Now, close your eyes just long enough to picture Adam Silver’s strangely shaped head making its way towards the podium. It’s the evening of June 26th, 2014, and you’re sitting alone on your couch — heart filled with false hope, head spinning with possibilities, and hands covered in Velveeta cheese.
You’re the guy who flooded his team forums for the past 12 months with “projected” LeBron and Wiggins lineups for next season. This is the day your forum ban gets lifted. This is the day that you call your ex to tell her you were right, though it’s likely she’ll have no ****ing idea what you’re talking about. This is when it all comes to fruition.
But…if you’re not that guy, here’s a detailed, early prediction of how things might go on that fateful Summer Evening.
The order is accurate as of February 20th morning, and tiebreakers were broken by John Hollinger’s Projected Records. “Other Possibilities” are only done for the lottery picks, as things would get a tad convoluted in that section after #14.
At #1, the Milwaukee Bucks select:
Joel Embiid | C | 7’1” 245 | Kansas | 19
[+] Possesses rare physical tools – from his size/length (7’5” wingspan), to his explosiveness, to being able to run like a wing; High-level offensive upside, with elite footwork and impressive touch out to fifteen feet; Naturally a top shot-blocker and an imposing defensive presence
[-] Has only played basketball for a few years; Needs to improve lower-body strength and overall polish in the post; Inconsistent; Incredibly foul-prone; Injury concerns?
The only promising pieces on the Bucks’ roster are three guys who are 6’10”+ (Antetokounmpo, Sanders and Henson), so this may not make immediate sense fit-wise.
A few weeks ago, I began to consider Embiid to be one of the best prospects I had ever seen – but after a few down games and a minor injury later, some questions have arose. That said, he still has the most two-way upside in this draft, and trades can be made later (though the quality of trade with Hammond pulling the strings is always in question).
Other Possibilities: SF Wiggins; SF Parker
At #2, the Philadelphia 76ers select:
Jabari Parker | SF | 6’8” 240 | Duke | 18
[+] Rare skill-set/offensive polish for his age/size; Has the handle, range and fluidity of a guard, and the frame of a PF; Has true “go-to-guy” potential; Overall IQ, maturity and court-awareness are high-level
[-] Doesn’t blow you away athletically; Overall conditioning/flabby body are concerning; Could use his size/skill combo more effectively, particularly to get to the stripe; Can he guard the top NBA SFs?
With Carter-Williams and Noel, the Sixers’ current core is made up of two athletic monsters who have the length and defensive upside, but lack offensive polish. Parker would be the most natural fit with those two, with his elite offensive ability and skill-level (plus they might help in hiding his potential defensive shortcomings).
Other Possibilities: SF Wiggins
At #3, the Orlando Magic select:
Andrew Wiggins | SF | 6’8” 205 | Kansas | 18
[+] Fantastic athlete – a quick jumper inside with fluid feet outside; Elite defensive upside – can guard multiple positions effectively; Jumper and range show some promise; Great first step. Growth potential on both ends
[-] Ball-handling and creating ability are underdeveloped; Disappears for stretches on O, doesn’t always assert himself; Needs to add bulk; Half-court offensive game; Jumper form is unorthodox.
Most would consider a PG of the future to be Orlando’s most pressing need, with a rim-protector being a distant second. Wiggins doesn’t satisfy either of those concerns, but he does give them the potential Franchise Centerpiece that they seem to be searching for.
Wiggins + Oladipo project as a devastating athletic/defensive combo on the wings. Also, with the emergence of a few college PGs, they can address that need with their next pick (see: below).
Other Possibilities: SG/PG Exum; PF Randle; PG/SG Smart
At #4, the Los Angeles Lakers select:
Dante Exum | SG/PG | 6’6” 185 | Australia | 18
[+] The “good” type of combo guard, with size and skills to play either spot; Natural scorer and creator – gets to the rim with ease; Great feel for the game on O; Fearless; Great two-way upside; Overall mentality?
[-] Thin frame needs bulk; Shoots a set shot, streaky from outside; Tendency to stand too upright when dribbling; Lack of competition/visibility make him a risk; Ball-dominant? Not a true standout in any area
By now you’ve probably read about Exum’s almost-creepy obsession with Kobe and the Lakers (and if you haven’t, I wouldn’t make an effort to do so).
Either way, this would make for some kind of narrative, as Exum could learn under Kobe’s wing – and spend time both as his backcourt mate (at PG) and as his backup (at SG). One could question which position he’s better suited for long-term, but the Lakers probably wouldn’t care, as they could use help at either guard spot.
