Companies across the world stress over personnel decisions. The hiring process can prove especially costly when handled incorrectly, a fact not lost on NBA organizations eager to select the most capable employees from this year's draft.
The draft is a highly important portal to assembling a championship squad. The San Antonio Spurs are a prime example of this. In addition to getting lucky and winning the lottery the year Tim Duncan went pro, they gambled on Tony Parker late in the 2001 first round, stole Manu Ginobli during Round 2 of 1999's draft and orchestrated a draft-day trade for Kawhi Leonard in 2011.
Top teams can bolster their championship chances with a strong pick or two, but most of them are playing the waiting game on long-term prospects. Teams in the lottery need someone to erase the stench of losing and spray the air with hope.
These teams especially can't afford a dud on draft night. Each holding a top-10 pick in one of the most anticipated prospect groups, they need to find a gem to avoid another long year.
|2014 NBA Draft First Round Order|
|7||Los Angeles Lakers|
|9||Charlotte Hornets (from Detroit)|
|10||Philadelphia 76ers (from New Orleans)|
|12||Orlando Magic (from New York)|
|16||Chicago Bulls (from Charlotte)|
|17||Boston Celtics (from Brooklyn)|
|18||Phoenix Suns (from Washington)|
|21||Oklahoma City Thunder (from Dallas)|
|23||Utah Jazz (from Golden State)|
|24||Charlotte Hornets (from Portland)|
|27||Phoenix Suns (from Indiana)|
|28||Los Angeles Clippers|
|29||Oklahoma City Thunder|
|30||San Antonio Spurs|
When: Thursday, June 26 at Barclays Center (Brooklyn, New York)
A gift fell from the sky, well more accurately a sealed envelope, when the Cleveland Cavaliers received the No. 1 pick for the second straight year despite finishing with the NBA's eighth-worst record.
Last year, they squandered their good fortune by drafting Anthony Bennett, who averaged 4.2 points per game with a 6.95 Player Efficiency Rating (PER) during his horrid rookie campaign, according to ESPN.com. They can't afford to acquire another bust this time around.
The good news for the Cavs: They have much better choices this year. Then again, those choices make for one tough decision that could live in infamy if bungled.
Kansas' Joel Embiid looked like the front-runner for the No. 1 choice, but the latest news of a foot injury that will require surgery, per ESPN's Jeff Goodman, puts that into grave jeopardy.
The young center missed the NCAA tournament with a back injury, which was previously the chief concern among interested suitors. Cleveland would take a massive leap of faith by tossing caution aside and selecting him over Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker.
This latest daunting news could force Cleveland's hand into looking past the 7-footer. For the Cavaliers' sake, it's better the injury happened now rather than two months into his pro career. They need a player who will make an immediate and significant impact.
Since losing LeBron James, they have gone 97-215 (31.1 winning percentage) and have one more year before Kyrie Irving becomes a restricted free agent.
Last season wasn't even supposed to be a rebuilding season, as they traded for veteran Luol Deng, whose contract has now expired, in hopes of jolting their playoff push. In what's billed as the most intriguing group of young stars since the class that netted them James, they can't afford to come away without his heir apparent.
Slowly rebuilding to something promising, the Orlando Magic have a good amount of cap space and some promising young pieces in wake of trading Dwight Howard. Now they have two more lottery picks (No. 4, No. 12) at their disposal to expedite the healing process.
Falling down a spot in the lottery hurt them the most, as they slipped outside the top three in a draft lauded for its three game-changing teenagers. That leaves them with the unenviable chance of locating the fourth-best player
The news of Embiid's injury, however, makes Orlando's first choice all the more interesting. It now can't be ruled out the first three teams foregoing the freshman center, tasking Orlando with a difficult decision.
Australian guard Dante Exum is a wild card, but he could pay massive dividends running the show in Orlando. According to Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix, the team is considering the international prospect along with Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart and Indiana's Noah Vonleh.
Assuming they get Exum or Smart with their first pick, they should look for a shooter to space the floor. Think Doug McDermott, Nik Stauskas or Croatia's Dario Saric.
Aaron Afflalo blossomed into an underrated star. Nikola Vucevic shows great promise at center, and Victor Oladipo was often one of the few bright spots in an otherwise dim rookie class. Two valuable newcomers can make the Magic a real force as they look to ascend back up the Eastern Conference ladder.
Los Angeles Lakers
Certain fanbases are not known for their patience. It doesn't help when the team's 35-year-old star just signed a massive two-year, $48.5 million extension despite playing six games during the 2013-14 season.
Other than Kobe Bryant and one more year of the rusty Steve Nash, the Los Angeles Lakers can wipe away their entire roster and start anew. With that surplus of salary space, they're the type of team to chase star talent via trades and free agency rather than slowly build through drafting.
That amplifies the pressure for them to strike gold on their No. 7 pick, a guy tasked with immediately becoming the second-biggest draw in one of sports' most illustrious organizations.
Given their void of talent, it might make sense for them to trade down and stockpile picks. According to ESPNLosAngeles.com' Dave McMenamin, that's not a route they're interested in taking, as they'd rather chase the likes of Marcus Smart and Julius Randle.
Whether the Lakers end up picking Smart, Randle, or somebody else, the team is leaning towards keeping their No. 7 pick rather than trading down in order to acquire multiple picks, according to a source with knowledge of their thinking.
While it’s widely believed that there is a gap in the talent available after Kansas’ Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins and Duke’s Jabari Parker go off the board, the Lakers feel there is another gap between the player they have rated 10th versus who they have at 11th and below, so it’s not like they could flip their pick for say Phoenix’s No. 14 and No. 18 picks and still come out in with a player they are totally sold on.
The top guys left for them, most notably Smart, Randle and Arizona's Aaron Gordon are not franchise saviors, but they're all considerable talents that bring something to the table. Smart is a physical guard and ball distributor who can solidify their revolving door of point guards. Randle is a post-up artist who racked up the double-doubles in Kentucky, and Gordon led the NCAA with 3.3 defensive win shares, per Sports-Reference.
With Pau Gasol leaving, their best bet is to obtain a big man to fill his shoes. Considering they ranked 28th with 110.6 points allowed per 100 possessions, according to Basketball-Reference, Gordon's defensive savvy would be a welcome fit for the Lakers. His explosive athleticism would also challenge Blake Griffin for highlight-reel supremacy in the Staples Center.
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