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The Knucklehead Report: 2014 NBA Mock Draft

With the 2014 NBA Draft proving to have one of the deepest pools of talent in recent years and less than a month away, it seems fitting that we go ahead and speculate what could, should, and might happen on June 26, 2014.

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1. Cleveland Cavaliers – Joel Embiid; Center, Kansas

It just seems fitting that with their third number one overall pick in four years that the Cleveland Cavaliers would take another big man.

To an extent, that is kind of depressing to think about. In 2011, Cleveland took Kyrie Irving at number one who has done wonders for a franchise that doesn’t adequately fit pieces around him and they took power forward Tristan Thompson fourth overall, who at this point will most likely continue his career as an extremely athletic hustle player in the NBA. In 2012, the Cavaliers used a top five pick on shooting guard Dion Waiters, who has shown flashes of talent, but needs to show more in order to keep his starting job. And in 2013, Cleveland took Anthony Bennett from UNLV first overall and we all know how that ended.

Maybe it’s time that Cleveland switched up its luck on drafting big men, giving Irving a great post player to work with since Anderson Varejao can’t stay healthy and possibly courting LeBron for the 2015 offseason (as if LeBron would actually leave Miami anyway). Embiid and his Hakeem Olajuwon style of play would be welcomed in Cleveland with open arms, especially with they that Andrew Bynum’s stint with the Cavs worked out.

2. Milwaukee Bucks – Andrew Wiggins; Guard, Kansas

Assuming that Cleveland goes with Joel Embiid, Milwaukee should be extremely happy here.

With Embiid off the board, there is no reason for the Bucks to further complicate their frontcourt with the second overall draft selection. After sign-and-trading Brandon Jennings away to Detroit, the guard positions have become waning needs for Milwaukee. Andrew Wiggins would fit perfectly, giving the Bucks a first-option scorer who can stick to playing his natural two-guard spot with Giannis Antetokounmpo playing swingman, John Henson and Ersan Ilyasova battling out for starting power forward, and Larry Sanders manning the middle.

The selection of Wiggins could certainly give Milwaukee some hope for success in the relative future regarding the Bucks.

3. Philadelphia 76ers – Jabari Parker; Forward, Duke

This year’s big three seems to be pretty set in stone.

This is perfectly fine, considering the first three picks last year were up in the air until David Stern announced them at the podium. With Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins gone, it seems that the best choice for Philadelphia is Jabari Parker. Certainly not a bad option compared to picks one and two, Parker provides Philadelphia with a reliable shooter and rebounder who can play both forward positions and help Michael Carter-Williams churn out more assists.

Furthermore, his relentlessness in getting to the rim should help ease Nerlens Noel’s job in the paint with all the attention being drawn towards Parker. Replacing Evan Turner is key for success in Philadelphia. Replacing Turner with a player like Jabari Parker should be even better.

4. Orlando Magic – Dante Exum; Guard, Australia

With the big three already drafted, the Orlando Magic should still be satisfied with the remaining pool available. Watching Tobias Harris come into his own last year after being shipped to Orlando from Milwaukee was a treat for any NBA fan – a player showing what he is capable of when he gets the right minutes.

Orlando also got a nice surprise when Nikola Vucevic proved to be a valuable rebounder with solid post play and a formidable outside shot. With an aging Jameer Nelson, Orlando should be looking to add a guard who can mesh well with Victor Oladipo in the future. At 6’6”, Dante Exum can provide flexibility if Orlando is still intent on turning Oladipo into a point guard (as they showed at times this past season) or a sizeable two guard who can exercise his speed and drive towards the basket against opposing guards.

5. Utah Jazz – Noah Vonleh; Forward, Indiana

Back in 2011 when the Utah Jazz selected center Enes Kanter third overall, it was a sign for potentially significant changes to come within the organization. Considering they already had a true center in Al Jefferson and having acquired power forward Derrick Favors in a deal that sent Deron Williams to the now Brooklyn Nets a few months before the draft, it seemed that using a third overall pick on a bench reserve was not going to be the case.

