Identifying the Ideal Landing Spot for Every Top 2014 NBA Draft Prospect

Daniel O'Brien@@DanielO_BRFeatured ColumnistJanuary 22, 2014

Identifying the Ideal Landing Spot for Every Top 2014 NBA Draft Prospect

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    Before every NBA draft, we spend much of our time discerning which prospects would fit best for each franchise.

    What if we turned things around and identified the best team for each major 2014 draftee?

    For some players, the ideal landing spot is a place where they can develop their skills during on-the-job training. Others need less grooming and are more suited for a prominent role on a winning-oriented club.

    Where is the best locale for a raw talent like Andrew Wiggins? What about a seasoned combo guard like Marcus Smart? How do we figure out which team is the best fit for Jabari Parker?

    Find out as we pair each marquee prospect with his optimal NBA destination.


    *Potential landing spots based on projected lottery teams. Teams can be used more than once, because some teams might be the ideal franchise for multiple prospects.

Jabari Parker: Utah Jazz

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    Immediate Role: Starting combo forward, top scoring option

    Long-Term Role: Star, top scoring option

    Key Future Teammates: Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, Trey Burke


    Jabari Parker will maximize his opportunity wherever he lands, but since he's an NBA-ready player, the talented and established core of the Utah Jazz would be an ideal spot.

    He would be utilized as a small forward most of the time, and Utah's strong supporting cast is poised to spread the floor and set him up, while Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter take care of the interior.

    However, Parker could thrive during part-time work as a 4-man. B/R's Utah Jazz Featured Columnist Andy Bailey breaks down the power-forward potential:

    ...Parker's versatility will allow Utah to deploy a variety of lineups...Parker would be a matchup nightmare at the 4 (a juiced-up version of what the Jazz currently have with Marvin Williams). And Utah could spread the floor around him with shooters like Burke and Hayward.

    That sounds like a ton of fun for both Parker and the Jazz. He'll be able to lead the team in scoring without being forced to score 25-plus per night because Gordon Hayward and Trey Burke will be piling up points of their own.

    Parker has the wherewithal to lead a handful of different NBA franchises, so it's a matter of finding the one that will empower him and support him the best. Utah is the best early-lottery option.

Joel Embiid: Los Angeles Lakers

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    Immediate Role: Starting center, third scoring option

    Long-Term Role: Star, top scoring option

    Key Future Teammates: Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash (well, near future at least)


    Kansas center Joel Embiid, who is currently taking over college basketball, recently told ESPN's Dana O'Neil that he doesn't know if he's ready for the grown-man NBA lifestyle. He also noted that most successful big men spend at least a couple of years in college.

    That kind of self-awareness actually convinces me he would do just fine if he turned pro this spring.

    And while the title-hungry Los Angeles Lakers might seem overwhelming for a kid like him, it's actually a nice fit. That is, if they get a favorable bounce on lottery night.

    They'll need a productive center next year, and he needs the guidance and instruction of veterans such as Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash on and off the court. Kobe was able to help mold Andrew Bynum as a player, and in a similar way he could quickly groom Embiid into a productive and efficient cog in L.A.'s attack.

    After soaking up the tutelage of the Black Mamba, Embiid would have the tools necessary to flourish in the NBA's best market. Los Angeles could make him a star, especially after Kobe points him in the right directions.

Andrew Wiggins: Philadelphia 76ers

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    Immediate Role: Starting small forward, third scoring option

    Long-Term Role: Co-Star

    Key Future Teammates: Evan Turner, Michael Carter-Williams, Thaddeus Young, Nerlens Noel


    Several places would make a good home for Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins, including the Utah Jazz or his hometown Toronto Raptors. His comfortability and marketability would be great with the Raps, but they're not projected to be a lottery team.

    The Philadelphia 76ers might be a better fit for him, anyway.

    From a basketball standpoint, he'd be joining a young core that he could grow with, and he wouldn't have to immediately carry the squad as a volume scorer or ball-dominant playmaker. Rather, he could gradually work his way to stardom. Brett Brown will need him to fulfill the small forward role, but Wiggins won't encounter pressure to put up big numbers.

    The Sixers also have a lot of salary cap space to work with as well, as they'll have enough room to bring in an elite player or a couple of key pieces. Within a couple of years, Wiggins could be a part of an exciting force in the East.