Other Possibilities: PF Randle; PG/SG Smart; PF Vonleh
At #5, the Sacramento Kings select:
Noah Vonleh | PF | 6’10” 240 | Indiana | 18
[+] Excellent size and length (7’4” wingspan) for position; Impressive touch, range and skill-level for age; Strong frame, natural rebounder; Nice defensive upside; Efficient on O
[-] Average athlete, lacks explosiveness; Doesn’t always assert himself on O; Still learning the game, lacks polish
Think about the type of big that you’d ideally put next to Cousins – a guy with length/defensive chops, plus an efficient/low-usage offensive game (to offset Cousins), and you’d envision a player that strongly resembles Noah Vonleh.
This pick would be more of a fit-pick than a BPA pick, as many would rank Randle (and possibly Smart) over the solid but unspectacular Vonleh. Randle’s defensive concerns and face-up game would likely be redundant next to Cousins.
Other Possibilities: PF Randle; PG/SG Smart
At #6, the Boston Celtics select:
Julius Randle | PF | 6’9” 250 | Kentucky | 19
[+] Strength and fluidity are elite for position; Athletic and physical; Handles like a wing; Dominating face-up driver; Excellent motor; Monster on the glass; Finishing ability
[-] Below average length; Non-factor defensively; Relies on “bully-ball”, which doesn’t work in the NBA; Excels mostly against inferior competition; Post-up game/polish
Jared Sullinger (who’s generally listed as a PF), is a big part of the Celtics’ future, so Randle might not make much sense on the surface. But Sully has played C for roughly 73% of his NBA career minutes (source: BBallRef), and could likely work with Randle’s different style of play (provided they found a rim-protector off the bench).
Randle would bring immediate production and would become a core piece for Stevens and crew.
Other Possibilities: PG/SG Smart; PF Saric
At #7, the Utah Jazz select:
Dario Saric | PF | 6’10” 230 | Croatia | 20
[+] Excellent IQ and skill-level for size; Strong motor; Natural passer and ball-handler – can navigate an offense; Has range out to three; Produced at a high-level in Europe
[-] Foot speed and athleticism; Short wingspan; Upside? Defensive concerns – can he bang inside with NBA PFs?
This is a tough spot for Utah, as they were clearly banking on leaving the ’14 Draft with a Franchise Centerpiece, and the only top-tier guy available here is Smart (who I think Utah would pass on for fit reasons, and some would argue that his stock is dropping).
But most would agree that Enes Kanter doesn’t fit quite well with Favors (whose contract was extended). Saric on the other hand, would make for a more functional fit up front, with his skill-set and face-up game.
Other Possibilities: SG/SF Young; SF Hood; PG/SG Smart
(from New York)
At #8, the Denver Nuggets select:
Marcus Smart | PG/SG | 6’4” 220 | Oklahoma State | 19
[+] Another “good” combo possessing size and skill. Elite strength/physicality/motor for a guard; Gets to the rim; Strong athlete; Defensive intensity/shut-down potential; Stat-sheet filler
[-] TO-prone; Shot-selection; Streaky shooter at best; Undeveloped PG tools (ball-handling, decision making); Scouts may question the Texas Tech incident
Fun Fact: Despite being universally listed as a PG, Smart has actually played off the ball for much of his college/high school career, and likely wouldn’t have any problems starting off at SG in the pros. Does that mean he’s going to be a long-term SG? Not necessarily.
Either way, the Nuggets have been searching for some star-power, and Smart might just have that. He’d be the BPA here and thus, a fantastic value. Like I said earlier, trades can always follow.
Other Possibilities: SF Hood; SG Harris
At #9, the Cleveland Cavaliers select:
Rodney Hood | SF | 6’8” 210 | Duke | 21
[+] Silky smooth J from deep; Scoring instincts/efficiency; Solid athlete; Off-ball scoring upside
[-] Length; Ball-handling/shot-creating ability; Over-dependence on jumper; Versatility?
Nobody really knows what Cleveland is doing. Their recent moves would indicate a win-now mentality, but fans are still awaiting some results from that strategy.
But one thing is for sure in Cleveland – Deng isn’t returning. With both Kyrie seemingly locked in as the Franchise player (for better or worse) and Waiters still hanging around, a deadly off-ball scorer like Hood would seem to make quite a bit of sense…but let’s not get ahead of ourselves and presume that sense will play a role here.