Flash forward to now and Utah no longer has Al Jefferson (who moved on to Charlotte) and they took a similar course of action in the 2013 draft when they selected 7’2” center Rudy Gober from France who saw very minimal playing time this season. In essence, the Utah Jazz are in “big man purgatory,” constantly losing the men in the middle that the front office grows to love because of an overpopulated cohort within the roster. However, the selection of a big man who can be immediately effective on the court could help alter that trend.

Noah Vonleh proved to be a valuable rebounder and scorer both in the post and outside the lane last year at Indiana with fairly low amounts of playing time. It would be intriguing to see the stat stuffing that Vonleh could do with more minutes in Utah and how Trey Burke could watch him work from outside and inside the lane.

6. Los Angeles Lakers (via Boston) – Julius Randle; Forward, Kentucky

Yes, the sixth pick belongs to the Boston Celtics and yes, I believe they could be making a subtle move for the first trade in the 2014 NBA Draft. At this point, Boston is disappointed that Noah Vonleh is gone. And while Julius Randle is a viable option here, he is probably not their first choice.

It seems clear across the league that since the Andrew Bynum-Dwight Howard conundrum two off-seasons ago that the Lakers are in the market for a reliable big man. With constant rumors speculating trades involving Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill to playoff contenders, the Lakers will probably engage in talks to swap spots with Boston at the idea that Boston just barely has enough of a reason to take Julius Randle.

The Celtics and the Lakers swap spots, the “Lake Show” throws in a 2015 second round draft choice, and the Lakers get the rebounder and inside banger for the future in Julius Randle. I’m sure Kendall Marshall would love being able to toss the ball into the paint and watch Randle go to work.

7. Boston Celtics (via LAL) – Aaron Gordon; Forward, Arizona

After moving one spot back and adding a second round draft pick for next year, the Celtics have a fairly easy decision to make albeit the deep draft pool of talent.

While Boston seems to be fairly invested in well-improved power forward Jared Sullinger, the two primary choices at this point in the draft become combo guard Marcus Smart and combo forward Aaron Gordon. Even with questions surrounding the future of the Celtics backcourt, it makes the most sense to select Aaron Gordon. At 6’9”, Gordon can play small and power forward, runs very well in transition, rebounds well, attacks the rim relentlessly, and plays lockdown defense. The biggest question surrounding his play is his outside shooting. If that can be improved during training camp, the Celtics will have an impressive hybrid weapon for several years to come and provide them with flexibility when the seventeenth overall pick rolls around or even with future decisions regarding swingmen Gerald Wallace and Jeff Green.

8. Orlando Magic (via Sacramento) – Dario Saric; Forward, Croatia

With the reputation that Sacramento Kings owner Vivek Ranadive created for himself last year, he is clearly willing to sacrifice future potential for veteran players (especially when he traded Greivis Vasquez and future assets away for veteran forward Rudy Gay).

After one year, Ben McLemore showed us two things – that his athleticism was NBA-ready but his overall game needed a little bit of polishing in order to become a starter. This is where Sacramento makes a pretty significant deal to help the maturation of McLemore and maybe help the team win a few more games. Sacramento swaps the eighth overall pick with Orlando’s twelfth pick and Orlando adds Arron Afflalo. This allows the Magic to give more prominent roles to both of their guards (Oladipo and Exum) while the Kings gain a veteran shooting guard to take some pressure off of McLemore’s shoulders.

After drafting a guard with the fourth pick, Orlando will look to add a big man to put next to Vucevic and add depth with an improving Kyle O’Quinn. After holding out of the draft last year, Adam Silver will announce that Dario Saric will be heading to Orlando with the eighth pick, that is when he decides to translate his game from international league play to the NBA.

