There is as much uncertainty heading into the 2014 NBA draft as any in recent memory, but the overall depth ensures that almost every team is going to go home happy.
Each organization selecting in the first round will hope that its pick will turn out to be a superstar. Although we know this will not be the case, there are more high-upside prospects in this class than in recent drafts.
It will be up to the individual scouting departments to separate the potential stars from the likely busts.
While anything can happen once the first team is on the clock, here are final predictions for where each prospect will land in the first round.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Andrew Wiggins, SF, Kansas
Joel Embiid appeared likely to be the top overall pick until he underwent foot surgery prior to the draft. Although this presents too much risk for the No. 1 selection, the Cavaliers must keep the same mindset of drafting for potential, which makes Andrew Wiggins the best selection.
The small forward has incredible athleticism. He uses it to be a stopper on defense while also being a dangerous threat on the fast break.
There are questions about his ability to succeed in the half court, but he will have time to develop the rest of his game on a Cleveland squad that has plenty of talent around him.
2. Milwaukee Bucks: Jabari Parker, SF, Duke
No matter what happens with the first pick, the Bucks are in the enviable position of taking the best player available. This means that while Wiggins could be the first pick, they should still be extremely excited to draft Jabari Parker.
The wing might be the most pro-ready player in the class and should be able to turn things around in Milwaukee in a hurry. Although his former coach Mike Krzyzewski has a biased opinion, he is exactly right in his analysis of Parker, via David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune:
Parker would immediately become a go-to option on offense and help bring some energy and excitement to the franchise.
3. Philadelphia 76ers: Dante Exum, PG, Australia
The 76ers are willing to be aggressive in this draft to get the player they want, according to NBA insider Chris Sheridan:
If the team does not move, however, Philadelphia has to bring in players with elite upside. Based on the remaining options, no one has more of it than Dante Exum. The point guard has all the athletic tools you look for in a guard prospect. He is lightning-quick with the leaping ability to score inside when he gets himself into the lane. These skills will help him regardless of what else happens in his development.
Although there are questions as to whether he will be a point guard or shooting guard at the next level, he can pair with Michael Carter-Williams to create a versatile backcourt for years to come.
4. Orlando Magic: Noah Vonleh, PF, Indiana
Noah Vonleh has not shown the aggressiveness you want from an early lottery pick, but his versatile game helps project that he will make a big impact for whichever team drafts him. He has good length that allows him to score inside as well as make shots over most competitors.
The Magic need to look for talent at any position they can find it, and Vonleh is the best available player at this stage of the draft.
5. Utah Jazz: Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky
Julius Randle has seen himself drop on some boards in recent weeks due to concerns about his injured foot. However, he is confident that this will not be an issue going forward, according to Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News:
Medina also noted that Randle received rave reviews when he worked out for the Lakers:
The power forward's ability to contribute right away is what makes him such an interesting prospect. He dominated at the college level by using his size inside, and this will not change in the NBA.
Unfortunately for Los Angeles, Utah will jump the gun by taking him a few spots earlier. The Jazz do not necessarily need a power forward but need talent anywhere on the court, and Randle could be a steal at this point.
6. Boston Celtics: Joel Embiid, C, Kansas
Joel Embiid will fall on draft day due to his injury issues, but his pure talent will ensure that he does not go too far. He can still become one of the best centers in the NBA one day thanks to his elite skill set that translates on both ends of the court.
The Celtics are in a position to take risks with a squad that will not be very good next year, so they can afford to be patient with Embiid's recovery and hope that he reaches his potential.
7. Los Angeles Lakers: Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State
No matter what happens with the first six picks, the Lakers need to find someone who can jump-start the rebuilding process and be a leader for the future. Marcus Smart can do that with his work ethic and ability to contribute on both ends of the court.
The point guard would be able to learn from Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant before eventually becoming a key player for the franchise down the line.
8. Sacramento Kings: Aaron Gordon, PF, Arizona
Aaron Gordon is relatively raw compared to others in the class, but you cannot teach his athleticism. The power forward made some huge dunks this year while also helping out with blocks on defense.
He should provide some help for DeMarcus Cousins inside right away while working to become a potential star within a few years.
9. Charlotte Hornets (via Detroit Pistons): Doug McDermott, SF, Creighton
There are questions about pretty much everyone in this class, but you will know exactly what you are getting if you draft Doug McDermott. The Creighton star led the nation in scoring last season and should continue helping on the offensive end throughout his NBA career.
His elite shooting ability will spread the floor for the Hornets and help the team get back into the playoffs next season.
