2014 NBA Mock Draft: Ranking College Basketball's Finest in Mid-December
The projected 2014 NBA draft class is starting to take shape. And so far, it's looking pretty darn strong.
Potential stars keep emerging from under hidden rocks. We've added a new member to our top 10, as well as a few others lower on the board who are making their first appearances.
Of course, as new prospects break through, others fall off. We've decided that Kansas' Wayne Selden, North Carolina's James Michael McAdoo and California's Jabari Bird might all be better off declaring in 2015.
As for the draft order, it's been generated from a combination of current standings and predictions.
1. Utah Jazz: Andrew Wiggins, Kansas, 6'8", SF, Fr.
While most of the Andrew Wiggins talk centers around his long-term potential, he's awfully nice right now.
Wiggins went for 22 points against Colorado and career highs of 26 points and 11 boards against Florida, shooting a combined 5-of-12 from three and 15-of-17 from the line.
He's been as dangerous as advertised in the open floor, where he slices through defenses and effortlessly finishes over the top of them.
In the half court, he's knocking down spot-up jumpers and turning scoring chances at the rim into points. Defensively, he's been phenomenal, where he continues to show lockdown potential.
The only real complaint is that he's still a bit passive offensively. Even though Wiggins dropped 26 in a loss to Florida, he went 14 straight minutes without a field goal in each half.
Jabari Parker is right on Wiggins' tail. Scouts will want to see Wiggins show some signs of urgency and hopefully look for his shot a little more often.
If there were five sheets of ice under Wiggins' feet before the year, I'd say there's just one at this point in time. Wiggins will need to hit the gas with conference play approaching, or he'll get passed by the surging competition.
2. Milwaukee Bucks: Jabari Parker, Duke, 6'8", SF, Fr.
Though his shooting hand might have cooled off, Jabari Parker has been showing why he's the most complete prospect in the country.
He finished with 15 points against Michigan, and none of them came on jumpers. Parker spent the entire game as a 4 in the post, where he scored with his back to the rim, drew double-teams and created shots for teammates without even using his dribble.
From a skill-set perspective, Parker is as advanced as anyone we've seen since Kevin Durant.
He can't impact a game defensively the way Andrew Wiggins or Joel Embiid can, but his offensive outlook is just too appealing.
Parker is averaging 22 points and 7.8 boards on 54.8 percent shooting and 46.7 percent shooting from three. He remains Andrew Wiggins' top threat to No. 1 on our board.
3. Philadelphia 76ers: Joel Embiid, Kansas, 7'0", C, Fr.
We're at the point now where Joel Embiid has become the focal point of opposing defensive game plans.
Since taking over the first 20 minutes against Wake Forest, Embiid has been seeing constant double-teams in the post. Between his size, length and skills, he's given Kansas such a high-percentage offensive option—which is what drives his value as an NBA prospect.
A former soccer and volleyball player, Embiid isn't just a big 7'0" goon like most of the raw centers who couldn't make it. He's an athlete with spot-on footwork and an unteachable feel for the game. And right now, he's capitalizing on his scoring opportunities with nifty moves and a feathery touch.
Embiid has towering offensive potential and game-changing defensive tools. He should be right in the mix for that No. 1 pick given the two-way upside he offers at the center position.
Don't let the pedestrian stats fool you—Embiid is can't-miss material.
4. Orlando Magic: Dante Exum, Australia, 6'6", PG/SG, Born 1995
This kid just isn't going to make it easy for any prospect in the NBA draft race.
Dante Exum held true to his reputation in the Australian School Championships, where he put up laughable numbers throughout the tournament.
Though the competition isn't exactly considered world class, Exum averaged 27.6 points, 10.6 assists and 9.6 rebounds over his final three contests, including a 19-point, 15-assist performance in the gold medal game.
He's really one of a kind, given his 6'6" size, point guard instincts and scoring skill set. The NBA loves mismatches, and Exum might present the biggest one of any prospect.
He's a legitimate first-overall candidate this June.
