Tuesday, January 21, 2014

2014 NBA Mock Draft #2

Midway through the NCAA season, it is time for another edition of the NFL Report's 2014 NBA Mock Draft. A lot has changed since my last mock draft, most notably at the top with a new projected #1 overall pick. Even more should change by the time of the actual draft on June 26, as there is still a lot of basketball to be played. Here it goes:

*Disclaimer: The draft order in this mock is based solely on the standings from right now and does not take into account the unpredictability of the lottery, as even the standings remain the same by the season's end, the draft order will be different.

1.  Milwaukee Bucks - Joel Embiid, C, Kansas
At the beginning of the season, it was Wiggins. Then Parker. Now its Joel Embiid's turn to be the favorite for the #1 overall pick in a draft stacked with potential all-stars, which is an amazing accomplishment in and of itself. He could be the next Dwight Howard, but better offensively. He could be the difference between a team finishing at the bottom of the standings to making the playoffs. Especially if he gets drafted into the weak Eastern Conference, where there is currently a lack of star big men, he could make whatever team drafts him exponentially better. His defensive game is incredible, and even though it is still improving, so is his offensive game.

2.  Orlando Magic - Jabari Parker, SF, Duke

Parker has tailed of some from an incredible start the year, but slides down more because of Ebiid's outstanding play than anything Parker did wrong. Any team that drafts him will be jumping for joy, as he is maybe the most NBA-ready prospect in the top 5 because of his insane athleticism and outstanding scoring ability. All these adjectives that I'm using to describe Parker and his game may be repetitive, but he certainly warrants the praise. To put it simply, all of those words used to Jabari Parker mean one thing: awesome.

3.  Philadelphia 76ers - Andrew Wiggins, SG, Kansas

Wiggins has fallen from the top spot since the beginning of the season, but he is still an incredibly exciting prospect that the Sixers would love to pair with Nerlens Noel and Michael Carter-Williams (and whomever they pick with the Pelican's pick). Drafting Wiggins is the exact reason why they were OK with trading away their best player in Jrue Holiday during last year's draft. He could be a game changer, a go-to player whom the Sixers would expect to be the cornerstone of their franchise for a long time. Some predicted Wiggins to be the next LeBron, and while that clearly seems to not be the case due to his inconsistent scoring, with time he could develop into something close.

4.  Utah Jazz - Dante Exum, PG, Australia

Little is known about Dante Exum, as he is from Australia, but he is loved by many teams and at this point is a near lock to be a top 5 pick. The Jazz could use another guard to pair with Trey Burke and Exum is by far the best available, a tall and athletic scorer who would immediately improve they team ten fold, as he can take over the game by racking up points or by setting up his teammates. Utah is currently filled with complementary pieces, so adding a potential star to build around is a necessity for them at this point, and Exum is just that.

5.  Boston Celtics - Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky

Considered the #2 prospect entering college this year behind Wiggins, Randle has played very well, but has been overshadowed by the very strong play of Embiid, Parker, Wiggins, and Exum. Another factor leading to Randle's small slide down the rankings have to do with the loads of talent on Kentucky's roster, making it so Randle does not have to carry the load himself. Therefore, the Celtics could be getting a steal with Randle at #5, for even though he has not shown that he can carry a team because he has not had to, there is a good chance he would successful at it if necessary. Randle is a great shooter, even from 3-pt range, and adding in his athleticism makes him the perfect stretch-4. He has the ability to attack the basket because the defense has to respect his jumper, allowing him to take over the game. This makes Randle a potential star, something the Celtics desperately need to pair with Rajon Rondo.

6.  Sacramento Kings - Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State

The Kings take the best player available approach here, as point guard is not a pressing need for them, but Smart has elite scoring ability that would make him and Isaiah Thomas a dangerous backcourt tandem for a long time. He is a tall point guard (6'4"), giving him a size advantage in almost every matchup, something which gives opposing defenses fits.  The Kings would love to draft Marcus Smart, hoping that he might become the true star that Tyreke Evans never developed into. Add another pure scorer like Smart to a team with Rudy Gay, DeMarcus Cousins, and the aforementioned Thomas, the Kings could be contenders sooner rather than later.

7.  Los Angeles Lakers - Noah Vonleh, PF, Indiana

It is looking less and less like Pao Gasol will be with the Lakers next season, and therefore they will need to find a replacement for someone who has been a scorer, rebounder, and leader with a championship pedigree for many years on the Lakers. Vonleh is an elite rebounder, and has been able to rack up double doubles at the collegiate level, displaying his potential to become a similar type player in the NBA. A consistent double-double would be the best case scenario for Vonleh and the Lakers, and the encouraging part for them both is that it is quite possible with Vonleh's pure athleticism (unlike Gasol who is more deceptively-athletic) that could make him a star with the Lakers.