10. Philadelphia 76ers (via New Orleans Pelicans): Adreian Payne, PF, Michigan State
Teams will be a bit concerned that Adreian Payne has already maxed out his potential since he's 23 years old. However, the forward believes this will not be an issue, via Chris Forsberg of ESPN:
I don’t feel old at all. Yeah, I’m a little older than a couple of the guys. When it’s time to get on the court, age doesn’t matter. You’re just out there to produce for your team and show what you can do. So when it’s time to get on the court, age isn’t a factor. ... When I get on the court, it’s time to play.
The good thing about him is that he will be able to play immediately. Although the Magic are still a growing team, he will add to an already talented unit and help win games in his first season.
With the skill to score inside as well as beyond the arc, he will provide some much-needed points from the frontcourt.
Finally, it might be smart for Philadelphia to make a safer pick like Payne after taking a big risk with Exum earlier in the draft.
11. Denver Nuggets: Zach LaVine, PG, UCLA
It seems likely that someone in the lottery will take a risk on Zach LaVine after the UCLA player displayed incredible athleticism in predraft workouts. The Denver Nuggets could be that team due to their need for a game-changer in this class.
Even with Ty Lawson on the roster, LaVine can play either guard position and should have time to develop on a squad that struggled this past season.
12. Orlando Magic (via New York Knicks): Nik Stauskas, SG, Michigan
Although the Magic will not be getting a point guard in this scenario, they will be bringing in two quality offensive players who will improve things on that end of the court in a hurry. Nik Stauskas can contribute as an elite shooter who can score in a number of different ways.
By adding his passing ability to that of Victor Oladipo, Orlando will be just fine with the duo on the court.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves: Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State
The Timberwolves are not going to find a Kevin Love replacement at this stage of the draft, so they need to grab the best player available who will help their team as currently assembled. That means they have to look for a backcourt scorer.
Gary Harris fits that description as one of the best two-way players in the class who can improve the offense and defense. Even with Kevin Martin on the roster, this will be an overall upgrade for Minnesota.
14. Phoenix Suns: James Young, SF, Kentucky
James Young was not the most consistent player for Kentucky last season, but he showed plenty of ability when he was on. He displayed the quickness to get past defenders as well as the athleticism to finish above the rim. With an improving outside shot, he could be among the better offensive players in the class.
Considering he is still just 18 years old, there is plenty of reason to believe he can improve in the future.
15. Atlanta Hawks: Dario Saric, SF, Croatia
Even after the Hawks made the playoffs last season, they should be willing to take risks in this draft to hopefully bring in a game-changer. Dario Saric could be that player with his elite ball-handling and passing ability despite his 6'10" size.
Although he has not consistently shown off against a high level of competition, chances are high that he will at least be a quality contributor in the NBA.
16. Chicago Bulls (via Charlotte Hornets): Tyler Ennis, PG, Syracuse
When healthy, Derrick Rose is clearly the starting point guard for the Bulls. However, he has missed the majority of the past two seasons and cannot play all 48 minutes even when in the lineup. Although Chicago had Kirk Hinrich and D.J. Augustin last season, neither of them does a good job of running an offense.
Tyler Ennis could serve this role as a composed leader who always seems to make the right decision with the ball. Whether he ends up being a starter or coming off the bench, he will help improve an offense that needs a lot of help by making everyone around him better.
17. Boston Celtics (via Brooklyn Nets): Rodney Hood, SF, Duke
The Celtics are not quite contenders, but they need to find any players who can provide consistent scoring to improve the roster.
Rodney Hood can provide immediate help in this area as a versatile offensive player who can get points either by slashing or shooting from the outside. He should join the rotation as a rookie and continue to get better along the way.
18. Phoenix Suns (via Washington Wizards): Elfrid Payton, PG, Louisiana-Lafayette
The run on point guards continues with Elfrid Payton going to a team that needs some depth at the spot. Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic each had great seasons, but the Suns need someone to take some of the pressure off this duo.
Considering Payton's overall quickness and scoring ability, he could end up being much more than just a role player down the line.
19. Chicago Bulls: T.J. Warren, SF, North Carolina State
There seems to be mixed opinions about whether T.J. Warren can succeed at the next level. Grantland's Mark Titus does a great job of breaking down the general thought process:
You can pick apart his game. You can knock his shooting form and question whether he can create his own shot. But at the end of the day, the point of the game is to put the ball through the basket. And no draft prospect other than Doug McDermott does that better than Warren.
The truth is you have to take Warren for what he is: a one-dimensional player who is as good of a scorer as there is in this class. He has a deadly mid-range game and should be difficult to defend at the next level.
