2014 NBA Mock Draft: Slotting College Hoops' Finest After First Half Dozen Games
It almost seems like there's a can't-miss prospect in every college game that's televised.
Talent is emerging from all over the place. This isn't just shaping up to be a star-studded draft at the top—this first round could be loaded from picks No. 1 to No. 30.
There was a lot of movement up and down the board this week. You'll notice plenty of new faces to the mock draft after some standout performances late in November.
On the other hand, you might notice a few who've either taken a slide down the board or have fallen off completely.
But overall, this was a good week for the standouts at the top, as well as a few who've found the radar for the very first time.
1. Milwaukee Bucks: Andrew Wiggins, Kansas, 6'8'', SF
He might not be putting up monster numbers like Jabari Parker and Julius Randle, but Andrew Wiggins is simply playing the role that coach Bill Self has given him.
And he's been pretty darm effective in it.
Wiggins most recently went for 16 points on two-missed shots against Towson. His scoring average is now at roughly 17 a game, while his field-goal percentage stands at an impressive 58.5 percent.
He continues to show off that effortless athletic ability with bouncy swoops to the rack and finishes above the rim. And though not nearly as refined as Duke's Parker on the perimeter, Wiggins has shown some promise.
Against Towson, he stepped up and knocked down a good-looking pull-up jumper from 20 in the face of his defender.
While guys like Parker, Randle and Marcus Smart will keep the pressure on, nothing can change the fact that Wiggins' ceiling sits above theirs. And as of now, so does his position on the draft board.
The ice is getting thinner, but Wiggins is still our No. 1.
2. Utah Jazz: Jabari Parker, Duke, 6'8'', SF
It's really tough to find a flaw in his game.
Jabari Parker has now gone over 20 points in six straight, most recently scoring 26 on 11-of-16 shooting in a win over Vermont.
He's also averaging 8.8 boards a game and making a few passes a night that lead to open shots for teammates.
Offensively, this kid is ready to go. He's separating and converting on the perimeter, knocking down open threes off the ball and threatening defenses in transition.
Parker is averaging 23 points on 58 percent shooting and 60 percent from downtown. Expect a drop-off in efficiency eventually, but not much can alter his image as a potential franchise player.
Even with Andrew Wiggins on the board, it would be hard to blame a team reaching on Parker at No. 1.
3. Orlando Magic: Dante Exum, Australia, 6'6'', PG/SG
Regardless of what the NCAA's top NBA prospects do, Dante Exum's name isn't leaving our top five.
He offers too much upside, along with an excellent chance of reaching it. Exum is a skilled scoring point guard, who at 6'6'', has an advantage over anyone he faces.
ESPN's Chad Ford recently spoke (subscription required) with a scout who mentioned that he'd take Exum No. 1 over Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Julius Randle. That's the type of upside I'm talking about.
Exum tore up the FIBA World Championships in back-to-back summers, most recently in Prague, where he led Australia to the bronze-medal—one they lost—after averaging 18 points a game.
Assuming he chooses to declare, Exum will be cemented atop NBA draft boards based on the mismatch he's capable of presenting. If you're a team in need of a guard, look no further.
4. Sacramento Kings: Julius Randle, Kentucky, 6'9'', PF
Julius Randle might have had his his worst offensive game of the year, finishing just 3-of-10 from the floor against Cleveland State.
But he still managed to bully the opposing front line for 15 boards and 11 free-throw attempts. Considering how overwhelming he is on the interior, not even a 3-of-10 performance can stop Randle from making a positive impact.
The most dominant frontcourt player in the country, Randle is a surefire top-five pick with a No. 1 overall ceiling. After five games, he's averaging nearly 20 points and almost 14 boards.
5. Phoenix Suns: Joel Embiid, Kansas, 7'0'', C
Joel Embiid probably isn't going to miss many shots this year. He's shooting 72 percent at the moment, simply because no one has the size or footwork to fend him off inside.
He's 11-of-12 with 24 points, 21 boards and five blocks over his last two games, where he's only totaled 45 combined minutes.
Normally guys like Embiid lack skills or polish and are forced to rely on simply catching and dunking for points. But he's got the moves, touch and instincts to score in multiple ways on the block or in the post.
Based on his offensive upside and ability to anchor a defense, Embiid appears to be locked in as the top center on the board.
