A Highly Improbably 2014 NBA Mock Draft
I really love the NBA draft, because it’s the only time the Cavaliers are going to win anything. How great is it that the worst franchises in sports get the opportunity to be the most excited about hopefully not losing as much the next season. Anyways, I wanted to put together a mock draft, full of crazy moves that make sense to me and would be really entertaining to probably no one but me. It’s just for fun, so let’s go.
1. Philadelphia 76ers – Andrew Wiggins Look, the 76ers wanted the top pick, tanked, didn’t get it, and now they are going to trade for the top pick. They want Wiggins, and Cleveland could pick him, not only to help their roster, but to make sure Philadelphia, a fellow Eastern Conference competitor, doesn’t get him. He’s a dynamite prospect, and he’s going to be an All-Star someday. So away goes Thaddeus Young and the No. 3 pick to Cleveland for the No. 1 pick and Andrew Wiggins. Scoring comes too easily to him, and he can already defend. Scoring is the most important thing in the NBA, and second is being able to play smart defense (in my book). Wiggins can do that. He’s a superstar in waiting, and Philadelphia would be wise to move up, especially now with injury concerns with Embiid making the top two picks that much more valuable.
2. Milwaukee Bucks – Jabari Parker The Bucks want Jabari! While they were able to bring in Exum, Embiid, and Wiggins for a workout, and they are all in play, if Parker is available, they’re grabbing him. He’s Carmelo Anthony all over again, and Darko isn’t around to be selected after the obvious top pick. The Bucks will take Parker and he’ll start putting up 18/8/5 nights once the calender hits 2015. The Bucks know they don’t have the pieces or the ability to become a playoff team overnight, and they could have a shot at the top pick in 2015, where they could have a chance at Jahlil Okafor, who might be from Krypton, or Cliff Alexander, who would play nice alongside Antetokounmpo and Parker.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers – Joel Embiid This is a dream come true for the Cavs, who can replace Anderson Varejao with a player who has the potential to be something incredible. I’m not laying all my chips on Embiid though. I can see players like DeMarcus Cousins or Brook Lopez dropping 25 points on him a night during his rookie season. There’s going to be a learning curve, and he may not make it. He’s too promising to turn down, even with back and foot injuries. You know who had a terrible injury before he played in the NBA? Blake Griffin. He’s turned out alright.
4. Orlando Magic – Dante Exum They draft the Australian prospect to establish another premier backcourt in the East, establishing a rivalry between Southeast division foe Washington that will produce highs for years. Exum wanted to be a Laker, but playing alongside Oladipo, he’ll learn how great it is to play in central Florida. Exum-Oladipo-Afflalo aren’t household names yet, but they have a bright future.
5. Utah Jazz – Noah Vonleh With new management, it’s okay to admit a mistake, and Enes Kanter is a mistake. The Turkish big man plays defense like an Easter bunny left around a pack of kindergarten children (he gets eaten up) and with Vonleh, the Jazz have another frontcourt prospect to team up alongside Derrick Favors. The 3-point shot may be in vogue, but Vonleh and Favors should be able to defend out to the perimeter while dominating the paint. Rebounding, passing, and scoring inside can power a team to the NBA Finals – at least, that’s what the Spurs model would like you to believe. Vonleh brings that edge to the Jazz. Randle would have been the pick here, but a foot injury pushes him down the Jazz draft board.
6. Minnesota Timberwolves – Aaron Gordon Wait for it – another trade. In a three-team trade, the Timberwolves trade Kevin Love to the Boston Celtics in exchange for Jeff Green, Enes Kanter, Jared Sullinger, the Celtics 2014 first-round picks, and Boston’s 2016 first-round pick. The Jazz receive the Brooklyn Nets’ 2016 unprotected first-round pick and sign Avery Bradley to a new deal as a thank you for participating gift. Aaron Gordon looks like a valuable franchise player. He may not ever score 20 points a night, but he’s going to help stop his man from doing so, and he’ll help his teammates get points. Offensive rebounds, steals, blocks, solid screens – he’s going to be a valuable asset that is worth more than what his numbers show.
