2014 NBA Mock Draft: Predicting How 1st Round Shakes Out, Midseason Edition
Though we've been praising the projected 2014 NBA draft class for its potential star power at the top, maybe it's time we start appreciating it for its depth.
There are standout prospects all across the board, and it seems like any team with a first-round pick should have a great chance to land a rotation player.
This week, it's Indiana's Noah Vonleh, Creighton's Doug McDermott, Michigan's Nik Stauskas and Arizona's Nick Johnson who've made significant jumps up the board.
The draft order has been generated based on current NBA standings, and all previous trades have been taken into account.
If you're the Milwaukee Bucks, you're not looking to fill a position—you're looking for the best prospect on the board.
And at this point, that looks like Kansas freshman Joel Embiid, whose offensive promise and defensive impact have helped separate him from the pack.
He's emerged as a go-to option in the post, where he can shake and bake for a bucket or fire darts to open shooters. Jump hooks, up-and-unders, spins, 15-foot jumpers—Embiid has a deep arsenal of moves with the footwork and touch to pull them off.
Defensively, he's taking over games and shrinking the size of the rim he's defending.
You probably can't lose with Jabari Parker or Andrew Wiggins, but neither are capable of making the same two-way impact as Embiid.
He's averaging 11.2 points, 7.4 boards and 2.8 blocks in only 22.5 minutes of action.
If he can come this far having only played three years of organized ball, just imagine how far he can go with NBA coaching.
Jabari Parker has relocated the zone, averaging 18.7 points over his last four games (Pittsburgh, Florida State, Miami, Virginia) following a rough stretch earlier in the month.
He's even owned the glass as of late, bringing in double-digit rebounds in three of those four games.
Parker's three-ball has actually fallen below 40 percent, but it's good to see he's still scoring without it. He's been getting to the line at a much better rate, using that physical body inside instead of just settling for jumpers on the perimeter.
With February approaching, Parker is averaging 18.8 points and 8.1 boards on 38.2 percent shooting from downtown.
If I'm Orlando, I'm taking the surest thing left and the most NBA-ready option on the board. We'll go ahead and make Parker our favorite for 2015 Rookie of the Year.
Andrew Wiggins is quietly coming off his best statistical game of the year, finishing with 27 points, five boards and five assists against TCU.
When Wiggins is engaged, he can really start to cook. He's not a bad shooter, and as a player who thrives on rhythm and confidence, one made jumper can often lead to another.
And there isn't anyone in college basketball quicker and slicker attacking the rim. He has to become a better finisher in traffic, but you hope that will come with added strength and repetition.
Though Wiggins might be disappointing to some, his superstar upside remains intact. We've seen flashes of brilliance—it's just a matter of converting those flashes into every-game occurrences.
For a Philadelphia 76ers team in no rush to win a title, Wiggins is the perfect option with Joel Embiid and Jabari Parker off the board. He's averaging 15.8 points and six boards a game on the year.
You can bet a whole slew of NBA general managers pumped their fists this past week when Dante Exum told ESPN he'll be declaring for the draft.
Exum has been considered a can't-miss prospect after his dominant performances at the 2012 and 2013 FIBA World Championships, as well as at the 2013 Nike Hoops Summit.
A sensational athlete with abnormal size for a ball-handler, Exum has the chance to evolve into one of the toughest covers in the league.
Play him at the point or off the ball as a 2—he's a mismatch at either position with a skill set built for both. Exum can flat-out take over games, both as a scorer and playmaker.
Whether the Boston Celtics keep Rajon Rondo or not, Exum still makes sense, given his backcourt versatility and towering NBA ceiling.
Marcus Smart has looked a bit flustered as of late, with his team now losing two of its last three. He even lost his composure at one point, unleashing a vicious mid-game karate kick to a chair out of frustration.
But with Smart, we're talking about the ultimate competitor. And that fire he plays with actually adds to his appeal.
Smart isn't your traditional point guard—he's a playmaker, one you can typically trust to make the right play at the right time. He runs the offense, gets to the rack and locks down on defense.