5. Phoenix Suns: Julius Randle, Kentucky, 6'9", PF, Fr.
You can't knock Julius Randle's consistency—he's scored in double digits in every game and sports a season low of eight rebounds.
But the buzz has softened a bit over the last two weeks. Randle hasn't scored 20 points in his past five games and continues to cough the ball up (3.5 turnovers per game).
Still, nothing has really changed regarding his offensive outlook. He's a terror on the block and mismatch in the post.
However, he's not the impact defensive player (only 0.7 blocks per game) that Andrew Wiggins can be, nor is he a threat offensively from as many spots as Jabari Parker.
Randle isn't leaving our top tier of prospects—I'm just not sure he offers the versatility, two-way services or long-term upside as Wiggins, Parker or Joel Embiid.
6. Toronto Raptors: Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State, 6'4", PG/SG, Soph.
Marcus Smart had his worst game of the season in a loss to Memphis, the team he dropped 39 on earlier in the year.
He finished with just 12 points, four assists and five turnovers, and missed all five of his three-point attempts.
This obviously doesn't change his long-term outlook as a pro. The leadership, two-way services and physical mismatch Smart offers are all valued heavily by NBA management.
But in terms of individual upside, his ceiling falls just short of Australia's Dante Exum at the guard position. Regardless, Smart should be locked into the top tier with Exum, Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Julius Randle and Joel Embiid.
At this point, his draft stock seems pretty much bulletproof. Smart is averaging 19.7 points, 3.8 assists and 4.9 rebounds on the year.
7. Minnesota Timberwolves: Aaron Gordon, Arizona, 6'8", PF, Fr.
Aaron Gordon's stats might not blow your mind, but it's hard to argue with a top dog on the best team in the country.
He's already established just how explosive of an athlete he can be. Now he's showcasing the intangibles—the effort plays, the heads-up passes, the backdoor cuts, etc.
Gordon is an elite finisher around the rim and in the lane, and has been pretty accurate so far as a spot-up shooter. It's his post play and off-the-dribble game that need some touching up.
But scouts love his team-first approach and long-term upside. The mid-lotto to mid-first round seems like the only realistic landing range for Gordon in the draft.
8. Sacramento Kings: Noah Vonleh, Indiana, 6'10", PF, Fr.
With Indiana being a team that likes to move the ball around, Noah Vonleh has only been able to flash his upside in limited doses.
He's still a rebounding machine out there, pulling in 10 per game and 17 per 40 minutes, one of the highest rates in the country.
Offensively, he might be a work in progress, but his strength, length and foot speed allow him to beat defenders in the post. The skill set is there; it just needs a little fine-tuning.
So far, he's earned the reputation for being a hard worker and coachable kid. And that could go a long way during the interview and background-checking process.
A physical defender and potential offensive mismatch down the road, there's a whole lot to like about Vonleh's long-term outlook.
9. Los Angeles Lakers: Zach LaVine, UCLA, 6'5", PG/SG, Fr.
Zach LaVine has officially found the NBA radar thanks to consistent production and some flashes of serious potential.
As a freshman, he's averaging 14 points in 25 minutes off UCLA's bench.
An explosive open-floor combo guard, LaVine comes with electric athleticism, excellent size and a deadly outside stroke. He's now 20-of-40 from behind the arc, where he sports a quick, clean and confident release from deep.
So far, LaVine is getting most of his points on jumpers and transition opportunities. He probably needs a sophomore year to work on his shot creativity, but sometimes, the buzz just gets a little too loud to ignore.
If LaVine keeps putting up numbers throughout conference play, that buzz isn't going to get any softer.
10. Cleveland Cavaliers: Rodney Hood, Duke, 6'8", SF, Soph.
Rodney Hood has been one of the tougher offensive matchups in the country this year for Duke. He's averaging over 19 points per game on 58.9 percent shooting from the floor, getting the shots he wants and converting them with consistency.
At 6'8", he's a multidimensional weapon with a face-up, spot-up and post-up game. Hood can take his man off the dribble and score on the move, catch-and-shoot from behind the arc or play in the post with his back to the rim.
