The NBA draft process moves swiftly from the time the combine starts in mid-May to the time of the event on June 26. All of the hard work put in by scouts and talent evaluators pays off, hopefully in a positive way for teams, in those few hours when the commissioner steps up to the podium.
Because of how much work goes into identifying talent that will help a team win a championship, the idea of an "easy" selection in the first round sounds cheap and diminishes what these people are doing.
However, it's precisely because of how effective scouts are that we can look at a mock draft and immediately think, "Of course this pick makes all the sense in the world." That's what we are going to do with our latest breakdown of the first round, with analysis of why these 30 picks are so simple.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Joel Embiid, C, Kansas
There's likely to be a lot of debate in Cleveland's draft room before making this pick, especially after the debacle that was Anthony Bennett last year, but Joel Embiid is the only player who makes sense here.
He worked out for the Cavaliers on June 11 and didn't seem to have any problems.
The former Kansas star has to prove that his back won't be an issue moving forward, but no one presents the combination of size and raw potential on both sides of the ball that Embiid does. He's a true center in a draft that doesn't have many of those available and would also make a great inside complement for Kyrie Irving.
2. Milwaukee Bucks: Andrew Wiggins, SG/SF, Kansas
The Bucks get their choice between the more NBA-ready Jabari Parker and immensely talented Andrew Wiggins. The latter has a better all-around game and attacks the basket better, making him a true superstar for a franchise that desperately needs one.
3. Philadelphia 76ers: Jabari Parker, SF, Duke
The 76ers will essentially add two top-10 picks to their roster this year with Nerlens Noel returning from his ACL injury and this pick. Jabari Parker has to tighten up on defense, but his offensive game is special and will complement Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams nicely.
4. Orlando Magic: Noah Vonleh, PF, Indiana
The Magic have a host of needs in this draft, so having two first-round picks benefits them more than the average team. Size and athleticism are rare to find in the draft, making Noah Vonleh the smartest pick at No. 4. He needs to add more strength to a 247-pound frame, but he moves well, has some range and plays defense.
5. Utah Jazz: Dante Exum, G, Australia
The Jazz have been searching for a point guard since trading Deron Williams. They catch a huge break when Orlando goes for the big man instead of the floor general, which allows Utah to pounce all over Dante Exum.
Ryan Blake, senior director of NBA scouting operations, spoke with Jeremy Woo of SI.com about what makes Exum, a foreign player who isn't well-known to American fans, so special.
"So much potential, so much athleticism," Blake said. "He's versatile as a long, quick guard who can get inside, play in the half-court, push the ball and pass."
Point guards are more valuable than ever with the NBA turning into a smaller, faster league. Exum has the size, athleticism and quickness to be an impact player right away.
6. Boston Celtics: Aaron Gordon, PF, Arizona
More accomplished as a defender than with the ball, Aaron Gordon has to improve his shot if he wants to be a star in the NBA. But an elite defender who runs all over the floor and knows how to handle the ball merits a high selection.
7. Los Angeles Lakers: Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky
Julius Randle is in a state of flux right now. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reported that there was an issue with his medicals, making it look like the Kentucky standout will need foot surgery eventually:
Multiple teams considering Randle in and out of draft lottery have his medical info and expect him to have surgery on foot. It is an issue.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) June 12, 2014
If everything checks out fine, Randle will be a nice addition to a depleted Lakers roster. He can play multiple positions and score in various ways. This franchise needs to add high-upside youth to start competing for a playoff spot soon.
8. Sacramento Kings: Marcus Smart, G, Oklahoma State
The Kings ranked last in the NBA with 18.9 assists per game, which is a sign that they lack a true facilitator and players who can finish. Marcus Smart isn't a traditional point guard because he wants to finish himself, but he plays with such high intensity and instincts that his offense will work right away.
9. Charlotte Hornets (via Detroit): Doug McDermott, SF, Creighton
The Hornets made it to the playoffs last year on the strength of their defense and seriously lack an offensive punch. Doug McDermott isn't a star at the next level, but no one can match his ability to catch and shoot from anywhere on the floor.