6. Philadelphia 76ers: Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State, 6'4'', PG/SG
Marcus Smart looks like your early frontrunner for National Player of the Year, after dropping 39 on Memphis and 25 on South Florida.
There isn't a backcourt in college basketball who can contain him. And when he's shooting it well from outside—forget about it. Defenses simply have to pick which way they'd rather get beat.
Smart is shooting 35 percent from downtown while leading the country in steals.
At this rate, no one will care what his true NBA position is. Smart is a game-changer, leader and impact player on both sides of the ball. He'll get looks from every team in the lottery, including the one that wins it.
7. Cleveland Cavaliers: Aaron Gordon, Arizona, 6'8'', SF/PF
Aaron Gordon has remained consistent through Arizona's 5-0 early start. He's scored in double-figures in each game without taking more than 12 shots.
Gordon is going to make a play or two a night that makes you hunt down that rewind button. When he's got room to launch himself at the rim, there's isn't a more exciting and reliable finisher in the country.
But he's more than just a dunker, given his nine rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game.
Offensively, he's made some shots on the perimeter and has created his own down low in the post.
The upside here is special thanks to some wild athleticism, along with a promising inside-outside game. Gordon should remain a top-five contender from now til June.
8. Boston Celtics: Noah Vonleh, Indiana, 6'10'', PF
Early foul trouble kept Noah Vonleh from making an impact in Indiana's loss to Connecticut, but the big man bounced back nicely with a strong game over Evansville.
He really doesn't need many minutes to do damage. Vonleh double-doubled for 13 and 12 in only 19 minutes. He knows how to use his monstrous frame and ludicrous wingspan to take up as much space as possible. And as a result, the ball tends to find him in favorable places.
He's averaging 10.4 boards in only 21.3 minutes, which actually converts to a better per-40 average than Julius Randle.
Offensively, Vonleh has a really nice feel around the rim, with the ability to flip it into the basket using either hand in traffic. As a scorer, he even stepped outside behind the arc and knocked down a three-ball with fluidity.
Vonleh is a physical defender and an impressive offensive prospect with top-10 potential written all over him. Consider me a fan and a believer.
9. Denver Nuggets: Jerami Grant, Syracuse, 6'8'', SF
Jerami Grant exploded for 19 points and eight boards in a strong win over California. It was Grant's breakout game, where his size, length and athleticism made it look like there was two of him on the court.
He's not there yet in terms of his skill-set development. Grant still relies on his physical tools to make plays offensively. But those tools have still been getting the job done, even though they aren't very sharp.
Grant's upside was flashed in one play, where he came flying in out of nowhere to throw down an electric put-back slam.
Once he improves his touch around the key, he's going to be an off-ball threat to score when he's slicing through the lane.
Worst comes to worse, an NBA team lands a 6'8'' athlete with a massive 7'2'' wingspan, lots of energy and defensive potential.
The arrow on Grant's stock is currently pointing up.
10. Toronto Raptors: Rodney Hood, Duke, 6'8'', SF
Through six games, Rodney Hood has proven to be one of the toughest covers in the country.
Nobody can stop him early on, and it's starting to reflect on his draft stock. Hood is averaging 21.8 points a game on an incredible 66.7 percent shooting, scoring from just about every spot and angle in the half court.
We've seen Hood square up for three, attack off the bounce, finish off one foot or pull up off two. He's even played a bit in the post, where he's able to pick up buckets using his size, length and ability to finish after contact.
Hood is also shooting 11-of-16 from downtown. He'll start to cool down eventually, but either way, there's really no doubt that he's the real deal on offense.
At 6'8'' with the skill set of a wing and a polished outside game, Hood has emerged into a legitimate lottery contender.
11. Washington Wizards: James Young, Kentucky, 6'6'', SF
After lighting it up for 26 points against Texas-Arlington, James Young cooled off for only nine against Cleveland State.
Young isn't going anywhere. As a 6'6'' athlete who can shoot, create, score on the move and defend, an off night here and there won't damage his stock.
He's been one of the trendier prospects entering the season after his hot start and easy-on-the-eyes offensive game. Look for Young to bounce back against Baylor and Providence as December approaches.
12. Los Angeles Lakers: Wayne Selden, Kansas, 6'6'', SG
Wayne Selden has managed to shine despite taking less than eight shots a game, while playing his role in the offense.