8.  Denver Nuggets (from Knicks - C. Anthony Trade) - Dario Saric, PF, Croatia

Saric is a well-rounded player, who, like most other foreign players, is very hard to project into the NBA. The level of competition overseas is most often not as great as that in the NCAA, but the fact that Saric is more of a risk also means that he has higher upside than most. League wide, teams are constantly searching for big men who can score, rebound, and pass when needed, and Saric is just that. If he develops as hoped, the Nuggets could have hit the jackpot with the true all-around threat that they haven't had since Carmelo Anthony (ironically this pick is from that trade with New York).

9.  Cleveland CavaliersWillie Cauley-Stein, C, Kentucky
"As the successor to Anthony Davis and Nerlens Noel at Kentucky, Willie Cauley-Stein had a lot to live up to on the defensive end of the floor. Remarkably, even while his Wildcats teammates have struggled to slow down opposing scorers, Cauley-Stein has extended his predecessors’ legacy and put himself in the discussion for the best low-post defender in the college game." - Thad Novak, Bleacher Report  (link to article HERE)
Cauley-Stein's draft stock has risen a lot lately, due to his increasing prowess on the defensive end. He has had 9 blocks in 2 games different games, and 7 in another, which are examples of why Cauley-Stein could be a player that team's build their defenses around, like Joakim Noah for the Bulls and Marc Gasol for the Grizzlies.  Defensive-minded, rim-protecting centers are becoming more and more in demand in order to counter the increasing athleticism of the scorers, and any team in the Eastern Conference (as has been repeated many times) needs a good defensive center in order to beat the Heat and Pacers. The Cavs had that aim when they signed Andrew Bynum, but he obviously never panned out. Cauley-Stein's offense still needs to be improved quite a bit, but the Cavs would be willing to wait to develop his offensive because of the payoff on the defensive side.

10.  Philadelphia 76ers (from Pelicans - J. Holiday trade)Aaron Gordon, PF, Arizona

Gordon has a ton of potential, but hasn't lived up to it so far, as he is not dominating at the collegiate level as was expected and as he did in high school. At #10, his overall talent might be too good to pass up for the Sixers who already would have drafted a probable stud in Andrew Wiggins, so Philadelphia's taking a chance on a prospect who was as highly touted as entering this year is more likely than another team doing so. However, Gordon has bust written all over him because of his lack of scoring even for the #1 ranked team in the NCAA. The lack of scoring could be his fatal flaw in the NBA, but there is a good chance he still goes in the top ten because of his potential and the reviews that he received coming out of high school last year.

11.  Charlotte Bobcats (from Pistons - B. Gordon trade) - Rodney Hood, SG, Duke

Hood is a very tall for a shooting guard (6'8") who creates mismatches that give him the advantage in athleticism over most of his opponents. He is a scorer, which is what the Bobcats are lacking and have been lacking for an incredibly long time. They are tired of being the laughing stock of the league, so by taking Hood to pair with Kemba Walker in the backcourt, they are committing to a high-powered offense over defense. While this method has worked in the past, it is a risky one, so the Bobcats are betting a lot that Hood maintains his scoring ability into the NBA. If he is up to the task, Hood could have a great career and score a lot of points for whichever team he plays for.

12.  Minnesota Timberwolves - Montrezl Harrell, PF, Louisville

Kevin Love has all but said that he does not want to return to Minnesota when his contract expires, so it is time for the Timberwolves to look at replacements who could potentially learn under Love while he is still around. Harrell's stock has risen, and even though #12 might be a little too early for him to be drafted, he is by far the best rebounder remaining. Obviously, Kevin Love cannot be replaced by one player, so they T-Wolves will need to go about it piece-by-piece, and Harrell would certainly take care of the rebounding that Kevin Love excels at. Once again, even though taking Harrell here would be a stretch, his athleticism but lesser offensive ability is similar to that of Andre Drummond, who, in a year or two, could become a beast on the boards and with the ball in his hands.

