We’re only a month and a half from the much-anticipated 2014 NBA draft, to be held on June 26th at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. We’re also less than two weeks from the May 20th draft lottery, which will determine the fate of a handful of teams that sure seemed to be jockeying for position down the stretch this past season.
The tanking in 2014 was a result of a combination of factors. Many NBA front offices have smartened up, realizing the most effective rebuilding method involves tearing down the foundation and collecting as many draft picks as possible along the way. This draft class is also among the most hyped in recent history. What we’re left with is eight teams potentially holding multiple first round picks and an approaching lottery that should be among the most publicized ever.
With the NBA’s April 27th Early Entry Eligibility Deadline behind us and the Chicago draft combine coming next week, it’s time for the first version of the Hoops Rumors Mock Draft. The picks won’t be locked in until the lottery, but we have made our selections below based on the most likely scenarios, by percentage. As we’ve done in previous years, these picks are based on what we’re hearing around the league, our player evaluations, and what we perceive to be a team’s draft needs.
As always, we welcome your opinion in the comments section.
- Milwaukee Bucks – Andrew Wiggins. There are teams out there that don’t have Wiggins atop their boards. Fortunately for the 19 year old, none of them are likely to have the top pick. Adding the Kansas star gives the new Milwaukee owners another high-ceiling youngster alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo to sell to their fanbase.
- Philadelphia 76ers – Jabari Parker. The Sixers want Wiggins; that much is fairly certain. And depending on the health of Embiid’s back, he will be an enticing selection for Philly, as well. But with Nerlens Noel already in the fold, the Sixers need a traditional scorer on the wing first and foremost and Parker is exactly that.
- Orlando Magic – Joel Embiid. Embiid isn’t an ideal fit in Orlando, but he is simply too talented to slide past No. 3, assuming his back checks out. Perhaps this could result in a trade. Dante Exum sure would look good next to Victor Oladipo. Orlando really could use a wing, but with Wiggins and Parker off the board that will have to wait.
- Utah Jazz – Dante Exum. Parker would be the home run pick for the Jazz should they get lucky on May 20. They need scoring and could have to replace restricted free agent Gordon Hayward. Exum would be a nice consolation, given his ability to create offense for himself and others. Exum and Trey Burke could make for a dynamic backcourt.
- Boston Celtics – Noah Vonleh. It might be premature at this stage, but it sounds like Vonleh is gaining enough steam to end up as a top-five pick. The C’s would undoubtedly prefer Embiid, but he won’t make it to No. 5. Kentucky’s Randle is a safer selection, but he would give Boston more of what it has (albeit an upgraded version thereof). Aaron Gordon might be in consideration as well.
- Los Angeles Lakers – Julius Randle. In typical Laker fashion, a guy who was thought to be a surefire top-five pick drops to Los Angeles at No. 6. Despite being only 19, Randle is NBA-ready, though questions about his upside remain. Will he struggle against NBA length? And will the jumper he was supposed to have at Kentucky resurface? If those answers go the right way, he’s a steal at sixth overall.
- Sacramento Kings – Marcus Smart. What a difference a year makes. Smart could have been the No. 1 overall selection last June. Instead, he endured a rocky return to Stillwater (to say the least). With Isaiah Thomas’ future with the Kings in doubt, Smart would slide right in for him in Sacramento. The Kings would be getting a well-rounded player in Smart, but whether he has any elite NBA skills remains to be seen.
- Detroit Pistons – Aaron Gordon. If the board falls this way, you have to think someone would trade up for Gordon. Still, just 18 years old, he doesn’t really fit in Detroit, which needs more shooters to stretch the floor, but Gordon is just too talented and versatile to slide past eighth. With snipers like Nik Stauskas and Doug McDermott looming, don’t be surprised if a team holding a pick later in the lottery attempts to trade with the Pistons and nab Gordon here.
- Cleveland Cavaliers – Doug McDermott. Gordon is dream scenario for Cleveland, so expect the Cavs to make some noise if he drops anywhere near them. There is some Dario Saric buzz too, but the Cavs want to win now and Saric’s NBA timeline is still unknown. Enter Dougie McBuckets, who is ready to score next season for the playoff-hungry Cavs (but won’t do much for their pitiful perimeter D). Watch out for Jusuf Nurkic and James Young here as well.
