In the context of the past five drafts or so, the 2014 NBA draft is shaping up to be one of the most fascinating. While top prospects like Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, and Aaron Gordon are unfortunately not (yet) the Hall of Famers they were hyped to be, they are still talented, franchise-altering players. The depth of this draft class through the lottery and beyond rivals anything we’ve seen in the past. However, the most exciting thing about the draft is what its significance will be in a few years. Will we see a Finals MVP drafted 15th, like Kawhi Leonard? Will an All-Star be drafted in the second round, like Marc Gasol? Will three of the first five picks unite to form a super-team (you should know this one)? That’s the beauty of the draft; no one knows what will happen on draft night, or beyond. With that being said, here’s an idea of what will happen on June 26 at the Barclays Center.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers- Jabari Parker, SF/PF, Duke (6’8”, 240 lbs)
As lucky as Cleveland has been with regards to the draft lottery the past four years, you have to feel a little bad for the Cavs. Gifted with the number one pick for the third time in four years, the Cavs were all set to choose from the trifecta of Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, and Joel Embiid, far and away the best prospects in the draft. Embiid was a perfect fit in Cleveland, a outstanding defensive big man who didn’t need the ball in his hands very much. But doctors found a fractured bone in the center’s foot, compounded by Embiid’s prior back issues. To make it worse, it was Cleveland’s doctors who discovered the injury. Embiid will likely be out for 4-6 months. Cleveland has a tough decision here: stay with Embiid to fill a team need, or take the safer pick with Wiggins or Parker. Taking Embiid would really be challenging fate; we know what the book is on drafting banged-up centers (see: Oden, Greg). Considering the Cavs past top-five history (Tristan Thompson over King-slayer Kawhi Leonard, Dion Waiters over rebound machine Andre Drummond, Anthony Bennett over literally anyone else), Cleveland should not be challenging fate. If Cleveland takes Embiid, there’s a high chance that Embiid will be revealed to be a cyborg designed by the NBA to test just how disillusioned the Cleveland front office is. Expect the Cavs to play is safe and take Parker, considered the most-NBA ready prospect. Parker was one of the most offensively versatile players in college basketball this past year, exhibiting range out beyond the three-point line but also using his big frame to battle forwards in the post. Defensively, Parker might have some issues, as he isn’t quick enough to guard anyone on the perimeter, yet NBA power forwards will likely abuse him in the post. Cleveland will need to pick a spot for him and develop his defensive skills, but Parker’s good instincts and offensive skills should help out a floundering Cavaliers franchise.
2. Milwaukee Bucks- Andrew Wiggins, SF, Kansas (6’8”, 200)
Jabari Parker seemed to be the Bucks target here, assuming Embiid had gone to the Cavs, but Milwaukee will be happy to take high-flying Andrew Wiggins with the second pick. The Bucks are looking to build excitement in a city that hasn’t seen a lot of good basketball recently. The Kansas product’s highlight dunks and above-the-rim play should fill some seats. Wiggins was the can’t-miss prospect out of high school, the number one recruit, the “Canadian Lebron”. Considering he was overshadowed by Kansas teammate Joel Embiid as the season progressed, one could consider Wiggins’ only college season a disappointment. That wouldn’t be true. Wiggins had a very successful freshman year, exploding for 41 and 30 in back to back games at the end of the year while showing stellar defensive instincts and above-average rebounding skills. Wiggins’ insane athleticism actually projects better on the defensive end, where his quick first step and good length will allow him to guard anyone on the perimeter. His offensive game is what needs refinement, as he needs to improve his handles and find a way to score aside from blazing a path to the basket and trying to dunk on someone. Wiggins will see the floor as a rookie for his defensive prowess and his ability to play above the rim. Alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo, Wiggins should help form one of the more exciting young perimeters in the NBA, capable of swatting shots, and throwing down dunks whilst playing great defense.
