In an NBA draft that features so many good players, it makes it extremely difficult for front offices to make the right decision.
There are enough chances for teams to find potential stars anywhere from the first pick until the end of the first round. Although there is a lot of risk in many of these prospects, it is necessary to find someone capable of turning around a franchise and possibly bringing home a championship.
The challenge for the general managers will be picking out the ones that make the perfect fit going forward. Although there is a lot of uncertainty in the 2014 draft, here is a look at the best selections for each squad.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Andrew Wiggins, SF, Kansas
There are a number of factors going into the first pick for Cleveland. Joel Embiid seemed like the best option until he suffered a fractured foot that required surgery. Adding this to the previous back issues and taking him No. 1 does not seem like a worthwhile risk.
Another interesting situation concerns LeBron James after his agent announced that he would opt out of his current contract, according to Chris Broussard of ESPN. This could force the Cavaliers to make decisions based on what it would take to bring the superstar back home.
As ESPN's Jeff Goodman reports, it is likely down to two options:
Who would LeBron play with if returns to Cleveland? Cavs "split" now on Jabari Parker & Andrew Wiggins, per sources. http://t.co/eihuU538N6— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) June 24, 2014
The smart move is to draft without consideration of James, taking the player who will best help the future, and that is Andrew Wiggins. The small forward is less prepared for the NBA than Jabari Parker, but he can develop along with the rest of the young roster to reach his sky-high potential.
2. Milwaukee Bucks: Jabari Parker, SF, Duke
Even though it is smarter for the Cavaliers to take Wiggins, the Bucks should be extremely happy to be able to draft Parker. The former Duke star is arguably the best scorer in this draft and should be able to immediately contribute on the offensive end as a go-to option.
Although Milwaukee is far from contention, this is a move that will pay off for a long time.
3. Philadelphia 76ers: Dante Exum, PG, Australia
The fall of Embiid really hurts Philadelphia, because it originally seemed likely that the squad would be able to grab either Wiggins or Parker.
On the other hand, there is plenty of upside with Dante Exum, who knows how to get into the lane and score from there. While he is listed as a point guard, he is a shoot-first player who would easily be able to play the 2 next to Michael Carter-Williams for a long time.
4. Orlando Magic: Noah Vonleh, PF, Indiana
Noah Vonleh did not put up huge numbers compared to other freshmen this past season, but teams are enamored by his skill set. He can score in the inside or outside while having the length to defend and rebound.
Orlando needs plenty of help in the frontcourt, and Vonleh has become the best one in the class.
5. Utah Jazz: Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky
The Jazz have various needs, but the fact remains that they have to draft talent at any position. With this in mind, they should take the best player on the board in Julius Randle.
In his only year at Kentucky, Randle was a dominating presence in the low post by using his size and great motor to constantly get rebounds and easy baskets inside. This will not change in the NBA, as he enters as one of the most pro-ready players in the class.
6. Boston Celtics: Joel Embiid, C, Kansas
Most teams will be scared of drafting Embiid based on his injury history, but it would be a mistake to completely rule out a player of his ability. This is especially true if the back and foot issues are able to heal within a few months.
Celtics director of player personnel Austin Ainge explained to Chris Forsberg of ESPN Boston:
We try to focus on the long-term health rather than that short term when you’re dealing with draft picks. Free agency, it might be a little different. But when you’re drafting kids that are [age] 19, 20, 21, it’s usually best to think, 'Two years or five years down the road, will it be a concern?' Those are the ones that we usually try to avoid.
Meanwhile, Gerry Callahan of the Boston Herald points out that Boston is the type of team to draft Embiid to help the rebuilding process:
Let’s face it: If the Celtics can’t swing a deal for Kevin Love, they ain’t winning next season anyway. It will be tank time again in Boston, and what better way to return to the lottery than to let your 7-foot stud heal up completely? Ainge would then be free to trade Rajon Rondo, who has one year left on his contract, and assure a shot at a top-three pick next June.
The Celtics should be looking for upside in this draft, and no one has more of it than Embiid.
7. Los Angeles Lakers: Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State
The Lakers not only need someone who can help what will probably be a poor team next year, but they need someone who can be a leader for the rebuilding process. As a point guard who can excel on both ends of the court, Marcus Smart fits that description.
Although he has his faults with his outside shooting and his temper, he has plenty of potential to be a star at the next level.
8. Sacramento Kings: Aaron Gordon, PF, Arizona
It is important for top-10 players to have a developed offensive game, but this can be taught. One thing that is tougher to improve is athleticism, and Aaron Gordon has plenty of that.
