The first round of the 2014 NBA draft will be among the most exciting in recent history. Three blue-chip prospects are thought to be locks to be off the board first in Kansas teammates Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid, along with Duke star Jabari Parker.
What remains to be seen is the order in which that trio will be selected. All are strong candidates to have a significant impact on the organizations they join. For the third time in four years, the Cleveland Cavaliers hold the No. 1 overall pick, and they will have the luxury of choosing between those premier options.
In this Round 1 mock, the analysis will emphasize Wiggins, Parker and Embiid, and focus on how the best of the rest will help their respective squads based on needs, talent and skill sets.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Jabari Parker, SF, Duke
There's no need for new general manager David Griffin to pull off any shocking moves. Parker is the best fit, possessing the most pro-ready game, body and maturity.
The Cavs need someone who can make an impact right away. With the way Cleveland's roster is set up at the moment, having a perimeter trio of Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters and Parker would be electric. If a coach who runs an uptempo style of offense is brought in, the odds of Parker going No. 1 increase even more.
Big Ten Network's Camron Smith feels Parker is prepared for the pros, citing an encounter with him and a wildly impressive workout video:
Two weeks ago, I saw Jabari Parker after a workout in Chicago. Looked slim, bouncy and focused. Here is Parker in LA: http://t.co/QSCziiwDtu— Camron Smith (@camronsmith) May 25, 2014
Impending free agent Luol Deng is unlikely to rejoin the team, so Parker makes a lot of sense in this slot. He's a more complete offensive player than Wiggins, with superior versatility, size, strength and outside shooting. This is the safest pick Griffin can make—and the proper one.
2. Milwaukee Bucks: Joel Embiid, C, Kansas
The proposition of teaming the tandem of Larry Sanders and Embiid up front has to be too tempting for the Bucks to pass on. Concerns about Embiid's back injury that held him out of the Big 12 and NCAA tournaments will have to be addressed before he's taken here, though.
Apparently the Bucks are rather sold that Embiid will be medically fine, per Andrew Gruman of Fox Sports Wisconsin:
#Bucks director of scouting Billy McKinney on Joel Embiid workout last Fri: "It didn't appear there were any signs of issues with his back."— Andrew Gruman (@AndrewGruman) May 27, 2014
Should that be the case, Milwaukee ought not to have any hesitation in taking the plunge with this pick. Embiid is a legitimate 7-footer who shot an efficient 62.6 percent from the floor and flashed elite shot-blocking prowess with 2.6 swats per contest with the Jayhawks.
Sanders and Embiid would not only shut down even the best players on the lower block in the game, but furthermore discourage penetrating guards from invading the paint. It's that type of intimidation that can give the Bucks serious teeth to fight back and contend for the playoffs in the weaker East soon.
3. Philadelphia 76ers: Andrew Wiggins, SF, Kansas
Among the top prospects, Wiggins is perhaps the most difficult to gauge. The hype surrounding him entering his freshman campaign at Kansas was almost impossible to live up to. It was as if he has a governor on him that was never fully lifted.
Philadelphia depleted its roster on purpose this past year, let's be real. Any pick of positions on the wing are the biggest priority, with redshirted 2013 rookie Nerlens Noel set to make his NBA debut this next season. Placing Wiggins with Michael Carter-Williams would provide the Sixers with formidable length that could rankle opponents' spacing when combined with Noel's elite defense.
Based on this report by Fox Sports Ohio's Sam Amico, there's the possibility that Wiggins could even go No. 1 overall, but with Philadelphia perhaps trading up to get him:
As for #NBADraft, getting strong vibe about Andrew Wiggins potentially going No. 1. Sixers, who hold picks 3 and 10, want him badly.— Sam Amico (@SamAmicoFSO) June 9, 2014
Wiggins is a great building block for the Sixers. Carter-Williams is the reigning Rookie of the Year and face of the franchise. That would alleviate some of the pressure on Wiggins and at once allow him to take on a big role in his maiden NBA season.
4. Orlando Magic: Dante Exum, PG, Australia
It is logical for the Magic to nab a point guard with Jameer Nelson's days in the NBA becoming numbered. Exum is a good distributor who can attack the rim and also defend well on the perimeter thanks to his excellent length.
The 18-year-old has plenty of upside to explore, too, allowing 2013 top draft pick Victor Oladipo to settle into a more natural role and not have to run the point.
5. Utah Jazz: Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky
Help is required on the front line in Utah. Bringing in a versatile player in Randle would pack a scoring punch. Derrick Favors is improving as a scorer but is best suited to be more of a defensive stopper than anything. Randle can create matchup problems at the 4 with his athleticism and dribbling skills.
6. Boston Celtics: Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State
Rajon Rondo is already a fixture at Smart's position as a pure-passing prototype. What the Celtics lack, though, is a starting-caliber guard who can create his own offense. Smart is excellent at just that, bringing an added dimension to Boston's backcourt rotation that neither Rondo nor Avery Bradley boast.
