We have learned throughout the years that the players selected higher in the NBA draft do not always turn out to be the best.
Basketball fans only have to look to this past season to see that someone like Kawhi Leonard—who was just the No. 15 pick in the 2011 draft—is capable of winning the NBA Finals MVP award.
It is difficult to predict someone who was just drafted to reach this level, but there are certainly a few sleepers capable of surprising those who overlooked them. Here are grades for every pick in the 2014 draft along with a look at the biggest steals in the class.
|1||Cleveland Cavaliers||Andrew Wiggins, SF, Kansas||A|
|2||Milwaukee Bucks||Jabari Parker, SF Duke||A|
|3||Philadelphia 76ers||Joel Embiid, C, Kansas||A-|
|4||Orlando Magic||Aaron Gordon, PF, Arizona||B+|
|5||Utah Jazz||Dante Exum, PG, Australia||B|
|6||Boston Celtics||Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State||A|
|7||Los Angeles Lakers||Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky||A-|
|8||Sacramento Kings||Nik Stauskas, SG, Michigan||C|
|9||Charlotte Hornets||Noah Vonleh, PF, Indiana||A+|
|10||Orlando Magic||Elfrid Payton, PG, UL Lafayette||B-|
|11||Chicago Bulls||Doug McDermott, SF, Creighton||B|
|12||Philadelphia 76ers||Dario Saric, SF, Croatia||A-|
|13||Minnesota Timberwolves||Zach LaVine, PG, UCLA||B|
|14||Phoenix Suns||T.J. Warren, SF, N.C. State||A-|
|15||Atlanta Hawks||Adreian Payne, PF, Michigan State||B|
|16||Denver Nuggets||Jusuf Nurkic, C, Bosnia-Herzegovina||B+|
|17||Boston Celtics||James Young, SG, Kentucky||A|
|18||Phoenix Suns||Tyler Ennis, PG, Syracuse||B-|
|19||Denver Nuggets||Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State||A+|
|20||Toronto Raptors||Bruno Caboclo, SF, Brazil||D|
|21||Oklahoma City Thunder||Mitch McGary, PF, Michigan||C-|
|22||Memphis Grizzlies||Jordan Adams, SG, UCLA||C-|
|23||Utah Jazz||Rodney Hood, SF, Duke||B+|
|24||Miami Heat||Shabazz Napier, PG, Connecticut||A+|
|25||Houston Rockets||Clint Capela, PF, Switzerland||A-|
|26||Charlotte Hornets||P.J. Hairston, SG, UNC/NBA D-League||A|
|27||Phoenix Suns||Bogan Bogdanovic, SG, Serbia||C-|
|28||Los Angeles Clippers||C.J. Wilcox, SG, Washington||C+|
|29||Oklahoma City Thunder||Josh Huestis, SF, Stanford||C|
|30||San Antonio Spurs||Kyle Anderson, SF, UCLA||A-|
|31||Milwaukee Bucks||Damien Inglis, SF, France||B-|
|32||Philadelphia 76ers||K.J. McDaniels, SF, Clemson||A|
|33||Cleveland Cavaliers||Joe Harris, SG, Virginia||B|
|34||New York Knicks||Cleanthony Early, SF, Wichita State||A+|
|35||Memphis Grizzlies||Jarnell Stokes, PF, Tennessee||A-|
|36||Milwaukee Bucks||Johnny O'Bryant III, PF, LSU||B+|
|37||Toronto Raptors||DeAndre Daniels, SF, Connecticut||B-|
|38||Detroit Pistons||Spencer Dinwiddie, PG, Colorado||A-|
|39||Philadelphia 76ers||Jerami Grant, SF, Syracuse||A|
|40||Minnesota Timberwolves||Glenn Robinson III, SF, Michigan||A-|
|41||Denver Nuggets||Nikola Jokic, PF, Serbia||B-|
|42||Houston Rockets||Nick Johnson, SG, Arizona||A|
|43||Atlanta Hawks||Walter Tavares, C, Cape Verde||B-|
|44||Brooklyn Nets||Markel Brown, SG, Oklahoma State||B+|
|45||Charlotte Hornets||Dwight Powell, PF, Stanford||B-|
|46||Los Angeles Lakers||Jordan Clarkson, PG, Missouri||C+|
|47||New Orleans Pelicans||Russ Smith, PG, Louisville||A-|
|48||Atlanta Hawks||Lamar Patterson, SG, Pittsburgh||B-|
|49||Chicago Bulls||Cameron Bairstow, PF, New Mexico||B|
|50||Phoenix Suns||Alec Brown, C, Green Bay||B|
|51||New York Knicks||Thanasis Antetokounmpo, SF, Greece||A-|
|52||Philadelphia 76ers||Vasilije Micic, PG, Serbia||B|
|53||Minnesota Timberwolves||Alessandro Gentile, G, Italy||C+|
|54||Philadelphia 76ers||Nemanja Dangubic, SF, Serbia||B+|
|55||Charlotte Hornets||Semaj Christon, PG, Xavier||A-|
|56||Denver Nuggets||Roy Devyn Marble, SG, Iowa||A|
|57||New York Knicks||Louis Labeyrie, C, France||B-|
|58||Philadelphia 76ers||Jodan McRae, SG, Tennessee||C|
|59||Toronto Raptors||Xavier Thames, PG, San Diego State||A-|
|60||Brooklyn Nets||Corey Jefferson, PF, Baylor||B+|
No. 9 Charlotte Hornets: Noah Vonleh, PF, Indiana
When drafting in the lottery, it is important to look for upside. Noah Vonleh has plenty of it with his length, versatility and pure skill to contribute on both ends of the court, making him worthy of a top-five pick.
