Today is the day! The NBA Draft is tonight, and a few of our writers decided they wanted in on the mock draft fun and excitement. Sure we are lawyers who write about sports law, but that doesn’t mean we don’t pretend to be the GM of our favorite teams just like everyone else. As that one last point of view trying to predict a very unpredictable event, we hope this gives you a pleasant work break as you desperately pray that that one specific player falls to your team (not going to happen, it rarely ever does). With that in mind, and no further delay, enjoy how we think the NBA draft will pan out, complete with completely realistic trades and all!
Immediately starting off, there has been a trade at the top of the draft!
- Pick #1
- Dion Waiters
- Pick #3
- Philadelphia’s unprotected First Round pick in 2015
- Michael Carter-Williams
With the first pick of the 2014 NBA Draft, the Sixers take Andrew Wiggins! No Duke love here, Wiggins is already in elite shape and can improve the team immediately. The Kansas numbers don’t detract nearly as much as the upside invites, and the Sixers will enjoy having a player who can be a defensive stopper (or play defense at all, looking at you Jabari). Compared to Parker, Wiggins may not have as many offensive tools now, but will set up Philly to compete in the long run. The addition of Waiters will offer someone remotely near NBA caliber as a replacement for the college semi-all-star team the Sixers have now. Also, with Embiid’s uncertain injury situation, being top 3 just got much less positive on being able to grab one of the elites and someone who can produce immediately. Moving up becomes the calculated risk to advance the rebuilding timetable.
The Milwaukee Bucks will be thrilled to grab arguably the most polished player in this year’s NBA Draft, Jabari Parker. Though some experts have nitpicked Parker’s game - questioning his conditioning and defensive chops - his well-rounded game and high basketball IQ make him as close to a sure thing offensively as any player in the draft. As such, Parker projects as a player who could possibly step into the NBA right away and score 20 points per game. He also has proved to be a solid rebounder and has high character and leadership abilities. With 19-year-old sensation Giannis Antetokounmpo and recently re-signed Larry Sanders already in tow, the Bucks have built themselves a talented young nucleus.
With the 3rd pick in the 2014 NBA Draft the Cleveland Cavaliers select Joel Embiid. Analysts have good reason to believe that today’s NBA is wing/guard dominated. However, “present day” bigs who have rare athletic traits (i.e., Anthony Davis, Serge Ibaka) still have game-changing impact. Embiid possesses tantalizing upside, and has shown offensive skill and rim protecting prowess that far exceeds his light basketball experience. Point blank, as the league gets faster and more wide open, a 7-footer with the movement skills of a wing holds enormous value. Being able to move down to #3, and add Michael Carter-Williams and an unprotected #1 in 2015 from Philadelphia, represents a more than appropriate hedge against Embiid’s shaky health. MCW gives the Cavs the plus-starter they hoped Waiters would be (at the 2), and also provides insurance for oft-injured Kyrie Irving at the point.
With Jameer Nelson’s best days long behind him (to put it nicely), the Orlando Magic are in desperate need of a point guard and the young Aussie Dante Exum fits the bill with the fourth pick of the 2014 NBA Draft. With a 6-10 wingspan, the Wonder from Down Under oozes potential, even though he has yet to play a competitive game on US soil after choosing to stay in Australian rather than play at an American college. Still, Exum wowed scouts with his strong play at Nike’s 2013 Hoops Summit against other elite talent, and again in the Under-19s in Prague, showing off “star potential” with an impressive combination of speed, quickness and athleticism. Though he may not be a “true” point guard, he has the ability into the paint whenever he wants and should form a fearsome backcourt with Victor Oladipo for years to come.
The Jazz were salivating over the chance to pick up Mormon SF Jabari Parker in this year’s draft. Rumors suggest that they are attempting to put together a package to get the top pick, so that’s a possibility. But that wasn’t the case here.
