Our third mock draft is here! Andy Lipson won the coin toss and got to choose first and will select on the odd numbers while Evan Javel handles the evens. Our lives are basketball, college and pro, and few people have watched as much this season as we did. Obviously there is still a lot to shake out before the draft, but here’s a look at how we see it going as of today. Enjoy and please feel free to comment or send us questions as we enjoy talking basketball.
1. Milwaukee: Andrew Wiggins 6’8″ 200 lbs, SG/SF, Freshman, Kansas
Wiggins’ college career ended with a serious dud as Kansas got bounced from the tourney, but his physical gifts along with his strong fundamental base give him a ceiling that few players can ever hope to achieve. There is no doubt that Wiggins will be an elite defensive player and wreak havoc in the open court on offense, right away. While he still has a ways to go in getting his distance shot to where it needs to be, he will knock down his share of jumpers during his rookie campaign. Recent comparisons have likened him to a younger Paul George, and I truly believe he will be just as good if not better than George if his strong work ethic continues.
2. Philadelphia: Jabari Parker 6’8 240 lbs, SF, Freshman, Duke
The 76ers have lost 25 games in a row, so they could use any help they can get. Despite their awful season coach Brett Brown has implemented a system and stuck to it. Regardless of personnel it seems like Brown wants his team to play fast (they currently play at the fastest pace in the league), shoot 3′s (15th in the NBA in 3 point attempts, despite being 29th in 3 point %), and force turnovers (5th in the NBA in % of turnovers forced).
Enter Jabari Parker, the best offensive player in the 2014 draft, a perfect fit for the offensively minded (maybe more like offensively intentioned) Sixers. Parker thrives in transition, shoots the 3 at over 35% (considering that the majority of his 3′s are contested this isn’t bad) and creates turnovers (often to the detriment of their overall defense), in other words he’s a perfect fit for Philly.
3. Orlando: Joel Embiid 7’0 250 lbs, C, Freshman, Kansas
Embiid has been pegged as the number one pick for most of the college season, but a recent stress fracture in his back has dropped his stock a bit. Getting him at 3 would be a huge coup for the Magic who could pair this dynamic athlete with their promising PF/C Nikola Vucevic to create an enormous front line that should dominate the glass and protect the rim. Embiid, while still learning the game (he has only been playing the game for 4 years), shows surprisingly refined foot work on both ends of the floor. He is an incredibly smooth athlete and has the potential to be a franchise player at the center position. He could easily slide back to the top spot as he shows he is fully healthy during pre-draft workouts.
Yahoo Sources: Kansas freshman Joel Embiid — a possible No. 1 overall pick — will enter the NBA Draft. http://t.co/YKDz8fUuXV
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) March 27, 2014
4. Utah: Dante Exum 6’6, 190 lbs, PG/SG, Australian (18 y/o at time of draft)
Utah has all the pieces to be a really good team. If they can re-sign Gordon Hayward they will have good up and coming players at every position. Unfortunately, not all their good young pieces fit together. It is no coincidence that the Jazz played their best ball of the season when they played Marvin Williams as a stretch four and increased their pace. Knowing this, I believe next year they try to play faster and Dante Exum is just the player to help them achieve this goal.
With the ability to play beside Trey Burke at the two or running the point himself Exum would fit nicely with the Jazz. He is one of the quickest players in the draft and would excel getting up and down the court with the pass first Trey Burke. If the Jazz decide to go big having the 6’6 Exum at the point and the 6’8 Hayward at the two would give them elite length in the back court. Dante Exum’s positional versatility would allow the Jazz to play a variety of styles allowing them to maximize the contributions of every play on their roster.
5. Boston: Marcus Smart 6’4″ 225 lbs, PG/SG, Sophomore, Oklahoma State
Boston just misses out on the elite prospects in this draft by drafting 5th, but here, in Smart, they manage to pick a combo guard who is an elite defensive player with lighting quick hands. His plus strength at the guard position should aide him greatly in creating dribble penetration. The big concern for me is his inconsistent outside shot, but with a good looking form already in place, the results should eventually come. He would be an excellent insurance policy in case the Celtics lose Rondo or Bradley, or both. Smart does everything on the floor including providing a level of toughness that teams crave as they try to build a contender.
6. LA Lakers: Julius Randle 6’9″ 250 lbs, PF, Freshman, Kentucky
Randle is the most underrated player in the draft. With the lofty expectations at Kentucky anything short of consistent dominance hurt his stock. With the NBA trending towards athletic stretch 4′s instead of bruising post scorers Randle’s game is diminished because he doesn’t fit the new power forward archetype.
