The Top 2014 NBA Draft Targets for Every Playoff Team
The 2014 NBA lottery teams aren't the only ones who get to have fun in the draft.
Although the postseason is in full swing, scouts and executives of playoff teams are behind the scenes, planning how to use their late first-round picks. The depth of this year's crop means you don't have to be a cellar dweller to make significant upgrades via the draft.
Low-seed squads are trying to make the jump to legitimate title contention, and powerhouses seek to stay in the hunt. These clubs are targeting their favorite prospects in the hopes of enhancing the rotation, filling needs and adding value.
Which top-tier performers are they aiming at?
*Includes all playoff teams with first-round picks. The Mavericks, Nets, Pacers, Trail Blazers, Warriors and Wizards do not have first-round picks, but the Mavericks, Pacers and Wizards do have second-round picks.
*Teams listed in order of regular-season record. Full draft order available here via DraftExpress.com.
2013-14 Season: 38-44 (East No. 8), 101.0 Pts For/101.5 Against
Area(s) of Need: Versatile wing, future power forward
First-round Pick(s): No. 15
Nik Stauskas, Michigan SG (6'6" So.): There's an outside chance Michigan's prolific scorer could slip past his possible late-lottery destinations. If that happens, it would be nearly impossible for the Atlanta Hawks to pass on him.
Mike Budenholzer has a robust core in Al Horford, Jeff Teague and Paul Millsap, along with several productive helpers. But what it needs is some versatile assets, particularly a wing like Stauskas who's a multidimensional scorer.
Zach LaVine, UCLA G (6'5" Fr.): While he doesn't possess the instant-impact versatility of a guy like Stauskas, UCLA's Zach LaVine is a promising long-term investment. His turbo-charged speed and shooting ability will make Atlanta's offense more consistently dynamic, and his creativity upside could help Teague generate offense off the dribble.
James Young, Kentucky G-F (6'6" Fr.): Young isn't currently as polished or efficient as wings like Rodney Hood or stretch 4s like Adreian Payne, but he has a higher ceiling.
He only shot 35 percent from distance in 2013-14, yet you can tell he's got an NBA stroke; his 6'11" wingspan doesn't hurt. With better shot selection and improved handling skills, he could thrive in Budenholzer's system.
2013-14 Season: 43-39 (East No. 7), 96.9 Pts For/97.1 Against
Area(s) of Need: Swingman scoring and shooting, frontcourt depth, guard depth
First-round Pick(s): No. 24 (via POR)
C.J. Wilcox, Washington SG (6'5" Sr.): In the 2013-14 season, the Charlotte Bobcats were the second-worst playoff team in three-pointers made (6.3 per game) and three-point percentage (35 percent).
Wilcox would help fill that void in a big way, providing a reliable and smooth shooting weapon to help space the floor for Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson. He was a career 39 percent from distance at Washington and shot no worse than 37 percent in any season. As a senior, he averaged nearly three triples per game.
T.J. Warren, N.C. State SF (6'8" So.): If he's spurned by mid-first-round clubs, Charlotte would be more than willing to scoop T.J. Warren up. He finds high-percentage opportunities all over the floor, and his ability to score with or without the rock would help the 'Cats flirt with (or exceed) 100 points per game.
Cleanthony Early, Wichita St. SF (6'8" Sr.): During his senior year, Early showed off a much-improved three-point stroke. In the Shockers' only loss of the season, he flexed his all-around scoring skills with 31 against high-powered Kentucky.
His ability to score inside would be handy for Charlotte, and his outside shooting would help give Walker and Jefferson room to operate.
2013-14 Season: 48-34 (East No. 4), 93.7 Pts For/91.8 Against
Area(s) of Need: Wing-scoring, shot-creating guard, athleticism
First-round Pick(s): No. 16 (via CHA), No. 19
Zach LaVine, UCLA G (6'5" Fr.): The young Bruin's draft projections are all over the place, so it's quite possible he'll be there at No. 16 for Chi-town.
He would provide shooting and athleticism in the short-term and eventually be groomed into a dangerous combo guard and talented defensive weapon. LaVine still has a lot to learn about finding optimal scoring chances and playing fundamental defense, but his upside is extremely attractive for Thibs and Co.
P.J. Hairston, Legends SG (6'6", 1992): Chicago needs outside shooting and swingman scoring, as Jimmy Butler and Tony Snell don't provide top-tier versatility offensively. Enter Hairston, the banished Tarheel turned D-League star who drilled 73 triples in 26 games for the Legends.
The 6'6" bruiser can do much more than spot up, as he can create his own jumper and convert physical line-drive slashes to the hoop.
Adreian Payne, Michigan St. PF (6'10" Sr.): Picking Payne would add athleticism and depth to the frontcourt, and it would also boost the team's three-point production (Bulls made just 6.2 threes per night in 2013-14). The bonus is that he's experienced, and he has the intangibles required to use him right away.
