The NBA playoffs are underway, but the 2014 NBA draft is one of the few things fans of nearly half the league’s teams have to look forward to. It won’t be long before teams start getting eliminated and their supporters fully embrace the marquee offseason event.
Whether you are fortunate enough to be watching your team in the playoffs or waiting for the lottery to determine the draft order, there is no better time to get familiar with the top prospects.
Keep reading for a look at how the first round might shake out when the draft gets underway this June.
1. Milwaukee Bucks: Andrew Wiggins, SF, Kansas
The Bucks officially locked up the top lottery odds, but they’ll still need a bit of luck to land a potential franchise savior in Wiggins. The team with the highest odds of securing the No. 1 pick hasn’t had its number pulled first since the Magic were fortunate enough back in 2004.
Regardless, after an ownership swap and a desperate need of becoming a bigger draw to secure a new stadium, the basketball gods may smile down on the Bucks this year. Don’t be surprised if this group lands the top pick and goes with Wiggins, a versatile swingman that will be a key rebuilding block and eventually serve as the lynchpin for deep playoff runs.
2. Philadelphia 76ers: Jabari Parker, SF, Duke
The Sixers have their point guard and center of the future on the roster but little else in the way of concrete pieces to build around. They can add their swingman of the future in this draft by nabbing Parker with the No. 2 overall selection.
Parker is an elite forward that played close to the basket during his time with the Blue Devils but truly shines out on the wing. He’s exactly the type of talent that Philly needs to start making headway in a return to prominence.
3. Orlando Magic: Dante Exum, G, Australia
The Magic already have one promising guard on their roster in Victor Oladipo and shouldn’t pass over an opportunity to complete their backcourt by adding Exum this summer.
This Australian sensation is capable of running point and has great size for the position, making him the ideal option to replace the aging Jameer Nelson in Orlando.
4. Utah Jazz: Joel Embiid, C, Kansas
Embiid will make the young Jazz frontcourt even more dangerous. The big man is arguably one of the top talents in the draft and should be in consideration for the top overall pick, but he is falling based on team needs in this hypothetical scenario.
If the Jayhawks product is still available at No. 4 and the Jazz have this selection, expect the team to run to the podium to make the selection. Even with Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors under contract, there is no reason to let a bona fide star like Embiid slip past them.
5. Boston Celtics: Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky
Julius Randle should parlay an amazing freshman season, in which he averaged a double-double, and a run to the NCAA championship game into a top-five selection this June.
The C’s are an ideal landing place for this emerging big man, even for a team that is already developing Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk. Randle is a natural scorer with a variety of moves plus the toughness to bang for boards against the strongest foes in the paint. Boston would be hard-pressed to pass that skill set up with this pick.
6. Los Angeles Lakers: Noah Vonleh, PF, Indiana
Vonleh is one of the more intriguing prospects in this draft, as his potential is through the roof and could result in the young man developing into one of the best players in this class.
The Lakers are in dire need of bringing an exciting young star into the fold, especially at the tail end of the Kobe Bryant era. It became clear this season that the transition away from the Black Mamba will be rough, but Vonleh’s presence could expedite the rebuilding process and give L.A. the marquee star it covets.
7. Sacramento Kings: Aaron Gordon, PF, Arizona
Gordon is the ideal player for the Kings at this juncture. He’s a hard-nosed defender that gives his all on every possession and is exactly the type of high-energy, high-effort prospect a franchise on the rise should be lusting after.
While Gordon’s offense is still raw, he would be a perfect complement to DeMarcus Cousins in the frontcourt, and the duo would make up one of the brightest young big man tandems in the league.
8. Detroit Pistons: Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State
Smart’s decision to stay in college may have been panned, but it allowed him to learn valuable lessons and leadership skills that will be essential in the NBA. The Pistons sorely need some direction on the court, as well as a playmaker and scorer, making Smart a slam-dunk pick here.
9. Cleveland Cavaliers: Doug McDermott, SF, Creighton
McDermott is a transcendent scorer that just concluded one of the most memorable collegiate careers in history. He’s not going to be able to carry the Cavs back to the playoffs by himself, but this young man has the ability to plug a number of glaring holes on the team’s roster.
