The NBA draft doesn't have to be rocket science.
Granted, you're taking a leap of faith with any player who's yet to play in the NBA, but there are unquestionably players of whom you know will deliver right from the opening tip of their rookie seasons. That doesn't always mean they'll turn into All-Stars or MVPs, but they at least offer value in the short term.
As this is one of the deepest draft classes in recent memory, there is no shortage of talent that's ready to provide an immediate impact.
Below is a projection for the first round. The players underlined are most prepared to help their teams right away.
Note: Draft order is via NBA.com.
1. Milwaukee Bucks: Andrew Wiggins, SG/SF, Kansas
No player in this draft is better than Andrew Wiggins, and the Milwaukee Bucks don't have LeBron James playing the 3. This should be an easy decision. Although Wiggins' lone season at Kansas was a bit of a disappointment, it doesn't change what he's capable of in the NBA.
2. Philadelphia 76ers: Jabari Parker, SF, Duke
Until we've seen what Nerlens Noel can or can't do in the NBA, the Philadelphia 76ers should hold off on drafting another big man. That paves the way for Jabari Parker. The Duke star is such a great scorer and would take a lot of the offensive burden off Michael Carter-Williams.
ESPN.com's Jeff Goodman believes Parker offers the lowest risk of any player in the 2014 draft:
Sixers fans haven't had a lot to get excited about, but a core of Noel, MCW and Parker at least offers hope for the future.
3. Orlando Magic: Dante Exum, PG/SG, Australia
The Orlando Magic might find it tempting to draft Joel Embiid, but the presence of Nikola Vucevic makes the Kansas star more of a luxury than a need. It wouldn't be a bad decision, but Dante Exum is both a talented player and fills a major hole in the Magic's lineup. They lack an explosive point guard like Exum, and pairing him with Victor Oladipo would give Orlando a nasty backcourt duo.
4. Utah Jazz: Joel Embiid, C, Kansas
Although Enes Kanter is only 21 years old, he regressed a bit in 2013-14. His per-36 numbers dropped nearly across the board, and his PER went from 17.6 in 2012-13 to 15.6 this past year. The Utah Jazz could stick with Kanter, but seeing Embiid hanging there might be too good to pass up.
This is the kind of big man who only comes along every few years. Andy Larsen of Salt City Hoops thinks Embiid would be a great addition for Utah:
Embiid possesses great athleticism for a 7-footer, and his game is much more advanced for somebody who only really picked up the game a few years ago. He's only going to improve, and that's scary.
5. Boston Celtics: Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State
Rajon Rondo's future in Boston remains up in the air. The Celtics are clearly in rebuilding mode, and they may want jettison him now before he gets fed up with losing. Even if Rondo stays on board, Marcus Smart at least gives Boston some great depth at the point guard position.
6. Los Angeles Lakers: Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky
The Los Angeles Lakers are in a position where they can draft anything except a shooting guard, and it would represent an upgrade. Julius Randle is a beast in the post. His offensive game features a nice variety of moves, and he can clean up on the boards.
7. Sacramento Kings: Aaron Gordon, PF, Arizona
It's easy to see how Aaron Gordon could get compared to Blake Griffin or Shawn Marion. Although his jump shot needs work, his athleticism is off the charts. Even if Gordon's offense never comes along, he'll at least contribute on the boards and defensively.
8. Detroit Pistons: Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State
The Detroit Pistons are in need of a steady hand between the shot-happy Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings. Gary Harris isn't lights-out from behind the arc, but he's the kind of player who won't try and take shots that aren't there. His offensive efficiency would help counteract Smith and Jennings.
9. Cleveland Cavaliers: Noah Vonleh, PF/C, Indiana
Unless the Cleveland Cavaliers offload Dion Waiters or Anthony Bennett, they should look for Anderson Varejao's long-term replacement with their first pick. While Noah Vonleh needs some work on the offensive end, he's the best big man available. As long as the Cavs are patient with him, he should grow into a productive starter.
10. Philadelphia 76ers: Dario Saric, SF/PF, Croatia
Although the Sixers would already have Parker, Dario Saric would still represent a solid addition in Philly. Plus, the 76ers are in a position where they could wait on Saric until he's ready to hit the NBA if he wants to spend another year in Europe.
11. Denver Nuggets: Tyler Ennis, PG, Syracuse
After Ty Lawson, the Denver Nuggets' point guard cupboard is bare. Tyler Ennis won't become an explosive scorer in the NBA, but he'll have no trouble in running an offense. Ennis possesses great vision and would allow Lawson to play fewer than 36 minutes a night.
12. Orlando Magic: Rodney Hood, SF, Duke
Among other things, the Magic lacked scorers. Rodney Hood has an impressive offensive repertoire. He can attack the basket or spot up from three-point range—shooting 42.0 percent from downtown in 2013-14. Orlando's offense would improve greatly if the team can grab both Exum and Hood.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves: Nik Stauskas, SG, Michigan
The Minnesota Timberwolves finished 26th in three-point percentage (34.1 percent) during the regular season. Nik Stauskas is a great shooter and would give the T-Wolves an added dimension in 2014-15. Plus, his potential and all-around game offer better value than Doug McDermott.
14. Phoenix Suns: Doug McDermott, SF, Creighton
Speaking of McDermott, there's no question he's one of the best shooters available and will contribute immediately. Getting Gerald Green to shoot 40.0 percent from three-point range might be hard to do for the Phoenix Suns, so they should hedge their bets by grabbing McDermott.
Some might look at the Creighton star and come to the conclusion he can't get much better than he is now. While that is true to a certain extent, there's a certain value that should be attached to a player of whom you know exactly what you're getting. Few players in this draft can step into the NBA right away and give a team as much production as McDermott will.
