If you’re a fan of drafts, but prefer ones that last less than three days and don’t take ten-plus minute per pick, you’re probably an NBA Mock Draft fan.
Or if you’re a sucker for drafts and you were trying to google NFL Draft results and wound up here, haha, I got you, welcome to the NBA Mock Draft underworld, or something weird.
Either way, I’m a basketball nut and I can’t focus on the NFL Draft without beginning to obsess over the NBA Draft, which led to me having to put out my first NBA Mock Draft of the year.
This is version 1.0, so please keep in mind that we don’t even know what teams are picking where as you prepare to tear me apart for listing the top 14 players or so and hypothetically placing them with teams who may or may not be picking in the spots I have them at.
With that disclaimer put out there, here goes nothing:
1. Milwaukee Bucks – Jabari Parker, Duke
If the Bucks get the number one pick in the draft, they need for it to be a home run pick. And quite frankly, neither Joel Embiid or Andrew Wiggins are necessarily sure things. The upside for those two players is seemingly higher than Parker’s, but I don’t think there’s a scout out there that doesn’t think Parker will have the best rookie season of the three. It’s not like Parker’s considerably older, and as a freshman he proved to be possibly the most diverse player in the country. Parker can be a big-time scoring point forward, and as much as we want to compare him to either Carmelo Anthony or Paul Pierce, he really played a LeBron James role in college. Again, if it’s Milwaukee, I think they should go with a sure thing and Parker’s the complete embodiment of that.
2. Philadelphia 76ers – Joel Embiid, Kansas
I know, are the Sixers really going to entertain pairing Joel Embiid’s back with Nerlens Noel’s knee? Well, if both players – who each just turned 20 – do wind up panning out, it’s going to be really difficult to score against them in the paint. If Embiid’s season didn’t end with a back injury I don’t think we’d be questioning who the top pick in the 2014 NBA Draft is, as he joins Anthony Davis as the best big man prospects in entirely too long. Embiid’s foot work is as impressive as his 7-foot-5 wingspan, and he seemingly got better each game in his one year at Kansas.
3. Orlando Magic – Andrew Wiggins, Kansas
And the consolation of Andrew Wiggins, the next LeBron just a year ago, goes to the third pick in the draft as of now. I think if the Magic were able to land Wiggins (or Parker for that matter) they’d be absolutely ecstatic, as a dynamic wing player is seemingly the biggest missing piece for the upstart Magic. Wiggins looked a little limited as a freshman, leaning heavily on his right when attacking the basket and showing that his perimeter game needs plenty of work still, but his shooting mechanics and jump-out-the-gym athleticism make him really difficult to pass up in this draft. Wiggins will be able to come in and defend at a high level immediately, and his offense shouldn’t take too long to catch up.
4. Utah Jazz – Dante Exum, Australia
I think the fourth pick depends heavily on who’s picking, as I think Julius Randle would be the pick from a “best available talent” perspective, but Dante Exum would be a better fit for the Jazz. A Trey Burke/Exum backcourt would give Utah two guys who can handle the ball and two guards who aren’t afraid to attack the rim, which I’d think bodes well with guys like Gordon Hayward on the wing and a robust front court of young athletes to clean up behind them. In a draft loaded with potential, Exum has about as much as anybody ahead of him, and his 6-foot-9 wingspan (and possibly still growing) combined with his combo guard abilities make him an enticing prospect.
5. Boston Celtics – Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State
Again, I have a really hard time passing up Randle here, but I think Smart’s the better fit and seems to be the type of player that Danny Ainge would want for his young team. I can’t say that Smart really helped his draft stock by coming back for his sophomore year, but he confirmed an incredibly diverse skill set that displays an ability to score from most spots on the court and well above average rebounding for a guard. I’m not sure which guard spot Smart will play at the next level, as he has the advantage of being a big point but also may not be quick enough to guard the Damian Lillard’s and John Wall’s of the league. Either way, he’s a top-5 level talent, and a good fit for a young Celtics team with plenty of holes still.
6. Los Angeles Lakers – Julius Randle, Kentucky
We know very little about what the Lakers are going to look like next season, but if they draft Julius Randle they should have more talent already than they did this past season. Randle’s the type of player who will average a double-double throughout his entire career, and I think he’s about as safe of an investment as there is in this draft. I don’t know how high his ceiling is, but I do know he already has a grown man’s body, can score facing up or backing down, and can wind up being the most talented player in this draft. After passing the buck on being the leader of a Kentucky team in desperate need of leadership I’m not sure how he’d get along with Kobe, but as a rookie, he’s entitled the leeway to learn the ropes for a year to two.
