2014 NBA Rookie Season Predictions for Every 1st-Round Pick
As we digest the results of the 2014 NBA draft, it's time to gauge how each first-round rookie will fare in 2014-15.
This draft class is littered with upside picks who won't make a bunch of noise early in their careers. However, the first round also had a few pro-ready talents poised to produce immediately.
Will any of the top lottery picks be instant stars? Will any mid-major or D-League studs surprise us? What about the international newbies?
Find out as we dish out rookie-year predictions for every first-round selection.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Andrew Wiggins, Kansas SG/SF
While Andrew Wiggins' ceiling is years away, he's going to turn some heads when the Cleveland Cavaliers turn him loose.
His shot-creating skills aren't at a star level yet, and we don't know whether he has the drive to dominate night in and night out.
What we do know, though, is that his skill set and athleticism are much more conducive to the NBA than they were to college basketball. His situation in Kansas somewhat hindered him, but in David Blatt's offense, he's going to get a steady helping of touches and successfully slash to the bucket.
We're not projecting massive production in year one, but he's going to see at least 20 minutes per game, and he'll have the freedom to attack most of the time.
Prediction: 15.1 PPG, 5.0 RPG, All-Rookie First Team
2. Milwaukee Bucks: Jabari Parker, Duke F
It's been established for a while that Duke's Jabari Parker is poised to make the biggest impact of any rookie.
Landing on the Milwaukee Bucks gives the 6'9" combo forward an opportunity to establish his identity as a featured weapon from Day 1.
He's not going to rack up 20-plus points per game as a rookie like LeBron James (20.9) and Carmelo Anthony (21.0) did in 2003-04, but he's going to do damage inside and out.
We're going to see a more dangerous version of the Duke freshman, who didn't look like much of a freshman. Parker will be leaner, quicker and more accurate from long range. And his footwork and ball-handling will help him score against the vast majority of Eastern Conference defenders.
His stats and nightly impact will stand out among all NBA newcomers, making him the 2015 Rookie of the Year.
Predicition: 17.4 PPG, 7.6 RPG, All-Rookie First Team, Rookie of the Year
3. Philadelphia 76ers: Joel Embiid, Kansas C
Unlike most other lottery picks, Joel Embiid's rookie-year outlook hinges primarily on specific health concerns.
When news broke about the seven-footer's navicular bone surgery, we learned that his recovery time was projected to be four to six months, per Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski.
On top of that, ESPN's Chad Ford reported that Embiid's medical reports revealed concerns beyond his back and foot history.
The Philadelphia 76ers are in no hurry to win the 2014 NBA title, or even sniff the playoffs in the East. And judging by their draft-day moves, they're on an extended long-term plan. As such, I'm predicting that Embiid will sit out at least two-thirds of the season, maybe even the whole thing.
Prediction: 20 games, 11.9 PPG, 6.2 RPG
4. Orlando Magic: Aaron Gordon, Arizona F
Much has been made of Aaron Gordon's 6'9" frame, freakish athleticism and high character as he enters the NBA. Those are all highly valuable attributes, and the Orlando Magic grabbed a great prospect.
But his gifts won't translate into immediate production, especially in the scoring department.
He's not an advanced shot creator at all, as he can't drive effectively with his left hand or create step-back jumpers. In addition, the jury is out on his jump shot. It looked smoother during predraft workouts, but we haven't really seen him implement it during game situations.
With the bad news out of the way, Magic fans can rest assured knowing he's going to help the team immediately on the defensive end, help Nikola Vucevic on the boards and make some sparkling plays in transition. Don't sweat the statistics in the first couple years, because he's a tremendous long-term asset.
Prediction: 10.1 PPG, 7.6 RPG, All-Rookie Second Team
5. Utah Jazz: Dante Exum, Australia G
He may be young and without NCAA experience, but 6'6" Australian import Dante Exum has NBA-ready creativity and quickness.
He's also a mature kid who will do his best to produce alongside point guard Trey Burke. B/R NBA NBA Lead Writer Josh Martin explains that Exum will operate more as an off-guard than a floor general:
"With Trey Burke already in the backcourt, the 18-year-old draftee won't have to worry about running Utah's offense as a teenager. Instead, he can focus on getting his game and his body up to NBA speed while finding his comfort zone amidst the Jazz's young core."
I'm not banking on him shooing the ball efficiently, however. His shot is still a work in progress, and his workload will necessitate a fair amount of attempts. But that's part of the growing pains of being a young playmaker in the NBA.
