2014 NBA Mock Draft: Highlighting Smartest Potential Picks of 1st Round

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistJune 18, 2014

Nov 22, 2013; New York, NY, USA;  Indiana Hoosiers forward Noah Vonleh (1) brings the ball up court during the first half against the Connecticut Huskies at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

Thirty years on from the historic 1984 NBA draft, the 2014 draft class presents teams with one of the deepest talent pools in years.

While it's impossible to speculate upon the legacy of this year's crop of incoming rookies, it is clear that there are a few players capable of changing the landscape of the league.

Most of the hype has surrounded the top three players. Beyond that, though, a few players are lying a little deeper in the first round who will offer a lot of value with little risk.

Here's a mock of the first round, with the smartest picks underlined.

Note: The draft order is courtesy of NBA.com.


1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Joel Embiid, C, Kansas

The Cavaliers can't go too wrong here as long as Cleveland drafts one of Joel Embiid, Jabari Parker or Andrew Wiggins. All three would be upgrades to the team and address needs. Of course, Embiid has well-known injury concerns, but the dearth of talented big men make him more of a rarity.

The Cavs had the Kansas star in last week for a medical evaluation, per ESPN's Jeff Goodman:

As long as there weren't any major red flags, Embiid should be the pick here.


2. Milwaukee Bucks: Andrew Wiggins, SG, Kansas

Wiggins has the higher ceiling between him and Parker, while Parker is the more NBA-ready of the two. The Milwaukee Bucks can go in either direction. Wiggins is arguably the bigger star, and his on-court versatility can serve the Bucks in a few different areas.


3. Philadelphia 76ers: Jabari Parker, SF, Duke

No matter who the Philadelphia 76ers get stuck with here, it will be a major upgrade from what they have. Parker is the scorer that Philly needs, and his long-range ability would be a major help for a team that finished last in three-point percentage (.312).


4. Orlando Magic: Dante Exum, PG, Australia

Victor Oladipo just isn't a point guard. By drafting Dante Exum, the Orlando Magic could move Oladipo to the 2 and have themselves a dynamic backcourt duo. Exum's not a prototypical floor general, but that hasn't stopped Kyrie Irving and Damian Lillard from becoming All-Star point guards.


5. Utah Jazz: Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky

Julius Randle is a beast under the boards, and his offensive game is very underrated. Putting him together with Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors would give the Utah Jazz one of the most promising frontcourts in the league.


6. Boston Celtics: Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State

Whether or not the Boston Celtics want to trade Rajon Rondo, Marcus Smart gives them security and flexibility. In the event they want to deal Rondo, they'll have a solid replacement. If Boston keeps Rondo, Smart's skill set would translate to the 2, meaning he could slide into the starting lineup.


7. Los Angeles Lakers: Noah Vonleh, PF, Indiana

The silver lining of the Los Angeles Lakers' situation right now is that they can target a variety of areas with their first-round draft pick and get an upgrade. Noah Vonleh is one of the best players on the board here, and he could be the long-term replacement for Pau Gasol.

He worked out with the Lakers back on June 4, sending out an Instagram picture.

Vonleh also spoke about how he was a fan of Los Angeles when he was a kid, per Serena Winters of Lakers Nation:

The Indiana power forward is still a bit raw and could add some muscle, but otherwise, there's little not to like. Vonleh can crash the boards, defend the paint and score from nearly anywhere on the floor. He may be one of the most overlooked top-10 prospects.


8. Sacramento Kings: Aaron Gordon, PF, Arizona

DeMarcus Cousins has improved defensively, but he's still very much an offense-minded big man. With Aaron Gordon, the Sacramento Kings would have a nice defensive foil to play at the 4. He's a freak athlete, so if his shot becomes more consistent, Gordon will become a force in the NBA.


9. Charlotte Hornets: Doug McDermott, SF, Creighton

Doug McDermott wouldn't have to worry about playing any defense in Charlotte. Steve Clifford transformed the Hornets into one of the best defensive teams in the league. What they need most is a shooter like McDermott.


10. Philadelphia 76ers: Dario Saric, PF, Croatia

The luxury the Sixers have here is that they can draft Dario Saric and let him stay in Europe if he's not ready to come over just yet. Drafting Parker might mean that Saric isn't the best option, but he's a solid playmaker at the 4 who adds yet another shooter to the Philadelphia offense.


11. Denver Nuggets: Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State

Aside from Ty Lawson, the Denver Nuggets have little else in the backcourt. That would change if they drafted Gary Harris. The Michigan State star does a little bit of everything. He can defend, shoot and create for his teammates. The Nuggets would be getting the best player available and drafting for need.


12. Orlando Magic: Adreian Payne, PF, Michigan State

Yes, the Magic already have Tobias Harris and Nikola Vucevic. Adreian Payne brings a different skill set, specifically his long-range ability. Spending a 12th overall pick on a player like Payne may seem like a waste, but he could play a role immediately, spacing the floor for guards like Oladipo and Exum.


13. Minnesota Timberwolves: Nik Stauskas, SG, Michigan

Few shooters in this year's draft are better than Nik Stauskas. The Minnesota Timberwolves could stand to add a shooter or two, so this pick makes a lot of sense. Stauskas is a bit limited defensively but not enough that he should slip out of the lottery.


14. Phoenix Suns: Zach LaVine, PG, UCLA

The future of Eric Bledsoe is in doubt, with Yahoo Sports' Marc J. Spears reporting that the Phoenix Suns may use him to work a deal for Kevin Love:

Sooner or later, the Suns will likely lose one of Bledsoe or Goran Dragic. Drafting Zach LaVine would give Phoenix a long-term answer at the guard position. The beauty is that with the Suns' current structure, LaVine could have time to develop, which he certainly needs.


