When you think about the 2014 NBA draft, impact is one of first things that comes to mind. This has been touted as a deep class for the last year, but now that we are reaching zero hour, the time for talking is at an end.
Of course, talking about impact is one thing. The players have to validate all the words that have been written about them for these past 12 months. Transitioning from college to the pros, or coming from a foreign country, is a huge adjustment that not everyone can make.
Risk comes with the territory of any draft, but there are some moves that are going to happen in the first round that make too much sense. Our latest first-round projection takes a closer look at these moves and how impactful they will be for the teams.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Andrew Wiggins, SF, Kansas
For a long time, this pick seemed like it would be Joel Embiid, with Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker fighting for second. Then came word from Sam Amico of Fox Sports Ohio that Embiid suffered a foot injury, on top of the questions about his back, and everything changed.
Joel Embiid suffers foot injury, agent confirms to ESPN. Extent not known. Told Cavs likely would want to perform own medical evaluation.— Sam Amico (@SamAmicoFSO) June 19, 2014
While the 7'0" Embiid still has a real shot to be the No. 1 pick, because you can't teach size, Wiggins and Parker are sure things for a Cleveland franchise that can't afford to miss after the Anthony Bennett debacle.
Ultimately, Wiggins gets the nod because he's a more versatile all-around player than Parker. He's got room to fill out, weighing just 200 pounds right now, but the upside is enormous and makes him a tremendous pairing with Kyrie Irving in Cleveland's starting lineup.
2. Milwaukee Bucks: Joel Embiid, C, Kansas
Despite the foot injury—which Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reports will keep him out four to six months—Embiid doesn't figure to stay on the board long because it's so hard to find a center who is capable of attacking the basket with ease and shooting the ball outside the paint. The Bucks are in such a bad state that they need to bet on upside and hope the rest falls into place.
3. Philadelphia 76ers: Jabari Parker, SF, Duke
All indications are the 76ers want Wiggins with this pick. Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports noted in a recent mock draft that the feeling was mutual and the Kansas star "had a lengthy visit with the Sixers this week."
With Wiggins already gone, though, the 76ers will have to "settle" for the best offensive player in the draft. Parker isn't as athletic or physically blessed as Wiggins, but he has a better shot with a get-out-of-my-way attitude.
4. Orlando Magic: Noah Vonleh, PF, Indiana
Point guard is the biggest need for Orlando, but again we go back to the issue teams face by always looking for big men who can play. Noah Vonleh isn't a pure center, yet at 6'10" and 247 pounds he almost looks the part. He's also long and athletic, moving well away from the basket to give the Magic's young corps a franchise building block.
5. Utah Jazz: Dante Exum, PG, Australia
The Jazz do have Trey Burke in the fold, so they can try to fill another position if someone they like falls into their lap. Yet Dante Exum, who is a much better shooter and controls the ball with ease for an 18-year-old, would be a huge upgrade at the point.
Jeremy Woo of SI.com actually noted that Exum has been compared to other athletic point guards who have either had or will have long, successful NBA careers:
An athletic and intelligent guard with great size, Exum has drawn comparisons to Penny Hardaway and Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams of Philadelphia. Though there’s been speculation about his NBA position (largely because of his size), those familiar with his game — and Dante himself — are adamant that he’s a point guard.
If names like Hardaway and Carter-Williams are the basis for comparison, getting that player at No. 5 is a steal. Exum is going to need development time and has to add distance to his shot, but the tools are rare for a player of his size (6'6").
6. Boston Celtics: Aaron Gordon, PF, Arizona
The Celtics had no inside presence to speak of last year, finishing 18th in rebounds per game and 25th in percentage of points scored in the paint. Aaron Gordon will certainly help in the former category as a ball-hawking monster who can jump out of the arena (39" max vertical, per DraftExpress). He has to drastically improve as a shooter to be a star in the NBA, but his defense is ready right now.
7. Los Angeles Lakers: Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky
The best thing that happened to the Lakers last season was seeing the bottom drop out, because this franchise needs to start rebuilding through the draft in order to compete for championships again.
Kentucky star Julius Randle has dealt with questions about his foot leading up to the draft, but he told Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles.com that his meeting with a doctor went well:
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 that's the case, Los Angeles should be running the card up to the podium because he's a versatile player who can score inside and out, plays defense and will get after loose balls.
8. Sacramento Kings: Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State
The Kings are a team with talent that lacks a unifying center. Their point guard play and ability to incorporate others into the offense has to get better. Marcus Smart likes to shoot the ball, sure, but he's quick to find the open man and attacks on defense.