Other Possibilities: SG/SF Young; SG Harris
At #10, the Charlotte Hornets select:
James Young | SG/SF | 6’6” 210 | Kentucky | 18
[+] Great size/length/athleticism for position; Sweet stroke from deep; Natural scorer; Offensive upside
[-] Streaky shooter/inconsistency; Passing needs work; Defensive tenacity?
Coach Clifford has quietly instilled a strong defensive culture in Charlotte. And while they’re still incredibly mediocre, things are looking brighter than they were just two years ago.
The most glaring hole in the roster is the lack of offensive firepower from their wings. James Young is still early in his development as a player, but he’s the type of high-upside prospect that Charlotte needs to take a chance on (after the safe Zeller/MKG picks).
Other Possibilities: SG Harris; SG LaVine
(from New Orleans)
At #11, the Philadelphia 76ers select:
Gary Harris | SG | 6’4” 210 | Michigan State | 19
[+] Strong defender; Solid range/form on J; Nice frame and strength; Solid athlete; IQ and feel for the game
[-] Average height/length; Shot-creating ability; Efficiency has dipped in a featured role; Upside?
After the Parker pick, Philly could either go after another big (to place next to Noel), or a backcourt mate for MCW.
Harris would fulfill the latter, and would seem to fit well with Carter-Williams as he’s a high-IQ, off-ball talent with range. His upside isn’t the most enticing, but he’d be a great fit with the Parker-MCW-Noel core.
Other Possibilities: PF/SF Gordon; C Cauley-Stein; SG LaVine
At #12, the Orlando Magic select:
Tyler Ennis | PG | 6’2” 180 | Syracuse | 18
[+] Very advanced young PG; Doesn’t turn it over; Has elite poise; Nice vision; Strong feel for the game; Can hit the 3 and his J is fundamentally sound; Winner; Solid height
[-] Average physically; Lacks explosiveness off the bounce and vertically; Not as dynamic of a ball-handler as most top PGs; Doesn’t finish well at the rim; Defensive concerns? Overall upside?
Ennis fulfills the “PG of the future” role that Orlando has been seeking. I’m wary about his long-term upside, but I can’t deny that he can run an offense like few others could at his age.
Also, his polish and savvy would seemingly mesh well with the athletic but raw Oladipo and Wiggins.
Other Possibilities: PG/SG Clarkson; C Cauley-Stein
At #13, the Minnesota Timberwolves select:
Willie Cauley-Stein | C | 7’0” 240 | Kentucky | 20
[+] Elite size/athleticism combo; Excellent shot-blocker already; Growth potential
[-] Very raw, particularly on O; Similar prospects’ failures in past; Overall court-awareness/IQ
For a team as mediocre as the Wolves, it’s surprisingly difficult to pin-point their roster holes. It’s easy to point to their lack of rim-protectors (in the Love-Pekovic lineup) as a key factor in their record, but last year’s draft pick, Gorgui Dieng, has looked somewhat capable in that role (albeit in limited minutes). Maybe a dynamic wing-talent would help…who knows?
I’m going to assume Adelman knows something I don’t, and that Dieng isn’t the guy for that job (or maybe, Adelman just hates playing rookies), which makes this pick more sensible. WCS is a freakish athlete who would help immediately in that regard (provided he sees the floor).
Other Possibilities: SG LaVine; SG Selden
At #14, the Memphis Grizzlies select:
Aaron Gordon | PF/SF | 6’9” 220 | Arizona | 18
[+] Elite athlete; Can jump with the best; Team player with great “intangibles”; High-level defensive upside; Can guard multiple positions; Motor
[-] Tweener; Offensive skill-level is lacking; Stiff with the ball; Scoring efficiency is very poor; Shot-selection
Projecting a fit with Gordon seems to be troublesome, regardless of the team, due to his positional ambiguity. But while his offensive efficiency (47.8 TS%) has been abysmal, his defensive impact and overall unselfish approach to the game have been critical to Arizona’s success this year.
Z-Bo looks to be on the decline, and the Grizz aren’t exactly stacked at SF, so Memphis could try to mold him into whichever position they see fit (if they choose to do so at all). Either way, his intangibles/D would be a natural fit with the Grizzlies’ team culture.
Other Possibilities: SF/PF McDermott; SF/PF Grant
At #15, the Chicago Bulls select:
Zach LaVine | SG | 6’5” 175 | UCLA | 18
[+] Freak athlete with elite explosiveness; Sweet stroke with impressive range; Can shoot off the bounce and catch; Ball-handling upside?
[-] Raw; Very inconsistent; Most of O comes from threes or fast breaks; Very thin; Lacks raw production; Not ready?
