In less than a week, many of the initial decisions to improve every roster in the NBA will be made.
On June 26 the NBA draft gets the offseason off and rolling, and the pursuit of free agents will follow closely behind. Before we know it, the start of the 2014-15 season will be upon us, and the San Antonio Spurs will be charged with defending their title.
This year's crop of prospective NBA talent is a deep one. It might contain multiple future superstars, several good players and a bevy of rotational guys and role players.
Let's take a closer look at each team's first-round selection and the player most likely to be drafted in each slot.
Remember, this is just a projection, and it doesn't include potential trades.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Andrew Wiggins, 6'8", 197 pounds, SG/SF, Kansas
Thanks to the foot injury suffered by his college teammate Joel Embiid (more on this below), Wiggins becomes the man in the top position. Why Wiggins over Parker? It's simple.
Wiggins and LeBron James don't play the same position, and if the Cavs intend on pursuing LeBron in free agency, as most expect, pairing him with Wiggins would be the best scenario.
On pure basketball talent, Wiggins has an even higher ceiling than Parker, despite the fact that the latter might be a little more NBA-ready at this moment.
Even if LeBron doesn't sign with Cleveland, a core of Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters and Wiggins is still impressive. And the Cavs still have the cap room to lure a max free agent.
2. Milwaukee Bucks: Jabari Parker, 6'8", 241 pounds, SF, Duke
Parker might be the player whom most teams are willing to trade up to get. He is the lowest-risk prospect in the draft, even though Embiid and Wiggins probably have a higher ceiling.
In Milwaukee, he'd instantly become the face of the franchise and would probably lead the team in scoring as a rookie.
3. Philadelphia 76ers: Dante Exum, 6'6", 196 pounds, PG/SG, Australia
Drafting Exum would create a dilemma for the Sixers in the backcourt. Michael Carter-Williams just won the Rookie of the Year, but Exum is too good of a prospect to pass up.
With Nerlens Noel already in the fold, there's no reason for the Sixers to take a chance on Embiid. MCW could become expendable quickly, which would make him a huge bargaining chip for a potential blockbuster deal.
4. Orlando Magic: Noah Vonleh, 6'9", 247 pounds, PF/C, Indiana
Vonleh's game is very reminiscent of Chris Bosh's. Some might believe that's not a good thing, but everyone must remember that Bosh was a perennial 20-and-10 guy before he came to Miami.
What you see from him now, though still solid, is just a smidgeon of what he could do if he wasn't playing with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
Vonleh's 7'4.25" wingspan and hand size (11.75 inches in width and 9.75 inches in length) will give him the versatility he needs to play center if his team elects to go small.
This would mean that the Magic will have taken Indiana Hoosiers stars in back-to-back drafts after selecting Victor Oladipo last season.
5. Utah Jazz: Joel Embiid, 7'0", 240 pounds, C, Kansas
All the warning signs are there. First, there was worry about a bad back. Now there is confirmation that Embiid has injured his foot and will likely be shut down from all future workouts, per his agent Arn Tellem, who spoke to ESPN's Chad Ford:
This development has shifted this mock draft on its ear.
As talented as Embiid is, there's a definite risk involved with drafting him. It's possible these developments could send him spiraling out of the lottery altogether.
But let's not get too hasty. Some team in the lottery will be willing to take a chance on him. Why not the Jazz? With a young power forward like Derrick Favors and a point guard like Trey Burke, Utah is building a solid foundation.
It knows it won't be able to win anytime soon. Because of that, the organization might be willing to draft Embiid and bring him along slowly.
6. Boston Celtics: Aaron Gordon, 6'9", 220 pounds, PF/SF, Arizona
Of all the bigs in the draft, no frontcourt prospect has as much bounce or a higher motor than Gordon. Though his overall game is still a work in progress, he is already a good on-ball defender who shows the willingness to develop into an elite contributor on that end of the floor.
In transition, he can finish near the basket with the best of them. If he is paired with Rajon Rondo, Gordon could be a terror in pick-and-roll situations.
7. Los Angeles Lakers: Marcus Smart, 6'3", 227 pounds, PG/SG, Oklahoma State
Kobe Bryant is returning for next season, but he won't be around for much longer. The Lakers need to target the player who could become the next leader of the franchise.
Smart has all the intensity and intangibles to earn The Mamba's respect now and take the torch from him moving forward.
8. Sacramento Kings: Doug McDermott, 6'8", 218 pounds, SF/PF, Creighton
McDermott's intangibles and work ethic are exactly what the Kings need. His outside shooting will also be a huge benefit when defenses collapse on DeMarcus Cousins in the post.
McDermott is not the most athletic player in the draft, but he has a mastery of his skill set and understands the game as well as any player available.
