Every NBA team with a first-round pick has the chance to gain significant value through the 2014 draft.
While the top portion of this draft class is as gifted as any in the past decade, its depth is its greatest strength. High-ceiling prospects will be around to offer star potential in the mid-to-late first round, and many draftees-to-be will be able to step in and be productive rotation players now.
The handful of teams without a first-round pick will be clamoring to trade in. There’s just too much talent available for anyone to afford missing out on this haul.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Joel Embiid, C, Kansas
Cleveland has established Kyrie Irving at point guard, and now it can lock down its frontcourt cornerstone in Embiid.
He has all the tools to turn into a two-way force as a pro. A true 7-footer with an even longer wingspan, he's going to be an elite shot-blocker immediately. His smoothness when he runs and pivots sets him up to develop into a nice scorer while facing up and with his back to the basket.
2. Milwaukee Bucks: Jabari Parker, SF, Duke
The only useful long-term pieces Milwaukee has are Larry Sanders, an intimidating rim-protector, and Giannis Antetokounmpo, whom the Bucks hope will develop into a shutdown wing defender.
Adding scoring to the mix should be the top priority now, and that makes Parker the pick here. He can score inside and out and can create his own shot better than anyone else this draft class. He can fill the open role of the Bucks' primary scoring option from Day 1.
3. Philadelphia 76ers: Andrew Wiggins, SF, Kansas
The Sixers will be ecstatic that Wiggins' athleticism and defensive ability will still be available at No. 3.
While he is still working on his half-court offense, he's already a terror in transition, which will fit nicely with Philly's breakneck pace. On the other end, he'll provide some much-needed perimeter defensive help for Michael Carter-Williams, helping the point guard avoid some of his gambling habits from his rookie year.
4. Orlando Magic: Dante Exum, PG, Australia
Not only does Orlando land the best available talent here but also gets a perfect backcourt mate for Victor Oladipo.
As the Magic transition Oladipo to point guard, his ideal counterpart is someone like Exum—a 6'6" guard with the athleticism and passing skills to play the point. He's not prepared to run the offense by himself quite yet, but he'll share some of the burden with Oladipo, and they'll form a hellish defensive tandem for opposing guards to face.
5. Utah Jazz: Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky
Enes Kanter hasn't worked as a scoring big alongside Derrick Favors, so it's time for the Jazz to try something different.
Randle isn't just the best low-post scorer this draft has to offer; he can score in a variety of ways and has range on his jumper out to the three-point line. He was so successful at bullying his way down low at Kentucky that he got few chances to display his versatility, but his face-up ability will be useful as well.
6. Boston Celtics: Noah Vonleh, PF, Indiana
The Celtics have a serious need for length and leaping ability inside after spending a season with Jared Sullinger at center.
Vonleh has the physical makeup to protect the rim as a pro, and his offensive skill set will also fit in well with Boston's offense. He has the athleticism to finish above the rim, but he can also face up and knock down mid-range jumpers, allowing him to space the floor and give Rajon Rondo driving lanes.
7. Los Angeles Lakers: Dario Saric, SF, Croatia
In order to make the most of Kobe Bryant's final years, the Lakers need to surround him with facilitating talent.
Saric's creation ability from the small forward position will allow LA to play Kobe off-ball more without worrying about acquiring a top-flight distributor to run the point. The 6'10" Croatian will also allow the Lakers to play around with small-ball lineups to open space for Bryant to operate inside the arc.
8. Sacramento Kings: Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State
Isaiah Thomas has done solid work for Sacramento at the point, but the Kings need both size and defensive ability in their backcourt.
Smart provides plenty of both. At 6'3", 227 pounds, he has the height, length and quickness to cover both guard positions, plus he's heavier than some of the top forward prospects in this draft class. He needs to work on his three-point shot, but he'll be able to play alongside Thomas as well as run the point himself.
9. Charlotte Hornets (via Detroit): Nik Stauskas, SG, Michigan
Charlotte established an offensive identity last season, dumping the ball down to Al Jefferson and letting him work. Now the Hornets need to surround him with shooters to give him room.
Stauskas will enter the NBA as an elite three-point threat and can make a claim to the title of best pure shooter in the 2014 draft class. He's dangerous at pulling up from mid-range when he attacks off the bounce and has the athleticism to finish around the rim when he gets a lane inside.
10. Philadelphia 76ers (via New Orleans): Aaron Gordon, PF, Arizona
Like Wiggins, Gordon gives the Sixers a big boost on the defensive end while working well in their uptempo scheme.