3. Philadelphia 76ers- Dante Exum, PG, Australia (6’6”, 188 lbs)
Out of all the teams in the lottery, the Sixers seem like the most likely to make a move. The Philadelphia front office is enamored with Andrew Wiggins, so a trade with Cleveland or Milwaukee is very likely. Philadelphia is stocked with plenty of assets, with two lottery picks and five other draft picks as well as forward Thaddeus Young, a solid two-way veteran with a manageable contract. Out of the first four teams picking, the Sixers are in the toughest position. Most scouts agree that the four best players in the draft- Wiggins, Parker, Embiid, and Exum- are a level above the next tier of players. The two players that fit positional needs on their team- Wiggins and Parker- will be off the board, and the top two players remaining- Embiid and Exum- would fill a position already occupied by a young Sixers player. It’s doubtful that GM Sam Hinkie would hinge the future of his franchise on two creaky rim protectors in Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid. Therefore, the more likely scenario would be the Sixers drafting Dante Exum, the 6’6” point guard from Australia. Exum’s long build allows him to wreak havoc in transition as well as finish through contact at the rim. Exum’s outside shot needs work, as well as his quickness, but his size and exceptional instincts will allow for a relatively easy transition into the NBA. Exum can also learn a lot from another long, young point guard who might have won the Rookie of the Year in 2013-2014. Philadelphia will likely look to trade Exum to for a wing player. Perhaps Exum and the 10th pick for Andrew Wiggins?
4. Orlando Magic- Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State (6’3”, 227 lbs)
Orlando has realized that Jameer Nelson is not the point guard of the past, present, or future, and will look to the draft to find a ball-handler to complement Victor Oladipo in the backcourt. The Magic’s two primary options would appear to be Marcus Smart out of Oklahoma State or Dante Exum all the way from Australia. Exum seemed like a perfect fit for the Magic, but he moves up the board to three with Embiid slipping due to a foot injury. Orlando could take a chance on Embiid at four, but center Nikola Vucevic is young and producing solid numbers. Smart was rumored to be a target for the Magic to trade down for, but with Exum off the board and the Magic desperately in need of a point guard, Orlando will reach a bit for the Oklahoma State sophomore. Smart’s physical play and thick build will make him an instant defensive presence in the backcourt. His outside shot desperately needs refinement, but Smart should be able to get to the rim and make plays for other teammates. Smart’s NBA-ready body should allow him to stuff the stat-sheet as a rookie and form one of the toughest defensive backcourts in the NBA along with Victor Oladipo.
5. Utah Jazz- Noah Vonleh, PF, Indiana (6’9”, 250 lbs)
The Jazz have many holes to fill, even assuming they can re-sign restricted free agent Gordon Hayward. A major deficiency for the Jazz is the lack of another efficient post presence to complement Derrick Favors. Enes Kanter has not proven himself to be compatible with Favors, and Rudy Gobert still needs to develop. The Jazz have said that they consider Favors to be a center, not a power forward. Vonleh seems like a good fit to complement Favors’ back to the basket tendencies. Vonleh possesses range out to the three point line, but at the same time is able to battle in the paint. He is an exceptional rebounder and plays with endless energy. Utah would need to develop his offensive game, as he is very raw, but Vonleh has the physical attributes as well as the intangibles to be an important player in Utah for years to come.
6. Boston Celtics- Joel Embiid, C, Kansas (7’0”, 240 lbs)
It’s hard to imagine Embiid falling past the number six spot. Boston lacks a true center, with Kelly Olynyk playing more like a four, and Jared Sullinger standing only 6’9”. While Embiid still lacks great instincts or awareness- due to the fact that he’s only been playing for four years-, his athleticism and mobility for his size are unparalleled in this draft class. An imposing defensive presence, Embiid should add to a strong defensive team in Boston, and the coaching staff will look to develop him into a force on the block. With the kind of upside Embiid possesses, the Celtics can take a risk here, especially considering that they have the Nets’ first round pick from now until whenever the Cubs win the World Series. The Celtics picked Sullinger and Avery Bradley amid injury concerns, so GM Danny Ainge is obviously unafraid.
7. Los Angeles Lakers- Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky (6’9”, 250 lbs)
The Lakers are in an unfamiliar place: the lottery. Los Angeles missed the playoffs for just the fourth time in 30 years. However, missing the playoffs in a year ripe with draft talent could be a blessing in disguise for the wildly competitive franchise. The Lakers have a chance to begin to stock the team for the post-Kobe era, something that the front-office hasn’t done very well, as the Los Angeles roster is littered with NBA journeymen. Julius Randle is a perfect building block for the Lakers to start with. With an NBA-ready body, Randle is prepared to battle for rebounds in the paint and possesses great scoring touch around the basket. The Kentucky product’s best feature is his face-up game, where Randle uses his quickness to get to the basket and then his strength to finish at the rim. If Randle can develop his right hand and find a jump shot, he could be a 20 and 10 guy, similar to David Lee.
