We here at the Pick and Pop Dairies have an unnatural obsession with the NBA and basketball in general. For bloggers Andrew Lipson and Evan Javel, part of that obsession has always been the NBA draft. While the draft is still 163 days away (only a 163 days!), this event remains the glimmer of hope for all those teams stuck in the bottom of the league standings. Hope is eternal, and so is the search for the next great NBA star. And off we go:
1. Milwaukee Bucks: Jabari Parker, 6’8 240 lbs. Forward, Duke
The Bucks are clearly the worst team in the league and look likeliest to get the 25% chance at the top pick (as long as Dan Gilbert’s son doesn’t pull some BS wizardry again). The Bucks, more than anything, need a big time scorer to add to the mix. While going with Wiggins or Parker would both be a great get for the franchise, I believe the more advanced offensive development of Parker would fit better with the Bucks. Joel Embiid wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense in less they feel that Larry Sanders, freshly signed to a new contract, is now not the player they want to build their defense around.
Parker is truly a gifted offensive player averaging 19 a game on 49% shooting. He scored 20 or more in 10 of his team’s first 12 games. He is currently in a brutal slump, not reaching the 20 point plateau for the last 5 games, but I expect he will break out of it shortly as he adjusts to conference play. He thrives in both the faceup game, where his sweet shooting stroke and dribbling skills allow him to get any shot he wants, and in the post where he has shown incredible touch around the basket as well as advanced footwork. Having the tutelage of coach K for this season at Duke is also important as he is learning to play within the system. He is a big body for a small forward and may find that he settles eventually at power forward in the NBA if he can work on his rebounding. He uses that body well though creating space on drives and in battling in his back to the basket game. He will need to get in better shape to be able to compete defensively in the NBA, which is the big concern of NBA scouts right now. Concerns are also raised about his desire to complete a two year Mormon mission following his season at Duke, which will be a big story as we get closer to the draft. Right now, he looks the likeliest to come in and make the biggest impact right away in the league.
2. Orlando Magic: Andrew Wiggins, 6’8, 200 lbs, Kansas, Guard/Foward
The media is coming out everywhere trying to downplay the talent of the 2014 draft, due mostly to a slow start by Andrew Wiggins. The biggest knock so far has been his lack of a scorer’s mentality, which might be valid if he wasn’t 18 years old with the biggest expectations since LeBron James. Early comparisons were made to Tracy McGrady and those should still hold true, considering T-MAC did not come into the NBA an elite scorer but he became one by harnessing his athleticism. Wiggins will come into the NBA next year and immediately be one of the best athletes at his position, rebound at an elite level for his position and defend at elite level for his position. Maybe he will never be the best iso scorer on his team, but Wiggins will score within the offense and give you elite production in every other facet of the game. A Pairing with Victor Oladipo would suddenly make Orlando an extremely difficult team to score on.
3. Utah Jazz: Joel Embiid, 7’0 250 lbs. Center, Kansas
Comparisons to Hakeem Olajuwon have casual fans and scouts alike clawing to get a glimpse of the Cameroonian import. He runs and moves like a guard, displaying a level of coordination and body control that is so rare for someone his size. While the Jazz are stacked at the big man position the next two best prospects are bigs and they would be foolish to pass on the potential of Embiid. Of course, the Jazz would love to get their hands on Parker or Wiggins, as SF is their weakest position currently.
Embiid has a shockingly advanced game considering he started playing basketball just three years ago. He was a great volleyball player before that, which makes perfect sense when you see his incredible agility to go along with his massive frame. He is still raw however and may not be the most impactful player in the league next year, but could very well be the best player in the class and the best center in the league 5 years down the road. He has shown a recent mean streak getting kicked out of a game for a hard foul last week, but each and every game he plays in, he looks better than the last. He could easily end up the top pick in this draft. I love this kid. You can’t teach size or athleticism and he has both to go along with a strong motor and a fluid offensive game (passing, shooting, footwork). He projects as a major factor defensively when he perfects help defense rotations.
