Since my first NBA Mock Draft, we’ve found out the order of the lottery (and the rest of the draft, duh), that the NBA is rigged, and that we still don’t really have a clue who the first player selected’s going to be.
As if it wasn’t hard enough to decide between the top three prospects in the draft, the first pick surprisingly went to the Cleveland Cavaliers, who we just saw flub a number one pick last year. Narrative central would lead you to believe that the Cavs can’t take either Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker because then they’d have a log jam on the wing when LeBron James comes back.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers – Joel Embiid, C, Kansas
It’s really hard not to go with one of the wings here, but we’re talking about a franchise that went Anthony Bennett first overall just a year ago. He may not be a shoe-in to win Rookie of the Year, but Embiid’s no Anthony Bennett, and at the very least will be able to protect the rim from the time he steps onto an NBA court. As appealing as that is to any team with a high draft pick, it’s Embiid’s agility and upside that makes him the first pick in this star laden draft, as he’s shown not just a great touch around the basket, but impressive footwork for a guy his size who’s only been playing basketball for four years.
2. Milwaukee Bucks – Jabari Parker, G/F, Duke
I might be showing college basketball bias here, but Parker proved he could do more during his freshman year at Duke than Wiggins proved at Kansas. That isn’t to take away from the season that Wiggins had, but Parker may very well have been National Player of the Year if Creighton didn’t move into the Big East last season. I think the Bucks need a sure thing more than anyone in the top five and Parker’s the most NBA ready player in this draft, and my early favorite for NBA Rookie of the Year. Yup.
3. Philadelphia 76ers – Andrew Wiggins, F, Kansas
Since you want to compare him to the all-time greats so bad, Wiggins can start his career following in the footsteps of Michael Jordan, going third overall behind fake Hakeem Olajuwon (Embiid) and a player who doesn’t quite have the upside that he has in Parker. Alright, that was amongst the worst things I’ve ever written (and I’m still going to publish it), but this isn’t about me, it’s about Wiggins, who’s about as impressive looking of an athlete as any prospect we’ve seen since LeBron James. Wiggins is long, he’s strong, he’s incredibly fast, and he has a well-rounded skill set that makes his potential scary. It’ll be interesting to see how his potential is measured against Parker’s skill level come draft night.
4. Orlando Magic – Dante Exum, G, Australia
I don’t know that Exum’s a better player than Marcus Smart, but I could understand there being aspects to his game that GM’s like more than Smart’s. Exum’s age and seemingly still growing body are a major factor, as he’s a combo guard with a 6-foot-9.5 wingspan. I’ve seen Exum compared to everyone from Manu Ginobili to a more efficient Michael Carter Williams, and as a player who thrives on making plays off the dribble and penetrating through the lane, I could see him being a lot like those two players. He has to work on his jumper and his handle if he wants to run a teams offense, but as raw as he is, he’s probably going to be able to make an impact in the NBA immediately.
5. Utah Jazz – Marcus Smart, G, Oklahoma State
It’s too bad that Utah already has such a young/talented frontcourt, because it’s hard to pass up on a Julius Randle in this spot. However, I think Smart’s about as NBA ready as anyone in this draft, and would be a great fit on a Jazz team that needs a little more personality. Adding Smart would allow both Trey Burke and Gordon Hayward to play off of the ball more, and would more than likely allow the Jazz to push the tempo, which would have to be beneficial for an athletic big like Derrick Favors. I’ll probably talk myself into moving Randle into this spot before the draft, but I like the Smart fit.
6. Boston Celtics – Aaron Gordon, F, Arizona
With a short backcourt and a frontcourt filled with players who don’t exactly play above the rim, the Celtics have to pass on Julius Randle in favor of Gordon. Gordon has the ability to play either forward position, and I’d imagine his “defense first” attitude makes him as desirable as anyone on the board for Brad Stevens. Gordon’s still relatively green on the offensive end, but his length and motor make him a project worth investing in for a team with a lot of picks in the very near future.
