As the 2014 NBA draft gets closer, it's becoming more clear which prospects would be the best moves for the teams selecting in the first round.
By now, it seems pretty clear who the first three players selected will be, although it isn't clear which order they will be selected in. The Cleveland Cavaliers will have the No. 1 overall pick for the third time in four years, and what they do with that pick will determine what will happen for the other two prospects not taken first overall.
So, which players are the best fits for the first 30 picks? Let's take a look.
Note: Advanced statistics provided by Stats.NBA.com.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Joel Embiid, C, Kansas
It's a tough spot for the Cavaliers to be in, trying to find the right player to help them become a playoff-caliber team once again. However, as the concern surrounding Joel Embiid's back continues to diminish, it's looking more and more likely that he'll be the first player taken.
According to ESPN's Chad Ford (subscription required), Embiid's workout and interview with the Cavaliers were a major success, with sources saying that the Cavs were "blown away." With his athleticism, 7'0" height and 7'4" wingspan, Embiid looks like he could become a future All-Star in the NBA.
2. Milwaukee Bucks: Andrew Wiggins, SF, Kansas
With Embiid off the board, the Milwaukee Bucks will have to choose between one of two small forwards. While they may be tempted to draft Jabari Parker out of Duke, they'll have a really hard time passing up on a player like Andrew Wiggins.
Wiggins' athleticism has been on display since he was in high school, but he's also a solid ball-handler and an underrated defender. He'll still need to work on his jump shot, but the mechanics look solid, and he's expected to become a superstar in the near future.
3. Philadelphia 76ers: Jabari Parker, SF, Duke
Unless the Philadelphia 76ers trade up for Wiggins, chances are that they'll end up having to take Parker. However, according to Philly.com's Keith Pompey, the Sixers are trying to do whatever they can to draft Wiggins.
I don't think they'll be able to convince the Cavaliers to trade the No. 1 overall pick, but they should still be happy with taking Parker. He's a pro-ready scorer who can instantly become the go-to option on offense that they so desperately need to take the pressure off of Michael Carter-Williams and let the young point guard focus more on running the offense and finding open shooters.
4. Orlando Magic: Dante Exum, PG/SG, Australia
Victor Oladipo is a promising young guard, but he struggles when having to run the offense. The Orlando Magic should focus on adding a more comfortable ball-handler to keep Oladipo at shooting guard and give the team a frightening young backcourt.
Dante Exum is the top guard in this draft. He's more of a combo guard than a true point guard, but he has great size at 6'6" along with great court vision and the ability to finish around the rim. ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla was very impressed when watching Exum at a recent tournament, according to Sean Deveney from Sporting News, saying:
In that tournament, he was breathtaking at times. At times, he looked like a college freshman, doing dumb things, making turnovers. But when you watch him, it is easy to get enamored with him. He does have an, ‘it,’ factor that can take your breath away. He is capable of making some moves that make you do a double-take.
With Oladipo and Exum in the backcourt, the Magic could start turning things around in a hurry.
5. Utah Jazz: Noah Vonleh, PF, Indiana
It's almost a guarantee that the Utah Jazz select a power forward with the No. 5 overall pick, but the real question is which one they'll take. The Jazz ranked near the bottom of the league in both offensive and defensive ratings, so they'll need a solid two-way player down low.
Noah Vonleh fits that mold. He has great length to help him on defense as well as a polished offensive game both inside and out. He showed off a surprisingly solid three-point shot while at Indiana, and if he could use that more frequently in the NBA, he could compare very well to a player like Chris Bosh.
6. Boston Celtics: Aaron Gordon, PF, Arizona
The Boston Celtics are going to need more help down low if they want to start turning things around. Aaron Gordon would be an exciting prospect to watch in Boston, giving the Celtics another offensive option to help take some pressure off of Rajon Rondo.
Gordon's game is still developing, but he is a freak athlete who knows when to take the ball to the basket or when to pass it back out. He'll need to work on his jump shot, but we've seen other power forwards in the past succeed in the league before thriving once they became more comfortable with their jumper.
7. Los Angeles Lakers: Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State
It's likely going to be another rough season for the Los Angeles Lakers, even with Kobe Bryant coming back. However, if they can add a point guard in the draft and convince another superstar to join them, things could get interesting.
Marcus Smart makes a ton of sense for the Lakers. He's a versatile guard who plays strong defense, drives to the basket and is a proven leader. According to ESPN's Dave McMenamin, the Lakers were very impressed with Smart's workout with the team.
With Smart and Kobe in the backcourt, the Lakers will be an intriguing team to watch next year at the very least.
8. Sacramento Kings: Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky
Julius Randle was a double-double machine at Kentucky, and while he's a promising offensive option in the frontcourt, he still needs to work on going to his right. Fortunately, if he goes to the Sacramento Kings, he'll have another big man in DeMarcus Cousins to take pressure off of him while he continues to develop on both sides of the court.