9. Charlotte Hornets: Nik Stauskas, 6'6", 207 pounds, SG, Michigan
Charlotte was one of the worst shooting teams in the NBA last season. The team ranked just 23rd in the NBA in three-point shooting. That's an area Stauskas can help improve. While he's a better athlete than people give him credit for...
...his best attribute is his shooting ability.
He knocked down 44 percent of his threes in both his freshman and sophomore seasons at Michigan. He's the sharpshooter that the Hornets need on the wing.
10. Philadelphia 76ers: Julius Randle, 6'9", 250 pounds, PF, Kentucky
There have been grumblings about Randle's injured foot and conflicting reports about the severity of the injury.
Randle said this after a recent workout with the Jazz, per Aaron Falk of The Salt Lake Tribune: "I did my homework and spoke to the best foot doctor we have in the country. There’s no issue with my foot. I got through five workouts. I’m good, ready to go through summer league wherever I am. That’s all I know. I don’t know anything about a surgery."
It doesn't appear to be anything career-threatening. Aside from Embiid, Randle is the draft's best post prospect. The 76ers could effectively trade Thaddeus Young to clear cap space and go with Randle and a veteran at power forward.
It would only make the young nucleus that much more appealing.
11. Denver Nuggets: Dario Saric, 6'10", 223 pounds, SF/PF, Croatia
Injuries were a major concern for Denver last season. The team must add depth to the forward position. Saric is a good fit because he can play either forward spot and could potentially be a matchup issue for opposing teams.
He has range on his jump shot out to the three-point line and excellent court vision. He's not a future star, but he could easily develop into a starter.
12. Orlando Magic: Jusuf Nurkic, 6'11", 280 pounds, C, Bosnia
There's a big gap between Nurkic and Embiid, but most agree the beefy Bosnian is the second-best center prospect in the draft.
Per Pro Basketball Draft on Twitter, the Magic are one of the teams that are seriously considering Nurkic in the lottery.
At 280 pounds with solid post fundamentals, he's a little reminiscent of the Memphis Grizzlies' Marc Gasol. If he can be even close to that steady, the team he lands with will be ecstatic.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves: Adreian Payne, 6'10", 239 pounds, PF, Michigan State
With Kevin Love seemingly headed out of town, the Wolves will at the very least need to add depth at the power forward position through the draft.
Payne has a similar skill set to Love, but he's obviously unproven and not as beastly of a rebounder. Still, his ability to hit the outside shot could make him a great teammate for Ricky Rubio.
14. Phoenix Suns: Zach LaVine, 6'6", 181 pounds, PG/SG, UCLA
This might be a bit of a reach, but LaVine's potential is off the charts. He does have perhaps the most boom-or-bust potential behind Embiid, but head coach Jeff Hornacek and his staff worked wonders with Gerald Green last season.
LaVine's game is different, but the two are similar in the fact that they are raw athletic prospects. If he commits to his craft, he'll be a star.
15. Atlanta Hawks: Gary Harris, 6'4", 205 pounds, SG, Michigan State
Kyle Korver played very well for the Hawks last season, but ideally, he's not a starter. Though Harris doesn't have the ideal height for a shooting guard, the team that drafts him has to hope he performs like Bradley Beal of the Washington Wizards.
The two have similar body types and skill sets. If Atlanta could pair a player like that with Jeff Teague, it's a win.
16. Chicago Bulls: Rodney Hood, 6'8", 208 pounds, SF, Duke
As pure shooters in the draft go, Hood is probably third behind McDermott and Stauskas. At 6'8" and with a 36" max vertical, he has a little bounce as well.
The Bulls desperately need a player who can stretch the floor with his outside shooting. Because Hood can do that, he could easily become a rotation player for Chicago, as long as he defends.
17. Boston Celtics: James Young, 6'7", 213 pounds, SG/SF, Kentucky
Young has a 7'0" wingspan and above-average athleticism for the wing positions. He's not afraid to take and make big shots.
He goes to the basket strong and has the ability to finish in traffic. He would give the Boston Celtics a much needed playmaker on the wing.
18. Phoenix Suns: Clint Capela, 6'11", 222 pounds, PF, Switzerland
Phoenix has three first-round picks. It's almost a lock that it won't keep them all. If the team does retain all of its picks, you can bet one of them will be an international player it can draft and stash.
Capela is a prime candidate.
He's long and athletic but very raw. He'd be best served honing his skills elsewhere before coming to the NBA.
19. Chicago Bulls: Elfrid Payton, 6'4", 185 pounds, PG, Louisiana-Lafayette
There's every reason to believe the Bulls would take Syracuse's Tyler Ennis or even UConn's Shabazz Napier. ESPN's Chad Ford (subscription required) reported that sources indicated to him that Chicago likes Napier a little more than Ennis.