He's shooting it a sizzling 53.6 percent from three right now, and the stroke looks legit given his 83.9 percent free-throw clip.
A lethal and versatile wing, Hood has emerged as one of the biggest risers early on.
11. Washington Wizards: James Young, Kentucky, 6'6", SF, Fr.
James Young has been cookin' as of late, most recently going for 21 points in a win over Boise State.
He's made 11 of his last 22 shots from behind the arc over the past three games. And when Young heats up from outside, the rest of his game does too.
Young has made some dazzling plays above and under the rim, both in the half court and transition.
A more threatening in-between game might move him higher up the board, but that size, athleticism and pure lefty shooting stroke should look awfully appealing during the pre-draft process.
Young is averaging just under 14 points per game on 2.4 three-point makes per game.
12. Memphis Grizzlies: Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky, 7'0", C, Soph.
Willie Cauley-Stein is delivering just what the NBA scouts have ordered.
He's making it easy for viewers to know he's out there. Whether it's the big finishes, the overwhelming rim protection or the futuristic blonde mohawk, Cauley-Stein's presence has been constantly felt.
He's been an animal on the interior, totaling 21 blocked shots over his last three games alone.
Cauley-Stein was the MVP for Kentucky in its win over Providence, when he went for 15 points, nine blocks and eight boards. After a disappointing loss to Baylor, he tailed nine more blocks in a blowout over Boise State.
Though a raw offensive player, Cauley-Stein is still capable of making a major impact on the game. He might not ever develop into a go-to offensive option, but for NBA teams looking for size, athleticism and activity up front, Cauley-Stein should be a target.
13. Charlotte Bobcats (via Detroit): Jerami Grant, Syracuse, 6'8", SF, Soph.
With eye-opening athleticism and never-ending length, Jerami Grant is a guy who just jumps off the court and out of the screen.
At 6'8" with a 7'2" wingspan, he was built to play and defend the NBA wing.
Offensively, his skill level is lacking. Grant relies purely on his physical tools and instincts to pick up buckets around the rim. Offensive boards, tip-ins, catch-and-finishes, alley-oops, you name it.
When he's got space, his quick first step makes him tough to stay in front of. But Grant has to work on polishing and executing his moves, as he'll still throw the occasional brick off the glass.
He's averaging 13 points and roughly six boards on 52 percent in 26 minutes. Grant seems like a long-term offensive project and short-term defensive solution—either way, he's a good-looking NBA prospect with plenty of untapped potential.
14. Philadelphia 76ers (via NO): Dario Saric, Croatia, 6'10", SF/PF, Born 1994
Unlike most young international prospects, Dario Saric is getting a ton of reps for Cibona in Eurocup play and the Adriatic League, where he's averaging a combined 12.6 points and 7.4 boards on 55 percent shooting from the floor.
At 6'10", Saric's versatility is what ultimately drives his NBA appeal. He can put it on the floor, make the savvy pass, knock down outside shots or control the glass.
Saric had the chance to declare last June, with buzz surrounding him as a potential lottery pick. But Saric chose to withdraw his name and milk the playing time he'd get in Europe that wouldn't have been there for him in the U.S.
Look for Saric to be a little more NBA-ready by the time June rolls around in 2014. He'll remain a potential lottery pick from now til then.
15. Boston Celtics (Via Brooklyn): Gary Harris, Michigan State, 6'4", SG, Soph.
Gary Harris hasn't been shooting the ball that well as of late, which might actually be sugarcoating it.
He's made just 12 of his last 48 three-point attempts (25 percent), but at least he's still finding ways to score, as he's averaging 17.6 points per game on the year.
Harris is a good athlete, not a great one, so his jumper is something he'll need to rely on throughout his NBA career. It's off right now, causing Harris' field-goal mark to plummet to just 40 percent, down from 46 percent last year.
Chances are this is just a cold steak. He shot it 41 percent from downtown last year as freshman, though he is taking almost four more threes per game as a sophomore.
Still, there's no denying his skill level and basketball IQ. I'm not as high on Harris as others, but mid-first round seems about right no matter which way you slice it.