15. Atlanta Hawks: James Young, SG/SF, Kentucky
If James Young can figure out his shooting, he's a tremendous value pick here. The Atlanta Hawks might look to a 3 who's more of a long-range threat, but Young's potential is too good to pass up. At the very least, he's a great option to bring off the bench for DeMarre Carroll.
16. Chicago Bulls: T.J. Warren, SF, North Carolina State
With the absence of Luol Deng, the Chicago Bulls need to add a scorer at the 3. T.J. Warren isn't your typical small forward, but he finds a way to the bucket and can give you the odd three-pointer every now and then.
17. Boston Celtics: Kyle Anderson, SF/PF, UCLA
Although Kyle Anderson played point guard at UCLA, he doesn't have the athleticism or defensive ability to play there in the NBA. He's a good ball-handler, though, and can create for his teammates. With the presence of Smart and Rondo, Brad Stevens wouldn't have to worry about Anderson's biggest limitations hurting the team.
18. Phoenix Suns: Clint Capela, PF, Switzerland
The Suns already have a great backcourt, so they should look to strengthen their frontcourt here. Clint Capela still needs some time to develop, but that shouldn't be a problem for Phoenix. Markieff Morris has really emerged, and by the time Channing Frye moves on, Capela would be ready to step into a larger role. He's an athletic big man and wouldn't have any problem with Jeff Hornacek's faster-paced offense.
19. Chicago Bulls: Jerami Grant, SF, Syracuse
Drafting two 3s might not seem like a good idea, but Hood's game is a little different to Jerami Grant, who balances between being a small forward and a power forward. With the Bulls already built to win now, they could afford to let Grant's game develop.
20. Toronto Raptors: Adreian Payne, PF, Michigan State
Adreian Payne doesn't have the ceiling of a guy like Julius Randle, but the Michigan State star does a little bit of everything, making him well worth a mid-first-round pick. Payne can spot up from long range or back his way into the post, where he's more than capable of passing out to open teammates.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder: Jusuf Nurkic, C, Bosnia
Although the Oklahoma City Thunder already have Steven Adams, Jusuf Nurkic is worth drafting and storing away until he's ready. He's already an imposing presence in the post. Only 19 years old, Nurkic would have plenty of time to grow and develop.
22. Memphis Grizzlies: P.J. Hairston, SG, Texas Legends
Three-point shooting has been one of the Memphis Grizzlies' biggest problems this year. They attempted (1,147) and made (405) the fewest three-pointers of any team in the league, and their three-point percentage (35.3 percent) was 19th. P.J. Hairston isn't a three-point specialist, but he can knock them down from long range.
23. Utah Jazz: K.J. McDaniels, SF, Clemson
The Jazz sit last in defensive efficiency (109.1). The one thing K.J. McDaniels brings to the court right now is defense. This is a forward who blocked 2.8 shots in 2013-14 and 2.1 shots in 2012-13. McDaniels would be a huge help for Utah on the defensive end.
24. Charlotte Bobcats: Zach LaVine, PG/SG, UCLA
If the Charlotte Bobcats get the first-half version of Zach LaVine, they'd have the perimeter threat they sorely need. The UCLA guard was deadly from long range early on for the Bruins before falling back to earth later in the year.
25. Houston Rockets: Cleanthony Early, SF/PF, Wichita State
Chandler Parsons is bound to cash in once his rookie deal is over. Cleanthony Early gives the Houston Rockets an insurance policy in case it becomes too costly to keep Parsons around. Early can stretch opposing defenses and would give Houston another long-range threat at small forward.
26. Miami Heat: Shabazz Napier, PG, Connecticut
Few players in recent memory have improved their draft stock in the NCAA tournament as much as Shabazz Napier has. He's gone from fringe first-rounder to lock for the top 30.
You know exactly what you're getting with the UConn star. He can't knock it down from long range, but he can drive to the basket and set up his teammates.
When it comes to the Miami Heat, saving every penny is important, so re-signing Mario Chalmers might be a little too much to bear this offseason. Napier can step into the NBA right now and replace the veteran guard. With the supporting cast the Heat have, he would have an easy transition to the pros.
Perhaps most in Napier's favor is he's already got LeBron James on board.
27. Phoenix Suns: Vasilije Micic, PG, Serbia
Keeping Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic together might get too costly for the Suns, so working on a succession plan might be important. Vasilije Micic isn't in a position to contribute to Phoenix right away, but by the time he's ready, the path to the starting lineup might be a little more clear.
28. Los Angeles Clippers: Elfrid Payton, PG, Louisiana-Lafayette
Even the best need a solid backup. Keeping Darren Collison in behind Chris Paul doesn't make sense financially when you can draft a player like Elfrid Payton here. Payton is a solid ball-handler who can run an offense. Plus, he'll get to learn from a great PG like Paul.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Bogdan Bogdanovic, SG/SF, Serbia
There's a good chance Bogdan Bogdanovic won't be available here. If he is, the Oklahoma City Thunder should pounce. Bogdanovic is a very good three-point shooter who could step into the Thunder's rotation in another year or two.
30. San Antonio Spurs: Jahii Carson, PG, Arizona State
It really doesn't matter whom the San Antonio Spurs draft here, does it? They always take somebody late and turn him into an All-Star. At 5'10", Jahii Carson will always be at a height disadvantage. However, he's so quick and good on the ball that with the right coaching, he could turn into a major contributor. Don't doubt Gregg Popovich's ability to get the best out of Carson.
Note: All stats are courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.
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