7. Sacramento Kings – Gary Harris, Michigan State
I don’t think Gary Harris is the seventh most talented player in the draft, but if Sacramento winds up picking seventh I think he makes a lot of sense. Already an NBA level defender, Harris brings good size and a reliable jumper to a team that hasn’t had a decent shooting guard in far too long. The improvements that Harris made from his freshman to sophomore seasons were off the charts, and considering he doesn’t turn 20 until September, there’s still lots of room for this efficient prospect to develop.
8. Detroit Pistons – Aaron Gordon, Arizona
I like Noah Vonleh’s draft stock more than I like Gordon’s, but for an incredibly athletic Pistons team I think Gordon’s the better fit. Gordon, Josh Smith and Andre Drummond would have to be the longest 3-4-5 in the league outside of Milwaukee (looking at you Giannis), and I think playing in a front court with those two would allow Gordon to flourish despite clearly being a tweener still. Now, I think the term tweener usually comes with negative connotations, but when you’re as good of a defender as Gordon is it shouldn’t. Gordon has a lot to prove on the offensive end, but he should be able to thrive on being a “little things” guy until he hones his skills and emerges as a three or four.
9. Cleveland Cavaliers – Noah Vonleh, Indiana
Hard to take Vonleh here after using the first pick on Anthony Bennett just a season ago, but the former Indiana freshman is the real deal and will be a force in the paint for whatever team he plays for this season. There certainly isn’t a player more talented than Vonleh at this point in the draft, and I don’t think anyone else out there makes more sense (maybe a wing?) for Cleveland considering this guy can come in and potentially lead the team in rebounds as a rookie.
10. Philadelphia 76ers – Doug McDermott, Creighton
Dougy Dougy Doug…I’m going to slot McBuckets in at ten for the time being, as I think his place in the draft is only going to slip from this point out. McDermott would be a veteran on the 76ers, but he’d also be the most reliable perimeter player they’d have if they draft him, and with guys like Noel, Michael Carter Williams, and Embiid, they could use a shot maker. I’m not saying that McDermott will be anywhere near as prolific of a scorer at the next level, but having the guys who I just listed next to him should allow him to do what he’ll do best, slide behind defenses, get good looks, and have his lack of speed/athleticism hidden by shot blockers in the front court.
11. Denver Nuggets – James Young, Kentucky
It always seems like the Nuggets have more talented wing players than they can afford to play, which is why the silky scoring James Young should be their pick. Aside from Jusuf Nurkic – who I’m going to have to study more before I can talk about him in a mock draft – there isn’t a big who has more talent or potential to go in front of Young, who has a skill set far more fit for the NBA than for the college game. I can see Young benefitting from playing in a more up-tempo system, and running with Ty Lawson should show the world how good of a scorer this kid can really be.
12. Orlando Magic – Tyler Ennis, Syracuse
I’m really not sure if the Magic are going to ride out the Victor Oladipo running the offense experiment, but if they don’t I think this is a great spot to see Tyler Ennis go. I know Oladipo was just a rookie last season, but the Magic were the second least efficient offense in the league, and if any point guard in this draft showed the composure and awareness to run an offense, it’s Ennis. Ennis’ size is a bit of a turn-off, but he showed that he can score in plenty of ways, but more importantly, he’s a great decision maker and knows when to pick and choose his spots. I mean if he can make a Jim Boeheim offense look reputable just watch out for him when the pace quickens up in the NBA.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves – Dario Saric, Croatia
Some folks are absolutely in love with Dario Saric. And really, what’s not to love? He’s 6-foot-10, can REALLY shoot the ball, attacks the rim without fear, is a good passer, has a high basketball IQ, and is only 20 years old. With that said, Ricky Rubio-like legendary stat lines have proven to be a product of where these players are playing, and from the film that I’ve watched on Saric, I can’t see him being as effective in the NBA due to limited athleticism. Sure, for a 6’10 guy, Saric’s an incredible athlete, but like, Kevin Durant’s 6’10 and handles the ball/moves like a two. That’s the difference between transcending and good, and I think Saric’s ceiling is being a good player in the NBA. He’d fit in great with Minnesota, but I don’t think he’ll be a difference maker for a couple of years.
14. Phoenix Suns – Jerami Grant, Syracuse
I really want to see the Suns take either Rodney Hood or T.J. Warren here, heck even Nik Stauskas would be a great fit in what they do, but I think Jerami Grant is a better fit and might even have the most upside of all the players I just rattled off. Grant will be a difference maker on defense and on the boards immediately, which is where the Suns probably need the most help. Grant’s got a lot of work to do if he wants to ever have any plays drawn up for him, but hustle players have great value in this league, especially on teams that like to push the pace and have two guards who can both shoot for days.