9. Charlotte Hornets: Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State
There are a few ways the Charlotte Hornets could go with their first pick, but they should consider adding Gary Harris. He started his career at Michigan State as an excellent spot-up shooter, but thanks to Tom Izzo, he also developed a solid scoring game inside. Considering the Hornets had an offensive rating of just 101.2 this past season, they could use a player like Harris in the backcourt.
10. Philadelphia 76ers: Nik Stauskas, SG, Michigan
After posting the worst offensive rating in the NBA at just 96.8, the Sixers need all of the help they can get offensively. Drafting Parker will help, but adding another wing scorer in Nik Stauskas would be even better. He has nice size for a shooting guard at 6'6", and he has a terrific shot with a quick release, making him an ideal perimeter scorer.
11. Denver Nuggets: Dario Saric, SF, Croatia
The Denver Nuggets need more help on the wings if they want to make a push in the Western Conference, and taking Dario Saric with this pick would be a great move. The casual fan probably doesn't know a lot about the Croatian prospect, but he's an extremely versatile scorer who has great ball-handling skills, even at 6'10".
There's a chance Saric doesn't come to the NBA right away, but with how versatile he is, it'll be hard for the Nuggets to pass up on him.
12. Orlando Magic: Adreian Payne, PF, Michigan State
With the backcourt in good shape after taking Exum, the Magic can focus on adding help down low with their next pick. The Magic ranked 29th in the NBA with an offensive rating of just 99.3 last season, so they'll need someone who can score in the frontcourt.
Adreian Payne is the ideal offensive-minded forward here. He has a smooth jumper and the explosiveness near the rim to finish with authority when needed. He'll need to hit the weight room and add some muscle to his frame, but his length and aggressiveness will help him quickly make an impact in Orlando.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves: Doug McDermott, SF/PF, Creighton
Kevin Love is likely leaving in the near future, and the Minnesota Timberwolves are going to need to find someone who can fill his role offensively. Doug McDermott might not be big enough to play power forward, but he could thrive at the small forward position. People are quick to knock his athleticism, but as Adam Levitan from Rotoworld points out, he actually had a better vertical jump than Exum.
There are few more pro-ready scorers in this draft, as McDermott led the nation in scoring last year with 26.7 points per game. He's an extremely efficient scorer with underrated athleticism, so don't be surprised if he successfully makes the transition to the NBA.
14. Phoenix Suns: Rodney Hood, SF, Duke
Despite putting up 48 wins, the Phoenix Suns couldn't make the playoffs last season. With three first-round picks in this year's draft, that will likely change. With their first pick, the Suns can add help at small forward with Rodney Hood.
Hood is a terrific scorer with a smooth jumper and can create his own shots, making him a terrific option to potentially start on the wing and take some pressure off of the Suns backcourt.
15. Atlanta Hawks: James Young, SG/SF, Kentucky
The Atlanta Hawks love perimeter shooters, which is why it makes sense that they'd draft someone like James Young. He has a smooth jump shot and NBA-caliber range on the perimeter. Although he'll need to work on creating his own shot, he's an excellent spot-up shooter who could put up points in bunches in Atlanta's offensive scheme.
16. Chicago Bulls: T.J. Warren, SF, N.C. State
Although they led the NBA with just 91.8 points allowed per game, the Chicago Bulls were also last with just 93.7 points scored per game. T.J. Warren could help boost their numbers offensively. He's an aggressive and efficient scorer who put up 24.9 points per game while shooting 52.5 percent last season. He's not a great defender, but his ability to score from mid-range and closer will make him a great asset.
17. Boston Celtics: Cleanthony Early, SF/PF, Wichita State
Adding another athletic playmaker would be the best move for the Celtics here. While Cleanthony Early probably won't thrive at power forward at the next level, he's still an extremely athletic player with a solid mid-range jumper and the ability to make exciting plays at the rim. He'll be a solid backup to Jeff Green and could get some time at power forward as well.
18. Phoenix Suns: Zach LaVine, SG, UCLA
Zach LaVine may have declared for the NBA draft earlier than he should have, but the potential is there. Since the Suns have a handful of picks, they can take a chance on a project who could pay off huge dividends in the future, especially if Eric Bledsoe doesn't return.
After working out with the Lakers, LaVine generated a ton of buzz with his 46-inch vertical jump. His athleticism isn't a question, but his perimeter game is. With some time in the gym with an NBA team, however, he'll likely be a dynamic scorer and a key player for a franchise like the Suns.
19. Chicago Bulls: Tyler Ennis, PG, Syracuse
Even if Derrick Rose is able to stay healthy, the Chicago Bulls are going to need a backup point guard since Kirk Hinrich and D.J. Augustin are both free agents. Tyler Ennis was only a freshman at Syracuse last season, but he showed a ton of poise and incredible awareness. He's an all-around solid point guard who could arguably be the perfect backup behind Rose.
