Wednesday, June 25, 2014

2014 NBA Lottery Mock Draft

The most exciting draft in recent memory is almost upon us, so it's time to lay out my best guess at how the lottery is going to play out (there will be so many trades that trying to predict the rest is a crap shoot). The picks are how I think the draft actually will play out, but I make sure to specify how the teams should pick. Player details (age on draft night, height in shoes, weight, wingspan) are courtesy of and

1. Cleveland: Andrew Wiggins, Kansas SG/SF. 19, 6' 8.75", 197, 7'0"
Wiggins caught scouts' attention in 2012
What the pick should be: Wiggins. Longtime followers know that I've been a fan since he dominated the 2012 Nike Hoop Summit as the youngest player there, and he topped my draft board even before Embiid broke his foot. He has the second highest ceiling while also maintaining a high floor; at the very least I expect a 3-and-D wing similar to Trevor Ariza, which isn't bad at all considering Ariza is about to get another large free agent contract. I can see the comparisons to Tracy McGrady due to his size and fluid athleticism, but for now, he reminds me most of a young Paul George (it's no coincidence that I compared PG to T-Mac before the 2010 draft). He'll provide lock-down perimeter defense right away while his ability to create remains a work in progress. His jumper was streaky, but his form looks improved in his workouts in Santa Barbara (catch UCSB's Thunderdome make an appearance near the end).
Why this is the pick: The Cavs were ready to take Embiid after he impressed them in workouts, but that is when the stress fracture in his foot was discovered. They could trade down to a team that is in love with Wiggins like Philly and pick up Thaddeus Young and one or two of the Sixers' five 2nd round picks while still getting the other Jayhawk at #3. A young veteran like Young would fulfill ownership's mandate to add an impact player to compete now. If they keep the pick, Parker may be the choice because he is the most NBA-ready prospect on offense while bringing the least risk, but I believe Wiggins will help this team the most since he'll fit in at both the 2 and the 3, he'll provide defense for a team that badly needs it, and he won't need to fight for shots with Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, or Anthony Bennett. He should benefit from the spacing of the NBA game, and I'm intrigued by the system new coach David Blatt will bring from Europe.

2. Milwaukee: Jabari Parker, Duke SF/PF. 19, 6'9", 254, 6' 11.5"
What the pick should be: Exum. It would take a huge leap of faith to take the unknown Exum over the well-established Parker, but I believe the Australian guard is in the same tier of prospects as the college big three. As a huge combo guard, Exum would be an excellent fit in Milwaukee with a smaller combo guard like Brandon Knight. They would have one of the longest lineups in the league with that backcourt and a frontcourt of Giannis Antetokounmpo, John Henson, and Larry Sanders.
Why this is the pick: They've loved Parker all year as the reliable scorer they need, and he won't mind playing in the small market since he's from nearby Chicago. In a lot of drafts, he could go #1, and the easy comparison is Carmelo Anthony because of his size and ability to score in a variety of ways. He's best off as a stretch 4, and surrounding him with the length of the Greek Freek and Sanders (with Henson off the bench) will help him on defense. If available, Wiggins would add even more length and athleticism on the wing, and there's virtually no way they can mess up this pick.

3. Philadelphia: Dante Exum, Austrailian PG/SG. 18, 6'6, 196, 6' 9.5"
What the pick should be: Exum. The Embiid injury hurt the Sixers the most since Wiggins was likely to fall into their laps without having to trade up. If they remain at #3, I think they pass on the big man since they just took Nerlens Noel and his torn ACL last year after the impressive Jrue Holiday trade, and they've been high on Exum all year. He's similar to the Rookie of the Year, Michael Carter-Williams, but they could work in the same backcourt. I was high on MCW last year, and I'm even higher on Exum. Gotta love those big PGs.
Why this is the pick: Exum burst onto the scene in the U-17 World Championships in 2012, and I became even more intrigued when he grew to 6'6". His jumper is still a work in progress, but he is extremely quick and has a great feel for the game. He's probably not a true point guard, but he won't have to be next to MCW, although the latter could be traded since his value may be at its peak as the reigning ROY and he is already 22. They'll need to be surrounded by shooters, but they will wreak havoc in the passing lanes.