The forward was a star for Arizona on both ends of the court, throwing down huge dunks and blocking shots on defense. He will be able to do all of this right away, and he could be even better if he learns how to develop the rest of his game.
9. Charlotte Hornets (via Detroit Pistons): Doug McDermott, SF, Creighton
After a few terrible seasons, Charlotte was able to get into the playoffs last year. However, if the squad wants to stay there, it will need more scorers who can help out right away.
Doug McDermott might not have as much upside as others in the class, but he can shoot the lights out and score in other ways. He is as safe as they come and should be a quality selection for the Hornets.
10. Philadelphia 76ers (via New Orleans Pelicans): Adreian Payne, PF, Michigan State
The 76ers solidified the backcourt with the selection of Dante Exum, which means they have to look at the frontcourt with the second lottery pick.
Adreian Payne can help out with his versatility to score in the paint or from behind the arc. Although he is one of the older players in the class at 23, his high floor will help offset some of the risk from taking Exum earlier.
11. Denver Nuggets: Zach LaVine, PG, UCLA
The team that drafts Zach LaVine will be taking a huge risk. Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports breaks down the pros and cons:
Most perplexing draft prospect I'm hearing about is UCLA's Zach LaVine. Unreal athlete but scored a combined 8 pts in Bruins' 3 NCAA games.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) June 20, 2014
While he can jump high and is lightning quick, he had a hard time seeing the floor at UCLA and lacks experience. This means that a team will need to hope that he can reach his potential to make him worth a likely spot in the lottery.
Denver is one team that should take this risk, though, based on the need to bring in someone who can be a game-changer in the NBA. LaVine has that type of upside at either guard position.
12. Orlando Magic (via New York Knicks): Nik Stauskas, SG, Michigan
With one of the worst offenses in the NBA, Orlando needs to find anyone capable of putting the ball in the basket. Not only can Nik Stauskas create his own shot and score in a number of ways, but he can also create chances for others.
The Michigan product can play alongside Victor Oladipo for a long time in a versatile backcourt that knows how to both score and pass.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves: Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State
The Timberwolves need more backcourt scoring if they want to keep up with high-powered offenses in the Western Conference. Gary Harris can certainly help out as a prototypical shooting guard who can either start immediately or be a quality contributor off the bench.
Additionally, he is one of the better on-ball defenders in the class, something that would be useful for a squad that allowed the fifth-most points in the league.
14. Phoenix Suns: James Young, SF, Kentucky
Phoenix has one of the better young teams in the NBA, but it is still a few years away from actual contention. As a result, it needs to make sure it drafts for upside with its three picks.
James Young fits well thanks to his ability to slash to the rim and score at or above the rim. If he can gain more consistency in his shot, he could be an elite offensive player.
15. Atlanta Hawks: Dario Saric, SF, Croatia
Based on talent alone, Dario Saric should go much higher. However, he is unlikely to come to the United States for a few years, according to Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders:
Dario Saric has agreed to a 3-year deal with Anadolu Efes in Turkey - essentially out of the NBA for at least next two years.— Steve Kyler (@stevekylerNBA) June 23, 2014
He was considered a long-term prospect all along, but this means that the team that takes him will have to invest even more time in the young player.
This should be just fine for the Hawks, who are still a long way from legitimate contention, even after making the playoffs this past season. They need to find players with high upside, and Saric has that with his ball-handling and passing abilities.
Although this will not excite Atlanta fans, it will be a smart move for the future.
16. Chicago Bulls (via Charlotte Hornets): Tyler Ennis, PG, Syracuse
The Bulls have one of the best point guards in the NBA in Derrick Rose when he is healthy. Unfortunately, that has not happened much in the past two years.
With Tyler Ennis, Chicago can get either a safety net or a reserve who can give the team quality minutes and help improve one of the worst offenses in basketball last season.
17. Boston Celtics (via Brooklyn Nets): Rodney Hood, SF, Duke
After taking a big risk with the injured Joel Embiid with the first pick, the Celtics will make a safer selection this time around.
Rodney Hood did not get the headlines of his teammate Jabari Parker, but he has a similar set of offensive skills, and he should be able to contribute right away. This would be a quality addition to a squad that needs talent at any position.
18. Phoenix Suns (via Washington Wizards): Elfrid Payton, PG, Louisiana-Lafayette
Elfrid Payton has been considered a potential lottery pick, but his lack of high-level experience and poor shooting means that this would be a poor choice.
However, the Suns could certainly use a backup point guard who knows how to score in bursts. Even with Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic on the roster, the Suns need depth at point guard, and Payton can provide it.
19. Chicago Bulls: T.J. Warren, SF, North Carolina State
The Bulls finished the 2013-14 season as the lowest-scoring team in the NBA. They need someone who simply knows how to score without much help.