Kyrie Irving desperately needs more support around him in order to guide his club to the postseason for the first time in the post-LeBron James era, and there is no better option on the board in this situation than McDermott. The Bluejays product can hit from anywhere in the arena and punish opponents who fail to double-team him.
10. Philadelphia 76ers (via New Orleans): Nik Stauskas, SG, Michigan
Stauskas will help shore up the backcourt in the City of Brotherly Love with his top-notch shooting skills and rapidly improving all-around game. The Michigan star proved he was much more than just a sniper during his sophomore year, developing as a leader and rounding out his repertoire inside the three-point line.
11. Denver Nuggets (via New York): Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State
The Nuggets are going to continue to miss the playoffs unless Ty Lawson has someone to help shoulder the scoring load. Harris would be the perfect running mate for the diminutive point guard, as he can light up the scoreboard, defend his position and give 100 percent effort on every play.
12. Orlando Magic (via Denver): Rodney Hood, SF, Duke
Hood may be one of the less heralded talents in this draft, but the Magic should recognize his scoring ability and athleticism at the end of the lottery. The Duke star was overshadowed at times by Parker’s presence on the roster, but he was just as consistent in 2013-14.
It’ll be interesting to see if Hood can carve out a spot on the floor with Tobias Harris or if the young prospect ends up playing a reserve role and spelling the developing swingman.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves: James Young, SF Kentucky
The T-Wolves have to start looking to the future and trying to unearth a star with their late lottery pick, as the odds of Kevin Love sticking around look slim.
While Young isn’t going to replace Love’s elite rebounding ability, the Wildcats swingman will bring a new look to the Minnesota roster. He can bomb away from long range (even though he was inconsistent from deep during his freshman campaign), knife to the basket at will and do everything else asked of an NBA-caliber wing player.
14. Phoenix Suns: Cleanthony Early, PF, Wichita State
Early is a do-it-all forward that truly shined during an undefeated season for the Shockers. He also lit it up for two games during the NCAA tournament and proved he can shine on the biggest stage.
The Suns need a versatile player on the wing and in the frontcourt who can score, rebound and defend, making Early a great selection at No. 14. Even if this pick seems to be a bit of a reach, Phoenix is getting a player that fits in the system and will certainly contribute.
15. Atlanta Hawks: Tyler Ennis, PG, Syracuse
The Hawks should be in the market for a point guard this summer, and Ennis should get heavy consideration for his poise and confidence.
Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix had high praise for the prospect and ranked him No. 7 on the big board:
NBA executives love playmakers like Ennis who excel in the pick-and-roll. Ennis isn’t a great shooter, but he protects the ball (3.68-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio, ninth in Division I), is rarely rattled and appears to be most comfortable in high-pressure situations. Point guard has become the NBA’s most valued position, and Ennis has the makeup of a very good one.
While he may not be the best athlete or shooter, the Orangeman is wise beyond his years, never gets rattled and is one of the few point guards in this draft who could immediately come in and contribute on a playoff-bound squad.
16. Chicago Bulls (via Phoenix): Adreian Payne, PF, Michigan State
The Bulls need to bring in a hard-nosed big man to replace Carlos Boozer via the draft and Payne not only does that, but he also opens up things on offense for the club.
The Michigan State product can shoot the lights out from just about anywhere and is also strong enough to maneuver inside and bang for boards. That sort of stretch big will complement the current roster and allow Chicago to get more creative on the offensive end.
17. Boston Celtics (via Brooklyn): Kyle Anderson, G/F, UCLA
The C’s have to be intrigued by the possibility of nabbing “Slow-Mo” at No. 17, as the point-forward prospect could help render Rajon Rondo expendable. While Anderson wouldn’t be able to take over point guard duties on a full-time basis, he is an immensely capable ball-handler and smart passer. However, it remains to be seen if his unhurried pace will be as effective in the NBA as it has been for the Bruins.