13.  Orlando Magic (from Nuggets - D. Howard trade) - Zach LaVine, PG, UCLA

LaVine could be a steal this late in the lottery for the Magic with their second pick in the top 13. LaVine is another tall point guard (6'5") who focuses on scoring more than anything, which gives him plenty of upside but also the fear that he will become to selfish of a player and hurt his team as a whole. However, after having taken Jabari Parker already, the Magic can take a chance on LaVine and hope that they get two studs in this years draft that also fill their two biggest positions of need.

14.  Memphis Grizzlies - Doug McDermott, SF, Creighton

McDermott is a true scorer, something which the Grizzlies have been in dire need of since they traded Rudy Gay. He would fill a huge need for Memphis, and would volt them back into contender status as they had even a year ago. Adding this type of offensive talent if nothing else allows the defensive-minded players on the team (Marc Gasol, Tony Allen) to focus on defense, and to not be forced to do to much on offense. In other words, McDermott will open up the roster for the Grizzlies, and even if he does not become the elite scorer that Rudy Gay is, he will make the team better.

15.  Chicago Bulls (from Bobcats - T. Thomas trade) - Jerami Grant, SF, Syracuse

The Bulls need to replace the departed Luol Deng, for when Derrick Rose comes back they will need as many pieces in place as possible to make a run at the Heat and Pacers as they were expected to this year. Grant is an average scorer whose athleticism could make his scoring even better with time, and is a very good rebounder as well. He is the well rounded player Deng was for the Bulls and they currently need.

16.  Atlanta Hawks (from Nets - J. Johnson trade) - James Young, SF, Kentucky

With a mid-round pick, the Hawks should try to take a chance on Young's athleticism, and hope he will develop into a scorer, although his projected scoring prowess hasn't shown up yet.  However, he  was a highly-touted prospect earlier this year so he might be too good to pass up for the Hawks who have been in desperate need of a star since Joe Johnson left (ironically this pick is from that trade) to add to their plethora of above-average complementary pieces of Paul Millsap, Jeff Teague, Kyle Korver, and leader Al Horford.

17.  Chicago Bulls - Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State

Harris is a good talent but inconsistent shooter, but with so many missed picks in recent years for other teams on shooting guards whose shooting abilities have not carried over to the NBA (Dion Waiters and Bradley Beal are examples), not many teams want to take that risk; but the Bulls took the safer, more well rounded pick just two picks ago so they have the luxury of taking a risk here, one which could pay huge dividends if Harris becomes a great shooter in the NBA.

18.  Phoenix Suns (from Wizards - M. Gortat trade) - Sam Dekker, SF, Wisconsin

Dekker is a well rounded player who is a better rebounder and passer than scorer. He would most likely be an effective sixth man for many teams, but might start on the Wizards eventually. Even though Dekker is not a go-to small forward like many others in the league at that position, he would fill a position of need for the Wizards and could potentially develop into a nice complementary piece by the time the Wizards are true contenders in the East (playing with John Wall would certainly help improve his game).

19.  Phoenix Suns - Wayne Selden, SG, Kansas

Selden has had a very inconsistent season, but like most other shooting guards, the talent is there, and the Suns can afford to take a risk here and hope Selden develops into a scorer who can run with Eric Bledsoe in an athletic and dynamic backcourt for years to come. Perhaps part of the reason that he is not dominating his opponents as expected is because he plays on the same team as Embiid and Wiggins, so he is not expected to make all the plays all the time. Players such as Selden who are on stacked collegiate rosters often do not display their full potential that was clearly there in college until they reach the NBA.

20.  Dallas Mavericks - Adreian Payne, PF, Michigan State

The Mavericks need to think about replacing Dirk Nowitzki eventually, who is getting up there in age (35 years old), and Payne is a stretch forward who can shoot like Dirk. If he could learn how to be a better rebounder and to take higher percentage shots while Dirk is still around, then he could be an effective eventual replacement for the Maverick's franchise player. While Payne by no means will ever reach Dirk's success, he could fill the role that Dirk has for many years while the Mavericks improve in other areas in order to become contenders in the Western Conference once again.

21.  Utah Jazz (from Warriors - A. Iguodala trade) - Mario Hezonja, SF, Croatia

After having already drafted a potential star in Exum with the #4 pick, the Jazz can pass on another point guard in Tyler Ennis where they had a positional need and take more of a risky pick this late in the first round. Like other international prospects, nobody really knows what Hezonja will be in the NBA, but as one of the worst teams in the league as of now, what do the Jazz have to lose? They should take a risk on a player with higher upside than most this late in the first round and hope to hit the jackpot.