But at the end of the day, it's Smart's ability to make his teammates better that distinguishes him as a player. And that sounds like just the type of guy the Sacramento Kings could use in the draft.
Smart is averaging 17.3 points, 5.7 boards and 4.4 assists on the year, and he should be locked in as a top-six pick from now until June 26.
Noah Vonleh has been showing off the complete package as of late. Already a premier rebounder and talented post player, Vonleh has recently taken his game out to the three-point arc. He's now hit nine of his last 12 attempts from downtown.
He's become a true inside-outside threat, and at 6'10'' with a massive 7'4'' wingspan and 240-pound frame, Vonleh has a sensational basketball body.
Indiana doesn't go to him often enough, so his offensive numbers have been kept in check. But the talent, skill set and potential here are just too obvious.
At 18 years old, Vonleh is almost a year younger than Julius Randle. And at this point, based on his upside and the lack of uncertainty surrounding it, he's looking like the safer option on draft night.
Vonleh is averaging 12 points and 9.6 boards in only 25 minutes a game. Expect his touches to increase as the season moves along.
Defenses are starting to adjust to Julius Randle, who hasn't been able to dominate lately on a game-by-game basis.
He finished with just six points and five boards on 3-of-11 shooting in a loss to LSU. Questions have begun to arise concerning Randle's eventual transition to the pros—with short arms for a big man, he's only totaled 16 blocks and eight steals through 20 games, and he's had trouble finishing over length.
We also haven't seen much of a perimeter game, as he's just 2-of-11 from downtown on the year.
Randle is still a beast at the college level. He's averaging 16.1 points and 10.2 boards. And while his defensive ceiling might be limited, there's no denying his presence as an interior scorer and rebounder.
But the fact is that there are questions, ones I don't have to ask about Indiana's Noah Vonleh, who has officially leapfrogged Randle on our board.
Still, if I'm the Cavs at No. 7, I'm thrilled with Randle, who offers an enticing combination of NBA-readiness and long-term upside.
Gary Harris has established himself as one of the rocks in this draft—a guy you just know is going to produce, whether it's as a supporting cast member or future starter.
Harris has expanded his game off the dribble this year. We've recently seen him create and make shots on the perimeter with the pull-up and step-back jumper, and he's getting to the line 5.2 times a game, up from 2.9 a season ago.
Prior to an off-night against Iowa, Harris went for 27 points against Michigan, 24 against Indiana and 23 against Illinois in back-to-back-to-back games. He's also been playing lockdown defense on and off the ball.
I'm not sure Harris has the upside of some of the other top-tier prospects, but he's a good bet to make a rotation and play a significant long-term role.
If I'm the Jazz, I view Harris as a guy who can come in next year and immediately compete for that 2-guard spot.
Zach LaVine is all about upside.
He's coming off UCLA's bench at the moment, but in limited doses, his blend of world-class athleticism, 6'5'' size, ball-handling skills and outside touch is hard to miss.
The NBA loves lengthy athletes who can shoot. And LaVine has been absolutely lethal from behind the arc, shooting 46.7 percent.
But what adds that extra height to LaVine's ceiling is his playmaking potential. Rarely does UCLA give him the freedom to create, but when the opportunity comes, we've seen him dazzle off the dribble.
LaVine recently dropped a season-high six assists against Stanford. He's got a quick first step and tight command of the ball, and he's shown the ability to weave between the defense and get to his spots on the floor.
The Denver Nuggets could use some backcourt firepower, along with a high-upside guy like LaVine to add to their core.
Doug McDermott has been riding a hot streak that's now lasted three consecutive seasons.
He just dropped 39 points against St. John's, with three of those points coming on the game-winner in the closing seconds.
McDermott just has an uncanny ability to score the ball, even if it means playing without it. His basketball IQ is off the charts—despite lacking quickness or athleticism, McDermott always seems to find a way to position himself for a bucket.
He's currently averaging 25 points a game while shooting 50 percent from the field, 43.9 percent from downtown and 89.3 percent from the stripe.
While there might be some debate over his upside, there's no question he still has something valuable to offer.
