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Best Fits for 2014 NBA Draft Prospects

Draft order aside, what would be the best landing spots for this year’s top draft prospects? Joel Brigham takes a look.

Joel Brigham

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The NBA Draft doesn’t always work out the way teams would like. Sure, the No. 1 team is able to find the player that best fits its needs, and very often the rest of the top lottery teams get what they need out of the draft, too, but other times, organizations are forced to pigeonhole “best talent available” type of players onto rosters that really needed help in other areas.

Ideally, every team would get exactly what they need, so today we look at the perfect fits both for this year’s top draft prospects and for the teams that are most likely to have the opportunity to draft them. It’s possible some of these players might not fall as far as these teams need them to, but if the world were a perfect place, these top five prospects would find homes with these five organizations:

Andrew Wiggins, Philadelphia 76ers – The truth is that the 76ers need long-term help pretty much everywhere other than point guard and center, but more than anything they need somebody who can score the ball consistently and defend the wing position. Wiggins, the best two-way swingman in the draft, fits both needs really nicely. Michael Carter-Williams would love to have that kind of running mate, and the two of them would generate a really exciting transition game. Since both are so long and athletic, Wiggins’ arrival would really make for a much-improved offense. Defensively, Wiggins is also better than Jabari Parker, which is another reason Philly would be wiser to select him, even though Parker is the more accomplished scorer.

Jabari Parker, Milwaukee Bucks – Like Philadelphia, the Bucks are in need of pretty much everything, but in a draft where they can’t afford to miss on their draft pick, taking the surest thing in the class in Jabari Parker would be the most intelligent move. Milwaukee had hoped that O.J. Mayo would be their go-to wing scorer, but that obviously hasn’t panned out. Parker would be a much sturdier option in that role, despite his relative pro inexperience. He could play either the three or four alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo, as those two would serve as the team’s nucleus moving forward. No matter who they draft, there will still be work to do in future drafts, but Parker is the kind of can’t-miss building block they need to keep moving in the right direction.

Joel Embiid, Boston Celtics – While Embiid is generally considered a top-three draft pick and the Celtics are statistically likely to fall out of the top three selections, that doesn’t mean that Embiid wouldn’t be a perfect fit in Boston. More than anything else, the Celtics need a more traditional big man, and there’s no better one than Embiid in this draft. While Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk both had solid seasons for Boston last year, it has become clear that neither is particularly likely to be an All-Star. Embiid has the potential to be a dominant protector of the rim, which neither Olynyk nor Sullinger is now or ever will be, and Embiid is also big enough to score over tall, long defenders and can certainly rebound the ball as well as anyone in this draft class. The back issues are a concern, but the Celtics couldn’t hope for a better fit in this draft than Embiid.

Dante Exum, Orlando Magic – Everybody knows that Jameer Nelson is not the long-term solution for the rebuilding Magic at the point guard position, but Dante Exum is someone that certainly could be. Like Orlando’s Victor Oladipo, Exum can actually play both guard positions, so pairing those two together would give Jacque Vaughn a couple of versatile backcourt weapons that should work very well together. These two players are extremely hard workers, major competitors and extremely athletic, and pairing them would give the team a really exciting backcourt to work with for the better part of the next decade.

Julius Randle, L.A. Lakers – Like a lot of teams picking in the lottery, the Lakers are a mess, with holes at a lot of positions. A point guard like Exum or Marcus Smart would make a lot of sense for them, too, but Randle fills a major need in what was a pretty sad frontcourt rotation this past year. He may be a little undersized, but there have been players that have done more with less, and his mix of strength and athleticism should make him a really good NBA power forward. The guy can score—a major need for the Lakers—and he’s one of this class’s best rebounders. The best thing about Randle, at least as far as the Lakers are concerned, is that there’s a reasonable chance that he’ll be available at pick No. 6, which is where L.A. will select if they don’t move into the top three.

While it’s unlikely that the draft order will allow for all of these players to end up where they’d probably see the most success, it’s still fun to pick out the best fits for these top prospects. Teams like Utah and Sacramento will be in the mix for these players, too, but whatever happens there are plenty of top talents gearing up to play their first pro ball. They probably won’t care where they end up as long as the NBA logo is on their jersey.

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NBA

NBA Daily: Lessons From The 2018 NBA Draft

After a wild 2018 NBA Draft, here are four lessons and storylines worth watching over the next few years.

Ben Nadeau

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Now that the dust has settled on an unpredictable NBA Draft — what exactly have we learned? In amongst the unrelenting rumors, refused workouts and surprise reaches, there are a few key takeaways from Brooklyn. Of course, some of these are one-off instances, but others are definitely part of modern-day draft patterns. While draft night may sometimes seem like complete chaos or chance, each scenario on this rundown has been boiling over for weeks. Between passing on a talented prospect to letting an injured one slide, here are four important lessons from the 2018 NBA Draft.

Luka Dončić… Not The No. 1?

For months and months, it appeared as if Luka Dončić was poised to become the No. 1 overall pick in this draft. Even today, it’s hard to believe that somebody with Dončić’s age and resume wasn’t the top selection. In 2017-18 alone, the Slovenian took home EuroLeague MVP and Finals MVP plus ACB MVP, with championships in both leagues to boot — but here we are. Dončić averaged 14.1 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.1 steals over just 25 minutes per game, quickly transforming into the most well-rounded overseas prospect of all-time. But as impressive as Dončić was throughout the spring, the potential ceilings of both DeAndre Ayton and Marvin Bagley III eventually won out.