9. Charlotte Hornets – James Young; Guard/Forward, Kentucky

Michael Jordan probably knew exactly what he was getting when he drafted Cody Zeller fourth overall last year – a glorified hustle player who could play defense and do the “dirty work” in the paint while Al Jefferson could step out and knock down his signature mid-range jump shot that other centers could not defend.

For the Charlotte Hornets to continue their success in the immediate future, they need to acquire a scoring punch to compliment Al Jefferson and Kemba Walker. James Young out of Kentucky can provide instant offense and defense from the guard or the small forward position, giving the Hornets a defined perimeter threat that can also drive the lane.

If Charlotte can form a lineup that allows Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to continue to learn the craft for a reliable jump shot while still providing his solid team defense, the reborn Charlotte Hornets should have plenty of things to be happy about next year.

10. Philadelphia 76ers – Gary Harris; Guard, Michigan State

After drafting Jabari Parker with the third overall pick, the 76ers can go two ways with the tenth pick – they can add depth at the forward/center positions behind Nerlens Noel or they can add another guard to help out Michael Carter Williams on both ends of the floor.

With Dario Saric off the board and a plethora of second round picks this year (five to be exact), Philadelphia will probably wait to address the depth at power forward and center until later in the draft. With the tenth pick, the 76ers have a great choice in guard Gary Harris. A proven leader at Michigan State, his season started on the highest note possible, taking down the number one team in the country (Kansas) and ended in heartbreak, losing in the Elite Eight to Cinderella UCONN.

Albeit the disappointing loss, Gary Harris showed head coach Tom Izzo that he was a capable scorer inside and out and could play some tough gritty defense against both opposing guard positions. Pair him with reigning NBA Rookie of the Year MCW and you have a backcourt that can cause a lot of problems for other teams.

11. Denver Nuggets – Jusuf Nurkic; Center, Croatia

Similar to Utah, the Denver Nuggets have a lot of issues with their big men. Unfortunately, it is not a flaw in talent – it is a disappointing trend in injuries.

With Javale McGee’s previous season ending short with a stress fracture in his leg, Timofey Mozgov stepped in and provided quality minutes playing alongside Kenneth Faried, protecting the paint and the rim from opposing teams. However, with McGee healthy, there is disarray throughout the frontcourt that already consists of McGee, Mozgov, Faried, and J.J. Hickson.

Odds are that Mozgov will take the same route that Kosta Koufas took last off-season and move on for a more prominent role. Now, Denver needs some depth at center and a back up plan if McGee were to suffer another devastating injury. Jusuf Nurkic and his 6’11” 280 lbs. frame will allow him to exert dominant size in the paint and his track record for minutes played in Croatia already shows that he has on-court experience to offer the Denver Nuggets.

12. Sacramento Kings (via Orlando) – Marcus Smart; Guard, Oklahoma State

I know. It sounds extremely odd. You trade down from your original spot with ample forward, center, and guard talent available, acquire a veteran shooting guard in the process with Arron Afflalo, and now you are going to draft another guard.

This is going to reiterate that Kings owner Vivek Ranadive is willing to go out and find veteran aid instead of finding future help in the draft. Even with stretch power forward Adreian Payne on the board, it seems more likely that the Kings would find a veteran power forward to pair with DeMarcus Cousins outside of the draft and add guard depth with the twelfth pick.

With Jimmer Fredette also out of the picture, drafting a guard seems even more logical for the sake of that depth. With Marcus Smart still on the board, the Kings have the power to draft a strong, grit-and-grind combo guard who can shoot from outside and drive the lane with his 6’4” 220 lbs. size. Smart can also provide depth behind Isaiah Thomas and if the Kings want to switch their trend around, they can move into the market to offer Ben McLemore for veteran help or future draft choices, giving Smart a more prominent role on the floor.

13. Minnesota Timberwolves – Adreian Payne; Forward, Michigan State

This pick is not contingent on Kevin Love leaving, although I’d be lying if I said it would make more sense if Kevin Love was still in Minnesota next season.