T.J. Warren might have an unorthodox style and is a bit one-dimensional, but he is a consistent scorer with a deadly mid-range game. He will immediately join the rotation and help out a team ready to compete in the Eastern Conference.
20. Toronto Raptors: Kyle Anderson, SF, UCLA
Kyle Anderson is not going to impress a lot of people in his predraft workouts due to his lack of athleticism or quickness. However, there is no denying his ability to help out a basketball team.
The UCLA star has great vision and always seems to make the right play with the ball, something that will certainly make the young Raptors improve going into next season.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Dallas Mavericks): Jusuf Nurkic, C, Bosnia
The biggest problem the Thunder have when facing good teams is a lack of a quality frontcourt to create some balance. Kendrick Perkins is clearly not the player he once was, and there is not much depth behind Serge Ibaka.
Jusuf Nurkic is quite polished for an international player and should be able to quickly join the rotation as a solid defender and inside presence.
22. Memphis Grizzlies: Cleanthony Early, SF, Wichita State
Memphis needs scorers, and Cleanthony Early is one of the best ones available. He knows how to create opportunities for himself and can either drive to the net or get off a tough shot against any defender.
He might never become a star, but the Grizzlies could use anyone with his ability when it comes to closing out games in the playoffs.
23. Utah Jazz (via Golden State Warriors): P.J. Hairston, SG, Texas Legends (NBDL)
There are certainly teams that will stay away from P.J. Hairston after he was forced to end his college career early when he was caught receiving impermissible benefits.
On the other hand, the guard is a great shooter who is also physical enough to contribute on the inside and defensively. Utah needs talent wherever it can get it, and Hairston is a worthwhile risk at this stage of the first round.
24. Charlotte Hornets (via Portland Trail Blazers): Mitch McGary, PF, Michigan
Mitch McGary has had a strange predraft process. The forward missed most of the season due to back issues and only declared for the draft after being suspended due to a failed drug test. There is no reason anyone in this situation should be confident about their standing going forward.
However, McGary seems to think that he will be taken before the end of the first round, according to ESPN's Chad Ford:
I'm confident Mitch McGary has a promise in the 1st round. He's done just 1 workout. He's healthy. His camp has gone radio silent.— Chad Ford (@chadfordinsider) June 24, 2014
Ford later explained that the Hornets were the most likely destination:
Hearing Hornets at 24 most likely destination for Mitch McGary to land. Source says they are the culprit of his draft workout shutdown— Chad Ford (@chadfordinsider) June 24, 2014
Considering how much Charlotte could use a big man to help out Al Jefferson inside, this makes sense as a great fit.
25. Houston Rockets: K.J. McDaniels, SF, Clemson
After a few seasons of simply pathetic play on the defensive end, Houston needs to add players who can improve things on this end of the court.
At 6'6", K.J. McDaniels will likely be a wing at the next level but plays like a center with his shot-blocking ability. He will make things difficult for opponents on the perimeter and should help the Rockets finally start making deeper runs in the playoffs.
26. Miami Heat: Shabazz Napier, PG, Connecticut
Shabazz Napier does not have the size you want from a starter at 6'0", but he has every other ability a coach could want from a basketball player. He can drive to the lane, shoot, create for teammates, defend and he has the will to win, as evident by his two national championships at Connecticut.
Miami is a perennial title contender and could use a player with this type of ability and mentality on the roster.
27. Phoenix Suns (Indiana Pacers): Jerami Grant, PF, Syracuse
There seems to be a question about where Jerami Grant will end up at the next level. He wants to show he can be a small forward, but he is not nearly a good enough shooter to stick at the position, meaning he is most likely going to remain a power forward.
The good news is that his rebounding ability and athleticism will still help out a team that could use both attributes in the Suns.
28. Los Angeles Clippers: Clint Capela, PF, Switzerland
The Clippers do not have a lot of room for players to come in and contribute, but frontcourt depth is likely the biggest need for the offseason.
Although Clint Capela might be a bit raw, he is already a solid rebounder and shot-blocker who will be an excellent addition to a team that is close to winning a title.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: C.J. Wilcox, SG, Washington
C.J. Wilcox is not going to be close to the level of these All-Stars, but he can be a solid bench player who can come in and be a go-to option on the second team early on in his career.
30. San Antonio Spurs: Nick Johnson, SG, Arizona
The Spurs have a knack for overlooking players in the draft who have slight flaws. Nick Johnson does not have ideal height for a shooting guard at 6'3", but he is a playmaker who contributes at a high level on both ends of the court.
If any team can turn him into a useful NBA player, it is the reigning champions.
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