 76ers: Dante Exum, PG/SG, Australia
When it comes to mystery men in the NBA draft, there is no better example than Dante Exum.
On a team with Michael Carter-Williams already at the point, Exum can play off the ball with the Philadelphia 76ers. One Eastern Conference scout drew comparisons between Exum and Carter-Williams, per Baxter Holmes of The Boston Globe:
He’s long, athletic, he knows how to play. I think his biggest thing will be getting stronger and shooting. I think he’s athletic, but it’s interesting, because he covered [Andrew] Wiggins a couple times at that [Hoops Summit] event, and he did OK.
... I think he’s probably more athletic than [Michael] Carter-Williams, but I don’t know if he has Carter-Williams’s feel as a point guard. But he’s definitely a player. He’s one of those guys — just draft his talent and let the coach figure it out.
The 6'6" guard has shown impressive ball-handling skills along with an ability to score at will on the international stage. He also made a big splash at the combine, all but securing a top-five selection in the draft.
4. Orlando Magic: Noah Vonleh, PF, Indiana
There's a great debate raging over who is the best power forward in this year's class, but it appears Noah Vonleh has the edge heading into Thursday night.
While he didn't make a lot of waves last season with an underwhelming Indiana team, the big man was able to show off his talent in the Hoosiers frontcourt. Paired with a healthy Nikola Vucevic and Victor Oladipo, Vonleh will have a chance to succeed right away with the Orlando Magic this coming season.
5. Utah Jazz: Aaron Gordon, PF, Arizona
The Utah Jazz don't need to take the gamble on Embiid with Derrick Favors clogging up the middle, so they will get one of the most athletic big men in the class. After Vonleh goes off the board, Gordon will be selected just a spot ahead of the Boston Celtics, who highly coveted the Arizona product.
6. Boston Celtics: Joel Embiid, C, Kansas
One team's loss is another's gain.
With the Boston Celtics in full rebuild mode, they have plenty of time to develop Embiid for the future. As talented as he is, there are several question marks about his health.
It might take a few years before this pick winds up looking brilliant, but Boston will pique the interest of its fanbase by bringing in the 7'0" center.
7. Los Angeles Lakers: Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State
This one just makes too much sense for the Los Angeles Lakers not to pull the trigger. Marcus Smart is a flashy point guard who can help lead the abysmal Lakers back to relevance in the coming years.
While there might be some interest in taking Aaron Gordon as insurance if a Kevin Love deal doesn't work out, Smart simply fits for the Lakers. He can lead the point, drive and play great defense—three aspects that were lacking for the Lakers last season.
8. Sacramento Kings: Elfrid Payton, PG, Louisiana-Lafayette
Already equipped with DeMarcus Cousins at center, adding Elfrid Payton gives the team strength down low and athleticism outside to contend with any team. Though he's still somewhat raw coming out of Louisiana-Lafayette, there is no questioning he has potential to shine at the NBA level.
9. Charlotte Hornets: Doug McDermott, SF/PF, Creighton
The Charlotte Hornets were gifted the No. 9 pick in the draft and will take a versatile player with scoring ability. After selecting Michael Kidd-Gilchrist with the No. 2 pick in the 2012 draft, the Hornets will go with a player who has a slightly better scoring touch.
Doug McDermott shined for Creighton as one of the best college basketball players in the country, but there are questions about his athleticism and quickness. Thanks to a smooth stroke and an already explosive teammate in Kemba Walker, McDermott will succeed at the NBA level in Charlotte.
10. Philadelphia 76ers: Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky
This literally couldn't have gone any better for the Sixers. After adding an elite ball-handler and shooter to go alongside MCW, Philly will look to Julius Randle for the future in the paint.
He offers an old-school game that can translate to nearly any frontcourt in the NBA. He spoke about his game with Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders:
I think my versatility [separates me from other power forward prospects]. We’re all athletic and fast, but I think my versatility – being able to shoot the ball, handle the ball really well, having the intangibles to guard on the defensive end even and I’m still getting a lot better at that – I just think my versatility separates me from a lot of people.
Possible questions about his health might hinder his stock, but the Sixers won't allow him to fall outside of the top 10. With a squad that is already young at nearly every position, the City of Brotherly Love might finally have a team it can stand behind.
11. Denver Nuggets: Nik Stauskas, SG, Michigan
Likely one of the best pure shooters in college basketball last season, Nik Stauskas will bring his outstanding scoring prowess to the NBA. While the Denver Nuggets have quite a few holes to fill after last season, adding an outstanding scoring threat like Stauskas will alleviate some of the offensive woes.
12. Orlando Magic: Rodney Hood, SG/SF, Duke
After making the selection to add Exum alongside Oladipo, the Magic will once again look for a scoring presence. The versatility that Rodney Hood brings to the NBA level makes him a perfect fit in Orlando.
