Thursday, June 26, 2014

Building The 15 - 2014 First Round NBA Mock Draft

I honestly believe that NBA general managers should take the best player available irrespective of position, which means that my first round mock draft is essentially my Top 30 rankings of the players available in the 2014 NBA Draft.  Much like I said the last three years (2011, 2012, and 2013) in my first round mock draft, undoubtedly there will be a ton of trades deeming this "mock" draft essentially useless but I want to get on record what I think each general manager should do with each pick if they kept it:

1. Cleveland Cavaliers - Andrew Wiggins (SG, 6'8", 200 lbs, Kansas, 19 years old) - The presumptive first overall pick heading into the college season had expectations that were borderline impossible to meet, which is why some people thought Wiggins "regressed" this season.  The Cavs shocked the NBA world taking (fat) Anthony Bennett first overall last year, this year they can make-up for that mistake by drafting the best two-way, athletic back court player since John Wall in 2010.

2. Milwaukee Bucks - Jabari Parker (SF, 6'8",  241 lbs, Duke, 19 years old) - The only hole in Parker's game is his defense.  Besides that, Parker can score from anywhere on the court and has the vision and passing ability to find teammates too.  If the Bucks can cover up his defensive liabilities, they could get getting a Rich Man's Big Dog.

3. Philadelphia 76ers - Dante Exum (PG, 6'6", 196 lbs, Australia, 18 years old) - The most enticing player to come out of Australia since former Bucks and current Golden State Warriors center Andrew Bogut is even a less known commodity than Bogut was when the Bucks drafted Bogut 1st overall in the 2005 NBA Draft.  At least Bogut played two seasons at the University of Utah before turning pro but Exum is skipping the step of going to college.  With all that in mind, Exum's court-vision and athleticism still makes him the most interesting prospect in the entire draft. The NBA Draft is predicated on taking players with the biggest upside, which feels like a borderline unquantifiable thing but Exum is the embodiment of that notion.

4. Orlando Magic - Marcus Smart (PG, 6'3", 227 lbs, Oklahoma State, 20 years old) - In five years the Exum/Smart comparison will be almost as intriguing as the Parker/Wiggins comparison.  Much like Parker compared to Wiggins, I think Smart's floor is much higher than Exum's but Smart's ceiling is a little lower than Exum's.  Some think Smart hurt his draft stock by going back to school for his sophomore season but I actually think that will help Smart's pro career.  I know it sounds cliche but every scout deems Smart as the most competitive guy in the draft, which bumped him up a few picks on that alone.

5. Utah Jazz - Aaron Gordon (PF, 6'9", 220 lbs, Arizona, 20 years old) - The Blake Griffin comparisons are undeniable.  On the positive side, they are both athletic freaks. On the negative side, they both struggle shooting outside of 10 feet.  There is a bit of front-court logjam at this point so I might be overvaluing Gordon's athleticism despite his inability to score any other way than dunking.  That said, you can teach Gordon to shoot but you can't teach him to be athletic.

6. Boston Celtics - Clint Capela (PF, 6'11", 222 lbs, Switzerland, 20 years old) - Some advanced metrics have Capela not only the best international prospect in the draft but the best front-court player in the entire draft despite the fact that he is still so raw.  The Celtics are teetering on full rebuild mode so the long-term upside at the expense of short-term returns might actually be a positive.  There are shades of the Greek Freak in Capela aka The Swiss Franc.

7. L.A. Lakers -
Joel Embiid (C, 7'0", 250 lbs, Kansas, 20 years old) - I was not as high on Embiid as others even before he had a foot surgery that resulted in him having two screws put in his foot.  That surgery might seal Embiid's fate as the second coming of Greg Oden even before he joins the NBA but I still think it makes sense for a franchise like the Lakers to make a boom-or-bust pick like this since they usually don't have a chance to draft this high.  Sure Kobe will be pissed (when isn't he?) that Embiid doesn't help the Lakers now but the gargantuan extension that Kobe signed to strangle their salary cap doesn't help the Lakers much either so the Lakers should start to plan for the post-Kobe era instead of continuing to pacify their aging former superstar.

8. Sacramento Kings - Doug McDermott (SF, 6'8", 218 lbs, Creighton, 22 years old) - There is no question that McDermott is the best long distance shooter in the draft.  It might be harder for McDermott to get off his shot in the NBA but even if he struggles to create his shot, I see him being a great situational player.  Sure that is not what most teams envision with the 8th pick in the draft but the Kings desperately need a steady player that can score, without baggage.  McDermott is exactly that guy with a slightly lower upside than some of the next few prospects.