7. Los Angeles Lakers: Noah Vonleh, PF, Indiana
Whether Pau Gasol decides to remain in L.A. or flee in free agency, Vonleh is a wonderful pick here. The ex-Hoosier has outside shooting range, can be a rim protector and do just about anything the Lakers ask. This is outstanding value at No. 7, with Vonleh serving as a building block with a bright future.
8. Sacramento Kings: Aaron Gordon, PF, Arizona
Center DeMarcus Cousins is more of a monster in the paint on offense. What the Kings need to vault into playoff contention in the coming years is an upgrade at defending in the frontcourt. That's where Gordon would come in. He could roam around the 3 or 4 position and guard just about any spot on the floor, aiding Sacramento's efforts to recover from last season's ranking of 24th in scoring defense.
9. Charlotte Hornets: Nik Stauskas, SG, Michigan
Kicking off the post-Bobcats era, one thing is certain in Charlotte: The need for a shooter persists. Stauskas is as lights-out as it gets from beyond the arc.
As a sophomore for the Wolverines, he maintained his 44 percent shooting from beyond the arc, but also became a more complete player and took on more of a leadership role. With added strength and continued development, Stauskas could evolve into a premier 2-guard. That could challenge Gerald Henderson for minutes in the midst of what could be his final year as a Hornet.
10. Philadelphia 76ers: Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State
The picks of Stauskas and Harris are almost interchangeable here. In this scenario, Harris fits the bill. Philadelphia has needs at just about every position save for point guard, so with Wiggins in the fold, the ex-Spartan brings a high basketball IQ and necessary scoring ability to the backcourt.
11. Denver Nuggets: Zach LaVine, PG/SG, UCLA
Supreme athleticism is causing LaVine's stock to soar. Per Bleacher Report's Kevin Ding, LaVine registered a 46" vertical at a Lakers workout with just three or four steps of a running start.
Leaving UCLA after just one year and failing to score in double figures will raise questions, but LaVine has all the tools to thrive as a combo guard. He'd provide Denver with a lengthier alternative at the point to spell Ty Lawson and Nate Robinson.
12. Orlando Magic: Dario Saric, F, Croatia
To bring more of a facilitator and further offense to the hardwood, Orlando elects to go with Saric. The talented point forward can crash the boards, find teammates and be a nightmare to defend. It's extraordinary to see him leading the charge in the open court.
Between Saric and Exum, Magic GM Rob Hennigan will have hit the jackpot in the lottery by landing the draft's two best international prospects.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves: Doug McDermott, SF, Creighton
Throwing McDermott into the mix with the likes of Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic would give the Timberwolves a world of size and finesse up front. It would be a steal if McDermott lasts this long, and his game would help Minnesota improve on its No. 26 ranking in three-point percentage.
14. Phoenix Suns: James Young, SF, Kentucky
If the Suns hold onto all their picks, they'll have three in the top 30. Starting off here with Young is wise. The Kentucky star shined in the Wildcats' run to the NCAA tournament title game. With Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe taking up the guard positions, Young can play the 2 if need be and adds needed length on the outside.
15. Atlanta Hawks: Rodney Hood, SG, Duke
A sharpshooter with magnificent size, an ability to finish at the rim and strong collegiate production on his resume make Hood a sound choice for Atlanta.
Kyle Korver isn't quite cut out to be a starting 2-guard on a championship-caliber team, while Lou Williams is more of a combo guard. That would leave Hood to take over the 2-guard spot, and he can also slide over to the 3—another position of need for the Hawks.
16. Chicago Bulls: Elfrid Payton, PG, Louisiana-Lafayette
Hailing from a small school doesn't mean Payton lacks any game to make it as an NBA player. His quickness, knack for penetrating the lane and defense are all characteristics coach Tom Thibodeau should covet. Point guard is a big need with Derrick Rose's perpetual health problems and the lack of depth behind him.
17. Boston Celtics: P.J. Hairston, SG, Texas Legends
Being dismissed from North Carolina wasn't a good look, yet Hairston bounced back, strung together a solid season in the NBA D-League and positioned himself back into the first-round conversation.
Yet another guard who can create for himself, Hairston adds more muscle and physicality to the Celtics. Having played with a chip on his shoulder should allow Hairston to assimilate to coach Brad Stevens' ways quickly.
18. Phoenix Suns: Kyle Anderson, F/G, UCLA
Sticking with the theme of adding length on the outside, Anderson would be an intriguing change of pace to the likes of Dragic and Bledsoe. Though not the quickest off the dribble, there's no denying Anderson's vision and how he can plug in at just about any position but center.
19. Chicago Bulls: T.J. Warren, SF, North Carolina State
Sticking with the theme of instant offense, Warren doesn't offer an immediate starting option. However, he did light up the ACC with 24.9 points per game this last season.