10. Philadelphia 76ers (via New Orleans): Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State
An underrated shooter who isn't afraid to attack the basket, which isn't a shock for a Tom Izzo player, Gary Harris will fit in perfectly with Philadelphia's young corps that includes No. 3 pick Parker, Noel and Carter-Williams. That group could do some serious damage in the East within three years.
11. Denver Nuggets: Nik Stauskas, SG, Michigan
Even though defense should be a priority for the Nuggets, who allowed 106.5 points per game last season, this franchise has gone all-in on offense. Nik Stauskas has one of the best pure shots in the class, displaying excellent form and range for days. He also has the ability to play with the ball or as a 2-guard.
12. Orlando Magic (via New York): Tyler Ennis, PG, Syracuse
Whether it is at No. 4 or 12, the Magic are going to add a point guard. The big man represented better value with the first pick—not to mention the depth at point guard gave them options later—so Tyler Ennis should be the pick at this spot.
The former Syracuse standout is on Orlando's radar, having gone through a workout with the team on June 8, according to Michael Scotto of SheridanHoops.com:
Orlando Magic brought in Marcus Smart and Tyler Ennis for a workout today, sources say. #NBADraft— Michael Scotto (@MikeAScotto) June 8, 2014
Victor Oladipo was given a tryout at the point for Orlando last year, but he's not a facilitator with the ball. Putting him at the 2 with Ennis leading the offense will give the Magic better balance and versatility.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves: Dario Saric, F, Croatia
The Timberwolves have a big decision to make this summer with Kevin Love. If/when the team decides it's best to deal its top star, adding a young, talented forward to take his place is a priority. Dario Saric handles the ball like a point guard, has the size of a power forward and rebounds like a true center. If he can find consistency with his shot, the Croatian has the tools to become Kevin Love 2.0.
14. Phoenix Suns: James Young, SF. Kentucky
The Suns need versatility on the outside. James Young is still developing his game, which is not a surprise, given that he won't turn 19 until August. Nevertheless, the shot looks good, and his ability to drive the lane is special.
15. Atlanta Hawks: Zach LaVine, G, UCLA
The Hawks are trending downward because of their inability to develop a star since Al Horford in 2007. They need to find a more dynamic presence on offense to keep up with teams in the Eastern Conference, which is why Zach LaVine makes the most sense. He's long and lanky with a really good shooter's touch.
16. Chicago Bulls (via Charlotte): Rodney Hood, SF, Duke
The Bulls have all the defensive prowess in the world but seriously lack on offense, which only gets compounded by the uncertainty surrounding Derrick Rose. Rodney Hood has size, versatility and good distance on his jump shot. More importantly, he's able to create offense on his own, taking pressure off Rose.
17. Boston Celtics (via Brooklyn): Kyle Anderson, PG/SF, UCLA
Having found an anchor on defense with their first pick, the Celtics can go after an offensive weapon to pair with Rajon Rondo (assuming he isn't traded at some point). Kyle Anderson isn't an elite athlete but plays well on the perimeter and will move inside to get a high-percentage shot.
18. Phoenix Suns (via Washington): P.J. Hairston, SG, North Carolina
The Suns make the second of three first-round picks here, giving them the option to add upside with some risk. P.J. Hairston is as aggressive with the ball as any player in this class, showing the ability to hit shots from the outside and attack the inside. He's not much of a defender and is turnover-prone at times, but the offensive potential is huge.
19. Chicago Bulls: T.J. Warren, SF, North Carolina State
With two first-round picks, the Bulls can dramatically improve their offense. T.J. Warren needs to add more strength because a 220-pound small forward will get outmuscled in the NBA, but he always manages to find the basket.
Making Warren an even more natural fit for the Bulls is that he doesn't have much in the way of passing ability, which means he can be a catch-and-release shooter when Rose finds him open on the wing or down low.