9. Charlotte Hornets - Julius Randle (PF, 6'9", 234 lbs, Kentucky, 19 years old) - The Hornets went back to their original colors so I gave them a Larry Johnson-esque player to match. It is really hard to gauge if Randle's game will translate to the next level, especially on the defensive end.  Since there are no sure things at this point, I decided to take the guy with the highest upside still available.

10. Philadelphia 76ers - Dario Saric (PF, 6'10", 223 lbs, Croatia, 20 years old) - This might be five picks too high given that Saric is set to play a few more seasons overseas but I had to take a chance on a guy that could be the best point-forward in the NBA in three years.  The reason that I like Saric so much is that I see him as a right-handed Toni Kukoc.  Plus this is the perfect fit for the 76ers as they continue to try to simultaneously stock pile assets as they try to tank.

11. Denver Nuggets - Elfrid Payton (PG, 6'4", 185 lbs, Louisiana Lafayette, 20 years old) - The draft process catapulted Payton from a borderline first rounder to a borderline lottery pick because apparently every team was blown away with his poise at each workout.  I see Payton as a poor man's Exum because despite his length and ability, he is projected to be a less potent scoring scorer than Exum.

12. Orland Magic - Tyler Ennis (PG, 6'3", 182 lbs, Syracuse, 19 years old) - The NBA has a ton of quality point guard, which almost devalues talented players like Ennis.  Despite the glut of talent at the point guard position, Ennis is a very useful player distributing the ball efficiently on the offensive end.  Ennis also possesses the ability to create steals at a very high rate but take that with a grain of salt given that Ennis played in a 2-3 zone defense in college.  Even if Ennis regresses slightly on defense because he is forced to play man-to-man most of the time as opposed to zone in the NBA, given his ability to distribute the ball, I still see him as a potential starting point guard next season in the NBA.

13. Minnesota Timberwolves - Jusuf Nurkic (C, 6'11", 280 lbs, Bosnia, 19 years old) - Much like Capela, advance metrics project Nurkic as one of the best players in the entire draft.  Given all the hype surrounding Embiid, it meant that Nurkic flew under the radar despite having a better low-post game than Embiid.

14. Phoenix Suns - Gary Harris (SG, 6'5", 205 lbs, Michigan State, 19 years old) - Part of the reason I am high on Harris is that he projects to be a very similar player to Suns restricted free agent combo guard Eric Bledsoe. I actually see Harris as the best NBA player to come out of Michigan State in the last decade but take that with a grain of salt since they've failed to produce many quality NBA players lately despite all of their collegiate success.

15. Atlanta Hawks - Nik Stauskas (SG, 6'7", 207 lbs, Michigan, 20 years old) - The run of college shooting guards from Michigan continues.  I really vacillated between whether I like Harris or Stauskas more, ultimately I gave the nod to Harris based on athleticism despite the fact that Stauskas is a better shooter than Harris.

16. Chicago Bulls - Jordan Adams (SG, 6'5", 209 lbs, UCLA, years old) - Another advanced stats darling pushed Adams higher in the draft than others might expect.  The one knock on Adams is his defense but any guy that plays for Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau will improve defensively, which makes Adams particularly enticing for the Bulls given his limitless offensive abilities.

17. Boston Celtics - P.J. Hairston (SG, 6'5", 229 lbs, North Carolina/NBDL, 21 years old) - After spending two years at UNC, Hairston played last season in the NBDL.  Worst case, Hairston can provide instant offense off the bench with a chance to develop into a starting shooting guard down the road.  Best case, Hairston develops into a stud starting NBA shooting guard.  I think the former is more likely but that is still good return on investment in the middle of the first round.

18. Phoenix Suns - Jarnell Stokes (PF, 6'9", 262 lbs, Tennessee, 20 years old) - The knock on Stokes is that he is a little undersized to play power forward but he still rebounds and blocks well despite being undersized for his position.  Stokes also possesses impressive low-post skills, which makes him an interesting prospect that could turn into an impressive scorer in a few years.

19. Chicago Bulls - Adreian Payne (PF, 6'10", 239 lbs, Michigan State, 23 years old) - Tom Izzo's run at Michigan State of getting every player that stayed four years in the program to the Final Four finally came to an end with Payne.  Despite not going to a Final Four, Payne developed into a quality two way player that can even knock down shots behind the arc.  Although Payne is already 23, power forwards that can hit three-point shots consistently are becoming a premium in the NBA, which makes Payne a very valuable commodity.

