The order of picks in the 2014 NBA draft is finally known. Now the speculation and blind guessing about the likely selections can elevate from a slow simmer to an all-out fever pitch.
Although the draft lottery was just held Tuesday night, this is the fourth installment of the ever-changing NESN.com NBA mock draft. Once again, No. 1 remains the same, although the jostling continues at every spot after that. The only thing anyone knows for sure before June 26 is that nobody knows anything.
If you are wondering how we could change our board so often without any games being played, keep in mind that real teams’ own boards aren’t static. Players continue to move up and down every front office’s list as they learn more information — just like we will continue to do right up to the actual draft.
Take a look at how we see the first round shaping up at the moment:
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Andrew Wiggins, Kansas (SF/SG, 6-foot-8, 200 pounds)
Contrary to what you might have heard, there is no consensus that says Joel Embiid will be the No. 1 pick. In fact, there is no consensus at all over who will go No. 1. These three different mocks — Yahoo Sports, DraftExpress and Hoops Hype — have three different players going No. 1. We’re sticking with Wiggins, who we still think is the best player in this class.
2. Milwaukee Bucks: Joel Embiid, Kansas (C, 7-0, 250)
No matter what the doctors say about the stress fracture in Embiid’s back being fully healed, the damaged 20-year-old still scares the daylights out of us. Still, Embiid is ranked ahead of Jabari Parker by almost every evaluator, so we’re inclined to defer to their expertise. If he stays healthy and continues to develop at his brisk rate — two big “ifs” — Embiid is considered an MVP in the making.
3. Philadelphia 76ers: Jabari Parker, Duke (F, 6-8, 240)
The Sixers were really terrible at scoring, which, last time we checked, is sort of important to winning basketball games. They were last in the league in offensive rating at 99.4 points scored per 100 possessions. Parker immediately addresses this weaknesses, while the Sixers will hope the return of injured big man Nerlens Noel offsets Parker’s substantial defensive shortcomings.
4. Orlando Magic: Dante Exum, Australia (G, 6-6, 180)
With Exum and Victor Oladipo, the Magic would boast one of the most explosive young backcourts in the league. Their length on defense alone will give opponents fits. The sentiment about a top three-heavy class is gradually becoming a top-four, with Exum almost unanimously considered the fourth-best player in this draft.
5. Utah Jazz: Aaron Gordon, Arizona (F, 6-8, 210)
Utah’s choices with the fifth pick might be even more wide-open than the Cavs’ at No. 1. At least the Cavs only have three or four players to consider. It would not be surprising to see any of a handful of players go here, from Creighton scoring machine Doug McDermott to international project Dario Saric. But Gordon’s athleticism, upside and age (he doesn’t turn 19 until September) could tilt the scales in his favor.
6. Boston Celtics: Noah Vonleh, Indiana (PF, 6-10, 240)
We’ve been fighting an internal debate for weeks on whether Vonleh or Marcus Smart gets the edge here. Smart’s turnaround time to adjust to the NBA is likely shorter, but the 18-year-old Vonleh has demonstrated the beginnings of some promising fundamentals and skill for his size. All other things being equal, it’s usually best to go with the big man over the potential stud guard.
7. Los Angeles Lakers: Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State (PG, 6-3, 225)
Watch out, Lakers foes. Smart has a few deficiencies in his game, but the biggest is also his greatest strength: He’s as competitive a player as there is in this draft, sometimes to a fault. He’ll learn from one of the best, though. Few players in history have channeled their competitive fire as constructively as Kobe Bryant.
8. Sacramento Kings: Julius Randle, Kentucky (PF, 6-9, 225)
Sacramento has been searching for two big things the last couple of years: A new arena and a power forward. By the end of June, the Kings might have both. With an arena deal nearly in place, the Kings can turn their attention to adding Randle’s energy and rebounding instincts to a frontcourt that relies too heavily on DeMarcus Cousins to clean the glass.
9. Charlotte Hornets (from Pistons): Doug McDermott, Creighton (F, 6-8, 210)
Coming off their most successful season since 2010, Charlotte could look for the same element that fueled its improvement this season: Old-school scoring. McDermott and Al Jefferson wouldn’t be the flashiest pair, but the Hornets won’t complain as long as they keep putting the ball in the basket.
10. Philadelphia 76ers (from Pelicans): Dario Saric, Croatia (F, 6-10, 225)
Fans will love Saric’s tenacity. Scouts love his court vision. He might not be the quickest player on the floor — or even the quickest person on any random street corner in South Philly — but Saric has the skill set and toughness to one day grow into a key role player on a good team.
11. Denver Nuggets: Gary Harris, Michigan State (SG, 6-4, 210)
Though just 19 years old, Harris plays with the maturity of a four-year college player. He’s short but strong, fiercely competitive and can shoot the heck out of the ball. He’s not much of a ballhandler, but there does seem to be hope he could serve spot duty at the point.
12. Orlando Magic (from Knicks): James Young, Kentucky (SG, 6-6, 215)
In a lottery heavy on off-guards and light on big men, the Magic will double down on the wing. They could reach for international big men Clint Capela or Jusuf Nurkic or stretch-four Adreian Payne, but Young’s length, left-handed shooting stroke and potential to play small forward make him the more rational pick.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves: Nik Stauskas, Michigan (SG, 6-6, 205)
Stauskas will step in and become one of the elite 3-point shooters in the NBA right away. He will have plenty of open looks if Kevin Love is still around, but if not he will still get his share of shots courtesy of Ricky Rubio’s playmaking abilities. Don’t discredit Stauskas’ own ability to create shots, either. He’s more than capable in the pick and roll.
