The 2014 NBA Draft is four months away. There’s seven weeks left in the college basketball season. What better time for an NBA mock draft? The last one we did was around Thanksgiving and a few things have changed. As always, everything goes into the mock draft: Input from NBA personnel, guesses on upcoming NBA free agency, guesses on upcoming NBA trades and the always-important eye-test.
1 Milwaukee – Andrew Wiggins, F, Kansas. Bucks have the 5th leading shot-blocker in John Henson; Larry Sanders was 2nd last season. Embiid will ultimately be better than both. This isn’t quite Oden/Durant, because Wiggins isn’t nearly as polished a scorer, but give me the wing star in today’s NBA. I wanted Durant 1st to Portland; I’ll stick with Wiggins 1st to the Bucks.
2 Philadelphia – Joel Embiid, C, Kansas. Yes, I know the 76ers have “redshirted” Nerlens Noel, but Spencer Hawes has only one year left on his deal, and there’s no doubt that Embiid has a brighter future than Noel. I wouldn’t be shocked if Philly dangled Evan Turner and Noel in a trade package. Cleveland, you listening?
3 Orlando – Jabari Parker, F, Duke. Getting the 3rd pick will be crucial, because there appears to be a large drop-off after Wiggins-Embiid-Parker – clearly, the three best talents in the draft – to the 4th spot, which probably will be open for debate. Oladipo, Parker and Vucevic? In the weak East, they could be a fringe playoff contender next year.
4 LA Lakers – Dante Exum, G, Australia. The pick that could save Mitch Kupchak’s GM job in LA is an 18-year old from Australia whose father played at UNC with Jordan in 1982. The hype machine for this kid is in overdrive: This piece mentions Westbrook, Penny, MCW, and Wade, among others.
5 Sacramento – Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky. If you believe Thomas is the team’s PG of the future, you pass on Marcus Smart. If you want Cousins to have a wingman up front for the next decade, you go Julius Randle. Don’t rule out: Aaron Gordon, who is a better defender than Randle. And the Kings are an atrocious defensive team.
6 Boston – Aaron Gordon, F, Arizona. Celtics need a lot, but as long as Rondo is on the roster, they don’t need a point guard. In a strong draft for power forwards – Randle, Vonleh, Payne and Harrell will all go in the first round, and McGary, too, if he comes out – I think Gordon’s the best all-around player right now. But who will be in five years?
7 Utah – Noah Vonleh, F, Indiana. Quietly leading the Big Ten in rebounding (9.5). Occasionally reminds me of former Wake star Rodney Rogers. A Vonleh/Favors/Kanter froncourt and a Burke/Hayward backcourt has the makings of a nice young team.
8. Cleveland – Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State. Defends, shoots, attacks the rim. Ship Waiters out of town and bring in Harris, who should start from Day 1. The Cavaliers need a lot of work – coach, GM, talent. I’d consider James Young here, but Harris is a better defender.
9 Denver (via New York) – James Young, SG, Kentucky. I’ve got Harris and Young as the top 2 SGs in the draft. Does Young play enough defense for Brian Shaw? The Nuggets went from being the No. 1 scoring team in the NBA in 2012-2013 to 11th this season. Yeah, they miss Gallo & Iguodala.
10 Charlotte (via Detroit) – Marcus Smart, G, Oklahoma State. How giddy would Michael Jordan be about finally landing a star? It’s been a dismal run drafting for the Bobcats, but Smart would finally be a home run. Kemba Walker has improved in his 3rd season, but Smart has a higher upside at both ends. No, this incident didn’t hurt his stock. He fell because many teams in 5-10 range don’t need a point guard.
11 Philadelphia (via New Orleans) – Rodney Hood, SF, Duke. Shooting 48 percent from the field and 44 percent on three-pointers. Some might say, “another lefty SF who likes to drift the perimeter? He’s Thad Young minus 15 pounds!” Trade Young while you can – Hood will make 76ers fans forget Young by Christmas.
12 Orlando (via Denver) – Tyler Ennis, PG, Syracuse. Will he come out early? Listed at 6-foot-2, 180 pounds, but looks significantly lighter than that. Great vision, excellent leadership for a freshman. If NBA defenses sag, can he make shots (42 percent FGs, only made 19 three-pointers in 25 games)?
13 Minnesota – Dario Saric, F, Croatia. How much longer will Kevin Love stick around? The guess here is not long. The Timberwolves have underwhelmed this year. Draft Saric, bring him along slowly in year one, and hope by year two (when he’s 21), he’s a contributor and starting in place of Love.
14 Memphis – Sam Dekker, F, Wisconsin. Expectations were high this year, but with the emergence of some teammates – Frank the Tank, young Nigel Hayes – Dekker has been quiet this season, scoring just 13.5 ppg and only hitting 34 percent on three’s. Look for a big NCAA tournament from Dekker. I’d pay to see Dekker vs. McDermott and Dekker vs. Robinson in workouts.
