Now that the NBA season is over, let’s focus on the NBA Draft. I personally think the NBA Draft is the best draft in any major sport. There’s usually more trades, the impact of these rookies is usually felt immediately and it doesn’t go on and on like the NFL Draft.
You will begin to hear a lot of rumors about what’s wrong with these prospects. You rarely hear anything positive until a day or two before the draft. Teams know how to leak information to attempt to hurt a player’s draft stock. It’s all smoke and mirrors at this point.
I try to forge through the piles of trash out there and give you where I think the player will be drafted. I personally wouldn’t draft a few of these players in the lottery, but it’s the NBA and there are a lot of bad General Managers in the league.
Here is my 2014 NBA Mock Draft for the first round.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Andrew Wiggins (Kansas) – If Joel Embiid’s foot didn’t break, he would have been the #1 overall pick. Unfortunately for Embiid and Cleveland, that is not the case. Wiggins did show flashes of amazement, but I’m not completely sold. Scouts soured on Wiggins and thought he didn’t improve in college. He was hands down the best high school player in his class, but so was Harrison Barnes, who is having trouble in the NBA. Being the #1 recruit in your high school class isn’t always a lock to be a superstar in the NBA. I think Jabari Parker is a better player right now and will improve even more.
2. Milwaukee Bucks: Jabari Paker (Duke) – I believe Parker is the best and safest player in the draft. If you’re the Bucks, you can’t afford to make a mistake here. Someone else in the draft might develop into a better player long-term, but you know what you’re getting with Parker. I wouldn’t mind if they went a different direction, because that means I get to see Milwaukee Bucks’ owner’s daughter Mallory Edens at the NBA Draft Lottery again.
3. Philadelphia 76ers: Dante Exum (Australia) – Exum’s stock jumped up with Embiid’s injury. I did have him slated to go #4, but the backcourt of Michael Carter-Williams and Exum just makes me drool. They already had Nerlens Noel missing a season due to an injury. I don’t think they’d want to do that again by picking Joel Embiid (even though no one thinks he would miss an entire year with his foot injury).
4. Orlando Magic: Joel Embiid (Kansas) – Orlando could end up being the true winner in this draft. Embiid went from being the consensus best prospect in this draft to nearly everyone jumping off the bandwagon. If Embiid’s foot injury heals completely, Orlando could have lucked into a franchise-changing player.
5. Utah Jazz: Julius Randle (Kentucky) – I expect a run on power forwards to happen in this area of the draft. Noah Vonleh, Aaron Gordon and Randle could all be picked here. There have been reports that Randle’s foot is a long-term concern. He broke it in high school and it apparently never healed correctly. He would need to have a procedure done after the draft that would keep him out of the Summer League. I personally think it’s a little bit of a smokescreen and think Randle will go before the other power forwards in this draft.
6. Boston Celtics: Aaron Gordon (Arizona) – Gordon is a athletic freak, but people worry about his shot. He only shot 41% at the free-throw line and most of his points came within five feet. His athleticism is the only reason I have him above Vonleh.
7. Los Angeles Lakers: Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State) – The Lakers have a lot of needs, but backcourt appears to be the greatest. After Steve Nash was injured, they got by with a combination of Steve Blake and Kendall Marshall. They need someone to build the future around and Smart has shined, in flashes, at Oklahoma State.
8. Sacramento Kings: Noah Vonleh (Indiana) – Vonleh isn’t a finished product, but the upside is tremendous. The Kings have DeMarcus Cousins and Jason Thompson, so they can be patient with him. People are higher on him than I am, but I’ve been wrong before.
9. Charlotte Hornets: Doug McDermott (Creighton) – I love me some Doug McDermott (aka Dougie McBuckets). He’s vastly underrated. Look at the careers Mike Miller and Wally Szczerbiak had in the NBA. I believe McDermott is more athletic and will have a better NBA career than either of them. If you can get that with the #9 pick, you take it. The Kings could even sneak and take him at #8.
10. Philadelphia 76ers: Nik Stauskas (Michigan) – If the Sixers can get Exum and Stauskas in this draft, they should consider it a success. I’d definitely check them out on NBA League Pass with Michael Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel on the court.
11. Denver Nuggets: Gary Harris (Michigan State) – Harris was one of my favorite players in the Big Ten. He’s underrated and always makes big plays. He’s going to develop into a very good NBA player.
12. Orlando Magic: Adreian Payne (Michigan State) – Payne suffered an injury last season and MSU struggled in his absence. Once he returned, they looked like a title contender. So his injury basically helped boost his draft stock? Yes. Payne already has an NBA body and he will contribute immediately.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves: James Young (Kentucky) – Julius Randle casts a large shadow. Young was just as important to Kentucky as Randle, but didn’t get nearly the hype. Young’s shot does need work, but he can develop into a major playmaker in the NBA.
14. Phoenix Suns: Dario Saric (Croatia) – Stop comparing Saric to Toni Kukoc. He’s not as prolific of a shooter. Saric did open up many eyes in the Adriatic League. He won the league MVP at the age of 20. He’s 6’10, but is athletic enough to play small forward. Saric could be the difference between barely missing the playoffs and being a #6 or #7 seed in the West.