16. Orlando Magic (via Denver (via NY)): Doug McDermott, Creighton, 6'7", SF, Sr.
Doug McDermott continues to make it rain out there, with his scoring average now up to 25 points per game.
He's coming off a 33-point outing in a win over Nebraska, where that outside touch and those offensive instincts were on display throughout the night.
It's worth noting that McDermott did have a rare off night against George Washington, as the Colonials held him to just 2-of-12 shooting in a win over Creighton.
Given that he's the constant focus of opposing defenders, Dougie Fresh gets a free pass in this one.
He's as skilled of a scorer as there is in the country. McDermott's lack of athleticism caps his upside, but it shouldn't keep him from helping an NBA team. Consider me a fan of the Wally Szczerbiak comparison.
17. Chicago Bulls: Adreian Payne, Michigan St., 6'10", PF, Sr.
He's doing exactly what the blueprint for improving your draft stock tells you to do.
Adreian Payne returned as a senior after being considered a fringe-first rounder following his junior season. And now he's a more complete offensive weapon who's closer to helping an NBA team.
Payne's scoring average has risen from 10.5 to 15.9 points per game. And after hitting 17 three-pointers through three college seasons, he's now made 12 through eight games as a senior.
Payne is also playing smarter without the ball and positioning himself for quality scoring opportunities.
He certainly fits the physical profile of an NBA big at 6'10", 245 pounds with a 7'0" wingspan. And now, it looks like his skill level has caught up.
18. Chicago Bulls (via Charlotte): Andrew Harrison, Kentucky, 6'5", PG, Fr.
Andrew Harrison continues to underwhelm, though his long-term upside seems to be keeping him afloat.
Harrison finished 2-of-9 with six points in Kentucky's loss to Baylor. There's no doubting his skill level—Harrison just hasn't found a way to tap into it yet.
He's not overly quick or explosive, so he doesn't get many easy buckets at the rim. That lack of breakdown ability might also have something to do with his measly 3.5 assists per game as well.
Harrison looks the part from a physical and talent perspective. But his occasional negative body language, questionable decision making and average playmaking instincts can overshadow his future potential.
The upside is still there—Harrison just looks a lot further away from reaching it than we initially anticipated.
19. Boston Celtics: Spencer Dinwiddie, Colorado State, 6'5", PG/SG, Jr.
Spencer Dinwiddie has spent more of his focus this year on facilitating rather than scoring, and he's become a more efficient playmaker in the process.
His field-goal percentage, three-point percentage and assists are all up, while his turnovers are down.
Dinwiddie played a key role in Colorado's win over Kansas, finishing with 15 points and seven assists. A few days earlier, he went off for 28 and four.
You also can't undervalue Dinwiddie's ability to get to the line. He's attempting eight free throws per game this year after taking 7.3 last year. And so far, he's converting them at a scorching 86 percent clip.
Dinwiddie is averaging 15 points and nearly four assists while shooting it 37 percent from downtown. He entered the year on NBA radars, and it doesn't look like he's going anywhere.
20. Atlanta Hawks: Montrezl Harrell, Louisville, 6'8", PF, Soph.
Monrezl Harrell has been playing with a little more confidence and aggressiveness as of late.
He's coming off a 20-point, eight-rebound game in a win over Louisiana-Lafayette, where he even knocked down a few elbow jumpers to match some strong finishes at the rim.
Harrell is just so explosive around the basket that he's tough to move or challenge inside. He's now averaging 13.3 points and 9.2 boards on a whopping 63 percent shooting.
Continuously improving that mid-range touch should take his game to another level.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder (Via Dallas): Sam Dekker, Wisconsin, 6'7", SF, Soph.
Sam Dekker has been lethal all year and has Wisconsin off to a 10-0 start.
He recently went for 20 and 10 in a win over Marquette while putting on a skills clinic for NBA scouts. His sweet three-point stroke is his clear-cut bread and butter, as he's knocking down 37 percent of his threes.
