With former Wildcats Aaron Gordon and Nick Johnson awaiting draft selections in the 2014 NBA Draft, PGU’s Brandon Duenas and AK Murthy have collaborated on our first ever mock draft. Tapping their insider NBA connections, Duenas and Murthy take a look at how the top 18 picks could shake out.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers – Jabari Parker, 6’8″ 240 lbs, Fr – Between Parker and Andrew Wiggins, Cleveland is assured a potent scorer with their pick. If they don’t trade down, Parker complements Kyrie Irving better than Wiggins because of his ability to play the PF spot while leaving room for Dion Waiters in the lineup. If Joel Embiid were healthy he would be the choice, but now the Cavs have options, and teams are certainly calling. -AKM
2. Milwaukee Bucks – Andrew Wiggins, 6’8″ 197 lbs, Fr – The Bucks have a lot of needs and Wiggins will come in right away and address their need for scoring. Dante Exum is still in the picture here, but Wiggins is too talented to pass up on with a top 2 pick. Wiggins would form a nice wing tandem with versatile 6’11 sophomore Giannis Antetokounmpo, who was one of the lone bright spots for Milwaukee last season. -BD
3. Philadelphia 76ers – Dante Exum, 6’6″ 196 lbs, Intl – This might be the toughest selection in the draft. Do you take the injured Embiid, the mostly unknown Exum, or possibly trade down for a pick and a player? It’s tough to say, but 76ers GM Sam Hinkie is not afraid to make risky moves, and could pair Exum with point guard Michael Carter-Williams despite potential redundancy. Carter-Williams has also been linked to other teams in trades, so picking Exum makes sense if they find an attractive offer for last year’s ROY. -AKM
4. Orlando Magic – Marcus Smart, 6’3″ 227 lbs, So – Smart’s immense physicality and wingspan allow him to defend both guard positions, making him a fit in just about any team’s backcourt. And he also has enough play making ability to run the point, which would allow last year’s lottery pick Victor Oladipo to start at shooting guard should they find a taker for incumbent starter Aaron Afflalo. A Smart/Oladipo backcourt could be one of the most dynamic young duos in the league. -AKM
5. Utah Jazz – Noah Vonleh, 6’9″ 247 lbs, Fr – Embiid’s injury ripple effect will continue to throw a wrench in the early lottery, and the Jazz will have to take a good look at Embiid should he be available at 5. But ultimately Vonleh, who has tremendous length and can hit the outside shot, could be a more natural fit alongside athletic big man Derrick Favors. Favors was mentioned in trade rumors that had the Jazz gunning for a top 2 pick, but Vonleh would be a great consolation prize should their plans of moving up not materialize. -AKM
6. Boston Celtics – Joel Embiid, 7’0″ 240 lbs, Fr – The Celtics coveted Embiid pre-injury, and were supposedly putting out feelers to trade up for him. In a cruel twist of fate Embiid could fall right into Boston’s lap, but not even suit up for them next season. Despite the potential for him to miss the entire 2014-15 year, the Celtics rebuilding project could be advanced by taking a supreme talent like Embiid, even if the payoff is delayed. -AKM
7. Los Angeles Lakers – Aaron Gordon, 6’9″ 220 lbs, Fr – Gordon and his family would certainly be ecstatic to have him return to the state of California, but the Lakers might be more excited to land the star forward. With much of LA’s roster in flux right now, Gordon could potentially get big minutes from day one while learning from hall of famers in Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash. Arizona fans should hope that wherever Gordon lands, he can slot into a significant role and play major minutes. That could happen in LA. -AKM
8. Sacramento Kings- Julius Randle, 6’9″ 250 lbs, Fr – This is really as far as Randle realistically should fall, but there are legitimate concerns about the screw in his right foot that was put in place after his senior year of high school, enough to scare away teams with top picks. If he stays healthy, he would be a steal for a Sacramento team looking for a post sidekick to DeMarcus Cousins. But the Kings have also been one of the most active teams on the trade market, and could easily ship this pick out to net a veteran to contribute immediately alongside Cousins and Rudy Gay, who recently opted into his contract. -AKM
9. Charlotte Hornets – Doug McDermott, 6’8″ 218 lbs, Sr – After a brilliant career at Creighton, McDermott proved to be one of the best scorers in the college game. And that’s precisely what will get him drafted in the top 10. Charlotte is in desperate need of outside shooting, McDermott’s forte. With big man Al Jefferson commanding defensive attention in the paint, a shooter to space the floor is the perfect system fit. -AKM
