With the NBA Draft less than three weeks away and prospect workouts in full swing, I offer up my predictions for the first 14 selections.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers
Joel Embiid, C, Kansas, Fr.
I had Embiid at No. 4 in my last mock draft, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that he’ll be among the top three off the board. The Cavs, like most teams, seem to be enamored with his athleticism and defensive potential.
2. Milwaukee Bucks
Jabari Parker, F, Duke, Fr.
All along, Parker has been viewed as the safest of the elite prospects. He’ll be ready to contribute immediately for a Bucks team in desperate need of scoring.
3. Philadelphia 76ers
Andrew Wiggins, G/F, Kansas, Fr.
Wiggins could just as easily be Milwaukee’s selection at No. 2, but the Sixers will be thrilled if he’s available here. He’s been their top target all along, with recent rumors even suggesting Philly would attempt to move up – possibly dealing Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams – to grab him.
4. Orlando Magic
Dante Exum, G, Australia
Exum’s stock may be on the decline, but selecting him still makes sense for Orlando. His size and versatility would enable Victor Oladipo to develop at either guard position.
5. Utah Jazz
Noah Vonleh, F, Indiana, Fr.
Impressive measurements and workouts push Vonleh ahead of Julius Randle as the first power forward off the board.
6. Boston Celtics
Julius Randle, F, Kentucky, Fr.
Short arms and so-so athleticism may knock the bulldozing Randle down a couple spots. But he’d team with Jared Sullinger in Boston to form an intriguing young forward combination.
7. Los Angeles Lakers
Marcus Smart, G, Oklahoma State, Soph.
Smart has been my projection here from the beginning. The tenacious, big-bodied guard would be a great fit if he’s available.
8. Sacramento Kings
Aaron Gordon, F, Arizona, Fr.
Rangy forward is still raw on the offensive end, but he’d be a perfect defensive complement to DeMarcus Cousins and a certain upgrade over Jason Thompson.
9. Charlotte Hornets (from DET)
Doug McDermott, F, Creighton, Sr.
Dropping McDermott out of the lottery in my last mock is looking like the wrong move. Charlotte is believed to have heavy interest in the four-year star.
10. Philadelphia 76ers (from NO)
Nik Stauskas, G, Michigan, Soph.
The Sixers were the worst three-point shooting team in the NBA last season. Stauskas is the best long-range shooter in the draft, and he displayed improved playmaking abilities in his second college season.
11. Denver Nuggets
Gary Harris, G, Michigan State, Soph.
Harris’ less-than-ideal size (6-3) may cause him to slip, but he could develop under Randy Foye as Denver’s shooting guard of the future.
12. Orlando Magic (from DEN)
Dario Saric, F, Croatia
Saric has been impressing scouts overseas for several years. Finally ready to make the jump to the NBA, his versatile skill set should make for a smooth transition.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves
Rodney Hood, F, Duke, Soph.
No one is quite sure what’s going to happen in Minnesota going forward, but Hood is a safe pick with the body to slot into the wing rotation immediately.
14. Phoenix Suns
James Young, G, Kentucky, Fr.
Young just looks like an NBA player (analysis!). At 6-6, he has prototypical size and doesn’t get nearly enough credit for his athleticism.