Instead of focusing on what he is not (which is what caused him to slip since the start of the season), I would rather focus on what he can do. Randle should come into the NBA and rebound at a high level immediately. While it might take a while for him to figure out how to finish at the rim against long NBA defenders (due to his relatively short arms), his current bevy of post moves at such a young age should be an indication that he will be able to find a way. At six for a Lakers team that has always relied on free agency to bring in top talent, Randle is an absolute steal.
7. Sacramento: Aaron Gordon, 6’9 225 lbs, PF/SF. Freshman, Arizona
Sacramento already has scorers, so adding a defensive minded prospect who thrives offensively by crashing to the rim would fit perfectly with the young core of this team. Gordon wreaked havoc on opponents during the first couple games of the tournament, stuffing the stat sheet. He has abnormally active hands and feet on defense which allows him to generate steals and blocks as well as keeping his defender in front of him. Being an elite athlete, some have compared him to a young Blake Griffin, in the way he thrives around the basket offensively as an above the rim finisher. His jump shot is a bit funky, but given time I think he will be a serviceable shooter. He is a very poor free throw shooter and this continues to be a big concern for a player you’d like to have out there in close games in the fourth quarter. I don’t think Gordon is a star in the NBA, but he is a winner and a difference maker who, like Smart a couple picks earlier, will do everything for his team.
8. Detroit: Doug McDermott, 6’8″ 220 lbs, SF/Stretch PF, Senior, Creighton
The Pistons are a front court heavy team that really struggles to space the floor. McDermott is the best floor spacer in the draft, with a deadly shot and a great feel for getting himself open. Due to his subpar athleticism McDermott might not have as high a ceiling as the other lottery prospects but he is far and away the most NBA ready now.
While his lack of athleticism negatively impacts his defense, I believe he can become a passable defender. Having shown such a nuanced understanding of the offensive side of the ball I would be surprised if he couldn’t fit in an NBA system as a very good help defender. Plus how can you not love a guy with the nickname McBuckets!
9. Cleveland: Noah Vonleh 6’10 240 lbs, PF/C, Freshman, Indiana
I love Vonleh. He is a warrior in the interior, an elite rebounder on both ends and possesses a solid array of back to the basket moves. Combining his interior dominance with his sweet shooting stroke from outside and I believe there is the makings of a star here. He is very young and not an elite athlete, but he has an undeniable skill set that I believe makes him the best PF prospect in this draft class. On defense, he isn’t a rim protector but he moves his feet fairly well and makes his opponent shoot over his enormous 7’4″ wingspan and 8’10″ standing reach. He won’t be able to give big minutes right off the bat, but a year of grooming and patience should be rewarded with a player who is a game changer.
10. Denver (Knicks pick goes to to Den): Tyler Ennis, 6’2 185 lbs, PG, Freshman, Syracuse
From a need perspective, Denver is a hard team to gauge. Having suffered season ending injuries to presumed pre season starters JaVale McGee, Danilo Gallinari, J.J. Hickson and backup point Nate Robinson, all Denver really needs is to get healthy. With their salary cap tied up on a lot of mid level deals the Nuggets need to add players that can help them now, rather than players with the potential to help them 3 years down the road.
Tyler Ennis is by far the most NBA ready player available. He can come in and play a roll similar to Andre Miller before Byron Scott forced his trade by benching him. Ennis will fill out and be able to play next to Ty Lawson, while also playing back up when Lawson needs a breather. Ennis will make great decisions, knock down open shots and give his team a chance to win every game, even if it is at the expense of elite athleticism.
11. Philadelphia (NO pick goes to Phi): Gary Harris, 6’4 210, SG, Sophomore, Michigan State
Philiadelphia, who in the mock selected Jabari Parker second, get’s to add another great scorer in Gary Harris. Harris, unlike Parker, is also an elite defensive player who should generate two steals a game. He and Michael Carter-Williams would be the most dangerous backcourt in disrupting passing lanes. Harris has a solid midrange game and shoots it from deep with a smooth release. He gets to the rim well offensively, but he doesn’t always finish which he will need to work on at the pro level. Regardless, a young core of MCW, Harris, Parker, Thaddeus Young, and Nerlens Noel would be on their way to a postseason birth.
12. Orlando (Den picks goes to Orl): Rodney Hood, 6’8″ 200 lbs, SF, Sophomore, Duke
Hood is an excellent shooter and if Orlando is going to play with the twin Towers of Joel Embiid and Nic Vucevic they are going to need shooters to space the floor. Coming in at 24th in the NBA in 3 point shooting percentage and 21st in 3′s attempted the Magic could really use a long range assassin like Hood.
