On June 26th, the NBA Draft will commence. For many teams, it’s an opportunity to build depth and find the next key bench contributor in their quest to take the championship away from LeBron James and the Miami Heat. For the teams in the lottery, however, the draft is a breeding ground for hope. After a season of despair, these fruitless franchises will put their faith in one of a collection of 20-year old prodigies with aspirations of greatness. History suggests that most will fail, as the likelihood of an NBA Draft bust grows the deeper one picks in round one.
Still, the 2014 draft promises to be one of the best in recent memory, and Skood Sports celebrates the Philadelphia 76ers’ tankapalooza of 2013-14 by doing our first NBA mock draft since 2012. Without further ado, let’s begin the 2014 NBA Mock Draft Lottery.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers – C Joel Embiid, Kansas
After spending nearly the entire year as the consensus #1 overall pick, Kansas F Andrew Wiggins appears likely to fall out of the top spot on draft day. Instead, his collegiate teammate could land in Cleveland. The Cavaliers, who stocked up on veteran help at the trade deadline in hopes of making the playoffs for the first time since 2010, instead find themselves with the first overall pick. This is, of course, thanks to the quirky mechanization of the draft lottery process.
This is Cleveland’s fourth #1 overall pick since 2003 (LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Anthony Bennett). Despite the presence of Wiggins and fellow swingman Jabari Parker, Dan Gilbert’s club is likely to take big man Joel Embiid. A combination of the 7-0, 250 lb. behemoth along with the speedy and dynamic Irving will be too much for the Cavaliers to ignore. While Embiid might not be the surest thing in this draft, his upside and size is enough to make franchises drool. The 20-year old former soccer star has only played basketball for three years, and projects as a Hakeem Olajuwon type talent.
2. Milwaukee Bucks – SF Andrew Wiggins, Kansas
I find it hard to believe that Milwaukee, a team without a marketable talent, will pass on Andrew Wiggins. Some believe that Philadelphia will orchestrate a trade to get the man they want. But, if no deal comes, the Bucks would be foolish not to act. Coming into the 2013-14 college basketball season, many predicted Wiggins to be the best prospect since LeBron. An inconsistent freshman season at Kansas has tempered expectations a bit. But, there’s no denying Wiggins’ athletic ability and potential. Will Wiggins come into the league and dominate like some #1 picks do? Probably not. But, when we look back at this draft in ten years, he’ll be the one that Cleveland will most regret not pulling the trigger on.
3. Philadelphia 76ers – SF Jabari Parker, Duke
While he may not have the immense upside of Wiggins or the towering girth of Embiid, Jabari Parker is an excellent consolation prize if the 76ers can’t land the guy that they covet. The most pure scorer in the draft, Parker seems a guarantee to one day average over 23 points-per-game. Defense will forever be his weakness, as the 19-year old doesn’t project the same amount of intensity on that side of the ball. But, his natural scoring ability, tremendous shot for a 6-9, 240 lb. forward, and freakish athleticism will make him a force to be reckoned with. The fact that he’s the most NBA ready of all the top prospects in this draft will help Philadelphia, who would field a very young lineup of Parker, Michael Carter-Williams, Nerlens Noel, the #10 pick, and Thaddeus Young next season.
4. Orlando Magic – PG/SG Dante Exum, Australia
The least exposed player in the top-five is easily Dante Exum, who played in front of sparse crowds in Australia during his high school days. The 18-year old has the most offensive potential of any guard in this draft, something Orlando could certainly use after grabbing the defensively stout Victor Oladipo in last year’s draft. Exum’s biggest strengths are his size (6-6) and speed. The kid doesn’t have a great shot, and he’s very raw. For an Orlando team that’s in no rush to contend, Exum is a solid pick for the future.
5. Utah Jazz – PF Noah Vonleh, Indiana
A late riser up the draft boards, Vonleh could go as high as #4. Solid in every aspect of the game but spectacular in none, the 6-9, 245 lb. big is considered to have a very high ceiling despite an average career as a Hoosier. His long arms and solid size will make him an adequate defender even at a young age, something Utah has lacked down low. For a big guy, Vonleh is deceptively quick, and his persona as a “gym rat” will only serve to polish a game that already has loads of potential.
6. Boston Celtics – PF Julius Randle, Kentucky
Assuming that they don’t trade for T-Wolves PF Kevin Love, the Boston Celtics will take the best player available at #6. At this point, that BPA is easily Julius Randle. After a solid freshman campaign at Kentucky, Randle showed that he is among the best-of-the-best in this deep draft. The 6-9 forward’s biggest strength is his strength down low and ability to overpower collegiate bigs. Now, whether or not that trait transitions to the NBA is a question. But, many consider Randle to be one of the most NBA ready players because his style of play translates well. For Boston, NBA ready is the name of the game, as the Celtics and their faithful appear unwilling to sit through another miserable campaign like the one that just ended.