- Philadelphia 76ers – Gary Harris. You have to think that the Sixers’ first selection would have a lot of bearing on who they take here, but GM Sam Hinkie has proven to be unpredictable. Michigan State’s Harris provides the type of defense that Parker doesn’t, and his lack of size is tolerable next to Michael Carter-Williams. Hinkie is in it for the long haul in Philly though, so nabbing a Saric-type here isn’t out of the question.
- Denver Nuggets – Nik Stauskas. The Denver backcourt has Ty Lawson and whole lot of question marks a year after failing to replace Andre Iguodala. Harris could fill that void, but with him off the board, Stauskas is the logical pick here. The Michigan sharpshooter is on the rise and, given his quasi-point guard skills, could eventually supplant McDermott as the top shooter off the board.
- Orlando Magic – Dario Saric. Philly or Orlando, as organizations building from the ground up, seem like possible destinations for Saric. Whether they land Embiid or Exum with their first pick, Saric would provide more upside to a roster full of it. The Magic have a need on the wing, making a flier on James Young or a more traditional selection of Rodney Hood remote possibilities.
- Minnesota Timberwolves – Rodney Hood. The Wolves need all the shooting they can get to go with Ricky Rubio. Interior defense is also high on the list, putting Jusuf Nurkic in the mix here. But ultimately the late-season emergence of Gorgui Dieng makes another shooter a more pressing need in Minnesota. This is a bit high for Hood, but with McDermott, Stauskas and Harris all gone, the Wolves are short on options.
- Phoenix Suns – James Young. The Suns have three first rounders and a gigantic hole at small forward, enabling them to shoot for the moon a couple times on a wing player. That is what they’d be doing with Young, who might not even be in the conversation here once teams see his bevy of skills in workouts. Either of a pair of UCLA guys — Kyle Anderson and Zach LaVine — might be options for Phoenix, too. The Suns also have the ammo to make a big trade.
- Atlanta Hawks – Zach LaVine. The Hawks and Suns have somewhat similar needs, so these two picks could easily be flip-flopped. At 15, LaVine brings some much-needed upside to Atlanta, though the UCLA product may not be NBA-ready for a few years. LaVine is skilled and highly athletic, but he’s rail-thin and needs time to develop an NBA body. If he can play point guard, that would just be a bonus next to Jeff Teague.
- Chicago Bulls – P.J. Hairston. This board couldn’t turn out better for Chicago, which adds a much-needed scorer in Hairston at No. 16. Hairston clearly has some off-the-court issues, but there’s probably not a better landing spot for him than with Tom Thibodeau (if he stays) and the Bulls’ rock-solid locker room. Hairston’s outside shooting and toughness would be a perfect addition in Chicago.
- Boston Celtics – Tyler Ennis. This would be a significant drop for Ennis, who many have pegged as a top-10 pick after a near-flawless freshman year at Syracuse. But I see size and athleticism shortcomings that might be exposed in workouts. If Ennis falls, nabbing him 17th would be a coup for Boston if it decides to move on from Rajon Rondo.
- Phoenix Suns – Clint Capela. Assuming they keep them, the Suns are going to grab some size with one of their three first round picks. At 18, the athleticism and upside of Capela is a better fit for the explosive offense of the Suns than the plodding Jusuf Nurkic. Capela is raw, making him the perfect selection for a team like Phoenix with multiple picks.
- Chicago Bulls – Adreian Payne. With Carlos Boozer likely on his way out of Chicago, the Bulls could use some size to go with Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson three picks after snagging Hairston. At 23 years old, Payne doesn’t offer much upside. But he can bang a bit down low and, like Hairston, he can knock down the three-pointer. If they get Derrick Rose back to full strength, the Bulls will need NBA-ready help.
- Toronto Raptors – Shabazz Napier. Most mocks have Napier as a late first-rounder. Then again, most NCAA brackets had his Huskies out long before the Final Four. The Raptors could use some size, but there won’t be much there at No. 20. The draft board leaves them with a plethora of athletic wings who overlap too much with the skill sets of DeMar DeRozan and Terrence Ross. They’ll opt for the instant offense of Napier instead. Kyle Anderson could also be in play.
