After securing the top selection in the 2014 NBA draft, the Cleveland Cavaliers now must choose from a multitude of options at No. 1. They can trade the pick to move back in Round 1 and bring in veteran talent, or they can take one of three or four extraordinary prospects.
They're on the clock.
In most drafts, there's a clear-cut No. 1 prospect. That's not the case this year. It would be understandable for the Cavs to take one of three players with the top pick. Because this is the case, the teams selecting after Cleveland can't start mapping out their drafts just yet. They can scout, of course, but it's difficult for them to pinpoint who will be available.
While every team has several options, there's only one correct move. Here are the best prospects for each pick in Round 1.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Joel Embiid, C, Kansas
Joel Embiid is perhaps the most impressive prospect in this draft class, as his sheer physical size and dominant skills will likely make him a future stud in the NBA. That is, if he stays healthy. Back issues derailed the end of his freshman year at Kansas, but that might not stop the Cavaliers from taking him No. 1 overall.
He tweeted on Tuesday that he was in Cleveland for a predraft workout:
You can bet that a good portion of this workout was to see if Embiid is healthy.
2. Milwaukee Bucks: Andrew Wiggins, SF, Kansas
The player with the highest ceiling in the class, Andrew Wiggins can score and leap with the best of them. The Bucks desperately need to pair young Giannis Antetokounmpo with another exciting youngster, and Wiggins fits the mold.
When he blossoms in a few years, the Bucks will be ready to contend.
3. Philadelphia 76ers: Jabari Parker, SF, Duke
Jabari Parker is the most NBA-ready scorer available at No. 3. The 76ers need scoring and a player with superstar potential, which makes this a perfect pairing. He will be the offensive leader from Day 1 in Philly, even if it takes him time to adjust to the NBA.
4. Orlando Magic: Dante Exum, PG, Australia
The Magic have a ton of needs, but there's no better way to speed up the rebuilding process than bringing in a point guard like Dante Exum. He is the real deal. He can shoot, drive to the basket, distribute and even rebound.
Exum's versatility to play shooting guard in certain rotations makes him a no-brainer at No. 4.
5. Utah Jazz: Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky
One of the best big men in the draft, Julius Randle might slip a bit in the draft because of a foot injury. The surgery he's undergoing to fix the problem shouldn't leave any long-lasting issues, though, so his stock shouldn't drop all that much.
Regardless, he is a beast whom the Jazz will incorporate into their collection of big men. There's nothing wrong with having too many big bodies, as they can always be used in a rotation.
6. Boston Celtics: Aaron Gordon, PF, Arizona
Comparing Aaron Gordon to Blake Griffin isn't a fair assessment to make at this point in Gordon's career, but if I had to pick one player in this class to call the next Griffin, it would be him.
Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe agrees with that sentiment:
Gordon is supremely athletic and plays fantastic defense. The offense will come with time.
7. Los Angeles Lakers: Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State
With holes all over the place, the Lakers can go many different directions at No. 7. The best move would be to take a point guard.
Marcus Smart can learn how to be a great point guard in this league from Steve Nash while also learning how to be an accomplished scorer from Kobe Bryant.
8. Sacramento Kings: Noah Vonleh, PF, Indiana
Noah Vonleh is an extraordinary athlete who plays well above the rim. He plays an athletic game near the basket, but he has also shown the ability to shoot well from the perimeter. There's really nothing this kid can't do, making him a good fit for the Kings.
9. Charlotte Hornets: Doug McDermott, PF, Creighton
New location, new face of the franchise.
The Hornets need to usher in another new era in Charlotte by bringing in a new face of the franchise in this draft. Doug McDermott can be that guy on and off the court. He can be a team leader on the court, giving this team the scoring punch it needs to take the next step.
10. Philadelphia 76ers (from New Orleans): Gary Harris, PG/SG, Michigan State
After grabbing Parker at No. 3, the Sixers will go with Gary Harris at No. 10. He's a big-time defender who is also capable of scoring the basketball. As a team leader at Michigan State, he led the Spartans to a deep run in the NCAA tournament this past March/April.
11. Denver Nuggets: Dario Saric, SF, Croatia
When I think of Dario Saric, I'm reminded of Parker—but all of his skills are just a tier below the Duke product's.
Saric can score, distribute and handle the ball. He's a decent defender as well. He'll need more time to acclimate to the NBA than Parker will, however, as Saric has had most of his success overseas in Croatia.
12. Orlando Magic (from New York): James Young, SF, Kentucky
James Young is a great scorer and shooter from the perimeter. He has the type of touch that can make him a primary scorer for Orlando in his rookie year. Pairing him with Exum will create a dynamic one-two punch to build around.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves: Adreian Payne, PF, Michigan State
There might be a big hole at power forward if Kevin Love gets traded, so the Timberwolves should look for his replacement at No. 13. Adreian Payne isn't the same shooter that Love is, but he can hit from deep on occasion while also converting near the basket and grabbing rebounds.
14. Phoenix Suns: Nik Stauskas, SG, Michigan
Every great team has someone who can knock 'em down from long range. The Suns would improve immensely by grabbing Nik Stauskas at No. 14. He is mostly a spot-up guy, but he has shown the ability to create off the dribble as well.