8. Sacramento Kings-Elfrid Payton, PG, Louisiana-Lafayette (6’4”, 185 lbs)
An under the radar prospect playing for a low-level Division I team, Payton’s draft stock has been shooting up, as he has been impressing teams in pre-draft workouts. Before individual workouts, Payton was seen as a late-first round pick. But sources out of Sacramento reported Payton held his own against Marcus Smart and the Kings have expressed their interest in the Louisiana-Lafayette product. He possesses great size and length, something that will make him a great defensive NBA point guard. Payton also has great handles, allowing him to distribute in the paint and create his own shot. At the NBA level, Payton projects as a defensive-minded guard, similar to Patrick Beverley. In need of a point guard should Isaiah Thomas not re-sign, Payton’s motor and sneaky skills should prompt the Kings to reach for him.
9. Charlotte Hornets (via Detroit)- Nik Stauskas, SG, Michigan (6’6”, 207 lbs)
The renamed Hornets are looking for a three-point presence to complement their paint-attacking offense. Gerald Henderson and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist are both poor shooters and the Hornets need more of a three-point threat to keep up with the more and more three-point happy NBA. Stauskas fits the mold perfectly, as he is likely the best shooter in the draft. That’s not to say he is a one dimensional player; Stauskas improved by leaps and bounds this year in terms of creating his own shot and distributing the ball. While his foot speed needs improvement, Stauskas should thrive off of kick outs for now, and Charlotte should hope he develops into a Klay Thompson-type of player.
10. Philadelphia 76ers (via New Orleans)- Aaron Gordon, SF/PF, Arizona (6’9”, 220 lbs)
With the Sixers employing the fastest offense in the league, they’ll be looking for athletes that can run the floor easily and play above the rim. Aaron Gordon is an athletic freak of nature whose high motor and explosiveness make him a great defender and proverbial glue guy. He enters the NBA as a player as likely to win a game for his team by diving into the stands for a loose ball as he is to throw down a 360º dunk. Gordon should be able to score easy points in transition for the Sixers, but his offensive game needs serious work. Only 18 years old, Gordon should develop into a great rotational player for Philadelphia.
11. Denver Nuggets- Doug McDermott, SF/PF, Creighton (6’8”, 218 lbs)
Doug McDermott would be welcome in a Nuggets rotation that lacks a lot of scoring talent. McDermott had one of the most prolific college careers in history in terms of scoring, and projects to continue his high volume yet efficient scoring in the NBA. The Creighton product can score from the post all the way out to the three point line, and he’s able to create his own shot but also can play within an offense. Teams are concerned about his defense and low ceiling, but McDermott has proven he can score consistently for four years in college, and there’s no reason it won’t translate to the NBA.
12. Orlando Magic (from New York via Denver)-Dario Saric, PF, Croatia (6’10”, 225 lbs)
Dario Saric, a forward out of Croatia, remains one of the draft’s largest mysteries, because he plays in Europe and he hasn’t participated in many pre-draft workouts. Saric recently inked a contract that will tether him to an European team for at least two more years. But Saric’s talent is unmistakable. He functions as a point forward, possessing great instincts and ball-handling skills for his size. He has a high motor, which led him to be one of the best rebounders in the Adriatic League. Athletically, Saric is limited, which could hinder his transition to the NBA, and his outside shot needs some work. With time, Saric could develop into a carbon copy of another foreign player who came to the NBA, Boris Diaw. And we just saw how important Diaw was to the Spurs’ championship run. In the midst of a massive rebuild, the Magic can gamble on Saric with their second lottery pick, considering that scouts see him as a top-ten talent.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves- Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State (6’4”, 205 lbs)
With all the Kevin Love rumors swirling around, it seems like the Timberwolves are on the verge of a franchise facelift. While Gary Harris is not a franchise changing player, he’s a start. Harris has a great feel for the game, as he was asked to take care of the ball a lot at Michigan State. His basketball instincts and strong defense should earn him minutes on a Minnesota team that quite simply, doesn’t play defense. The sophomore will try to help the T’Wolves turn over a new leaf should they deal Love.
