Our goal at Upside & Motor is to provide you with the best information about the draft that we can. We can’t envision a better way to kick off our website’s content than by posting a 2014 NBA Mock Draft that will most likely be totally wrong and worth mocking by the time 10 P.M. EST rolls around on Thursday night.
So with that in mind, here it goes. Given the way this draft process has unfolded over the past week (the Embiid injury, Saric’s decision to stay overseas, etc.), there is a strong chance this mock draft ends up invalid before it even posts, but we hope that’s not the case. We hope that the insanity of draft season has slowed down enough to allow us to somewhat accurately predict what might happen in this draft.
So here is how this will look: I’ll list the team drafting, the player, and a brief description on why I think he’ll be the pick. I don’t predict trades, which means there is a good chance Sacramento sends this to hell in a hand basket since they’re quite likely to move their pick, per Marc Stein. So without further ado, here we go on the 2014 Upside & Motor NBA Mock Draft:
1. Cleveland Cavaliers — Andrew Wiggins, 6’9 SG/SF, Kansas
The Cavs have been sending out strong signals that Jabari Parker is their pick, but I just can’t buy that. New general manager David Griffin has been preaching “fit” above all else, and I can’t envision a better fit for a team than Wiggins and the Cavs. Let this sink in for a moment: Alonzo Gee has started 106 games the past two seasons for the Cavs. To say that the small forward position is one of need for the Cavs is a massive understatement. Wiggins has the two-way potential that they desperately need — they’ve been a complete train-wreck on the perimeter the past two seasons — and doesn’t need the ball in his hands to score, which is important given the presence of both Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters. Coach David Blatt could find ways to work wonders with Wiggins off the ball. Despite the fact that Parker is more NBA-ready, I just can’t see the Cavs passing on a perfect positional fit under Griffin’s new regime.
Also, keep in mind that a trade here is also being discussed. Given some of the offers they’ve gotten, the Cavs are rightfully intrigued. I assume that Wiggins is the pick if a trade is made as well.
2. Milwaukee Bucks — Jabari Parker, 6’9 SF/PF, Duke
Parker is another perfect fit. Putting him in between Larry Sanders — a tremendous shot blocker and defensive presence at the rim — and Giannis Antetokounmpo, a lengthy athletic freak that has shown strong passing instincts for a young player and has the size to guard the best forward on each team regardless of size, is the perfect situation. Parker will be allowed to get his points early on while still developing on offense and being hidden defensively. The Bucks will get the elite offensive scorer to build around that they need to make the next step. This is a match made in heaven if the Cavs don’t screw it up for the Bucks.
3. Philadelphia 76ers — Dante Exum, 6’6 PG/SG, Australia
With the Sixers apparently shopping Michael Carter-Williams after an — albeit weak — Rookie of the Year campaign, Exum makes perfect sense. It seems that they believe Carter-Williams’ stock is at an all-time high, and that Exum is the superior prospect. I tend to agree with that, although I try not to fall into the fallacy that is discussing Exum. Considering I’ve only seen Exum play three times, I can only give you notes on what I’ve seen. He’s one of those rare athletes that simultaneously looks incredibly smooth floating through the air, but also extremely explosive with his first step. His jump shot is inconsistent, which makes his fit with Carter-Williams somewhat dubious if they keep both. They’re both pretty skinny and get beaten a lot on defense at his point, but could develop into a solid tandem with their length and tools. But given that the Sixers have another pick at 10, they can afford to take a risk on a superior talent like Exum. Joel Embiid is also in play here, as the Sixers have his medical records.
4. Orlando Magic — Joel Embiid, 7’1 C, Kansas
The Magic have never been afraid to take and develop centers, so here they get another potential center of the future in Embiid. They’re another team with multiple lottery picks, so they can afford to take a risk here and take the tremendous upside potential of the Cameroonian center. I’d say this sets up some roster conflicts, namely with the solid Nik Vucevic, but Embiid most likely won’t be able to play until 2015 anyway. Plus, you don’t pass up on a guy like Embiid because you have someone like Vucevic. The only reason they could pass on him is if they don’t trust the medical records, which is a distinct possibility. However, this is a very good opportunity for the Magic to pick up a franchise player despite having the fourth pick.
5. Utah Jazz — Marcus Smart, 6’4 PG/SG, Oklahoma State
You may ask why the Jazz would take another point guard a season after taking Trey Burke, but hold on. I actually believe that Smart and Burke can play together. Smart is a big, long, tough guard that absolutely has the ability to guard 2s in the NBA. He also is a bit more of an explosive play maker than Burke. Smart could act as the primary ball-handler that attacks the defense and draws pressure to him, and Burke could take advantage of that with his excellent jumper. Burke could also act as a caretaker in instances where Smart has gotten a bit too wild, which happens a bit more than you would like to see. The only thing missing from Smart’s game is the long-range jumper. He has everything else you could possibly ask for: defensive skill and intensity, passing and playmaking acumen, rebounding ability for a guard, and the ability to draw defenses to him. If he gets that jump shot down, he’s going to be an all-star for many years to come.