9. Charlotte Hornets: Nik Stauskas, SG, Michigan
Finding someone who can shoot the ball with any kind of range is a must for the Hornets. They were 27th in three-point field-goal percentage last year, which makes Nik Stauskas a perfect fit for the club. He's a fantastic shooter—shooting at least 44.0 percent in each of his two years at Michigan—who gets rid of the ball in a hurry and knows how to get teammates involved.
10. Philadelphia 76ers: Dario Saric, F, Croatia
If we include the addition of Parker, the 76ers will have one of the best young crops of talent in the NBA with the Duke star added to Rookie of the Year Carter-Williams, Tony Wroten and the returning Nerlens Noel.
Dario Saric is a gamble Philadelphia can afford to make because of the other talent already in tow. He's a true power forward with range on his shot and good passing skills. There's a lack of refinement to his game, which isn't unexpected for a foreign star, but some teams need to bet on upside to get out of the doldrums.
11. Denver Nuggets: Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State
The Nuggets don't necessarily need another scorer, but Harris adds a toughness to this team that is sorely lacking. When you are a finesse squad struggling to break through in the Western Conference, finding an intense player can change the culture around a locker room.
12. Orlando Magic: Elfrid Payton, PG, Louisiana-Lafayette
Here we see the Magic grab their point guard, getting better value with Elfrid Payton than they would have with Exum at No. 4 because they were able to add a big man in the process.
While he's not technically a scout, Damian Lillard knows a thing or two about being a point guard from a small school, so these words should speak volumes:
Don't sleep on Elfrid Payton... I watched couple of his games . He can hoop— Damian Lillard (@Dame_Lillard) June 17, 2014
The Magic need to find a facilitator on offense who will allow Victor Oladipo to play his natural 2-guard position and make the offense more versatile. Payton is quick, long (6'4" tall, 6'8" wingspan per DraftExpress) and will attack the rim by creating lanes from a narrow space.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves: Zach LaVine, PG/SG, UCLA
Everything that the Timberwolves do on draft night will depend on how they handle the Kevin Love situation. Since the All-Star is still on the roster, we have to treat this selection like he will be for the foreseeable future.
LaVine is a project pick who could go much higher if a team loves his raw talent. He's a 6'6" point guard who flashes excellent passing ability and will score from anywhere on the floor, but those moments get mixed in with bouts of inconsistency that make him look like a second-round pick.
You can bet on the former while coaching the latter out of him, though it's going to take a couple of years before seeing the results.
14. Phoenix Suns: James Young, SF, Kentucky
The Suns have a chance to control the first round of this draft with three picks (No. 14, 18 and 27). They can supplement their roster immediately with a player like James Young, who gives them versatility as a 2-guard or small forward with a tremendous scoring acumen.
15. Atlanta Hawks: Rodney Hood, SG, Duke
You saw the importance of Al Horford to the Hawks when he went down early last season with an injury. They don't have the depth, either at center or in shooters, to combat any notable loss. Rodney Hood is an NBA-ready scorer with size (6'8"), though there are times when he's a liability on defense.
16. Chicago Bulls: Doug McDermott, SF, Creighton
Even though Doug McDermott doesn't have the most talent in this draft class, his specialty as a stop-and-pop shooter fits perfectly with what the Bulls need. Whether or not Derrick Rose returns to full health, the front office has to supplement this roster with players who can score.
We have seen how far coach Tom Thibodeau's stout defense can go in the postseason. McDermott isn't the missing piece between the Bulls and a title, but he can go a long way toward helping the team improve upon its last-place finish in points per game.
17. Boston Celtics: P.J. Hairston, SG, Texas Legends
The Celtics found their big man earlier in the draft, so the next order of business will be to upgrade an offense that includes Rajon Rondo and a random collection of bodies. P.J. Hairston is a bargain at this spot because of his ability to play inside or outside with the ball. He also has the built-in toughness general manager Danny Ainge craves from his team.
18. Phoenix Suns: Kyle Anderson, F/G, UCLA
The Suns' second selection of the first round is another hybrid player who is just as effective at getting on the glass as he is shooting from the outside. Kyle Anderson never developed the defensive acumen to be a star in college, but he's a 6'9" point forward who can control the ball and run an offense.
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19. Chicago Bulls: T.J. Warren, SF, North Carolina State
The Bulls could opt to go for Thibodeau's prototypical "gritty" player in this spot after getting McDermott earlier, but sometimes a need is so overwhelming that it can consume an entire draft. It also helps that Warren, while very much a scorer, is a different kind of player than McDermott. The NC State star has to attack the basket to be effective because his touch isn't very good.