These Kansas players have developed some serious discipline under coach Bill Self. Selden is finishing the scoring chances that find him, whether that's hitting an open jumper or open driving lane. He's averaging 10.5 points on 51 percent shooting, playing an efficient brand of ball that's sure to please his coaching staff.
Selden has a promising outside stroke, as well as a deceptively effective attack game that meshes body control and explosiveness when finishing in traffic.
And at 6'6'', he also has excellent defensive potential and size for the 2-guard position.
Even though his skills and upside are flashed in limited doses, it's fairly clear that Selden is an NBA-caliber talent.
13. Memphis Grizzlies : Gary Harris, Michigan State, 6'4'', SG
Scouts love this guy.
There isn't anything wild about Gary Harris' game. It's just refined and complete.
He's coming off a fine performance against Oklahoma, where he dropped 21 points on seven-of-15.
And though Harris isn't shooting it that well from outside (26 percent from three), the fact that he's still managing to score is a really promising sign. Harris has been scoring opportunistically within the flow of the offense, taking and making the quality looks that come his way.
He's also gotten better with his in-between attack, picking up points off the dribble he wasn't consistently getting as a freshman.
A strong defender, threatening slasher and established outside shooter, Harris should offer NBA teams some reliable backcourt services—even if he does lack All-Star upside.
14. Philadelphia 76ers (via NO) : Montrezl Harrell, Louisville, 6'8'', PF
Montrezl Harrell's physical presence is tough to ignore, even if his skill set isn't quite up to par.
He's got overwhelming athleticism and size, and that translates to rebounds, blocked shots and finishes with authority from above the rim.
Harrell grabbed 10 boards and blocked two shots against North Carolina, but was ultimately ineffective on the offensive end; He lacks polish. At one point, Harrell had his man squared up in space at the elbow and didn't even look at the rim before kicking it out.
He finished with five points and five fouls in front of dozens of NBA scouts in a bad loss to North Carolina.
Harrell's physical tools and potential make him a surefire first-rounder, but that's about all we can guarantee at this stage of the year. He's averaging 12.5 points and 9.8 boards on 60 percent shooting early on.
15. Detroit Pistons: Dario Saric, Croatia, 6'10'', SF/PF
Dario Saric has been playing well overseas in the Adriatic League and Eurocup play. He's averaged double-digits in scoring and over seven boards a game.
NBA scouts love the versatility he offers up front. At 6'10'', he can play on the wing or in the post, as well as put it on the floor and stretch it out as a shooter.
He also plays with an edge and can impact a game in a variety of ways.
Saric was a potential lottery pick last season before choosing to withdraw. Now that he should be a little more NBA-ready for 2014, don't expect previously-interested teams to have suddenly changed their minds. Look for Saric's name to heat up again once we get closer to the spring.
16. Charlotte Bobcats: Glenn Robinson, Michigan, 6'6'', SF
Glenn Robinson III missed most of Michigan's loss to Charlotte with back problems, so we'll give him a slight pass. But even prior to the Charlotte game, Robinson just hasn't shown he's added much to his offensive repertoire.
He looks about where he left off last year. Robinson is making plays above the rim, and appears capable in the mid-to-long range as a shooter.
However, he's still limited as a shot-creator, and can go lengthy stretches without getting a quality look at the rim.
Robinson will want to show NBA teams he can be more of a threat with the ball in his hands by the end of the year. There's upside here, but he'll have to prove he's a little closer to reaching it in order to generate serious lottery interest.
He's averaging 11.8 points and 5.3 boards on only 40 percent shooting early on.
17. Orlando Magic (via Denver (via NY)): Andrew Harrison, Kentucky, 6'5'', PG
Andrew Harrison has been playing within the offense, protecting the ball and moving it around.
He's looked better over the last two games but not enough to move the needle.
The good news is that Harrison's turnovers are down to just 1.8 a game, while his offensive efficiency has been solid as a scorer. He's making jump shots and finishing inside the arc.
Scouts will start paying closer attention when Kentucky's schedule heats up. Reacting and adjusting to adversity has been Harrison's biggest knock so far. And he struggled with it in Kentucky's only meaningful game when they lost to Michigan State on the national stage.
He's got the upside—NBA executives will want to know if he's got the mindset, leadership and discipline to guide a team.
18. Chicago Bulls: Jahii Carson, Arizona State, 5'10'', PG
The Jahii Carson Show continues to roll, this time over No. 25 Marquette in what was a major win for the Sun Devils.