10. Philadelphia 76ers- Nik Stauskas, 6’6″ 207 lbs, So – Just like McDermott to Charlotte at 9, Stauskas makes sense for a Philly team with plenty of holes. Even with Carter-Williams and Exum in the fold for the 76ers, Stauskas’ sharp shooting could carve out an important role in that backcourt. And as we said before, if Philadelphia gets a good enough offer for Carter-Williams, Stauskas could slot into the starting SG role. -AKM
11. Denver Nuggets- Elfrid Payton, 6’4″ 185 lbs, Jr – No one’s stock has risen as rapidly as Payton’s, coming from the University of Louisiana-Lafayette. With great height and length, Payton fits the trend for tall point guards. A limited shooter, Payton does his damage in space. Many have Payton cracking the top 10, which could very well happen. -AKM
12. Orlando Magic- James Young 6’7″ 213 lbs, Fr – In this scenario the Orlando Magic already added Smart to their core built around youngsters Oladipo and Nikola Vucevic. Now their biggest need becomes adding a scoring wing. Young fits the bill, as he’s shown the ability to score in many ways. His outside shooting along with his sneaky athleticism is what makes him a very intriguing prospect and a good get at 12. In a few years a Smart/Oladipo/Young trio could be killer on the perimeter. -BD
13. Minnesota Timberwolves – Rodney Hood, 6’8″ 208 lbs, So – With Kevin Love trade rumors swirling in Minnesota, the front office has an important pick to focus on here. Adding Hood’s shooting stroke along with his ability to get to the rim will help them right away. Whether or not they trade Love, Hood is a talented wing that will give point guard Ricky Rubio another target from the perimeter. -BD
14. Phoenix Suns- TJ Warren, 6’8″ 220 lbs, So – The Suns are absolutely loaded with 3 first rounders in this year’s draft. It’s very unlikely that they end up keeping all three of their picks, so look for them to be heavily involved in trade rumors in the coming hours. TJ Warren would fit in well with Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe, aka the “Slash Brothers.” Warren is a gifted scorer and would benefit immensely playing under coach Jeff Hornacek. -BD
15. Atlanta Hawks- Gary Harris, 6’4″ 205 lbs, So – The Hawks would love for Gary Harris to fall to them here. Harris is a talented two-way guard that would fit in perfectly alongside Jeff Teague in their backcourt. Atlanta has also been involved in trade rumors and could move this pick, but if they keep this pick and Harris is available then you better believe they won’t pass him up. -BD
16. Chicago Bulls- Tyler Ennis, 6’2″ 182 lbs, Fr – There’s a very good chance Chicago tries to trade up in the 8-11 range, but if they can’t pull that off then look for them to take a point guard with one of their picks. Ennis makes the most sense and would be an insurance policy for Derrick Rose’s knees. Even with Rose healthy, it would be good to have a young, talented leader like Ennis off the bench to develop behind the veterans in Chicago. -BD
17. Boston Celtics- Zach LaVine, 6’6″ 181 lbs, Fr – Boston has been involved in a ton of trade rumors, so this pick could be moved on or before draft day. If they hold on to it then LaVine would be a nice fit and a decent value at 17. LaVine has a lot of upside, but will take years to develop. It’s a risky pick, but one GM Danny Ainge could be willing to take this deep into the first round. -BD
18. Phoenix Suns- Adreian Payne, 6’10” 239 lbs, Sr –The Suns added TJ Warren with their first pick, so now look for them to take either a forward or point guard (if Ennis or Payton were to fall here) at this point of the draft. Payne doesn’t have a lot of upside, but he’s a solid stretch four that would fit right into the Suns offense. He wouldn’t be relied on too heavy with the Morris twins, Frye (FA), Plumlee and Len in the mix, but he would see some significant minutes in his first year and could be a steady contributor for years to come. -BD
NOTE 1: While some recent full mock drafts have not included Nick Johnson, our sources tell us that there are plenty of NBA decision makers who look at Johnson as a value pick should he be available later in the draft. What’s most important to watch for is team fit — if a team with a need for a defensive point guard is on the clock with Johnson on the board, it could be a good fit. That’s especially true for teams that also have ball handlers at shooting guard and small forward.
NOTE 2: At the time this was written, there were issues regarding foreign prospect Jusuf Nurkic’s buyout from his Adriatic League team, causing him to fall out of our top 18. With recent news that Nurkic’s buyout has been resolved, expect to see the 6’10” 280 lb center get back into the late lottery range.