The Bobcats could use a wing who can actually put the ball in the hole, which will ultimately be McDermott's specialty as an NBA small forward. I just can't get enough of the Wally Szczerbiak comparison.
Dario Saric is having a huge year abroad—he's No. 3 in the Adriatic League in scoring, No. 1 in rebounding and No. 2 in steals per game.
He's arguably the most versatile prospect on the board. At 6'10'', Saric can put it on the floor, own the glass, facilitate from the wing and knock down three-pointers.
Saric was attracting lottery interest a year ago, and that was before he started producing in bulk. Look for his name to resurface once again as we inch closer to the draft.
Rodney Hood has been awfully good offensively, combining that deadly, lefty three-point stroke with a deceptive off-the-dribble game. You can't leave him open, and if played too tightly, Hood can put it on the deck and score on the move.
He's also a threat to score with his back to the rim, and at 6'8'', he's got great size for the wing and enough to finish plays inside.
Minnesota could really use a versatile shot-maker like Hood who can score without needing to dance with the ball. Think Rashard Lewis as a best-case projection.
Hood is averaging 17.4 points on 44.8 percent shooting from downtown.
Nothing seems to faze Tyler Ennis. He appears to be in complete command of his offense, regardless of the conditions.
Ennis took over down the stretch of a tight game against Pittsburgh, and he ignited a winning Syracuse run in the second half against Miami.
He's not the biggest, fastest or most athletic, but Ennis just takes the right steps at the right speeds. He has a timely hesitation dribble, which he uses to manipulate the defense and penetrate its perimeter.
And with unteachable offensive instincts, he's constantly creating looks for shooters and hitting them in rhythm.
Ennis' feel for the position is as good as it gets, and if I'm a team looking for a point guard outside the top five, there's no question as to which player I'm targeting.
The Magic would come out major winners on draft night if they were able to get Ennis as their second lottery selection.
Aaron Gordon is still figuring out his place in the game, playing the role as an opportunistic scorer in Arizona's offense.
You won't see many plays called for him unless it's a backdoor lob at the rim. That's because at this point, Gordon doesn't have a threatening post game, nor is he a threat to create off the dribble.
He's an excellent passer, versatile defender, strong rebounder and reliable finisher. But without many moves or an established true position, I'm not sure his upside is as high as it once seemed.
It might be safer to view Gordon as a first-class role player instead of the franchise cornerstone many thought he'd be.
There's no mystery as to what James Young brings to the NBA table. At 6'6'', Young is an active end-to-end athlete with a sharp shooting stroke.
It's a combination that never fails.
Young picks up 2.4 buckets a game from behind the arc, where he can heat up and score in bunches. He also scores by slashing in the half court and by picking up easy open-floor buckets.
We haven't seen Young do much creating, but that doesn't appear to be his forte. He's averaging 14.7 points for Kentucky as a spot-up threat and a weapon attacking the rim.
For the Bulls at No. 15, Young looks like the top option on the board, one they could use to finish plays on offense and make some on defense.
At this point, Jerami Grant is still limited offensively. But with that length and athleticism, he's capable of making plays around the hoop that make you question what you saw.
Grant is a highlight waiting to happen once a ball is loose above the rim. He'll get you at least one easy bucket a game on a putback slam.
And with a 7'2'' wingspan, he draws a ton of fouls (6.1 per game) for guy who can't really create his own shot.
He's also started hitting mid-range jumpers late in January, and though he still hasn't made a three-pointer all year, progress is progress.
Grant has tremendous physical tools and defensive potential. He'd move up about 10 spots if he could just stretch the floor, seemingly a requirement these days for NBA small forwards.
The Hawks could certainly use his length and athleticism on the wing and at the rim.
Nick Johnson has emerged as one of the top players in college basketball, and he's becoming tough to ignore on the NBA draft front.
He's averaging 16.7 points a game on 49.8 percent shooting, an awfully efficient number for a 6'3'' combo guard. That might have something to do with Johnson's ridiculous leaping ability. He gets insane elevation, which allows him to shoot over defenses or wait for the challenge to fade before releasing.
