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Mock drafts are a great way to whet the basketball community’s collective whistle, at least as it pertains to thirst for draft tidbits, but there’s one way in which mock drafts fail: they’re compiled by a single person.
The real draft is essentially a competition between executives who are trying to outsmart each other and perform that delicate balancing act between drafting for need and taking the best talent available. One GM’s idea about how players should be ranked is completely different from another GM’s idea about how a player should be ranked. What makes the draft surprising is when we think we have an idea of what should happen, but an executive completely blows that expectation out of the water.
We here at Basketball Insiders thought we’d have that kind of fun in the days leading up to the 2014 NBA Draft, so we did a different kind of mock where every writer on the B.I. roster pretended to be running a team (or, in some cases, teams) and made the pick they would choose for that team were they the ones in charge. That’s an important thing to mention here: these aren’t the picks we think these teams will make; rather, these are the picks we would make if we were running these teams.
You can see how this would be an enjoyable exercise for us.
Between now and Wednesday evening, we’ll be making the picks, running through all 30 selections of the first round. Keep this tab open and refresh it every hour or two. The selections will trickle in throughout the coming days.
The minute you see a pick you hate (or love), click on the writer’s names to express your distaste via Twitter. That’s how you can get involved, too. Keep the dialogue churning.
Now, sit back, relax and join us for the first annual Basketball Insiders Group Mock Draft.
#1 – Cleveland Cavaliers select Andrew Wiggins
The 19-year-old has been on the NBA’s radar for years, and now the potential and skills that have always intrigued GMs should make him the first player off of the board on June 26. If Wiggins is able to realize his full potential, he can be a superstar who is capable of dominating on both ends of the floor. The Cavaliers may have once been tempted to select Joel Embiid with the top pick, but Wiggins is the safer selection since Embiid’s health issues are a major concern and his sample size is so small compared to Wiggins. Cleveland wants to make the playoffs and add another franchise cornerstone. Wiggins, who has been discussed as a potential No. 1 overall pick for the last five years, should be their guy.
#2 – Milwaukee Bucks select Jabari Parker
Joel Embiid is the lauded center prospect that people keep humming about, but if I’m the Milwaukee Bucks I’d rather draft a more proven commodity like Parker, arguably the most NBA-ready prospect in the draft. Milwaukee has time to take a player like Embiid and deal with his growing pains, but why select a player that requires so much nurturing and development when a sure-thing NBA scoring machine is ripe for the picking? Yes, he plays the same position as Giannis Antetokounmpo, but I’ll worry about positional overlap later. Right now, I’m just worrying about taking the player least likely to bust, and Parker is about as can’t-miss as it comes in this draft.
#3 – Philadelphia 76ers select Joel Embiid
Even with Nerlens Noel and the potential concerns about his recent surgery, with Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker off the board, Embiid’s potential is too great to pass on. Though a modern-day NBA Twin Towers is improbable, Embiid’s mixture of exquisite defensive instincts, a good offensive touch and relatively limited experience playing basketball make him a very smart pick, even if it is a risky one. The Sixers just have to hope he is more Serge Ibaka than Hasheem Thabeet. Long-term health, obviously, is the other major concern.
#4 – Orlando Magic select Dante Exum
The Victor Oladipo experiment at point guard this season was met with mixed results and drafting Exum gives the Magic an all-around point guard to run their offense. Standing at 6’6”, Exum is projected to become a top-tier defender given his length and athleticism.
#5 – Utah Jazz select Marcus Smart
Even though Utah drafted Trey Burke last year, they still need more playmakers in that starting unit. Smart is a player that provides some much-needed energy and athleticism into the lineup, and can even be replacement for Gordon Hayward were they to lose him via free agency this summer. His size (right around 220 lbs.), strength and motor should translate into a defensive identity early on, and he has the type of presence and confidence within that should play well within an NBA locker room. He must continue to refine his skills, but he has playmaking abilities.
#6 – Boston Celtics select Aaron Gordon
Gordon brings versatility, defense and athleticism (he recorded a 39-inch vertical leap at the Draft Combine), all checkmarks for playing with Rajon Rando and within Brad Stevens’ system. Only 18 years old, he still has a lot of room for growth, which means the Celtics can develop him in seasons to come.
#7 – L.A. Lakers select Julius Randle
If they keep the pick, the Lakers absolutely must select the best talent available, which in this case is Randle. Despite reports of the 6’9” power forward potentially needing surgery to repair a fracture in his right foot, Randle, who vehemently refutes the claim, continues to participate in pre-draft workouts. If the team doctors determine his foot is sound, he is far and away the best low-post scorer and rebounder available. If cleared, Randle could be a cornerstone piece for a team in severe need of an influx of youth and skill.