7. Denver Nuggets – Marcus Smart With their rivals in the Northwest Division wheeling and dealing, the Nuggets make a three-team trade of their own with the Chicago Bulls and the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers deal Pau Gasol and the 7th pick to the Nuggets in exchange for the Bulls two 2014 first round picks, Danilo Gallinari, JJ Hickson, and Randy Foye. The Bulls receive the Nuggets 2014 first-round pick, the right to swap their first-round pick with Denver in 2016, and send Ronnie Brewer to Denver. After moving up, the Nuggets draft Marcus Smart, a player whose statistics stack up with former collegiate combo guards like Tyreke Evans, Dwayne Wade, and James Harden. Smart’s size allows him to form a potent combination with diminutive point guards Ty Lawson and Nate Robinson. The Nuggets’ point guards have experience playing on and off the ball, and Brian Shaw adds a guard who can get to the rim while also providing length, agility, and heart on the defensive end. Smart averages 30 minutes a game, and finishes second in the rookie of the year contest.
8. Sacramento Kings – Dario Saric The Kings are dismayed when the Nuggets take Smart one selection before them, and draft the European talent Saric with their selection, adding another forward to their crowded frontcourt. Saric does bring an unselfish attitude to the team, and his experience overseas provides a different perspective from the AAU-educated players that populate the Kings roster. Can he supplant incumbent power forward Jason Thompson in the starting lineup? Will he stay in Europe for another year? His potential and fit in the lineup justify this selection.
9. Charlotte Hornets – Nik Stauskas Michael Jordan has learned to trust Rich Cho, the Hornets general manager, to make the right decision, and that choice is drafting Stauskas. Stauskas can dramatically improve their outside shooting from day one, a vital need with Al Jefferson able to draw in the defense down on the block. With Jeff Taylor returning from injury, the Hornets will have two players who can bring it from distance. Stauskas may never make an All-Star game, but the Hornets will not stay in the lottery.
10. Philadelphia 76ers – Julius Randle Philadelphia is getting Julius 2.0! Randle is definitely not a copy of Dr. J, a former Philadelphia legend, but he’s a capable player that is sliding because of injury concerns (dumb). Randle can play with Noel like two wolves hunting a wounded deer, and together, they’ll make great things happen. For Philly, they can wait for Randle to get healthy – they’ve already proved that with Noel.
11. Chicago Bulls – Gary Harris While Thibodeau would have loved to play Gordon for 40 minutes a game, Harris will play 38 minutes and he can get the ball to go through the hoop consistently. With a bionic Derrick Rose back, Harris adds a perimeter threat to a team that just wasn’t able to score against skilled defensive teams. Harris is a two-way player, and coming from Tom Izzo’s system won’t be too big of an adjustment for the guard.
12. Orlando Magic – Doug McDermott The last thing the Magic need is another player in the backcourt, and with a heap of wings available, they select McDermott, a top-10 talent who falls to a team with a need. Exum and Oladipo will enjoy driving and kicking to McDermott, who has the stroke to be a 50/40/90 guy. Get those buckets Doug!
13. Utah Jazz – James Young The Jazz have the luxury of selecting at No. 23 as well, so they can gamble on potential at this point in the draft. Young is extremely young, and with his 7-foot wingspan and athletic skills, has a high ceiling. He can penetrate, he can shoot, and he can dunk over defenders. Plus, he’s a lefty, and that makes him just a bit harder to defend. If Gordon Hayward leaves in free agency, Young helps take the sting off that blow. If Hayward stays, Young could be better before he is old enough to buy himself a drink during the offseason.
14. Phoenix Suns – Jusuf Nurkic Alex Len, you have new competition. Nurkic rises in the draft thanks to the absence of talented bigs, but he can be stashed in Europe and develop until the Suns need him. The Suns pick again at No. 18, they can wait for Nurkic and his offensive game to continue to develop. For now, the Suns are patient and willing to commit to long-term success.
15. Atlanta Hawks – Zach LaVine With the final lottery pick, the Hawks select UCLA guard Zach LaVine. Is he a point guard? Probably not, but that never stopped Lou Williams, Jamal Crawford, and it didn’t hurt former Bruin Russell Westbrook either. LaVine could become Coach Bud’s Manu Ginobili, with his ability combination of ballhandling, penetrating, vision and shooting. Oh, by the way, he has an impressive vertical jump, so finishing at the rim is not a challenge. LaVine and Schroder running the Hawks backcourt off the bench? At the least, they’ll dominate the D-League as they continue to develop towards a starting role in the NBA.