14. Phoenix Suns: Rodney Hood, Duke (SF/SG, 6-8, 180)
Despite physical measurements that suggest he should be a better defender, Hood won’t do much to improve Phoenix’s middle-of-the-road defense. But his shooting stroke will fit right in with an offense that likes to spread the floor.
15. Atlanta Hawks: Zach LaVine, UCLA (SG, 6-5, 180)
A stiff gust of wind might knock him over, but LaVine’s athletic potential is too great to overlook his slight frame, inconsistent shot mechanics and questionable decision-making. Some draft boards have him in the top 10. That’s probably too generous, but we’ve bumped him all the way up from No. 23 in our previous mock.
16. Chicago Bulls (from Hornets): T.J. Warren, NC State (F, 6-8, 215)
After Parker, Wiggins and Gordon, the list of 6-foot-8 guys with length and athleticism gets jumbled pretty quickly. Warren might be the best natural scorer among the second group, though he’s not the same level of natural athlete as Jerami Grant or Cleanthony Early.
17. Boston Celtics (from Nets): Kyle Anderson, UCLA (SF, 6-9, 230)
Fortunately for the Celtics, they aren’t putting together a relay race squad. Otherwise, they’d get toasted. Like Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk and Vonleh, Anderson isn’t going to win many races, but he’s a smooth shooter and good decision-maker with the ball.
18. Phoenix Suns (from Wizards): Adreian Payne, Michigan State (PF, 6-10, 245)
Payne doesn’t address the Suns’ biggest holes in the post or on defense, but he bolsters their strengths from the four spot. Though not strong in the post at either end, he will run with the likes of Goran Dragic and can finish whether around the basket or beyond the arc.
19. Chicago Bulls: P.J. Hairston, D-League (SG, 6-6, 220)
For all their toughness, the Bulls clearly need somebody to put the ball in the hoop. Hairston’s ability to knock down shots will be welcomed on a team that ranked second to last in offensive efficiency and failed to reach 90 points in two of their five playoff games.
20. Toronto Raptors: Tyler Ennis, Syracuse (PG, 6-2, 180)
At first blush, Ennis made the right choice to skip drills at the draft combine. His strengths are less measurable on a side court than in an actual game. However, Ennis might have dispelled some doubts about his physical tools had he submitted to any testing at all in Chicago. Instead, he’ll have to rebuild his stock in individual workouts.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder (from Mavericks): C.J. Wilcox, Washington (SG, 6-5, 195)
Unless the Thunder plan on canning coach Scott Brooks, they are going to need another scorer alongside Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook to make up for Brooks’ AAU offense. Wilcox probably isn’t the best player available at this slot, but as Danny Ainge said, the only time you break from the “best player” mold is when you’re on the verge of a championship.
22. Memphis Grizzlies: Cleanthony Early, Wichita State (SF, 6-8, 220)
Most scouts are down on the 23-year-old’s upside, but Memphis clearly has a “type,” and Early has a lot of the traits the Grizzlies like. He could eventually step into Tayshaun Prince’s role when the veteran forward becomes a free agent next summer.
23. Utah Jazz (from Warriors): K.J. McDaniels, Clemson (SF, 6-6, 200)
McDaniels remains one of our favorite players in this draft. He might be best as a second-rounder, but his toughness and excellent shot-blocking instincts for a wing could eventually make him one of the best defenders in the NBA at his position.
24. Charlotte Hornets (from Trail Blazers): Jerami Grant, Syracuse (SF, 6-8, 210)
We don’t have to tell you again how low we are on Grant. He can’t shoot, pass or dribble, he doesn’t have a wide array of offensive moves and his defensive skills are unknown due to Syracuse’s zone. But he’s 6-foot-8 and he can jump, which is enough to put him a lot higher than 24th on many boards.
25. Houston Rockets: Elfrid Payton, Louisiana-Lafayette (PG, 6-3, 190)
The go-go Rockets won’t miss a beat when Payton comes in off the bench. Although he struggles to make any shots besides layups and his play-creation instincts need work, Payton’s motor will ensure opponents don’t get a rest when Houston’s second unit comes in.
26. Miami Heat: Shabazz Napier, UConn (PG, 6-1, 180)
How would Celtics fans react when one of their favorite native sons is teamed up with the hated LeBron James? We might just find out.
27. Phoenix Suns (from Pacers): Jordan Adams, UCLA (SG, 6-5, 220)
Adams is all over the place on various draft boards. Fittingly, he’s all over the place on the NESN.com mocks, too. He started out at 21st due to his proven capacity as a scorer, but his performance at the combine revealed an even worse athlete than scouts already assumed.
28. Los Angeles Clippers: Clint Capela, Switzerland (PF/C, 6-11, 210)
Capela won’t supplant DeAndre Jordan at the five spot, but there aren’t any players available here who will play right away, anyway. Best-case scenario: Capela catches his share of lobs from Chris Paul and doesn’t embarrass himself too much on defense.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Glenn Robinson III, Michigan (SF, 6-6, 200)
A preseason All-American, Robinson faded from scouts’ radar as a result of his tendency to drift. He was solid but seldom spectacular, and was oddly unassertive despite often being the best player on the court. He could end up being a steal late in the first round, however.
30. San Antonio Spurs: Bogdan Bogdanovic, Serbia (SG, 6-6, 200)
We wouldn’t put Bogdanovic into the first round for any team other than the Spurs, who somehow get more out of international players than any other program. (OK, we’d probably find a way to sneak him into the first round regardless, just as an excuse to type his name.)
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