- Oklahoma City Thunder – Jusuf Nurkic. The Thunder always have draft-and-stash potential and with two picks in the first round this year that won’t change. Though he lacks athleticism and has conditioning issues, Nurkic gives OKC more young size to go with Steven Adams. They probably won’t ever need big-time minutes from him, though his bulk and touch could get him on the court sooner than you think.
- Memphis Grizzlies – Kyle Anderson. There isn’t a harder prospect to put a finger on than Anderson. It’s hard to say whether he’ll be a fit in Memphis, but that is pretty much the case regarding every possible destination for Anderson and his unique skill set. What is definite is that the Grizzlies need help offensively and Anderson’s versatility and playmaking ability make him worth the risk at No. 22 for Memphis. He has glaring defensive shortcomings, but the Grizz have plenty of guys who specialize on that end already.
- Utah Jazz – Jerami Grant. With Exum in the fold at pick No. 4, the Jazz will be looking to add help on the wing. They’d ideally land a shot maker or a playmaker (Anderson?) here, but Grant’s upside is too high to pass up with those commodities off the board. His position depends on how he develops, but he has the tools to eventually play either the three or four in the NBA. He only stands 6’8″, but has a 7’2″ wingspan and top-shelf athleticism.
- Charlotte Bobcats – T.J. Warren. The Bobcats reside in the heart of ACC country, so they should have gotten a pretty close look at Warren, the conference’s Player of the Year. Warren’s jumper and his ability to defend are both question marks, but his proclivity for getting buckets is not. He doesn’t have the tools to start in the NBA, but his array of offensive moves can provide Charlotte with the depth and scoring potential the team covets at No. 24. Think Draymond Green.
- Houston Rockets – Elfrid Payton. Don’t be surprised if Payton isn’t available here, as his stock is on the rise. He isn’t an ideal fit for a team looking to contend now, but it’s tough to be convinced that Patrick Beverley or Jeremy Lin is the long-term answer at point guard in Houston. Any team willing to ignore the small school stigma will get a long, athletic point guard who can defend and dish the rock in Payton. Jarnell Stokes and C.J. Wilcox are also options here.
- Miami Heat – Cleanthony Early. With the best player in the world at the three, Early doesn’t seem to be an ideal fit in Miami. But his 6’8″ size will further enable Miami to do something it loves: play small. After he torched Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament, it would be shocking to see Early go this late. Such is life for an NBA prospect who is already 23 years old. Early can help now.
- Phoenix Suns – K.J. McDaniels. The Suns already grabbed a small forward in Young at No. 14, but if McDaniels makes it to No. 27 they shouldn’t resist adding another. The Clemson product is a bit undersized to play the three, but he compensates with elite leaping ability and lock-down defense, making him a safe bet to become an effective role player. With three picks, the Suns can afford to gamble that he becomes more.
- Los Angeles Clippers – Mitch McGary. Coming off a breakout performance in the 2013 NCAA tournament, back trouble limited McGary’s sophomore campaign at Michigan to eight games. Rather than face a one-year NCAA suspension, McGary will instead try to work his way back into first-round consideration. At 21 years old, he’s somewhat of a known quantity but might be worth a first-round pick for a Clippers team that should be looking for frontcourt depth.
- Oklahoma City Thunder – C.J. Wilcox. A sniper out of Washington, Wilcox is the type of specialist who often goes at the end of the first round to a contender that’s in need of instant help. Oklahoma City typically tends to be a little more creative than that, but the potential to take even a fraction of the scoring burden off Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook makes Wilcox worthy of consideration at No. 29. Plus, the Thunder took a bit of a gamble on Nurkic at No. 21.
- San Antonio Spurs – Jarnell Stokes. In Stokes, the Spurs will get a big body to go down low next year behind Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter. Think of Stokes as a poor man’s Jared Sullinger. He has size, strength and an ability to finish in the post, but he will struggle against NBA length and could have problems with his weight.