#8 – Sacramento Kings select Zach LaVine
With the Kings still in rebuilding mode, it’s important for the front office to gather as much talent as they can and see how it all fits and develops together going forward. Guard Zach LaVine out of UCLA is one of the most talented prospects on the board with loads of potential thanks to his supreme athletic ability, ball-handling skills, play-making ability and nice shooting stroke. While having a thin frame and needing to fine tune his skills, the Kings can’t afford to let someone as talented as LaVine with as much potential to become a star as anyone slip through their fingers.
#9 – Charlotte Hornets select Noah Vonleh
Vonleh possesses all the physical tools necessary to be a successful big at the next level, most notably his massive wingspan. He is a strong rebounder, capable defender and has shown the ability to knock down perimeter shots. At just 18 years old, he still has a world of potential and gives assistant coach Patrick Ewing a talented protégé to bring along.
#10 – Philadelphia 76ers select Doug McDermott
The only question that remains with McDermott is whether or not he is the second coming of Adam Morrison. Most of the league’s scouts do not believe so. With Joel Embiid and McDermott added to a core that includes Michael Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel, the Sixers will have a core that is both solid defensively and offensively proficient. At worst, they will have a few young studs with perceived trade value.
#11 – Denver Nuggets select James Young
The Denver Nuggets’ roster has boasted a plethora of high scoring small forwards over the past decade, and the draft will feature plenty to choose from at the eleventh pick. With Wilson Chandler’s contract non-guaranteed for the 2016 season and Danilo Gallinari’s future in flux after a torn ACL, Young could be the perfect fit in Denver.
#12 – Orlando Magic select Adreian Payne
After solving the Magic’s need at the point guard position with Dante Exum at the fourth pick, the Magic now take on some depth in the front court with Adreian Payne. With Payne now in the mix, the Magic will have great talent in the front court with Tobias Harris, Nikola Vucevic and Andrew Nicholson.
#13 – Minnesota Timberwolves select Nik Stauskas
The Wolves need perimeter scoring and the best all-around option for them is Stauskas. He is a poised and polished player that could even take some minutes at the point guard spot. For a team that needs a scoring punch from the bench, Stauskas is the best option.
#14 – Phoenix Suns select Dario Saric
The Suns are a rising team in the West, featuring young players that excel in the open court. At 6’10, with solid ball-handling and passing skills, Saric could be a player that grabs a rebound and runs the fast break for the Suns as a point-forward. Even though Saric is not ready to make his NBA-debut just yet, the Suns can stash him for now and bring him over later, similar to the Chicago Bulls with Nikola Mirotić. With so many picks, the Suns can afford to swing for the fences here, in spite of the questions surrounding Saric’s game and how it will translate to the NBA.
#15 – Atlanta Hawks select T.J. Warren
While the Atlanta Hawks signed one of the best bargains in free agency last summer in DeMarre Carroll the fact remains the team needs to add more depth at the small forward spot. Warren was an elite scorer at the collegiate level but wouldn’t be asked to do nearly as much with the Hawks. If his game can translate to the pros, Warren has the skill set to contribute right out of the cereal box for Atlanta.
#16 – Chicago Bulls select Gary Harris
Honestly, Chicago would’ve traded picks #16 and #19 to move up and grab Harris, so to have him fall out of the lottery is quite a blessing for the Bulls. They were horrible offensively last year and one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the NBA. Harris helps them with both problems and is also the sort of hard-working, high-character guy that John Paxson and Gar Forman typically value. He’ll be a great fit in Chicago.
#17 – Boston Celtics select Elfrid Payton
If you didn’t know his name in college, you will in the NBA. The Louisiana-Lafayette point guard is considered a sleeper in this draft and we haven’t seen everything he has to offer yet. He’s a great get at this mid-first round pick.
#18 – Phoenix Suns select Rodney Hood
Hood is a 6’8 forward with a smooth shot that will help the Suns space the floor. P.J. Tucker provided great value to the Suns last season, including 38.7 percent shooting from beyond-the-arc. However, Tucker is a free agent and may be looking for more money than the Suns are willing to give him. Hood can step in and replace Tucker, spacing the floor and making it easier for Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe (if retained) to attack the basket.
#19 – Chicago Bulls select Shabazz Napier
I get the controversy of taking Napier over Tyler Ennis, but there are reasons for this decision, not the least of which is the fact that Napier is a more mature, more developed player whose pedigree and attitude make him a perfect fit in the Chicago locker room. He’s also a better three-point shooter than Ennis, and the fact that he’s undersized shouldn’t be too big a concern since Chicago’s last two successful backup point guards—Nate Robinson and D.J. Augustin—were both insanely productive in the Bulls’ offense despite being under 6’0”. Napier is taller than both those guys, and coming off a national championship, he’s primed to bring maturity and leadership to a team that’s ready to win right now.