20. Toronto Raptors: Adreian Payne, PF, Michigan State
The Raptors need to find versatility on offense if they hope to improve on last year's 48-win campaign. In a scouting profile for NBA.com, Adreian Payne was praised for his do-it-all approach on the court:
His biggest strength is probably how well-rounded he is. He can basically do everything on a basketball court except dribble. He can pass, shoot, block, rebound, steal, etc. and he's great at all those. His weakness is probably his tendency to make mental mistakes— he makes a lot of boneheaded plays.
The last part doesn't concern me as much as it might others. Payne's mistakes on the court can be attributed to learning the game. He is old by draft standards at 23, so you would hope those issues wouldn't be prevalent, but sometimes players take more time to develop.
He can move inside and outside to score, will play defense and fight for rebounds. The Raptors need that kind of toughness to maintain their upward trajectory.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Dallas): Jusuf Nurkic, C, Bosnia
The Thunder keep losing to the Spurs because they lack versatility on offense. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are great, but they settle for jump shots too often. Serge Ibaka is more of a mid-range power forward than attacker at the rim. Jusuf Nurkic is the kind of big man that Oklahoma City needs to compete with San Antonio in the West.
Which player in the back half of the first round will move into the lottery?
22. Memphis Grizzlies: Cleanthony Early, F, Wichita State
Scoring is Memphis' top priority after finishing 27th in that category last season. Cleanthony Early doesn't have the best shooting touch, but his ability to attack the basket and show range on good days will be too much for the Grizzlies to pass up.
23. Utah Jazz (via Golden State): K.J. McDaniels, SF, Clemson
Since the Jazz won't be able to cure all that ails their offense in this draft, improving a mediocre defense isn't a bad idea. K.J. McDaniels is the best pure defender in this draft with long limbs and tremendous instincts to find the ball. He has to improve on offense to be a star, but what he brings on the other end is special.
24. Charlotte Hornets (via Portland): Clint Capela, PF, Switzerland
At this point in the draft, teams should be willing to take risks, hoping to hit a home run instead of playing it safe just to get immediate contributions. Clint Capela has a long developmental road ahead of him with below-average offense right now and a body he must grow into. Finding a 6'11" power forward who moves and plays defense as well as this 20-year-old is a bargain at No. 24.
25. Houston Rockets: Elfrid Payton, PG, Louisiana-Lafayette
There aren't many weaknesses on Houston's roster right now, but point guard is one of them. Jeremy Lin isn't a starter, and Patrick Beverly doesn't shoot well enough to be a major contributor.
Enter Elfrid Payton.
The Louisiana-Lafayette star has some of the best court vision in the draft. He makes plays anywhere on the floor and shows a tough-minded attitude on defense that helps him get out in transition.
26. Miami Heat: Shabazz Napier, PG, Connecticut
There's no reason for Miami to bring back Mario Chalmers, who has apparently started his free agency early by disappearing in the NBA Finals. Shabazz Napier doesn't overwhelm you with tools, but his experience and ability to perform on the big stage make him an underrated standout in this draft.
27. Phoenix Suns (via Indiana): Jerami Grant, SF, Syracuse
After filling needs with their first two picks, the Suns can just go after the best player available at this spot. Jerami Grant has a 7'3" wingspan, attacks the rim on defense and improved his shooting percentage as a sophomore by 3.4 percent at Syracuse.
28. Los Angeles Clippers: Mitch McGary, PF, Michigan
There are going to be McGary skeptics due to the back injury that ended his season early and a reported positive marijuana test that facilitated his declaring for the NBA draft, per Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports. He's a big-body power forward who has added a jump shot to his game in the last two years and overpowers defenders in the paint. The Michigan standout can complement Blake Griffin nicely in LA's rotation.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Jordan Adams, SG, UCLA
The Thunder need to find a third scoring option after Westbrook and Durant. Adams is a one-dimensional talent, but his best skill is the one that matters the most in the NBA: Shooting.
30. San Antonio Spurs: Kristaps Porzingis, PF, Latvia
No team drafts and develops foreign players better than the Spurs. Kristaps Porzingis is just a shade less than 7'0" and plays multiple positions on the floor. He has the toughness and attitude that Gregg Popovich loves to see from all his players, so this is a perfect marriage of talent and team.
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