The Bulls have lacked a dynamic wing talent since, well (*opens BasketballReference*), a long time. Regardless of whether Rose returns to the floor or checks into a full-time clinic, the Bulls can certainly afford to take a swing on a high-upside talent like LaVine.
That said, LaVine is one of the biggest question marks in the draft, and is as raw as they come, so there would definitely have to be some quality player development done.
At #16, the Atlanta Hawks select:
Wayne Selden | SG | 6’5” 225 | Kansas | 19
[+] Built like an Ox; Solid athlete; Mature game for age; Unselfish with nice vision; Defensive tools; Jumper form is promising; two-way upside?
[-] Disappears for stretches and even games; Streaky shooter (esp. on FTs); Lacks raw production
Atlanta is in an interesting spot, with all contrasting directions that they could take (to tank or to win-now?). In either case, they could use some young talent on the wings, and Selden would satisfy that.
While he doesn’t assert himself as often as you’d like, the combination of his mature style of play and solid physical tools make him a great piece to develop.
At #17, the Boston Celtics select:
Jordan Clarkson | PG/SG | 6’5” 205 | Missouri | 21
[+] Oversized PG who’s relentless getting to the rim (where he finishes); Natural scorer; Plays with poise
[-] Lacks range and a consistent J; Looks to score before passing
This pick is rooted in the assumption that Rondo gets dealt this summer. Clarkson is similar in the sense that he can’t shoot very well, but differs from him in pretty much every other way.
His size would a nice asset to have next to the undersized SG Bradley, and his ability to get to the rim would open up looks for Randle and Sullinger.
At #18, the Phoenix Suns select:
Doug McDermott | SF/PF | 6’7” 230 | Creighton | 22
[+] Elite shooter with natural scoring instincts; Incredible production/efficiency in college.
[-] Tweener; Poor athlete; Major defensive concerns
While McDermott may not have a set position, his elite skill (shooting) makes him a valuable asset for any team – and in this case, he’d be especially valuable to a team like Phoenix. The Suns already shoot a high volume of threes, and the slashing/playmaking of Dragic and Bledsoe would open up plenty of looks for Mac Dougie.
At #19, the Chicago Bulls select:
Jerami Grant | SF/PF | 6’9” 205 | Syracuse | 19
[+] Ridiculous athleticism/length (7’3” wingspan) combo; Elite defensive upside/versatility
[-] Very raw on O; Lacks range/ball-handling for SF spot; Lacks bulk to bang inside with NBA PFs
Grant has been listed as an SF for some time, but there are definitely questions to ask about his ability to play there full-time at the next level (due to his offensive skill-level).
That said, Chicago is always looking for top-tier defenders, and Grant certainly fills the bill. Despite playing in Cuse’s 2-3 zone, he’s already shown the ability to stifle perimeter players and interior players alike.
At #20, the Toronto Raptors select:
T.J. Warren | SF | 6’8” 225 | North Carolina State | 20
[+] Incredibly opportunistic (and productive) scorer; Excellent mid-range and in-between game; Nice size for position
[-] Average athlete; Defensive concerns; What else will he bring outside of scoring?
While Toronto seems to have their two wings for the future (DeRozan and Ross), they’re both are 6’6” and naturally SGs. Ross’s ability to guard most SFs has made it a functional combo, but you’d think that having a capable SF with size would be a nice option for Toronto.
Warren fits that description, and would be a fantastic scoring option off the bench right away.
At #21, the Oklahoma City Thunder select:
P.J. Hairston | SG/SF | 6’5” 230 | Texas Legends (D-League) | 21
[+] Big time scorer; Excellent strength and frame; Great range; Producing at a high level in D-League
[-] One-dimensional? Shot-selection is iffy; Character concerns?
Hairston is a guy whose stock has literally been a roller-coaster for the past few years. Most recently, he’s revitalized it by exploding in the D-League (after his suspension at UNC). He looks to be an NBA-ready scorer, and OKC is always looking for young talent to develop.
(from Golden State)
At #22, the Utah Jazz select:
Nik Stauskas | SG | 6’5” 205 | Michigan | 20
[+] Big-time shooter with solid size; Can shoot off the catch or bounce; Underrated passer and ball-handler
[-] Not impressive athletically; Length is below-average; Defensive liability?
Alec Burks has shown some flashes of late at the SG spot in Utah, but Utah could use some shooting either way (the Jazz are near the bottom of the league in three pointers made, and a sniper of Stauskas’ caliber would be an immediate help).
A Burke-Burks-Stauskas-Hayward-Saric-Kanter-Favors core is far from the worst thing in the world.
