It’s crunch time now that the 2014 NBA draft has all but arrived, meaning all of the white noise that are rumors and speculation can be put to rest in favor of the real thing.
A proper grade for the draft as a whole cannot be assigned until years after the fact, but as it stands now if the order holds without trades, there are obvious prospect fits with teams based on a need-value combo that make plenty of sense.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Jabari Parker, SF, Duke
If the Cleveland Cavaliers do not dump this pick in exchange for a handsome haul, expect Jabari Parker to be the guy.
As ESPN’s Jeff Goodman and Chad Ford point out, Parker seems to be the guy despite some strange allegations as of late:
However, the majority of the Cavs‘ front office — including new general manager David Griffin — is leaning toward selecting Parker, sources said.
Parker came in for a workout and was less than stellar, appearing out of shape and even disinterested. Sources told ESPN.com that the former Duke forward prefers to play in Milwaukee Bucks, which is closer to his Chicago home and also a spot in which he can be featured as a go-to player.
Parker will be a steady scorer right off the bat in the pros, which will make the Cavaliers playoff contenders.
2. Milwaukee Bucks: Andrew Wiggins, SF, Kansas
Don’t expect Milwaukee to go anywhere, either.
Not with Andrew Wiggins on the board. The Kansas product needs some refinement, but even in his rather raw state, he remains arguably the top player in the class.
For a team that seems a few years out before the rebuilding phase is complete, Wiggins can run wild in the interim while he develops. Not a bad deal for either side.
3. Philadelphia 76ers: Noah Vonleh, PF, Indiana
Some will cry foul that Noah Vonleh is not worthy of such a high pick, but that vocal minority would be downright incorrect.
Vonleh is an athletic freak at 6’10” and 247 pounds who makes for a quality rim protector right away. His offensive game is a work in progress, but Philadelphia has better options anyway. As an added bonus, he is just 18 years of age.
Also remember that Joel Embiid is a major question mark at this juncture. Like Wiggins in Milwaukee, Vonleh can take his time developing while the rebuild rages onward.
4. Orlando Magic: Dante Exum, PG, Australia
There is so little known about Dante Exum at this point that even the 18-year-old Australian’s position seems to be up in the air, as noted by Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com:
In Orlando, Exum would still play the point while he develops and plays a critical scoring role in a young offense.
For a team with two selections in the first round, Exum is a rather safe gamble.
5. Utah Jazz: Aaron Gordon, PF, Arizona
The Utah Jazz need young talent in the post, so it makes sense they would look to grab the athletic freak known as Aaron Gordon.
Per Ford, Gordon is high on the Jazz’s wish list (subscription required):
If they stay at No. 5, their top two targets — Exum and Vonleh — are off the board. From what I can gather, the next player on the list for the Jazz is Gordon. He had a stellar workout in Utah and the team is convinced that he could have an Andrei Kirilenko-like effect on the team. Because Gordon has never been a shooter; he’s had to develop every other part of his game (ballhandling, passing, rebounding, defense) to justify putting him on the floor. But if he could ever learn how to shoot, he has everything else that you could want in an NBA star.
The key is if the Jazz hang on to the pick, but there is currently no reason to believe they will not.
6. Boston Celtics: Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky
As the most pro-ready power forward in the class, Julius Randle seemed destined to find a home with a team that needed his contributions right away.
That’s simply not the case in Boston, a team that would not pass on his skill set as they build for the future.
The centerpiece of the Kentucky attack last year will have to get accustomed to not being the first option each time down the court, but his addition will work wonders for the Celtics right away.
7. Los Angeles Lakers: Joel Embiid, C, Kansas
Emiid’s slide ends with the Los Angeles Lakers, a team that does not know what the future holds with Pau Gasol and also understands that the next season is likely a lost cause either way.
To that end, grabbing Embiid—who will likely miss the majority of his rookie year—is a strong decision.
The consensus No. 1 pick thanks to his game-changing ability at both ends, the Lakers find new life in a big way if he pans out.
8. Sacramento Kings: Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State
Experts are on board—Marcus Smart is the best when it comes to pro-ready point guards. Just ask Basketball Insiders’ Alex Kennedy:
A physical, defensive stalwart, Smart is a deadly addition for any franchise looking to get nastier on both ends of the court. The Oklahoma State product changes the attitude in Sacramento quickly.
