Re-Drafting the 2014 NBA Draft ClassMay 5, 2020
Re-Drafting the 2014 NBA Draft Class
Remember when the 2014 NBA draft was all about the scoring forwards? History views the talent grab a tiny bit differently now.
For the 2014 version of our re-draft series, we're no longer debating Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker at the top. Instead, it's a choice between two highly skilled, All-Star centers at No. 1.
Size still matters, folks.
That's the extent of this draft's All-Star collection (so far, at least), but a host of reliable rotation players can be found in the deep, solid-but-not-spectacular second tier.
As a reminder, we're only considering careers as they have already played out—i.e. no magical healing of injuries or basketball IQ-raising epiphanies—and we're taking the best-available-player route at every turn.
With those parameters in place, let the second-guessing commence.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Joel Embiid
During the actual talent grab, the Cleveland Cavaliers were forced to weigh Joel Embiid's massive potential against his obvious injury risks. Then-Cavaliers general manager David Griffin described Embiid as "the second coming of Hakeem [Olajuwon]," but the big man's foot fracture scared off Cleveland's doctors, and the franchise went a different direction.
Six years later, the same debate continues.
Embiid has made good on his superstar upside and established himself as a full-fledged elite. Just last season, he became only the 12th player ever to average 27 points and 13 rebounds, which makes no mention of his 3.7 assists, 1.9 blocks or 1.2 three-pointers per game. He can fool defenders of all sizes, stonewall scorers at the rim and survive perimeter switches on defense.
But if you believe the best ability is availability, then you couldn't slot Embiid at No. 1. Not when he lost two entire seasons to injuries, missed 51 games in another and has yet to make even 65 appearances in the same campaign.
Obviously, we're willing to take the injury risks with Embiid for the massive on-court reward. No other player in 2014 class has climbed this high, and only the No. 2 pick has even come close. There's a strong argument to be made for that player, but Embiid wins out for his superstar performance.
Actual pick: Andrew Wiggins
Embiid's actual draft slot: No. 3, Philadelphia 76ers
2. Milwaukee Bucks: Nikola Jokic
From an analytical standpoint, Nikola Jokic sits atop this draft class.
Originally taken 41st overall and left overseas for the 2014-15 season, the Joker still leads this group in virtually every advanced category. He has contributed 48.0 win shares; no one else has more than 36.4. He has a 7.1 box plus/minus; Embiid is next at 4.5. Jokic has accrued 25.0 value over replacement player; Embiid again takes second at 10.0.
Jokic is in the running for the draft's top player, but he's obviously in his own tier as the event's greatest theft.
"It's such an inexact science," Nuggets president of basketball operations Tim Connelly said, per Mike Singer of the Denver Post. "Nikola, up to that point, his professional numbers [in Europe] had not been something that would jump off the page, and certainly the body type is one that it's easy to have questions about."
But Jokic's skill is one of a kind. He has the highest assist percentage of any 7-footer to hit the NBA hardwood, and he's one of only three players with career averages of 16 points, nine rebounds and five assists.
He's more of a 1B pick behind Embiid than No. 2, but he lands just behind The Process due to Embiid's superior two-way play.
Actual pick: Jabari Parker
Jokic's actual draft slot: No. 41, Denver Nuggets
3. Philadelphia 76ers: Zach LaVine
A cluster of capable-but-flawed-in-some-way starters land in the next tier, and Zach LaVine leads it for his powerful offensive punch.
Only Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins average more career points than LaVine's 17.7, and LaVine betters Wiggins as a distributor and a shooter at every level.
LaVine's production hasn't generated much team success to date, but that might say more about his supporting cast than him. He's one of only nine players to average 23 points, four assists and four rebounds both this season and last, and he's the group's only player to not yet make an All-Star appearance.
He could stand to improve as a defender and to increase the difference between his assists (4.2) and turnovers (3.4), and he'll never be the best player on a good team. But he has a special combination of explosiveness and shooting touch, and that has fueled his rise as a point-producing machine.