Instead, the Jazz get a nice consolation prize with the fifth pick in Indiana PF Noah Vonleh. Enes Kanter’s performance for the Jazz has left something to be desired, and the Jazz need someone with offensive upside to pair with the rim-protecting skills that Derrick Favors brings to the table. Vonleh has the ability to score both inside and out, which gives the Jazz the option of opening up the floor. He also has a 7’4″ wingspan (second longest in the draft), a 242-pound frame, and freakishly large hands, all of which contribute to make him an exceptional rebounder. I thought seriously about taking Julius Randle here, but the combination of Randle’s foot troubles and Vonleh’s measurements sold me on the prospect from Indiana. I’d like to see Vonleh start next season for the Jazz with Kanter coming off the bench, especially since the Jazz went 3-26 when Kanter started alongside Favors last year.
After being unable to swing a deal to land Kevin Love, the Celtics select Arizona PF Aaron Gordon. Though slightly undersized at 6’8″ for a NBA PF, Gordon has elite leaping ability and agility. His overall athleticism makes him arguably the best defender in this draft and an absolute nightmare to deal with while running the court in transition. Celtics fans should get to enjoy many Rondo to Gordon fast breaks next year that end in rim-rattling dunks. In addition to his defense, Gordon also brings tenacity to attacking the boards, and will provide plus rebounding whenever on the court. As a rookie, Gordon should be a rotation player. However, whether or not he can be a starter for a winning NBA team will depend on whether Gordon can improve his offensive abilities. At Arizona, Gordon struggled to create his own shot in the low post and on the perimeter while shooting an abysmal 42% from the free throw line. If Gordon is going to be the power forward of the future for the Boston Celtics, he will have to develop his offensive arsenal.
After a huge push to agree upon a package to send Orlando for the rights to newly drafted Dante Exum, the Lakers stick to their board and select Kentucky PF Julius Randle. Many scouts see the 19 year old with a 7-foot wingspan as a young, more athletic Zach Randolph. Although not an elite athlete, Randle exhibits the ability to run the floor effectively, and lift in the paint for powerful finishes around the rim and rebounding. His ready-made NBA body also figures to give the Lakers a player who will quickly contribute in their frontcourt rotation. In a recent workout with the Jazz, Randle proved that his injured foot is ready to go, and the freshman that led his Wildcats all the way to the National Championship game has drawn rave reviews for his relentless work ethic and overall character.
An extremely tough decision between he and Marcus Smart, Randle’s positive medical reports combined with the Lakers’ roster construction swings the pendulum Randle’s way. L.A. has just 1 year left on PF Jordan Hill’s contract, while PG’s Steve Nash and 2012 lottery pick Kendall Marshall (8.8 assists/game in 2013-14) each have 2 years remaining.
With the 8th pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, the Sacramento Kings select Oklahoma State PG Marcus Smart after trade discussions with OKC hit a snag.
The rock solid combo guard becomes the latest member of a promising backcourt, joining Isaiah Thomas and Ben McLemore. While his tenacity and competitiveness serve as a double edged sword at times, Smart uses it to his advantage with his ability to attack the rim and bottle up opposing team’s ball handlers. Smart’s shot is still developing, but he displays more than adequate ability from an athletic and skill standpoint to believe that he’ll be a valued offensive commodity. He’s got the physical strength and mindset to threaten defenses by entering the paint, which should open opportunities for his teammates as well. But it’s primarily his defensive potential that the Kings figure to profit from immediately, as his plus size (including a 6′ 9.25″ wingspan) at the position offers a nice contrast to the undersized Thomas.
With the 9th pick of the 2014 NBA Draft, the Charlotte Hornets (They’re Back!) will select Dougie Buckets from Creighton! This was a difficult decision, but in the end it came down to the Hornets in desperate need of a shooting stroke. Dario Saric would be a good future addition to the newly minted Hornets, but with the likelihood of him staying in Europe for two more years, it was not a risk the franchise was willing to take. With McDermott, they get the best shooter in the draft. While there may be doubts as to his position or athleticism, McDermott worked out well at the Combine, and as a hard worker with great drive he can attain his peak physical condition in the NBA. He is better than many think on defense, and will be able to come in immediately on the other side of the ball to make a positive impact. Expect Dougie Buckets to push for playing time from the start and give the Hornets a deep threat that hasn’t really been existent for a while. The Hornets will be crossing their fingers more for Mike Miller than Adam Morrison, which went so well for the team back then.