While his defense has not been good in college, his move to the nba position of shooting guard could give him the length advantage that allows him to be competent defensively. If the Magic are able to draft him, sit him behind Arron Afflalo for a year to learn before giving him minutes, Hood could end up in great situation for his long term growth.
13. Minnesota: TJ Warren 6’8 230 lbs, SF, Sophmore, NC State
Minnesota needs to find a way to try and convince Kevin Love to stay. They need to take some of the offensive pressure off of him and a player like Warren, who can score from absolutely anywhere on the court would accomplish this feat. Warren was the ACC player of the year and was second in the country in points per game at 25 per. This is Warren’s ceiling for the draft though, as he has struggled from three point range (I know he will find his range eventually, i just know it!!!!) and is just an average athlete at best. Just in case Love does leave, the Wolves will need someone who can put the ball in the basket. Tyler Ennis would be their preferred pick as they need a PG, but Warren would accomplish the need of getting a scorer.
14. Phoenix: Clint Capela 6’10″ 215 lbs, PF, Switzerland (20 y/o at time of draft)
He is the standard young foreign player with length athleticism and upside. Which in essence means that he could end up being an athletic freak that every team ends up lamenting having passed on, or he could be a developmental prospect that never gets it, your guess is as good as mine. With four picks in the first round of this draft the Suns can stand to gamble on a high upside prospect and their style could be just the thing Capela needs to realize his vast potential.
15. Atlanta: Jusuf Nurkic 6’11″ 280 lbs, C, Bosnia and Herzegovina (19 y/o at time of draft)
Another huge body to pair with Al Horford. I’m not sure he will be able to come over right away or whether he is ready for NBA minutes, but his size and physical style of play have NBA center written all over them. He could be a sleeper or a bust, but I think he is worth the risk for the rebuilding Hawks.
16. Chicago (Charlotte’s pick goes to Chi): Nik Stauskas 6’6″ 205 lbs, Sophomore, Michigan
The Bulls really struggle to score, ranking 28th in the NBA in offensive rating. Tom Thibodeau has squeezed every once of offense out of good shooters like John Lucas III, Kirk Hinrich, and Marco Belinelli, expect him to do even more with an elite offensive player like Stauskas. If Derrick Rose ever gets healthy, adding Stauskas on the outside will give D-Rose even more room to operate.
17. Phoenix (Washington to Phx): Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, 6’7″ 210 lbs, SF, Freshman, Arizona
If he could shoot threes, we would be talking about a top 7 pick here. He is an elite athlete with strength, agility and hops. He finishes at he rim with both power and finesse, has a nice midrange game and is a terrific player. This is a player I think can be a star a few years down the line, and if Phoenix passes on him, I expect Boston to scoop him up with their second pick. Look for him to rise on boards as the draft gets closer and teams get a closer look at this outrageous physical specimen.
18. Boston (Brooklyn pick to Bos): Willie Caulie-Stein, 7’0″ 245 lbs, C, Sophomore, Kentucky
This season the Celtics went into the year with exactly one center on their team, the proud owner of two cinderblocks for feet Vitor Faverani! Now, in a shocking development Danny Ainge told season ticket holders that he is going to target a rim protector in this years draft. Cauley-Stein happens to be the best rim protector in this draft so getting him at 18, (even with his offensive shortcoming and potential attitude problems) is an absolute steal. With the addition of WCS and Marcus Smart the Celtics still won’t be able to score, but should have the pieces to eventually field an elite defense.
19. Toronto: Montrezl Harrell, 6’8″ 235 lbs, PF, Sophomore, Louisville
This is late for Harrell, and I think it’s his basement. He is an all out hustler with elite athleticism. Think JJ Hickson or Kenneth Faried here. There is no way he isn’t a productive player, but I don’t think he will be a star. He is a horrendous free throw shooter but since he is strong enough to finish through contact much of the time, I’m not as worried about him as I am others. He is a very safe pick for a team missing a few pieces but already has the scorers in place.
20. Chicago: Adreian Payne, 6’10″ 225 lbs, PF, Senior, Michigan State
Payne is a victim of the NBA’s version of ageism. With his lack of upside due to being a college senior Payne is going to get drafted much later than players that don’t even sniff his level of production. Payne is the type of player that will come in and immediately produce, but if only he was 3 or 4 years younger…
Chad if Adrian Panyne was 20 years old where would he go in this draft?
Chad Ford (1:07 PM)
He’d be a Top 10 pick. No question. He’s having a great season. However, at 20 years old, Payne was a borderline second rounder. NBA scouts expect that every year you get better and a 23 year old dominating doesn’t get the same amount of love as a 19 year old. You’re supposed to be better. With that said, Payne is one of the few prospects that can really stretch the floor as a four. Those types of players are in high demand in the NBA and I think he ends up going late lottery to mid first round.