Actual pick: Joel Embiid
LaVine's actual draft slot: No. 13, Minnesota Timberwolves
4. Orlando Magic: Clint Capela
To go from being the 25th pick of this draft to its second-best supplier of win shares, Clint Capela has exceeded all expectations while acing his rim-running role.
But starting his career in Space City also meant living on the front lines of the small-ball revolution. And even as Capela did everything asked of him (leading the league in field-goal percentage in 2017-18, averaging a double-double each of the last three seasons), his limited scoring range eventually made him expendable.
Of course, not everyone is leaning so heavily into small-ball. The Atlanta Hawks parted with a first-round pick to get Capela even while he appears an imperfect fit with John Collins. But there's a safe consistency with this big man. He stays in his lane, plays big around the basket and holds his own on defensive perimeter switches.
There are players with higher ceilings lower down the re-draft board, but they also have lower floors. Capela's reliability as a walking double-double is good enough for the fourth spot of a draft that has been light on stars.
Actual pick: Aaron Gordon
Capela's actual draft slot: No. 25, Houston Rockets
5. Utah Jazz: Aaron Gordon
Aaron Gordon has stretches in which two-way stardom feels imminent. More often, though, he looks like a shut-down defender who gets stretched too thin in an oversized offensive role.
It feels like there's more to his game than has so far surfaced, but even at face value, he retains a top-five spot. He offers defensive versatility, complementary rebounding, secondary playmaking and support scoring. Finding his offensive niche would help, but the Magic Kingdom hasn't exactly offered the most fertile offensive soil.
There's one superior stopper behind Gordon and a few better scorers in the remainder of the top 10, but he's had the best combined impact at both ends.
Actual pick: Dante Exum
Gordon's actual draft slot: No. 4, Orlando Magic
6. Boston Celtics: Marcus Smart
Even the basketball gods can't picture Marcus Smart anywhere other than Boston.
He has entrenched himself in the franchise fabric as a fearless stopper with legitimate five-position ability. He defends everyone from point guards to centers, and he silences most of them. He was an All-Defensive first-teamer last season, and he leads this draft with 15.3 defensive win shares.
His career shooting rates aren't easy on the eyes (37.4/31.8/77.4), but he's making strides on that end. Last season, he posted a personal-best 56.8 true shooting percentage. This year, he's hitting a career-high 2.4 threes per game at a respectable 34.8 percent clip.
Actual pick: Marcus Smart
7. Los Angeles Lakers: Spencer Dinwiddie
The Detroit Pistons never realized what they had with Spencer Dinwiddie and unceremoniously dumped him after two seasons. (More specifically, they traded him to the Chicago Bulls for—wait for it—Cameron Bairstow.) After the Bulls waived him twice, Dinwiddie finally found a home with the Brooklyn Nets, who have surely been celebrating their fortune ever since.
He was a Most Improved Player award finalist in 2017-18, and he took home Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors this past November. He's not the most efficient shooter (41.0 percent overall, 31.8 percent from deep), but he is one of two players in this draft with career averages of at least 12 points and five assists.
Actual pick: Julius Randle
Dinwiddie's actual draft slot: No. 38, Detroit Pistons
8. Sacramento Kings: Andrew Wiggins
It's tough to label Andrew Wiggins as a bust when he leads this draft in career minutes (by more than 4,000) and career points (by more than 2,000). Plus, even with the benefit of hindsight, he still snags the eighth spot of this re-draft.
So, we won't call Wiggins a bust.
We will, however, point out he has produced the third-fewest win shares per 48 minutes of all No. 1 picks in the draft-lottery era (1985 and on). Only Michael Olowokandi and Anthony Bennett—VIP members of the Draft Bust Mount Rushmore—trail Wiggins.