After numerous attempts to trade back by Philly, the Sixers will take Michigan Nik Stauskas with the 10th pick of the draft. Stauskas provides some pure shooting for the Sixers and more length and size than Gary Harris or newly acquired Dion Waiters. Harris also fits more of a combo mold, which Philadelphia already has in Wroten and Maynor. Not only is Stauskas an elite shooter, it’s between him and McDermott for best shooter in the draft, his passing is above average for his position, and he could project to even spot the team at the point. While Stauskas is not an elite athlete, he can get above the rim when he wants to.
It’s easy to forget that the Denver Nuggets finished with a franchise-best 57-25 record in 2012-13 after last year’s disappointing season in which the team suffered a rash of injuries to key starters. Still, the Nuggets lack elite talent, but boast a roster featuring very few holes. As such, Gary Harris is the best remaining available player and makes for a fine pick with the 11th selection in the 2014 NBA Draft. Harris may not be the sexiest pick in the draft but he profiles as a player who could start immediately and would likely be an upgrade over Denver’s current starting options at SG, Randy Foye or Evan Fournier. Though slightly undersized at the position at 6-4, Harris is a strong defender and capable ball handler. He is also a better shooter than his low shooting percentage last year might indicate, as an overused Harris was often called upon to force difficult shots on an injury-riddled Michigan State squad.
The Orlando Magic are loath to delay a rebuilding process that has already lasted two years, but Dario Saric’s potential is simply too tantalizing to pass up with the 12th pick of the 2014 NBA Draft, despite the fact that Saric recently decided to hone his skills overseas for a minimum of two more years. Had the 20-year-old Croatian decided to bring his talents Stateside this season, he almost certainly would have been a top-10 pick with his extraordinary court vision and ball-handling skills for a player his size (6-10). If Saric can continue to improve his game - and mature his body - over the next couple of seasons playing internationally in Turkey, he could be a steal for Orlando. As they say, “good things come to those who wait.”
The Minnesota Timberwolves move on from the Kevin Love era by selecting a new stretch 4 in Adreian Payne. While Minnesota was praying that Saric would fall one more spot (to create an almost all international lineup of Rubio, Butler, Saric, Mirotic [Oh yes there’s a trade coming], and Pekovic), Payne is no mere consolation prize. Although 23 years old, Payne is a late bloomer and is the rare forward who can play in the paint and hit the three who has NBA caliber athleticism. With solid size and wingspan Payne will help the Timberwolves immediately and provide competition for recently acquired Nikola Mirotic when he arrives in Minneapolis. Payne will continue to develop on defense as he is just now learning how to translate his physical gifts into solid defensive play. The T-Wolves are thrilled because while Payne is older, they believe they got a superior player now and for the future, compared to Noah Vonleh who went #5 (the other “stretch” 4 in this draft).
Phoenix was one of the most exciting and surprising teams of the 2013, 20 14 NBA season, however they struggled to score at times when either of their dynamic point guard duo was out hurt. As such, and with no apologies to Jabari or Dougie Buckets, Phoenix takes the best flat out scorer in the draft, T.J. Warren. Say what you will about lack of elite athleticism, or streaky three-point game, the man can flat out score. No draft prospect in recent memory has as much shot making ability or has as impressive an arsenal of runners, floaters, pull up jumpers and other shots which seem to always go in. Warren abused better athletes in 3 on 3 drills and shot an insane 76% at the rim at NC State last season (to put that in context, that is the percentage LeBron shoots at the rim in the NBA). Simply put Warren will be a nightmare for other teams to defend since doubling him will leave Phoenix’s stretch forwards open from behind the arc. His game may be “ugly” or “unorthodox” but Phoenix will laugh all the way to twenty points every night.