4. Orlando: Joel Embiid, Kansas C: 20, 7'1", 265, 7' 5.75"
At least the big man is in good spirits despite his surgery.
What the pick should be: Embiid. The Magic need a defensive anchor and true franchise cornerstone, and since they also have the 12th pick, they have a bit more leeway in taking an injury risk. If his medicals check out, Embiid has the highest upside in the draft due to his immense physical tools, his rapidly improving skill set, and his steep learning curve. He is old for a freshman, but coming form Cameroon, he's also only been playing basketball for four years. His rapid improvement over the course of the year was incredible, and his potential to dominate on both ends of the floor is rare.
Why this is the pick: The injuries are scary, but he has to be selected in the top 4 picks. He may miss a significant portion of this year, but they have a solid center, Nikola Vucevic, in the last year of his rookie contract, anyway. They could keep both as the two could form a complementary twin towers frontcourt, or they could flip Vuc for more assets. They could cash in on some of their current assets, like Arron Afflalo, to move around, as well. If they could land Exum, he would allow Victor Oladipo to move to his natural off-guard role, and although they would need to be surrounded by shooters, the defensive versatility and transition opportunities of that backcourt would be exciting.

5. Utah: Noah Vonleh, Indiana PF/C. 18, 6' 9.5", 247, 7' 4.25"
What the pick should be: Gordon. With Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter in place, Gordon could start at the 3 and move to the 4 at times like Andrei Kirilenko used to. If Gordon Hayward is kept in restricted free agency, they would have a lot of positional flexibility between him, Alec Burks, Gordon, and Favors. Gordon's defensive impact would upgrade this team immensely, and I believe his shot will gain more consistency in time, allowing him to become the stretch 4 that new coach Quinn Snyder prefers.
Why this is the pick: The Jazz are desperately trying to move up for Parker, a mormon who would fit the roster in a similar way to Gordon, albeit with an offensive impact instead of on defense. Barring that, Vonleh immediately fits the role of a stretch 4 who also impacts the defense. A lot of people compare him to Chris Bosh, but he reminds me more of Serge Ibaka with his size, rebounding, and defensive toughness. I view Gordon as the better fit and better prospect, overall, but Vonleh makes sense.

6. Boston Aaron Gordon, Arizona SF/PF. 18, 6' 8.75", 220, 6' 11.75"
What the pick should be: Gordon. As mentioned above, he can make an impact on defense from both forward positions, and his incredible athleticism will be a big benefit to Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk. He would mirror Jeff Green's role in some respects, but he is the best long term player for Boston.
Why this is the pick: If they don't trade this pick in some capacity (whether it's to move up or for Kevin Love), Gordon is among the pest players available and provides the best fit. I have Julius Randle slightly higher on my board, but he would be another power forward to add to Sulliner and Olynyk. Marcus Smart could become the long term replacement for Rajon Rondo or Avery Bradley, but his shaky perimeter shooting may give them pause
Randle is strong as a bull inside.

7. Los Angeles: Julius Randle, Kentucky PF. 19, 6'9", 250, 7'0"

What the pick should be: Randle. He's the best player available and fulfills a need in the frontcourt. The Zach Randolph comparisons have some merit, but I prefer to call him a more athletic David Lee due to his body type, ball handling, and passing. He won't be on any All-Defense teams, but he will bring a strong inside-out game.
Why this is the pick: His body is NBA ready, and that ability to contribute right away is a big deal for a Lakers team that doesn't want to waste the last years of Kobe Bryant's career after giving him that ridiculous extension.

8. Sacramento: Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State PG/SG. 20, 6' 3.25", 227, 6' 9.25"
What the pick should be: Smart, if they don't trade it. After Rudy Gay opted in to the last year of his contract, word spread of their pursuit of Josh Smith, as they're apparently all-in to compete for that glorious 9 spot in the West. This could be the centerpiece of a long-rumored deal for JSmoove's buddy Rajon Rondo, but either way, I think Smart's the pick as the best player available and a good fit for either team.
Why this is the pick: He may not really be a point guard, but he will definitely compete on defense regardless of who he guards. His size will be a huge change from restricted free agent, Isaiah Thomas, who should earn a nice contract this summer. If he continues to work on his jumper (and on taking better shots), then his defensive intensity and leadership will go a long way.

9. Charlotte: Doug McDermott, Creighton SF. 22, 6' 7.75", 218, 6' 9.25"
What the pick should be: Harris. The newly minted Hornets (it's going to take a while for me to get used to that) are desperate for shooters, but that shouldn't stop them from taking Harris, who shot 42.5% as a freshman before taking on a heavier load as sophomore and dropping to 35.2%. I think he's closer to his initial season, and his complete game will complement Kemba Walker in the backcourt, especially on defense.
Why this is the pick: I think this is a touch high for Dougie McBuckets, but I can see his appeal as a reliable shooter who can contribute right away off the bench. His scoring impact overall should help this defensive team. His shortcomings on that end prevent him from being a star, and I don't think he'd overtake Michael Kidd-Gilchrist at the 3, although there's a chance he could fill in for Josh McRobert's as a stretch 4, albeit at a great size disadvantage.