A high-IQ guard and dynamic playmaker, Johnson is the engine that's making the No. 1 team in the country go.
For the first half of the year, I had classified Johnson as a 2015 prospect. But if Arizona goes on a deep run in the tournament, and it's Johnson who leads it, another year at school might not be necessary.
The Bulls could use some backcourt firepower, and Johnson has the ability to provide that spark.
Willie Cauley-Stein's erratic play has dropped him down the board, given consistency was expected from a returning rotation player.
He didn't have a double-digit rebound game in January. And only once in that span did he block more than two shots in a game.
Without an offensive game to go to, disappearing on the glass or defensive end isn't a good look.
Still, you just can't teach this blend of size, athleticism and mobility. When he's locked in, he's capable of changing a game by owning the glass, protecting the rim and finishing plays around it.
If an NBA coaching staff finds a way to tap into all that talent, they'd get a steal 18 picks deep.
Who knows what the future holds for Alex Len—with a couple of draft picks, the Suns should jump on the chance to land the only 7-footer, outside of Joel Embiid, who'll be worth a first-round pick.
Nik Stauskas has taken his game to a new level this season. He's recently been on a tear. Stauskas went for 23 points in a win over Wisconsin, 26 points in a win over Iowa and 19 points in a win over Michigan State. That's three top-10 opponents Stauskas just ripped through.
This year, he's become a dangerous scoring threat off the dribble, whether he's pulling back from 22 feet or getting to the rack.
Stauskas is even taking 6.1 free throws a game, more than Duke's Jabari Parker.
And while he's added to his game and maintained his lethal outside stroke (46.2 percent shooting from downtown), it's his basketball IQ that really separates him. Stauskas is averaging nearly 3.8 assists—he's an outstanding passer, and he has the ability to play within an offense.
A team like the Celtics might want to target Stauskas' size, scoring touch and offensive discipline, three things they don't get much of at the 2-guard position.
A natural pass-first point guard with eyes in the back of his head, Vasilije Micic has been putting up some notable numbers overseas.
He's coming off one of his bigger games of the year; he finished with 18 points and seven assists in a 16-point win over Zadar.
At 20 years old, Micic is now third in the Adriatic League in assists. He's got excellent size and instincts for the position, drawing comparisons to Dallas Mavericks guard Jose Calderon.
With Kyle Lowry's future in Toronto uncertain, Micic could be a sneaky replacement.
Glenn Robinson III has been up and down this year, but the ups have been high enough to keep our attention. He's really a terrific athlete with an NBA-level skill set—Robinson has a sharp pull-up game, a spot-up jumper and the slashing tools to effectively attack driving lanes.
He also has big-time defensive potential. Robinson has all the pieces. For him, it's just a matter of putting them all together.
I'd consider Robinson a hit-or-miss prospect on draft night. For a team like the Thunder, who can afford a miss, Robinson would be a nice upside pick at No. 21.
Montrezl Harrell has been a lot more active as of late. He's now racked up double-doubles in four of his last five games.
Harrell packs a devastating punch of size, power, length and athleticism. He sometimes gives off the impression he's dunking on a nine-foot rim.
He plays above the box, and though his offensive game is limited, Harrell is still a high-percentage target around the hoop, while we've seen signs of an elbow jumper sprinkled in throughout the year.
After playing just 16.2 minutes per game as a freshman, Harrell is averaging 12.1 points, 8.5 boards and 1.2 blocks on 62.7 percent shooting.
It didn't take long for P.J. Hairston to adjust to D-League competition. He went for 22 points and six steals in his debut, and he followed that by dropping 40 on 14-of-24 shooting.
After essentially getting the boot from North Carolina, Hairston is using a different stage to help boost his stock. It worked for Glen Rice Jr. in 2013, who joined the Rio Grande Valley Vipers after he was kicked off the team at Georgia Tech. Rice ended up going in the second round, but Hairston has a more concentrated skill set that should attract first-round attention.
Hairston is a sniper from downtown, and at 6'6'', he's a strong, physical athlete who can get to the rack and overwhelm defensively.