20. Toronto Raptors: Elfrid Payton, PG, Louisiana-Lafayette
There's a chance that Kyle Lowry doesn't return to the Toronto Raptors, but even if he does, they'll need a solid backup. Elfrid Payton didn't get a ton of attention during the season, but he was a very efficient player, putting up 19.2 points, 6.0 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game while shooting 50.9 percent.
A number of scouts and current players are impressed with Payton's game, including Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard.
With great size and aggressiveness, Payton looks like a pro-ready point guard, and he could end up being the biggest steal of this draft.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder: P.J. Hairston, SG, NBA D-League
The shooting guard position could be a real weakness for the Oklahoma City Thunder next season with Thabo Sefolosha and Caron Butler both set to be free agents. Drafting P.J. Hairston could change that, as he's developed even more during his year in the NBA D-League. Hairston has a great three-point shot and can find ways to get open, making him a potential spot-up shooter for the Thunder.
22. Memphis Grizzlies: Shabazz Napier, PG, Connecticut
The Memphis Grizzlies might have other needs, but they could really use a backup point guard behind Mike Conley. While he's only 6'1", Shabazz Napier is a great scorer who can create his own shot either on the perimeter or by slashing to the basket. He may never become an All-Star, but he'd be a very valuable backup to help Memphis keep up the pace offensively when Conley is out.
23. Utah Jazz: K.J. McDaniels, SF, Clemson
After posting a league-worst 109.1 defensive rating, the Jazz clearly need help on that side of the ball. Fortunately for them, the Jazz can pick up arguably this draft's most underrated defensive prospect here. K.J. McDaniels went relatively unnoticed out of Clemson, but he was a dominant defender, averaging 2.8 blocks per game.
According to Steve Fall from the Sports Resource, no other prospect in the past decade except McDaniels has had 100 blocks and 40 three-pointers made in a single season.
Offensively, McDaniels is a work in progress, but his defense would make him a great fit for Utah.
24. Charlotte Hornets: Kyle Anderson, SF, UCLA
Kyle Anderson may have one of the most unique skill sets in this draft. At 6'9", he's a terrific ball-handler and passer, giving him the versatility to play anywhere from small forward to point guard. He has a solid jump shot that could become great with some time at the next level, giving the Hornets another potential scoring option.
25. Houston Rockets: C.J. Wilcox, SG, Washington
The Houston Rockets ranked second in the league with 107.7 points per game, but they lack an ideal scoring option behind James Harden. C.J. Wilcox is an excellent perimeter shooter with a great-looking release. If the Rockets draft him, they won't need to worry about losing momentum when Harden needs to rest.
26. Miami Heat: Jordan Clarkson, PG, Missouri
With only one guaranteed contract on the books for next season, the Miami Heat could look very different in a few months. Regardless of what happens, they're going to need to add a point guard, because Norris Cole probably won't be the best starter.
Jordan Clarkson has great size at the position at 6'5", and he uses that height to score in a number of ways. He can slash to the rim or settle for a mid-range jump shot. He's still developing, but there's a ton of potential that could make him the eventual starter in Miami.
27. Phoenix Suns: Jerami Grant, SF/PF, Syracuse
Jerami Grant projects to be an NBA small forward with great size and explosiveness at the rim. However, after playing power forward at Syracuse, he still needs to work on his ball-handling and shooting if he's going to be effective offensively at the 3 position. Still, the Suns could use more wing players, and Grant could be a force defensively before becoming a more well-rounded offensive threat.
28. Los Angeles Clippers: Patric Young, PF/C, Florida
For a team that utilizes the alley-oop as much as the Los Angeles Clippers, they seem to lack an athletic option down low behind Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. Patric Young could eventually be that player if the Clippers draft him. He's already a developed prospect on defense with his strength, but he's yet to develop offensively.
With a point guard like Chris Paul, Young will have plenty of scoring opportunities on alley-oop passes while he works on becoming a more effective scorer in the post.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Glenn Robinson III, SF, Michigan
The Thunder need an offensive option behind Kevin Durant at small forward, and Glenn Robinson III could be that player. He's a terrific athlete who can get to the rim, even if he is still a developing outside scorer. Robinson is deadly on the fast break and can play very solid defense, giving him the tools to be a solid backup while he works on developing his jumper.
30. San Antonio Spurs: Jarnell Stokes, PF, Tennessee
As Tim Duncan nears the end of his career, the San Antonio Spurs will need to find another player at power forward behind Boris Diaw. While Jarnell Stokes is only 6'8", he's a terrific rebounder with plenty of strength to hold his own down low. Gregg Popovich knows how to get the most out of his players, and Stokes could become a very exciting power forward in the Spurs system.