16. Los Angeles Lakers – Elfrid Payton The Kobe farewell tour finds their point guard in Elfrid Payton, who will have to prove that he can score against NBA talent for his first-round selection to be justified. He’s got some great wingspan (drink), his hands are big, and he’s nimble enough to cause problems on both ends of the court. He just needs a great nickname, but I’ll leave that to Swaggy P, who can also introduce him to professional life. What could go wrong?
17. Minnesota Timberwolves – Rodney Hood Welcome to Minnesota Rodney Hood! Can you be their best player? Maybe! He’s long, he showed he could space the floor when paired with NBA talent, and he’ll get to the free throw line. What’s not to love? Look, losing a star sucks. But if Minnesota can lose Love and still throw out a lineup of Nikola Pekovic, Aaron Gordon, Jeff Green, Rodney Hood, and Ricky Rubio, with Kevin Martin, Chase Budinger, and Jared Sullinger powering the second unit, that’s a good/great team! Pekovic and Rubio can run pick and roll, Green and Hood can space the floor, and Gordon does a little bit of everything while protecting the rim and rebounding. Sullinger and Martin can score off the bench, and keep the offense flowing. That’s not a bad situation to be in, and things could be a lot worse. Make the trade Flip!
18. Oklahoma City Thunder – Adreian Payne He’s a do-it-all power forward who should move in with Nick Collison and learn the ways of grit and grind. His smile is a foil for Kendrick Perkins scowl, and Payne seems like the type of guy that would settle down with a team and try to play his whole career there. Those kind of players are attractive to OKC, and hey, his size and athleticism seem like a good fit. As long as he can avoid the trap of watching Durant or Westbrook dribble while on offense, he should be able to contribute.
19. Los Angeles Lakers – Clint Capela Capela is a young forward that the Lakers can be patient with. He can score in transition, rebound, and is as raw as they come. What he lacks in knowledge of the game will come as he works with the Lakers coaching staff (whoever that is) and learns from his teammates. The Lakers played safe with Ennis; the opportunity to find value with Capela is an opportunity they can’t pass up. Will it help attract Carmelo Anthony, Kyrie Irving, Marc Gasol or one of the Heat’s big three? They better hope so.
20. Toronto Raptors – Tyler Ennis Wait, he’s Canadian? What else needs explaining? If Ennis goes here, he’s going to make the Raptors look smart, and not just for drafting a “local” kid. He can either start if Lowry-Vasquez leave, or play off the bench if one stay. He seems like a solid pro, nothing amazing, but not going to hurt you. If he could develop his post game further, he has the most Andre Miller-potential for me out of any guard in the draft, and Professor Miller is a fine NBA guard.
21. Phoenix Suns – Shabazz Napier He’s a steady point guard, and with Ennis off the board, is the best player available. He’s a college graduate, and improved his game every year while at UConn. I think the Suns will value his leadership and work ethic most of all, and he should be a great fit in the culture the new front office is trying to instill. The Suns seem to be of the mind that a killer backcourt is the way to go, and with Napier, they continue to improve the guard position.
22. Memphis Grizzlies – T.J. Warren Can Warren beat Robert Pera one on one? Most definitely. Warren has a reliable floater, and the footwork to get close to the basket and manufacture points. He’s a tweener, which means he can’t play defense very well so he was hid on that end in college, but the Grizzlies don’t have anywhere for him to start and need bench support. Napier would have been their selection if he had been available, they could use point guard support.
23. Utah Jazz – C.J. Wilcox The Jazz don’t mind selecting the “old” shooting guard from Washington, and will welcome his ability to actually score the basketball. Fun fact – Wilcox is from Pleasant Grove, a town 45 minutes south of Salt Lake City. Another fun fact – his 2.8 3-pointers a game his senior year would have nearly been double more than the next closest Jazz player, Trey Burke. Dennis Lindsey – draft C.J. Wilcox!
24. Charlotte Hornets – P.J. Hairston The UNC connection is hard to ignore, and so if Hairston’s ability to score. He put up big numbers in the D-League, and could combine with Nik Stauskas, Jeff Taylor and Gary Neal to be a decent group of shooters off the bench for the Hornets. He’ll look snazzy in teal, at the least.
25. Houston Rockets – Cleanthony Early Early is a lanky tweener who has been working on his 3-point shooting, but is able to do a lot of things okay but nothing great. He’ll be able to make an impact on the boards with his tenacity, but don’t expect him to be a dribble-drive kind of guy in their offense. The Rockets can be patient with him, and don’t need him to give their offense a boost. If he can score late, that’s what will best help their team.