Unless he disappoints during the pre-draft interview process, his game should be worth a top-25 look. Given how small Phoenix is in the backcourt, a sizable guard like Hairston could make for a nice complementary option.
It's about time. Chris Walker has finally been cleared from a suspension that's kept him out of Florida's first 19 games of the year,, via Jeff Goodman of ESPN.
“I appreciate all the support from UF, Coach Donovan and my teammates, and I'm looking forward to helping the team any way I can,” Walker said in a statement, via Jeff Borzello of CBS Sports.
It's big for Florida and it's big for Walker, who can now get to show scouts what made him a McDonald's All-American.
He's an incredible athlete at 6'10'', though his physical tools are expected to be far ahead of his skill set.
Walker is likely a project, but he's one that could be worth investing in if he shows enough promise over the next month.
Adreian Payne has missed his last six games with a foot injury, but that won't erase the strides he'd made earlier in the year.
He now has an outside jumper to pair with his monster 6'10'' frame. Before going down, Payne had been averaging 16.2 points and 7.7 boards, and he'd already hit more threes than he did his entire freshman, sophomore and junior years combined.
Now, he can present himself as a pick-and-pop forward who can spread the floor and bang down low.
T.J. Warren has been a scoring machine for North Carolina State, averaging 22.1 points on 50.6 percent shooting.
He just has a knack for putting the ball in the hoop. Warren scores in a variety of different ways, whether it's by attacking the rim, pulling up in space or pushing the ball on the secondary break.
It's a little disappointing to see his three-ball hasn't worked; he's only shooting 22.6 from downtown. But his scoring average doesn't lie. Warren knows how to get buckets, and that's not something you can always teach.
A team looking for some cheap offensive production, like the Bobcats, might want to give Warren a look in the late first round.
Kyle Anderson is putting up some wild numbers at UCLA. He's averaging 15.5 points, nine boards and 6.7 assists, which sort of makes sense when you consider Anderson is a 6'9'' point guard.
He moves at his own pace out there. Anderson isn't very quick or athletic, but he's got a tremendous feel for the position, and he knows how to keep his man on his hip.
He's also improved dramatically as a shooter. After only hitting eight three-pointers as a freshman, he's already nailed 18 as a sophomore, while his mid-range game looks a whole lot crisper.
Anderson offers huge reward if he's able to make the transition and handle the speed at point guard. I'm just not sure how effective he'll be as an NBA small forward.
Either way, with the numbers he's putting up, I'd say it's worth finding out.
Sam Dekker has fallen down our board a little bit. Despite his 14.2-point-per-game average, he's only shooting 31.9 percent from downtown, and his stroke just doesn't always seem fluid.
He's a good-looking athlete and high-IQ player with a versatile half-court game. He can make shots in a variety of different ways—spotting up, over the shoulder, in the post, on the move.
And though Dekker doesn't create many shots for himself, he's done a nice job of scoring opportunistically and finishing the plays that come his way.
Still, a shaky outside stroke changes everything, given his inability to create. Dekker will need that three-ball working for him on the regular once he reaches the next level.
C.J. Wilcox will enter the draft wearing a "three-point specialist" label.
He's making three threes a game at a 42.4 percent clip. Wilcox averages 19.6 points a game, and only 3.2 of them come from the stripe.
His jumper is his money-maker.
There could be a couple of playoff teams out there looking for an NBA-ready skill like shooting. And given his four-year track record at Washington (up to 275 career threes), Wilcox could be a strong late-first-round candidate.
Though we had to find out the hard way, it's pretty obvious now that James Michael McAdoo is a hard 4—not a combo forward or 3.
He's been playing much better this year by sticking to his strengths. After shooting below 45 percent as a freshman and sophomore, McAdoo is converting at a 49 percent clip as a junior thanks to an improved shot selection.
He's getting to the line 8.2 times a game, a significant boost from the 4.8 free throws a game he took last year.
And though it's still a work in progress, McAdoo has definitely shown some promise with his mid-range jumper.
Considering he was once projected as a top-five pick, it might be worth buying low on a possible late bloomer.