By Garrett Pasono
With the lottery complete, teams are vigorously preparing for this year’s draft. The 2014 draft is loaded with talent and has the potential to produce some NBA superstars. The Cavaliers have the first pick yet again, so hopefully they can find someone to help Kyrie Irving and it would be very hard to mess up this time. With that being said, here is my mock draft for the first 15 picks:
1) Cleveland- Andrew Wiggins (SG/SF, 6-8, 200lbs, Kansas)
This draft class is insane but Wiggins has been towards the top of everyone’s draft boards since high school. The Cavs are becoming impatient with Dion Waiters‘ progress and are looking to replace him in the lineup. The resigning of Luol Deng is also up in the air so they need a versatile player that can play those spots and Wiggins is just that. Kyrie Irving may finally get that sidekick he has been waiting for.
2) Milwaukee- Joel Embiid (C, 7-0, 250lbs, Kansas)
Another Jayhawk off the board. I think these two picks could very easily be flip-flopped but if Wiggins goes first, the Bucks would be crazy to pass on Embiid. The biggest question regarding Embiid is the status of his back. He showed promise on the offensive end down the stretch and will make an immediate impact on the defensive end.
3) Philadelphia- Jabari Parker (SF, 6-8, 240lbs, Duke)
Just like the last two picks, Parker could go anywhere in the top three. He is one of the most NBA-ready players in this draft and is thought to be the early favorite for Rookie of the Year. Parker brings another scoring threat to a team that struggled with that last year (among other things). This is the first of two picks that the Sixers have in the top ten, so it’s not a bad start.
4) Orlando- Dante Exum (PG, 6-6, 196lbs, Australia)
The Magic are picking Exum here in hopes that he will play the point guard position, despite thoughts from others that he would play the two guard. He is extremely talented on the offensive end. He can get to the rim well and his jump shot is not bad either. Jameer Nelson is getting older and with Exum in the mix, he pairs well with Oladipo and Afflalo, creating a scary good backcourt for the Magic.
5) Utah- Aaron Gordon (PF/SF, 6-9, 220lbs, Arizona)
Besides Wiggins, Gordon is one of the most athletic players in this draft. The Jazz are set at the other four spots with Trey Burke, Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter. They are looking for a small forward that can play as that scoring swing man and Gordon can do just that. He will contribute right away on defense and can add valuable points when needed on offense, but he needs to improve his free throw shooting (44% in college).
6) Boston- Noah Vonleh (PF, 6-10, 245lbs, Indiana)
Vonleh has a ton of potential and is just raw talent right now. His draft stock rose toward the end of the season when scouts saw what he brought on the defensive end and also learned of his hidden offensive skills. Vonleh performed well at the combine and only helped himself out when it comes to the draft.
7) Los Angeles- Marcus Smart (PG, 6-3, 225lbs, Oklahoma State)
The Lakers have a lot of needs to take care of and there are a few options with this pick. I think the biggest issue is at point guard. Smart is a very talented player on both ends and could be just what the Lakers are looking for. Kendall Marshall and Jordan Farmar just didn’t cut it for LA this season and Smart can hopefully bring that swagger back to LA, pairing in the backcourt with Kobe.
8) Sacramento- Julius Randle (PF, 6-9, 234lbs, Kentucky)
Just what Demarcus Cousins is looking for: help down low. Randle, like Cousins, is a double-double machine and will create a very talented front court for the Kings. The only concern with Randle is on the defensive end. Will he be able to guard a power forward the entire time? That is something that he needs to work on come game time.
9) Charlotte- Dario Saric (PF, 6-10, 223lbs, Croatia)
Saric wowed a lot of scouts with his recent play over seas and it has been said that if he entered the draft last year, he was going to be a lottery pick. He won regular season and finals MVP in the Adriatic League and led the league in scoring and rebounding. Remember, he is playing against professionals, not college players. He is a very talented playmaker on the offensive end and his game will fit well in an NBA system.
10) Philadelphia- Nik Stauskas (SG, 6-7, 207lbs, Michigan)
With an offense that struggled last year, bringing in a lights-out shooter is something the Sixers should do. Stauskas is the best pure-shooter in this draft and has elevated his game since he started at Michigan. His main weakness is on the defensive end, but hopefully Nerlens Noel will be back there to cover for him.
11) Denver- Gary Harris (SG, 6-5, 205lbs, Michigan State)
The Nuggets are in desperate need of a new shooting guard and Harris would be a great fit. He is a fantastic shooter and has also expanded his game in two years with Tom Izzo. He is and NBA-ready defender and his offense will soon catch up.
12) Orlando- Doug McDermott (SF, 6-8, 218lbs, Creighton)
Obviously he can score. McDermott will be able to help the low-scoring Orlando offense right away, as I think he will make an immediate impact on any team. The comparisons to Larry Bird, I think, are a little far-fetched but he plays a similar style and has no problem filling it up. Like most prolific scorers, he needs to work on his play on the defensive side of the ball, which is a big issue in many teams’ eyes.
13) Minnesota- James Young (SG, 6-8, 213lbs, Kentucky)
I won’t touch on the Kevin Love situation but that will be a very interesting story come draft time, and will possibly change the order of this draft. Anyways, James Young is an extremely athletic and talented scorer. He can get to the rim almost at will, as we saw in the National Championship game, and he can shoot from the perimeter (35% from three last season). He has been compared to Bradley Beal from the Wizards and I’m sure the Timberwolves would be happy to have that kind of player.
14) Phoenix- Rodney Hood (SG, 6-9, 208lbs, Duke)
With the Suns new up-tempo offense, a versatile scorer and defender like Hood is what they need. Hood can stretch it out and hit threes (42% last season) for the Suns, causing more concerns for defenders. Hood will fit nicely in the backcourt with Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe.
15) Atlanta- T.J. Warren (SF, 6-8, 220lbs, N.C. State)
Warren is one of the best scorers in this draft and the Hawks have struggled in previous drafts to find someone to fill this role. He plays well inside the three point arc, gets to the rim, and grabs quite a few boards for his position. The Hawks put up a good fight against the Pacers in the playoffs and players like Jeff Teague, Paul Millsap, and Al Horford will be happy to have another scoring threat on the court with them in Atlanta.
This class is extremely young and the talent level is off the charts. Expect many of these players to make impacts right away next season for their respective teams. The Draft is set for June 26th and should not disappoint.