15 Chicago – Mitch McGary, F, Michigan. He’s hurt and probably done for the season. He’s 22 in June. Very talented power forward will definitely fall in the draft. I’m not sure what returning to Michigan accomplishes.
16 Atlanta – Willie Cauley-Stein, C, Kentucky. Shot blocker but not much else. Feels like a boom or bust guy. For a guy with no offensive moves, he’ll find two great tutors in Horford and Millsap.
17 Phoenix (via Washington) – TJ Warren, SF, NC State. Good freshman year; spectacular sophomore season (23.1 ppg, 7.3 rpg). Under the radar outside of Carolina because the Wolfpack are only a bubble team, but Warren could be a lottery pick if he shot the three better (28 percent).
18 Boston (via Atlanta) – Doug McDermott, F, Creighton. Great college basketball player. How will his game transition to the pros? Nobody knows. Scouts are torn on him, and when it comes draft time, teams will be, too. He’ll be talked-about as high as mid-lottery, as low as late 1st.
19 Chicago – PJ Hairston, NBDL (formerly of UNC). Getting booted from UNC didn’t help his cause, but torching the NBDL and staying out of trouble sure will. He’s going to go in the 1st round. I’d put Hairston in the same group as Zach LaVine, Nik Stauskas,
20 Toronto – Jordan Clarkson, PG, Missouri. Raptors are playing their way out of the lottery, which will cost them the better pure point guard (Ennis). But Clarkson, the Tulsa transfer, is quite the consolation prize: 18.7 ppg on 47 percent shooting. Clarkson has great size (6-foot-5) and two things to keep in mind: He’s playing with serviceable (at best) big men and a coach (Frank Haith) who hasn’t done much in the postseason.
21 Utah (via Golden State) – Jerami Grant, F, Syracuse. One of the biggest surprises in the ACC (12.5 ppg, 7.2 rpg). Could be a tweener in the pros – can’t shoot the three, and at 6-foot-8, 210, he could struggle inside. Feels like a valuable reserve for a contender.
22 Phoenix – Glenn Robinson, F, Michigan. Loss of Trey Burke and emergence of Nick Stauskas has resulted in a drop-off in stats for Big Dog’s son (minutess, FG shooting, 3-FG shooting, rebounds all down). Still, his athleticism will obviously translate to the next level. But should he return for a year to improve his shooting?
23 Oklahoma City (via Dallas) – Chris Walker, F, Florida. A risk, yes, but the Thunder can afford it. Has only played a handful of games for the Gators and is being brought along slowly. Expect a deep Florida run in March. And some big numbers from Walker.
24 LA Clippers – Zach LaVine, G, UCLA. The potential is clearly there (was a Top 50 recruit) but if he stayed in school he could vault into the Top 10 in 2015. Only playing 24 minutes a night for the Bruins, maybe Alford hopes to hide him and unleash him in March? Sleeper here: Jabari Brown of Missouri. Transfer from Oregon is scoring well (20.5 ppg), shooting well from deep (45%). Defense is a question, but he’s played like a 1st rounder for the last six weeks.
25 Houston – Kyle Anderson, PG, UCLA. Finally beginning to show the all-around talent that he displayed in high school. Total package – 15.4 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 6.8 apg, and perhaps most importantly, hitting 52 percent of his shots (just 41 percent as a freshman). Initially pegged as a 1-and-done kid who was a lottery lock, it’ll be very interesting to see how he does in workouts against a loaded point guard class.
26 Charlotte (via Portland) – Nik Stauskas, G, Michigan. Undeniably lethal shooter who at times looks like one of the best shooters in college basketball (44 percent on 3-pointers). But vanishes for long stretches (see Duke, 4 points; Indiana, 6 points). Can he defend SGs in the pros? Much better off the dribble than he was last year. I bet Nolan Nawrocki would like him.
27 San Antonio – Adreian Payne, PF, Michigan State. Hey, Tim Duncan might retire! Payne has had an injury-riddled season and he’s 23 tomorrow. Still, what an athlete, what a competitor, what an animal inside.
28 Miami – Shabazz Napier, PG, UConn. All-American, clutch player, consummate college point guard. Mario Chalmers is a free agent, and can you imagine the Napier/Norris battles in practice next season?
29 Phoenix (via Indiana) – KJ McDaniels, F, Clemson. Really coming on strong as an outstanding athlete capable of playing SF or SG at the next level. Extremely bouncy junior averaging 17 ppg.
30 Oklahoma City – CJ Fair, SF, Syracuse. One of the best college basketball forwards in the country. Great finisher around the hoop, deadly inside 15-feet. Does everything well, but nothing exceptionally.