But Dekker is an overlooked athlete at 6'7", and has shown the ability to explode to the basket and finish above the rim.
Overall, he's a refined offensive player with a high basketball IQ and deceptive athleticism for the wing. Dekker might not have All-Star upside, but he looks like the ideal opportunistic scorer to slide alongside playmakers and go-to weapons.
He's averaging 14.4 points per game on 48.6 percent shooting on the season.
22. Denver Nuggets: Jordan Clarkson, Missouri, 6'5", PG/SG, Jr.
Jordan Clarkson has seemingly come out of nowhere to emerge as an eye-opening NBA prospect.
After sitting out last season following his transfer from Tulsa, there wasn't much buzz coming in. But nine games into the season, Clarkson is averaging over 20 points and 3.8 assists on 51.5 percent shooting.
And not only is he filling up box scores, he's winning games for Missouri as the team's lead guard.
A scorer at heart, Clarkson has been running the point for Missouri, where he's a mismatch at 6'5". He's explosive off the bounce, and finds ways to hang in the air and finish over defenders once getting into the lane.
His jumper has been a bit shaky, but he hit 37 percent of his threes as a sophomore at Tulsa.
If Clarkson continues putting up points and wins while learning the position on the job, he's going to start generating first-round buzz. Look for the microscope to intensify on Clarkson once conference plays kicks off.
23. Houston Rockets: P.J. Hairston, North Carolina, 6'6", SG, Jr.
Who knows if we'll see P.J. Hairston play for North Carolina again? Not me. But I'm pretty sure he'll get a shot in the NBA, given his top-notch athleticism and skill level.
While the first half of this draft might be tough to crack, there are definite openings from picks No. 15 through 30.
Hairston is still suspended following a few off-the-court incidents this summer, but he's practicing with the team and remains an NBA prospect to keep track of.
Though his character might be in question, his talent isn't. Hairston is flamethrower from behind the arc, and at 6'6", 220 pounds, he's a physical, explosive 2-guard.
If Hairston can stay in shape and convince scouts his immaturity is behind him, the first round should be a distinct possibility.
24. Utah Jazz (via Golden State): Jahii Carson, Arizona State, 5'10", PG, Soph.
Jahii Carson has had an up-and-down two weeks that started with a blowout loss to Creighton, where he finished with more turnovers than assists on 5-of-12 shooting.
He bounced back for 21 points and seven dimes against Charleston before hitting rock bottom against Miami. He shot just 2-of-14 in a loss to the Hurricanes, and was ultimately ineffective as both a scorer and distributor.
He's an absolute nightmare off the dribble and sensational all-around talent, but Carson has to do a better job of looking for his teammates.
Carson was much more effective in a recent win over DePaul, when he went for 23 points, nine boards and five assists, though he still turned it over six times.
He's got the potential to be a dynamic offensive weapon off an NBA bench one day. But if he wants to convince scouts he's the next Isaiah Thomas (Sacramento Kings), Carson will need to tighten up his point guard play as a facilitator.
25. Los Angeles Clippers: Mitch McGary, Michigan, 6'10", PF, Soph.
Mitch McGary has been slightly disappointing considering the hype he generated during last year's NCAA tournament.
He's averaging just under 10 points and nine boards per game in 25 minutes of action, though he appears to be suffering from a lack of Trey Burke. Michigan's point guard play has been underwhelming, and it's affecting McGary's offensive opportunities.
Regardless, it's pretty obvious what type of player McGary is and what skill set he brings to the table. He's a mobile big man who can rebound, pass and finish around but below the rim.
Teams interested in McGary probably won't be coveting his upside as much as they'll be targeting the immediate interior activity he can offer a front line.
26. San Antonio Spurs: Semaj Christon, Xavier, 6'3", PG, Soph.
Semaj Christon has been on the attack lately, as he's gotten to the line a total of 33 times over his past two games.
At 6'3" with a quick first step and an explosive last one, Christon is a tough one-on-one cover when he's looking to break down the defense. He's got the ability to get into the lane and finish around the rim, and despite a non-threatening jumper, teams still have trouble containing him off the bounce.