15. Atlanta Hawks: Clint Capela (Switzerland) – I like Capela’s ability to rebound and block shots. I know Atlanta needs more offense in the post, but Capela’s skills are hard to pass up. I have him going higher than most, but I’ve been watching his clips on YouTube a lot. I’m quite smitten with his game.
16. Chicago Bulls: Tyler Ennis (Syracuse) – When Derrick Rose went out with another injury, Chicago began to scramble for a replacement-level substitute. Kirk Heinrich and D.J. Augustin did okay, but not exactly a long-term fix. They whiffed on the Marquis Teague pick a few years ago and Ennis is in the same ilk. Both should have stayed at least one more year in college, but Ennis is already a better shooter. Ennis is probably the pick if Chicago keeps it (the Kevin Love trade drama could heavily skew this draft).
17. Boston Celtics: Zach LaVine (UCLA) – I’ve watched a ton of UCLA games this season. As a native Hoosier, it’s law that you must watch at least 20 Steve Alford-coached games a year. LaVine’s vertical is insane and the Celtics need a few young, athletic players in this draft (or trade them for Kevin Love). I think I’d rather have Jordan Adams or Kyle Anderson the next two seasons, but LaVine has a massive upside.
18. Phoenix Suns: Kyle Anderson (UCLA) – The Suns should just keep drafting size. Anderson is a 6’8 small forward who works hard on his game. He’s not going to jump out of a gym like LaVine, but his fundamentals are great. At the very least, Anderson will be a rotation player for a better part of a decade. He’s safe, but with three first-round picks, you ‘do safe’ here and be just fine.
19. Chicago Bulls: T.J. Warren (NC State) – The Bulls struggled to score when Joakim Noah was on the bench. They need a player who can make his own shot. He’s a very good in isolation, which is a skill needed more and more in today’s NBA.
20. Toronto Raptors: Rodney Hood (Duke) – Toronto only attempted 6.6 three-pointers per game last season. Only Kyle Lowry averaged more than two per game. DeMar DeRozan doesn’t have a good outside shot, so Hood’s skills are needed. He could be a guy that plays 10-15 minutes per game next season and do some damage from deep.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder: Jordan Adams (UCLA) – Adams is a bit undersized, but with a 6’10 wingspan will make up for any height shortcomings. The Thunder really just needs a guy who can sit in the corner and knock down shots. They thought Jeremy Lamb was that guy, but he disappeared in many games.
22. Memphis Grizzlies: Elfrid Payton (Louisiana-Lafayette) – There are teams out there that are very high on Payton. Payton’s size intrigues GMs, especially those who passed on Damian Lillard a few years ago. Memphis already has Mike Conley, but if Payton falls to #22, their backcourt depth problem is solved.
23. Utah Jazz: Cleanthony Early (Wichita State) – Drafting Early is insurance in case a team signs restricted free agent Gordon Hayward to an insane offer sheet. Early can play small and big on the wing. Early is not anywhere near Hayward’s level, but you might as well brace for the possibility of losing him.
24. Charlotte Hornets: P.J. Hairston (North Carolina) – Michael Jordan can’t help himself when a former Tar Heel is waiting in the Green Room. He has a nice outside shot and it means Michael Kidd-Gilchrist could focus on things other than shooting.
25. Houston Rockets: C.J. Wilcox (Washington) – Houston is in a weird spot. In order to go after Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Love or even LeBron James, they would need to draft someone here they can stash overseas. I don’t think they are getting any of those guys, so they should draf someone who can actually help the team. Wilcox will help their wing depth, which was a disaster last season. If they were to draft someone to stash, Jusuf Nurkic from Bosnia or Bogdan Bogdanovic from Serbia are options.
26. Miami Heat: Shabazz Napier (UConn) – It’s hard to pass up on a winner. Napier won two National Championships at UConn and was the best player in last year’s NCAA Tournament. Mario Chalmers is a free agent-to-be and I don’t see Miami re-signing him after his collapse in the playoffs. The Heat don’t have the cap space to go after a point guard in free agency (unless they are chasing a ring and take a discount).
27. Phoenix Suns: Jerami Grant (Syracuse) – Since I picked the Suns to go safe with their second pick in the first round, I’m picking them to take a flyer with Grant. He’s a Shannon Brown-type athlete, but isn’t a great shooter. They could stash him in the D-League until he’s ready.
28. Los Angeles Clippers: Jordan Clarkson (Missouri) – The Clippers already have size, but many think Florida’s Patric Young is the pick here. I’m going outside of the box and feel like need backcourt depth.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Jusuf Nurkic (Bosnia) – The Thunder need a long-term depth at center. They need to finally cut the cord with Kendrick Perkins. At the very least, Nurkic will be the future backup to Steven Adams.
30. San Antonio Spurs: Mitch McGary (Michigan) – The Spurs love to draft players at the end of the first round that have mistakenly fallen for a reason. McGary would have been a lottery pick last year, but his back injury caused him to slide. He has ‘Spurs Draft Pick’ written all over him.
I hope you enjoyed my 2014 NBA mock draft…which will be completely be blown up if Minnesota trades Kevin Love during the first round.
Bobby Roberts (otherwise known as Sweetbob) is the creator of ‘America’s White Boy’ and contributor at Project Shanks. His writing has been featured on ESPN’s ‘SportsNation’, Sports Illustrated’s Hot Clicks, Guyspeed, and various other sites. You can follow him on Twitter at @Sweetbob.