Can he transform the Utah Jazz? Certainly not, especially not right away. Yet he might find himself in the outside discussion for Rookie of the Year honors, much like Burke last year.
Either way, we're going to enjoy one of the most exciting young international guards in recent memory.
Prediction: 14.2 points, 4.7 assists, 4.4 rebounds, All-Rookie First Team
6. Boston Celtics: Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State G
This is going to be another transitional year for the Boston Celtics, one in which Rajon Rondo could spend most of the year on the club or get shipped out before it starts.
Marcus Smart seems to be the building block of the future, and he's a nice pick because he gives general manager Danny Ainge flexibility. B/R Associate NBA Editor Ethan Norof noted that it allows Ainge to deal Rondo or Avery Bradley: "(Smart) gives insurance for either guard's departure and will fit in well."
We don't know what his offensive role will look like, but we do know that Smart is going to bring strong defense every night. He's blessed with elite lateral quickness, a powerful physique and predatory instincts.
Top-tier scorers are still going to get their buckets against him, but against most of his regular-season competition, Smart will fare extremely well. He's got the combination of size, length and speed to check point guards and shooting guards.
Prediction: 12.9 PPG, 4.3 APG, 2.1 SPG, All-Rookie First Team
7. Los Angeles Lakers: Julius Randle, Kentucky PF
Julius Randle's power, energy and winning pedigree are a great fit for the Los Angeles Lakers. The 6'9" Kentucky product is an exceedingly valuable No. 7 selection.
However, until we know exactly what kind of shape his ankle is in this fall, we can't project how his 2014-15 season will start.
Assuming Randle is healthy for most of the year, he'll put a dent in the paint. His strength and aggressiveness will immediately translate into rebounds and hustle buckets, and he'll probably grab more boards than any other rookie.
Offensively, his game is still limited to a few basic moves, but he'll use them forcefully to reach double digits. He's not going to dramatically improve L.A.'s horrid defense, but his competitiveness will help improve that culture in time.
Prediction: 11.8 PPG, 8.2 RPG, All-Rookie Second Team
8. Sacramento Kings: Nik Stauskas, Michigan SG
The Sacramento Kings were third-worst in three-point makes and fourth-worst in three-point percentage during 2013-14, so grabbing Nik Stauskas makes a lot of sense from that standpoint. Sac-town seems to have made a big upgrade if he's the shooting guard of the future and Ben McLemore is eventually out of the picture.
Not only is Stauskas a better shooter than McLemore, but he'll be a better all-around player than the second-year guard from day one.
The 6'6" swingman will splash triples much more effectively, handle the ball and pass it more smoothly and he'll also find more mid-range buckets.
Don't have delusions of stardom, though. Stauskas will likely be the third scoring option and won't be able to attack the rim at a high volume. Just be happy that he stretches the floor and streamlines the offense in an important role.
Prediction: 10.9 PPG, 2.3 APG, 41% 3FG, All-Rookie First Team
9. Charlotte Hornets: Noah Vonleh, Indiana PF
Part of the reason Indiana's Noah Vonleh slipped to No. 9 is because he's largely unproven. Teams don't know how he'll do in the long term or short term.
Due to his learning curve and lack of experience, he's not going to make a tremendous impact for the Charlotte Hornets right away. He's also going to be sharing minutes with Bismack Biyombo and Cody Zeller, each of whom was a part of the Bobcats' 2014 playoff squad.
The 6'9" youngster will be able to pick-and-pop, rebound and execute the occasional post-up. Other than that, he's going to spend much of his time figuring out how to work smoothly in a five-on-five offense. And more importantly, he'll need to learn proper defensive positioning in Steve Clifford's stoppage-oriented system.
Prediction: 7.6 PPG, 6.9 RPG, second-most rebounds per minute among rookies (Julius Randle No. 1)
10. Orlando Magic (via PHI) Elfrid Payton, Louisiana-Lafayette PG
Initially picked by the Philadelphia 76ers and then quickly shipped to the Orlando Magic, Louisiana-Lafayette's Elfrid Payton has a chance to be their point guard of the future.
We can't expect Damian Lillard-like production from this mid-major stud, but the Magic are hoping for at least some explosiveness and playmaking on both ends of the floor.
He's a ball hawk defensively, and he'll use his 6'8" wingspan to collect steals and bother opponents. Payton will be fun to watch on that end alongside Victor Oladipo.
