Exactly zero college basketball games have been played since we posted our first 2014 NBA mock draft, but it’s high time we revised our board. As they say, only dead men and fools never change their minds.
While no new information has come to light, deeper research and consideration allows us to rethink some of the factors that make each prospect a stronger — or in some cases, weaker — pick. You’ll find some shuffling toward the middle and end of the lottery, plus a new name that wasn’t in version 1.0.
Once again, keep in mind that the actual draft order will not be known until May 20, when the lottery will be held. In the meantime, we’ll assume the draft order will pretty much proceed according to the odds (which it won’t) and play out something like this:
1. Milwaukee Bucks: Andrew Wiggins, Kansas (SF/SG, 6-foot-8, 200 pounds)
If you read NESN.com’s first mock draft, you can go ahead and skip down a bit. The top six haven’t changed, which makes some sense, right? We saw enough of the premier guys that something really significant would need to happen to change our minds. For now, Wiggins remains the best player available in this draft, whichever team ends up at No. 1.
2. Philadelphia 76ers: Joel Embiid, Kansas (C, 7-0, 250)
That said, Embiid’s back injury is forcing us to think harder and longer over sticking him this high. He has a fractured back. Not a slipped disc or bone spurs. An actual broken vertebra. Some teams might shy away from taking a big man coming off a major injury exactly one year after taking a different big man (Nerlens Noel) coming off a major injury, but the Sixers could be willing to take that bet.
3. Orlando Magic: Jabari Parker, Duke (F, 6-8, 240)
Sure, the Magic already have an offensive-minded young small forward in Tobias Harris whose vital statistics are similar to Parker but … no, stop. A last-place team can’t start thinking about filling needs — or avoiding potential franchise players because they have an incumbent at his position. Either Harris gets moved or coach Jacque Vaughn figures out how to get Parker and Harris to play together. Vaughn’s faced worse problems, for sure.
4. Utah Jazz: Julius Randle, Kentucky (PF, 6-9, 225)
If you are fan of the Jazz, Celtics or Lakers, you are really, really rooting for your team to win the lottery. That’s because the talent level falls off fairly substantially after No. 3. There is the clear-cut top three and then a bunch of guys you wouldn’t mind taking between No. 7 and No. 12, but not a ton of guys who are sure bets at Nos. 5, 6 and 7. Exum has higher upside, but the Jazz are traditionally a conservative organization, so they’ll probably go with the safe pick in Randle.
5. Boston Celtics: Dante Exum, Australia (G, 6-6, 188)
With the uncertain futures of Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley, Exum remains an intriguing pick for Boston. If Bradley departs via free agency, Exum could take over at off-guard. If Rondo is dealt away, Exum could man the point. It would probably mean another year of growing pains, but fans will have to live with that.
6. Los Angeles Lakers: Aaron Gordon, Arizona (F, 6-8, 210)
A quality defensive coach could turn Gordon into an elite pro defender. Mike D’Antoni is not a quality defensive coach. D’Antoni knows offense, though, and he could certainly find a way to utilize Gordon’s athletic ability on that end.
7. Sacramento Kings: Noah Vonleh, Indiana (PF, 6-10, 240)
And now for something completely different. Vonleh jumps up a couple of spots and could rise higher as the bias of the NCAA tournament wears off for other members of the class. The freshman not only had solid stats for a power forward (11.3 points and 9.0 rebounds per game), he also has the raw size to contend with NBA fours, something other players at his position in this draft lack.
8. Detroit Pistons: Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State (PG, 6-4, 225)
Perhaps the imagery of Smart diving into the stands after a fan would be too much for a franchise finally shedding the stigma of the Malice at the Palace. But the Pistons have had success before with powerful guards like Chauncey Billups and Rodney Stuckey. Smart might bring the edge the floundering Pistons need.
9. Cleveland Cavaliers: Dario Saric, Croatia (F, 6-10, 225)
We’re going to continue to be honest with you here. Evaluating international players is often a guessing game for scouts who have watched them extensively, never mind those of us who are just brushing up with grainy YouTube clips after a long NBA season. Lots of experts say they would take Saric in the top 10, so we’ll just believe them for now.
10. Philadelphia 76ers: Doug McDermott, Creighton (F, 6-8, 210)
Thaddeus Young, an unconventional ‘tweener forward, has reached the end of his rope in Philly. So the best thing for the Sixers to do is replace him with another unconventional ‘tweener forward, right? McDermott is a sneaky scorer with no true position, but at least this would be another move for G.M. Sam Hinkie to not explain to his fan base.
11. Denver Nuggets: Gary Harris, Michigan State (SG, 6-4, 210)
There are certain players in every draft we can’t help but like. This year, it’s Harris. That is probably not great news for him, since that player in the last three drafts was Ben McLemore, Thomas Robinson and Brandon Knight, respectively. But Harris was a tough S.O.B. for the Spartans and his shortcomings in size and shot selection won’t be as big a detriment in Denver.
12. Orlando Magic: Tyler Ennis, Syracuse (PG, 6-2, 180)
Want to feel old? OK, listen up: Jameer Nelson is 32 years old and has been in the NBA for a decade. Nelson has been a rock in Orlando, but the Magic could use a new floor general to steward them into their most promising era since they drafted Dwight Howard in 2004.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves: James Young, Kentucky (SG, 6-6, 215)
The Wolves have been searching for perimeter scoring for years, leading them to take ill-fated chances on Brandon Roy and Chase Budinger. Young is no instant balm, but he brings the potential to stretch the defense away from Kevin Love — or to form an electric offensive-minded backcourt with Ricky Rubio if Love departs.
14. Phoenix Suns: Nik Stauskas, Michigan (SG, 6-6, 205)
The Suns don’t necessarily need more perimeter offense, but despite finishing sixth in the league in 3-pointers made, they did not have a dead-eye sharpshooter last season. Only Goran Dragic shot better than 40 percent (40.8 percent, precisely) beyond the arc. Stauskas was a consistent 44-percent 3-point shooter over two seasons in Ann Arbor, suggesting he could step in and immediately be Phoenix’s best bomber.
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