Joel Embiid’s foot has caused quite the scramble for this project. Selecting the top three picks would have been rather elementary previous to the news, but now, there’s a fair amount of mystery as to how this story will be written. For the third time in four years, the Cleveland Cavaliers own the first selection.
Will they find stardom as they did with Kyrie Irving or wiill they look back with regret as they’ve surely done with Anthony Bennett, who had arguably the worst rookie season in the history of the NBA among #1 selections?
Tomorrow, all the speculation, all the questions, the stress, the anxiety…will be over.
Here is the official TheAirUpHere 2014 NBA Mock Draft.
All outlets have reported that Cleveland is still torn between Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins. Parker, of course, is more NBA ready, but he’s also a defensive liability, and Cleveland already starts several guards with that same reputation. Without a doubt, Wiggins is a better natural roster fit, but he’s more of a project, and has a higher degree of bust potential.
Pick #1: SF Andrew Wiggins — Kansas
The Bucks get the player they’ve coveted from the beginning. Of late, it’s appeared that the feeling is mutual as well, Parker has the opportunity to be the face of the franchise in Milwaukee, and he’d be able to develop defensively with less national expectation. He even mentioned in an interview earlier today that he expected to be the No. 2 selection.
Pick #2: SF Jabari Parker — Duke
Last week, the 76ers had to love their position in the draft. Worst case, they land one of Embiid, Parker, or Wiggins, who is rumored to be the #1 prospect on their board anyways. Unfortunately, Wiggins isn’t available, and the 76ers must determine if they are willing to risk Embiid versus moving down the board to take prospects like Smart/Exum, or even fellow big Noah Vonleh.
Pick #3: C Joel Embiid — Kansas
The Magic have already put an offer on the table to Cleveland for this selection, plus No. 12 overall and talented swingman Arron Afflalo. At this point, Cleveland seems content, so we’ll move forward under the assumption the selection will be owned by the Magic. The Magic desperately need a PG and a rim-protector. Lucky them, Smart/Exum and Noah Vonleh still available here.
Pick #4: PG Dante Exum — Australia
The Jazz are left with a dilemma here because Marcus Smart has refused to work out for the team, and Noah Vonleh, while a tremendous prospect, doesn’t fit a need. With Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors solidly owning the front court, the Jazz are in desperate need of a guard to pair with last year’s selection, Trey Burke. They may be forced to reach here.
Pick #5 : PF Aaron Gordon — Arizona
The Celtics are depleted in the front court, but catch a break here with Noah Vonleh still available, a prospect they’ve been high on from the beginning. The comparison is unfair, but Vonleh can play a similar role to Kevin Garnett in their system, he’s a very solid rim protector who can step outside and hit jumpers with some consistency. If he’s even half the player Garnett was, this is a steal at #6.
Pick #6: C Noah Vonleh — Indiana
Kobe Bryant is out of time, and the Lakers need to find a piece to right the ship, and do so quickly. He was very successful for years in LA next to a tough, hard-nosed, and defensive-minded PG in Derek Fisher. No one can match Kobe Bryant’s drive to win, but if anyone can match his passion, it’s…
Pick #7: PG Marcus Smart — Oklahoma State
The Kings are a franchise that continually seem to botch the draft, and this year will be no different. They need a PG, and Elfrid Payton has been rapidly ascending boards everywhere. Why don’t I like it? Payton can’t shoot a lick, and he feasted on attacking the rim against inferior opponents. He’s been electric in workouts, but I just don’t see him translating into a top-10 pick down the road.
Pick #8: PG Elfrid Payton — Lousiana-Lafayette
The Bobcats…wait, the Hornets…, took huge strides this season, making the playoffs and maintaining a reputation as one of the strongest defensive units in the league. However, offensively they struggled, especially from the perimeter. Their guard play is productive, so they’ll look to improve on the wings. This pick just makes too much sense. By the way, how sweet are these jerseys?
Pick #9: SF Doug McDermott — Creighton
The Sixers went big earlier and now they’ll look to shore up the remainder of their rotation, which needs help pretty much everywhere. They need shooters, and while ideally that would come from a forward, there isn’t a prospect on the board to match that description at No. 10. Off the board comes one of my favorites in the draft…
Pick #10: SG Nik Stauskas — Michigan
The Nuggets find themselves in a pretty interesting spot here. Julius Randle is still available, which would qualify as highly unexpected. They need shooters and Gary Harris or Zach Lavine are still around too, but it’s impossible to pass up on Randle’s talent here, even if he isn’t really filling a need. The Nuggets land a steal at this position.
Pick #11: Julius Randle — Kentucky
The Magic become the 2nd team to select two prospects within this year’s lottery. After finding their PG at #4, they focus their attention on picking up another big man who has a back-to-the-basket game There’s a thin crop of quality bigs in this class, so the Magic will need to reach here in order to fill the slot.
Pick #12: C Jusuf Nurkic — Bosnia
The Wolves are in the market for shooting, and while Gary Harris probably is more effective on both ends of the floor, his potential can’t match the prospect we have slotted here. We all know how much Minnesota loves PGs, and they’ll land another hybrid guard here. But will he boom as many believe, or bust, as I’ve expected?
Pick #13: SG Zach Lavine — UCLA
The Phoenix Suns shocked the basketball world by spending the entirety of the season in the playoff picture after most expected them to battle for the worst record in the league. They’ll look to take the next step by shoring up their wing play.
