This NBA draft class is stacked with talent, to the point that the even the teams at the back end of the first round could come away with potentially game-changing talents.
Of course, the can't-miss prospects and the most likely stars rise to the top, but in a draft class this deep, there are bound to be some surprising guys who break out after being selected in the mid-to-late first round.
When the Cleveland Cavaliers make the first overall pick, they'll be expected to land a franchise player. Later on, don't be surprised if the playoff contenders picking in the 20s come away with players who wind up essential to their long-term plans as well.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Joel Embiid, C, Kansas
Cleveland already has its point guard of the future in Kyrie Irving. Now it needs to bolster its frontcourt for the long haul.
Joel Embiid is the kind of center the Cavs can build around for the next decade. He's a true 7-footer with a ridiculous wingspan and a fluidity in his motion that implies his post-up game and rim protection are only going to get stronger over time. With Embiid and Irving in place, Cleveland might just avoid the lottery next year.
2. Milwaukee Bucks: Jabari Parker, SF, Duke
Save for Giannis Antetokounmpo and perhaps Larry Sanders if he gets his head on straight, the Bucks are essentially starting from scratch in terms of a long-haul rebuild.
In order for the rangy, athletic and raw Antetokounmpo to develop best, Milwaukee needs offensive support. Drafting Parker, the most polished scorer in the draft and someone who could become even more physically dominant as he adds muscle, will provide immediate help and another future cornerstone.
3. Philadelphia 76ers: Andrew Wiggins, SF, Kansas
Philly won't mind Wiggins dropping to No. 3 instead of Parker; the Kansas product's speed makes him a better fit in the run-and-gun Sixers offense.
Playing in such a transition-heavy system will help prevent Wiggins from getting overwhelmed as a half-court scorer, a job for which he is not fully prepared for in the NBA. With Michael Carter-Williams initiating the offense, Wiggins will be able to develop at his own pace, and the combination of those two will create a terrific perimeter defense.
4. Orlando Magic: Dante Exum, PG, Australia
If Orlando wants Victor Oladipo to be its starting point guard, it's going to need another capable ball-handler in the starting lineup along with him.
Exum would do them even better, adding a lengthy 6'6" guy with the quickness, agility and instincts to play the point guard position. He's more of a score-first driver at this point, but if Exum can be the primary option for the Magic while Oladipo shifts to play off the ball, that would be ideal.
5. Utah Jazz: Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State
In desperate need of a shooting guard, Utah will either look to make a trade or pick a less conventional solution like Smart.
At 6'3", he's short for the job, but he's got the wingspan and the strength to battle bigger wings without difficulty. Defense will never be Smart's problem. He'll need to refine his shooting stroke to be a legitimate scoring option as a pro, but in the meantime, he'll help the Jazz by letting Trey Burke play off-ball more.
6. Boston Celtics: Noah Vonleh, PF, Indiana
After the Celtics spent a season playing Jared Sullinger as their nominal center, they're going to need some actual rim protection.
A lengthy 6'10", Vonleh has the build to play interior defense alongside Sully and the varied offensive skills to provide spacing for Rajon Rondo's drives. With both a mid-range J and a face-up attacking game in his arsenal, he'll be able to contribute offensively from day one.
7. Los Angeles Lakers: Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky
With Pau Gasol set to hit free agency this summer, the Lakers need to bring in some scoring from the power forward position.
Randle can do just that, and in more varied ways than you might expect from watching him. His bullying assaults on the restricted area may seem singleminded, but if his defenders give him any space, he can smoothly knock down jumpers out to the three-point line.
He's L.A.'s best bet to reload through the draft while helping Kobe Bryant win now.
8. Sacramento Kings: Aaron Gordon, PF, Arizona
Mike Malone came to the Kings to reform a broken defense, but he's going to need more talent on that end to do so.
Gordon has the quickness and leaping ability to generate bunches of steals and blocks, not to mention the assignment awareness to mark his man and execute system defense. He's got loads of potential and a developing offensive game as a small-ball forward, but what he does on the other end will be vital to Sacramento and its locker room.
9. Charlotte Hornets (via Detroit): Nik Stauskas, SG, Michigan
The newly-dubbed Hornets need to surround Al Jefferson with some shooters if they plan to keep dumping the ball down low to him.
Stauskas gives Charlotte one of the most deadly three-point threats this draft has to offer, and he can get his shot in a variety of ways. As a spot-up option, he'll draw the defense toward him and create room inside for both Jefferson and a driving Kemba Walker, but Stauskas can also cut into mid-range territory and create looks off the bounce as well.