Drafting 6’10” stretch power forward Adreian Payne allows the Timberwolves some flexibility with the K-Love issue. Adreian Payne offers a similar skill set to Kevin Love, providing size, rebounding, outside shooting, and reliable post play. Should Kevin Love be traded away, Payne gives Minnesota a future power forward to work with, allowing Gorgui Dieng to remain at his normal role at center along with Nikola Pekovic. If Kevin Love were to go against the odds and stay with the Timberwolves, Payne provides valuable depth at power forward who can learn even more behind Love.

14. Phoenix Suns – Nik Stauskas; Guard, Michigan

This pick scares me because the Phoenix Suns are getting really good, really fast.

It seemed that when the Morris twins were reunited in Phoenix, it would flash them back to their dominant days at the University of Kansas. Miles Plumlee did a solid job as definitive rebounder and cleaning leftovers around the rim. Along with Channing Frye continuing to be a perimeter threat as a stretch forward, the Suns proved that they were ready to show teams what they were made. And considering last year’s fifth overall pick Alex Len did virtually nothing, the Suns have flexibility with this pick to add depth at any position on the floor.

Assuming that the organization is still invested in Len, Nik Stauskas could find himself a comfortable spot landing in Phoenix. Even with Goran Dragić and Eric Bledsoe starting at the guard positions, Stauskas can insert himself as immediate off-the-bench help with his deadly outside shooting. With a playing style similar to Klay Thompson, Stauskas has the power to offer Phoenix options when dealing with contract negotiations for their starting guards if he proves to be an effective player or provide a valuable productivity option if the guards were to stay with the team.

As if the Western Conference wasn’t good already, the Phoenix Suns seem to be just getting started and Nik Stauskas is the next step in grooming a team destined for a nice playoff run sooner rather than later.

15. Atlanta Hawks – Rodney Hood; Forward, Duke

With no bonafide starting swingman on the roster, the Atlanta Hawks would be wise to take a long look at Rodney Hood from Duke University.

After transferring to Duke from Mississippi State post freshman year, Hood’s level of offensive production dramatically improved while logging roughly the same amount of playing time during his first year of college basketball. Despite losing Josh Smith to Detroit last off-season, the Hawks proved that even in a weak Eastern Conference, they could still give teams such as the Heat and the Pacers a rough time on both ends of the floor.

The addition of Paul Millsap after losing J-Smoove proved to be an exceptional move, as Millsap showed off his improved outside jump shot (even extending his game to the perimeter) and his ability to bang in the paint to help shoulder the frontcourt load of Al Horford, which will hopefully help keep Horford healthy in years to come.

Creating a starting lineup of Jeff Teague, Louis Williams, Rodney Hood, Paul Millsap, and Al Horford might just add the punch Atlanta needed to play into late May and given the status of the Eastern Conference, perhaps even early June.

16. Chicago Bulls – Zach LaVine; Guard, UCLA

The Chicago Bulls could go a number of ways here.

They could add point guard depth, although D.J. Augustin might have put that argument to rest, or they could be in the market for a big man as Carlos Boozer might be on his way out of Chi-town given his age and hefty salary (adding depth with Taj Gibson). While those routes are perfectly justifiable, the organization cannot ignore the productivity that they lost when they dealt Luol Deng to Cleveland this past season if they want to remain competitive. And if you are aware of Tom Thibodeau’s coaching style and the work ethic that he demands from his players, you couldn’t be surprised if they drafted a player who shows relentless hustle and plays well in transition.

One thing that Zach LaVine presented in (very) limited minutes last season at UCLA was that playing in transition was certainly a strong suit of his. He attacks the paint in transition and fills out lanes correctly rather than blowing up valuable possessions off of the opposition’s turnovers by not properly running transitional offense. Furthermore, LaVine has an effective outside shot after working through off ball screens and is not afraid of taking matters into his own hands with isolations.

