Tuesday, February 25, 2014

2014 NBA Mock Draft, 1.0: Embiid, Wiggins, Parker go 1-2-3

Last year's NBA draft class was one of the most lackluster classes in recent memory. Based on the group of draft-eligible prospects this year, however, the 2014 draft class has the potential to be one of the greatest ever.

While some in the group may never live up to their potential at the next level, this year's class certainly does not lack hype.

Although this is my first mock draft of the year, it will be updated often and all the way until the 2014 NBA Draft on Thursday, June 26th.

[Follow our basketball updates on Twitter via @HitTheBoards.]

Until the actual draft order is known, I will use the inverse order of our consensus NBA power rankings for the draft order.

In addition, more of our contributors will provide their take on how the first round will shake out as we get closer to the draft. For now, if you would like to view other opinions, check out our mock draft database for other 2014 NBA mock drafts.

Otherwise, here is my early 2014 NBA Mock Draft:

1. Milwaukee Bucks - Joel Embiid, C, Kansas

With roughly two months left in the regular season, the Bucks are guaranteed to have a losing record as they have already lost 45 games this season. As bad as the Bucks have been, they can use help across the board.

Part of a talented freshmen class for the Jayhawks, it's Embiid — not Andrew Wiggins — that ends up going first overall. There have been reports that Embiid may return to Lawrence for another season, but the big man from Cameroon has as much of a chance to go first overall as any other prospect in the country.

If Embiid stays in school, the good news for the Bucks is the talent at the top of this draft class is so strong that they would get another franchise-changing player in his place.

2. Philadelphia 76ers - Andrew Wiggins, SG, Kansas

Long rumored to be dealt and otherwise scheduled become a free agent after the season, Evan Turner (and Lavoy Allen) was dealt to the Pacers for Danny Granger and a second-round pick. As you can imagine, Granger wasn't thrilled with going from a top contender to a franchise that has the second worst record in the league and has lost 11 games in a row.

To fill the void at shooting guard, the Sixers have the opportunity to add one of the most highly-touted prospects in years. With elite athleticism and an ability to score from anywhere on the court, Wiggins, whose father played for the Sixers in the early 90's, is the type of player that can lift the Sixers out of mediocrity (or worse).

3. Orlando Magic - Jabari Parker, SF, Duke

While he may not have as much upside as the Kansas tandem at the top of this mock, Parker has an excellent all-around (especially offensive) game. In addition, no prospect is as ready to make an immediate impact in his rookie season than Parker at this point.

4. Boston Celtics - Dante Exum, PG, Australia

Regardless of how Rajon Rondo fits into the long-term plans of the Celtics, Exum can play alongside Rondo, who will be in a walk year next season, or eventually replace him. The Australian point guard has outstanding size and length for a point guard with excellent quickness and the ability to get to the rim.

5. Los Angeles Lakers - Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky

The Lakers could go in a number of different directions with this pick. After all, only five of the team's current players have contracts for the 2014-15 seasons. In fact, it's just Kobe Bryant and Robert Sacre that are under contract by the Lakers to start the 2015 season.

Averaging a double-double (15.7 points and 10.3 rebounds per game), Randle is the best player available and can fill the void of free agent-to-be Pau Gasol. This coast-to-coast dunk for the 6-foot-9 250-pounder shows his unique skill set for his size:

6. Sacramento Kings - Noah Vonleh, PF, Indiana

With a backcourt of Isaiah Thomas and Ben McLemore, the No. 3 overall pick last year, I think the Kings would pass on Marcus Smart and go with Vonleh here. Since Jan. 18th, Vonleh has averaged a double-double (10.78 points and 10.22 rebounds) in addition to 1.33 blocked shots per game.

7. Denver Nuggets (via Knicks) - Aaron Gordon, SF/PF, Arizona

While his offensive game, specifically his jumpshot, leaves a lot to be desired, Gordon has elite athleticism, is an excellent defender and has a high motor.

8. Utah Jazz - Marcus Smart, G, Oklahoma State

Since returning from his three-game suspension, Smart has averaged 16.5 points, 8.5 assists, 5.5 rebounds and 5.5 steals in his two games played. (Next up is a huge matchup against Kansas on March 1st.)

Obviously, Smart received a ton of negative attention from his incident involving a Texas Tech fan. By all accounts, however, that was an out-of-character reaction from Smart, who is otherwise viewed as a high-character guy.

9. Charlotte Bobcats (via Pistons) - Tyler Ennis, PG, Syracuse

Granted, Kemba Walker has point guard size and he starts at the point, but he is much more of a scorer than a pass-first type in the traditional mold of a point guard. Poised beyond his years, Ennis has a stellar 3.39-to-1 ratio of assists to turnovers and actually has more steals (59) than turnovers (46) this season.

10. Cleveland Cavaliers - Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State

While the NBA trade deadline has come and gone, shooting guard Dion Waiters is still on the roster but there have been plenty of rumors about the team wanting to move him partly due to his relationship with Kyrie Irving. Drafting a two guard like Harris will only intensify those rumors from draft day through the trade deadline next season.

- See my full first-round projection here

[Note: All updates will be made to the link above all the way up to June 26th.]

For more mock drafts, view our NBA Mock Draft Database here.

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