2013-14 Season: 48-34 (East No. 3), 101.3 Pts For/98.4 Against
Area(s) of Need: Facilitating help, forward depth
First-round Pick(s): No. 20
Kyle Anderson, UCLA G-F (6'9" So.): Anderson might already be gone by the time Toronto's turn rolls around, but the Raptors will be keeping an eye on him as the early first round unfolds. His size and outstanding passing skills could make him a steal.
ESPN's Jeff Goodman (subscription required) explains that Anderson is a good investment regardless of if Kyle Lowry stays: "The Raptors need to cover themselves in case Kyle Lowry goes elsewhere—and even if he returns, they could use a quality backup point guard. (He) simply makes people better."
T.J. Warren, NC State F (6'8" So.): Masai Ujiri should target T.J. Warren if he falls toward Toronto's slot. The ACC's leading bucket-getter can fill it up in a variety of ways and brings plenty of size as a 3.
Warren must improve his three-point efficiency, but his off-ball instincts, mid-range game and transition will serve him well as a secondary scoring option.
K.J. McDaniels, Clemson F (6'6" Jr.): Clemson's star is one of the best high-level role players available in this draft. He would undoubtedly take Toronto's defense to the next tier while providing elite athleticism and shooting potential on offense.
2013-14 Season: 50-32 (West No. 7), 96.1 Pts For/94.6 Against
Area(s) of Need: Outside shooting, backup point guard, athleticism
First-round Pick(s): No. 22
Rodney Hood/P.J. Hairston: I'm grouping these two gunners together because the Grizz will be targeting whichever one goes undrafted throughout the mid-first round.
Hood's three-point prowess and ability to operate within the flow of the offense would enhance Memphis' offense immensely. Meanwhile, Hairston's D-League perimeter-scoring sprees indicate he would stimulate the Grizzlies' production beyond the arc.
Jerami Grant, Syracuse SF (6'8" So.): Memphis could really use some athleticism in the forward ranks, someone to give it more of a presence in the open floor. Having his length (7'2" wingspan) and explosiveness would give the Grizzlies a slasher and someone to compete against the opponents' springier players.
Skill-wise, Grant is still in the early stages of development, but at No. 22 he provides a lot of upside.
Shabazz Napier, UConn PG (6'1" Sr.): As CBS Sports' Gary Parrish noted, "the Grizzlies have needed a reliable backup point guard basically forever. Why not select the Final Four's Most Outstanding Player? Napier can handle the ball, create shots, make jumpers and guard his position."
Napier is one of those players who may never hold a long-term starting role but will probably be one of the best reserve floor generals in the league. He could ensure that Memphis' offense is a more dynamic 48-minute unit in 2014-15.
2013-14 Season: 54-28 (West No. 4), 107.7 Pts For/103.1 Against
Area(s) of Need: Lots of defense, facilitating help
First-round Pick(s): No. 25
K.J. McDaniels, Clemson SF (6'6" Jr.): In the 2013-14 regular season, the Houston Rockets gave up the most points of any playoff team, and they also surrendered a truckload to Portland in the playoffs. Part of that is due to their uptempo style, but much of it is just plain bad defense.
A defensive stud like McDaniels won't instantly fortify their team stoppage, but he's a great piece for Daryl Morey to start with. He'll be able to guard multiple positions, and his athleticism will be utilized well in their fast-paced offense.
Shabazz Napier, UConn PG (6'1" Sr.): Houston's point guard situation could be tenuous in the near future, as Patrick Beverley and Jeremy Lin could be elsewhere by 2015.
Napier offers creativity, leadership and shot-making ability as an undersized point. At worst, he's a solid backup. At best, he's a more dynamic offensive weapon than Beverley or Lin.
C.J. Wilcox, Washington SG (6'5" Sr.): Instead of relying on one- or two-year free agents for long-range snipers, why not draft a proven shooter to play the role? CBS Sports' Gary Parrish likes Wilcox's accuracy in Kevin McHale's system: "Nobody in the NBA attempts more 3-pointers than the Rockets...So this is a nice fit."
2013-14 Season: 54-28 (East No. 2), 102.2 Pts For/97.4 Against
Area(s) of Need: Point guard, offensive rebounding
First-round Pick(s): No. 26
Elfrid Payton, La. Lafayette PG (6'4" Jr.): Finding point guard production should be a priority for the Miami Heat, considering Mario Chalmers' contract is up and Norris Cole may not be in their plans for the future.
Lousiana Lafayette's Elfrid Payton is an electrifying option late in the first round, provided he's still available. He would do well to improve his shooting (24 percent on two-point jumpers and 26 percent on triples in 2013-14, according to Hoop-Math.com), but his 6'7" wingspan and athletic playmaking prowess are appealing.