I’ve heard a lot of talk about the Hawks targeting a center in the draft but I just don’t see it. The Hawks need a proven, experienced, back-to-the-basket bruiser at 5, not a project (such as Bosnian, Jusuf Nurkic). Looking at Atlanta’s roster, they’re also set at PF with Al Horford coming back and for the sake of argument, we’ll assume they resign SF Paul Millsap, who nearly carried the Hawks to a 1st round upset over the Pacers. With Jeff Teague under contract for 2014 and playing at an all-star caliber level, it appears that the best position for the Hawks to target in the draft would be SG. Current SG, Kyle Korver, was often exposed defensively and would likely benefit from an eventual move to the bench. But it isn’t often that a team is able to draft a starting caliber shooting guard in the middle of the first round-and this year is no exception. That is why the Hawks will select Elfrid Payton, a 20 year-old PG out of Louisiana Lafayette. At 6’4, and with excellent penetration and finishing ability, Payton would make a relatively seamless transition to SG in the NBA. Having two excellent penetrating PGs (Payton and Teague) on the court at the same time will present match-up nightmares for teams and will help spread out a Hawks offense which was woefully deficient after the injury to Horford. More importantly, it will create a higher percentage of open looks for a team that shot 38.5% from the field in their opening round loss to Indiana
It’s not all roses with Payton though. Payton is a below average shooter-a VERY below average shooter-as evidenced by his 25.7% made jump shot percentage. He also must improve upon his 59% free throw percentage if he expects to make an NBA career of driving to the basket. Finally, at only 185 pounds, Payton will need to bulk up in order to take the pounding that his penetration will necessitate. But Payton appears to have a bright future and I have to believe that his jump shooting will improve dramatically over his first 5 NBA seasons (See: Wall, John and Rondo, Rajon).
We have our second blockbuster trade of the evening!
- Carlos Boozer
- Jimmy Butler
- The rights to Nikola Mirotic
- Picks # 16 and #19
- Kevin Love
With pick #16 the Timberwolves select UCLA guard Zach Lavine. We are now several years into the Ricky Rubio experience, and his development has not gone as hoped. Instead of looking at another cerebral passing guard in Tyler Ennis, the Timberwolves are taking a gamble on a player with huge “ups”ide. Lavine is an athletic freak who is still developing his game but could easily be the next Russell Westbrook. Getting a player with this sort of ceiling mid first round, while a gamble, is the sort of risk that can change the direction of your team for years to come. Combined with recently acquired Jimmy Butler, Lavine would pose a harrowing defensive backcourt for opposing guards. Even if Lavine doesn’t develop offensively, the Timberwolves still managed to grab an energy/defense player who will have a rotation spot for years to come.
The Celtics choose C Jusuf Nurkic from Bosnia. The 19 year-old 6’11” center is an interesting prospect who has the potential to be a starter at the NBA level. Nurkic has an impressive offensive arsenal, with the ability to score as the screener on the pick and roll as well as strong back to the basket game for a center his age. While Nurkic is an impressive offensive prospect, he will have to improve his shooting in order to become a truly dynamic center at the NBA level. In addition to improving his jump shooting, he will have to improve his conditioning and defense, as he was foul prone in the Adriatic League last season. Nurkic’s contract with Cedevita does not have any buyout complications, so he could be on an NBA court sooner than many would think.
With Channing Frye opting out of his contract, Phoenix needs another rotation big man, however the team will be getting last year’s #5 overall pick back from injury, Alex Len. Therefore, Phoenix will be doubling down on wing scoring by Selecting Duke wing, Rodney Hood. The combo of Warren, Hood, and Gerald Green, along with PJ Tucker, gives the suns tons of different looks, and some excellent small ball lineups where either warren or tucker can play the 4. It also gives the suns insurance against having to overpay Green when his contract is up. With their first two picks the Suns have shored up what was arguably their biggest weakness last season that was wing players who can get buckets in the half court. While Parker was much more highly rated than Hood, anyone who watched Duke this year knows that Hood often outshined his esteemed counterpart, especially on the defensive end of the floor.
Another trade involving Minnesota has arrived!