At 7-foot-1, Ayton’s 20.1 points, 11.6 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game were undeniably worthy of a top selection too, pairing well alongside Devin Booker and Josh Jackson for the foreseeable future. While the jury is still out on Bagley III — his defense needs some major fine-tuning — he won’t take key touches away from De’Aaron Fox either. More or less, nobody wants to be the organization to miss on such a franchise-altering pick. The Suns, Kings and even the Hawks may eventually regret passing on Dončić, but when general managers’ entire careers can depend on making the right choice at the right time, it’s not difficult to understand why the top of the draft unfolded as it did.

Playing Hard To Get Doesn’t Always Work Out…

As draft boards began to take shape, there was one particularly interesting situation sitting at No. 4 overall. Jaren Jackson Jr., solidly leading the second tier of prospects, was looking like a lock at the Memphis Grizzlies’ pick — but with one major caveat: Jackson Jr. reportedly didn’t work out or give his medical information to the franchise. After he was drafted, Jackson Jr. called those rumors “a tad out of context” — but, obviously, those are some massive red flags. Either way, Memphis went with their gut and selected the talented forward anyway.

But beyond all that, Memphis absolutely made the right move by sticking to their guns. Putting a modern three-point shooting, defensive-minded athlete next to Marc Gasol should prove to be an absolute nightmare for years to come. Naturally, Jackson Jr. will get plenty of easy looks from the stellar Mike Conley Jr. too — so if the draftee was once apprehensive, surely that will pass soon. Still, it reflects on a larger NBA pattern, wherein which prospective athletes sensibly look to mold their own path out of college. With players trying to control their draft narratives more than ever, it’s reassuring to see that some franchises will take their target first and then figure out the rest.

We may never know Jackson Jr.’s full thought process behind not working out for the Grizzlies, but there’s a great chance that the former Spartan was made for Memphis’ tough brand of basketball — and we should all be glad we’ll get to see it.

…But Injuries Will Lead To A Slide

Michael Porter Jr. — what a year for him, huh?

After missing out on much of his only collegiate season due to back surgery, Porter Jr. promised that he was feeling better than ever. But over the last month, scouts and front offices were treated to canceled workouts and hazy uncertainty. And, at the end of the day, it probably scared a handful of franchises away from the talented scorer. Just this week, the Kings heavily considered Porter Jr. at No. 2 overall — but even with that sudden unlikelihood passing by, few thought he’d drop out of the top ten altogether. Outside of the guaranteed money that Porter Jr. will miss out on, redshirting his rookie year may also be on the table as well.

The inherent upside with Porter Jr. is obvious, but — similarly to the Dončić issue — it’s tough to ask franchise officials to stake their livelihood on the prospect’s health. If Porter Jr.’s lingering issues stay with him and he never reaches his mountain of potential, that’s a tough pill to swallow. The 19-year-old would fall all the way down to No. 14, where the Denver Nuggets gladly scooped him up. During the combine in May, Porter Jr. called himself the best player in the draft — but it’s now up to him to prove them all wrong.

The Mysterious Men Nearly Miss Out

Let’s rewind to early April. Villanova had been just crowned NCAA champions for the second time in three years, the NBA playoffs were soundly on the horizon and mock drafts had begun to consistently pour out. Early on, there were two athletic big men that looked like shoo-ins as first-rounders: Robert Williams and Mitchell Robinson. Despite their undercooked skill-sets, both players pulled out of the combine and then waited for the hype to build — except, well, it didn’t. Williams, who was typically projected in the early teens, slipped out of the lottery entirely, only to be rescued by the Boston Celtics at No. 27. Williams is a booming, powerful prospect, but he could’ve really benefited from competing against the other top prospects in May.

Although he’s now landed in an ideal situation with Brad Stevens, Al Horford and a process-driven Celtics squad, Williams likely cost himself a whole load of money over the last 30-plus days as well.

In Robinson’s case, many believed his floor was the Los Angeles Lakers at No. 25 — rumors swirling that the 7-foot-1 center even received a promise from the illustrious franchise. Instead, Robinson dropped to the New York Knicks at No. 36 overall. Robinson had originally committed to Western Kentucky in July of 2017 before dropping out to prepare for the draft. After skipping the combine last month, Robinson indeed exhibited the potential to be both a steady shot-blocker and three-point maker during his individual evaluations. But with little to go off of but high school highlight reels and small session workout tapes, he understandably fell.

Sometimes the hype is impossible to ignore, but not participating in the combine and staying as mysterious as possible hurt these ultra-talented prospects.

While the 2018 NBA Draft wasn’t quite the trade-heavy, drama-laden extravaganza much of the world expected, there are plenty of narratives to reflect upon. At the end of the day, the ink is barely dry on this year’s festivities and it’ll be some time before there’s any indication of these successes or failures. Still, there are lessons to be learned from every draft, workout or injury process and these are four conversations worth considering as the NBA quickly rolls into the summer league season.

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VIDEO: 2018 NBA Draft Winners

Basketball Insiders Benny Nadeau and Moke Hamilton break down the 2018 NBA Draft, including the teams and players that may have done better than expected.

Basketball Insiders

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Basketball Insiders Benny Nadeau and Moke Hamilton break down the 2018 NBA Draft, including the teams and players that may have done better than expected.

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Insiders Video

VIDEO: 2018 NBA Draft Losers

Basketball Insiders Benny Nadeau and Moke Hamilton break down the 2018 NBA Draft, including the teams and players that may not have done as well as expected.

Basketball Insiders

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Basketball Insiders Benny Nadeau and Moke Hamilton break down the 2018 NBA Draft, including the teams and players that may not have done as well as expected.

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