With so many big-time stars available in the 2014 NBA mock draft, it is easy for teams to be overwhelmed. The good news is that there is a smart move for every squad selecting in the first round.
Whether an organization is drafting in the top five or it is picking at the end of the round, there are quality options available. Depending on need, there is someone who can help improve a roster either this season or in the future.
Although each franchise has its own opinions on the available players, here is a breakdown of the smartest move each could take in the first round.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Joel Embiid, C, Kansas
There is still a lot of uncertainty surrounding the first pick, but the smart move for the Cavaliers would be to draft Joel Embiid.
The team drafted a wing last season in Anthony Bennett, and his year was not as bad as people initially thought. Although his playing time was limited, the No. 1 pick averaged 15.7 points and 11.2 rebounds per 48 minutes.
As a result, Cleveland can pass on the two star small forwards and instead fill a bigger need at center. Chad Ford of ESPN breaks down why the big man would be a great pick (subscription required):
Players like Embiid don't come along very often and if he continues to impress, he has the chance to be the best center in the NBA someday. For a team that has a need at the 5 (Anderson Varejao is 32 and in the last year of his contract), he gives them both low-post offense and the rim protection that the Cavs have desperately lacked in the past.
With an improvement at center to build with a young, talented backcourt, the Cavaliers could continue to create the best young roster in the NBA.
2. Milwaukee Bucks: Andrew Wiggins, SF, Kansas
Andrew Wiggins is not a finished product by any means, but he has as much upside as anyone in the class. He has incredible athleticism that will allow him to make plays at or above the rim against any defense. If he can improve his ability to create shots, he can be a star.
The Bucks are a long way from contention, so they can use a prospect with as much potential as possible.
3. Philadelphia 76ers: Jabari Parker, SF, Duke
Although the 76ers would have loved to win the lottery, they are still in good shape in that they can just wait to watch the draft unfold and pick the best player available.
Jabari Parker is an excellent consolation prize as arguably the best pure scorer in the class. He can shoot well from three-point range or drive and get buckets in the paint. With his skill, he can be an instant go-to option for Philadelphia.
4. Orlando Magic: Dante Exum, PG, Australia
Dante Exum might be a bit of a mystery, but he has all the tools you look for in a guard. He has size at 6'6" with great quickness to get into the lane and make plays from there.
Adding him to a roster with Victor Oladipo could give the Magic two versatile players who can create a quality backcourt tandem for the long haul.
5. Utah Jazz: Noah Vonleh, PF, Indiana
The Celtics would love to bring in the Massachusetts native, but the Jazz are going to ruin that plan by selecting Noah Vonleh first.
With great post moves, athleticism and a solid outside shot, the length forward has the potential to be among the best in the league at his position. ESPN's Chad Ford notes that scouts are high on him:
Said another "Vonleh's got elite physical tools and is very skilled. He should be in the same group with Wiggins, Embiid, Parker & Exum"— Chad Ford (@chadfordinsider) May 30, 2014
Meanwhile, ESPN's Ethan Sherwood Strauss also questions why he is not higher on draft boards:
What's the big, glaring Noah Vonleh flaw I'm missing?— Ethan Strauss (@SherwoodStrauss) May 30, 2014
Vonleh could pair well with Derrick Favors as someone who can spend more time on the outside while also helping out on the boards. The Jazz need to go for potential difference-makers in this draft, and this is one of them.
6. Boston Celtics: Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky
The Celtics do not particularly need a power forward in this draft, but it is important for them to take the best available when picking this high. That means Julius Randle should be the pick.
Standing at 6'9" and 250 pounds, the forward can use his size to get position in the low post and consistently score easy baskets while also contributing on the glass every possession. His high motor would be a great addition to a blue-collar team.
7. Los Angeles Lakers: Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State
The Lakers need to start their rebuilding process, which means they need to draft someone who can be a leader going forward. Marcus Smart can be that person with his great intensity and willingness to contribute on both ends of the court.
Although he does not have a great outside shot, he knows how to help an offense and should be a starting point guard for a long time.
8. Sacramento Kings: Aaron Gordon, PF, Arizona
Aaron Gordon is relatively raw heading into the draft, but there is no denying his pure athleticism will be a factor at the next level. In his only season at Arizona, he made some spectacular dunks while also contributing with blocks on defense.
The Kings can use a steady power forward to take some of the pressure off DeMarcus Cousins inside, and Gordon can be that player.
