With the 2014 NBA draft just a day away, all of the top prospects in the class have high hopes of where they will land. Though the selection process is never a perfect science, NBA analysts have worked tirelessly to get inside of every general manager's mind.
Players like Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid and Jabari Parker have been jostled around more than the ping-pong balls that sealed the fates of the franchises in the lottery. As for the decision making by those executives, it's hard to predict where they will be leaning when the selection process begins.
Before the draft officially gets underway, here's a look at the latest mock predictions for some of the top stars in the class.
* All CBS Sports predictions can be found here.
Andrew Wiggins, SF, Kansas
- Chad Ford, ESPN (subscription required): No. 2 overall, Milwaukee Bucks
- NBA Consensus: No. 1, Cleveland Cavaliers
- Marc J. Spears, Yahoo: No. 1, Cavaliers
- Gary Parrish, CBS Sports: No. 2, Bucks
- Zach Harper, CBS Sports: No. 2, Bucks
- Matt Moore, CBS Sports: No. 1, Cavaliers
After former Kansas teammate Embiid went down with a foot injury, Wiggins rose to the top of several boards—again.
Wiggins was the "Can't-miss prospect" coming into last year's college basketball season, but saw his stock drop slightly behind both Embiid and Parker. Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated notes the Cavs are looking at Wiggins with the No. 1 pick, but could shock the world again:
Cavs still debating Wiggins/Parker/Exum for top overall pick, source said. But remember: Cleveland has stunned everyone the last two drafts.— Chris Mannix (@ChrisMannixSI) June 23, 2014
Following a standout season with the Jayhawks as a freshman, the forward still appears to have some of the most upside in the class. Parker is clearly the more polished product at this point, but Wiggins looks like a blooming superstar.
Wiggins will develop into a star for whoever takes him, as the upside turns into brilliant play at the NBA level.
Jabari Parker, SF, Duke
- Ford: No. 1, Cavaliers
- NBA Consensus: No. 2, Bucks
- Spears: No. 2, Bucks
- Parrish: No. 1, Cavaliers
- Harper: No. 1, Cavaliers
- Moore: No. 2, Bucks
Are you a fan of scoring? How about unselfish play and basketball knowledge not likely surpassed by any player in the draft?
That's Jabari Parker, in a nutshell. Just a few months removed from a dominant season at Duke, Parker has a chance to be the second Blue Devils player taken at No. 1 overall by the Cavaliers after Kyrie Irving earned the honor in the 2011 draft.
Jeff Goodman of ESPN points out why Parker should be the selection for Cleveland:
Jabari Parker fills more glaring needs of the Cleveland Cavs than Andrew Wiggins -- better shooter, higher basketball IQ, can become leader.— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) June 23, 2014
Most notably known for his explosive offensive ability and legitimate game anywhere on the court, the former Duke star is by far the most NBA ready prospect in the class.
One Eastern Conference scout shared his thoughts on Parker, per Baxter Holmes of The Boston Globe:
In terms of a basketball player and a human being, I think it’s all first class. I think he gets on the court next year and averages between 14-17 points per game, 2-4 assists, 6-8 rebounds. I see this Carmelo Anthony/Grant Hill hybrid.
I don’t think you go wrong with him. I think there’s very little risk, for sure.
Much like Carmelo Anthony, he might need just a little work on his defense to truly be an all-around player at the next level. But, with similar knowledge of the game to Grant Hill, Parker will be the favorite for Rookie of the Year next season.
Joel Embiid, C, Kansas
- Ford: No. 6, Boston Celtics
- NBA Consensus: No. 3, Philadelphia 76ers
- Spears: No. 3, 76ers
- Parrish: No. 4, Orlando Magic
- Harper: No. 6, Celtics
- Moore: No. 7, Los Angeles Lakers
What a difference a week can make.
Last Thursday, Embiid was viewed as the No. 1 pick by nearly every draft analyst. But after it was revealed he would undergo foot surgery and reportedly miss up to six months, the former Jayhawk fell out of the top spot in every mock draft.
Despite the recent slide due to his foot injury, Embiid hasn't wavered from his hope to thrive in the NBA, per Scott Gleeson of USA Today:
"In college, I showed shot-blocking and defense. But people haven't really seen what I can do because there was such limitation in college," Embiid said. "I want to be a complete player. I want to be the best. I want to be big. If I look up to Hakeem, I've got to be bigger."
The 7'0" Cameroon center is a physical beast in the paint. But the question remains whether or not he can be healthy in the league.
If the Cavaliers and Bucks do pass over him, the Sixers will have a tough decision to make. After drafting Nerlens Noel last season, can they take a risk again with another player coming off major surgery?
Dante Exum, PG/SG, Australia
- Ford: No. 3, 76ers
- NBA Consensus: No. 3, 76ers
- Spears: No. 4, Magic
- Parrish: No. 3, 76ers
- Harper:No. 3, 76ers
- Moore:No. 3, 76ers
In an already loaded class, Dante Exum is without a doubt the top overall international prospect.
His ball-handling skills are superb, but his all-around game has made him the best point guard in the draft. Given his great size and athletic ability, Exum has emerged in a star-studded class, as Sports Illustrated notes:
Adept at both scoring and creating for teammates, Exum excels with the ball and projects as a high-quality defender with a 6-9 wingspan. There are some who believe he’s one of the three best players in the draft in terms of potential, and selecting Exum presents a potentially massive reward.
After exploding onto the scene in the states last summer, Exum will likely go to the Orlando Magic at No. 4 overall. While Moore clearly believes he will drop slightly farther to the Lakers, the consensus is that he will be playing alongside Victor Oladipo for the next several seasons in Orlando.
With that type of backcourt, building for the future shouldn't be difficult for the Magic. That is, of course, if Exum plays up to his potential, which is always hard to predict with international players.
Aaron Gordon, PF, Arizona
- Ford: No. 5, Utah Jazz
- NBA Consensus: No. 8, Sacramento Kings
- Spears: No. 6, Celtics
- Parrish: No. 8, Kings
- Harper: No. 8, Kings
- Moore: No. 10, 76ers
Many Boston Celtics fans believe Aaron Gordon should already throw on a C's jersey, they might just want to pump the brakes. But after the latest projections, it does appear five out of six analysts believe the former Arizona star will be available for Boston.
The Celtics have multiple holes they can look to fill in the draft after constantly shifting the starting lineup last season. Luckily for Boston, Gordon is ready to play either the 3 or the 4 position, per the Timberwolves.com:
I see myself as a forward. I see myself as a basketball player. Obviously, you have to play a position in the NBA, but I’m going to be out there. I’ll be able to do a little bit of this, a little bit of that. Post-ups, knock down jumpers, hit 3s, get by people. I feel very confident in myself that I can play the 4 and 3 and wherever somebody wants to play me at is fine.
He clearly has some work to do on perfecting his jump shot, but his high-flying ability makes him an exciting prospect at the next level.
After drawing comparisons to Blake Griffin at the college level, Gordon will be a game changer for whoever drafts him. If Gordon does fall to the Kings, would California be big enough for the both of them?
Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.