9. Charlotte Hornets: Nik Stauskas, SG, Michigan
Charlotte needs more consistent scorers, so it only makes sense the front office goes after one of the purest shooters in the class.
Michigan’s Nik Stauskas contributes in that way from all over the court from the moment he steps onto the pro hardwood, which in turn opens things up for other players with spacing not so much of an issue as it was a year ago.
10. Philadelphia 76ers: Doug McDermott, SF, Creighton
With a new banger on the low block in this scenario, the 76ers can now add some more offense outside of the paint.
Doug McDermott is as good as it gets in this range thanks to his ability to score from any point on the court, but also to create as a slasher.
It is hard to say how long McDermott will need for development, but again—Philadelphia is not necessarily looking at a playoffs-or-bust scenario next season.
11. Denver Nuggets: Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State
Many will mock a foreigner player to Denver at this point because of the team’s apparent content with the current state of the roster, per Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post:
“Nuggets execs are comfortable with the ability of the team they have coming back and believe it can be a playoff contender. A needed tweak here or there can be handled through free agency. They do not need a draftee to come in and play big minutes. They weren‘t going to necessarily need that anyway.”
Smart, but not really. Denver plays in the deep Western Conference, so it cannot hurt to add another elite collegiate scorer to the ranks for depth purposes. That’s Gary Harris, who averaged 16.7 points last season while shooting 42.9 percent from the field.
12. Orlando Magic: James Young, SF, Kentucky
Lost in the shuffle of bigger names at Kentucky last year, James Young still managed to put on a clinic most nights, as noted by averages of 14.3 points and 4.3 rebounds per game.
It will be a similar role for Young in Orlando, where the likes of Exum and even Victor Oladipo would see more importance on the offensive side of the court.
That said, the 18-year-old-forward has enough potential to eventually develop into the No. 1 option.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves: Elfrid Payton, PG, Louisiana-Lafayette
Elfrid Payton has been an extremely quick riser during the final countdown to the draft, as a Tweet from Kennedy helps to illustrate:
Minnesota is certainly not afraid of taking a point guard, especially one of Payton’s stature. He can seemingly score at will and has plenty of room to grow with the team.
14. Phoenix Suns: Zach LaVine, PG/SG, UCLA
One of the more intriguing physical specimens in the class, UCLA’s Zach LaVine is an easy decision for the Phoenix Suns at No. 14.
Coming off a season most expected would be horrific, the Suns almost made the playoffs in the Western Conference and clutch a trio of picks.
LaVine is not a gamble, but instead a great scoring option once he develops. The roster does not need him right now per se, but down the line it is a pick that will certainly work out.
15. Atlanta Hawks: Rodney Hood, SG, Duke
How the Atlanta Hawks truly feel about Jeff Teague will be soon discovered, but for now let’s roll with the notion they want to surround him with more help.
To that end, Rodney Hood is a great option on both ends of the court at the 2-guard spot.
Hood can hold his own defensively and knock down shots from range in tandem with the right point guard. He gets that in Atlanta.
16. Chicago Bulls: Adreian Payne, PF, Michigan State
Adreian Payne has his critics because he seems to already be at his ceiling, but that’s not such a bad thing for certain franchises.
The move makes even more sense if Taj Boyd is shipped away. If not, the Bulls get a great backup.
17. Boston Celtics: P.J. Hairston, SG, Texas Legends
P.J. Hairston can score in bunches when he gets hot, and he would have plenty of opportunities to do just that in Boston next to Rajon Rondo, should he remain with the squad.
Given Avery Bradley’s uncertain future and propensity for getting hurt, it only makes sense that Boston will look for some insurance.
That insurance is Hairston, who is so talented he should probably be coming off the board higher if he did not take such a strange path to the pro level.
18. Phoenix Suns: Kyle Anderson, F/G, UCLA
Standing at 6’9″ with a 7’3″ wingspan, Kyle Anderson is quietly one of the most coveted players in the class thanks to his alarming versatility after playing point guard at UCLA.
He certainly won’t do that in Phoenix, nor see the court often on what is already a promising roster.
But Anderson is a future investment with a ton of possibilities given his skill set.
19. Chicago Bulls: T.J. Warren, SF, North Carolina State
T.J. Warren is a name who is getting quite the stock raise as of late, as noted by Howard-Cooper:
That wrinkle is something the front office in Chicago will surely welcome off the bench. Warren can score with some of the best in the class, but an added defensive component makes a team like Chicago take notice.