Fortunately for Charlotte, the Indiana product remained on the board long enough for the squad to take a chance on him with relatively low risk. Matt Moore of CBS believes this was a huge steal:
Bobcats: Noah Vonleh: A+: Defensive length, rebounding, and can stetch the floor. Talent that fits the system. Total steal despite bust risk— Matt Moore CBS (@MattMooreCBS) June 27, 2014
ESPN's Skip Bayless agreed in the player's potential:
Way to go, MJ. Charlotte keeps getting better. Every time I watched Noah Vonleh play, I saw NBA. Long, smooth, skilled. Steal at 9.— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) June 27, 2014
Before the draft, Vonleh was considered by many to be ahead of both Julius Randle and Aaron Gordon among power forwards in the class. Charlotte got someone with this ability much later than he should have been taken, giving the team plenty of upside for this point in the first round.
No. 19 Denver Nuggets: Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State
The Nuggets would have been justified selecting Gary Harris with their original No. 11 pick. However, they traded the selection to the Chicago Bulls for the No. 16 (Jusuf Nurkic) and the No. 19 (Harris), according to Jon Greenberg of ESPN Chicago.
This makes the first round incredible for Denver, as the squad was able to get an incredible player. Doug Gottlieb of CBS provides a look at the biggest downside while also showcasing the reasons he was taken:
Gary Harris might be “Small” at 6’21/2 but he can get buckets/defend and is very young—— Doug Gottlieb (@GottliebShow) June 27, 2014
Harris does everything you want a 2-guard to do, from scoring in multiple ways to being a shutdown defender on the perimeter. He helps upgrade a Nuggets team that made another big move the day before, as noted by Jeff Goodman of ESPN:
Denver Nuggets will really upgrade at the wing spot between the Afflalo trade and the draft.— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) June 27, 2014
Arron Afflalo is just another addition to what will be a greatly improved Nuggets team thanks to an excellent few days by the front office.
No. 24 Miami Heat: Shabazz Napier, PG, Connecticut
The Heat knew who LeBron James wanted in the draft and they made sure to bring him on board. As soon as it was announced Shabazz Napier would be headed to Miami, the four-time MVP tweeted:
My favorite player in the draft! #Napier— LeBron James (@KingJames) June 27, 2014
Meanwhile, the point guard himself could not control his own emotions, via SLAM Magazine:
Heat draft pick Shabbazz Napier: "My mind right now is twirling. I'm just super happy right now." pic.twitter.com/P5n6vFa9BW— SLAM Magazine (@SLAMonline) June 27, 2014
Of course, it matters more what Napier can do on the court, and Miami just acquired one heck of a basketball player. He is a bit small at 6'0", but he has shown throughout his career that he will do whatever it takes to win games, making it no surprise he took home two national titles.
Despite being taken at the end of the first round, Napier could easily step right into the starting lineup with the Heat and be a key contributor in a run toward another NBA championship.
No. 34 New York Knicks: Cleanthony Early, SF, Wichita State
The Knicks did not have any picks in this draft until the organization grabbed two from the Dallas Mavericks in a deal centered around Tyson Chandler one day earlier. When the squad was finally on the clock, they made it count by taking Cleanthony Early out of Wichita State.
Kyle Tucker of The Courier-Journal points out that the wing should have been taken earlier:
Knicks didn't have a first-round pick. Cleanthony Early at No. 34 is a first-round caliber dude. Love that pick.— Kyle Tucker (@KyleTucker_CJ) June 27, 2014
Meanwhile, Mike Wise of the Washington Post provides some insight into what Early must be thinking going forward:
I firmly believe Wichita State plays in the title game if they beat Kentucky. Cleanthony Early will make people who passed on him pay.— Mike Wise (@MikeWiseguy) June 27, 2014
Early is the type of player who can create his own shots and score consistently, which he did for the Shockers throughout their undefeated regular season. Despite being a second-round pick, he is likely going to get plenty of playing time in his first year and make a solid contribution for the Knicks.
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