15. Atlanta Hawks: Clint Capela, PF, Switzerland
At 6'11", Clint Capela has immense length that helps him play above the rim. He can rebound, block shots and redirect errant passes with ease. He is also a big man who runs the floor with decent agility.
16. Chicago Bulls (from Charlotte): Rodney Hood, SF, Duke
The Bulls love wing players who can defend, and Rodney Hood should be the latest member of a deep group of perimeter defenders.
He gives the Bulls an added bonus with his scoring potential, however. He'll be useful as a rotational player for a few years before moving into bigger minutes.
17. Boston Celtics (from Brooklyn): Tyler Ennis, PG, Syracuse
Tyler Ennis was a floor general at Syracuse thanks to his clutch play (see: above video) and ability to run the point, and the Celtics won't let him slide past them.
Rajon Rondo is still wearing green, but nobody knows how long he'll stay in Boston. I don't think Danny Ainge even knows. Ennis is a great insurance policy.
18. Phoenix Suns (from Washington): T.J. Warren, SF, N.C. State
The Suns don't need any more players they need to wait on. With T.J. Warren, what you see is what you get.
He knows how to score and will be one of the better bench scorers in the NBA next season. He can drive to the basket with regularity, but he can also stop on a dime and pop a jumper.
19. Chicago Bulls: Zach LaVine, SG, UCLA
Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com wrote about the otherworldly vertical of shooting guard Zach LaVine: "During a workout with the Los Angeles Lakers, UCLA shooting guard Zach LaVine turned in a 46-inch vertical leap -- two inches higher than Wiggins' vertical. The 46-inch vertical leap is the highest known measurement of any NBA Draft prospect."
LaVine is a quality prospect moving forward, though he likely won't turn into a starting player for a few years. The Bulls' depth will allow him to develop at his own pace.
20. Toronto Raptors: Jerami Grant, SF, Syracuse
Another stellar athlete, Jerami Grant will fit well with the Raptors. DeMar DeRozan is similarly athletic and has had to adapt his athleticism to an all-around offensive arsenal. Grant can learn from DeRozan and make his mark in Toronto.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder (from Dallas): Kyle Anderson, SF, UCLA
Kyle Anderson has a wingspan of 7'3". Thunder head coach Scott Brooks will make good use of that length, putting him in defensive rotations and using him when he needs a little extra size on the court. Anderson has a chance to see quality minutes off the bench in OKC.
22. Memphis Grizzlies: Shabazz Napier, PG, UConn
Shabazz Napier will find it hard to pry minutes away from Mike Conley, but his scoring ability could find him minutes at shooting guard in Memphis.
Napier is one of the smartest players in this class, and he showed his overall skills in UConn's unbelievable NCAA tournament run.
23. Utah Jazz (from Golden State): C.J. Wilcox, SG, Washington
C.J. Wilcox won't hurt the Jazz with turnovers, and he'll also score with regularity off the bench. Gordon Hayward has a stranglehold on the shooting guard position, but nobody knows what the future holds.
If Hayward leaves via free agency in the future, then Wilcox can step in.
24. Charlotte Hornets (via Portland): P.J. Hairston, SG, Texas Legends
P.J. Hairston showed his scoring ability with the Texas Legends last season, but his past history at North Carolina should hurt his draft stock just a bit. He's still a candidate to go in the 20s, and the Hornets are a good fit for the score-first shooting guard.
25. Houston Rockets: K.J. McDaniels, SF, Clemson
This pick represents somewhat of a dream for the Rockets, as K.J. McDaniels fits everything the Rockets need. They love to score in transition, and that's what the Clemson product excels at. Plus, he's unbelievable on defense. This is a perfect match.
26. Miami Heat: Elfrid Payton, PG, Louisiana-Lafayette
The spotlight has been on Elfrid Payton recently, as his status as a mid-major has brought more attention to his accomplishments at Louisiana-Lafayette.
The Heat are a good fit for him because of their star power. The stars will keep the spotlight off him in Miami, allowing him to focus on being an NBA rookie.
27. Phoenix Suns (from Indiana): Cleanthony Early, PF, Wichita State
Cleanthony Early is just 6'7", so a transition to small forward is possible. He is still quality near the basket, and he also will give Phoenix the added benefit of perimeter scoring.
28. Los Angeles Clippers: Jarnell Stokes, PF, Tennessee
Depth is the Clippers' strength, and they'll add to that depth at No. 28 by selecting Jarnell Stokes. He couldn't be in a better position, as he'll learn how to be a big man in the NBA from Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Kristaps Porzingis, PF, Latvia
A promise is a promise.
Chad Ford of ESPN.com tweeted that the Thunder promised Latvian forward Kristaps Porzingis that they'll take him at some point in Round 1:
It's an interesting guarantee to make, but Porzingis is certainly a good prospect.
30. San Antonio Spurs: Jusuf Nurkic, C Bosnia
Jusuf Nurkic is an enormous human. At 6'11", 280 pounds, he will dominate other big men on the glass.
The Spurs can give him time to adapt to basketball in the States, and you can rest assured that Gregg Popovich will put him in a position to succeed.
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