14. Phoenix Suns- James Young, SG, Kentucky (6’7”, 215 lbs)
Young burst into the national spotlight with strong performances throughout Kentucky’s March Madness run. He was consistently Kentucky’s second best player behind Julius Randle, displaying a nice shooting stroke and a knack for finding the basket. Young’s range should project well to the NBA, though he can be streaky, and when he adds weight to take on bigs on drives to the paint, he should establish himself as a very good scorer. Young needs to work on his defensive intensity and fundamentals, but his long frame will help him invade passing lanes and even get some blocks. Phoenix’s up-tempo offense should suit Young well, and budding stars Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe should be able to get Young plenty of open shots.
15. Atlanta Hawks- Zach LaVine, SG, UCLA (6’6″, 180 lbs)
Athletically speaking, Zach LaVine is as good as they come. His vertical measured out at 41.5 inches at the draft combine and video of him throwing down a behind the back dunk at a Nuggets workout surfaced this past week. LaVine is a great shooter who is lethal in transition, and his above the rim play would bring excitement to the woe-begotten Atlanta franchise. If LaVine can find some three-point consistency, he should be a staple in the Hawks rotation.
16. Chicago Bulls (via Charlotte)- Tyler Ennis, PG, Syracuse (6’2”, 182 lbs)
Knowing that Derrick Rose will never be a sure thing at point guard, Chicago will look to the draft for a floor general to develop if Rose never returns to MVP-form. Ennis is an elite decision-maker, especially given his youth, and his uncanny knack for finding the open man will translate well to the NBA. While Ennis lacks scoring ability and killer athleticism, these deficiencies can be masked by running pick and roll and set plays for Ennis. If D.J. Augustin and Kirk Hinrich don’t re-sign, Ennis could see major minutes at the point for Chicago.
17. Boston Celtics (via Brooklyn)- Rodney Hood, SF, Duke (6’8”, 208 lbs)
Rodney Hood should provide a prolific three-point scoring threat for a Celtic team that struggled from deep this past season.. Hood shot 42% from range for Duke, which would have been the highest mark for a Celtic playing at least 20 minutes per game. Granted, Hood will need to take a couple steps back, but his sweet shooting stroke should easily translate to the NBA. Jabari Parker’s running mate at Duke needs to add weight in order to absorb contact better and battle for rebounds, but Hood should immediately become a key role player for Boston.
18. Phoenix Suns (via Washington)- Adreian Payne, PF, Michigan State (6’10”, 240 lbs)
Payne opted to return for his senior season at Michigan State, and enjoyed an Elite Eight run along with solid statistics for the Spartans. He showed shooting range out to the three-point line, as well as good leadership. Payne’s strong character is something that NBA front offices value even if Payne isn’t as talented as other prospects. Phoenix will surely be happy in landing a high character, multi-talented player in Payne in the latter half of the first round.
19. Chicago Bulls- Jusef Nurkic, C, Bosnia and Hergovina (6’11”, 280 lbs)
Nurkic is a 6’11” bear in the middle of the paint, clogging up the lane the way donuts clog up arteries. Nurkic’s massive proportions allowed him to dominate the Adriatic League, but he was often on the bench due to foul trouble. He projects to be a phenomenal defensive presence, and he moves well for his Honda Civic-like proportions. While the Bosnia and Hergovina native’s offensive game needs refinement as do his instincts, the Bulls would gladly take on a project with such fantastic physical attributes.
20. Toronto Raptors- Kyle Anderson, SF, UCLA (6’9”, 230 lbs)
Anderson is one of the most fascinating prospects in this year’s draft class, as he spend the majority of this past season tearing it up as UCLA’s 6’9” point guard. With Anderson’s poor athleticism, he can’t play point guard in the NBA, and he will likely be moved to the wing. Anderson possesses incredible passing skills along with great rebounding instincts and a decent three point shot. The UCLA product’s great basketball IQ and distribution talents will enchant Toronto this late in the first round.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder (from Dallas via Houston and Los Angeles Lakers)- Glenn Robinson III, SF, Michigan (6’7”, 211 lbs)
Possessing great size and exceptional athleticism, Glenn Robinson III could very well become a great NBA wing. Robinson III regressed this year, partly due to the improvements from Nik Stauskas and Caris LeVert, but still has the physical attributes to see continued improvement. With a strong point guard in Russell Westbrook, Robinson III will get plenty of opportunities to prove himself.
22. Memphis Grizzlies- T.J. Warren, SF, North Carolina State (6’8”, 220 lbs)
T.J. Warren gets buckets. Regardless of what critics say about his athleticism or his “tweener” status, Warren can put the ball in the hole. Similar to Doug McDermott, the sophomore has a great feel for the game, moving without the ball and setting up easy for his teammates. He’s also a sneaky-productive rebounder. Memphis will love his knack for scoring off the bench and good play on the other side of the court as well.