Carson went for 23 points and five assists, coming up huge down the stretch with a couple of threes and points in the paint.
There's just nothing a defense can do to keep Carson from getting to his spot. He's ridiculously quick off the dribble, where he can split defenders, weave between traffic or turn the corner.
And that's what drives his NBA appeal. Carson is the deadliest breakdown guard in the country. He's constantly able to penetrate, trigger the help and create scoring opportunities, whether they're for himself or a teammate.
He's averaging 23 points a game on the year, but NBA teams will be more interested with his ball-handling and playmaking ability.
19. Boston Celtics (via Brooklyn): Jabari Bird, California, 6'5'', SG
It didn't take long for freshman Jabari Bird to hit NBA radars.
At 6'6'', Bird is a terrific athlete with 2-guard size and a lights-out shooting stroke. He's 14-of-27 (51.9 percent) from downtown already, showing the confidence and range to let it fly. Bird gets serious elevation which allows him to rise and fire over any defender.
Through his first five games, he's averaging 14 points on 47.5 percent shooting, and he's standing out in the process.
The NBA loves athletic, sizable wings who can shoot, attack and defend. And at 19 years old, he also covets room for growth.
If Bird keeps splashing shots from all over, expect some first-round attention to follow.
20. Minnesota Timberwolves: Doug McDermott, Creighton, 6'8'', SF
Doug McDermott has been a straight flame thrower early on. He's averaging 27.5 points through five games and continues shooting lights out from deep.
He recently went for 33 points and 15 boards in a win over Tulsa. With the game inching closer in the final minutes, McDermott went to the step-back three-ball to ice it down the stretch.
He's shooting 55 percent from the floor 50 percent from behind the arc. The college game is just becoming too easy for him at this point.
McDermott's scoring average isn't going to translate, but his offensive instincts and long-range accuracy will. He'll likely remain in the mid-to-late first-round range throughout the season.
21. Atlanta Hawks: Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky, 7'0'', C
He's doing a nice job on the glass and protecting the rim, but all of Willie Cauley-Stein's production is driven by his immaculate physical tools. And scouts are already aware of them.
This year, they're looking for him to add to his offensive game. Cauley-Stein hasn't shown much improvement in this department, as he's making and taking less shots than he did a year ago.
If the draft were held tomorrow, Cauley-Stein would only have size, athleticism and length to sell NBA teams on. And in a field packed to the brim with talent, that may not be enough to crack the lottery barrier.
22. Dallas Mavericks: Adreian Payne, Michigan State, 6'10'', PF
Adreian Payne is all over NBA radars, but it's consistency that will ultimately allow him to stick.
He erupted for 29 points, 10 boards and three blocks against Virginia Tech, looking like a can't-miss first-rounder with loads of potential. Payne even knocked down four threes, showing off his unique range for a 245-pounder.
But Payne followed with a quiet four-point, seven-board effort against Oklahoma. He just doesn't always bring his A-game, and that's kept his stock in check over the years.
Still, scouts love his blend of size, length, toughness and skill. Maintaining his motor and shooting stroke should keep his first-round seat safe.
23. Houston Rockets: Perry Ellis, Kansas, 6'8'', PF
Perry Ellis was turning heads during offseason practices and continues to do so early in the season.
He's finishing just about every look he gets. Ellis is averaging nearly 17 points a game while shooting 69.4 percent from the floor.
And he's scoring in a variety of ways. Ellis has great instincts around the basket and can finish with either hand at awkward angles. His mid-range game looks sharp, as does his stroke from the line—he's 16-of-20 for 80 percent.
A skilled offensive player who handles the ball, faces the rim or plays back-to-the-basket in the post, Ellis just might be Kansas' fourth first-round pick in 2014.
24. Golden State Warriors: Nik Stauskas, Michigan, 6'6'', SF
I'm not sure there's a player who added more to his game over the summer than Nik Stauskas.
He looks like an All-American out there. No longer just a shooter, Stauskas is now a complete scorer and offensive machine for the Wolverines.
He's averaging 20.3 points on 47 percent shooting from three. And for some reason, he just gives off the vibe that those numbers aren't that fluky. Stauskas has a pure, natural stroke, which he's now complemented with an off-the-dribble game. Against Florida State, Stauskas made the game-tying bucket in the closing seconds on a strong take to the rack.
Stauskas has also come out of nowhere with a few big-time finishes above the rim.