But what about Payton?
Like many smoke screens that are launched this time of year, the endorsement of Napier could just be a tactic to throw other teams off Payton's trail. At 6'4", he has great size for the position.
He's also a relentless defender with an explosive first step. His jump shot is terrible, but then again, doesn't that sound like a quintessential Bulls guard?
20. Toronto Raptors: Shabazz Napier, 6'1", 175 pounds, PG, UConn
The Raptors could lose Kyle Lowry in free agency. If that happens, they must be prepared to maintain the momentum it established last season by drafting a capable point guard.
Napier is a born leader with scoring ability and solid court vision. He could help Toronto stay on course as one of the better young teams in the Eastern Conference.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder: Tyler Ennis, 6'2", 182 pounds, PG, Syracuse
Want to see what Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder would be like with a pass-first point guard? If OKC drafts Ennis, we just might find out.
No No. 21 pick is going to drive Russell Westbrook out of town—at least not at first, but it's possible that in stretches, Ennis could show glimpses of how the Thunder offense could run with a maestro at the helm.
Ennis isn't dynamic, but he is solid fundamentally and plays smart. That's something we can't always say about Westbrook. Sometimes, less is more.
22. Memphis Grizzlies: T.J. Warren, 6'8", 220 pounds, SF, N.C. State
Warren is one of the purest scorers in the draft. He's not a great athlete or long-range shooter, but his intermediate game is the best of anyone in the draft.
Will he be able to get the same shots in the NBA that he got in college? That's a big question and part of the reason he won't be selected until the latter part of the first round.
23. Utah Jazz: P.J. Hairston, 6'5", 229 pounds, SG, D-League
Hairston has the offensive skill set to be an instant-offense player off the bench. If the Jazz lose Gordon Hayward in free agency, they might need a player to start at shooting guard.
Given the right opportunity, Hairston could blossom into one of the steals of the draft.
24. Charlotte Hornets: Glenn Robinson III, 6'7", 211 pounds, SF, Michigan
There aren't many athletes in the draft who are better than GR3. He has good quickness, leaping ability and shooting out to three-point range.
He hasn't yet shown he can be the type of player to assert himself at key points of a game. Because of this, he'll be available late in the first round. Charlotte could bring him in to push Michael Kidd-Gilchrist for playing time at small forward.
25. Houston Rockets: Kyle Anderson, 6'8", 230 pounds, SF/PG, UCLA
Anderson is blessed with power forward size and point guard skills. His only issue is that he's not a good athlete by NBA standards. Still, his combination of skill and size makes him one of the most intriguing prospects in the draft.
26. Miami Heat: K.J. McDaniels, 6'6", 196 pounds, SF, Clemson
If LeBron decides to leave Miami, there's no telling what happens with the team next season and beyond. Dwyane Wade will be leading a team that could still possibly be a playoff squad with a nice signing or two, even if Chris Bosh were to opt out of his deal as well.
Assuming the sky doesn't fall, the team has to give James some help on the defensive end.
McDaniels is a tough, strong and athletically gifted player with defensive stopper written all over him. With a 37" max vertical and a 6'11.25" wingspan, he averaged 2.8 blocked shots per game for Clemson last season.
27. Phoenix Suns: Cleanthony Early, 6'7", 209 pounds, SF, Wichita State
Early's game is impressive. He's physically strong, athletic and an intense competitor. Coming from a program like Wichita State, he plays with a chip on his shoulder.
He doesn't get as much attention as he deserves. If he had gone to an ACC or SEC school, he'd be a lottery pick. As it stands, he'll be one of the players we look back at and wonder how he lasted so long in the draft.
28. Los Angeles Clippers: Walter Tavares, 7'3", 265 pounds, C, Cape Verde
Tavares is a big candidate to be drafted and stashed, but it's easy to see why the Clippers would be interested in him. He's huge and athletic for his size and has the potential to become a solid rim protector.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Mitch McGary, 6'10", 263 pounds, PF/C, Michigan
Kendrick Perkins will finally be a free agent after the upcoming season. He is not a fit for the Thunder's uptempo style.
McGary has had some injury concerns, but he has solid foot work, a great motor and an NBA body. He's much better suited to back up eventual starter Steven Adams in the middle.
30. San Antonio Spurs: Spencer Dinwiddie, 6'6" 205 pounds, PG/SG, Colorado
The defending champs always seem to find a way to get value from their first-round picks. Dinwiddie did suffer a torn ACL in January, but before that, he was considered a mid-first-round talent.
With the team potentially losing Patty Mills in free agency, Dinwiddie's ability to play the point should be attractive to the Spurs.
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All height, weight and wingspan references per DraftExpress.
All contract information per Spotrac.
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