But if we separate the scoring forward from his draft slot, we see a career 19.7-points-per-game scorer who has never grabbed more rebounds or hit more threes than he is during the currently suspended season. The Minnesota Timberwolves learned the hard way that he isn't a No. 1 option, but in this draft slot, he can slide into more of a complementary role like the one he'll fill going forward for the Golden State Warriors.
Actual pick: Nik Stauskas
Wiggins' actual draft slot: No. 1, Cleveland Cavaliers
9. Charlotte Hornets: Julius Randle
Julius Randle was the highest-drafted Los Angeles Laker since they grabbed James Worthy second overall in 1982. That put massive pressure on Randle to perform for the Purple and Gold, and he never looked like a franchise savior—starting with the broken leg that wiped out his rookie year just 14 minutes into his debut.
He got his career trajectory going in the right direction, but LeBron James' arrival in 2018 nudged Randle toward the exit. He spent last season with the New Orleans Pelicans and this year with the New York Knicks, putting up big numbers for bottom-feeders in both locations.
Still, he and Nikola Jokic are the draft's only players with 6,000 points, 3,000 rebounds and 1,000 assists.
Actual pick: Noah Vonleh
Randle's actual draft slot: No. 7, Los Angeles Lakers
10. Philadelphia 76ers: Gary Harris
For all the thievery in this draft, Gary Harris was involved in one of draft night's biggest heights. Somehow, the Denver Nuggets managed to turn Doug McDermott and Anthony Randolph into Harris, Jusuf Nurkic and a second-round swap in an exchange with the Chicago Bulls.
Harris became a regular starter as a sophomore, and he's been both a double-digit scorer and a dogged defender ever since.
When his three-ball falls with regularity—40.5 percent over his third and fourth seasons—he's on a short list of the Association's top three-and-D contributors. His offense is in a two-year decline, but he did enter this season's hiatus ranked 11th overall and tops among shooting guards in ESPN's defensive real plus-minus.
Actual pick: Elfrid Payton (traded to Orlando Magic)
Harris' actual draft slot: No. 19, Chicago Bulls (traded to Denver Nuggets)
11. Denver Nuggets: Joe Harris
After two quiet seasons in Cleveland, Harris found his footing in Brooklyn and emerged as an elite shooter. Originally the draft's 33rd pick, he has the 15th-most triples since 2017-18 and the fifth-highest three-point percentage among the 258 players with 100-plus threes over that stretch.
12. Orlando Magic: Jusuf Nurkic
Squeezed out of Denver by Nikola Jokic, Nurkic bounced to Portland and immediately became a critical puzzle piece. A leg fracture has kept him from suiting up this season, which might be the biggest culprit in the Blazers' disappointing performance.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves: T.J. Warren
Warren is a walking bucket (career 19.1 points per 36 minutes), but his ceiling used to hang uncomfortably low due to inside-the-arc scoring range and defensive indifference. Now that he has a three-ball in his arsenal (40.1 percent since last season) and a better-revved defensive motor, he might deserve an even higher draft slot.
14. Phoenix Suns: Bogdan Bogdanovic
Bogdanovic didn't come stateside until 2017, but he's been worth the wait. He is one of only two players to average 14 points, three assists and three rebounds in fewer than 30 minutes per game this season and last. Limited floor time could soon be a thing of the past if the Kings pay big bucks to bring him back in restricted free agency.
15. Atlanta Hawks: Jordan Clarkson
The 46th pick in the real draft, Clarkson wasted no time proving he was grossly undervalued. He snagged an All-Rookie first-team spot out of the gate, and he has scored more points than anyone in this draft not named Andrew Wiggins.
16. Chicago Bulls: Jerami Grant
The 39th pick in real life, Grant opened his career with the process-trusting 76ers and has since been traded twice—each time for a first-round pick. Always a versatile defender, his offensive game is improving with time. He averaged a career high in scoring last season, and this year, his pre-hiatus three-point percentage of 40.0 was another personal best.