18. Phoenix Suns (via Washington): Elfrid Payton, PG, Louisiana Lafayette
Payton is an intriguing, relatively unheralded talent coming from a small school, but could be poised to make a big impact for the Suns. His game is comparable to Rajon Rondo, as he is a dynamic penetrator with great hands and smart instincts.
This young man can also play defense at a high level and possesses a lengthy wing span that will make it easy for him to guard practically any player at his position at the next level.
19. Chicago Bulls: Jordan Clarkson, SG, Missouri
Clarkson is the type of versatile combo guard that the Bulls should be looking to add to their backcourt with this pick. While he’s certainly no replacement for Derrick Rose, the Tigers product has great size and is capable of locking down his man on the defensive end of the floor.
20. Toronto Raptors: Dario Saric, SF, Croatia
The Raptors must continue to build on their great 2013-14 campaign by adding a star talent in this draft. Saric might just be the steal of the draft at No. 20 overall, as the Croatian forward can handle the rock and see the floor like a guard. His presence would open things up for the Toronto offense and allow the team to show off some new looks.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder (via Dallas): P.J. Hairston, PG, North Carolina/NBDL
Hairston is about as NBA-ready as they come, plying his trade against league-caliber opponents in the D-League to great effectiveness. He crushed the competition and averaged 21.8 points per game on 45.3 percent field-goal shooting and 35.8 percent three-point shooting.
The Thunder don’t have much time to develop prospects, so don’t be surprised if they go for a surer thing here with the former Tar Heels star.
22. Memphis Grizzlies: Clint Capela, PF, Switzerland
Capela is one of the lesser-known prospects in this class, but he’s putting up strong numbers over in Europe and should intrigue scouts who are looking to gamble on his potential. With Memphis’ key players getting up there in age, the club should swing for the fences and try to unearth a star big here with the No. 22 pick.
23. Utah Jazz (via Golden State): T.J. Warren, SF, North Carolina State
Warren is a natural-born scorer who will find a way to put points on the board no matter where he is playing. The Jazz direly need that talent right now and should be willing to overlook his limited defense to get it.
24. Charlotte Bobcats (via Portland): Jerami Grant, SF, Syracuse
Grant is a raw prospect that may blossom into a player whose talent far exceeds expectations at this draft position. The ‘Cats should be willing to gamble on that development if they want to bring in a potential contributor at No. 24.
25. Houston Rockets: Shabazz Napier, PG, Connecticut
Napier may climb much higher than this after his incredible surge to an NCAA championship this spring. If he doesn’t, he shouldn’t fall past the Rockets at No. 25. The team needs a point guard to replace Jeremy Lin and could wind up getting one of the best scorers in the class at this late point in the draft.
26. Miami Heat: Nick Johnson, SG, Arizona
Johnson is a stud athlete who can jump out of the gym and make highlight plays on a regular basis. He’d struggle to see much time for the back-to-back champions but could make their reserve unit a fun group to watch. Should the “Big Three” break up via free agency in the near future, Johnson could play a much bigger role for the team.
27. Phoenix Suns (via Indiana): Zach LaVine, G, UCLA
LaVine is a superbly raw talent, but one that should eventually be able to contribute in a meaningful way to an NBA team. The Suns should be willing to take a risk here on his upside, especially if it means they might get a lottery-quality guard at a spot where most teams are lucky to find a benchwarmer.
28. Los Angeles Clippers: Jarnell Stokes, PF, Tennessee
Stokes’ size should allow the Clippers to rest Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan more during the regular season, as that duo logs far too many minutes to keep making deep, consistent playoff runs without injury. The Volunteers big man may not be as great as either of those stars, but he will be effective in limited minutes.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Jusuf Nurkic, C, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Nurkic is a solid option to draft now and stash in Europe until he’s ready to be an NBA-caliber contributor. The Thunder already have plenty of young talent and bona fide stars on the roster, so expect them to make this type of pick on draft day.
30. San Antonio Spurs: K.J. McDaniels, SF, Clemson
McDaniels is a versatile player who can score, rebound, hustle and do just about everything else at a decent clip. He’s the ideal Spurs talent and should get heavy consideration from the club if he is still available at No. 30.
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