At #23, the Phoenix Suns select:
Clint Capela | PF | 6’10” 215 | Switzerland | 19
[+] Great athlete and strong finisher; Activity level and motor; Length; Some ability to put ball on the floor; Overall upside
[-] Very raw as a shooter and overall on O; Lack of visibility makes him a risk?
This would be a pure-upside pick. Capela is likely a few years away from contributing, but his athleticism and defensive upside would be a big addition to Phoenix’s frontcourt, even if that means waiting a few years.
Phoenix also has the luxury of taking a flier on Capela with their surplus of picks.
At #24, the Charlotte Hornets select:
Kyle Anderson | SF/PG | 6’8” 230 | UCLA | 20
[+] Unique talent/point-forward; Walking triple-double threat; Excellent vision; Length (7’3” wingspan); Floor leader
[-] Very poor athleticism and foot speed; Major defensive concerns; Off-ball game?
This would be an interesting selection, as Anderson’s skills are certainly not suited for every team. But with a scoring PG like Kemba Walker leading the show in Charlotte, a unique point-forward like Anderson could serve useful in facilitating the offense (likely off the bench).
Plus Charlotte has some defensive pieces in place to help hide Anderson on that end.
At #25, the Los Angeles Clippers select:
Adreian Payne | PF/C | 6’10” 235 | Michigan State | 23
[+] Mature big with range and solid athleticism. Runs the floor well, and can contest shots on D
[-] Already 23; Has a lung-condition; Isn’t incredibly physical on the glass or inside
The Clippers could use a stretch big to pick and pop with Paul, and Payne fits the bill.
He may lack the upside of some other players in this range, but looks to be a safe selection, as he looks likely to be capable of stepping in and contributing immediately off the bench.
At #26, the Houston Rockets select:
Glenn Robinson III | SF/SG | 6’6” 215 | Michigan | 19
[+] Looks the part of a top wing – has a nice J, frame, athleticism and poise; Defensive upside?
[-] Incredibly passive; Isn’t comfortable in a featured role; Streaky; Underachiever
The Rockets have their SG and SF set, but their lack of quality wing depth has forced Harden and Parsons to play an unhealthily high MPG.
Robinson III has the outside stroke to fit into Houston’s offense, as well as the physical tools to be a solid defender. His mentality is worrisome, but on a team with stars, his tendency to defer shouldn’t be as much of an issue.
At #27, the Miami Heat select:
Jusuf Nurkic | C | 6’11” 275 | Bosnia | 19
[+] Size; Finishing ability at the rim; Mobility; Production in Europe; Overall offensive upside
[-] Somewhat of an unknown still; Athleticism/explosiveness; Conditioning?
Miami could draft literally any position here and we wouldn’t bat an eye. That said, I’d like to think that they’re still searching for a diamond in the rough at the C spot, and this pick would signify that they’re not putting all their eggs in the Oden basket.
Nurkic’s offensive prowess and size would make him a nice target for passes from You-Know-Who.
At #28, the San Antonio Spurs select:
AJ Hammons | C | 7’0” 270 | Purdue | 21
[+] Size; Skill-level for size; Gets deep position and finishes; Shot-blocking ability; Per minute production
[-] Effort/motor; Consistency; Passion for the game?
The pinnacle of player development resides in San Antonio, and Hammons fits the bill of a guy who needs proper coaching/development.
Despite playing in a major conference, he remains somewhat of an unknown, as his size, production and skill-level seem to be of a C who should be ranked higher. Some have questioned Hammons’ tenacity, but Pop should get to work on that.
At #29, the Phoenix Suns select:
Jabari Brown | SG | 6’4” 215 | Missouri | 21
[+] Fantastic range; Natural scorer and gunner from outside; Nice frame, solid athlete
[-] Overly reliant on J; Doesn’t use athleticism as much as he could?
While Phoenix seems to be set on their two PG lineup, having a capable SG option surely wouldn’t hurt. Brown has shot up draft boards this year with his impressive scoring numbers, and his high-level shooting ability would be utilized in the Suns’ offense.
At #30, the Oklahoma City Thunder select:
Montrezl Harrell | PF | 6’8” 245 | Louisville | 20
[+] Strong frame and athleticism; Solid defensively; Length (7’4” wingspan)
[-] Offensive skill level; Average height; Projects as a hustle big?
The Thunder are just looking to add talent at this point, and Harrell is an athletic PF that could eventually take Collison’s spot as a backup big. His motor and toughness inside would be welcome on a team chock full of talent.