2014 NBA Mock Draft: Projecting the Smartest Picks in Round 1

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2014 NBA Mock Draft: Projecting the Smartest Picks in Round 1
USA TODAY Sports

General managers all have different strategies when selecting players, but this 2014 NBA mock draft will focus on the smartest selections that each team can make in Round 1.

Some GMs prefer to go after upside instead of ready-made talent. Others value defense over offense, while some simply select the best player available at any given point in the draft.

To each his own, I guess.

This mock draft will focus on the selections that make the most sense for each squad in the Association, however. Whether or not they come true will be up to the GMs.

 

1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Andrew Wiggins, SF, Kansas

Andrew Wiggins is back to being the consensus No. 1 overall selection in the draft, even if the Cavaliers are reportedly still on the fence on Jabari Parker. Wiggins doesn't offer the Cavs the best chance to win now (Parker does), but Wiggins has higher upside.

His fitness and athleticism are superior to Parker, and Cleveland is likely envisioning an explosive tandem of Kyrie Irving and Wiggins. This pick must be made.

 

2. Milwaukee Bucks: Jabari Parker, SF, Duke

The Bucks need Parker.

After so many seasons of poor basketball, the Bucks brass can finally put a watchable product on the court. Parker is the most NBA-ready talent in this class. He can score in bunches, making him the perfect candidate for a Bucks team that lacks oomph.

 

3. Philadelphia 76ers: Dante Exum, PG, Australia

Exum is one of the most intriguing prospects in this class, and the 76ers would surely benefit from adding him to their backcourt. Chad Ford of ESPN thinks it's a possibility:

Ford also noted that Exum is one of the smartest players in the draft:

Sometimes building around smart players is better than building around guys with talent and no smarts.

 

4. Orlando Magic: Noah Vonleh, PF, Indiana

Noah Vonleh has moved around the lottery quite a lot in the past few months, but he might finally find a home in Orlando. Ken Berger of CBS Sports reported that the Magic are interested in pairing him with Nikola Vucevic:

"The Magic's dilemma: They want a top frontcourt player to pair with Nikola Vucevic and may not be able to get one they're comfortable with at No. 12. In that case, sources say they may opt for Indiana's Noah Vonleh with the fourth pick."

That would be one heck of a duo down low.

 

5. Utah Jazz: Joel Embiid, C, Kansas

The Jazz have holes across the board. Even though Joel Embiid will miss time out of the gate, Utah can't afford to pass on a player with the potential to change a franchise. While not the most skilled player in the draft, Embiid dominated a premium position while at Kansas. The Jazz must make this pick.

 

6. Boston Celtics: Aaron Gordon, PF, Arizona

Perhaps one of the best athletes in the draft, Aaron Gordon is a good fit for the Celtics. Even with Kelly Olynyk and Jared Sullinger on the roster, Gordon is a no-brainer.

His athleticism is rivaled by few. It allows him to play outstanding defense, but it also projects into some sort of offensive potential. Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe projects him to be like Blake Griffin:

 

That's a lofty comparison, and one that could come true.

 

7. Los Angeles Lakers: Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State

With Steve Nash closer to retirement by the day, the Lakers need to find his successor. There isn't a better fit in the world for Marcus Smart. He can learn under Nash and not have the spotlight on him as Kobe Bryant lights up opposing defenses.

 

8. Sacramento Kings: Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky

 

Julius Randle is going to be a beast at the next level. A combo of Randle and DeMarcus Cousins under the basket will be dominant right out of training camp. The Kings are still working to find the winning formula, but pairing two dominant players down low is the road for them to take.

 

9. Charlotte Hornets: Doug McDermott, PF, Creighton

Now back in Charlotte, the Hornets need someone who can help make the transition seamless—someone who can be the face of the franchise.

Look no farther than Doug McDermott. The guy can shoot from everywhere and even elevate at the rim from time to time. He'll be good enough defensively to make him a star.

 

10. Philadelphia 76ers (from New Orleans): Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State

Grabbing Exum at No. 3 won't affect Philly's pursuit of another guard. Gary Harris has great leadership skills and the ability to defend on-ball. He's not a flashy player and won't give you a ton of highlights, but Harris knows how to win having played for Tom Izzo at Michigan State.

 

11. Denver Nuggets: Clint Capela, PF, Switzerland

The Nuggets haven't picked this high since they took Carmelo Anthony No. 3 overall in 2003. They've been pretty good for a long time.

At No. 11, the Nuggets will address the future at power forward. Once Clint Capela fills out, he'll be an interesting rotation player. Given his ability to run the floor and score in transition, Capela is a good fit for a team run by Ty Lawson.

 

12. Orlando Magic (from New York): Rodney Hood, SF, Duke

The Magic will likely take the best player available at No. 12. In my opinion, that's Rodney Hood. The Duke product is a solid wing player who can shoot consistently from deep and defend on the perimeter. Defense is an area of need for Orlando, and the team has addressed those needs with Vonleh and Hood.

 

13. Minnesota Timberwolves: James Young, SF, Kentucky

James Young can run the floor and he can shoot the basketball. In an offense that could very well be without Kevin Love by training camp, Young has a chance to excel with a bevy of looks from the perimeter.

 

14. Phoenix Suns: Nik Stauskas, SG, Michigan

 

Nik Stauskas is a ridiculous shooter that even has the ability to create opportunities for himself off the dribble. His ball-handling skills are good—not great—but that will develop more in the NBA. He has already shown the ability to blow past defenders, but he'll be able to do it more consistently with time.