On-ball adversaries will always have difficulty guarding against Warren's array of moves inside and out. Thibodeau's defense in the Windy City would mask Warren's shortcomings on that end of the court as well.
20. Toronto Raptors: Jarnell Stokes, PF, Tennessee
Stokes has to be the strongest power forward prospect in this class, which should attract Toronto to nab him even at No. 20.
That may be viewed as too early by some, but Stokes brings rebounding and is a tenacious force of nature that the Raptors should seek to truly compete in the East. Indiana's size is tough to deal with, while Miami lacks bulk up front and could have problems with Stokes down the line.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder: Jusuf Nurkic, C, Bosnia and Herzegovina
At 6'11" and 280 pounds (h/t DraftExpress.com), this is a rare big man with the muscle to match his length. Just 19 years old, Nurkic is worth waiting for if he doesn't pan out in the NBA right away.
Oklahoma City needs to continue building the frontcourt, and doing so with the likes of Nurkic and Steven Adams will offer a massive long-term upgrade over current center Kendrick Perkins.
22. Memphis Grizzlies: Cleanthony Early, SF, Wichita State
The beginning of the end is here for Tayshaun Prince. Memphis needs something more at the 3. Even at age 23, there's a sense that Early is still discovering how good he can really be. Having Prince as a mentor will aid Early's acclimation to the NBA and allow him to jump into the rotation right away.
23. Utah Jazz: Tyler Ennis, PG, Syracuse
Having two point guards in Ennis and Trey Burke would give the Jazz a lot of creative latitude on offense. Burke can play off the ball, while Ennis can be more of a distributor and provide Utah with all sorts of looks to throw opponents off.
24. Charlotte Hornets: Glenn Robinson III, SF, Michigan
More than anything, Charlotte's swift turnaround came with effort and energy. Those are traits Robinson only shows in spurts. With the Hornets, he could develop into one of the most exciting players from the 2014 draft. Robinson has flashed the ability to score from the perimeter and is a marvel to watch on the fast break and when he's aggressive.
The Hornets seem like a great landing spot for Robinson to hone his skills in a culture that is on the precipice of perpetually winning. Joining his college teammate Stauskas would also likely help Robinson's morale.
25. Houston Rockets: Adreian Payne, PF, Michigan State
A gradual but sure improvement in his four years as a Spartan should put Payne in a place to be a solid pro from the beginning. Payne is physical but also perimeter-oriented enough to keep defenses honest from 15 feet away and beyond. That makes him a better fit to get big minutes with the Rockets than Omer Asik.
26. Miami Heat: Shabazz Napier, PG, Connecticut
Talk about being fortunate. Should this come to fruition, Miami will be thrilled to nab Napier here. Whether free agent Mario Chalmers stays in South Beach or not, there's a chance Napier could come in and start with the likes of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh flanking him.
Napier would give the Heat yet another threat to initiate offense, along with a relentless defender who Erik Spoelstra would have to enjoy coaching.
27. Phoenix Suns: Clint Capela, C/PF, Switzerland
After exceeding all expectations last year, it seems Phoenix isn't far from becoming a playoff squad. The likes of Young and Anderson figure to make an early impact, leading to the team taking more of a flier on Capela.
According to ESPN.com (subscription required), the 6'11" prospect has a 7'5" wingspan with plenty of potential still to tap. The Suns could do far worse than selecting Capela here and investing in the future; in the meantime seeing how 2013 top pick Alex Len pans out up front.
28. Los Angeles Clippers: Mitch McGary, C/PF, Michigan
Coach Doc Rivers is as good at dealing with difficult situations and personalities as anyone in the Association.
The Clippers are starved for depth beyond DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin on the front lines, making the energetic McGary a great addition. All McGary has to do is prove that the failed drug test that led him into the draft is behind him and that he's ready to be a pro.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Spencer Dinwiddie, SG, Colorado
Dinwiddie's final season in Boulder was cut short in January because of a torn ACL. If not for that, he'd project far higher than this. Instead, the rich get richer as the Thunder pull the trigger on him, investing a modest sum in Dinwiddie—who could become the future 2-guard this franchise has sorely lacked.
30. San Antonio Spurs: DeAndre Daniels, SF, Connecticut
Tim Duncan is on the downside of his career, and the two other members of the Spurs' power trio consist of aging players Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. Daniels doesn't fill any of the three positional needs, and he occupies the same 3 spot as recent NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard.
Who will have the best rookie season from the 2014 NBA draft class?
The focus deservedly goes to the "big three" at the top of the draft, but this class is deep, with a plentiful pool of talent to pull from in the first round. Even some of the league's top contenders figure to add a marquee piece or even two, which is rather rare in the NBA.
There aren't a lot of instant franchise changers as the draft progresses, yet there are immediate glue guys and developmental projects with high upside. How this draft is judged down the road will be determined far later. But if the tale of the tape is any indication, this has a chance to be a special bunch of incoming pros.