Shabazz Napier, UConn PG (6'1" Sr.): Payton has much better size and upside than Napier, but if Payton is already off the board, the two-time NCAA champ is a quality pick at this point in the first round.
Deonte Burton, Nevada PG (6'1" Sr.): The Wolfpack star is an intriguing prospect for Miami to keep an eye on during predraft workouts and scrimmages. He could sneak into the picture due to his explosive ability to attack the rim and also apply pressure defensively.
Los Angeles Clippers
2013-14 Season: 57-25 (West No. 3), 107.9 Pts For/101.0 Against
Area(s) of Need: Forward scoring, backup point guard
First-round Pick(s): No. 28
Cleanthony Early, Wichita St. SF (6'8" Sr.): He's not a high-upside choice, but Early could be a key addition for the Los Angeles Clippers' title pursuits in the near future. He can rebound and play in the mid-post, and he also displayed perimeter scoring in 2013-14. Early may not be a humongous steal at No. 28, but L.A. would be grateful to get him this late.
Shabazz Napier, UConn PG (6'1" Sr.): Again, Napier finds himself on a late first-round team's wish list. This time, he's an insurance policy if Darren Collison opts out for richer pastures.
Given the uncertainty surrounding Donald Sterling's sale of the Clippers, head coach Doc Rivers may not be in L.A. next year. But if he is, CBS Sports' Matt Moore believes Napier would be an awesome fit.
"This isn't just because of the championship run," Moore said. "Napier really impressed me over the last few weeks in how he ran the pick and roll, a core tenet of the Clippers' system. Doc Rivers would like his fight and pedigree."
DeAndre Daniels, UConn F (6'8" Jr.): Daniels played his way into the 2014 draft by finally utilizing his 7'1" wingspan and outside shooting touch. He won't be massively productive in the NBA, but he possesses great size as a spot-up shooter.
Oklahoma City Thunder
2013-14 Season: 59-23 (West No. 2), 106.2 Pts For/99.8 Against
Area(s) of Need: Shooters to help smooth out half-court offense, skilled big
First-round Pick(s): No. 21 (via DAL), No. 29
P.J. Hairston, Legends SG (6'6", 1992): If Hairston falls to OKC at 21, Sam Presti would love to add his shooting and physical tools on the wing. Hairston would complement Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook extremely well, serving as a dangerous perimeter scorer who can also attack off the bounce.
Although he's not a terrific athlete, he's going to be a rock-solid two-way player. Opposing coaches will have to account for him every night, as he'll stretch the floor and effectively check other swingmen.
Adreian Payne, Michigan St. PF (6'10" Sr.): Scott Brooks needs a scoring option in the frontcourt, and Payne would be a great asset to utilize in the rotation immediately. His three-point shooting (42 percent as a senior) lends offensive set flexibility, and he can also connect from the mid-post or finish above the rim on putbacks.
Jusuf Nurkic, Bosnia C (6'11', 1994): This is a wild-card type of target for Presti and Co. Nurkic would make their low-post presence much more valuable.
ESPN's Chad Ford (subscription required) noted that Nurkic is a great pickup even if he doesn't come over to the NBA right away: "Nurkic has NBA size and soft hands to play the center position, and let's face it, in a draft devoid of bigs, that's a commodity...this is a nice draft-and-stash candidate for the Thunder."
San Antonio Spurs
2013-14 Season: 62-20 (West No. 1), 105.4 Pts For/97.6 Against
Area(s) of Need: Guard/wing contributions, future assets
First-round Pick(s): No. 30
Damien Inglis, France F (6'9", 1995): If you don't think the San Antonio Spurs have their eye on this creative French forward, then you don't know the Spurs.
Inglis moves quickly and fluidly for a 240-pound player, and he's got a chance to be a versatile weapon down the road. B/R's Jonathan Wasserman thinks San Antonio might snag him for future use: "As a draft-and-stash option, Inglis could be a sneaky play for a team that can't improve through the draft for 2014-15."
Jarnell Stokes, Tennessee PF (6'8" Jr.): The Spurs are only hunting for role players with this pick, so a presence like Stokes could be a nice cog in the rotation. He's not a quick leaper or a towering, long player, but he'll battle for position and wear down opponents. Gregg Popovich is a master at maximizing guys like him.
Jusuf Nurkic/Clint Capela: We paired these two up because it's unlikely that they'll both be available at No. 30; the Spurs will target whoever's untaken. In the event that one slides this far, he will be pretty high on San Antonio's board. Neither one is ready to battle alongside Tim Duncan, but both are still valuable long-term resources.
Dan O'Brien covers the NBA draft for Bleacher Report.
Follow him on Twitter: @DanielO_BR