4. Philadelphia 76ers: Julius Randle, 6’9, 250 lbs, Power Forward, Kentucky
To start the season Randle was mentioned along with Wiggins and Parker as the elite group of college freshman. Then Joel Embiid burst onto the scene and everyone forgot about Randle. What did Randle do to deserve getting passed? He only put up 16.7 and 10.9 while shooting 54% from the field and 71% from the free throw line. With rebounding being the most translatable skill from college to the NBA, his 10.9 boards a game speaks volumes to his ability to contribute immediately. Randle and Nerlens Noel will give the Sixers a nice young athletic front court to move into the future with (while Noel will cover up some of Randle’s defensive limitations) .
5. Boston Celtics: Marcus Smart, 6’4, 225 lbs, Combo Guard, Oklahoma State
Marcus Smart set the NCAA on fire early in the season, having three games with 25 plus points including 39 against then 11th ranked Memphis on national TV. Smart is a great leader, competitor and overall player. While a bit undersized for the SG position, Smart possesses a great first step, excellent finishing ability around the basket and an ability to get into the lane at will. He struggles with consistency on his shot, but his form and mental make-up lead me to believe he will be alright at the pro level. Defensively he is a beast with lightning quick hands to generate steals and deflections as well as superior strength to keep opposing players from driving into the lane.
He would make sense for the Celtics in adding a dynamic scorer opposite Rajon Rondo and someone who could spend a year learning behind Rondo and Avery Braldey. What a guard rotation that would be! Smart is just the player who excells at everything basketball from reboudning, passing, and scoring to running the pick and roll, perimiter defense and playing with a high motor. He has the chance to be an elite guard in this league with his desire to be great.
6. Cleveland Cavaliers: Dante Exum, 6’6, 188 lbs, Combo Guard, Australia
Dante Exum is going to be a prolific scorer in the NBA. He has great length, quickness and touch around the hoop, if he is able to develop a reliable jumper he could end up being an all star some day. While on the surface he doesn’t look like a great fit for the Cavs, Cleveland is actually a team that struggles to score. Pairing Exum with Kyrie in the back court would give the Cavs one of the most explosive scoring back courts in the league. With the early season success of Phoenix’s two point guard lineup, the Cavs might be searching to mirror this strategy.
7. Sacramento Kings: Aaron Gordon, 6’8 210 lbs, PF, Arizona
Gordon is a freak athlete, with an incredible vertical leap and quick second jump to help him fight for rebounds. Gordon has a ways to go offensively as he is the owner of an ugly jump shot, but he plays with a high motor, but most importantly finds ways to impact the game without the ball in his hands. He would be a great fit to play alongside DeMarcus Cousins and Isiah Thomas, who thrive with the ball in their hands, and could use a player who crashes hard and plays above the rim. What Gordon is probably best at though is defense as he uses his quickness and athleticism to bottle up opposing players. He does not project as an franchise player, but a high quality player who will help a team make the jump to competitiveness thanks to his defense and rebounding.
8. Los Angeles Lakers: Zach LaVine, 6’5, 167 lbs, SG, UCLA
Can you say SHOWTIME?! Zach LaVine is one of the best athletes in the draft, with his game being compared to Russell Westbrooks‘. LaVine’s game, based on thunder dunks, elite quickness and sweet shooting will immediately find a home with the glitz and glamor of Los Angeles. This is the type of high risk/high reward pick the Lakers can afford to make, because elite players tend to trip over themselves to play in the bright spotlight of Los Angeles. Does he have the ball handing and decision making that allowed Westbrook to make the move from his college position of sg to pg in the NBA? This will be the question that determines whether LaVine becomes a great player.
9. Denver Nuggets (From NYK): Gary Harris, 6’4 210 lbs, SG, Michigan State
I absolutely love Gary Harris. He plays with an excellent effort level, getting to the rim and finishing with ease regularly. He is a streaky shooter, but has good form and should find consistency at the next level. Right now the strength of his game is his slashing ability to get to the rim and to hit the mid-range jumper. He will need to adjust to the NBA three point line, but I don’t see that being a big issue. While a bit undersized for the SG, he is physically strong and likes to attack on both ends of the floor. He would gel nicely with the Nuggets and be an excellent addition for a team that thrives on good guard play. While he hasn’t had the most efficient offensive season so far, he has scored in double digits in every game he has played this season.