17. Boston Celtics: Rodney Hood
The slithery southpaw has suited up for the Jazz, Cavaliers and Blazers, providing each with isolation scoring, outside shooting and some pick-and-roll creativity. He has averaged double-digit points in five of his six NBA seasons, although his latest campaign was cut short by a ruptured Achilles.
18. Phoenix Suns: Elfrid Payton
Payton is a non-shooting guard in an era obsessed with shooting, but he's also fifth among this draft class in career minutes. He takes care of the basketball, perks up an offense looking to run and holds his own at the defensive end. Of the 26 players in this draft to clear 5,000 minutes, Payton ranks 12th in career player efficiency rating (15.3).
19. Chicago Bulls: Dwight Powell
There isn't a ton of flash in Powell's game, but there's enough function for him to have tallied the third-most win shares to date of this draft class. He's a solid screener, an above-the-rim finisher and an agile (if undersized) defender. He was averaging a number of career highs this season before a ruptured Achilles forced him off the floor.
20. Toronto Raptors: Jabari Parker
Originally the second overall pick, Parker remains one of the better scorers in this class. But he brings little else to the table, and teams are giving up on him at an alarming rate. After spending his first four seasons with the Milwaukee Bucks, Parker has worn four different jerseys over the past two, and the Kings weren't giving him minutes after his deadline move to Sacramento.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder: Kyle Anderson
Appropriately nicknamed Slo Mo, Anderson has given the Spurs and Grizzlies quality minutes as a ball-mover, malleable defender and instinctual thinker. Memphis deemed him worthy of a $37 million pact in 2018.
22. Memphis Grizzlies: Dario Saric
Another late arrival, Saric didn't join the NBA until 2016, but he was immediately made a rotation member as a rookie and snagged a starting gig as a sophomore. The 6'10" forward does a little of everything, but he has limits as a defender, and his three-point shot isn't the most consistent.
23. Utah Jazz: Langston Galloway
The first undrafted player to appear, Galloway has found his NBA niche as an undersized scoring guard who feasts on catch-and-shoot threes. He is already on his fourth team, but this is his third season for the Pistons and one of the best he's ever played.
24. Charlotte Hornets: Doug McDermott
Teams can't get enough shooting, so they keep coming back to McDermott, who's on his fifth different squad. His three-point shot is pure (career 41.3 percent), but he could stand to fire them up more often (5.4 attempts per 36 minutes) because his skill set doesn't really reach another area.
25. Houston Rockets: Tyler Johnson
Few players have taken a wilder ride than Johnson, who went undrafted in 2014, inked a $50 million deal in 2016 and hasn't been on an NBA roster since the Suns waived him in February. He's a 6'3" combo guard who isn't a great shooter or playmaker, but he plays hard and is a fearless attacker at the rim.
26. Miami Heat: Dante Exum
Originally the fifth pick, Exum has battled both a rash of injuries and an inability to find his offensive role. The Utah Jazz finally parted with him in December, so the Cavaliers will now try to coax more than versatile perimeter defense out of him.
27. Phoenix Suns: Shabazz Napier
A favorite of LeBron James after leading UConn to a national championship, Napier has bounced around six home locker rooms in six seasons. But this should be his third straight year with a career-high scoring average.
28. Los Angeles Clippers: Noah Vonleh
The Hornets overdrafted Vonleh at ninth overall, and teams have been trying to tap into his physical tools ever since. The Nuggets are his fifth team since 2017-18.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Glenn Robinson III
Robinson has worn five different jerseys in six seasons, and a deadline deal brought about his second stint with the 76ers. He was the dunk contest champion in 2017, and his father, Glenn Robinson, was the first overall pick in 1994.
30. San Antonio Spurs: Tim Frazier
A self-made journeyman, Frazier went undrafted in 2014 and has played for six different teams so far. He was waived by the Pistons in February to clear roster space for the Andre Drummond deal.
All stats courtesy of NBA.com, ESPN.com and Basketball Reference unless otherwise noted.
Zach Buckley covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @ZachBuckleyNBA.