As the NBA Draft is rapidly approaching (even though the season just ended last week), lots of news and rumors are swirling around the NBA. Considered to be one of the deepest drafts in the past decade, there is still a lot to be answered on team needs and prospect fits. The uncertainty on how things will shake out has grown with top overall player Kansas center Joel Embiid now needing foot surgery. So here is our attempt to predict the picks in the NBA Lottery for 2014, as we alternate amongst the worst teams in the league.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Andrew Wiggins (Kansas Forward)- BRETT
Though they are still trying to entice LeBron James to return home and play the same position as Wiggins, his upside is too great to pass up. He would give them the athletic wing that can take over games alongside point guard Kyrie Irving. He already has the defensive skill set to cover the likes of LeBron, Carmelo and Paul George in the Eastern Conference.
2. Milwaukee Bucks: Jabari Parker (Duke Forward)- BARRY
Despite their bad luck in the NBA lottery, Milwaukee still lands the best all-around player in the draft. Parker’s body and offensive skillset are his most impressive assets, with his defensive abilities being a slight liability. Coupled with Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Bucks have an uber-talented nucleus that could compete in the Eastern conference in a couple of years.
3. Philadelphia 76ers: Joel Embiid (Kansas Center)- BRETT
Embiid now has major injury concerns, trying to bounce back after a balky back and now a foot injury. But he has the greatest potential of anyone in the draft. The Sixers have already proven they are willing to wait an entire season for the top prospect in the draft to be healthy (i.e. selecting and resting Nerlens Noel last season). The possibility of pairing those two big men with Rookie of the Year Michael Carter Williams makes them a scary team in the future.
4. Orlando Magic: Aaron Gordon (Arizona Forward)- BARRY
Gordon is a strong kid with outstanding athleticism in the mold of a Blake Griffin. Magic F Tobias Harris played well towards the end of the year, meaning Gordon could be a spark off the bench early in the season while he continues to add weight to play the power forward position. With two picks in the top 12, the Magic will look to establish themselves as immediate playoff contenders, and Gordon can be the spark they need.
5. Utah Jazz: Julius Randle (Kentucky Forward)- BRETT
Randle is a plug and play prospect that has the physical tools to dominate the low post. He has good footwork and by adding some bulk could be Karl Malone 2.0 for Utah fans. He may have a limited upside, but should become an All-Star playing the pick and roll with last year’s first round pick Trey Burke.
6. Boston Celtics: Noah Vonleh (Indiana Forward)- BARRY
While his numbers at Indiana are nothing special, Vonleh’s frame and ability to be a stretch power forward intrigues a number of NBA teams. At the moment, the only other power forward on the Celtics is Brandon Bass, a stretch PF in his own right. A healthy Rajon Rondo could make all the difference for Vonleh and his development.
7. Los Angeles Lakers: Dante Exum (Australia Guard)- BRETT
The Lakers whole organization is still holding onto the hopes that Kobe Bryant can still carry them. By selecting Exum, they get a distributor to run their offense, while having the ability to guard any of the wing positions. He has the potential to be a superstar, as he played well internationally against some top competition.
8. Sacramento Kings: Dario Saric (Croatia Forward)- BARRY
Finally…my first pick for a Western Conference team! As a 6’10” Croatian headed to Sacramento, the comparisons to Peja Stojakovic will be easy to make. However, Saric is a much better passer, and not much of an outside threat. Saric immediately becomes Sacramento’s starting power forward in a lineup that features score-first PG Isaiah Thomas and the talented DeMarcus Cousins. Saric’s statistics won’t impress early, but they won’t have to.
9. Charlotte Bobcats: Doug McDermott (Creighton Forward)- BRETT
Michael Jordan has slowly been adding nice pieces to the Bobcats, getting them into the playoffs in 2014. McDermott is a great shooter that could serve a huge role for a team looking for more scorers. McDermott is also a coaches son and brings in leadership qualities to help a young core grow into contenders.
10. Philadelphia 76ers: Nik Stauskas (Michigan Guard)- BARRY
As they look to the future with the Embiid pick to start, they select someone that can fill a need and help right away here. The backcourt of reigning Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams and Stauskas, coupled with the debut of Nerlens Noel, makes Philadelphia one of the most intriguing teams in the NBA. Stauskas will be asked to do what he did at Michigan: bury three pointers and turn the team into a winner.
11. Denver Nuggetts: Rodney Hood (Duke Guard)- BRETT
The Nuggetts need a dynamic wing to play alongside Ty Lawson and some of their low post players. Hood has good length and the ability to score from anywhere on the court. Playing in the uptempo offense will help create lanes and open spots at the three point line for Hood.
12. Orlando Magic: Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State Guard)- BARRY
In what could be the steal of the draft, the Magic land a dynamic talent with the perfect situation. After drafting Gordon in the top 5, Orlando lands another top 5 talent in this slot. While MCW-Stauskas in Philadelphia sounds like a fun young backcourt, the idea of Smart and Oladipo together sounds dynamic. Add in the mentorship from PG Jameer Nelson, and Smart has no excuse to fail.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves: Zach LaVine (UCLA Guard)- BRETT
LaVine has been one of biggest risers during the draft process, displaying great athleticism. Minnesota needs to find playmakers, especially if Kevin Love is traded and LaVine has the ability to create from either guard position. As a team looking for an identity, the need to look for as much potential as possible.