20. Toronto Raptors - Zach LaVine
(PG, 6'6", 181 lbs, UCLA, 19 years old) - A combo guard that shoots a little too much right now to be a true point guard hurts his stock slightly but if LaVine can develop a better shot or at the very least better shot selection in the NBA, I see him as a borderline starter in a couple years.

21. Oklahoma City Thunder -
Rodney Hood (SG, 6'9", 208 lbs, Duke, 20 years old) - If the Thunder actually draft Hood then the James Harden comparisons will start flying around.  Hood is slightly longer than Harden and less of a slasher but both are lefty scorers that struggle to rebound and defend.  I am not sure whether Hood will ever develop into a quality defender but that might not matter if he scores in the NBA like he scored in college.

22. Memphis Grizzlies - James Young (SF, 6'8", 213 lbs, Kentucky, 18 years old) - Kentucky head coach John Calipari is truly a modern marvel if he is landing what amount to Fab Five-eque recruiting classes every year without breaking the rules.  Young strikes me as the perfect example of a player that could use another year in college to continue to develop his three-point shot before going to the NBA, unfortunately the one downside to these recruiting classes are that players are almost forced to leave after one season to make way for the next wave of five star high school recruits.

23. Utah Jazz - Shabazz Napier (PG, 6'1", 175 lbs, UConn, 22 years old) - I get some flashes of T.J. Ford when I watch Napier, most of that is based on his small frame as opposed to his success on the court though because Napier already has a much more accomplished career than Ford if you just compare Napier's collegiate resume to Ford's collegiate and professional resume.  If anyone can overcome size limitations, it is Napier.  If the Jazz actually draft Napier, look for Trey Burke to get traded.

24. Charlotte Hornets - T.J. Warren (SF, 6'8", 220 lbs, N.C. State, 20 years old) - With how fluidly Warren scores, it is somewhat puzzling how much he struggles defensively.  Warren needs to focus on his defense and three-point shot in the NBA because for how flawlessly he scored in college, sometimes that does not translate as well to the NBA.

25. Houston Rockets - Kyle Anderson (PF, 6'9", 230 lbs, UCLA, 20 years old) - The advanced stats like Anderson's versatility to play as a point-forward that rebounds well.  Oddly that makes Anderson a potential focal point offensively.  The Rockets already have a ball dominate scorer in Harden so it would be interesting to see if Harden and Anderson could co-exist.  On talent alone though, Anderson is a very enticing prospect.

26. Miami Heat - K.J. McDaniels
(SF, 6'6", 195 lbs, Clemson, 21 years old) - The knock on McDaniels is his inability to score from long-distance.  Luckily McDaniels projects as one of the best defenders in the entire draft though so worst case he plays as a defensive stopper while working on his three-point shot.

27. Phoenix Suns - Glenn Robinson III (SF, 6'7", 211 lbs, Michigan, 20 years old) - Given my affinity for Big Dog, I have a hard time being rational about his son's ability.  Taking away my bias though, most scouts project Robinson to a similar play to his father with more defensive ability though not quite as polished on the offensive end.

28. L.A. Clippers - Spencer Dinwiddie (PG, 6'6", 205 lbs, Colorado, 21 years old) - Reminds me a lot of former Colorado shooting guard Alec Burks .  Oddly Dinwiddie is a quality combo guard that excels from outside 10 feet but struggles to create opportunities close to the rim so he needs to focus on being a shooting guard as opposed to a point guard unless he can improve his ability to score at the rim.

29. Oklahoma City Thunder - Jordan Clarkson
(PG, 6'5", 186 lbs, Missouri, 22 years old) - Much like Dinwiddie, Clarkson is a combo guard too but Clarkson should focus more on being a point guard instead of shooting guard.  In fact, you could somehow combine Clarkson and Dinwiddie as one player you might have the best combo guard beside Exum in the entire draft.

30. San Antonio Spurs - Damien Inglis
(SF, 6'8", 240 lbs, France, 19 years old) - The Bucks finally mined a quality European player from the draft getting The Greek Freak with the 15th pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, which is something the Spurs have been doing for over a decade en route to five NBA Championships since 1999.  Most pundits project Inglis as a second round "draft and stash" steal, which makes him the perfect Spurs pick in the first round that they can plug in a few years from now as a regular contributor.

Cheesehead Chick, Sug, E-Dogg, and I are going to see James Taylor tonight at Ravinia so I will only have sporadic internet access, which means I will most likely be watching the 2014 NBA Draft on delay tonight.  Either way, check back later tonight on Twitter @CheeseheadSN and tomorrow in this space for my thoughts on how Hammond navigated the 2014 NBA Draft for the Bucks.

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