Though he's just 6'8", he won't suffer defensively because of his height, as he makes up for it with his long arms and great hops. In addition to blocking shots, he'll also be able to use his quickness to swipe the ball away from opponents, helping to kick-start the Philly break.
11. Denver Nuggets (via New York): Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State
With Danilo Gallinari returning next season from his torn ACL, Denver has an answer at every position except shooting guard.
Harris gives the Nuggets a prototypical two-way wing. He can stroke it effectively from beyond the arc and off the bounce, pester opposing shooting guards with his defense and serve as a heady player on both ends of the floor.
12. Orlando Magic (via Denver): Doug McDermott, SF, Creighton
Orlando's next move is to put scoring options around its guards, and McDermott is the perfect guy for that role.
If Stauskas isn't the best long-range shooter in this draft, then it's McDermott, who also benefits from spotting up at 6'8". He's not just dangerous when stationary, though. He is capable of using his strength to get space and pull up, and his jumping ability helps him finish inside.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves: Rodney Hood, SF, Duke
Just as Denver has a clear hole at shooting guard, Minnesota needs scoring at small forward.
Hood is the guy for the job, especially because he has experience playing second fiddle. After playing alongside Jabari Parker at Duke, Hood will have no trouble spotting up and waiting for the ball to find him as guys like Kevin Love (if he's still in Minnesota) and Ricky Rubio touch it more.
14. Phoenix Suns: Zach LaVine, PG, UCLA
When Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe played together last season, the Suns were an explosive revelation. As soon as one of them left the floor, however, Phoenix became ordinary.
Adding another athletic combo guard gives Phoenix the depth to sit one of its tandem without completely altering the makeup of the five-man unit. LaVine is 6'6" and still honing his distribution skills, but the Suns will be able to use him to cover larger guards. He won't have to worry about being a primary facilitator.
15. Atlanta Hawks: Kyle Anderson, SF, UCLA
The Hawks feature long-range shooting at every position, and they can become even more dynamic with more passers on the floor.
At 6'9", 235 pounds, Anderson can dish the ball like a pure point guard, sporting an old-man game that slowly but surely probes the defense and creates passing lanes he can exploit. He'll also be able to post up small forwards and receive entries from Jeff Teague before either looking to score or passing back out to shooters.
16. Chicago Bulls (via Charlotte): Adreian Payne, PF, Michigan State
Under Tom Thibodeau and his defensive system, the Bulls haven't been willing to go small and thus have not been able to maximize their floor spacing.
Getting a guy like Payne changes things. He's a 6'10", 245-pound power forward with legitimate three-point range, which will clear out another big, so Joakim Noah or Taj Gibson (whoever is sharing the floor with Payne) has more room to work inside—not to mention giving Derrick Rose room to slash inside.
17. Boston Celtics (via Brooklyn): Jusuf Nurkic, C, Bosnia
With their interior a work in progress, the Celtics have the leeway to make the first draft-and-stash pick of 2014.
Considering a future pairing with Vonleh, it won't matter that Nurkic is not much of a leaper. Give him some credit, though: At 6'11", 280 pounds, he has the quickness to slide across the paint and provide solid help defense, and he can score inside against the toughest coverage. Once he improves his feel for the game, he could be a monster.
18. Phoenix Suns (via Washington): Glenn Robinson III, SF, Michigan
Even with the success of Dragic and Bledsoe, Gerald Green proved last season that the Suns still need pure highlight-reel-caliber scorers.
Robinson excelled at Michigan with his ability to leap out of the gym and run the floor as well as any wing around. At 6'7" he's a bit undersized as far as prototypical NBA small forwards go, but he will be able to jell nicely with Phoenix's uptempo scheme, which will play to his strengths by surrounding him with multiple passers rather than force him to create for himself.
19. Chicago Bulls: James Young, SF, Kentucky
Chicago spent its first-round selection last season on Tony Snell, an athletic swingman who could hopefully give the Bulls an offensive spark off the bench.
Though Snell contributed, the Bulls could still use more, so in comes Young. The Kentucky product immediately rivals Mike Dunleavy as the best three-point shooter on the roster, and he'll be even better at attacking off the dribble.
20. Toronto Raptors: Clint Capela, PF, Switzerland
Capela's above-the-rim skills are NBA-ready now, but he'll stay in Europe for at least another year to round out the rest of his game.