When running the offense, he's going to provide a nice mix of slashing and dishing as he puts up modest numbers. At just 20 years old, there's significant upside for him as a scorer and playmaker, so don't get too concerned with his rookie stats.
Prediction: 9.3 PPG, 5.2 APG, 40% FG
11. Chicago Bulls (via DEN): Doug McDermott, Creighton F
Don't worry, Chicago Bulls fans. Doug McDermott isn't despondent; rather, he's already contemplating how he'll pick apart defenses alongside Chicago's cast of stars.
There's no lottery pick who grasps all the nuances of the game better than Dougie McBuckets. And for that reason, Tom Thibodeau will get an immediate impact from him and be glad Chi-town selected him.
McDermott won't be a featured scorer, but Thibs will be able to plug him in right away and get efficient results. He understands when to cut, knows how to pass and you can bet your bottom dollar he's comfortable shooting from anywhere.
Thibs will also maximize McDermott's modest defensive capabilities, emphasizing his strengths and hiding his weaknesses.
Prediction: 9.9 PPG, 2.5 APG, 39% 3FG
12. Philadelphia 76ers (via ORL): Dario Saric, Croatia F
The Philadelphia 76ers made another future-oriented decision when they traded for draft-and-stash Croatian star Dario Saric.
He lit up the Adriatic League in 2013-14, but he won't be lighting up the NBA anytime soon. E. Carchia of Sportando recently reported that Saric signed a three-year deal with Anadolu Efes Istanbul, and he won't come to the Association for a couple years.
Given his development and the Sixers' uncertain future, it's nearly impossible to predict what his 2016-17 rookie year will look like. We just know he'll bring ball skills and versatility.
Prediction: Won't join until 2016-17.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves: Zach LaVine, UCLA G
Don't hold high hopes for Zach LaVine in 2014-15.
After all, he wasn't even ready to be a full-time player for UCLA last year, as he's not an elite ball-handler or scorer. LaVine showed some electrifying bursts off the bench for the Bruins, but he's an upside-based prospect.
For right now, he's going to share minutes with better-qualified veterans who have a feel for playing with Ricky Rubio and Co. Check back in two or three years when he's the primary shooting guard option who does some playmaking.
Prediction: 16.4 MPG, 6.4 PPG, 42% FG
14. Phoenix Suns: T.J. Warren, N.C. State SF
Grabbing T.J. Warren in the lottery might have seemed like a reach for the Phoenix Suns, but he could be a superb fit in their system.
Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe ran opponents to death in 2013-14, and Warren will be a new beneficiary of that up-and-down style. He was dominant in transition at N.C. State, expertly filling the lanes and scoring on a variety of different shots.
He'll bring that scoring touch and mid-range floater while the rest of the squad stretches the floor or attacks the rim.
Expect Warren to make a positive impact despite not handling the ball a ton. His instincts and tools will put him in the right place to connect with teammates.
Prediction: 9.8 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 44% FG
15. Atlanta Hawks: Adreian Payne, Michigan State PF
Michigan State star Adreian Payne will supply outside shooting and frontcourt dirty work immediately for the Atlanta Hawks.
Mike Budenholzer's crew is trying to climb the ladder in the East, and Payne's stretch-4 impact will keep the Hawks' triple-happy offense humming. And maybe more importantly, he's going to help shore up their frontcourt defense and rebounding outlook.
Payne might be a four-year college product without a ton of upside, but it's alright if he doesn't become a star.
He's going to be a rock-solid key role player for the club starting today.
Prediction: 8.6 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 38% 3FG
16. Denver Nuggets (via CHI): Jusuf Nurkic, Bosnia C
Much like Dario Saric, Bosnian big man Jusuf Nurkic is another Eastern European who probably won't see much playing time with the Denver Nuggets in the near future.
The 6'11" bruiser has the girth and footwork to jostle for position and score in the post, but he's got some developing to do.
"He is a guy that has a world of talent,” general manager Tim Connelly told Aaron Lopez of Nuggets.com. “He’s got a skill set you don’t see. He can shoot. He can really pass. He’s a bear. He gets fouled at an unbelievably high rate. He’s got to work on his body. He’s got to work on his ability to defend. These are things that are not uncommon difficulties for a 19-year-old kid.
He can run the floor, play pick-and-roll and shoot fluidly from mid-range. He's even got the length and mobility to protect the rim despite his underwhelming athleticism.
