What a difference a year makes as this year's draft class has the potential to be one of the best ever.
With the NBA Draft less than one month away, I will update my mock draft on a weekly basis until the actual draft on June 26th. In addition, other contributors will soon post their NBA mock drafts as well.
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Here is the latest version of my 2014 NBA Mock Draft:
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Andrew Wiggins, SG, Kansas
Once again, the Cavs are in possession of the first overall pick — their third in the past four drafts! If the Cavs hang on to this pick, any one of three prospects could be in play here: Wiggins, his KU teammate Joel Embiid and Duke's Jabari Parker.
Of that group, Parker enters the league as the most NBA-ready prospect, but both Wiggins and Embiid have higher ceilings (and lower floors, to be fair). The son of ex-NBA player Mitchell Wiggins, Andrew has freakish athleticism and great length. While he is too passive at times, Wiggins can score from anywhere on the court and is a great defender.
2. Milwaukee Bucks: Joel Embiid, C, Kansas
Certainly unfair from a comparison standpoint, the name you most often hear is Hakeem Olajuwon when it comes to Embiid, who has only played basketball for about four years. A very athletic seven-footer, Embiid runs the floor well, can shoot well for his size and has a nice low-post game in addition to being a great rebounder and shot blocker.
3. Philadelphia 76ers: Jabari Parker, SF, Duke
Although the Sixers miss out on Wiggins or Embiid, Parker is an outstanding consolation prize. There was initially some uncertainty about whether he would declare or return to Duke, but Parker is the most NBA-ready prospect in this year's draft class, as noted earlier.
While Parker lacks the elite athleticism that Wiggins possesses and his defense is a weakness, Parker can take over a game offensively and score in a variety of ways. Parker will be the odds-on favorite to lead all rookies in scoring next season and could give the Sixers back-to-back ROYs.
4. Orlando Magic: Dante Exum, PG, Australia
The Magic have a pair of lottery picks, this and the 12th overall pick, and they will likely add a point guard with one of those two picks to pair with Victor Oladipo. While he played some point guard, Oladipo is better suited to play off guard.
The Australian point guard has outstanding size and length for a point guard with excellent quickness and the ability to get to the rim. While he needs to improve his outside shot, Exum will be the first guard prospect off the board.
5. Utah Jazz: Noah Vonleh, PF, Indiana
Although he doesn't turn 19 until August, Vonleh averaged 11.3 points, 9.0 rebounds, 1.4 blocks and 0.9 steals per game for the Hoosiers as a freshman. Vonleh has excellent size, athleticism and can shoot the ball well.
6. Boston Celtics: Aaron Gordon, F, Arizona
What Gordon lacks in his offensive game, especially his outside shot, he more than makes up for that deficiency with his athleticism, elite defensive play and oustanding motor.
7. Los Angeles Lakers: Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky
Based on their current contract situation, only Kobe Bryant and Robert Sacre are scheduled to be Lakers beyond the 2014-15 season. In other words, they essentially have a blank canvas. Always in a win-now mode, however, they could look to deal this pick. Averaging a double-double (15.0 points and 10.4 rebounds per game) this season, Randle is the best player available here.
8. Sacramento Kings: Marcus Smart, G, Oklahoma State
Smart had a not-so-smart moment against Texas Tech this season when he lost his cool and shoved an inappropriate fan. Other than that unfortunate incident, though, Smart has generally been viewed as a high-character guy.
His biggest on-court flaw is his inconsistent outside shooting, but Smart is a strong guard that can get to the basket and finish. Extremely competitive with a non-stop motor, Smart is an excellent defender and rebounder for a guard as well.
9. Charlotte Hornets: Doug McDermott, SF, Creighton
Charlotte ranked 23rd in the league in scoring offense (96.9 points per game) and in three-point shooting percentage (.351).
Playing four years for his father at Creighton, McBuckets is one of college basketball's most prolific scorers with 3,150 career points (fifth all-time). While he's far from an elite athlete, McDermott is an elite shooter and a fierce competitor with a high basketball IQ.
10. Philadelphia 76ers: Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State
While Harris is undersized for a two guard, he is both an excellent defender and good shooter even if his three-point shooting percentage declined to 35.2 percent in 2013-14. Adding Parker and Harris to Michael Carter-Williams, Thaddeus Young and Nerlens Noel gives the Sixers a nice young core.
11. Denver Nuggets: Dario Saric, F, Croatia
In a bit of a surprise, Saric withdrew from last year's lackluster draft class, but he led his league in both scoring and rebounding as the league MVP. A skilled point forward, Saric may stay in Europe for at least another season, though.
12. Orlando Magic: James Young, SG/SF, Kentucky
The Magic ranked in the bottom third in the league three-pointers per game (6.9) and while Young was inconsistent from deep in his only season at Kentucky, he has the potential to develop into one of the league's better shooters.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves: Adreian Payne, PF, Michigan State
Kevin Love has just one more season in Minnesota. Unless he has none, that is. Love will become a free agent after the upcoming season and reports are that he won't re-sign with the T'Wolves so it's possible they move their best player in order to get something in return. The 6-foot-10 Payne shot 42.3 percent from behind the arc last season for the Spartans.
14. Phoenix Suns: Nik Stauskas, G, Michigan
One of the best shooters in this year's draft class, Stauskas has good size (6-foot-7) and knocked down 44.1 percent of his three-pointers in his two seasons in Ann Arbor. The Big Ten Player of the Year, Stauskas averaged 17.5 points per game last season.
15. Atlanta Hawks: Rodney Hood, SG/SF, Duke
Hood does one thing exceptionally well — shoot the basketball. He knocked down 42 percent of his three's for Duke last season.
--> Continue to picks 16-30
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