The 2014 NBA draft will have a long-term impact for most franchises and will being a life-changing moment for every player involved.
Fans are generally concerned about what their teams do in the two rounds of the draft and whether they are able to fill needs while getting good value. However, the prospects will be spending at least the next few years in these locations while attempting to develop as professionals.
While every player hopes to be able to come into a perfect situation where he can be a go-to option for a talented team, this is rarely the case. There will be tons of unique scenarios for those starting their NBA careers, and it is important to think about this after each person is selected.
Who should be the first pick of the draft?
Here are predictions for the first few picks in the first round along with early expectations for each player.
When: Thursday, June 26
Time: 7 p.m. ET
Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Live Stream: Watch ESPN
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Andrew Wiggins, SF, Kansas
It seemed like Joel Embiid was destined to be the No. 1 pick, but a foot injury will likely drop him out of the top five. As Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders points out, this could end up leading Andrew Wiggins to be the top pick:
As if Joel Embiid's back wasn't scary enough, he now has a foot injury too. "With the first pick, the Cavaliers select Andrew Wiggins."— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) June 19, 2014
While the Kansas star might not be ready to be an NBA star right away, he certainly has this type of potential. He has elite athleticism, and there are no real holes in his game, although it will take some time before he can put it all together.
The good news is that Cleveland has enough talent around him that it will not matter. The wing can start off by doing what he does best: playing strong on-ball defense and excelling on fast breaks. He will then attempt to work on his performance in the frontcourt.
Wiggins will be able to do the little things to help out a potential playoff contender before eventually growing into his ability.
2. Milwaukee Bucks: Jabari Parker, SF, Duke
For teams looking to make a safe pick, it does not get much better than Jabari Parker at the top of the first round.
According to Baxter Holmes of The Boston Globe, an Eastern Conference scout said this about the former Duke star:
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.
Milwaukee does not have enough talent to win many games, but Parker could be an immediately go-to option who would likely be the team's leading scorer in his first year.
He would not only be someone who can help the team win, but he will bring energy and excitement to a fanbase that needs it.
3. Philadelphia 76ers: Dante Exum, PG, Australia
Dante Exum is one of the biggest mysteries in the draft, but his upside is unmistakable. He is lightning quick, and that lets him get into the lane with consistency and make plays from there.
The question is whether Exum will be able to learn how to distribute the ball well enough to play point guard. However, pairing him with Michael Carter-Williams means he will not need to as he can instead remain as a shooting guard who will succeed for a long time.
Without much talent in front of him, the guard will be able to play right away and learn from his mistakes as he grows.
4. Orlando Magic: Noah Vonleh, PF, Indiana
Noah Vonleh can do a little bit of everything on the basketball court, as noted by ESPN's Seth Greenberg:
Noah Vonleh has tremendous upside. He will grow into his body. Instinctive rebounder can shoot it facing and is quick off his feet.— Seth Greenberg (@SethOnHoops) June 11, 2014
His best skill is his versatility, which allows him to score either in the paint or beyond the arc while also being a quality defender. Add this to his impressive length and athleticism, and it is clear that Vonleh will be a serious weapon at the next level.
This makes him a worthy pick for the Magic, who need an increase in talent in the frontcourt. Vonleh might not get much playing time early due to his lack of polish, but it will not take long to move up the depth chart on this young roster.
5. Utah Jazz: Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky
Although there were earlier concerns about Julius Randle sliding due to a foot injury, he has made sure to put that notion to bed. According to Dave McMenamin of ESPN Los Angeles, the forward explained:
I met with the best foot doctor in the country and he said he wouldn’t do anything with my foot, so there’s no scheduled surgery or anything. I feel healthy, athletic. I’m moving great. No problems recovering and I’m ready to go.
I think a lot of it is coming from maybe some teams (whose) motive is maybe for me to fall in the draft to them, or certain teams may want me.
If this is the case, Randle should be able to see the floor early in his career and become the dominant low-post player the Jazz are still hoping Derrick Favors can become. Although his upside is not as high as that of others on this list, he is as safe as it comes in the draft.
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