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NBA Draft 2014: Bold Predictions for Top Prospects in Round 1

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NBA Draft 2014: Bold Predictions for Top Prospects in Round 1
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Even with only a few days left before the 2014 NBA draft, determining where the year's top prospects will go remains a quizzical process.

After all, smoke screens, trade buzz and prospect rumors seem to weave an ever-growing tangled web around the Internet at this time of year.

Attempting to sort through all of the nonsense is a daunting task in itself.

That won't stop us from speculating.

Based on what we currently know regarding team needs, schematic fits and prospect skill sets, let's decipher the enigma that is the NBA draft and boldly determine where a few of the talented prospects comprising this year's deep draft class will land.

 

2. Milwaukee Bucks: Dante Exum, PG, Australia

The big three in this year's draft have been Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid and Jabari Parker. These players have been expected to go at Nos. 1, 2 and 3 in one order or another.

Well, after Embiid underwent ankle surgery, he's projected to fall out of the top three.

Not only does that open the door for Exum to jump up in the draft, but the Aussie could go a bit higher than we originally anticipated.

Australian phenom Dante Exum has been the draft's mystery man and wild card throughout the process. He has the potential to be a top-three selection and maybe hasn't been considered as such since so little was known about him.

That didn't stop the Bucks' intrigue early in the process. Back on June 10, ESPN's Chad Ford released a mock draft (Insider required), which has the following to say regarding the Bucks.

"Exum is the wild card. The team gets him in for a workout this weekend. They'd really like to upgrade the point and move Brandon Knight to the 2. If Exum wows in the workout, he could move to the top of their board. I think he fits their biggest need."

Well, as it turns out, the Bucks came away impressed after seeing the Aussie up close and personal, according to a tweet from CF Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

That wasn't the first time Exum impressed during workouts.

His measurables at the NBA Draft Combine were fantastic. Exum stands at 6'6" with shoes on and has an 8'7" standing reach and 6'9.5" wingspan.

Not only has Exum's physical attributes and skill set been impressive, but he's wowed analysts and NBA executives with his overwhelmingly mature attitude during interviews.

Take a look for yourself:

Milwaukee has a promising roster featuring Larry Sanders, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Knight, and Exum could be the icing on the cake in the team's backcourt.

Moving Knight to the 2 and allowing Exum to run point would give this team a formidable duo at guard.

It could easily be Exum who is the second prospect off the board this year.

 

7. Los Angeles Lakers: Elfrid Payton, PG, Louisiana-Lafayette

Payton flew under the radar for the majority of last season until he took center stage during the NCAA tournament.

With the Ragin' Cajuns, Payton tallied 19.2 points, six rebounds, 5.9 assists and 2.3 steals per game as a junior and shot an impressive 50.9 percent from the field.

He stepped up in a big way in the NCAA tournament against Doug McDermott's Creighton Bluejays. In the 76-66 loss, Payton accumulated 24 points, eight boards, three assists, two blocks and three steals while only turning the ball over once.

At the NBA Draft Combine, Payton measured 6'3.75" with shoes on, with an 8'2.5" standing reach and 6'8" wingspan.

Payton needs to develop his long ball a bit but is absolutely ready to come in and contribute at point guard. Fran Fraschilla of ESPN tweeted a very notable NBA comparison:

According to other reports, such as this tweet from Jeff Goodman of ESPN, Payton has been impressive during workouts:

The buzz around this point guard continues to grow. This is an area of need for the Lakers, as the team is looking for NBA-ready players to contribute from day one.

Payton fits the mold.

Assuming Dante Exum and Marcus Smart are off the board before the Lakers pick at No. 7 overall, there's a chance Payton could be the guy. After all, Los Angeles worked the guard twice before the draft:

It certainly seems as though the fit is there.

 

10. Philadelphia 76ers: Zach LaVine, PG, UCLA

The first thing you may ask here is: Why on earth would the Sixers draft a point guard early with Michael Carter-Williams in the fold?

Well, that's because LaVine could easily project as a 2.

Assuming Philadelphia adds a member to its frontcourt with the third pick in the draft, it's easy to speculate the team will be looking at a guard here. Even though the Sixers will have multiple options, the upside of LaVine could be the difference-maker.

We know LaVine isn't incredibly experienced—he averaged just 24.4 minutes per game during his freshman season at UCLA—but his freakish athletic ability is wildly intriguing.

At the draft combine, LaVine measured 6'5.75" with shoes on, along with an 8'4" standing reach and 6'8.25" wingspan.

Those measurements are great for a guard, but his athletic ability is simply mesmerizing. First, he recorded a good 41.5" vertical at the combine. Well, he absolutely blew that out of the water shortly after during a workout with the Lakers.

Here's a look, courtesy of the Lakers' Vine account:

Yes, that would be a 46" vertical.

LaVine may not be the purest shooter in the draft class this year, but he's shown flashes. He certainly impressed Jonathan Givony of Draft Express at the combine:

LaVine's athleticism gives him options as a contributor from day one. He can score from outside, he can drive the lane, and he can help stretch the floor. Once he develops, he could absolutely become a monster in the NBA.

If the Sixers select him with the No. 10 pick after shoring up the wing with their No. 3 selection, we could be looking at a very dangerous offense within a few years.

 

All combine measurements courtesy of NBA.com.

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