2014 Mock NBA Draft

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.





The Board: NBA Prospects v3

The 2014 NBA Draft is just three days away, and unfortunately we’ve had quite the shake-up over the last week or so.  The draft’s top prospect, Joel Embiid, if healthy is one of the premier big man prospects of this century, but unfortunately, he’s faced another setback.  His workouts revealed a stress fracture in his foot, which will undoubtedly muddy up his draft projections and essentially eliminate him from contention to be the first overall selection.

In even more dire news, Baylor’s Isaiah Austin, a projected 2nd round selection, has been diagnosed with Marfan’s Syndrome, a rare disorder that affects muscle connectivity. Unfortunately, this news will end Austin’s career, a devastating blow just days before his dream of playing the game’s highest level was set to become true.

On the positive side, on Thursday night, 60 prospects will realize their dreams and hear their name called to become a member of the NBA fraternity.  Here’s how I believe they’ll eventually impact the NBA.

Keep in mind that I rank my prospects based on how I believe they’ll produce at the NBA level, not by where I believe they will be drafted.  I’ve made comments on the guys I project to have “lottery-level impact” and several others throughout my first round grades.  I’ve also included a section of the next ten guys I believe can hold meaningful NBA careers.

1.  Jabari Parker — Scouting Video

With Embiid’s foot injury, Parker becomes the sure-fire #1 guy for me.  He walks into the NBA capable of scoring 20 points a night, but the question for him will become who does he defend in the NBA? He’s got enough physical tools to become capable, especially if he gets into proper shape.

2.  Andrew Wiggins — Scouting Video

There’s no prospect in the draft capable of making a more consistent impact on both ends of the floor.  Outside of possibly Marcus Smart, he’s the best perimeter defender in the draft, long enough to guard three positions, and his athleticism is world class.  If he can develop a killer instinct and become more of a half-court threat, he has the chance to be a perennial All-Star.

3.  Noah Vonleh — Scouting Video

As uncertainty surrounds Embiid’s health, Noah Vonleh becomes the go-to big man in this draft.  His upside is phenomenal, he’s got everything you want in an NBA big in 2014, size, versatility, defensive length, and range. Averaging a near double-double on well over 50% shooting in the physical Big 10 is no joke, Vonleh to me, is the most under-the-radar prospect in the entire draft process.

4.  Dante Exum — Scouting Video

The mystery behind Exum helps his stock in a similar manner to Dion Waiters, who we saw experience a meteoric rise in 2012 after refusing to workout with teams.  He’s one of the most sought-after international prospects in recent memory, and while it will likely take him some time to adjust to the NBA level, he proved in the U19 world championships that he’s capable of competing at an elite level against the USA’s best young players.

5.  Joel Embiid — Scouting Video

Placing Embiid now becomes the most difficult battle I have in this piece.  When healthy, it’s unquestionable that his name would be at the top of this list.  Unfortunately, his broken foot becomes the second stress-related injury he’s had to overcome in less than a year.  His three years of basketball used to be a sign of his likely growth as a player, but now, it’s a concern that with so few miles on his body, he’s already experiencing such wear and tear.  Until he can prove he can handle the vigor of an NBA career, it’s hard to be confident that he’ll ever be healthy enough to make a significant NBA impact.  If he stays healthy for a few years though, look out.

6.  Marcus Smart — Scouting Video

Smart has moved up ahead of PF prospects Aaron Gordon and Julius Randle in this version, I love his long-term impact potential.  He will enter the NBA as a plus defender, and he has the size/strength to become an effective scorer, even if its ends up being off the bench. His passion has obviously caused some concern, but that same passion signifies he loves the game, and will work hard to improve. At worst, he’ll be Jarrett Jack in the NBA, and that’s not a bad thing.

7.  Aaron Gordon — Scouting Video

You have to love Gordon’s drive on the court.  Not many 5* athletes come into college and want to work hard, but no one works harder than Aaron Gordon.  He’s also an absolute physical freak, and will undoubtedly find himself on a few Sportscenter Top 10 countdowns in the near future.  That said, he’s a tweener who isn’t capable of creating on offense, and despite proving to be an elite defender, he’s going to have to get bigger to consistently handle NBA power forwards.

8.  Julius Randle — Scouting Video

You’d be thrilled to get a prospect like Julius Randle at No. 8, no matter the draft.  For me, he slides a bit because he has the most limited potential of the top guys.  On the other end, I’m far more confident he won’t completely bust, but let’s be honest, at this point in the draft you’re looking for superstars, and Randle likely won’t be that.  He’ll be a solid rotation guy for ten years in the league.  He’s not Zach Randolph, like many have suggested, but he could definitely have a Brandon Bass-level impact on the NBA easily.