While his limited minutes did not allow everyone to see the ultimate production that he could have delivered, LaVine possesses a unique skill set typical of a Chicago Bulls team that runs and runs a lot. Assuming Derrick Rose can stay healthy, LaVine could fit nicely between Rose at the point and Jimmy Butler at the three, while learning more from a great shooter and instinctual player on the bench in Mike Dunleavy.

17. Boston Celtics – Doug McDermott; Forward, Creighton

While Doug McDermott would be a dream pick for the Celtics at this point, there is certainly a possibility that it could happen given these circumstances.

Primarily, it seems that it would be mostly dependent on Chicago’s sixteenth overall pick, as they could be in the market for McDermott if Boozer is on his way out. If Chicago drafts McDermott, I could see Boston taking LaVine to add guard depth and flexibility for Danny Ainge to apply with the Avery Bradley’s contract. However, in this scenario, Boston drafts Creighton’s Doug McDermott. In an attempt to recreate Larry Bird, the Celtics would be acquiring a player who excels in creating his own shot, shooting off the pass, moving without the ball, and posting up defensive big men with his Dirk Nowitzki-esque turnaround jumper.

Although his rebounding game could be improved, he would be a nice option to pair with efficient rebounder Jared Sullinger or Kris Humphries, who proved to be a valuable hustling big on the roster. This would also allow Aaron Gordon to work at the small forward and help to shoulder the rookie power forward load that the two could absorb.

18. Phoenix Suns – T.J. Warren; Forward, N.C. State

After an extremely successful year at N.C. State, T.J. Warren looks really appealing to Phoenix who should be looking to add depth behind Gerald Green at the small forward with the eighteenth pick.

A productivity stud, Warren scored and rebounded efficiently as a swingman while averaging a fairly high number of minutes on the court. Accounting for Gerald Green’s valiant and impressive efforts towards revitalizing his career in Phoenix, T.J. Warren could certainly help bolster the second unit of the bench and provide another playmaking option when on the floor. Warren proved to be a definitive leader during his career at N.C. State and Phoenix should find his playing ability and mentality very intriguing with the eighteenth overall selection.

19. Chicago Bulls – Clint Capela; Center, Switzerland

While they might have lost out on the Doug McDermott sweepstakes after selecting UCLA’s Zach LaVine at number sixteen, there is still a selection of valuable centers and power forwards remaining for the Chicago Bulls to get their hands on.

While Taj Gibson would likely take Carlos Boozer’s job as the starter alongside Joakim Noah, Chicago has been longing for another rim protector to backup Noah and potentially give the organization the ability to play Noah at power forward in taller lineups since Omer Asik departed for Houston. And while Nazr Mohammed has filled that void for the past two seasons, his age dictates that his ability to continue occupying that role on the roster for longer than one or two more seasons says otherwise.

A long, lanky option for a rim protector, Clint Capella offers Chicago a similar skill set to Omer Asik. Capela possesses the height (although adding more weight would help his positioning) and large wingspan to block shots and finish around the rim with authority while rebounding and running well in transition.

Capela could be a nice addition to a Chicago Bulls team in need of another big defender if his game translates well to the NBA.

20. Toronto Raptors – Kyle Anderson; Forward, UCLA

When Toronto Raptors GM Masai Ujiri traded Rudy Gay, Quincy Acy, and Aaron Gray to the Sacramento Kings for Greivis Vasquez and other assets, it seemed quite odd to picture Toronto making the playoffs (let alone winning their division) despite the weak Eastern Conference. However, the team clicked immediately with a unique big three fueled by point guard Kyle Lowry, shooting guard DeMar DeRozan, and center Jonas Valanciunas.