Pick #14: SF James Young — Kentucky
The Hawks continue to be stuck in their perennial position of being not good enough to make playoff noise, but not incompetent enough to build through valuable lottery selections. They need an explosive wing-scorer and a defender… and their wish is about to be granted.
Pick #15: SG Gary Harris — Michigan State
Chicago is probably the front-runner for Carmelo Anthony right now, which would make them an incredibly formidable title contender if the chemistry holds. With Rose’s injury history, the Bulls could use a quality back-up to take pressure of their star.
Pick #16: PG Shabazz Napier — Connecticut
The Celtics are back to make their 2nd selection of the first round here. After landing a big earlier, they’ll focus on adding depth and potentially acquiring a back-up plan in case Avery Bradley bolts in free agency. Of course, they would be wise to remember that you can never rush a rebuild, always find talent, even if you have to wait on it.
Pick #17: PF Dario Saric — Croatia
Phoenix is in prime position to wait out this draft and take their pick of the leftover talent at this point in the draft. There’s copious amounts of skilled players left here in what is an extremely deep draft. They continue to build quality depth on the perimeter by adding this elite scorer.
Pick #18: SF Rodney Hood — Duke
The Bulls continue to provide quality rotation pieces together in an effort to lure the league’s top free agents. They still need deep shooting and could also use an additional body in the paint. This player has a unique blend of both and fits in perfectly with the Bulls tough-minded mentality.
Pick #19: PF Adreian Payne — Michigan State
It seems inevitable that Kyle Lowry is headed to brighter pastures so the Raptors will need to replace him in the starting line-up. They have quality pieces in DeRozan and Valenciunas, a pass-first guard who can be successful running a team as a secondary scoring option is a natural fit here. Oh, there’s a Canadian who fits that mold.
Pick #20: PG Tyler Ennis — Syracuse
Oklahoma City has one glaring weakness, and that’s shooting guard. Veteran Thabo Sefolosha hasn’t been as effective defensively of late and he’s an unreliable scorer. Young gunner Jeremy Lamb has potential but hasn’t put the pieces together yet. This prospect has proven to be an elite scorer, especially from the 3PT range, and Kevin Durant can always use more floor-spacers.
Pick #21: SG PJ Hairston — NBDL / North Carolina
The Grizzlies are woefully thin at small forward, and fortunately for them, there is still considerable talent available at this point in the draft. TJ Warren would be a natural fit here, as he’s an elite scorer (which they lack) but not much of a defender (which they can hide, given their incredible team defense). This is a perfect fit.
Pick #22: SF TJ Warren — North Carolina State
This is another selection that feels like an absolutely perfect fit. The Jazz need a ball handler, someone who can create from all angles of the floor and effectively utilize their two powerful low-post bigs. Everyone is pegging them with a versatile forward with size, but not this one.
Pick #23: SF Kyle Anderson — UCLA
With a majority of the shooters off the board, the Hornets turn their attention to a running mate for big man Al Jefferson. The franchise exudes a personality that focuses on toughness and a defensive mindset, and this wide-bodied big man would be a tremendous addition.
Pick #24: PF Jarnell Stokes — Tennessee
The Rockets will likely be replacing the production of Chandler Parsons this off-season as it appears they aren’t willing to part with the money that will be necessary to keep him. Of course, they are fully entrenched in the Carmelo/LeBron sweepstakes as well. They could use a defensive minded winger as the remainder of their back-court is challenged on that end of the floor.
Pick #25: SF KJ McDaniels — Clemson
The Heat’s deficiencies were certainly highlighted in the NBA Finals a few weeks back. They have no quality depth, they lack perimeter defenders, and the play of Mario Chalmers left a lot to be desired. Of course, nothing is certain with the Big 3 at the moment, so this choice is hard to peg, but the best natural fit for their current roster make-up is…
Pick #26: PG Jordan Clarkson — Missouri
There’s about a 0% chance that Suns keep all three of their draft picks, so this (or an earlier one) is likely to be dealt to a team looking to move up to target a specific prospect. Cleanthony Early, Clint Capela, or an international prospect could all be likely targets at this point. We’ll go this route…
Pick #27: SG CJ Wilcox — Washington
The Clippers are one of the most complete teams in the NBA, if they defended more consistently, they’d be a Finals contender. They may trade out of this pick should a suitor come calling, but here they choose to take a flier on an international big man with tremendous defensive potential.
Pick #28: PF Clint Capela — Switzerland
The Thunder have another chance to find a quality swing-man to play alongside Kevin Durant here. Obviously, the Thunder can afford to bring along a player slowly, they are one of the league’s elite teams, and they’ve had success developing European players in the past. There are few prospects with the upside potential of this wing…
Pick #29: SF Damien Inglis — France
The World Champions also seem to find quality this deep into the draft, and they love to develop talents, especially with Euro prospects. Duncan can’t play forever (we think) and they need more front-court beef, they take a player with notable skill, fundamentals, but a lacking athleticism. Sound familiar? No pressure!
Pick #30: PF Nikola Jokic — Serbia
Final Note: From Pick #25 on, Buffs fans should be on Spencer Dinwiddie alert. Many teams move around parts to trade back into the late 1st round (see Andre Roberson last year) to target specific prospects. I’d expect him to fall in the 25-35 range.