The landscape of the NBA may see a massive shift in a matter of hours with the 2014 NBA draft.
You can bet that many teams are looking at this year's event with an eye toward free agency and the Kevin Love sweepstakes. General managers will try to work out all of the permutations in which they can best advance their summer plans.
Other teams, though, aren't lucky enough to be in a position to land one of the top five marquee free agents. They have to make use of what they have at their disposal.
The players underlined are some of the more overlooked in the draft and will provide those on the outside looking in on the free-agent festivities a slight consolation.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Andrew Wiggins, SF, Kansas
The Cleveland Cavaliers have surprised many with their last two lottery picks, but surely this will come down to a decision between Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker. Layne Vashro, who produces statistical models for draft prospects, captures the contrast between the two players, via WaitingForNextYear.com's Jacob Rosen:
Projections from @VJL_bball: Bust % - JP 8%, AW 2% Bench % - JP 16%, AW 48% Starter % - JP 59%, AW 24% Star % - JP 18%, AW 26%— Jacob Rosen (@WFNYJacob) June 25, 2014
Wiggins has the better chance to become a star, but he's also the more likely player to be relegated to the bench. Strong cases could be made for either player.
In the end, the Cavs will opt for the player with the higher ceiling.
2. Milwaukee Bucks: Jabari Parker, SF, Duke
If Wiggins falls to No. 2, the Milwaukee Bucks might have a tough choice. Parker is their No. 1 target, though, and they've told him as much, per Yahoo Sports' Marc J. Spears:
Jabari Parker says he's not opposed to going to Cavs, but said no commitment was made.Said Bucks told him they'd take him if he's there at 2— Marc J. Spears (@SpearsNBAYahoo) June 25, 2014
The Duke star is one of the most NBA-ready players in the draft. Almost any other year, he'd be the consensus top overall pick. If Milwaukee wants to become competitive now, Parker is the man to make that happen.
3. Philadelphia 76ers: Dante Exum, SG, Australia
Even if Michael Carter-Williams becomes a slightly better shooter, he'll always be more of a pass-first floor general rather than a Kyrie Irving/Damian Lillard-type point guard. There's nothing wrong with that, especially if the Philadelphia 76ers draft Dante Exum.
4. Orlando Magic: Noah Vonleh, PF, Indiana
Statistically, Noah Vonleh didn't have a lot of success during his only season at Indiana. Averaging 11.3 points and 9.0 rebounds a game are solid numbers—certainly below what you'd expect of a top-five pick.
There's no question that drafting Vonleh is a risk, but it's one the Magic can afford to take.
Fox Sports Florida's Ken Hornack made a compelling argument for why Orlando should snap up the big man at No. 4:
Though all draft picks, even lottery selections, have rough edges which need to be smoothed over, few teams can match the Magic at taking the time to bring along younger players without rushing them. Vonleh would profit from that nurturing environment. And while he was never teammates with Oladipo at Indiana, it wouldn't hurt to bring in another player from a storied program with fans who often showed up in large numbers to see the Magic at home and on the road.
Vonleh's ability to stretch the floor would fit very well with this Magic team. He could also play off Nikola Vucevic rather well.
5. Utah Jazz: Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky
The Utah Jazz have their pick of post players between Julius Randle, Noah Vonleh and Aaron Gordon. Of the three, Randle has the most complete skill set with a little less risk. He is one of the best rebounders in the draft and his offensive game is only improving. Putting him together with Derrick Favors would give the Jazz a great young backcourt.
6. Boston Celtics: Joel Embiid, C, Kansas
One of the biggest questions in the draft is how far Joel Embiid will fall. Yes, the foot injury is scary, but Zydrunas Ilgauskas had the same problem and had a long, productive NBA career. Down the line, Embiid has the potential to take the mantle from Dwight Howard as the most dominant big man in the league. Nobody can fault the Boston Celtics if they're willing to gamble here that Embiid stays healthy.
7. Los Angeles Lakers: Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State
The Lakers have a ton of flexibility with this pick. Los Angeles' lineup has so many holes that anybody will be an upgrade. Marcus Smart is the second-best point guard in the draft. The position has been an Achilles' heel for the Lakers for a few years now. Smart is also the kind of perimeter defender lacking on Los Angeles.
8. Sacramento Kings: Aaron Gordon, PF, Arizona
Defense has never been DeMarcus Cousins' forte. Aaron Gordon, on the other hand, is a much better defender than he is scorer. Do you see where I'm going here? Gordon is a tremendous athlete, and if his shooting can improve, he could grow into a great post player and perfect complement to Cousins on the inside.
