Although the NBA draft produces a friendlier success rate than other major pro sports, it's still a land mine of uncertainty for franchises fearful of committing a costly blunder.
Top basketball prospects are more likely to realize their potential than MLB and NFL hopefuls, yet the history books feature Greg Oden, Adam Morrison, Kwame Brown and Anthony Bennett. No team can assume it secured a sure thing.
Of course, things get ever dicier the later the draft progresses. Everyone is looking to win the jackpot outside the lottery selections, but most clubs will instead strike out and waste their money.
Nobody is saying these guys will become absolute busts, but their current value should worry prospective drafters.
When: Thursday, June 26
Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, New York
TV/Live Stream: ESPN, WatchESPN
|2014 NBA Draft Order|
|7||Los Angeles Lakers|
|9||Charlotte Hornets (From Detroit)|
|10||Philadelphia 76ers (From New Orleans)|
|12||Orlando Magic (From New York via Denver)|
|16||Chicago Bulls (From Charlotte)|
|17||Boston Celtics (From Brooklyn)|
|18||Phoenix Suns (From Washington)|
|21||Oklahoma City Thunder (From Dallas via Houston and L.A. Lakers)|
|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|
|33||Cleveland Cavaliers (From Orlando)|
|34||Dallas Mavericks (From Boston)|
|36||Milwaukee Bucks (From L.A. Lakers via Minnesota and Phoenix)|
|37||Toronto Raptors (From Sacramento)|
|39||Philadelphia 76ers (From Cleveland)|
|40||Minnesota Timberwolves (From New Orleans)|
|42||Houston Rockets (From New York)|
|47||Philadelphia 76ers (From Brooklyn via Dallas and Boston)|
|48||Milwaukee Bucks (From Toronto via Phoenix)|
|52||Philadelphia 76ers (From Memphis via Cleveland)|
|53||Minnesota Timberwolves (From Golden State)|
|54||Philadelphia 76ers (From Houston via Milwaukee)|
|56||Denver Nuggets (From Portland)|
|58||San Antonio Spurs (From L.A. Clippers via New Orleans)|
|59||Toronto Raptors (From Oklahoma City via New York)|
|60||San Antonio Spurs|
Joel Embiid, C, Kansas
For all the risks associated with taking a big man with prior back ailments, a healthy Joel Embiid is way too talented to slip outside the top three. But No. 1 over Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker? That's where fans should start to sweat and worry about Cleveland's sport curse striking once again.
Before the 2013 season started, the top pick figured to be a two-way contest between Wiggins and Parker, two sensational small forwards who would have easily gone first in last year's draft if the league allowed them to enter fresh out of high school. Then Embiid emerged to make the top of the draft board a three-headed monster.
The 7'0" center averaged 11.2 points a night on an incredibly effective 62.6 percent shooting while imposing his will on defense with 2.8 blocks. Armed with the No. 1 pick, the Cleveland Cavaliers could look his way in hopes of snagging Hakeem Olajuwon 2.0.
But health concerns could prevent that lofty projection from materializing. Embiid suffered back woes that caused him to miss the NCAA tournament. At the NBA combine, he told ESPN's Chad Ford that he's back to full strength.
Even if that issue is cleared, another problem has materialized. ESPN's Jeff Goodman reported that Embiid sustained an injured right foot, which was elaborated on by agent Arn Tellem:
[He] suffered a stress fracture to the navicular bone in his right foot. He is scheduled to have surgery tomorrow. Joel will be unable to participate in any additional workouts, and will not attend the draft in New York. We will have no further comment until after the surgery.
Big men no longer control a faster, smaller, more shooter-centric league, and their bodies also fail them more. Embiid may become an All-Star center, but there's a risk of this becoming another Oden over Kevin Durant scenario.
Dario Saric, F, Croatia
Any international player is risky. Translating their numbers to the pro circuit is even a less exact science than extrapolating collegiate-to-pro outputs.
Dario Saric is an intriguing prospect with a silky-smooth jumper and a keen sense of passing routes. Some team is going to bite, perhaps as early as the Charlotte Hornets at pick No. 9. Ford reported that the Croatian prospect will indeed put his name into the draft pool.
Take his same skill set and assign it to a college prospect, and that player wouldn't draw the same high-risk label. The problem? Not knowing when Saric will show up to the NBA. According to David Pick of Eurobasket.com, he'll only play in 2014 if one of two prestigious franchise selects him.
Considering the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers pick No. 6 and 7, respectively, that's not a likely scenario. Another rebuilding team will take a chance on stashing him, but they have no way of knowing that one year won't turn into two or more years overseas before arriving to the United States.
In a deep draft, that's a risky gambit to play late in the lottery, his current general target range. If he falls a tad further, a team with multiple draft picks—the Phoenix Suns have three—could justify the waiting game.
Zach LaVine, G, UCLA
The Zach LaVine bandwagon is getting really crowded, which will likely lead to a higher price of admission on draft night.
Nobody knows where the UCLA combo guard will land, but it's not out of the realm of possibility to hear a lottery team call his name. He improved his draft stock with a 46" vertical jump during a workout for the Los Angeles Lakers, per the team's official Twitter page.
Athletically, LaVine's capabilities are off the charts, which will propel an eager team to jump as high as early in the first round in hopes of stealing a star. After all, Russell Westbrook is crazy athletic and went to UCLA, so that guarantees LaVine will also become a superstar few fans appreciate, right?
Before getting too excited, let's take a step back and look at his college ledger. He averaged a modest 9.4 points and 1.8 assists per game during his freshman season. Granted, he only played 24.4 minutes a game, but he wasn't making a grand case for an enhanced role by shooting 44.1 percent.
In his last five games, which consisted of two Pac-12 Tournament affairs and three March Madness contests, he registered a combined 11 points and six turnovers. When he declared for the pros, Yahoo! Sports' Jeff Eisenberg said that, although he understood the decision from a reserve player at UCLA drawing first-round buzz, he's not ready for the NBA:
LaVine isn't just not ready for the NBA — he's light years from being ready. Aside from being lethal finishing in transition and knocking down spot-up threes, there's almost nothing he does at that level at the moment. He doesn't have a mid-range game, he struggles to create for himself or others off the dribble and he's far from a lock-down defender despite having the tools to become that someday.
LaVine has potential, but remember that he's a long-term project pick who will need years of seasoning in the right environment before making much of an impact.