Along with his offensive ability, Hood also believes he can be a great defensive player, per Mark Remme of Timberwolves.com: “It’s something I’ve got to continue to show,” Hood said. “During the season, I guard the best player. And I think it’s kind of overblown about that, but it’s something that I’m very capable of doing and I’m willing to show—I’m willing to show to increase my stock.”
With the possibility of Arron Afflalo leaving Orlando, per Zach Harper of CBS Sports, Hood could plug in at the small forward position. Following a season where he played beside Parker at Duke, Hood has also shown the ability to be a backup at the 2-guard as well.
Given Hood's talents at either position, the Magic could have yet another potential star for the future.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves: Dario Saric, SF/PF, Croatia
Much like Exum, Dario Saric comes in as a slightly unknown commodity. But after proving his ability to scouts over the last year internationally, the big man will make the leap to the NBA with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Garry Parrish of CBS Sports shared his thoughts on his game: "Saric is a long wing and one of the world's most interesting prospects. He's capable of playing some minutes at power forward, and big enough to score on most small forwards."
Given his dynamic ability at either position of need for the future, the Timberwolves will lock up the Croatian forward with hopes that he'll live up to his billing in the NBA.
14. Phoenix Suns: Tyler Ennis, PG, Syracuse
This is purely based on upside, as Tyler Ennis might be one of the best point guards in the class years from now. His ability to score and run the point makes him a perfect fit for the Phoenix Suns, where he can learn behind Eric Bledsoe.
If the Suns are unable to re-sign Bledsoe, who is reportedly seeking a max contract, per Marc Spears of Yahoo, Ennis might be thrust into the role sooner than expected. After showing flashes of brilliance with Syracuse during his freshman campaign, he will be a star for the Suns in the coming seasons.
15. Atlanta Hawks: Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State
Gary Harris has plenty of room to grow in the NBA, but he would offer the Atlanta Hawks a shooter with a smooth stroke. For a team that narrowly made the postseason this year, the Hawks are still in need of a player like Harris, making him their selection at No. 15.
16. Chicago Bulls: Adreian Payne, PF, Michigan State
Adreian Payne was known for his polish and a great outside shot, making him an ideal fit for the Chicago Bulls. With a player like Joakim Noah already clogging up the paint next to him, Payne can stretch the floor and present Noah with more open looks behind Carlos Boozer.
17. Boston Celtics: Zach LaVine, PG/SG, UCLA
No player skyrocketed up draft boards more than Zach LaVine during the draft process.
After exploding onto the scene with a great NBA combine, he found himself near the top 10 in some projections. But his polish after one season at UCLA will ultimately cause him to slide, as Kennedy notes:
While he could still very well go higher in the draft, the fit here makes sense. The Celtics will still be in need of good shooters after drafting Randle and don't know the future of Rajon Rondo in Boston. LaVine might fill both of those needs in the future, if necessary.
18. Phoenix Suns: T.J. Warren, SF, North Carolina State
Throughout his college career, T.J. Warren scored in many different ways.
During his freshman campaign, he was never featured in offensive sets but pulled down rebounds and scored on putbacks. As a sophomore, he was the premier player and won ACC Player of the Year as the best offensive threat in the loaded conference.
Former teammate Richard Howell explained to me exactly why Warren is such an offensive threat.
He helps out a lot because he’s a scorer. He’s one of the most prolific scorers in the nation, and I don’t feel a lot of people are paying attention to that. I think the sole reason for that is because he doesn’t get his points in bunches. He doesn’t go out there and people say, ‘Oh my God,’ and it’s not some wild-type 20 point performance. He just scores, and that’s something that we definitely need.
Tony Buckets is coming to Phoenix, and he'll bring the same explosion to the NBA that he provided in college.
19. Chicago Bulls: James Young, SG/SF, Kentucky
Following the Payne pick earlier in the draft, the Bulls will look to a position where they have a little bit more of a need by picking up James Young. If he can plug in immediately, the Bulls will have two great assets along with Noah and Derrick Rose in the future. With a healthy Boozer, Chicago once again looks like a contender in the East next season.
20. Toronto Raptors: Jerami Grant, SF/PF, Syracuse
While the Toronto Raptors made huge gains this season, they are still in need of another big man alongside Jonas Valanciunas.
Both DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry are showing glimpses of being future stars in the league, and adding Jerami Grant would give the team another rebounding and scoring prospect. The 20-year-old still needs work on his jump shot but will find open opportunities alongside DeRozan and Lowry.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder: P.J. Hairston, SG, UNC/Texas Legends
When you have talent like the Oklahoma City Thunder, some risks might be worth taking.
