The NBA Draft lottery has come and gone, and as has become tradition, the Cleveland Cavaliers have won the right to pick first on June 26 in Brooklyn. Now that we have the first 14 picks sorted out, and know a bit more about the field than we did a month ago, let’s revisit our mock draft and see where the chips may fall.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers – Andrew Wiggins, G/F , Kansas
The Cavaliers have the makings of a nice team—that’s what happens when you have some sort of Jedi-style control over the draft’s lottery balls. Cleveland will likely be tempted to take Kansas center Joel Embiid, but if there are any lingering questions about his back, Andrew Wiggins probably becomes the more likely pick. After seemingly flubbing last year’s first overall selection with Anthony Bennett, who recorded a 6.9 PER as a rookie and has “Anthony Bennett bust” as his first Google autocomplete result, it would be hard to blame Cleveland for going with the surer thing in Wiggins. The combination of Wiggins, Kyrie Irving, and Dion Waiters on fast breaks is very exciting, and those three along with Tristan Thompson, Anderson Varejao, and perhaps Luol Deng, makes for a very solid core of players.
2. Milwaukee Bucks – Jabari Parker, F, Duke
The Bucks certainly didn’t plan to be an outright disaster in 2013-14, but here we are. With Larry Sanders on the books for $11 million per year through 2017-18, drafting another center in Embiid may be a difficult sell. Jabari Parker, on the other hand, is a plug-and-play scorer who should immediately help improve the third lowest scoring team in the NBA. For a team that would probably like to compete sooner than later in a weak Eastern Conference, Parker makes sense here.
3. Philadelphia 76ers – Joel Embiid, C, Kansas
After trading for an injured big man in Nerlens Noel on draft night last year, we know the Sixers are willing to take risks in rebuilding the franchise. Embiid is probably the biggest risk at the top of the draft, but if he works out, the rewards would be excellent, and with so much cap space and so many draft picks, a franchise like Philly is probably more well-positioned to take a chance like this. A Noel, Embiid front court would be incredibly tough to match-up with for any team. Expect plenty of blocks.
4. Orlando Magic – Dante Exum, PG, Australia
Some have raised concerns about the Magic combining two big, questionable shooters in the backcourt in Victor Oladipo and Dante Exum, but with the “big three” of this draft off the board at this point, taking the top pure guard in the draft will be extremely hard to pass up. Exum can play either guard position, but will likely start at the point, allowing Oladipo to play off the ball, which should be a better fit for him.
5. Utah Jazz – Noah Vonleh, PF, Indiana
Vonleh has been one of the biggest risers in this part of the draft, and seems to be staking his claim as the “best of the rest” among frontcourt players. He has very good athleticism, freakish length, great rebounding ability, and underrated offensive game. Vonleh can both play as a back-to-the-basket post player or as a shooter from the mid-range. He also showed the ability to hit threes in college, but did not take many of them.
6. Boston Celtics – Aaron Gordon, PF, Arizona
At Butler, Brad Stevens-helmed teams were known for their tenacious defense. Arizona forward Aaron Gordon is probably the best defender at the forward position in this draft, and adds a raw but exciting above-the-rim offensive game as well. If the Celtics can hold onto Rajon Rondo, C’s fans will enjoy watching him throw lobs to Gordon, who can absolutely jump out of the gym. Scouts also seem to love Gordon’s intangibles. At Arizona, he gained the invaluable “total team player” tag, which will serve him well with a franchise like the Celtics.
7. Los Angeles Lakers – Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State
Smart is a bit of a tweener at guard, but he ran the point at Oklahoma State, and for him to get the most out of his NBA potential he will have to do the same at the pro level. The Lakers have a number of strong veterans on the roster, as well as capable scorers at guard in Kobe Bryant (assuming he’s healthy) and Nick Young. Smart won’t have to be a do-everything guard like he was in college, and can learn to lead a team and distribute on a team that, despite Kobe’s likely wishes, is rebuilding.
8. Sacramento Kings- Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky
How does a team go about helping a superstar center like DeMarcus Cousins? Pair him with a dangerous power forward like Julius Randle. The latest NBA-bound Kentucky superstar can both play on the block, and can stretch the defense out a bit, which could open things up for Cousins down low. With his seven-foot wingspan, Randle should have plenty of length to play the four at the NBA level, and is a better athlete than he seems at first blush. The Kings would be getting great value if they land Randle at eight.
9. Charlotte Hornets – Nik Stauskas, SG, Michigan
Stauskas may be the best pure shooter in the draft. He has unlimited range, good lift, and the size to get his shot off against NBA defenses. He and Kemba Walker could make for a very interesting backcourt duo, and Stauskas would do wonders for the team’s spacing. Adding another deep threat who can play at the two or the three can also help open things up for Al Jefferson on the inside, and for Walker to drive into the heart of defenses, who would have to respect the kick-out even more.