22.  Houston Rockets - Tyler Ennis, PG, Syracuse

The Rockets need a pass-first point guard as to get the ball out of the hands of the turnover-prone James Harden and Jeremy Lin. Ennis is not a scorer but would not have to be, he would just need to set up the playmakers on the Rockets like Harden, Lin, Chandler Parsons, and Dwight Howard, making their team much better with this non-flashy but need-based pick.

23.  Boston Celtics (from Nets through Hawks - P. Pierce trade) - Glenn Robinson III, SF, Michigan

The Celtics need an athletic scorer to replace Pierce, and small forward is currently the weakest position on their roster. Robinson is an inconsistent scorer and a solid rebounder but has incredible leaping ability, which all seems very similar to current Celtic Jeff Green. The Celtics would be hoping to be get a similar player, but one who can excel in a supporting role (something Green struggled to do prior to this year when he wasn't the best player), and perhaps make the most of his athleticism (something Green has struggled to do even when considered the go-to-guy).

24.  Toronto Raptors - Kyle Anderson, PF, UCLA

Anderson is average at many things: scoring, rebounding, and blocking, but this late in the first round, for a team who is much worse than their draft position indicates (because of the awful Eastern Conference), he is a pretty good prospect for the Raptors, who need help everywhere, especially in the front court. Right now Toronto has to hope to hit on its late round picks because it looks like even in mediocrity they will be near the top of the standings for a while in the East, even though they will not go far in the playoffs. Hopefully for them Anderson can come through and develop into a solid all-around threat.

25.  Los Angeles Clippers - Jahii Carson, PG, Arizona State

Carson should not go this late, but his size will discourage many teams from taking him. For a 5'10" point guard, he is a prolific scorer (even had a 40 pt game), a surprisingly good rebounder (had a 9 rebound game and two 7 rebound games), and can also can pass, having racked up assists this year (13 in one game). He would, once again, go earlier if taller, but the Clippers could be getting a more-than-servicable backup for Chris Paul and possibly even the next Eric Bledsoe because Carson has that kind of ability to take over a game like Bledsoe, despite his size. As seen in the video, it is hard not to like this guy.

26.  Oklahoma City Thunder - C.J. Wilcox, SG, Washington

Oklahoma City has been searching for the next James Harden since trading him away because it has been showed that they need that scorer as a sixth in order to make them championship contenders again. Wilcox is no James Harden, but he can flat out score, which is exactly what the Thunder need off the bench at shooting guard. With the defenses focusing on Westbrook and Durant, Wilcox should have the opportunities to make plays for this Thunder team.

27.  Miami Heat - Chris Walker, SF, Florida

Walker hasn't even played yet in a college game yet, but it is an incredible compliment to his pure talent that he is still projected to go in the first round. If any team is in the position to take a risk late in the first round on a player who hasn't shown literally anything in college so far, it is certainly the Heat, who could be getting a steal here extremely late in the first round.

28.  Charlotte Bobcats (from Trail Blazers - G. Wallace trade) - Andrew Harrison, PG, Kentucky

A team as bad as the Bobcats needs to take risks, especially this late in the first round, and they would not be able to pass up a talent like Andrew Harrison, even though he has played poorly the entire season (he has fallen from a top-5 pick at the beginning of the season). This pick would be a best-player-available one, hoping that Harrison will live up to his potential that was clearly there in high school. If nothing else, he could be a solid backup for Kemba Walker and if he eventually realizes his incredible potential, his talent could carry him to a starting role. Maybe the reason for Harrison's disappointing college season is that he just wasn't ready for such high expectations right away, but the Bobcats hope that time will change his play.

29.  San Antonio Spurs - Samaj Christon, SG, Xavier

Christon is a shooting guard who can rack up assists and score when needed, which sounds like a perfect backup for Manu Ginobili when he needs a break as he is getting older (36 years old). Christon is nothing flashy or spectacular, but could be a solid role player on the Spurs, especially with so many other weapons for the defense to focus on. The Spurs have always been lauded for developing late round picks into contributors, and Christon could be the next Greg Popovich success story.

30.  Phoenix Suns (from Pacers - L. Scola trade) - Jordan Adams, SG, UCLA

The Suns double-dip on shooting guards by taking Jordan Adams here, who is a very good rebounder for a shooting guard and can score efficiently as well. However, he falls this far because of his lack of elite athleticism, but the Suns are willing to take a chance on him with their third pick of the first round, and hope that he develops into a scorer off the bench who can crash the offensive glass on a Suns team that is looking to be young and competitive for a long time.

1 comment:

  1. the jazz need a PG? have you heard of trey burke?