The 2014 NBA draft will take place on June 26, and as the draft gets closer, there are a few fast-rising prospects who are beginning to move up boards.
All eyes will be on the Cleveland Cavaliers, who have the No. 1 overall pick for the third time in four years. They'll have their choice of names like Jabari Parker, Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins, with all three looking like future All-Stars. At the same time, there are some players that have gone relatively under the radar until recently, and they're now starting to turn plenty of heads.
With the draft just over a week away, let's take a look at the complete first-round order, followed by predictions for a couple of prospects that are starting to boost their draft stock.
|2014 NBA Draft First Round Order|
|7||Los Angeles Lakers|
|9||Charlotte Hornets (from Detroit)|
|10||Philadelphia 76ers (from New Orleans)|
|12||Orlando Magic (from New York)|
|16||Chicago Bulls (from Charlotte)|
|17||Boston Celtics (from Brooklyn)|
|18||Phoenix Suns (from Washington)|
|21||Oklahoma City Thunder (from Dallas)|
|23||Utah Jazz (from Golden State)|
|24||Charlotte Hornets (from Portland)|
|27||Phoenix Suns (from Indiana)|
|28||Los Angeles Clippers|
|29||Oklahoma City Thunder|
|30||San Antonio Spurs|
Elfrid Payton, PG, Louisiana-Lafayette
Point guards like Tyler Ennis, Dante Exum and Marcus Smart have been getting most of the attention over the past few months, but as the draft approaches, Elfrid Payton is starting to make a lot of noise.
Payton is leaving Louisiana-Lafayette as a junior, and it's hard to argue with his decision. This past season, he averaged 19.2 points, 6.0 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 2.3 steals per game while shooting a very high 50.9 percent. He has nice height to play either guard position at 6'4" and 185 pounds and has impressed many during recent workouts.
ESPN's Chad Ford and Jeff Goodman recently tweeted some promising notes about Payton, as he held his own against Smart and dominated during three-on-three drills.
Thanks to his height and aggressiveness, Payton is a strong point guard when it comes to driving to the basket and either scoring or passing it out to his teammates. He's an incredibly fast player who loves to burn by defenders, but that's where most of his scoring comes from, as he's not a strong outside shooter.
There are a few teams that will need a point guard in the middle or end of the first round, and the Toronto Raptors definitely come to mind. Kyle Lowry is a free agent, and the options behind him aren't appealing. Even if the Raptors can get Lowry back, they'll need a strong backup if they want to be a contender once again in the Eastern Conference.
Prediction: No. 20 overall to Toronto Raptors
Zach LaVine, SG, UCLA
A lot of scouts criticized Zach LaVine for declaring for the NBA draft after a less than ideal freshman season at UCLA. Granted, he's still probably declaring a bit early, but a lot of those scouts quieted down after LaVine's workout with the Los Angeles Lakers.
During his workout with the Lakers, LaVine showed off his athleticism, posting a ridiculous 46-inch vertical that blew up on social media after the team released the following Vine.
The athleticism is hard to ignore for LaVine, but he still has a ways to go before he's ready to become a force in the NBA. In his one season with the Bruins, he averaged just 9.4 points and 2.5 rebounds per game while shooting 44.1 percent. His jump shot isn't fully developed, but LaVine understands that.
"I feel like I have pretty good range already on my jump shot," LaVine told Bleacher Report's Jared Zwerling. "But I just need to be more consistent, balanced, to always hold my follow-through and not lean back—just different little tendencies."
He's still developing, but the upside for LaVine is enormous. He has nice length at the shooting guard position and uses his athleticism to make explosive plays near the basket. He has good ball-handling skills and is great in transition, but he'll need to work on fundamentals and hit the weight room to add some weight to his 6'6", 180-pound frame.
LaVine will be a work in progress, but that's just fine for teams looking for a long-term option on the wing. A team with a few picks to work with, like the Phoenix Suns, will have no problem taking LaVine given his upside.
Prediction: No. 18 overall to Phoenix Suns