6. Boston Celtics — Aaron Gordon, 6’9 PF, Arizona
Gordon is something of a jack-of-all-trades, master of none player at this point, although he is about as elite and versatile as it gets on the defensive end. He’s a good ball-handler that is actually one of the few prospects to come out in recent years that has potential as both a pick-and-roll ball-handler and roll-man. His vision is solid for a big man. Plus, he’s probably the second best athlete in the draft class outside of Wiggins. As with Smart, the thing holding Gordon back is the jump shot. However, while Smart at least has unconscionable faith in his jumper, Gordon doesn’t seem to have any. He gets no leg bend, and ends up shooting a very flat jumper. So while he’s probably a good enough and fluid enough athlete to play the 3, he’s probably better off as a 4 that can run the floor with anyone — including Rajon Rondo — in transition, defend multiple positions, and provide excellent off-ball movement. Just don’t expect much yet in the way scoring.
7. Los Angeles Lakers — Julius Randle, 6’9 PF, Kentucky
I’m not going to lie, this is something of a coup for the Lakers. I have no doubts that Randle is going to be an excellent NBA player offensively. He’s an explosive lateral athlete with as quick a first step as I’ve ever seen for a power forward prospect. The extra midrange space that the NBA provides is going to be a massive boon to his offensive efficiency. If he develops a jump shot — something that I believe he already has a framework of and just wasn’t given the opportunity to show at Kentucky — he’s going to be an All-Star, 20/10 player. The Lakers could potentially get the steal of the draft here if he falls to them.
8. Sacramento Kings — Noah Vonleh, 6’9 PF, Indiana
First and foremost, Vonleh would be an interesting fit on the Kings. He already has the semblance of a jumper from the midrange, which could help create space for DeMarcus Cousins to operate inside and for Rudy Gay to drive more to the hole (something he started doing more of during his time with the Kings this past season) if they decide to keep Gay over the long term. Plus, he’s long and might be able to provide some of the weak-side rim protection that Cousins can’t.
Mostly though, I think if the Kings trade this pick it’ll be someone trying to trade up to get Vonleh, who is perceived as the final player in his tier. I actually don’t think that highly of him. He’s someone who is good in theory, but then turns into something totally different whenever you watch the tape. He floats a bit too much on the perimeter offensively, and doesn’t do a great job covering pick and rolls on defense. I worry that he’s simply just a “starter-quality” big at his peak as opposed to having all-star potential. Plus, he’s going to take a while to get there, which means you have to waste some of his cost-controlled years developing him.
9. Charlotte Hornets — Doug McDermott, 6’8 SF/PF, Creighton
McDermott is potentially something of a reach here, but I can’t see him totally failing in the NBA. And beyond that, the artists formerly known as the Bobcats really need shooting. Badly. Their top returning three-point shooter is Gary Neal at 40%, but beyond that it’s Gerald Henderson at 35% followed by Kemba Walker at 33%. The Hornets need someone to stretch the floor badly if they’re going to attempt another playoff run next season, and McDermott fits the bill.
10. Philadelphia 76ers — Nik Stauskas, 6’6 SG/SF, Michigan
There is absolutely no player on the board that I like for the 76ers here now that Dario Saric isn’t coming over until 2016. Therefore, I opted for fit. Given one of Carter-Williams or Exum is likely to be their point guard next season, getting a knockdown shooter next to them would seem to be the best idea. This is admittedly a very “un-Hinkie-ian” move, but it makes a lot of sense. If they take the shot on Exum at 3, they could take a safer guy at 10. Or they could ignore Saric’s contract situation and go international anyway since they aren’t competing anytime soon. This pick is a complete wild card.
11. Denver Nuggets — Gary Harris, 6’4 SG, Michigan State
Harris is a good compliment to Ty Lawson, as he’d be the perfect guy for Lawson to kick out to for three pointers off of drives to the rim. Also, Brian Shaw most likely will really appreciate the defensive tenacity that Harris brings to the table. At worst, Harris becomes a Randy Foye-type player and at best he can be Bradley Beal. I think he’s closer to the Beal level than the Foye level, which means the Nuggets could get a solid starter here with a late lottery pick.