Greivis Vasquez added an instinctual point guard to lead the second unit off the bench as well and the Raptors were no longer restricted by Rudy Gay’s expensive contract. However, in losing Rudy Gay, they lost some production at small forward despite the team’s overall success. Adding Kyle Anderson would give Toronto a reliable scoring option, netting nearly half of the shoots he took from inside and outside the arc last season, churning out an impressive number of assists for a swingman, and produced a number of steals that symbolized a quality level of defensive awareness.

Drafting Kyle Anderson and not having to worry about a massive salary to take onto the books for the next few seasons would be a move that could keep the Raptors in playoff contention for a significant amount of time.

21. Oklahoma City Thunder – Jordan Adams; Guard, UCLA

Since the playoffs last season, one fact became very evident for Oklahoma City – they missed James Harden. Maybe not the money that he received from the Houston Rockets, but his ability knock down shots from all over the floor (much like Kevin Durant) and play defense alongside Russell Westbrook.

Yes, Thabo Sefolosha plays exceptional defense. No, he is not a threat on offense and Caron Butler is not a long-term solution to play shooting guard for the Thunder.

With depth at nearly every position on the floor, OKC is in the perfect position to draft a future shooting guard with the twenty-first overall pick. Head coach Scott Brooks has created defensively reliable teams over the course of his career with OKC and Jordan Adams from UCLA fits that profile very well. While shooting roughly 50% last season, Jordan Adams also proved that he could play exceptional defense, averaging over 2.5 steals per game.

Adding an offensive game to a good defender on the Thunder would hopefully give them the extra boost they need to reach the NBA Finals in a Western Conference becoming more and more competitive.

22. Memphis Grizzlies – K.J. McDaniels; Forward, Clemson

Memphis is in a position similar to that of Toronto.

The only difference is that the Grizzlies still have veteran and former NBA Finals champion Tayshaun Prince providing valuable experience for a team that is consistently in the playoff hunt. However, Prince’s accomplished career in the NBA will be coming to a close sooner rather than later and with established talent in Mike Conley, Tony Allen, Zach Randolph, and Marc Gasol, Memphis should feel comfortable looking for a small forward who can eventually replace Tayshaun Prince when he retires, but learn from him in the meantime.

With Kyle Anderson off the board and depth already existing at other positions on the roster, Clemson’s K.J. McDaniels would be a solid choice with the twenty-second pick. Playing in an always-competitive ACC, McDaniels showed off his defensive prowess, averaging nearly three blocks per game and proved that he was a capable first-option scorer at Clemson. It seems to be a trend that most Western Conference playoff contenders are known for their efficient defenses, and adding K.J. McDaniels would help bolster that reputation.

Learning behind Tayshaun Prince could also help McDaniels improve his perimeter shooting after converting on less than a third of his three-point field goal attempts, which could work well in the Grizzlies’ favor.

23. Utah Jazz – P.J. Hairston; Guard, North Carolina

After drafting Noah Vonleh at number six overall, Utah should be looking to add depth at the guard positions and to help Trey Burke produce more assists with another offensive weapon that they lost when Randy Foye left for Denver last off-season.

With speculation that Gordon Hayward might be heading out of Salt Lake City, Utah has every reason to look at depth for their small forwards and in doing so, they might look closely at Cleanthony Early from Wichita State. However, drafting a guard makes the most sense because Richard Jefferson and Marvin Williams can still man the small forward if Hayward leaves and behind Alec Burks, established talent is not the most abundant entity.

Enter P.J. Hairston.

If not for some legal trouble last summer, Hairston probably would have started at North Carolina and could have wound up being a decently high lottery pick. Despite his suspension from college play, Hairston put up impressive number in the NBA D-League for the Texas Legends, showing off his deadly outside shot and attacking the rim relentlessly to put up points. Although his passing could be improved, his ultimate job on the floor is to scoe points in a variety of ways.

Whether Hairston played off the bench behind Alec Burks or surpassed him as the starter with Trey Burke, the Utah Jazz would be able to find a place for him on the roster where his productivity would be valued very much.