#20 – Toronto Raptors select Tyler Ennis
Who could possibly say no to this? With Kyle Lowry expected to command a salary in the neighborhood of $10 million per year, adding the hometown Ontario native would be a no-brainer for the Raptors and would give them either an insurance policy in the event of Lowry’s departure or an understudy for him. His drafting may lack the splash of fellow Canadian Andrew Wiggins, but if Ennis is on the board at #20, there is no way the Raptors can pass.
#21 – Oklahoma City Thunder select Kyle Anderson
The intrigue of a versatile 6-foot-9 point forward was the driving factor in picking the two-year UCLA product. Comparisons to Magic Johnson certainly don’t hurt. Anderson is an intelligent player who fits the Thunder DNA and addresses our focus on acquiring two-way players.
#22 – Memphis Grizzlies select Jordan Adams
The Grizzlies already have their established core and go-to players locked up and their biggest needs are securing depth, youth and scoring off the bench. Guard Jordan Adams makes sense and would add some electric energy to a veteran Grizzlies team. Adams has a sweet shooting stroke and can get his shot off on his own which the Grizzlies are sorely missing off the bench. Adams also has some of the highest potential at this point in the draft with good natural talent and athleticism who could possibly grown into a starter down the road.
#23 – Utah Jazz select K.J. McDaniels
McDaniels is long, athletic and versatile, which is absolutely necessary for swingmen in today’s league. His shot has improved, and his quick release offsets the fact that he shoots it flat-footed from the perimeter. Has a quick first-step, but must continue to improve his ballhandling in order to take advantage of it at this level. McDaniels has a knack for finding seams, and can elevate over the top of the defense if challenged at the rim. He can be a very good on-ball defender along the perimeter, but can also “ball hawk” in support from the weakside.
#24 – Charlotte Hornets select P.J. Hairston
The Hornet’s were one of the worst three point shooting teams in league last season and they could certainly use some help in that department. Hairston showed, in his one season in the wide open D-League, that he had a penchant for shooting the three ball. He figures to be an instant offense type guy and more importantly will give the team an additional threat from outside.
#25 – Houston Rockets select Jusuf Nurkic
The Houston Rockets almost never draft based on need, but rather based on talent. In this case, they have a chance to do both. If Nurkic is actually on the board at 25 there is no question Houston should snap him up to help fill the void that is expected to be left when they deal Omer Asik to make room to sign a marquee free agent. He’s young at 19, but at 6’11” and 280 pounds he has the size you can’t coach and the raw ability to develop into a productive big man.
#26 – Miami HEAT select Clint Capela
Clint Capela is a little raw, but he has the potential to be the next Serge Ibaka in the NBA. That’s not going to happen in year one, but the Miami Heat could certainly use a defensive-minded, athletic rim protector. Obviously if LeBron James decides to opt out and leave town, Miami will head down a different course — but Capela would be an interesting get to help complement the “Big 3.”
#27 – Phoenix Suns select Jarnell Stokes
Last season the Phoenix Suns relied on P.J. Tucker, Marcus Morris, Channing Frye, Markieff Morris, and Miles Plumlee to man the front court. Centers Alex Len and Emeka Okafor struggled with injuries all season and were unable to contribute significantly. Adding Stokes will give the Suns another post defender and all-around physical player to bang down low against opposing bigs. Last season, P.J. Tucker was often asked to guard bigger players, including power forwards like Blake Griffin. At 6’9, with a 7’1 wingspan, Stokes has good size at power forward, and should have a better chance at slowing down post players, such as Griffin. Stokes is a hard worker, has a nose for the ball, a developing offensive game and should be a great fit with up and coming Suns.
#28 – L.A. Clippers select Mitch McGary
The Clippers need size behind DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin. Mitch McGary’s stock has dropped after a back injury, but the team can afford to be somewhat patient. McGary at 28 could be a steal for the Clippers.
#29 – Oklahoma City Thunder select Cleanthony Early
To be blunt, the Oklahoma City needs reliable scorers instead of relying strictly on Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook to put points on the scoreboard. Early got it done at Wichita State, and he could develop into a nice go-to scorer off the bench that the Thunder so desperately need. He’s an energy guy and a humble guy; both qualities are particularly valued here.
#30 – San Antonio Spurs select Glenn Robinson III
The search for a quality backup for Kawhi Leonard has yet to yield a long-term solution. The Spurs often draft and stash, but with a chance to repeat next year they need to focus on players who can help them right away like Robinson. His athleticism, versatility and unselfishness fit their system perfectly.
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