12. Orlando Magic — Elfrid Payton, 6’4 PG, Louisiana-Lafayette
With the Magic taking Embiid in this mock at 4, getting Payton at 12 would be a perfect scenario for them. I’m not the biggest fan of Payton. I think he gets out of control far too often, and with the shot issues he has you’re left with a turnover-prone non-shooter. He’s in the 20s on my big board, but apparently his stock is rising through the roof right now and you should expect to hear his name in the lottery. The people who like him see strong vision and tremendous quickness that will make him an elite athlete at the position. You’ll need to surround him with shooters, and because of that I’m not sure the Magic are the best situation. But they do need a replacement for Jameer Nelson, and Payton is most likely the highest-rated guard on their board at this point.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves — Adreian Payne, 6’10 PF/C, Michigan State
Payne would be the perfect fit with Nikola Pekovic once they decide to move on from Kevin Love, as he’s something of a poor man’s Love from a spacing standpoint. He’s an incredibly athletic power forward who can not only do this, but knock down threes at a 40% rate and defend the post well while blocking some shots. Basically, imagine a way more athletic, longer version of Mehmet Okur. He doesn’t come without question marks, as he has smaller-than-normal lungs for his body and a learning disorder, but ultimately the risks outweigh the rewards for me.
14. Phoenix Suns — Dario Saric, 6’10 SF/PF, Croatia
With three first rounders, the Suns can afford to take a shot on Saric. And most likely, if they want him, they’ll need to take him ahead of the Hawks at 15 and the Bulls at 16. It’s impossible to really gauge how Saric could fit on this team given that the Suns could look totally different in two years, but this would be a chance for them to get a front court star to pair with their already star-quality back court that will probably be there in two years. Also, coach Jeff Hornacek seems like an excellent offensive mind to get the most out of Saric’s unique skill set.
15. Atlanta Hawks — James Young, 6’7, SG/SF, Kentucky
The Hawks could use a big wing to pair with Jeff Teague and Dennis Schroeder, and Young fits the bill. I actually talked about Young at length on the Hawks’ official website to HP’s own Robby Kalland, so I’ll just link that. Basically, Young is one of the more unknown prospects in the draft due to his age and role at Kentucky. What he is now is almost certainly not going to be what he is in three years, but the talent, length, jump shot, and athleticism is there.
16. Chicago Bulls — Tyler Ennis, 6’2 PG, Syracuse
The Bulls could use an actual option at PG beyond D.J. Augustin and Nate Robinson if injury should befall Derrick Rose again, and Ennis is a perfect candidate. Ennis is a smart, calm, poised decision-maker that is going to be solid in a backup role early in his career as a caretaker. Although coach Tom Thibodeau might not be a fan of the defensive principles that will be tough to drill out of him from his time at Syracuse, if there’s anyone that can do it it’s him.
17. Boston Celtics — Zach LaVine, 6’6 SG, UCLA
LaVine could go much higher than this, as his ceiling is literally through the roof. He already has a smooth jump shot and a 40-something inch vertical leap. Plus, he has a great first step, is excellent in transition, and is unafraid to attack a defense. However, that’s not to say LaVine is a great prospect. I fear that there is a strong chance he could get lost in the shuffle, as there is no way he’s ready to play defensively in the NBA from day one. He’s too skinny, and has no real defensive acumen or intelligence to speak of. UCLA reverted to a zone most of the time LaVine stepped onto the court, and he often leaked out into transition before defensive plays were finished. I expect him to spend quite a bit of time in the D-League next season, but if you knock his development out of the park this is a potential all-star caliber talent. Getting that at 17 is excellent value any way you slice it.
18. Phoenix Suns – Rodney Hood, 6’8 SG/SF, Duke
Getting another three-point shooter to play next to Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic seems like a good idea. Hood will have ample opportunity to take advantage of his one NBA-ready skill, as I don’t love the rest of what Hood brings to the table. Normally, shooters differentiate themselves by the other skills they bring to the table, and Hood doesn’t have a lot of them. However, he might be the best pure shooter in the draft, so that could be enough to carry him to a lengthy career.
19. Chicago Bulls — Jusuf Nurkic, 6’11 C, Bosnia
Nurkic is a mammoth, gargantuan center that put up huge numbers on a per-minute basis in the Adriatic League. He’ll be a stash option for the Bulls, who will be looking to save money as they pursue free agency options. It’s a perfect fit, and the Bulls will hope it pays off down the line.