Prediction: 13.5 MPG, 5.2 PPG, 3.4 RPG
17. Boston Celtics: James Young, Kentucky SG/SF
It looks like James Young is already tuning out the haters and is ready to get to business in Beantown.
OK, maybe he's just adjusting his hat.
In all seriousness, the Boston Celtics got an excellent prospect with their late-teens pick. Just don't bank on tremendous production from Day 1.
If Danny Ainge and Brad Stevens really tear things down some more, the 6'7" freshman could get some decent minutes at either swingman spot.
Young will let it fly from distance, and he'll slash using his length, but he's got some polishing and studying to do.
Prediction: 18.8 MPG, 6.1 PPG, 36% 3FG
18. Phoenix Suns: Tyler Ennis, Syracuse PG
Tyler Ennis' role on the Phoenix Suns is clear-cut. Hell be a backup point guard behind playmakers Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe.
"They needed a back-up point guard and Ennis is as steady as they come," said ESPN's Chad Ford (subscription required).
Steady indeed. Ennis is a patient young floor general who makes the right play and has deft passing skills. He can get into the lane by changing speeds, and he's got a soft shooting touch.
His minutes will be modest in Phoenix, however, and he'll be a caretaker.
Prediction: 16.8 MPG, 6.1 PPG, 3.6 APG
19. Denver Nuggets (via CHI): Gary Harris, Michigan State SG
For much of the year, Gary Harris was projected to land in Denver via their foremost first-round pick. He ended up slipping to 19th and wound up with the Nuggets anyway.
He's an awesome value pick outside the lottery, and he brings tangible skills on both sides of the ball: shooting, slashing, passing and backcourt defense.
The question is, how much will he be able to showcase those skills on a Denver roster already primed with Arron Afflalo and Ty Lawson?
Even in a peripheral role, the former Spartan will be impressive.
Prediction: 18.9 MPG, 8.7 PPG, 0.9 SPG, 40 3FG%
20. Toronto Raptors: Bruno Caboclo, Brazil SF
This was one of the most bizarre picks you'll see, especially considering the depth of the draft.
Masai Ujiri had better hope he knows what he's doing, because Toronto Raptors fans will eventually want to see production from Brazilian enigma Bruno Caboclo.
Here's the skinny on the 6'9" forward: He's skinny. And athletic.
Other than that, he's got shooting potential and defensive upside way down the road. Caboclo is extremely raw and is not physically or mentally ready to handle the NBA.
Prediction: He won't join the NBA for three years.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder: Mitch McGary, Michigan PF/C
When you realize that he's a poor man's David Lee, Mitch McGary doesn't seem like much of a reach at all.
The Oklahoma City Thunder started to build their frontcourt of the future around Serge Ibaka by stealing Steve Adams last year. Now, they have McGary's size and savvy to help phase out the Kendrick Perkins/Nick Collison era.
McGary will be a dependable pick-and-roll target and gobble up rebounds right away, provided he stays healthy. He won't generate any dynamic shot-creating, but his lunch-pail work and passing skills will give OKC a boost.
Prediction: 14.9 MPG, 5.0 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 52% FG
22. Memphis Grizzlies: Jordan Adams, UCLA SG
Jordan Adams will give the Memphis Grizzlies more scoring depth, and he'll also perpetuate the franchise's culture by rebounding well for his position.
With his length and scoring instincts, Adams will find buckets near the hoop, from mid-range and beyond the arc.
To make up for his woeful athleticism, he operates as a cagey wing who takes advantage of angles and adjusts his shots mid-drive. His resourcefulness will make him a good, but not great Memphis Grizzly.
Prediction: 14.1 MPG, 4.9 PPG, 46% FG
23. Utah Jazz: Rodney Hood, Duke SF
Rodney Hood is a 6'8" sharp-shooter who takes really good care of the ball. Essentially, the Utah Jazz are getting an oversized shooting guard on offense, and they have the flexibility to use him at the 2 or the 3 throughout the year.
He shot 42 percent from three-land as Duke's secondary threat in 2013-14, and he'll stretch the floor as Utah's fourth or fifth scoring option when he's on the court.
There are a few qualified wings and playmakers who will get more minutes than Hood, but don't worry, he's a legitimate part of the Jazz's rotation.
The Jazz are getting a wing who will work well without the ball and make sound decisions once he has it. That's perfect for a team looking to improve on 95 points per game and 44 percent shooting.