10. Philadelphia 76ers (via New Orleans): Doug McDermott, SF, Creighton
Even with Wiggins in the fold, the Sixers are nearly bereft of offensive options around MCW. Considering Thaddeus Young might not be long for rebuilding in Philly, another iso scorer could be helpful.
Next to Parker, McDermott is the best possible solution. He's every bit as dangerous as Stauskas from beyond the arc, and he can dribble by opposing forwards to either score at the rim or pull up from 15 feet. He'll relieve pressure from both MCW and Wiggins by carrying the load himself when need be.
11. Denver Nuggets: Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State
Denver is another team sorely lacking at the shooting guard spot, and Harris provides them a prototypical answer.
Most importantly for the Nuggets' purposes, he'll be able to run with Ty Lawson in transition, but he'll also be effective in half-court sets breaking down the defense in secondary action. Harris can knock down some threes if given room, and he'll be able to add some extra penetrating ability to the Nuggets offense.
12. Orlando Magic (via Denver from New York): Dario Saric, SF, Croatia
With an Oladipo-Exum backcourt pairing in place, the Magic are going to need some more offensive weapons.
When Arron Afflalo plays, Saric can provide spacing as a small-ball power forward, nailing threes from the corner and taking slower defenders off the bounce to get inside looks. In two-guard lineups, Saric is crafty working inside the arc, keeping the defense honest in the mid-range game to balance out the offense.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves: Rodney Hood, SF, Duke
No matter Minnesota's short- or long-term plans for Kevin Love, the Wolves need to add more scoring at small forward.
Adding a well-rounded wing like Hood will allow Minnesota to get the most out of the talent already in place. His three-point shooting will create more room down low for Love and Nikola Pekovic to operate, and he'll give Ricky Rubio another target for his distribution game.
14. Phoenix Suns: Zach LaVine, PG, UCLA
The pairing of Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe made Phoenix a revelation last season, but now they need depth at point guard to sustain it.
Like Exum, LaVine is a freakish 6'6" point guard project with the athleticism to man the position, if not yet the refinement. He'll give the Suns some nice size and speed with which to back up Dragic and Bledsoe, and LaVine will benefit from learning the position without the burden of primary duties.
15. Atlanta Hawks: James Young, SF, Kentucky
Atlanta doesn't need Young to be another spot-up guy, but rather a multifaceted scoring option who can add another dimension to the Hawks system.
Guys like Kyle Korver and DeMarre Carroll helped Atlanta's spacing from the small forward position with their shooting last season, but Young has off-the-bounce capabilities that neither of the incumbent Hawks do. That will take some pressure off Jeff Teague, who seemed like the lone Hawk that could get his own shot.
16. Chicago Bulls (via Charlotte): Adreian Payne, PF, Michigan State
Sticking to their defensive identity, the Bulls have refused to go small for spacing under Tom Thibodeau, but Payne could give them the best of both worlds.
He's not the most fearsome defender, but at 6'10", 240 pounds, he has the bulk to hold up inside; if Thibs could get Carlos Boozer to contribute on that end, Payne won't be a problem. The Michigan State grad will then be able to draw opposing bigs out to the arc, opening the lane for Chicago at long last.
17. Boston Celtics (via Brooklyn): T.J. Warren, SF, North Carolina State
Just as Jeff Green can create his own shot for the Celtics, Warren will add that element to the Boston second unit.
He's not the most athletic small forward around, but he has a knack for generating the slightest bit of space on offense, then capitalizing by nailing jumpers from unorthodox angles. He might not be much more than a bench scorer as a pro, but he can get that job done immediately.
18. Phoenix Suns (via Washington): Kyle Anderson, SF, UCLA
When the Suns stop running and get into their half-court-court set, some of the dynamism fades away. Oddly enough, the guy nicknamed Slow-mo can help with that.
With a point guard's distribution skills in a 6'9", 235-pound body, Anderson will allow Bledsoe and Dragic to both play off the ball at the same time, putting immense pressure on the opposing defense to track both their cuts simultaneously. Suddenly, a limited set offense becomes every bit as potent as the transition game is.
19. Chicago Bulls: Tyler Ennis, PG, Syracuse
Derrick Rose's knees are going to be question marks for as long as he plays professional basketball, so Chicago's need for a backup point guard is vital.
Ennis can give Chicago some nice two-way play off the bench, effectively running the point and bringing the same defensive intensity to Thibodeau's system that he brought to Jim Boeheim's. As long as he can hold strong on D and punish opponents with threes, he'll fit.
20. Toronto Raptors: Jusuf Nurkic, C, Bosnia
Jonas Valanciunas is already in place, but Nurkic presents too tantalizing of an opportunity for Toronto.