9. Charlotte Hornets: Doug McDermott, SF, Creighton
This pick seems rather simple. The Charlotte Hornets excelled in a few areas but shooting wasn't one of them. Doug McDermott would give them the spot-up threat from long range they sorely lack at the moment. Even if McDermott is a terrible defender, his teammates would be able to cover for his struggles.
10. Philadelphia 76ers: Nik Stauskas, SG, Michigan
Few shooters in the draft are better than Nik Stauskas, and he's far from a one-trick pony too. The Sixers finished dead last in offensive efficiency last season, so drafting both Exum and Stauskas would address what was Philadelphia's biggest problem.
11. Denver Nuggets: Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State
Michael Levin of LibertyBallers.com had the best, most succinct assessment of Gary Harris' game:
Gary Harris is not going to be a star, but he's going to be a very good starter for a bunch of years. Don't sneeze at that at #10.— Michael Levin (@Michael_Levin) June 13, 2014
This isn't somebody—barring some unforeseen Kawhi Leonard-like jump—who will become what you'd consider an "elite" player. That's not meant to be a criticism. Players that consistently deliver every night are extremely undervalued.
The Denver Nuggets are in dire need of somebody to help Ty Lawson with the scoring load. Harris is a good shooter yet doesn't think so highly of his ability that he takes shots he has no business attempting. The Michigan State guard should play at a high level for a long time. What more could you want with the 11th pick?
12. Orlando Magic: Elfrid Payton, PG, Louisiana-Lafayette
Ideally, the Orlando Magic can grab Exum at No. 4. If he's unavailable, they can wait until No. 12 and still select a point guard who can come in and start. Elfrid Payton's stock has risen dramatically over recent weeks. While not a great shooter, Payton is a playmaker. He can create off the dribble and get to the basket. He'd be a worthy long-term successor to Jameer Nelson.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves: Adreian Payne, PF, Michigan State
Although this isn't a like-for-like swap for Kevin Love, Adreian Payne is about the next-best thing. He possesses a game somewhat similar to the three-time All-Star in that they are very good rebounders, a bit undersized/unathletic and can stretch the floor.
Payne recently worked out with the Minnesota Timberwolves, after which he credited his Michigan State coaches with much of his improvement as a player, per T-Wolves public relations:
Adreian Payne says his improvement was due to his coaches at MSU. Says they helped him grow as a player & person. pic.twitter.com/OGpszYNKIp— Timberwolves PR (@Twolves_PR) June 14, 2014
Like Harris, Payne isn't somebody who will set the world ablaze with his examples of basketball excellence. But he can play a role, and for a team that may lose a power forward who can rebound and shoot from long range, he'd slot right into the starting lineup.
14. Phoenix Suns: Zach LaVine, SG, UCLA
Zach LaVine appears pretty confident that he's headed to Phoenix, per ESPN's Andy Katz:
Zach LaVine told me he predicts Phoenix. He worked out twice for the Suns.— Andy Katz (@ESPNAndyKatz) June 25, 2014
If the Suns are in fact enamored with the UCLA guard, they may have to reach a bit and take him with the 14th rather than 18th pick. LaVine has his flaws, but you could easily see any one of the Hawks, Bulls or Celtics pulling the trigger before Phoenix comes around again.
15. Atlanta Hawks: James Young, SG, Kentucky
James Young is a player with lottery-level potential but mid-first-round ability right now. You can see the player that Young can be. The question is whether or not he'll get there. You could argue that the Atlanta Hawks need more of a pure shooter. Young's ceiling will be too good to pass up.
16. Chicago Bulls: Rodney Hood, SG, Duke
The Chicago Bulls are in dire need of scoring. Unless they're absolutely 100 percent confident that they can land LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony, Rodney Hood would be a great addition in the first round. He's a very good shooter, and with Tom Thibodeau coaching him, he could grow into a passable defender.
17. Boston Celtics: Dario Saric, SF, Croatia
The NBA draft is all about instant gratification, so when a team has to wait at least two years for its first-rounder to make it to the States, that can be a problem. Dario Saric will play in Turkey for at least the next two years, per Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix:
Dario Saric confirms that he will play in Turkey next season. Sounds like he is committed to playing two seasons there.— Chris Mannix (@ChrisMannixSI) June 25, 2014
Whoever drafts Saric will need to be patient. The Boston Celtics have that luxury. They won't be too competitive this season, so they can afford to wait on the Croatian.