24. Charlotte Hornets – Elfrid Payton; Guard, UL Lafayette

After selecting a versatile scoring punch in James Young who can play small forward at ninth overall, the Charlotte Hornets should be looking to add guard depth behind Kemba Walker and an athlete who can play the two guard behind Gerald Henderson or even James Young if he were to work his way to starting.

With P.J. Hairston off the board, UL Lafayette’s Elfrid Payton would be the next best thing for the Hornets.

Coming from a school not particularily recognized for a rich history in basketball, Payton stood out as a point guard who showed awareness at both ends of the floor and possessed an impressive height for his position (6’4”) to attack the rim with, overpowering opposing guards. While his three-point shooting could use some work, his ability to score, rebound, and assist from his position makes him a very appealing guard for Charlotte to employ.

Assuming the Hornets were to retain the same starting lineup as last season, the additions of James Young and Elfrid Payton would provide exceptional reserve play for a bench that appeared very shallow once the playoffs rolled around this past season.

25. Houston Rockets – Jerami Grant; Forward, Syracuse

The biggest question surrounding the Houston Rockets this off-season is what they plan on doing with Chandler Parsons.

Since being drafted in 2011, the former Florida Gator has improved his game each season, becoming an accurate outside shooter who defenders need to respect and a swingman not afraid of drawing contact in the lane. While Parsons may not demand an outrageous amount of money in his next contract, Houston might not be willing to pay the asking price because of the high salaries of James Harden and Dwight Howard. This (to me) also seems to be the most pressing issue regarding the possibility that Carmelo Anthony could land with the Rockets.

Despite Parsons’ scenario, depth at the small forward in Houston is definitely a task that can be addressed with the twenty-fifth overall pick. Jerami Grant from Syracuse provides the Rockets with a small forward who can rebound very well at his position and even finish around the room as a swingman. While shooting outside is not necessarily part of his game, his freakish athleticism provides another hustle man on the floor who can impose his size defensively, causing issues for opponents.

At this point in the draft, Grant and the Houston Rockets seem to be a logical fit.

26. Miami Heat – Tyler Ennis; Guard, Syracuse

While leadership in Miami is not in question thanks to LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh, it is always nice to be able to have a point guard who can run the offense with the faith of his coach and teammates.

While Mario Chalmers knocks down clutch threes and is not afraid to drive the lane, it seems that every time he is caught on camera, LeBron James is scolding him for one thing or another. Norris Cole seems to be the epitome of the point guard that head coach Erik Spoelstra loves to see on the floor – a shooting threat who plays lock down defense and attacks the opposition, something that Mario Chalmers has not proven to be consistently.

After taking on the leadership for an impressive Syracuse squad during his lone freshman season, Tyler Ennis proved that he could do three things very well: he could lead the offensive game plan, he could knock down the big shots late in games, and he could play dependable team defense.

On the (very) off chance that LeBron were to depart from Miami, Ennis would assist in providing leadership to a team in distress. But in the likely scenario that James stays put, Ennis can only help lead the second unit off the bench and learn from one of the greatest leaders that the NBA has ever seen.

27. Phoenix Suns – Shabazz Napier; Guard, UCONN

After winning another NCAA national championship, Shabazz Napier should be a first round pick.

He proved that he was a big time player who could make the most of offensive and defensive opportunities. Even though UCONN possessed a higher bracket seed than Kentucky, UK certainly seemed more poised to win this past season’s NCAA tournament given their growing mental toughness. But Napier and the Huskies had something that most of the Wildcats did not – experience.

Shabazz Napier’s leadership was never in doubt and he was a threat on the floor whether the ball was in his hands or not. With their third first round pick in the draft, Phoenix would find it very appealing to add Napier’s experience behind Goran Dragić and Eric Bledsoe, and to be able to pair it with fellow 2014 draftees Nik Stauskas and T.J. Warren.