10. Philadelphia 76ers – James Young, SG, Kentucky
Young would complete a very talented young backcourt in Philadelphia, and give Michael Carter-Williams a running mate that could really stroke it from deep. Young is also quite athletic, as he showed in the national championship with the rim-wrecking dunk over Amida Brimah and DeAndre Daniels. The Kentucky product is a liability on defense, but a 76ers defense that features Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid (if the draft plays out according to this mock) would be less concerned than other teams.
11. Denver Nuggets – Zach LaVine, G, UCLA
If there was any doubt that the NBA Draft is about potential over substance almost all the time, the idea can be validated by LaVine’s positioning in a quick sample of Google first page mock drafts: 15, 11, 13, 11, 18. LaVine’s 9.4 points per game in just over 24 minutes doesn’t scream “lottery pick”, but his 41.5-inch vertical certainly does. Denver has a major need at shooting guard, and could use one with some size to pair with Ty Lawson. LaVine may be a bit of a reach, but with Young and Stauskas off the board, he fits the bill.
12. Orlando Magic – Doug McDermott, F, Creighton
Our mock Magic backcourt of Dante Exum and Victor Oladipo is exciting for many reasons, but sharpshooting is not one of them. Enter Dougie McBuckets, whose lottery pick status was affirmed by a strong combine showing, that demonstrated his underrated athleticism. McDermott posted a solid 36.5-inch vertical, and his pure scoring ability from all points on the floor is unquestioned. The only issue for Orlando is that he may not last this long.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves – Adreian Payne, PF, Michigan State
If the T’Wolves are destined to lose Kevin Love, as it appears, they would be wise to pick up a player like Payne as a replacement. The Michigan State stretch-four has a similar skill set, most notably his ability to hit shots from all over at 6-foot-10, and while he’s not the rebounder that Love is (is anyone?), he may be more athletic and has a freakish 7-foor-4 wingspan. The fact that he was unknowingly playing with mono throughout the Big 10 season and was still incredibly effective is very impressive.
14. Phoenix Suns – Dario Saric, F, Croatia
Saric is one of the most intriguing prospects in this draft. He’s being called a “point forward” that teams can attempt to run an offense through, and he’s reportedly an effective post scorer and runs the court exceptionally well. The latter definitely meshes with the Suns’ style. At 6-foot-10, he should help bolster a Suns frontcourt that relied on Miles Plumlee and P.J. Tucker to pull down solid rebound numbers. Saric would definitely be an upgrade offensively over those two.
15. Atlanta Hawks – Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State
Coming off of their near-upset of Indiana in the first round, Atlanta could use some extra scoring punch. Gary Harris certainly adds that, and is a bit more dynamic than Kyle Korver as a starting two guard. He is undersized for the position in the NBA at 6-foot-4, but he was a top defender in college, and should give great effort on that end of the court as well. Jeff Teague and Gary Harris doesn’t jump off the screen as a great NBA backcourt, but it could develop into one of the league’s more underrated combinations if Harris pans out.
16. Chicago Bulls – Kyle Anderson, G/F, UCLA
For better or worse, Anderson is one of the most unquantifiable players in the first round of this draft. He played four positions in college, including plenty of time at point guard despite being all of 6-foot-9. He’s plays the game in a slow, controlled manner, and seems to have great vision and instincts. He’s a great passer, rebounder, and a capable scorer, but there are questions about whether or not he can do any of three at a high level in the NBA. If anyone can tap into Anderson’s talents, it’s Tom Thibodeau, who seems to do well with multi-tooled players like this.
17. Boston Celtics – Tyler Ennis, PG, Syracuse
Ennis could very well be a mid-lottery pick as we had him in our first mock draft, but with Orlando taking Dante Exum and the Lakers taking Marcus Smart, there doesn’t seem to be another team with a glaring point guard need. Sacramento at eight is a possibility, but it would be hard to pass on Julius Randle there. The Celtics have a top point guard as well, in Rajon Rondo, but his future with the team has been a major question mark for years now. If the team wants to take the point guard position in another direction, taking the steady, clutch Ennis at 17 would be a total steal.
18. Phoenix Suns – Rodney Hood, F, Duke
Hood was one of the top performers at the NBA combine, showing solid athleticism and excellent shooting touch. He should be able to knock down threes in both the half court and transition, and will get many opportunities playing along side breakout guard Goran Dragic. He could stand to add a bit to his frame to compete on the defensive end at the small forward spot in the NBA, but at 6-foot-8 with an 8-foot-7 standing reach, he has adequate size for the position.
19. Chicago Bulls – T.J. Warren, F, N.C. State
Is this the season where the Bulls finally look to address the offense, which has been stagnant during two seasons without Derrick Rose? If they don’t make a play for Knicks star Carmelo Anthony, T.J. Warren could help the cause at the small forward spot. He’s one of the best pure scorers available in the draft, a capable rebounder, and a better defensive player than he gets credit for. Under Thibodeau, he’ll certainly improve on that end of the floor. If anything, he’ll be able to find the bottom of the net, and that should be the Bulls focus this off-season.