9.  Nik Stauskas — Scouting Video

It’s no secret that I’ve loved Stauskas’ potential since his freshman year.  He’s an elite shooter who’s a far better athlete than he’s given credit for, and he’s got much better size than the lazy comparisons of Jimmer Fredette and JJ Redick that have been thrown around.  Defensively, he has work to do, but there’s no doubt he can have an immediate impact off the bench.  Often times, a shooting prospect shies away from attacking the rim, but Stauskas attacks with confidence, and that separates him in my eyes.

10.  Adreian Payne — Scouting Video

Payne is also one of my favorite prospects in the draft.  Scouts downgrade him because of age, but I’ll take a slightly older impact player over a younger guy who I don’t see translating any day.  He’s a stretch big and a plus defender, a rare combination, and he also has incredible athletic ability.  You’d be in for a fight to try and convince me he won’t have a significant NBA role for a decade.

11.  Gary Harris — Scouting Video

I love Harris’ game, but unfortunately he’s a few inches shorter than would be ideal for an NBA transition.  He’s got great length for his smaller height and he’s an extremely good defender so he’ll definitely have an NBA impact (maybe Wes Mathews-esque?), but his potential is a bit limited so he falls into this range on my list.

12.  James Young — Scouting Video

Young has been tough for me to project as well, he’s got the necessary tools and he was a big time impact player at Kentucky.  His consistency was lacking, and I’m unconvinced he’ll be an engaged defender.  That said, if the pieces fall into place, you’re seeing the next Jalen Rose, a smooth, crafty, lefty, who can score from any angle.

13.  Doug McDermott — Scouting Report

People were baffled by his very solid athletic results, but you don’t become one of college basketball’s all time greats by being a stiff.  He still won’t be finishing over anyone at the next level, but he will be able to create enough opportunities for himself because he has tremendous size and he needs such a minimal amount of space to be effective.  While I don’t project him to be an All-Star, he’ll be a very, very solid piece on a contender’s rotation.  Those concerned with his defense shouldn’t be, he’ll be primarily playing against backup PFs, and while he certainly won’t be shutting anyone down, he’ll be effective enough to warrant his scoring being on the floor.

14.  Dario Saric — Scouting Report

Saric will be signing a deal to remain in Europe for another three seasons, so obviously that impacts his draft status.  NBA GM’s like to get their hands on a prospect early and help mold them into the NBA game.  Saric is extremely talented and has a skill-set that translates to the NBA…but how long will we have to wait?

15.  Rodney Hood — Scouting Video

16.  Tyler Ennis — Scouting Video

17.  PJ Hairston — Scouting Video

18.  Clint Capela — Scouting Video

19.  Shabazz Napier — Scouting Video

19.  Kyle Anderson — Scouting Video

20.  Spencer Dinwiddie — Scouting Video

Dinwiddie has also benefited from being unable to work out for teams.  He’s slowly crept up draft boards and it’s become clear that his health is returning quickly.  Healthy, he’s a better prospect than anyone in the 20s, and few can impact both sides of the court the way he can.  His skills translate, and I’d be shocked if he wasn’t in the league for at least a decade.  He understands the game, and has the mindset to take on any role to make a team successful, teams love that.

21.  Elfrid Payton — Scouting Video

22.  TJ Warren — Scouting Video

23.  Cleanthony Early — Scouting Video

24.  KJ McDaniels — Scouting Video

25.  Zach Lavine — Scouting Video

As workouts have gone on, the buzz about Lavine has subsided, which comes as no surprise to me.  Someone is still taking him in the lottery, and someone is going to likely be disappointed.  He’s a ridiculous athlete, but he’s not that good at basketball, and last I checked, that’s what he’ll be getting paid to do.

26.  Russ Smith — Scouting Video

I feel the opposite about Smith, who has steadily dropped of late.  Smith is a basketball player, and despite his small frame, can score on anyone.  He’ll find a niche in the NBA.

27.  CJ Wilcox — Scouting Video

28.  Jordan Clarkson — Scouting Video

29.  Jarnell Stokes — Scouting Video

30.  Jordan Adams — Scouting Video

Adams is an intriguing prospect because on the court he’s an animal.  His measurables were a complete disaster, but I’m not convinced it will matter.  He’s simply a talented basketball player.


The Next Ten:

31.  Nick Johnson

32.  Thanasis Antetokuonpo

33.  Patric Young

34.  Semaj Christon

35.  Glenn Robinson III

36.  Jerami Grant

37.  Jusuf Nurkic

38.  Dwight Powell

39.  DeAndre Kane

40.  Mitch McGary