21. OKC (Dallas pick to OKC): PJ Hairston 6’5″ 225 lbs, SG, NBDL (formerly North Carolina)
OKC really doesn’t need much, but adding another deadly shooter and strong defender would only help. Hairston is both of those and more…I think he is a role player right away in the NBA and should be around for a dozen years.
22. Memphis: CleAnthony Early, 6’8″ 220 lbs, PF/SF, Senior, Wichita State
CleAnthony Early ended up having one of the best games of his career in their tournament loss to Kentucky. Before that game he was viewed as an undersized power forward, with limited upside who might struggle to guard his position in the NBA. Then during the game against Kentucky he showed the handle, speed, lift and shooting that indicate he could play the 3 at the next level. Had the Shockers knocked off UK then I suspect Early’s rise in the draft would have been meteoric due to his tournament showing.
23. Utah (GS pick to Utah): Jerami Grant 6’8. 210 lbs, SF, Sophomore, Syracuse
Utah needs wing players and athletes to combine with their huge front line and young PG in Trey Burke. They will likely retain Gordon Haywood meaning that their biggest need will be at small forward. Grant is a terrific athlete, rebounder, defensive player and finisher at the rim. His jump shot has a ways to go, but I believe he is another player who should make an impact on both ends within a couple years.
24. Charlotte (Portland pick to Char): James Young 6’8″ 205 lbs, SG/SF, Freshman, Kentucky
James Young came into college billed as an elite shooter that could take over games. With a good looking 3 point stroke he was going to be difficult to defend. Unfortunately for him, his shots haven’t been falling down with the consistency you want from an elite prospect. The Bobcats traded for Gary Neal and Luke Ridnour because they needed shooting. Young can come in and provide shooting while also providing the high upside that Neal and Ridnour lack.
25. Houston: Elfrid Payton, 6’4″ 170 lbs, PG, Junior, LA Lafayette
It’s a thin point guard class, but Ragin’ Cajun Elfrid Payton is an intersting prospect. He has a suspect outside shot and doesn’t always finish well at the rim, but he is long with quick hands, quicker feet and greeat hops/agility. His physical tools make him a great defensive player. On the offensive end he gets into the lane well and is a willing passer. Maybe his shot will come and he could be something special. If not, he could still be a nice piece for a team in need of depth at that position, especially one with defensive prowess.
26. Miami: Zach Lavine 6’5″ 180 lbs, SG/PG, Freshman, UCLA
If LaVine comes out he will be a developmental project with elite athleticism and a great looking jump shot. With the recent success of big point guards like Russell Westbrook, suddenly scouts believe that any shooting guard under 6’6 can learn to play the point and excel by virtue of athleticism. Whoever drafts him needs to realize that he is a skinny combo guard with breathtaking vertical who isn’t ready to run an offense and probably never will be. The Heat can bring him along slowly, play him off the bench and make use of his skills off the ball, without pigeon holing him as a point guard.
27. LA Clippers: KJ McDaniels 6’6″ 200 lbs, SF, Junior, Clemson
The only weak position for the Clippers is SF. In McDaniels they could add a seriously good athlete to the front line of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, creating a unit that would terrorize opponent rims. He is a terrific defensive player to boot and while not a good shooter from distance, should be serviceable there given the space he would get paired with a couple of superstars. This would be a perfect situation for him as he wouldn’t be asked to do too much while making his contributions on the defensive end and easy offensive looks.
28. Phoenix (Indi pick to Phx): Bogdan Bogdanovic 6’6″ 200 lbs, SG, Serbia (21 y/o at draft)
The Suns have four first round draft picks so if they don’t trade this pick expect it to be a draft and stash player with high upside who might come over in a couple years. I’ll give you my opinion on this pick when the player actually makes it to the NBA in 4 years.
29. OKC: Patrick Young 6’9″ 245 lbs, C, Senior Florida
This is a no risk play for OKC. Young is a monster, as strong as they come and a smart player to boot. He will guard the rim, provide toughness and finish easy looks. He sets mean screens and rebounds well. He is NBA ready and will play major minutes next season. He and Steven Adams could hold down that center position for the next decade.
30. San Antonio: CJ Wilcox 6’5″ 190 lbs, SG, Senior, Washington
Wilcox is one of the best shooters in college basketball, can he do much else? Not really. Then again Gary Neal and a long line of Spurs 3 point specialists did just fine without another NBA skill.