Throughout his first six games, Stauskas has shown a more refined and polished offensive repertoire to go along with size at 6'6'' and deceptive athleticism.
If he keeps this up, I'm not sure a junior year at Michigan will be necessary.
25. Oklahoma City Thunder: Semaj Christon, Xavier, 6'3'', PG
Semaj Christon has Xavier off to a 5-0 start. And he looks good out there.
Christon is in control right now—his turnovers are down from 3.6 to just 2.2 a game, while his assists are up from 4.6 to five.
He's also averaging 16.4 points, shooting 50 percent from floor. Christon is explosive, both with his first step and his last. He can beat his man off the dribble and soar above traffic at the rim for a finish.
But Christon is missing 4.8 free-throws a game and has only hit two three-pointers all year. Scouts were looking for improvement in his jumper heading into the year. And so far, he hasn't shown any.
Knocking down a few outside shots could help eliminate the fear that his jumper is broken.
26. Portland Trail Blazers: Mitch McGary, Michigan, 6'10'', PF
Mitch McGary is still getting his legs under him after missing time this summer with a back injury.
He was active in an overtime win over Florida State, double-doubling for 14 points, 12 boards and two blocks, though he struggled offensively as a finisher around the key throughout the game.
McGary followed with a disappointing showing in a loss to Charlotte, only managing six points on two-made shots in 30 minutes of action.
At this point, McGary is what he is—a big man with soft hands who can rebound and run the floor. But he's not much of a threat to create his own shot and spends most of his time below the rim.
McGary offers a physical frontcourt presence and active body in the paint—just not much upside. A playoff team looking for a specialist sounds like a reasonable match.
27. Los Angeles Clippers: Markel Brown, Oklahoma State, 6'3'', SG
You have to admire the gradual improvement. Markel Brown has added to his game year after year, and now looks like a legitimate first-round option.
He's averaging over 18 points a game on 56 percent shooting, finishing plays high above the rim and showing consistency on the perimeter. His jumper looks awfully smooth, something he's continued to improve over the course of his career. Brown has started the season on a tear from downtown, making 15 of his first 29 attempts.
But he's also making plays in areas of the game where he never really was a factor. Brown is averaging 4.4 assists and 1.8 blocks early on. Clearly a more complete player than he was a year ago, Brown has officially entered the NBA-draft conversation.
28. San Antonio Spurs: Jordan Clarkson, Missouri, 6'5'', PG/SG
Some guys just stand out. After transferring from Tulsa, where he averaged 16.5 points back in 2012, Jordan Clarkson is off to an eye-opening start in Missouri.
He really looks the part out there. Clarkson is averaging 18.8 points and 3.8 assists for the Tigers, playing the role of scorer and facilitator of the offense. He actually has a nice feel for the point guard position. And at 6'5'', that's always an appetizing thought.
Guards with this type of size, athleticism and playmaking ability are guaranteed to generate NBA attention based on their backcourt versatility.
It's early, but Clarkson appears to be one of those guards. If he can sustain the same level of play moving forward, the first round seems plausible based on his upside.
29. Miami Heat: Olivier Hanlan, Boston College, 6'4'', PG/SG
Olivier Hanlan averaged over 15 points a game as a freshman, and looks even better as a sophomore.
He already went for 38 against Florida Atlantic in Boston College's first win.
With a quick first step and strong, athletic frame, he's explosive off the bounce and can hurt defenses with the shot or the pass.
Hanlan is also lethal from outside, with the ability to pull-up from anywhere or spot-up off the ball. He's nailing over two three-pointers a game at a 37.5-percent clip, and is just as deadly in the mid-range.
Off an NBA bench, it won't matter if he's a 1 or a 2. Hanlan is dynamic offensive weapon with first-round talent. He's averaging 21.7 points and 3.3 assists so far.
30. Phoenix Suns (via Indiana) : James Michael McAdoo, UNC, 6'9'' , PF
It's performances like the one James Michael McAdoo had against Louisville that make you question his NBA value.
Though stuck out of position, McAdoo just couldn't find a way to impact the game. And his attempts all came up way short.
He's obviously a terrific athlete at 6'9'', but at this point, we're just not sure what else he brings to the NBA table. Scouts from all over were there to see McAdoo shoot 3-of-11 and grab two boards in 34 minutes.
The fact that it's his third year only makes his bad showings look worse. McAdoo's stock is down.
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