20. Toronto Raptors: Tyler Ennis, PG, Syracuse
Sometimes a pick makes too much sense not to happen. The Raptors would do well to upgrade the point guard position, especially with Kyle Lowry hitting free agency and drawing interest from Miami, according to ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst (via CBS Sports). Tyler Ennis is a mid-first-round talent who sees the floor as well as any point guard in this class and is from Ontario, Canada, which will to help sell some tickets.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder: Jusuf Nurkic, C, Bosnia and Herzegovina
There's not a lot the Thunder need to do as far as impact in this draft, but adding a big man who can give them toughness to compete with San Antonio down low would be a good use of their two first-round picks (Nos. 21 and 29).
Jusuf Nurkic is a hard player to figure out because he's so big already (6'11", 280 pounds) and at 19 years old could get even bigger. If he bulks up too much, stamina will likely become an issue. He's got the ability to play under the rim and bang with anyone, which should appeal to a finesse team on the cusp of winning a title.
22. Memphis Grizzlies: Cleanthony Early, SF, Wichita State
The Grizzlies struggled early in the 2013-14 season because they were unable to find any offense. Their defense carried them to a playoff berth and near-upset of Oklahoma City in the first round, but when push came to shove, no one was able to put the ball in the hoop.
Wichita State star Cleanthony Early is a throwback player who went to school for four years, honed his game and enters the NBA ready to play. He's a tremendous shooter who will attack the basket or stop and shoot from distance.
According to Grizzlies sideline reporter Rob Fischer, head coach Dave Joerger raved about Anthony's approach to the game:
Griz HC Dave Joerger on Cleanthony Early, "I really like his length. He's cerebral in his approach. He showed that he's very well coached"— Rob Fischer (@thefishnation) June 16, 2014
With one big-time scorer added to the mix, Memphis suddenly becomes one of the most dangerous teams in a loaded Western Conference.
23. Utah Jazz: Jarnell Stokes, PF, Tennessee
Similar to Orlando's dilemma, where the choice comes down to a big man or point guard early and adding the loser later, Utah gets one of the best steals of Round 1 with Jarnell Stokes falling in its lap.
The Tennessee power forward doesn't have the normal height for his position (6'8"), but he is a horse under the glass and will get physical with anyone standing in his way.
24. Charlotte Hornets: Glenn Robinson III, SF, Michigan
If Robinson had any consistency with his shot, he'd be a lock for the first round because he has tremendous athleticism and instincts on the floor. The Hornets can afford to gamble on upside in this spot after getting one of the best pure shooters, and Robinson's Michigan teammate, earlier in Stauskas.
25. Houston Rockets: Adreian Payne, PF, Michigan State
This is a pure value pick for the Rockets, who really don't have a pressing need with one of the most talented rosters in basketball. Adreian Payne gives them another big man to pair with Dwight Howard, assuming Omer Asik gets traded this offseason. Payne even shows range with his shot that gives this offense another dimension.
26. Miami Heat: Shabazz Napier, PG, Connecticut
Since LeBron James isn't technically classified as a 1-guard, despite running the offense most of the time, Miami's point guard play was abysmal in the postseason and needs to be addressed this offseason. Shabazz Napier isn't the same kind of athlete or scorer that Connecticut's last high-profile point guard, Kemba Walker, was coming out, but he's got a nose for the hoop and feel for the game that make up for his limited tools.
27. Phoenix Suns: Clint Capela, C/PF, Switzerland
This is where the Suns can get creative with their draft because the roster is, for the most part, set heading into next season. Clint Capela is the kind of player who needs so much work that it would be a shock to see him in the NBA right away. Take him late in the first round, let the international coaches hone in that raw athletic ability and get the finished product in two years.
28. Los Angeles Clippers: Mitch McGary, C/PF, Michigan
At this point, teams are looking to add depth rather than starters. Mitch McGary gives the Clippers another big body (6'10", 255 lbs) to play behind Blake Griffin. He's got a lot of Griffin's early tendencies in his game, though he's not nearly as explosive jumping off the floor. The Michigan star will love playing with Chris Paul.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: K.J. McDaniels, SF, Clemson
Here's another case of the Thunder drafting well to fill a need. K.J. McDaniels is more of a defensive stalwart than an offensive threat, but he has the speed and quickness to create problems driving the ball. His overall shooting touch needs work.
30. San Antonio Spurs: DeAndre Daniels, SF, Connecticut
No one knows what the Spurs are going to do in the draft. If there's an international player on the board, it wouldn't be a shock to see them reach for one. DeAndre Daniels gives the team depth at the small forward position behind Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, and with the way coach Gregg Popovich rotates everyone in, the UConn star will get plenty of playing time as a rookie.
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