The Bosnian prospect stands 6'11", 280 pounds, with a solid post game for a prospect and some nice toughness in his interior play. He's raw and prone to mistakes on both ends of the floor, so the Raptors will have the opportunity to stash him and get the most of Valanciunas as Nurkic learns.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Dallas from Houston and Los Angeles Lakers): Elfrid Payton, PG, Louisiana-Lafayette
Length and athleticism are the name of the game in OKC, and Payton can provide plenty of both.
He'll be able to attack off the bounce when Russell Westbrook sits, keeping that element in the Thunder offense, and the 6'3" point guard will fit nicely into OKC's hedge-and-recover defensive scheme. He's too turnover-prone to carry the load himself, but as long as one of the Thunder stars shares the floor with him, he'll work out just fine.
22. Memphis Grizzlies: Mario Hezonja, SG, Croatia
It's the same story every summer for the Grizz: The grit-and-grind philosophy is ingrained into the team's DNA to the point that the roster always needs more perimeter scorers.
Hezonja gives Memphis something different than what, say, Mike Miller has brought the team: shot-making as opposed to just shooting. The Croatian can score acrobatically off the drive and on mid-range jumpers as well as from beyond the arc, giving Memphis' offense a more dynamic flair.
23. Utah Jazz (via Golden State): Cleanthony Early, SF, Wichita State
Early can find a way to help the Jazz regardless of how they resolve their frontcourt logjam.
If Utah decides once and for all that Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter cannot coexist on the court, Early has the strength to hold up against power forwards in small-ball lineups and can punish smaller perimeter defenders on the other end in more traditional lineups.
24. Charlotte Hornets (via Portland): P.J. Hairston, SG, Texas Legends (NBA D-League)
As we noted earlier, Charlotte seriously needs shooting. Even with Stauskas on the roster now, it's not enough yet.
Both at UNC and with the Legends, Hairston has proved himself as a volume shooter who can score from anywhere on the court. In its Bobcats days, Charlotte frequently stocked up on local talent, and it can keep that legacy going while adding even more firepower here.
25. Houston Rockets: Clint Capela, PF, Switzerland
Houston has not yet found the answer at power forward alongside Dwight Howard. Even if Capela doesn't come to the pros next season, he could be it eventually.
Standing 6'11" and with impressive athleticism, he has the rim-protection skill set to help Howard on that front, plus enough off-the-bounce ability and shooting touch to face up and cede Dwight his preferred area of the floor on offense.
26. Miami Heat: Shabazz Napier, PG, Connecticut
In the Big Three era, Miami's point guards have been tasked with playing hard-nosed defense and providing shooting on offense without worrying about always having the ball in their hands.
That's exactly Napier's game, with the added bonus that it prevents him from indulging some of his turnover-happy tendencies. He's like a young Mario Chalmers, only with a better track record as a leader and superior free-throw shooting.
27. Phoenix Suns (via Indiana): Jordan Adams, SG, UCLA
Bledsoe can hold up defensively against most shooting guards, but Phoenix needs some traditional swingmen off the bench to spell him from time to time.
Adams is no speed demon, but he has nice on-ball defensive skills and can still hit some threes to keep the spacing intact. That's modest contribution, but to fill out Phoenix's deep rotation that's in need of a wing defensive specialist, it's just what the Suns need.
28. Los Angeles Clippers: Jordan Clarkson, PG, Missouri
Speedy and standing 6'5", Clarkson has more of the physical makeup of a shooting guard, but he can serve the Clippers well as the backup point man.
No one will ask him to facilitate when he shares the floor with Chris Paul, and Clarkson still won't have primary ball-handling duties when it's just Jamal Crawford and him. That will allow Clarkson to learn from the vets as he hones his game in real time.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Thanasis Antetokounmpo, SF, Delaware 87ers (NBA D-League)
Once again, OKC lands an athletic backup for one of its stars, this time with a pro pedigree.
Thanasis doesn't quite have his younger brother Giannis' physical gifts, but that's no criticism whatsoever. The former Delaware 87er is the reigning D-League Slam Dunk Contest champion and has the skill set to guard four positions and knock down threes on the other end. He'll be right at home on the Thunder, and he'll be able to contribute right away.
30. San Antonio Spurs: Vasilije Micic, PG, Serbia
No matter what Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich do after the NBA Finals, R.C. Buford will keep the philosophy of the franchise in place.
Since Buford became GM in 2002, that has meant consistently digging up gems from all corners of the globe. Going forward, there will still be a focus in the draft as the Spurs continue to focus on the roster's long-term sustainability.
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