Ideally, this first round class for the Suns would add a powerful bench unit to keep opponents running the full 48 minutes.

28. Los Angeles Clippers – Cleanthony Early; Forward, Wichita State

With depth at the guard positions and through most of the frontcourt, the Clippers have a lot of flexibility with the twenty-eighth overall pick.

However, with a defined big guy manning each block, a proven superstar point guard in Chris Paul, and a deadeye shooter in J.J. Redick, the Clippers should be looking to acquire a swingman who can drive to the rim and provide a threat from the outside. While Wichita State did not advance far into the tournament this past year, the team proved that every player on the roster was equipped with distinct basketball talents and a drive to win beyond expectations.

Cleanthony Early was no exception to this. Going for the 30-plus points in his final college basketball game, Early showed a relentless hunger to put the ball in the basket by any means necessary. While the Clips play solid defense drawn up by head coach Doc Rivers, the Western Conference has showed that you have to score plenty of points to play basketball towards the beginning of summer, and Cleanthony Early might just be the key to giving LAC a way to overcome other powerhouses in the conference.

29. Oklahoma City Thunder – Glenn Robinson III; Forward, Michigan

After drafting a viable shooting guard for the future in Jordan Adams with the twenty-first overall pick, OKC could go several ways.

They could probably avoid drafting another point guard unless they foresee Reggie Jackson looking for a starting job elsewhere. The Thunder could also try to add depth behind Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka, although Steven Adams and Nick Collison respectively have filled those roles. I also would not be too surprised if the Thunder traded out of this spot for future picks/cheap veteran help.

Not to say that Oklahoma City is in danger of losing KD35, but maybe it would not be such a bad idea to add depth behind him with a piece that could replicate his game off the bench. While Perry Jones III originally performed that task for the organization in recent years, it seems as if his size has shifted his minutes on the court to time logged as a stretch power forward in the already packed frontcourt.

Drafting Glenn Robinson III would not necessarily help Perry Jones III, but it would definitely help the second unit in OKC. Robinson III is an efficient scorer inside the perimeter and can play effective defense both on and off the ball. He would add necessary depth to a team that is longing to reach the NBA Finals after coming up short of the series in recent years.

30. San Antonio Spurs – Mitch McGary; Center, Michigan

The San Antonio Spurs have something that no other team in the NBA has.

No, it is not experience, although they do have plenty of that.

It is Gregg Popovich.

Arguably the best coach in the NBA today and one of the most successful in the history of the sport, Popovich is known for the intelligence that he instills in the minds of his players and the fantastic bench play that he receives from his reserves. On numerous occasions, Coach Pop has proven that he is not afraid to thrust bench players into larger roles for productivity. In short, Popovich’s teams know how to play faster, smarter, and more efficiently than other NBA teams.

Unfortunately (from a fan’s perspective that is), the end of the Spurs’ big three era of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker will be coming to close very soon, leaving Parker as perhaps the only remaining player to teach other rising talents on the team such as Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green exactly what it took to achieve success as much as they did. While Green is already being groomed to assume Ginobili’s spot, Duncan’s position is still up for grabs. Tiago Splitter would remain the starting center and perhaps Boris Diaw could start at the four, but in an effort to reload for the future, drafting Michigan product Mitch McGary would be a wise decision by GM R.C. Buford.

Mitch McGary offers sizable post play that, paired with Splitter, could cause a lot of issues for other teams. The former Wolverine also rebounds well given his playing time and has enough weight to hold his position in the lane.

With the draft on its way, only time will tell what teams choose to do with their draft choice(s). Like most drafts, I’m sure we as the viewers will be in for some interesting surprises that could play important roles in deciding how next season ultimately plays out.

Written by Alex Floch, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill



Alex Floch View All

I am currently a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Growing up in a sports family, I have formed a distinct love for the industry. I enjoy writing about sports in my free time and hope to one day be able to pursue it as a career.

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