9. Charlotte Hornets (via Detroit Pistons): Doug McDermott, SF, Creighton
Doug McDermott might have one of the highest floors of anyone in the draft. No matter what happens, you know he will provide teams with great outside shooting and additional scoring in other ways. This already has Charlotte intrigued, via Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer:
I think the Hornets might be high on Doug McDermott for the 9th pick. Nothing firm, but an indication.— Rick Bonnell (@rick_bonnell) June 9, 2014
The wing could potentially be an elite scorer, but at the very least he will be someone who can stretch the floor and help out any offense.
10. Philadelphia 76ers (via New Orleans Pelicans): Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State
Even though the 76ers added Jabari Parker earlier in the draft, they could still use more perimeter players who can help out offensively. Gary Harris is a prototypical 2-guard who can score off the dribble or nail shots from the three-point line if given the chance.
Harris is also able to separate himself with his defensive ability. He is a hard worker on that end of the court and should be able to help a squad that struggled to stop anyone last season.
11. Denver Nuggets: Dario Saric, SF, Croatia
Denver needs to look for upside in this draft with someone who could potentially develop into a star in the NBA.
Although Dario Saric is not a proven commodity, he has the skill of a point guard with the size of a power forward at 6'10". No matter what position he ends up playing in the NBA, he will be able to at least help out an offense and possibly do much more.
12. Orlando Magic (via New York Knicks): Adreian Payne, PF, Michigan State
After Orlando solidified the backcourt by adding Dante Exum, the squad can improve the frontcourt by adding a versatile scorer who is ready to contribute right away.
Adreian Payne is a quality inside-outside player who will immediately join the rotation and help out a struggling Magic offense.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves: Nik Stauskas, SG, Michigan
Nick Stauskas spent his freshman season at Michigan being basically just a shooter, but he advanced his game in his sophomore year to be a better all-around player.
According to Greg Garno of the Detroit Free Press, the guard explained his offensive capabilities:
I’m a guy that can create for others. I’m an unselfish player. I’ll take the open shot when it’s there, but I’ve enjoyed setting my teammates up. I’m good at reading the floor and making the right plays. I feel like I don’t force the action too much, and I’m patient. I wait for things to happen and when I see the opportunity, I take it.
I think I can do a lot more than shoot the ball. But I think, immediately coming in, I can be a guy that can really stretch the floor.
The Timberwolves could use some more backcourt scoring to match the top teams in the Western Conference, and Stauskas can be a big help.
14. Phoenix Suns: James Young, SF, Kentucky
In his only year at Kentucky, James Young showed a lot of the skills that made him such a highly rated player. He has impressive athleticism with the skill to score inside while also showcasing a quality jump shot.
The biggest problem was inconsistency, which will hopefully be solved in time. If he can reach his potential, though, the Suns will be getting a steal at the end of the lottery.
15. Atlanta Hawks: Rodney Hood, SF, Duke
Rodney Hood was overshadowed at Duke by Jabari Parker, but he showcased many of the same skills as the freshman. Hood can drive into the paint and score at or above the rim while also displaying the ability to hit a three-pointer if given the space.
The Hawks need more scoring depth, and Hood has the ability to help out in this area early in his career.
16. Chicago Bulls (via Charlotte Hornets): Tyler Ennis, PG, Syracuse
Although the Bulls have a point guard in Derrick Rose, he has missed the majority of the past two seasons due to injury. Chicago does not only need a backup plan, but it needs someone capable of making other players better.
Tyler Ennis has great composure and always seems to make the right decision with the ball. This will help improve an offense more than the guards who were on the roster this past season.
Which point guard will have the best NBA career?
17. Boston Celtics (via Brooklyn Nets): Zach LaVine, PG, UCLA
Zach LaVine is as raw as they come, having come off the bench in his only season at UCLA. He showcased some ability as a scorer and a passer, but he still has a long way to go to reach his potential.
The good news is that he has plenty of upside thanks to his quickness and incredible athleticism. If he falls to this point, the Celtics have to take a risk on this player.
18. Phoenix Suns (via Washington Wizards): Elfrid Payton, PG, Louisiana-Lafayette
Elfrid Payton is moving up draft boards thanks to his ability to score the basketball. He averaged 19.2 points per game for Louisiana-Lafayette and has the quickness to keep this up in the NBA.
After seeing what Damian Lillard can do after coming out of a small school, teams are not afraid to take a chance on these types of players. At the very least, he can provide quality depth at point guard for Phoenix behind Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe.
19. Chicago Bulls: T.J. Warren, SF, North Carolina State
The Bulls made the playoffs last season but had the worst offense in basketball. They simply need players who can create shots for themselves and score consistently.
Although T.J. Warren might not be the most complete player in the class, he is an elite scorer with a deadly mid-range game that will allow him to be a big-time contributor as a pro.