7. Los Angeles Lakers – PG Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State
I don’t think that this is the scenario that Los Angeles envisioned when they sat in the lottery room last month. Falling to pick 7, then missing out on the top power forward prospects, leaves the Lakers to take Marcus Smart. This isn’t to say that Smart can’t be a solid player at the next level, and the 20-year old’s leadership qualities will be huge as the Lakers look to rebuild their aging core. But, Smart doesn’t offer the same upside as some of those who preceded him in this mock. He may end up fitting in well in the City of Angels, though, as Smart’s dynamic playmaking ability and passion for determining the outcome of games makes him a solid piece for the future as the Lakers look to rebuild from the rubble.
8. Sacramento Kings – PF Aaron Gordon, Arizona
This athletic, rebounding machine won’t turn 19 until September. For a Kings team that hasn’t made the playoffs since Gordon was 10, finding solutions to their woes is integral. Other than DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento doesn’t have any bigs who they view as a long term solution. With other options like Doug McDermott or Dario Saric available at this pick, the Kings elect instead to grab the best defender and rebounder of the bunch. Gordon is raw. But, his youth and upside make him a solid pick at #8.
9. Charlotte Hornets – SG Nik Stauskas, Michigan
The Charlotte Hornets (boy, does it feel good to say that) took Bismack Biyombo and Cody Zeller in recent years, so selecting another front-court player seems unreasonable. Enter Stauskas, who remains as the best available scoring option left. The former Wolverine is a pure shooter with NBA range (44% from beyond the arc). His quick release and competitive nature will make him a solid fit in Charlotte, where scoring has always been a challenge.
10. Philadelphia 76ers – PF Doug McDermott, Creighton
This pick would make more sense if Philadelphia were able to land Wiggins, as Parker’s selection already invigorates the 76ers’ pathetic offensive attack. But, snagging Dougie McBuckets at pick 10 would be difficult to deny. The most advanced prospect in the lottery (and the only senior taken in the top-10), McDermott offers an unparallelled offensive game, with a sweet jump shot and the ability to step in and play right away as an offensive role player. On the other hand, the former Blue Jay is not going to be an asset defensively, and he seems like a better fit for a team that is closer to contending than Philadelphia. Still, the 76ers could use all the scoring they can get, and slotting McDermott into a role behind Parker/Thaddeus Young would give Philly a potent punch of depth.
11. Denver Nuggets – SG Gary Harris, Michigan State
Aaron Brooks, Randy Foye, Evan Fournier, and Nate Robinson. That’s the list of guards currently on the Denver Nuggets’ roster. Something tells me that Denver is going to make improving that position a large priority this offseason. Harris, while undersized (6-4), is well rounded in every facet of his game. An unselfish player, the former Spartans’ star is young enough to develop his game at the next level while still being competent enough that he could play significant minutes right away. For a Nuggets team that is one year removed from contention, finding players that can contribute immediately is crucial.
12. Orlando Magic – SF Dario Saric, Croatia
After grabbing diminutive guard Dante Exum earlier, the Orlando Magic boost their size and interior game by landing Dario Saric, a native of Croatia. This SF/PF hybrid presents a matchup challenge for opposing coaches. He’s too quick to be guarded by power forwards and too large to be denied by swingmen. An aggressive rebounder, Saric would fit in quite well on an Orlando team that is willing to wait for success to return to Disney World.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves – SF Rodney Hood, Duke
Another Blue Devil is off the board, as sweet shooting swingman Rodney Hood lands in Minnesota. The T-Wolves aren’t likely to find Kevin Love’s replacement at 13. But, the 6-8 Hood is a valuable asset to poach from the board at this point. His best strength is his scoring ability, as Hood can shoot the lights out of the gym. While the T-Wolves may lose Love, they still have one of the more dynamic playmaking PG in Ricky Rubio. Grabbing him a scoring option from the wing would alleviate some of the pain of losing Love’s 20 points-per-game.
14. Phoenix Suns – SF Kyle Anderson, UCLA
While Anderson’s teammate, Zach LaVine, is probably the best player available; the PG doesn’t really fit a need for Phoenix, who boasts impressive depth in the back-court. Instead, the Suns grab Anderson, whose size (6-9, 230) and ball handling are unparalleled at this point in the draft. Anderson leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to speed and scoring. But, a team with Eric Bledsoe, Goran Dragic, and Gerald Green already possesses enough quickness to contend. After all, the Suns did win 48 games last season.