- Pick #19
- Kevin Martin
- Pick # 26
- Norris Cole
- Udonis Haslem
Miami picks PG Shabazz Napier from UConn. The star of the national champion Huskies is rumored to be Lebron James’ favorite point guard in the draft, and the Heat must do everything they can to keep King James in South Beach. Shabazz is on the small side for an NBA point guard at only 6’0″ and could struggle defending larger point guards. Shabazz has a strong 3-point shooting stroke and is fast enough to get into the lane at the NBA level. Shabazz also has the swagger to take the point for a potential title contender, showing throughout the NCAA tournament that he has no problem putting a team on his back.
With pick #20, the Toronto Raptors select Cleanthony Early. Impressed by his showing in the NCAA tournament, the Raptors get a combo forward who has a knack for scoring and all the intangibles you would want which give you hopes for the development of other areas of his game. While his assist numbers are shockingly low for a player of his usage rate, his shooting and scoring were actually quite efficient from last season. More importantly, at this point in the draft Toronto needs to hit a single rather than reach for a potential home run or bust type player like Clint Capela. Early may never be an all star, but its a great bet he will be in the NBA in five years and not the second division of Croatia or the Red Star Belgrade B team.
The Oklahoma City Thunder select SF Glen Robinson III from Michigan with the 21st pick. There is no question that Robinson has NBA-level athleticism. At Michigan, he regularly displayed his ability to play above the rim with highlight reel dunks and alley-oops on a nightly basis. The question for Robinson will be whether he can continue to improve his ability to create his own shot and whether he will be able to defend NBA small forwards. On the offensive end, Robinson scored mostly in transition, corner 3’s and the occasional back door cut. During his sophomore year, Robinson did display some aspects of a mid-range game, regularly attacking his man off the dribble to get a shot off from the free throw line. If Robinson can continue to develop his mid-range game and improve on his streaky 3-point shooting, he will be a dangerous weapon off the bench for a Thunder team that sorely lacks bench scoring. On the defensive end, Robinson spent most of his college career defending power forwards. Robinson’s athleticism suggests he should be able to defend NBA wings, but the transition could be a difficult one.
With the 22nd pick in the draft, the Memphis Grizzlies take P.J. Hairston of the NBA D-League. You may remember that Hairston was suspended from the University of North Carolina in December 2013 for unspecified violations, and signed with the Texas Legends of the NBA D-League in January. That could be cause for concern, but scouts seem to think that his problems at UNC are a thing of the past.
At 6’5″ and 229 pounds, Hairston is ready to play in the NBA. He brings to the Grizzlies an exceptional scoring ability, being able to both shoot from outside and drive to the hoop. He demonstrated this ability on a professional level by averaging 21.8 points in 26 games played for the Legends. He also has the strength to fit in with Memphis’s defensive mindset, and he could easily make a quick impact for his new team.
Utah is very happy that James Young is still available, and the Jazz fill a need at small forward by taking him with the 23rd pick. Young has a high upside that was somewhat masked on a deep Kentucky team that went to the national championship game. At 6’6″-6’7″, Young already has good size for his position, and his 7’0″ wingspan just adds to his upside and suggests that he could become a great defensive player. He has an above-average jump shot that will likely only improve as he gains confidence, and he finishes well through contact.
The downside is that he doesn’t yet have any go-to skills that stand out, and he may need time to develop, which could be why he falls this far. But overall, he has the potential to score and defend at a high level in the league.
With the 24th pick of the draft, the Charlotte Hornets select Clint Capela. While it was a difficult decision to not go with Mitch McGary, Capela ending up at 24 just seemed right. The Hornets are looking for post depth, and a starting power forward after filling a dire shooting need at 9. Capela may be raw, but his size and length will allow him to grow into his body and improve his post game. Already a defensive stalwart in the middle, his 7’5″ wingspan allow him to grab rebounds and reject shots, and he transitions well into offense after getting the ball back. He moves well for a big, and should be able to learn quickly under the tutelage of Professor Al. Along side Big Al, the Charlotte frontcourt could be formidable in the next season or two. He still needs to develop some parts of his game, such as his jump shot (he essentially has none), but should soon be an improvement over Josh McRoberts who left the team. Further, he does not come with the baggage, either injury or character-related, that Mitch McGary does. I anticipate Capela surpassing Zeller on the team within his first season.