Prediction: 19.5 MPG, 8.1 PPG, 40% 3FG
24. Miami Heat (via CHA): Shabazz Napier, UConn PG
The Miami Heat wanted Shabazz Napier enough to trade up for him, and they're getting an NBA-ready competitor.
He's somewhat erratic, and he's not the ideal size (6'0") for a starting point guard, but he's got the playmaking and mental chops to run with the four-time defending Eastern Conference champs.
ESPN's Chad Ford (subscription required) explained that Napier could edge out Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole:
With the way Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole played in the NBA Finals, you can understand why the Heat may want an upgrade. I'm not sure it's fair to put all that on Napier as a rookie. He's undersized for his position and not an elite athlete, but...He won't be afraid to play with James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. And when he gets rolling, watch out.
Look for a modest stat line but crucial contributions.
Prediction: 21.4 MPG, 7.1 PPG, 3.0 APG, 40% FG
25. Houston Rockets: Clint Capela, Switzerland PF
Here we have another draft-and-stash European who won't make an immediate impact. And that's exactly what Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey intended, as they are keeping their books clear for mega free agents.
Even if Clint Capela played in the NBA next year, he's not nearly ready to handle all the duties of competing in the frontcourt. He's 6'11" with outstanding athleticism and finishing skills, and that's about it.
No need to project stats here, as his rookie year will likely be two-plus years away.
Prediction: Joins NBA in 2016-17
26. Charlotte Hornets (via MIA): P.J. Hairston, Texas Legends SG
Former UNC Tar Heel and breakout D-League star P.J. Hairston can help the Charlotte Hornets offense, which averaged a pedestrian 96.9 points per game in 2013-14.
His polished shooting skills will give the club life from the perimeter (it ranked 25th in the league in three-point makes), but his value is deeper than that.
He's got great instincts away from the ball, and he can work wonderfully while opponents are focused heavily on Al Jefferson and Kemba Walker. Hairston can also make plays in transition with his 6'5" frame and athleticism.
With an NBA-ready body, he'll hold his own defensively and slash effectively, too.
Prediction: 23.5 MPG, 11.6 PPG, 37% 3FG, All-Rookie Second Team
27. Phoenix Suns: Bogdan Bogdanovic, Serbia SG
Here's what you need to know about Bogdan Bogdanovic's rookie year for the Phoenix Suns: It won't take place until 2016.
Europe (and more specifically his Serbian team Partizan) won't give him up without a fight, so he's going to stay overseas until the two sides can determine an optimal time and scenario for a buyout.
At 6'6" with a 6'11" wingspan, Bogdanovic can shoot smoothly and handle the rock. But he won't be doing so for Jeff Hornacek right away.
Prediction: See Dario Saric and Clint Capela.
28. Los Angeles Clippers: C.J. Wilcox, Washington SG
C.J. Wilcox is a terrific shooter, and he's a solid overall wing. But other than his prolific perimeter touch, there's nothing he's great at.
And considering the Los Angeles Clippers' depth chart, I'm not sure there's room for much playing time. J.J. Redick, Jared Dudley and Matt Barnes will eat up most of the wing minutes.
He'll barely eclipse double-digit minutes per contest.
Prediction: 12.1 MPG, 3.2 PPG, 36% 3FG
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Josh Huestis, Stanford F
Throughout the predraft process, Stanford forward Josh Huestis was viewed as a second-round pick. But the Oklahoma City Thunder knew his defense would translate to the league, so they scooped him up early.
It might take a year or two before his offensive skills and shooting are dependable enough for substantial minutes, however.
In the meantime, he's going to use his 7'1" wingspan, athleticism and instincts to play strong defense and make plays in the open floor.
Prediction: 13.1 MPG, 3.5 PPG, 0.5 BPG, 45% FG
30. San Antonio Spurs: Kyle Anderson, UCLA PG/SF
It took a while for Boris Diaw to settle in as a slow-motion playmaker in the NBA, and the same may be true for his new teammate, UCLA product Kyle Anderson.
He'll need some time to adjust to the speed of the NBA—his biggest athleticism adjustment yet. Once he figures out how to counter it, he will be an effective facilitator.
For now, he will be a peripheral asset learning from a championship-caliber rotation. He won't have the most glorious rookie campaign, but his situation and roster fit are quite favorable.
Prediction: 10.2 MPG, 2.1 PPG, 1.1 APG
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