18. Phoenix Suns: Clint Capela, PF, Switzerland
With three picks in the first round, the Suns can afford to take a gamble or two. Clint Capela is still extremely raw, but no other 4 in the draft can match his athleticism. He can run the floor and would be a great fit for Phoenix's more uptempo offense.
19. Chicago Bulls: Tyler Ennis, PG, Syracuse
The Chicago Bulls are well aware that they need to have a strong Plan B in case something happens to Derrick Rose again. Tyler Ennis won't get much better than he is now, but he's somebody who can walk into the Bulls lineup and immediately produce.
20. Toronto Raptors: Shabazz Napier, PG, Connecticut
In an ideal world, the Toronto Raptors can re-sign Kyle Lowry. However, bringing him back may prove too costly. Shabazz Napier is like Ennis in that his ceiling isn't very high, but he can step onto an NBA team right now and start immediately.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder: Kyle Anderson, PF, UCLA
Remember what Boris Diaw did for the San Antonio Spurs? That's what Kyle Anderson could do for the Oklahoma City Thunder. The UCLA star is a bit of a conundrum in terms of figuring out where he'd play, but he could at the very least be the guy in the middle kicking it out to Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
22. Memphis Grizzlies: T.J. Warren, SF, North Carolina State
Like the Bulls, the Memphis Grizzlies have an abundance of talented defenders but precious few scorers. T.J. Warren knows a lot of ways to score and none of them are pretty. In a way, that would help him fit in with the Grizzlies that much more.
23. Utah Jazz: K.J. McDaniels, SF, Clemson
You only need to look at the NBA Finals to see how valuable a lockdown perimeter defender/above-average scorer can do. Kawhi Leonard isn't an excellent shooter but he finds ways to score, and that complements his impressive one-on-one defending.
When you see K.J. McDaniels, you feel like you're watching a slightly discounted version of Leonard. SMU head coach Larry Brown even made the comparison when talking about the Clemson forward.
"He reminds me of Paul George and Andre Iguodala, the kid (Kawhi) Leonard at San Antonio," he said, per Aaron Brenner of The Post and Courier in Charleston, South Carolina. "(He’s) a human stat sheet. Guys that find ways to help your team win. He’s going to be playing at the next level doing the same thing."
McDaniels is a great athlete and an even better defender. If he does fall into the 20s, he'll be a massive steal.
24. Charlotte Hornets: P.J. Hairston, SG, North Carolina
The Hornets might as well double up on the shooting just to be safe. After adding McDermott, drafting P.J. Hairston would eliminate the problem altogether. Hairston can be a bit frustrating with his shot selection but as long as they're going down, nobody's gonna complain.
25. Houston Rockets: Jordan Adams, SG, UCLA
While the Houston Rockets already have James Harden, they aren't the kind of team that will turn down a good scorer. Jordan Adams isn't a lights-out shooter from long range. He can hit the occasional three or two, with the majority of his points coming off his ability to penetrate into the paint.
26. Miami Heat: C.J. Wilcox, SG, Washington
The NBA Finals revealed how little depth the Miami Heat had. They can't keep relying on aging veterans to be carried by the "Big Three." Although nobody can replace Ray Allen in terms of pedigree, C.J. Wilcox is at least the kind of three-point specialist who could be a cheaper and possibly even better than a 38-year-old Allen.
27. Phoenix Suns: Cleanthony Early, PF, Wichita State
Whereas Capela is the long-term gamble, Cleanthony Early is the power forward who can help the Suns right away. With Channing Frye opting out of his deal, Phoenix is in need of a 4 like Early who can stretch the floor.
28. Los Angeles Clippers: Semaj Christon, PG, Xavier
Darren Collison has a player option for next season, so he'll likely become a free agent. If that happens, he'll be too expensive for the Los Angeles Clippers to keep around. Semaj Christon would be a good backup for Chris Paul without eating too much into the salary cap.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Jusuf Nurkic, C, Bosnia
Jusuf Nurkic's draft position has been all over the place. He could go in the middle of the first round, or he could fall to the end. If he's available, the Thunder should pounce. They could stash him away in Europe for a year or two, after which time he'll be the offensive big man that Steven Adams isn't.
30. San Antonio Spurs: Mitch McGary, PF, Michigan
With Boris Diaw likely to leave, Mitch McGary could fill the role as versatile big man off the bench. While not quite the passer that the Frenchman is, McGary is an instinctual player who knows how to read the game and opposing defense. With the San Antonio Spurs' track record, you could easily see him getting drafted here and turning into an All-Star.