23. Utah Jazz (via Golden State)- Shabazz Napier, PG, Connecticut (6’1”, 175 lbs)
Utah would love to steal Napier from a playoff team at this point in the first round. Napier plays with the kind of swagger you can’t teach. He believes that every shot he takes will go in. This makes up for his lack of size and athleticism. For the Jazz, Napier will be serviceable back up to Trey Burke, but he will also be a great asset on the trade market, for many playoff teams would love to have a warrior like Napier come May.
24. Charlotte Hornets (via Portland)- Jordan Clarkson, PG/SG, Missouri (6’5”, 186 lbs)
Clarkson is a great game-manager, able to create his own shot as well as distributing for others. He’s exceptional in the pick and roll, finishing at the rim thanks to his good size. While his outside shot deserves no respect at the moment, there’s certainly room for improvement. Charlotte would love a backup point guard for Kemba Walker, and Clarkson will have plenty of offensive weapons to set up on the floor for the Hornets.
25. Houston Rockets- P.J. Hairston, SG/SF, Texas Legends (6’5″, 229 lbs)
Hairston’s sweet three-point shot is his calling card, and Houston’s three-point focused offense is perfect for the former UNC standout. He’s sneaky athletic, and his thickness will help him on defense, if he decides to put in the effort. Obviously, the Rockets will have to look into his past and his dismissal from UNC, but provided his red flags clear up, Hairston should be a great fit for Houston.
26. Miami Heat-K.J. McDaniels, SF, Clemson (6’6”, 196 lbs)
McDaniels was one of the top players in the ACC this past year, despite his relative obscurity. He’s got freaky athleticism, as his highlight tape opens with several high-flying putback dunks. McDaniels is not a horrible three-point shooter, and with some work, it could become add a whole new layer to his game. He is also a great defender, thanks to his exceptional length. His long arms led to 2.8 blocks per game, an incredible mark for a wing player. Despite his low notoriety, McDaniels should enter the NBA as an impactful rotation guy, and with development, could become a great two-way player. The Heat might also reach for a point guard like Spencer Dinwiddie here.
27. Phoenix Suns (via Indiana)- Jordan Adams, SG, UCLA (6’4”, 210 lbs)
Expect Phoenix to trade one if not all of its first round picks to move into a position where it can draft a player with high-end lottery talent. However, if they hold onto the number twenty-seven pick, look for them to take Jordan Adams, a pure scorer out of UCLA. Adams moves well off the ball, possessing good basketball instincts and relying on guile to make up for his lack of athleticism. A versatile scorer, Adams can post up smaller guards using his bulk frame, shoot off the catch, and man the break in transition. He also averaged 2.6 steals and 5.3 rebounds a game, showing that he doesn’t completely check out on the defensive end.
28. Los Angeles Clippers- Cleanthony Early, SF/PF, Wichita State (6’7”, 210 lbs)
Early was the best player on a Wichita State team that was undefeated prior to a second round loss to Kentucky in the NCAA tournament. Early carries great athleticism and a fortitude for putting the ball in the basket. He can score with his back to the basket as well as possessing an improved shooting range. Early’s great size should help out a thin Clippers wing core, and with tutelage and effort, he can become a solid defensive player as well.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder- Clint Capela, PF, Switzerland (6’11”, 222 lbs)
Clint Capela has the kind of physical and athletic gifts that makes NBA scouts’ mouths water. He runs the floor like a gazelle, playing above the rim offensively and defensively. However, Capela is still a few years away; he has no offensive identity aside from easy transition points and his fundamentals are lacking. The Thunder would love for Capela to fill out in order to step into the void Kendrick Perkins and Nick Collison leave when their contracts expire next year.
30. San Antonio Spurs- CJ Wilcox, SG, Washington (6’5”, 201 lbs)
Known for his silky smooth three-point stroke, CJ Wilcox developed into an exceptional scorer during his time at Washington. Though he gained notoriety for his three-point shooting, Wilcox can put the ball on the floor and get to the rim. He also can guard almost anyone on the perimeter, thanks to his great lateral quickness. San Antonio looks for high character, two-way players who will buy into Coach Popovich’s system. Wilcox fits the mold.