10. Philadelphia: Nik Stauskas, Michigan SG. 20, 6' 6.5", 207, 6' 7.75"
What the pick should be: Stauskas. I had Dario Saric here for the longest time since his uncertainty about whether he would come to the NBA this year or next wouldn't be a problem for a Sixers team that is in no rush to compete now, but the news that he is guaranteed not to come for at least two years after a new contract hurts his stock.
Why this is the pick: They want shooters on the wings, especially in this scenario that would land them Exum with MCW, and Stauskas may be the best in the draft. A three guard lineup of those three could work since they're all about 6'6", or Stauskas could carry the second unit since his ball handling and passing took an impressive leap this year. He's a do-it-all shooting guard who some teams might want to trade up for.
The waiting for Saric since the 2012 Hoop Summit will have to continue, sadly.
11. Denver: Gary Harris, Michigan State SG. 19, 6' 4.5", 205, 6' 6.75"
What the pick should be: Harris. He's the best player available and a strong fit as the long term backcourt mate to Ty Lawson. Learning from Randy Foye would be beneficial since Harris could become a better version of him as a tough defender who can shoot and also handle the ball for stretches.
Why this is the pick: The reasons listed above. However, LaVine could make sense here as somewhat of a similar combo guard, and they're rumored to be interested in Saric or Jusuf Nurkic since they don't appear to be enamored with their front court. With the makeup of their roster, they're a team ripe for a trade.

12. Orlando: Elfrid Payton, Louisiana Lafayette PG. 20, 6' 3.75", 185, 6' 8" 
What the pick should be: Tyler Ennis. I think it's pretty clear they take a point guard with this pick after going big at #4, and not only is Ennis next up on my board, he is a better fit for the Magic. His poise was incredible for a freshman, and his shooting would complement this team best.
Why this is the pick: However, I do like Payton, as well. He's shot up draft boards due to his workouts and interviews, and his potential has really shown through. His turnovers are a bit of a concern, but with his his excellent size and athleticism, he could become a star  if he could develop a reliable jumper.

13. Minnesota: James Young, Kentucky SG/SF. 18, 6' 6.75", 213, 7'0"
What the pick should be: Young. Despite some inconsistencies, he is a shooter with a long wingspan, and he's shown the ability to get to the rim and just get buckets even when his jumper isn't falling. Although he almost always drives to his dominant left hand, his relentlessness allows him to create opportunities for himself and occasionally for others. He's among the younger prospects and still has a lot of potential for growth, especially on defense.
Why this is the pick: I doubt that a Kevin Love trade happens on draft night (especially since the supposedly favored Warriors can only offer a 2015 pick, as I described here), so I expect GM Flip Saunders to select a wing who can help coach Flip Saunders compete right away. They need shooters, and although Young may not be ready to start right away, he should be a solid contributor off the bench alongside last year's lottery pick, Shabazz Muhammad. If any of the other top shooters fall to them, they could be the pick, along with LaVine, Rodney Hood, or even Adreian Payne.
From the championship game to sitting courtside with RiRi to lottery pick? Not bad, James Young.
14. Phoenix: Zach LaVine, UCLA PG/SG. 19, 6' 5.75", 181, 6' 8.25"
What the pick should be: LaVine. I think he's the best player available here, a solid fit, and among the highest ceiling prospects in this draft. He probably won't end up as a point guard, but a combo guard who is nearly 6'6" with shooting ability and crazy athleticism is plenty valuable. We didn't get to see all of his potential as a bench player for the Bruins this past year, but a team like the Suns, with so many draft picks and young players already, could afford to take a gamble on this kind of risk/reward prospect.
Why this is the pick: It's unlikely that Phoenix keeps all three of their first round picks this year, so they may move up or out of this spot. However, they have been linked to a lot of point guards and wings, and LaVine would be able to show off his athleticism and skills in the uptempo system of Jeff Hornecek, who did an outstanding job in his first year. Their interest in guards is somewhat surprising given the career years of Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe, and Gerald Green, but Dragic and Green could both leave as free agents next summer while Bledsoe is already hitting restricted free agency now. It will be interesting to see what the Suns have up their sleeve.

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