P.J. Hairston comes into the NBA draft with plenty of baggage but is looking to right those wrongs at the next level. The former UNC guard referenced his past, per Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe:
I made some mistakes, but at the same time I look at it as the past, and when I got to Texas, that was a new chapter in my life and I felt like to let the past go, the past is the past, and I had to start working on my future.
... I feel like now that I’m [in the draft process], I don’t have anything to worry about. I feel like I’ve been honest about the whole situation.
Still in search of a replacement after moving James Harden to the Houston Rockets, the Thunder might just have another great shooter in Hairston. On the same court with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, there should be plenty of opportunities for Hairston to prove himself with Oklahoma City.
22. Memphis Grizzlies: Jusuf Nurkic, C, Bosnia
Here's yet another pick based purely on talent. While the Memphis Grizzlies already have the center position locked down with Marc Gasol, Jusuf Nurkic would provide insurance for next season.
The 19-year-old isn't as polished as some of the top big men in the draft, but his upside makes him a great weapon for the Grizzlies moving forward. With Marc Gasol hitting free agency next summer, this isn't a bad pick for the future either.
23. Utah Jazz: K.J. McDaniels , SF, Clemson
After drafting for need early in the draft, the Jazz will do the same at No. 23. With K.J. McDaniels still available, Utah will look to replace an aging Richard Jefferson at the other forward position.
McDaniels is a good scorer and an even better defender. While he's slightly undersized for the position at 6'6", the Clemson product developed into a star with the Tigers, as Jonathan Givony of Draft Express noted during the season, via Mandrallius Robinson of USA Today:
He's emerged as one of the best players in the ACC. ... If you just look at his size (6-foot-6, 200-pounds), his frame, his athleticism and how much he's improved as a perimeter shooter and a ball-handler, he's got a lot of things going for him as an NBA prospect. We may be ahead of the curve here, but I think people will catch up eventually to the kind of prospect he is.
Added to a roster that already boasts Trey Burke and Gordon Hayward, McDaniels will be a great player on both ends of the court for Utah.
24. Charlotte Hornets: Kyle Anderson, PG/SF, UCLA
Sure, Kemba Walker is already filling the position with the Hornets, but Kyle Anderson offers a great backup player with potential to play alongside Walker or take the ball at times. After gaining a scoring threat earlier in the draft, the Hornets gain versatility behind Walker by picking up Anderson.
25. Houston Rockets: Jordan Adams, SG, UCLA
With James Harden manning the shooting guard position, the Houston Rockets will look to add depth with Jordan Adams. Just 19 years old, he will be given a chance to develop behind Harden and make a huge impact in the future for a team that is on the rise in the Western Conference.
26. Miami Heat: Shabazz Napier, PG, Connecticut
The Miami Heat have talent. With LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, there's no doubt about that fact. But even with all of that talent, the team still might have a need at the point guard position.
Mario Chalmers is a free agent this summer and could be picked up by another franchise. If Shabazz Napier is still available, the Heat would add a player who can not only run the point but also create his own shot on an already elite team.
27. Phoenix Suns: Clint Capela, PF/C, Switzerland
With the third pick, the Phoenix Suns draft...just kidding. But with three picks in the first round, the Suns have several different options to choose from with the No. 27 selection.
Clint Capela is a phenomenal defender and rebounder, making him a great asset to pair alongside Mason Plumlee in the frontcourt. After adding a great shooter and rebounder in Warren, the Suns grab a perfect player moving forward.
28. Los Angeles Clippers: Cleanthony Early, SF, Wichita State
After a sparkling career with Wichita State, Cleanthony Early comes to the NBA as a polished player. For a Los Angeles Clippers team that has talent at nearly every position, he might be able to compete with Matt Barnes for a starting position in the coming seasons.
While he played power forward at Wichita State, the 6'8", 216-pound Early projects better at the 3 in the NBA. His scoring ability will give Chris Paul another great offensive threat to grow with in the future.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Mitch McGary, C, Michigan
Grabbing Hairston earlier in the draft helped fill a need for the coming season. With Kendrick Perkins currently starting at center for the Thunder, adding a potential steal at No. 29 with Mitch McGary gives the team depth behind the big man.
While McGary will need more polish to take over at the next level, the Michigan standout has the talent when healthy.
30. San Antonio Spurs: Jordan Clarkson, PG/SG, Missouri
Another year, another late selection for the San Antonio Spurs. Despite already having talent at the 1- and 2-guards position with Tony Parker and Danny Green, respectively, the Spurs would add depth by drafting Jordan Clarkson.
He is yet another developmental prospect for Gregg Popovich but will likely turn to gold under the coach's system. Bringing depth to an already veteran lineup, Clarkson will likely flourish in a few years in San Antonio.
All height/weight information courtesy of NBADraft.net.
Follow R. Cory Smith on Twitter:
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!