The countdown to the 2014 NBA draft has almost reached zero.
At this point, the rumors surrounding potential team moves and player hype have come to an all-time high. It actually becomes quite difficult to sort through all of the gossip and determine what is fact and what is fiction.
Well, we won't know exactly what each team is thinking until the draft is officially underway. However, that won't stop us from speculating.
Based on what we know just days before the draft, let's attempt to decipher how the first round is likely to shake out.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Andrew Wiggins, SF, Kansas
Joel Embiid seemed to have this spot locked up—until ESPN.com reported he would miss four to six months after requiring surgery on his foot. That news, alongside his current ailing back, simply seems to have almost removed Embiid from No. 1 pick contention.
This is where Wiggins comes in. With a tremendous upside to become a great all-around player and freakish athleticism, Wiggins is the most promising prospect early in the draft. The Cavaliers need help at small forward, and Wiggins will have the opportunity to develop around some solid scorers.
2. Milwaukee Bucks: Jabari Parker, SF, Duke
The Bucks should be quite pleased with landing Parker here. An elite scorer, Parker can breathe some life into a listless frontcourt in Milwaukee. He'll need to develop on the defensive end, but his sheer upside on offense is more than enough to snatch him up here.
3. Philadelphia 76ers: Dante Exum, PG, Australia
Embiid may still be on the board here, but the Sixers may not be able to pass up on a backcourt tandem of Exum and Michael Carter-Williams. Exum has been impressive throughout offseason workouts and recently wowed Philadelphia, according to Chad Ford of ESPN:
If that's not enough, Ford also noted Exum's intelligence:
This is an extremely solid selection at No. 3 overall.
4. Orlando Magic: Joel Embiid, C, Kansas
This is where Embiid's slide ends.
Point guard is a huge need in Orlando; however, with Exum off the board, the team will look elsewhere. A big man who has Embiid's type of upside is not commonplace—even in a deep, talented draft. Should Embiid recover nicely from his injury and live up to his hype, this will become the steal of the draft.
5. Utah Jazz: Noah Vonleh, PF, Indiana
The Jazz have a roster full of youth, but the team is missing its cornerstone. Vonleh's size at 6'10" and 247 pounds, along with his length and athleticism, could make him a great building block for this franchise alongside Derrick Favors in the frontcourt.
6. Boston Celtics: Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky
The Celtics are a team in flux right now. Plenty of important decisions—including the future of Rajon Rondo—must be made over the offseason. Adding a player like Randle gives this team a great deal of stability going forward. A double-double machine in college, Randle shouldn't have trouble putting up similar numbers in the NBA.
7. Los Angeles Lakers: Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State
The Lakers are looking for someone who can contribute immediately and help facilitate to Kobe Bryant and Co. Smart fits the bill perfectly here. He may not be the strongest shooter, but he's very tough, sees the court well and plays sound defense.
8. Sacramento Kings: Aaron Gordon, PF, Arizona
Sacramento has some nice pieces in place, but the team could use a big upgrade at the power forward position. Gordon is one of the most athletic prospects in this year's draft and will help this team stretch the floor while providing solid rebounding.
9. Charlotte Hornets: Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State
The Hornets could use some range on the offensive side of the court. Adding Harris will certainly help a team that finished near the bottom in three-point shooting last season. Harris was a great two-way player at Michigan State, has plenty of upside and comes with little risk.
10. Philadelphia 76ers: Dario Saric, PF, Croatia
After the addition of Exum, Philadelphia's backcourt is stellar. The team also has the defensive skill set of Nerlens Noel in the front. Now it's time to add a big man who can shoot. Saric will need a bit of time to develop, but he has nice range for a big man and can pass efficiently.
11. Denver Nuggets: Nik Stauskas, SG, Michigan
The Nuggets are a bit of a streaky team on the offensive end of the court, but they can sure put up some points. Adding a guard like Stauskas would only further increase this team's offensive output. He shot at least 44 percent in both of his years at Michigan and may be the best shooter in the draft.
12. Orlando Magic: Elfrid Payton, PG, Louisiana-Lafayette
Orlando finally gets its point guard here. Payton flew under the radar for most of last season due to playing at a smaller school, but his average of 19.2 points, six rebounds and 5.9 assists per game didn't go unnoticed. This pick will allow Victor Oladipo to move to the 2 while Payton runs point.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves: James Young, SF, Kentucky
We'll see how the Kevin Love sweepstakes play out, but with the impending departure of the team's most reliable shooter, the Timberwolves will look to shore up their frontcourt here. Young is a tremendous scorer and has the ability to play either the 2-guard or small forward. Also one of the youngest prospects in the draft, he has plenty of upside.
14. Phoenix Suns: Zach LaVine, SG/PG, UCLA
Even though LaVine didn't have off-the-charts stats with the Bruins, he certainly helped himself over offseason workouts. His freakish athleticism, insane leaping ability and shooting prowess made him one of the most intriguing prospects in this year's draft. The Suns get the chance for a big steal by selecting him at No. 14 overall.