7. Los Angeles Lakers – Julius Randle, F, Kentucky
Yay! Somehow the Lakers didn’t win the lottery but still wound up with the potential to get one of the better players in the draft! Not only is Randle a great prospect, but he has a grown man’s body and is probably as ready as anyone in this draft to average a double-double as a rookie. The Lakers front court is in desperate need of a makeover, and Randle will be able to score around the basket for the next 10-15 years, for sure.
8. Sacramento Kings – Doug McDermott, F, Creighton
I struggled with putting McDermott in the lottery the first time I attempted a 2014 NBA Mock Draft, but two weeks later I find myself buying McBuckets as a top pick, especially to the Kings. Sacramento has young talent seemingly at every position, and as much as I’d love to see Noah Vonleh and DeMarcus Cousins re-enact the Bash Brothers, I think they’d prefer another scorer in this spot. McDermott is obviously physically limited as an NBA wing, but his shooting ability won’t be affected, and if there’s one thing he proved in his four years at Creighton, it’s that he can score in a multitude of ways. The Kings need that.
9. Charlotte Hornets (via Detroit Pistons) – Noah Vonleh, F/C, Indiana
Vonleh falling to nine breaks my heart, but the Bobcats have to admit that Bismack Biyombo isn’t going to work out for them. Cody Zeller had a decent rookie season, but adding Vonleh would bolster a noticeably improving defense, and while he has shown he can step out and shoot from distance, it’ll be awfully difficult to keep him and Al Jefferson off of the offensive glass. I love Vonleh’s potential, and if he gets to learn from Patrick Ewing, he could be the best big man to come out of this draft.
10. Philadelphia 76ers (via New Orleans Pelicans) – Gary Harris, G, Michigan State
I don’t know how much the Sixers love the word “safe,” but Harris is an efficient off guard who’s ready to defend at the NBA level. Harris was able to score the ball in multiple ways during his two-year stay in East Lansing, and considering he’s barely 20 years old, scouts love that he’s ready to play in the NBA but still has the potential to grow.
11. Denver Nuggets – Dario Saric, F, Croatia
The Nuggets might finally get the full season out of Danilo Gallinari that they’ve been longing for this year, in the form of Dario Saric. Saric’s the perfect stretch four for an offense with guards who can all handle the ball and create offense for their (offensively inept) front court. Well Saric can score from seemingly everywhere on the floor, and as a great passer with a seemingly high basketball IQ, he should be the perfect high post pick-and-roll/pop partner for the speedy Ty Lawson.
12. Orlando Magic (via New York Knicks) – Jusuf Nurkic, C, Bosnia
The current Magic big man core hasn’t been working for them, and Nurkic is the last legitimate big man prospect in the lottery. Despite being just 19 years old, Nurkic has old man strength, and can score going back-to-the-basket or from facing up and taking the short jumper. I think Nurkic might take a little bit of time transitioning to the athleticism of the NBA, but if he can learn the speed of the game, he should be a capable low post presence for a team that really needs just that.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves – Rodney Hood, SF, Duke
Every mock draft that I put together will have different wing players in these last couple of lottery spots, as it’s really a toss-up for me between guys like Hood, James Young, and T.J. Warren. I think Hood’s probably the most well-rounded and refined of those three players, so I think he’d be the best fit in this spot. I also think Hood’s explosive athleticism went unnoticed as he took more opportunities to show off his perimeter game at Duke last season, but as a 6’8 small forward with the ability to slide down to the two, he might have more value than other guys with similar games.
14. Phoenix Suns – Nik Stauskas, G, Phoenix
I don’t expect the Suns to have a better grasp on Eric Bledsoe‘s future by late June, but I think Stauskas would be the perfect third guard if he were to stay. I don’t know that a Stauskas/Goran Dragic backcourt is good enough defensively to validate this pick, but I think Stauskas would best be fit for a bench role where he can play a little bit of both guard spots, as he’s proven to be an equally dangerous scorer and playmaker in his two years of college ball.