10. Charlotte Bobcats/Hornets: Dario Saric, 6’10, 223 lbs, Croatia
10 years ago Saric would have been viewed as another soft European big man. Since then the NBA has migrated away from the basket, emphasizing, speed, quickness, and athleticism rather than brute force. Saric is an extremely talented stretch four that operates mostly on the perimeter. While he is an adept creator off drives to the hoop and a solid rebounder, it remains to be seen what he can do against the quicker and more athletic NBA players who will block off his seam to the lane. If Saric’s length and skill shine through he could be exactly the type of offensive weapon the anemic Bobcats need. If not he will provide their fans with awesome three point celebrations.
11. Philadelphia 76ers (From NO): Noah Vonleh 6’10 240 lbs, PF Indiana
The thought of Vonleh and Noel dominating the 76ers front court for the next decade is an exciting prospect. Vonleh is a highly skilled big man with one of the best motors in the draft to go along with a smoothness rarely found at his height. He can play both inside and out, showing some LaMarcus Aldridge type upside. He owns a massive 7’4″ wingspan and uses it well to bother shots on defense to get his own shot off offensively. While raw, few bigman have his upside and skill level. He would be an incredible get for the 76ers at #11.
12. Memphis Grizzlies: Rodney Hood, 6’8, 201 lbs, Duke, Small Forward
Rodney Hood has great length, strength, and athleticism. He is going to be the type of player that defends at a high level, scores in transition, rebounds and scores off swings of the ball in the half court. He will not be a go to scorer, but has the chance to be an excellent complimentary piece that takes a team to the next level. With TayShaun Prince fading, Hood would give Memphis the defensive stalwart at the three position that will round out their elite defense.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves: Jeremi Grant 6’8″ 203 lbs, SF Syracuse
Grant is a long (7’2″ wingspan), wiry strong, athletic forward from Syracuse. He won’t blow you away with his shooting, though it’s improving, but he will impress you with his ability to score around the basket. He’s another explosive athlete who thrives in the transition game. If you give him a lane, he will likely throw down some sort of viscious dunk. He projects as a plus defender and if he keeps improving his shooting, he could wind up being a terrific scorer. A strong rebounder too, he is as scrappy as they come on both ends hitting the glass, He, along with Kevin Love, could make up a very dynamic forward combination in Minnesota.
14. Orlando Magic (From DEN): Tyler Ennis, 6’2, 180, Syracuse, Point Guard
The Magic have been in search of point guard ever since they signed Jameer Nelson to an extension. They tried to move Victor Oladipo to the position out of need to start the year, but could really use a more natural point guard to run the show and distribute to Oladipo and Vucevic. Ennis joins the recent influx of canadian talent to the NBA and has shown to be the best point guard in a very good freshman class. Despite not being an elite athlete, Ennis finds way to score and create offense for his teammates, that combined with excellent size for the position makes Ennis a great prospect.
The rest of the draft are teams that made the postseason. Here is how we see it falling today. We will just keep names for now, going further in depth as the draft gets closer. Please ask any questions you may have or feel free to share your opinions in the comments below the post.
15. Atlanta Hawks (From BKN): Glenn Robinson III
16. Charlotte Bobcats: Willie Cauley-Stein
17. Phoenix Suns (From Wash): James Young
18. Chicago Bulls: Doug McDermott
19. Toronto Raptors: Montrezl Harrel
20. Boston Celtics (from Brooklyn via Atlanta): Isaiah Austin
21. Oklahoma City Thunder: Adreian Payne
22. Phoenix Suns: PJ Hairston
23. Houston Rockets: Chris Walker
COULD BE STEAL OF DRAFT!
24. Utah Jazz (From GSW): Sam Dekker
25. Los Angeles Clippers: Jahii Carson
26. Miami Heat: Wayne Selden
27. Charlotte Bobcats: Spencer Dinwiddie
28. Oklahoma City Thunder: Mitch McGary
29. San Antonio: Mario Hezonja
30. Phoenix (from Indiana): TJ Warren
Mock draft Completed by Andrew Lipson and Evan Javel