20. Toronto Raptors — Shabazz Napier, 6’0 PG, Connecticut
Kyle Lowry is an unrestricted free agent and Greivis Vasquez is a restricted free agent. By all indications, they’re going to attempt to re-sign both. But in order to cover their bases, the Raptors could take a shot on Napier. He’s a tough, shot-making guard who made a name for himself in the NCAA Tournament. Had St. Joseph’s been able to rebound the ball in overtime of the first round, we probably aren’t talking about him in this position, but here we are.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder — T.J. Warren, 6’8 SF/PF, North Carolina State
The Thunder are in a position where they can take a shot on the best bench scorer available, and that’s Warren. There are some translation problems here, as Warren will need to develop a three-point shot. Also, there’s not really any other player in the NBA who plays like him, as he attempts to get into the lane consistently and attack with a constant array of mid-paint floaters. But he probably couldn’t ask to go to a better situation than the Thunder.
22. Memphis Grizzlies — P.J. Hairston — 6’5 SG, North Carolina/Texas Legends
Hairston is a pure shooter that has potential to develop into a solid “3 and D” guy. Basically, he’s a shorter, longer, broader version of Reggie Bullock from last season’s draft. He’d be a really strong compliment to Mike Conley’s dribble-drive game, and might be able to steal some minutes at the 3 with Tony Allen to provide spacing. Plus, he might be a bit more NBA-ready than most given that he plied his trade in the D-League last season.
23. Utah Jazz — Cleanthony Early, 6’7 SF, Wichita State
Early could provide bench scoring for the Jazz at the 3, as they lose Richard Jefferson to free agency. Also, I envision that his versatility on offense is something that Quin Snyder would love. He can shoot threes, has solid post footwork, and a pretty good midrange game. Plus, he’s a strong NBA-level athlete. He’s a late bloomer that someone will be happy with.
24. Charlotte Hornets – Kyle Anderson, 6’8 SF/PF, UCLA
Anderson is one of the most unique prospects I’ve ever encountered in the NBA Draft. He struggled when Ben Howland played him off-ball his freshman year, then thrived his sophomore season under Steve Alford with a more free-flowing system where he played point guard. Statistically, there was no more complete player in the NCAA last season than Anderson, who put up a 17.6/10.5/7.8 line per-40 minutes. Obviously, he’s not going to be an NBA point guard. However, the Hornets could use a guy like Anderson that will foster ball movement, as they’re set to lose Josh McRoberts to free agency this offseason.
25. Houston Rockets — Bogdan Bogdanovic, 6’6 SG, Serbia
Bogdanovic is a long, tough scorer that led Partizan in scoring this season in Euroleague. He could be a potential 3 and D guy with his 6’11 wingspan, he could be a starter that does everything, or he could just end up as nothing and never come over to the NBA. Regardless, the Rockets are looking to save money to spend it in free agency, are probably not looking for rookie deals right now, and would be happy drafting someone that is most likely about to sign in Turkey.
26. Miami Heat — Jordan Adams, 6’5 SG, UCLA
Adams can fill it up off the bench, and the Heat need some scoring depth if LeBron returns and they want to make another title run. Adams would also be a strong candidate to play in the Heat’s high-pressure defensive scheme, as he’s an excellent ball hawk that can create fast breaks and easy transition buckets. Between Norris Cole’s high energy and his length, this could be an excellent fit.
27. Phoenix Suns — K.J. McDaniels, 6’6 SF, Clemson
McDaniels is an elite athlete that could help replace P.J. Tucker’s high energy defensive role almost immediately. It’s fair to say he’ll be able to create havoc and create turnovers on defense pretty quickly. He’s going to need to develop an outside shot to reach his full potential on both ends, but he would also be a solid transition weapon with Bledsoe and Dragic, and will be a good rebounder from the wing position.
28. Los Angeles Clippers — Jordan Clarkson, 6’5 PG/SG, Missouri
Clarkson is a good athlete whose stock has risen throughout the draft process to where he’s likely to hear his name called in the first round. I like Russ Smith better than Clarkson, but ultimately you can expect a playmaker and slasher on offense that can fill it up off the bench as Chris Paul rests. Eventually, he could take over Jamal Crawford’s microwave duties.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder – Mitch McGary, 6’10 PF/C, Michigan
The Thunder can pick up their replacement for Nick Collison with this pick. McGary has great basketball instincts, solid rebounding skills, and knows exactly how to do the little things that help his team win. He’s already 22 even though he only played one collegiate season and he has back issues, but he has a chance to be a solid role player.
30. San Antonio Spurs – Russ Smith, 6’1 PG, Louisville
Smith could be a solid backup replacement for Patty Mills in case they lose him during free agency. He’s also a high-energy defender whose decision-making has improved over the years enough to where Gregg Popovich wouldn’t want to strangle him. I also still will never buy into the “Cory Joseph, NBA Player” experiment, so getting someone to replace him seems like a good idea to me.