It's not often that teams drafting outside of the first three spots at the NBA draft have a realistic chance at landing a future star, so with the 2014 class loaded with top-flight talent, the stakes couldn't get much higher for the league's 30 general managers at the Barclays Center in New York.
Led by the four freshmen phenoms, Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Joel Embiid and Julius Randle, this collection of prospects may one day rival the legendary class of 2003, which produced no less than eight All-Stars.
But inevitably, not every team remembers the 2003 NBA draft as a good day. That's because while it's difficult for an executive to stomach a prized draftee turning out to be a bust, for teams like the Detroit Pistons, who took Darko Milicic over Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh at No. 2 that year, it's much more disappointing knowing what could've been.
And if this class lives up to its billing, the choices made at the 2014 edition will have lasting effects on a number of franchises, particularly those choosing closer to the top of the order.
With that in mind, here are grades for each of the first 30 selections, as well as a look at the best and worst decisions from the draft floor.
|Round 1 NBA Draft Grades|
Best Round 1 Decisions
For the second consecutive season, the 76ers leave the draft with a hyped physical specimen, as Philadelphia added Joel Embiid with the No. 3 overall pick after landing former Kentucky center Nerlens Noel in 2013. And there's a reason both players, who were at different points each considered potential candidates to go No. 1 overall, fell to Philadelphia, as injuries raised red flags leading up to their respective drafts.
But assuming Embiid and Noel both recover fully and continue to develop, the 76ers are slowly but surely assembling a scary-good defensive core.
Some, including CBS Sports' Jon Rothstein, noted that while there isn't much hope in the short term, this team doesn't seem to mind struggling for now if the struggles eventually enable it to contend consistently in the future.
I'm not going to say I wholeheartedly agree with the strategy, but if the 76ers' aim is to acquire as many quality young pieces as possible, they're doing a fantastic job of that.
While the Lakers getting their hands on Julius Randle at No. 7 may go down as the steal of 2014, the Hornets have to be very pleased at being able to snap Noah Vonleh up two spots later.
During his lone season as a Hoosier, Vonleh showed that he's got the physical tools to contribute even more than he did in 2013-14, when he posted averages of better than 11 points and nine boards a game. He didn't get the hype he deserved at Indiana, largely because of his team's lack of success, but that's fine with the Hornets, because Vonleh looks like he'll be a force in the NBA.
In case getting Vonleh wasn't enough, the Hornets were also able to get former North Carolina star P.J. Hairston at No. 26, and if he's able to shake off the off-court issues that damaged his stock at UNC, this could be a big day in Hornets franchise history.
Getting Shabazz Napier at No. 24 (via the Hornets) was a coup for the four-time reigning Eastern Conference champs from a basketball perspective, as the former Connecticut NCAA hero has the skill and playmaking abilities to thrive in Miami's offense.
But ultimately, perhaps the biggest reason this was a great call on the part of Pat Riley and the Heat is the impact it may have on the future of LeBron James.
"Winner," Riley said. "He's a winner. I think he's a winner, and he's talented and he's skilled. You have to watch him play the game, and you see there's a competitive level that we all liked."
That being said, if Miami gets King James' signature on a new contract, no one will complain about this pick, even if Napier never becomes a regular starter in the NBA.
Worst Round 1 Decisions
If the reports, such as the one from Sam Amick of USA Today, are accurate, it looks like Toronto may be in need of a point guard, because Kyle Lowry is far from a lock to return.
Given that the Raptors must be aware of the possibility of losing Lowry, it's absolutely baffling that they settled on Brazil's Bruno Caboclo at No. 20.
According to Eric Koreen of The National Post, the Raptors attempted to move up in order to take Syracuse product Tyler Ennis, but just because they weren't able to get a Canadian doesn't mean the team should've given up on filling a pressing need.
If Caboclo turns into a star, all will be forgotten, but if Lowry leaves, this team will have a tough time replicating the success of 2013-14 without a decent point guard.
Yes, the 76ers are listed above as having done well in Round 1, and they did bolster their long-term potential in acquiring Embiid, but tabbing Dario Saric at No. 12 has to be considered a mistake.
That's because Philadelphia, while building for the future, has to begin showing some concern for the present at some point, and using yet another high pick on a player that won't be available for a considerable length of time should've been avoided.
As of now, Saric won't be coming to the NBA for another two seasons, so given that Philadelphia should have 2014 NBA Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams, Noel and Embiid on the floor together long before then, the 76ers may be stunting their own growth.
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