20. Toronto Raptors: Kyle Anderson, SF, UCLA
There are some players who do not stand out in workouts but would be great additions to NBA teams. Kyle Anderson is one of those players as an elite glue guy who can make everyone around him better.
The 6'9" player was a point guard at UCLA always seeming to make the right play with the ball. While he might move to small forward at the next level, he will still be able to use his great vision and passing ability to improve an offense.
Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman compared Anderson to another player who contributes in this area:
Deep down I bet Kyle Anderson is loving this Boris Diaw run. Highlights the value of a good passer. Don't need athleticism to be a good one.— Jonathan Wasserman (@NBADraftWass) June 6, 2014
Toronto has plenty of talented players on the roster, but the squad struggles when the stars get too selfish. Anderson can help improve the flow of the offense and help the Raptors remain playoff contenders.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Dallas Mavericks): Jusuf Nurkic, C, Bosnia
The Thunder desperately need balance in the frontcourt to pair with their talented perimeter players. Even though last year's first-round pick, Steven Adams, had a solid season, this is not enough.
Jusuf Nurkic is one of the few true centers in this class and should be able to help the rotation of a contending team.
22. Memphis Grizzlies: Cleanthony Early, SF, Wichita State
Memphis still has a great defense but struggles to keep up offensively with good teams. There are talented scorers but not enough players know how to create opportunities for themselves.
Cleanthony Early will help out in this area with his quality offensive game. Over the last two seasons, the Wichita State star showed he can be a go-to option with the ability to score from anywhere on the court. Add this to his tough defensive game, and he can be a quality contributor.
23. Utah Jazz (via Golden State Warriors): P.J. Hairston, SG, Texas Legends (NBDL)
P.J. Hairston is one of the better shooters in the class with the athleticism to score inside. Although he had problems with consistency this past season in the NBDL, the talent is unmistakable.
This would be a quality addition on the perimeter for the Jazz after adding Noah Vonleh earlier in the first round.
24. Charlotte Hornets (via Portland Trail Blazers): Clint Capela, PF, Switzerland
Outside of Al Jefferson, the Hornets had very little production from the frontcourt. Few players were capable of working to get rebounds or protecting the rim, two things that Doug McDermott will not be able to help.
Clint Capela is an unfinished product but can rebound and block shots at a high level right away. Even if he does not develop the rest of his game, he will be a useful addition for a young team.
25. Houston Rockets: K.J. McDaniels, SF, Clemson
Houston clearly has enough offensive talent to contend for a title, but the defense has been a major issue over the past two seasons. Adding the ACC Defensive Player of the Year could be a good way to solve this issue.
K.J. McDaniels can block shots like a center and should be able to shore up a perimeter defense that held this team back for too long.
26. Miami Heat: Shabazz Napier, PG, Connecticut
Shabazz Napier has been a major question mark in the predraft process. He has all the skills you look for in a point guard, but his size at 6'0" could prevent him from ever being a starter.
However, he is a winner who has two national titles at UConn. He will do everything necessary to help his team win, a quality the Heat could use as they look to bring home more championships.
27. Phoenix Suns (via Indiana Pacers): Jerami Grant, PF, Syracuse
The Suns have plenty of depth, but they need help in the frontcourt to help compete with the bigger teams in the conference. Alex Len provided very little production in his first year, and Miles Plumlee is far from a starting-level center.
Jerami Grant has been sliding down draft boards due to his struggles as a shooter, as detailed by Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca:
Syracuse's Jerami Grant laboured through 3pt shooting drills, he attempted just 5 last year. Raps noted Cleanthony Early's competitive fire— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) June 11, 2014
However, the truth is that he is better-suited on the inside as a tough rebounder and someone who can get easy shots inside. He is not a center, but he has great length and athleticism that will help him on both ends of the court.
Even if Grant never develops an outside shot, he will still provide value to any team.
28. Los Angeles Clippers: Mitch McGary, PF, Michigan
Mitch McGary was forced to declare for the draft before he was ready due to a failed drug test. The bigger problem with this is his lack of development going forward.
The good news is that he can help out right away with his high motor and strong rebounding ability. This would work out perfectly for the Clippers, who could use another frontcourt player off the bench.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: C.J. Wilcox, SG, Washington
C.J. Wilcox was a quality scorer at Washington and should be able to keep this up in the NBA. He has decent size at 6'5" and knows how to use it to get his shot off against defenders.
30. San Antonio Spurs: Nick Johnson, SG, Arizona
Nick Johnson is not the biggest player in the class, but at 6'3" with good athleticism he can still score with the best of them. He also has a knack for coming through in big moments, something that could be useful on a contending squad.
The Spurs have shown the ability to take overlooked prospects in the draft and turn them into stars, and Johnson can be the latest addition.
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