Houston takes UCLA’s Kyle Anderson with the 25th pick, and in so doing gets one of the most versatile players in the draft. He stands at 6’9″ and has a 7’2″ wingspan, but earned All-American honors as a point guard during his sophomore season at UCLA. Although he projects as a small forward in the NBA, the superb floor vision and passing ability he developed as a point guard will serve him well in any of the 3-4 positions he could play in the NBA. He shot almost 50% from 3-point range and averaged 14.9 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 6.5 assists per game during his sophomore campaign.
The biggest slight on Anderson is his utter lack of athleticism and overall strength, which some scouts believe will keep him from being anything more than a below-average NBA defender. His lack of lateral quickness will make it difficult to defend small forwards, and his lack of strength could prevent him from being able to effectively guard power forwards. He also has trouble creating shots for himself. He’ll need to use his exceptional basketball IQ (perhaps the best in the draft) to learn opposing defensive strategies and exploit them.
The Timberwolves take stat-stuffing, do-it-all guard Spencer Dinwiddie from Colorado with the 26th pick. With two first round picks already this year, Dinwiddie (who was a projected lottery pick before he tore his ACL early in this season) won’t take up a precious roster spot this year. This is a small gamble for a rebuilding team who can afford to wait. Dinwiddie has a track record of production with good size and outstanding rebounding for a guard. Had he played in a bigger program instead of Colorado he would be a household name. He will need to gain strength to compete at the NBA level but he has all the skills, including a solid shooting stroke, to be a starting caliber NBA player if not more. At this point in the draft you can’t hope for anything more from an upside position.
With the 27th pick the Suns take Serbian PG Vasilije Micic. With Dragic under contract for only one more year and an uncertain future after that, the Suns will need to be prepared to replace him if they want to keep their two-headed PG backcourt intact. With two firsts already chosen this year and two more projected next year, the Suns wanted a guy who could be stashed for a season or two. Micic is that guy. A point with great size and elite passing and instincts, Micic could be a steal if he continues to develop. He is still recovering from a knee injury last year and will need to improve his shooting stroke. While he is not a great athlete, his size should give him enough advantage to defend his position.
The Los Angeles Clippers select Clemson SF K.J. McDaniels with the 28th pick. The 6’6 junior brings yet another athletic floor running toy for Chris Paul. While his passing and ball handling is not at a professional level today, McDaniels’ big-time leaping ability allows him to clean up around the rim on either end of the floor. The real value the Clippers figure to enjoy is his defensive prowess, as he thrives in reading and getting around screens, and constantly working his feet to position himself in front of his man. While his offensive game develops, NBA scouts have whispered about a Tony Allen comparison when evaluating the Clemson wingman.
With Danny Granger and Hedo Turkoglu entering into free agency this summer, the Clippers find themselves starved for depth and talent at the SF position. Jared Dudley and Matt Barnes (34 years old) are the lone rangers on the roster, and neither figures to keep the team from adding a youthful athlete at the position
The Oklahoma City Thunder select PG Tyler Ennis from Syracuse. With the retirement of Derek Fisher, the Thunder are desperate for a backup point guard and Ennis should be able to immediately step into the role. At one point during the college season, Ennis was mentioned as a possible lottery pick as he led Syracuse to an undefeated start to the season that included some miraculous finishes, including his buzzer beater on the road against Pitt. Ennis’ strengths should fit well with the Thunder, as he is a low-turnover point guard who showed above average passing and court vision for just a freshman. His passing and ability to protect the ball should allow him to see the floor while he works on his below average shooting. In addition to improving his ability to create and make his own shot, Ennis will have to adjust to playing much more man-to-man defense after spending the last year in the Cuse’s vaunted 2-3 zone. Depending on his ability to improve his shooting, Ennis could be a solid rotation player for the Thunder, and could even be included in lineups as the PG where Westbrook slides over to the SG role.
That concludes our first annual NBA Mock Draft. We hope you enjoyed it and hope the player you want falls to your favorite team (or at least not to your biggest rival).
This Mock Draft was conducted and written by Sean Dotson, Jeremy Jarrett, Justin Fielkow, Bryan Etter, John Sigety, and Andrew Schwartz.