 

15. Atlanta Hawks: Adreian Payne, PF, Michigan State

Adreian Payne can do a little of everything. He can play outside with his back to the basket and even on the boards. He's capable of playing in a pick-and-roll offense, and his post moves are already above average.

The Hawks would benefit from adding Payne, even if he's only used as a rotational player at first.

 

16. Chicago Bulls (from Charlotte): Dario Saric, SF, Croatia

Dario Saric's camp made a tough decision on Monday:

Saric was once considered a top-tier prospect, but this decision will impact his draft stock. The Bulls are one of the few teams that can afford to wait him out.

 

17. Boston Celtics (from Brooklyn): Tyler Ennis, PG, Syracuse

 

It seems like a risk to take a point guard at No. 17 with Rajon Rondo still on the team, but in my opinion, it's an equal risk to not take one given how he's always involved in trade rumors.

Tyler Ennis was a leader at Syracuse, and at the very least, he'll shore up the team's second unit.

 

18. Phoenix Suns (from Washington): T.J. Warren, SF, N.C. State

T.J. Warren is an NBA-ready scorer that will come out of training camp firing jumpers and slashing to the basket. He's the perfect piece for Phoenix to continue building with—even if it didn't seem like the Suns were actually rebuilding at all last season.

 

19. Chicago Bulls: Zach Lavine, SG, UCLA

Zach LaVine worked out for the Lakers recently and showed off one of the best verticals of any prospect available:

 

Now those are some serious hops. LaVine needs to develop a little more before he can be relied on to shoulder some of the offensive load in Chicago, but his athleticism will help him to get by at first.

 

20. Toronto Raptors: Jerami Grant, SF, Syracuse

 

Another great athlete, Jerami Grant is a perfect fit in Toronto. The Raptors are used to athletic players with high upside (see: DeMar DeRozan). DeRozan will aid in Grant's development into one of the more exciting young players in the league to watch.

 

21. Oklahoma City Thunder (from Dallas): Kyle Anderson, SF, UCLA

Kyle Anderson stands just over 6'8", but his wingspan of nearly 7'3" is absolutely unbelievable. He's tall and lanky, kind of like another Thunder star. Nobody is saying that Anderson will turn into Kevin Durant, but they at least have similar builds. Look for the Thunder to develop Anderson quietly until unleashing him on the NBA.

 

22. Memphis Grizzlies: Shabazz Napier, PG, UConn

 

Shabazz Napier showed off his skills in the NCAA tourney. He's a very smart point guard that can make plays for himself and for his teammates. The Grizzlies could use another guy like that on their roster, even if Mike Conley will command most of the playing time at the point.

 

23. Utah Jazz (from Golden State): Elfrid Payton, PG, Louisiana-Lafayette

One of the dark horses in the draft, Elfrid Payton's standing as a mid-major star hurts his stock. That said, he can easily become one of the better players on the class.

Trey Burke runs the point in Utah, but Payton will take minutes away from him after he shows off his skills in training camp.

 

24. Charlotte Hornets (via Portland): Cleanthony Early, PF, Wichita State

Cleanthony Early is only 6'7", so he could wind up playing more as a small forward than a power forward. Regardless, he is a proven scorer and was a leader at Wichita State. With a history of winning in his background, Early will bring a confident mentality to the Hornets.

 

25. Houston Rockets: K.J. McDaniels, SF, Clemson

 

The Rockets need to jump for joy if K.J. McDaniels is available at No. 25. He literally fits everything they like to do. He runs the floor extraordinarily well and is a great athlete.

He also plays stellar defense, making him the ideal prospect for Houston. If Chandler Parsons isn't retained, McDaniels could be in for big minutes.

 

26. Miami Heat: C.J. Wilcox, SG, Washington

The Heat need no help offensively, but C.J. Wilcox will provide even more depth to a potent team. He's a smart player that won't kill you by turning the ball over or making unnecessary passes.

 

27. Phoenix Suns (from Indiana): P.J. Hairston, SG, Texas Legends

P.J. Hairston is a bit of a question mark given his past at North Carolina, but he showed that he has serious skills when playing for the Texas Legends. He can score with the best of them and even projects as a decent defender in the future.

He's somebody that the Suns can wait on.

 

28. Los Angeles Clippers: Jarnell Stokes, PF, Tennessee

 

Jarnell Stokes is lucky to fall to a talented team like the Clippers but also unlucky because of the team's depth. That depth will make him a rotational player in Year 1, though he'll be one of their best.

His athleticism and overall strength will do well under the tutelage of Blake Griffin.

 

29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Mitch McGary, C, Michigan

Mitch McGary is an interesting prospect. During his freshman season at Michigan, he failed to make waves until the NCAA tournament—at which point he became a force in the paint. This past season, a back injury sidelined him for all but eight games of the season.

Playing alongside a dynamic point guard that can create space for him down low is key. The Thunder just so happen to have Russell Westbrook running the show, so this is a good fit.

 

30. San Antonio Spurs: Jusuf Nurkic, C Bosnia

 

Jusuf Nurkic is 6'11" and 280 pounds. The man is enormous. Mobility questions come with him, though he was great overseas. The Spurs can afford to work with him, especially with Tim Duncan's basketball smarts. He's a pick that the Spurs will essentially stash on the bench until they feel he's ready.

 

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