It would have been nice to see him improve that jumper after hitting only seven threes as a freshman. He's actually hit four so far this year, but he's only taken eight, and still seems to lack confidence as a shooter.
It's going to be tough for Christon to crack the top 15 as a guard who can't shoot—not to mention one who's more focused on scoring than distributing.
But Christon has the tools if someone is willing to take the time to sharpen them.
He's averaging 16 points and four assists on the year.
27. Charlotte Bobcats (via Portland): Glenn Robinson III, Michigan, 6'6", Soph.
We were hoping that with Tim Hardaway Jr. and Trey Burke no longer in the picture, Glenn Robinson III would emerge as "the guy" in Michigan's offense. It turns out that Nik Stauskas stepped up and stole that title, with Robinson fading into the background. He's actually getting fewer minutes this year than he did last.
It's fairly evident that Robinson is struggling without a point guard to put him in scoring position. His field-goal percentage is down to 44 percent from 57 percent, and he's not getting as many open three-point looks (just 28 percent shooting from three).
Big men and 7-footers can afford to show minimal offensive improvement from a skill perspective—but not wings.
Robinson will need to prove he's a more threatening scorer and consistent shooter than his play so far has suggested he is.
28. Oklahoma City Thunder: Nik Stauskas, Michigan, 6'6", SG/SF, Soph.
Nik Stauskas was completely shut down in a loss to Duke, where he was somehow held to only two shot attempts the whole night.
Despite the dud, he's still averaging 18.9 points, thanks to a 25-point bounce-back performance against Houston Baptist.
He's really added a lot to his game in the offseason, as he's evolved into a multidimensional scorer from a one-dimensional shooter.
Stauskas also added some muscle to his frame, and looks quick and more explosive off the bounce.
He continues to light up the nets from deep, where he's now made 24-of-48 three-point attempts. With good size for the wing, a lethal outside stroke, great instincts and a high IQ, Stauskas has "valuable role player" written on his chest.
If I'm a playoff team in need of a floor-stretcher and ball-mover, Stauskas would be a target in the late first round.
29. Miami Heat: Kyle Anderson, UCLA, 6'9", PG/SF, Soph.
He's gotten away with his slow-motion style of play for years as a high school state champion. Now it's working for him at UCLA, where he's having a breakout sophomore year as the team's primary ball-handler.
A natural point guard at 6'9", the package he's selling obviously sounds intriguing. Anderson played mostly off the ball on the wing as a freshman, but he's finally found his comfort zone as a facilitator, where he offers a unique mismatch given his size and passing instincts.
Anderson is the best daily bet in the country for a triple-double. Through nine games, he's averaging 13.9 points, 8.9 rebounds and 7.1 assists per game.
Offensively, he's shown more confidence in his jumper, where he's hit 7-of-13 from downtown after making only eight total threes all year in 2012-13.
As an orchestrator, he simply has a natural feel for the game. Anderson just knows what steps to take, when a pass needs to be made and where it needs to go.
He doesn't have the athleticism, blow-by foot speed or upward explosiveness you typically see in an NBA guard. But come on. This rare combination of size and skills might be worth the risk this late in the draft.
30. Phoenix Suns (via Indiana): Jordan Adams, UCLA, 6'5", SG, Soph.
Jordan Adams has been lighting up scoreboards this year, and he's doing so with consistency. And that's when scouts typically start paying attention.
He's scored at least 20 points in seven of UCLA's nine games, while shooting an exceptional 51 percent from the floor.
Adams isn't the highest jumper or most explosive guard on the floor, but his offensive instincts and feel or the game neutralize any athletic limitations. Adams can score from all over the floor, with the ability to create his own shot, get to the lane and finish around or after contact inside.
He's attempting roughly eight free throws per game (where he's an 85 percent shooter) while knocking down 37 percent of his three-point attempts.
Adams is also an active defensive playmaker, averaging 3.3 steals, good for third in the country.
We'll see if he keeps it up as UCLA's schedule gets tricker, but it's tough to ignore what he's done so far.