He already has the handle to be a face-up threat and the instincts to be a superb rebounder and finisher inside, but he falls back too often on a mediocre mid-range jumper. If he hones that part of his game and bulks up some, he'll be one of the toughest power forwards to cover.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Dallas): Tyler Ennis, PG, Syracuse
OKC will always need more rangy guards—especially if Russell Westbrook's knees become an issue again in the future.
Coming from Jim Boeheim's zone scheme, Ennis is a mobile and active defender. His agility and long arms will come in handy in OKC's hedge-and-recover defense, and if he can knock down some threes on the other end, that's all the Thunder will need from him offensively.
22. Memphis Grizzlies: Elfrid Payton, PG, Louisiana-Lafayette
Behind Mike Conley, the Grizzlies don't have much to offer in terms of point guard play off the bench.
Payton gives Memphis the athleticism to keep up the perimeter defense even when Conley sits. The Louisiana-Lafayette product will also be able to attack the rim with more explosiveness than the Memphis starter, giving the offense a personality change when the Grizzlies go to the second unit.
23. Utah Jazz (via Golden State): T.J. Warren, SF, North Carolina State
Utah lacks for guys who can create their own shots, and as long as the Jazz accept Warren's unorthodox form, he'll be able to give them that skill.
He's not very fast or a great leaper, but he is able to find success offensively with a herky-jerky off-the-bounce game. Using a variety of leans and feints, he can generate just enough space to go up with odd-looking but effective jumpers. When he's hitting them, no one in Utah will call them ugly.
24. Charlotte Hornets (via Portland): P.J. Hairston, SG, Texas Legends (NBA D-League)
Even with Stauskas, the more shooters, the merrier for the Hornets.
They'll need some shot creation off the bench, assuming Stauskas starts. In his time with UNC and the Legends, Hairston has displayed unlimited range on his jumper, which he can shoot off the dribble even from beyond the arc. He's not the most efficient scorer, but his hot hand is a weapon.
25. Houston Rockets: Cleanthony Early, SF, Wichita State
At small forward, Houston looks for two-way players who can spot up for threes and hold their own defensively.
The 6'7" Early is a grinder who will be more than willing to guard his man tightly, crash the boards, run the floor and play off-ball on the offensive end. For a deep team like the Rockets, it's key to fill out the roster with no-frills, do-everything players like Early.
26. Miami Heat: Shabazz Napier, PG, Connecticut
Miami doesn't ask its point guards to do much, but Napier excels at the less glamorous aspects of the game.
He's a bulldog defender who sticks with his man relentlessly and consistently gets his hands into passing lanes. On offense, he's an effective three-point shooter, plus he's elite from the free-throw line. Turnovers are his one big weakness, but the Heat will have him play off-ball more often than most teams, thus making the issue much less significant.
27. Phoenix Suns (via Indiana): Jerami Grant, SF, Syracuse
At this point in the draft, if the Suns even keep all four of their picks, their target will be an impact athlete.
Adding Grant to the mix gives Phoenix another wing player who can play above the rim—a valuable commodity when the Suns break out in transition. His length will also be a major asset on the defensive end, where the Suns did not have the personnel to stop bigger wing scorers last season.
28. Los Angeles Clippers: Mario Hezonja, SG, Croatia
The Clippers have plenty of shooting at the wing positions, but save for Jamal Crawford, no one who consistently created his own shot.
Even at 6'8", that's Hezonja's specialty. When he takes his man off the bounce, his approach to scoring involves a surprising amount of acrobatics as he frequently contorts in the air to find his shooting angle. As long as he has the strength to absorb contact in the NBA, he could add a new dimension to the LA offense.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Isaiah Austin, C, Baylor
The Thunder will always need more bodies at the center position, but Austin has the versatility to potentially become something more.
He's 7'1" but just 220 pounds, which makes him skinnier than the bruisers who usually man the center spot in OKC. But with his shot-blocking skill and ability to knock down jump shots, the Thunder will be more than happy to develop him as a second-unit version of Serge Ibaka.
30. San Antonio Spurs: Thanasis Antetokounmpo, SF, Delaware 87ers (NBA D-League)
The Spurs love shooting and versatility, so Giannis' big brother will thrive in San Antonio.
Thanasis isn't quite the physical freak Giannis is, but he was still explosive enough to win the 2014 D-League Slam Dunk Contest, and he'll be able to cover as many as four different positions in the pros. Add to that his ability to knock down spot-up threes—not to mention his international background—and you have a prototypical Spur.
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