26. Miami Heat – Jordan Clarkson Clarkson spent a year at Missouri after transferring from Tulsa, and started the season strong before fading down the stretch and sliding down draft boards. Physically, he’s a promising prospect, but there are questions on his jumper and ability to play the point. Scouts do wonder if his cool stretch was more related to finding out his father had cancer, and not just a sign of his talent. I’m going to guess it may have had to do with his father getting cancer.
27. Phoenix Suns – K.J. McDaniels The Suns draft McDaniels, a diminutive small forward from Clemson who has the physical skills to be a difference maker on defense. With P.J. Tucker headed towards his fourth decade, McDaniels can provide an defensive-minded wing that can play with the second unit and be a force in transition. If Jeff Hornacek can make Gerald Green into a Sixth Man of the Year candidate, McDaniels can set that goal for himself as well. With Eric Bledsoe and McDaniels, the Palindromes could lead the league in blocked shots by guards.
28. Los Angeles Clippers – Mitch McGary McGary brings a bit of risk to Los Angeles, but the Clippers need depth down low, and this draft doesn’t have much. With Doc Rivers providing instruction and guidance, this high energy big man can grow into a valuable backup big, something that can’t be sad for Ryan Hollins. Is McGary the next Al Horford in training, or is he the next Cole Aldrich? Hopefully his back won’t keep him off the court so he can find out. Just stopping blazing the bush, okay Mitch? Not allowed.
29. Phoenix Suns – Jerami Grant What can Jerami Grant become? At No. 29 and with a chance to take a gamble on a player, the Palindromes select Jerami Grant, an athletic small forward. The Syracuse zone limited his time guarding opponents one-on-one, but he has shown good lateral quickness, good footwork, and the leaping ability to aggressively contest shot attempts. He’s one-dimensional on offense, able to attack the rim but struggled to convert jump shots into points. If he was able to spend some time in the D-League, that would allow him to work on his perimeter shooting skills while learning the ins-and-outs of NBA man-to-man defense.
30. San Antonio Spurs – Damien Inglis For the Spurs, it’s an easy pattern. Find best international prospect, draft, wait, and develop him into a playoff X-factor. Inglis is a strong player from France, and at 6’8″ 240 lbs., can make an impact for the Spurs.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
WINNER – The Eastern Conference. Rewarding them for being lottery teams is stupid, but these teams need some serious star power. Why would you pay real money to watch the 76ers, Bucks, or Magic last season? The Leastern Conference needs talent, and while they may not be dramatically improved, hopefully they can take advantage of talented young players to start playing actual NBA basketball. The West is waiting.
LOSER – The Eastern Conference. Wait, didn’t they just … never mind. The middling teams that barely made the playoffs are going to grow in size, and that means more meh basketball in the East. It’s still nothing close to the Western Conference playoff race, and that means the NBA is going to have to continue to wait for a more even conference field.
WINNER – The Boston Celtics. Getting Kevin Love is going to help their team so much, and they didn’t have to give up Rondo or their 2014 first-round pick. At this point in the NBA, you do anything to get an All-Star caliber player, especially at the peak of their career. LOSER – Teams without a first-round draft pick. Sorry Brooklyn, New York, Portland, Washington, Dallas, Indiana, Detroit, Golden State, and New Orleans. This was a deep draft, and none of you could take advantage of it. Most of you saw rivals load up on new young talent while the free agent pool looks like a Florida backyard during hurricane season (a mess).
WINNER – The Phoenix Suns. With multiple first-round picks, they can move up, move down, draft for need and draft for potential. Even if they don’t draft an All-Star this year, they’ll have a young group of players that can help the team for the next 3-4 years on valuable contracts that don’t hurt the team. They can play them, trade them, or send them to the D-League. With so much flexibility, the Suns look like bona fide playoff contenders next season, even in a challenging Western Conference.
LOSER – Teams needing centers. While the center position may be getting played out of the modern NBA, the draft this year was absent difference makers there after Joel Embiid. Being tall used to mean lots of money in the NBA – those days have long past. Now, not being able to move the ball or defend the perimeter is a career killer. The new post game is a dribble-drive motion offense. Save us Jahlil Okafor and Cliff Alexander! You’re the only hope in 2015!