20. Toronto Raptors: Tyler Ennis, PG, Syracuse
Per Josh Lewenberg of TSN 1050, Toronto is focused on Kyle Lowry:
Good news, but that should not stop the team from taking both the best player available and a great insurance policy in Tyler Ennis.
The term “pro ready” gets thrown around a lot, but Ennis is just that thanks to his defense and the care with which he takes care of the rock.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder: Jusuf Nurkic, C, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Jusuf Nurkic is quietly a great option for an NBA team in need of a center after he averaged 11.7 points and 5.7 rebounds in just 16 minutes per night last year in the Adriatic League.
For Oklahoma City, he represents a strong future investment, if not a sound rotational addition right away in what is a scary conference, to say the least.
22. Memphis Grizzlies: Jarnell Stokes, PF, Tennessee
Being a great rebounder is enough for some teams, which is why the Memphis Grizzlies will have so much interest in Jarnell Stokes at No. 22.
Stokes averaged a double-double last year at 15.1 points and 10.6 rebounds per game. At this point in the draft, that production speaks for itself as Stokes has the look of an instant contributor at the next level.
23. Utah Jazz: Cleanthony Early, SF, Wichita State
In need of more scoring, the Jazz can look to one of the draft’s more intriguing prospects in Cleanthony Early, a tweener who can play either forward spot with effectiveness.
Early’s contributions come on both ends of the court, which makes him an attractive bench addition for the Jazz, a team that may have a very different looking roster by the time the season begins.
24. Charlotte Hornets: Glenn Robinson III, SF, Michigan
Many continue to sleep on Glenn Robinson III, but as Rob Beard of The Detroit News points out, GR3 can most certainly sneak into the first round:
The Hornets got a pure scorer earlier in the round, so the team is due for a more well-rounded prospect this late. GR3 is a great value and can come into his own as a role player.
25. Houston Rockets: Dario Saric, F, Croatia
There is reason to be excited about Dario Saric, even if he cannot come to the NBA for another two years.
ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla illustrates why:
Who knows where Houston will be a in few years, but the contender is not going to find a prospect right now that can provide a major boost, anyway. Better to invest in the continued run at title shots, no?
26. Miami Heat: K.J. McDaniels, SF, Clemson
It’s impossible to know who will actually be around in Miami by the time next season rolls around, so bet on the Heat taking the best player available.
So late, that is K.J. McDaniels, a forward that dominated the ACC and can score in bunches when given the opportunity.
Worst-case scenario, McDaniels is a scoring threat off the bench as a rookie.
27. Phoenix Suns: Clint Capela, C/PF, Switzerland
Provided the Suns do not do away with some of their first round picks this year, taking a gamble on a foreign player makes loads of sense.
Clint Capela touts quite the intriguing upside and will hardly see the court as a rookie in this scenario, but that’s quite a good thing.
In a few years when we have a better idea of what the Suns’ roster looks like and a hole opens up, Capela will be there to step to the occasion.
28. Los Angeles Clippers: Mitch McGary, C/PF, Michigan
Remember that Tweet from Beard?
Mitch McGary was the other name mentioned, and for good reason. The force beneath the rim has taken quite a rocky path to the pros, but his game speaks for itself. He’s valuable insurance on the long end of the bench in Los Angeles.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: DeAndre Daniels, SF, Connecticut
As one can imagine if they saw DeAndre Daniels play at UConn, he is a bit of a work in progress. This is best explained by Rotoworld’s Ed Isaacson:
He has improved his shooting from most spots on the floor, though he is often plagued with poor shot selection. Daniels is an average defender at best, though his length allows him to challenge shots inside and out. Daniels is still learning many facets of the game and it may be a few years before he has any kind of impact at the NBA level, but he is worth a shot for a team with strong development.
See those last two words? That would be the crew in Oklahoma City, which can surely get the best out of a special talent in need of a proper mold.
30. San Antonio Spurs: Shabazz Napier, PG, Connecticut
Most years the San Antonio Spurs are much like the New England Patriots—it is impossible to discern what they will do in the draft.
Except in this scenario, it is easy to see Shabazz Napier packing his bags for Texas after health questions surrounding Tony Parker, not to mention the UConn product’s ability to safely run an offense and leading his team to a national title.
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