20. Toronto Raptors – Jerami Grant, F, Syracuse
Masai Ujiri is building a very nice club up in Toronto. The Raptors already have one of the Eastern Conference’s best backcourt tandems; super athletic Syracuse forward Jerami Grant would give Kyle Lowry, assuming Toronto hangs on to him, another weapon to get the ball. Grant’s half court game needs a lot of work, but he can factor in immediately as a deadly transition player, and he’s not afraid to fight for rebounds and draw contact around the hoop.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder – Shabazz Napier, PG, UConn
After a Cinderella-like NCAA Tournament run this spring, Napier is as celebrated a college player as there is in this draft. He doesn’t have great size or build for the NBA, and isn’t super-explosive like another former UConn point guard—Kemba Walker—but he is heady, mature, and clutch. In OKC, he wouldn’t be asked to be the guy, but he is certainly someone who can facilitate when asked, and knock down big shots while teams key on Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. That seems a great situation to be in.
22. Memphis Grizzlies – Cleanthony Early, F, Wichita State
At 23 years old, which is ancient in NBA Draft years, Early doesn’t have the upside of some of the draft’s other forwards, but the Grizzlies are built for the present, and desperately need scoring help. Early was a great college scorer from all areas, and a total competitor. He could see plenty of good looks as teams try to deal with Memphis’ scary Zach Randolph/Marc Gasol frontcourt, and he certainly won’t shy away from the big stage. Memphis could have used a Cleanthony Early in this year’s series with Oklahoma City.
23. Utah Jazz – Jusuf Nurkic, C, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Mock drafts have this Bosnian center going anywhere from the middle of the lottery to the early second round. Yahoo’s Marc J. Spears (who has him going at 13 to Minnesota) quotes a scout that compares his offensive game to DeMarcus Cousins, a similar wide-bodied power forward/center. With two picks in the first round, the Jazz can certainly take a shot at a high upside player like this, especially with so few quality centers available in this draft.
24. Charlotte Hornets – K.J. McDaniels, SF, Clemson
McDaniels was a top defensive wing at Clemson, which fits into Charlotte’s own defensive mentality, but he was also thrust into the role of go-to offensive player, and handled himself amicably in the ACC this season. While his defense is more likely to translate to the NBA right away, he might provide an upgrade in scoring ability to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, whose scoring, assists, PER, and offensive win share numbers actually saw a decline in his second NBA season.
25. Houston Rockets – Elfrid Payton, PG, Louisiana-Lafayette
Houston gets by with the point guard combination of Patrick Beverly and Jeremy Lin at the point, and elite shooting guard James Harden winds up running the offense in big spots anyway, but Houston could certainly use a pure point guard. Payton is one of the draft’s more intriguing deep cuts. His ranginess and stat-filling ability reminds some of a slightly smaller Michael Carter-Williams. With Harden in the backcourt, Houston point guards don’t need to be elite scorers, and Payton certainly looks the part of a good playmaker.
26. Miami Heat – P.J. Hairston, SG, UNC
At 6-foot-5 and nearly 230 pounds, Hairston is a big, physical shooting guard, not unlike Heat two guard Dwyane Wade. With Wade’s health a constant issue that needs to be monitored, bringing in a similar player, and in fact a better shooter, could be a very shrewd move. Hairston’s character issues shouldn’t be an issue for Miami, which has a locker room that doesn’t seem like it is particularly threatened by anything. Playing with guys like LeBron James and Wade could be very good for a young guard like Hairston.
27. Phoenix Suns – Clint Capela, C, Switzerland
After being the most surprising team in the NBA in 2013-14, the Suns now have an embarrassment of riches in the draft. Dario Saric was a good fit at No. 14, and can probably contribute right away. Swiss center Clint Capela is a bit more of a project, although scouts have absolutely raved about his athleticism and defensive instincts. Despite his size, he’s another great transition player that can fit Phoenix’s fast-paced offense, which ranked eighth in the NBA in pace last season.
28. Los Angeles Clippers – Glenn Robinson III, SF, Michigan
Michigan fans probably expected a bit more from Robinson in his second year, but instead he played second fiddle to Nik Stauskas, who stole the show for the Wolverines. Robinson was still able to display his top-end athleticism, which he backed up with an impressive 41.5-inch vertical at the combine. Chris Paul thrives with these types of athletes, and Robinson certainly fits the mold of a Clippers wing.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder – Jordan Adams, SG, UCLA
The knock on Adams is that he is not an elite athlete, but OKC has plenty of those. He’s a crafty offensive player, and has the potential to be a lockdown defender at the shooting guard spot with his 6-foot-10 wingspan. The Thunder may need to replace Reggie Jackson, who has been very effective. Adams could certainly help fill that role, and may very well wind up being a better two-way player than Thabo Sefolosha.
30. San Antonio Spurs – Mitch McGary, C, Michigan
Grabbing a guy who could have been a lottery pick a year ago with the last pick of the first round would be a real Spurs-like move. If healthy, McGary could be a total steal, and help add to San Antonio’s physicality and scoring ability down low. With his passing ability, he could definitely make for a dangerous post-combo with Tim Duncan. Taking a flier on a player with McGary’s potential with the 30th pick is definitely worth the risk.