15. Atlanta Hawks: James Young, SF, Kentucky

James Young's shooting should come along even though he shot 40.7 percent in his lone season at Kentucky. He's a great athlete, so if he does improve as a shooter, he'd be a steal at No. 15.


16. Chicago Bulls: Tyler Ennis, PG, Syracuse

By now, the Chicago Bulls should know that they need insurance for Derrick Rose. Too much bad luck has befallen the former MVP to think that everything will go perfectly next season and beyond. The Bulls can't go another season without a backup plan.

Tyler Ennis lacks a ton of potential. The player he is now is pretty much the player he's going to be. That's not necessarily a slight, because there's a lot of value in drafting a player you know can contribute right away. Ennis is a ready-made floor general who wouldn't be out of place in the Bulls offense.


17. Boston Celtics: Rodney Hood, SG, Duke

Rodney Hood does scare you a bit with his suspect defense and average athleticism. He is, however, a great shooter. You can never have too many shooters. It wouldn't be all that surprising if this pick ends up going to Minnesota in a trade for Kevin Love. Basketball Insiders' Steve Kyler reported that the Boston Celtics are willing to mortgage their future on the T-Wolves star:


18. Phoenix Suns: T.J. Warren, SF, North Carolina State

T.J. Warren is a bit deceiving in that when you watch him play, you wouldn't think he's a tremendous scorer. There are few places on the floor from which Warren can't score. The Suns could use another wing or two, so he'd fit right in in Phoenix.


19. Chicago Bulls: Jerami Grant, SF, Syracuse

Ideally, the Bulls could get a scorer like Hood or Warren here. With both gone, they settle for Jerami Grant. While not exactly a consistent shooter, the Syracuse forward is improving that area of his game. Add that to his impressive athleticism and defense and Chicago could have a nice addition here.


20. Toronto Raptors: Elfrid Payton, PG, Louisiana-Lafayette

Like the Suns, the Toronto Raptors have a talented point guard who may not be around much longer. Elfrid Payton isn't a great shooter, but he can penetrate and create for his teammates. The Raptors could do much worse in terms of a possible replacement for Kyle Lowry.


21. Oklahoma City Thunder: Jusuf Nurkic, C, Bosnia

The Oklahoma City Thunder are so reliant on Serge Ibaka that they need a more offensively-minded big man. Jusuf Nurkic has much higher offensive upside than Steven Adams, and since the Thunder don't need him right now, he can stay in Europe and develop.


22. Memphis Grizzlies: P.J. Hairston, SG, Texas Legends

Few teams are in need of outside shooting more than the Memphis Grizzlies. They were last in both three-pointers made (405) and three-pointers attempted (1,147) this season. P.J. Hairston could step on the team right now and be its best shooter.


23. Utah Jazz: K.J. McDaniels, SF, Clemson

The Jazz were one of the worst teams in the league this year defensively. K.J. McDaniels would give them a lockdown defender on the wing. His length and athleticism make him a great shot-blocker as well. Despite being 6'6", he averaged 2.1 and 2.8 blocks a game in his last two seasons at Clemson.

You can see an example in the Vine below of McDaniels' quick hands at the NBA draft combine.

Offensively, McDaniels is a bit limited until he improves his jump shot. He can get to the basket well, so he's far from only a defensive stopper. If he does fall to No. 23, Utah would be getting a steal. A team can never have enough perimeter defenders, and McDaniels' upside is huge.


24. Charlotte Hornets: C.J. Wilcox, SG, Washington

By drafting McDermott and C.J. Wilcox, the Hornets can double up on shooters and eradicate their offensive problems completely. Although Wilcox isn't a lockdown defender, he gives you a lot of effort on that side of the court. He'd be a nice fit on a Clifford-coached team.


25. Houston Rockets: Cleanthony Early, SF, Wichita State

Cleanthony Early is one of the better-shooting tweener forwards in this draft. He can space the floor, which is an asset that the Houston Rockets could use, especially with Chandler Parsons' future up in the air. Early wouldn't be a like-for-like replacement, but his game does resemble Parsons' a bit.


26. Miami Heat: Shabazz Napier, PG, Connecticut

This would simply be a perfect fit. Shabazz Napier is one of the most NBA-ready point guards in the draft and would allow the Miami Heat to let Mario Chalmers walk this offseason. Although Napier's ceiling is low, his ability to walk onto the Heat and produce now meshes well with Miami's win-now attitude.


27. Phoenix Suns: Clint Capela, PF, Switzerland

Three picks in the first round is a lot, so it wouldn't be shocking if the Suns moved out of this spot. Having grabbed two players already, Phoenix can take a gamble. Clint Capela's very raw, but his ability to run the floor is very impressive. He would fit the Suns' offensive system very well.


28. Los Angeles Clippers: Semaj Christon, PG, Xavier

The Los Angeles Clippers don't need to draft an All-Star here. Semaj Christon would offer a safe pair of hands to back up Chris Paul. As long as the Clippers can rein in Christon's penchant for trying the spectacular, he could blossom in Los Angeles.


29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Jordan Adams, SG, UCLA

As was demonstrated in this year's playoffs, the Thunder need to get Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook help off the bench. Jordan Adams won't blow you away with his athleticism, but he knows how to score. That could be a nice boost to Oklahoma City for next season.


30. San Antonio Spurs: Kyle Anderson, PF, UCLA

Boris Diaw has been invaluable for the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals, but he's a free agent at the end of the season. Kyle Anderson has a similar style in that he can read the game very well and knock down shots from long range.


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