For the Bulls—who finished last in the league in points per game last season—adding a big-time scorer to the rotation would be perfect.
20. Toronto Raptors: Kyle Anderson, SF, UCLA
Kyle Anderson is the perfect example of a prospect who works better in game situations than in workouts. He is slow and unathletic but knows how to play basketball and help a team win.
If he falls to this point, then Toronto would be getting a steal. Anderson can distribute the basketball and bring some efficiency to a squad that needs it.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Dallas Mavericks): Jusuf Nurkic, C, Bosnia
One of the biggest things holding the Thunder back from winning a title is the poor frontcourt compared to other top contenders. Kendrick Perkins is not the player he once was, and the bench did not do enough to help him out.
Adding Jusuf Nurkic would help a lot in this area as a relatively polished European prospect who knows how to use his body to get production on both ends of the court. He does not have as much upside as other international players, but he can solve a big problem for OKC early in his career.
22. Memphis Grizzlies: Cleanthony Early, SF, Wichita State
Although Memphis has one of the better team defenses in the NBA, the squad will not be able to consistently compete with the best in the conference until it adds some perimeter scoring.
Cleanthony Early has proved that he can create his own shot and finish with regularity. Add this to his high work rate on defense, and he would fit right in on the Grizzlies.
23. Utah Jazz (via Golden State Warriors): P.J. Hairston, SG, Texas Legends (NBDL)
There will be teams scared to take a chance on P.J. Hairston after the former North Carolina star was kicked out of school for receiving impermissible benefits. However, he does have one great skill that teams will love, as seen by Jeff Goodman of ESPN:
He is strong for his position and will be able to score inside against most defenses. If teams do not have questions about his character, he could represent great value late in the first round.
24. Charlotte Hornets (via Portland Trail Blazers): Mitch McGary, PF, Michigan
Mitch McGary had a strange career at Michigan, and it has led his NBA stock to jump all over the place over the past two years. He came into college as a highly touted recruit before barely contributed during his freshman season. However, he stepped up in the NCAA tournament and was a star inside to help the Wolverines make the finals.
The big man had high expectations this past year, but a back injury kept him out for most of the season. He then was forced to declare for the draft after testing positive for marijuana.
Despite the wild ride, he has all along proved to have an incredible motor with the ability to go after rebounds and almost every loose ball.
Charlotte needs depth in the frontcourt, and he can join the rotation and help out right away.
25. Houston Rockets: K.J. McDaniels, SF, Clemson
Perimeter defense has been a major problem for the Rockets over the past two seasons, so it makes sense to bring in one of the best defensive players in the class. K.J. McDaniels only stands at 6'6" but he can block like a center and make things difficult for opponents.
With an improving offensive game to go with this skill, he could be a steal in this draft.
26. Miami Heat: Shabazz Napier, PG, Connecticut
It makes sense for a perennial contender to bring in one of the true winners in college basketball. Shabazz Napier has won two NCAA titles, including this past season as a do-it-all player who led his team in points, assists, rebounds and steals during the regular season.
Although he is a bit undersized at 6'0", he always seems to do whatever it takes to help his team win. The Heat would love this type of addition to help bring home another championship.
27. Phoenix Suns (Indiana Pacers): Jerami Grant, PF, Syracuse
Jerami Grant has spent the spring trying to show teams he can be a small forward, but in reality he is better suited as a power forward with a still developing outside game. This is just fine for the Suns, who really need a rebounder who can score inside.
If he ever learns how to make a three-pointer, it could be even better for Phoenix.
28. Los Angeles Clippers: Clint Capela, PF, Switzerland
Clint Capela is extremely raw heading into the draft, but he already excels in a few areas that will help the Clippers early in his career. Most importantly, he knows how to rebound and block shots, two things that will get him on the court immediately.
On a team that is close to title contention, this frontcourt depth will be an extremely valuable addition.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: C.J. Wilcox, SG, Washington
While Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are two of the best scorers in the NBA, the Thunder often need another option to take some of the pressure off these two All-Stars. C.J. Wilcox will not reach this level, but he is a great shooter who can get points in bunches.
At the end of the first round, this will be as valuable of a pick as the Thunder will find.
30. San Antonio Spurs: Nick Johnson, SG, Arizona
Nick Johnson might not have the size to be a starter in the NBA at 6'3", but he has the athleticism to play bigger than his listed height. He was a great defender at Arizona and also showed the knack for coming through in big moments throughout his career.
Considering the Spurs' success in developing late first-round prospects, this would be the perfect situation for Johnson.
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