Here's another look at LaVine's vertical, because, why not? This one comes courtesy of The Pick and Roll:
15. Atlanta Hawks: Rodney Hood, SF, Duke
Atlanta doesn't exactly have a bevy of shooting depth on its roster. Selecting Hood here will change that instantly. Hood has the offensive skill set to contribute immediately; however, he'll need to shore up his defensive capability to become a truly effective starter.
16. Chicago Bulls: Doug McDermott, SF, Creighton
This simply seems like a match made in heaven for the Bulls. Holding the league's worst scoring offense from a year ago, Chicago needs shooters in a big way. Adding McDermott—possibly the most versatile shooter in the draft—gets the Bulls offense back on track.
17. Boston Celtics: P.J. Hairston, PG, Texas Legends
Boston already grabbed the NBA-ready Randle earlier in the draft, and now the team takes another player who will make an immediate impact. Hairston has already accumulated experience against NBA-caliber competition and, although he's streaky, absolutely has the offensive skill set to light up the scoreboard.
18. Phoenix Suns: Kyle Anderson, SF, UCLA
The Suns grab another former Bruin here. After selecting LaVine as a backcourt option, the team benefits from the versatility of Anderson. With the ability to play small forward or the 2-guard, Anderson can score from outside and facilitate.
19. Chicago Bulls: T.J. Warren, SF, North Carolina State
Yes, the Bulls will continue to go after offensive playmakers with the No. 19 pick of the draft. Warren gives the Bulls another kind of scoring option than the team received when selecting McDermott. He's not much of an outside shooter, but he is athletically gifted and aggressive enough to rack up points in the paint.
20. Toronto Raptors: Tyler Ennis, PG, Syracuse
With Kyle Lowry hitting free agency, the Raptors would do well to solidify the backcourt here. It just so happens Ennis remains on the board. He may not be a fantastic outside shooter, but he sees the floor nicely, as well as runs an offense and facilitates.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder: Jusuf Nurkic, C, Bosnia and Herzegovina
If we learned anything about the Thunder during the playoffs it's this: Oklahoma City needs to become more physical. Adding the 6'11", 280-pound Nurkic here will allow this team to hold up against anyone in the post. At just 19 years of age, Nurkic has plenty of promise for the future.
22. Memphis Grizzlies: Cleanthony Early, SF, Wichita State
The Grizzlies featured a pretty solid defense last season; however, the team struggled to put up points at times. Adding an offensive playmaker like Early will drastically change that. Early is extremely experienced and can score from a multitude of ranges. His addition will keep the Grizzlies in contention in the West.
According to Grizzlies reporter Rob Fischer, head coach Dave Joerger has already been impressed with Early:
23. Utah Jazz: Glenn Robinson III, SF, Michigan
Robinson may not be a natural scorer from downtown—he shot just 30.6 percent for the Wolverines last season—but at 6'6" and 220 pounds, he has great length and athleticism with enough ability to develop into a potential steal at this point in the draft.
24. Charlotte Hornets: Adreian Payne, PF, Michigan State
With a guard already in the fold, the Hornets shift to the frontcourt. Payne is a well-rounded player coming out of a great system under Tom Izzo. He's an NBA-ready banger down low on both ends of the court with a very nice jumper.
25. Houston Rockets: Jarnell Stokes, PF, Tennessee
The Rockets have a very deep roster, and at this point in the draft, the team will look to increase its depth with a player who brings nice upside. Stokes may only be 6'8", but he's very physical in the paint and will pair nicely down low with Dwight Howard.
26. Miami Heat: Shabazz Napier, PG, Connecticut
One of the things that led to Miami's undoing in the Finals was its lack of depth—particularly at guard. Napier wowed the nation during the 2014 NCAA tournament, leading the Huskies to a national championship. His ability to shoot, facilitate and rebound will make him an instant rotational piece for the Heat.
27. Phoenix Suns: Clint Capela, PF, Switzerland
Capela is an interesting selection here for Phoenix. The team doesn't exactly need a player who can contribute immediately at this point, and allowing Capela to hone his craft overseas in the meantime isn't a bad idea. After all, his size, length and athleticism could turn him into a force in the paint down the road.
28. Los Angeles Clippers: K.J. McDaniels, SF, Clemson
Although the Clippers ranked first last season in points per game, the team finished 14th in points allowed. McDaniels plays much larger than his size would indicate. He flourishes as a shot-blocker on the perimeter and averaged an impressive 2.8 blocks per game last season at Clemson.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Mitch McGary, PF, Michigan
McGary will bring some more physicality to the Thunder. His 6'10", 255-pound frame makes him a severe threat down low on both ends of the court. He's still raw, but he's shown glimpses of explosive ability which he can develop while coming in off the bench for Oklahoma City.
30. San Antonio Spurs: Vasilije Micic, PG, Serbia
It really shouldn't be a surprise to see the Spurs go international here. After all, this team's luck with players from across the pond has been nothing short of impressive. Micic will need time to develop, but he's a pure passer who has the ability to run point as an NBA starter in the future.
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