Julius Randle: Philadelphia 76ers

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    Immediate Role: Starting combo forward, second or third scoring option

    Long-Term Role: Star, second scoring option

    Key Future Teammates: Evan Turner, Michael Carter-Williams, Thaddeus Young, Nerlens Noel


    It shouldn't come as a shock that we pegged Philly as the ideal landing spot for both Julius Randle and Andrew Wiggins. It's a pretty good spot for any top prospect to land.

    Kentucky's bruising forward will be able to play on the wing and in the post, and the 76ers are going to let him do what he does best: run the floor, crash the boards and attack the basket. Michael Carter-Williams and Evan Turner will take the playmaking pressure off him, and they'll also naturally keep Randle involved in the offense.

    As a rookie, he doesn't have to be a superhero in the scoring department. He just needs to let his physical tools loose and make an impact as a defender and secondary offensive weapon.

    Randle is the type of NBA-ready youngster who could be a superb addition to a playoff-caliber team. Unfortunately, none of the teams picking fourth through sixth (his likely landing range) fit that mold.

    If Philadelphia is slotted in that early-to-mid lottery, Randle will be in luck.


Marcus Smart: Boston Celtics

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    Immediate Role: Starting guard, second scoring option

    Long-Term Role: Two-way star

    Key Future Teammates: Rajon Rondo, Jeff Green, Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk


    During his sophomore campaign with Oklahoma State, Marcus Smart has proven he'll capably play point guard and shooting guard in the NBA.

    We don't know yet which position the Boston Celtics will need him to play, but Brad Stevens will prepare him well. Smart will either flourish as an off-ball weapon alongside Rajon Rondo or enjoy a productive (but challenging) time at point guard if Boston trades Rondo.

    Brad Stevens made a name for himself in college by getting the most out of high-IQ competitors like Smart.

    "He's a Brad Stevens type of player. Smart would be a nice fit in Boston," said B/R NBA Draft expert Jonathan Wasserman.

    Stevens is the best coach for Smart on both sides of the ball, and the two could help Rondo bring a culture of winning back to Boston.

Dante Exum: Orlando Magic

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    Immediate Role: Starting point guard, third scoring option

    Long-Term Role: Star, top offense-generator

    Key Future Teammates: Victor Oladipo, Nikola Vucevic, Arron Afflalo, Tobias Harris


    Although Dante Exum isn't exactly your prototypical point guard, the Australian prodigy definitely has the potential to be a star facilitator.

    On the Orlando Magic, he could develop a dynamic backcourt partnership with Victor Oladipo, who also has combo-guard capabilities but is less suited to run the offense. Exum could run the point most of the time, but also step out to the wing sporadically while Oladipo initiates things.

    Oladipo isn't the only young piece for Exum to work with: Nikola Vucevic and Tobias Harris are also promising players who are quickly figuring out how to consistently excel.

    Exum would fit decently with clubs like the Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics and Utah Jazz, but Orlando will give him more time and leeway to unearth his potential.

    L.A., Beantown and Utah will expect him to produce for a winning unit sooner rather than later, and that could be dicey for a foreign prospect trying to find his place in American basketball.

Aaron Gordon: Los Angeles Lakers

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    Immediate Role: Starting combo forward, fourth scoring option

    Long-Term Role: Two-way star, third scoring option

    Key Future Teammates: Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, free agents


    Aaron Gordon's chances of landing in Tinseltown are a bit better than Joel Embiid's, mostly because the Los Angeles Lakers will likely be drafting in the mid-lottery.

    L.A.'s situation would be excellent for Gordon. He could chip in by executing his athletic and defensive talents, but he wouldn't carry the pressures of a ball-dominant swingman or post-up power forward.

    The Lakers will save those duties for Kobe Bryant and prominent free agents. Meanwhile, Gordon would hone his craft and make a valuable impact on defense.

    Gordon wants to do big things with his basketball career, and his strong start for the No. 1 Arizona Wildcats is a nice step in that direction. If the California native wound up on the Lakers, it would be a massive step toward long-term success, even if he's initially nothing more than a role player.


    Dan O'Brien covers the NBA Draft for Bleacher Report.

    Follow him on Twitter: @DanielO_BR