When NBA commissioner Adam Silver steps to the podium on Thursday and announces the Cleveland Cavaliers are on the clock to kick off the 2014 draft, history will be made and hope will wash over all 30 teams hoping to win a championship.
Of course, the Cavaliers are also making history as the first team to have back-to-back No. 1 picks since Orlando in 1992-93 and the first to ever pick in that spot three times in four years. They hit big with Kyrie Irving in 2011, then bombed horribly with Anthony Bennett last year, so who knows what's in store for the Dan Gilbert's squad this year?
Conversely, the NBA champion San Antonio Spurs don't appear to have any immediate needs unless they are preparing to lose one or both of Boris Diaw and Patty Mills in free agency. They take such a low-key approach to handling their business that no one knows what to expect from them.
In between the No. 1 and 30 selections is a lot of star power. This year's NBA draft features tremendous potential at the top and depth throughout the first round that there will be long-time starters found in the second round.
On the eve of this year's draft, here's a look at the latest first-round projections and some notes about what to expect when things get started.
|Team||Pick, Pos., School/Country|
|1. Cleveland Cavaliers||Jabari Parker, SF, Duke|
|2. Milwaukee Bucks||Andrew Wiggins, SG, Kansas|
|3. Philadelphia 76ers||Noah Vonleh, PF, Indiana|
|4. Orlando Magic||Joel Embiid, C, Kansas|
|5. Utah Jazz||Dante Exum, PG, Australia|
|6. Boston Celtics||Aaron Gordon, PF, Arizona|
|7. Los Angeles Lakers||Elfrid Payton, PG, Louisiana-Lafayette|
|8. Sacramento Kings||Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State|
|9. Charlotte Hornets (via Detroit)||Nik Stauskas, SG, Michigan|
|10. Philadelphia 76ers (via New Orleans)||Dario Saric, PF, Croatia|
|11. Denver Nuggets||Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State|
|12. Orlando Magic (from New York via Denver)||Tyler Ennis, PG, Syracuse|
|13. Minnesota Timberwolves||Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky|
|14. Phoenix Suns||Rodney Hood, SG, Duke|
|15. Atlanta Hawks||Zach LaVine, PG, UCLA|
|16. Chicago Bulls (via Charlotte)||Doug McDermott, SF, Creighton|
|17. Boston Celtics (via Brooklyn)||Adreian Payne, PF, Michigan State|
|18. Phoenix Suns (via Washington)||T.J. Warren, SF, NC State|
|19. Chicago Bulls||Shabazz Napier, PG, Connecticut|
|20. Toronto Raptors||Jordan Clarkson, PG, Missouri|
|21. Oklahoma City Thunder (from Dallas via Houston and Los Angeles)||Jusuf Nurkic, C, Bosnia|
|22. Memphis Grizzlies||Jarnell Stokes, PF, Tennessee|
|23. Utah Jazz (via Golden State)||Kyle Anderson, PF, UCLA|
|24. Charlotte Hornets (via Portland)||P.J. Hairston, SG, North Carolina|
|25. Houston Rockets||Jerami Grant, SF, Syracuse|
|26. Miami Heat||Mitch McGary, PF, Michigan|
|27. Phoenix Suns (via Indiana)||James Young, SF, Kentucky|
|28. Los Angeles Clippers||Clint Capela, PF, Switzerland|
|29. Oklahoma City Thunder||Jordan Adams, SG, UCLA|
|30. San Antonio Spurs||Cleanthony Early, SF, Wichita State|
Cavaliers Moving Out of Top Spot?
Joel Embiid's injury has dramatically shifted the top of the draft, to the point where the Cleveland Cavaliers may not make the pick after all.
According to Chad Ford of ESPN.com (Insider subscription required), the Cavaliers have received offers from Philadelphia, Orlando and Utah that include each team's "own high lottery pick plus a veteran."
Of those scenarios, any of them would make sense because the Cavaliers would stay in the top five and could theoretically get Embiid if he really is the player they want. If Wiggins or Parker is the choice, it's hard to envision a scenario where Cleveland could pull that off picking lower than second.
Julius Randle Trying to Prove Skeptics Wrong
The worst thing that can happen to a prospect so close to the draft is an injury concern, whether it's legitimate or a report. Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reported Kentucky power forward Julius Randle could end up needing surgery to repair a broken bone in his right foot.
The procedure is expected to keep Randle out six to eight weeks this summer, sources said, but there's a strong expectation within front offices that he'll be cleared for the start of training camp in the fall.
In this scenario, Randle would miss rookie summer league in July.
Randle spoke to ESPNLosAngeles.com's Dave McMenamin, refuting the report in the most frank terms possible:
Julius Randle: "I met with the best foot doctor in the country & he said he wouldn’t do anything with my foot ... No scheduled surgery"— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) June 17, 2014
If the Kentucky star's health checks out before the draft, it would be a shock if he falls out of the top 10. His combination of size, rebounding and scoring ability is hard to find.
Dante Exum Leaves Teams Guessing
The point guard position has taken on a whole new level of importance in the NBA, with increased emphasis on speed and passing. Australia's Dante Exum has been a projected top-five pick for as long as this draft process has gone on, but that doesn't mean teams have a gauge on him.
Baxter Holmes of The Boston Globe spoke with a Western Conference executive who provided insight into Exum's predraft workouts and how teams are still figuring out who he is.
He’s a little bit of a wild card. He definitely looked great last year at the Hoops Summit and he’s played well in international events. He’s going to be a really good player, but I don’t have the familiarity with him as a comfort level of what he can become as compared to some of the other guys.
Which potential top-five pick is the biggest risk?
There's virtually no chance Exum, who is a true point guard at just 18 years old and listed at 6'6", falls out of the top five, especially with teams like Orlando (No. 4) and Utah (No. 5) needing to fill gaping holes at the position.
But teams picking that high also like to know exactly what they are getting from a personality standpoint. Exum's desire to leave teams hanging could make him a bigger mystery than the typical foreign player.
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