SiriusXM NBA Radio host Justin Termine predicts the top 10 selections in the 2014 NBA Draft.
When the NBA Finals ended with Game 5 in San Antonio, and the Spurs won their fifth title of the Tim Duncan-Gregg Popovich regime, that’s when the real season began for us on SiriusXM NBA Radio. The actual games are the reason we love basketball, but for most people there’s nothing better than speculating on who’s out there to help their team become the next Bulls, Celtics, Lakers or Spurs dynasty. That’s fun every year – and especially this year. Carmelo Anthony is a free agent, Kevin Love is seeking a trade, decisions await Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, and LeBron James just opted out, creating an offseason that could reshape the NBA. That reshaping starts Thursday night from the Barclays Center, with the 2014 Draft. A draft, by the way, that is considered one of the deepest in recent memory.
At some point down the line, I’m sure I’ll write about where I think Melo, LeBron, and Love (if he’s not traded on draft night) will end up, but for now, we start things off with a mock draft of this year’s top 10 picks …
1. CLEVELAND CAVALIERS: JABARI PARKER
Until last week, this spot was reserved for Joel Embiid. Following foot surgery for Embiid to repair a stress fracture in the navicular bone (the same injury that plagued Bill Walton, and ended the career of Yao Ming), plans have changed in Cleveland. There are reports that Parker had a disappointing workout for the Cavs and showed up overweight, but he is the most NBA-ready player, and the safest best. After several mistakes at the top in recent years, “safe” is important for Dan Gilbert.
2. MILWAUKEE BUCKS: ANDREW WIGGINS
Outside of Embiid, Wiggins has the highest upside in the draft. He’ll step in right from the start, and is one of the top five athletes in the draft. He’s long, he’s quick, and he’s already a menace on defense. If you want someone who can score in the open floor, this guy may soon turn into the best in the league. But I’m concerned about his half-court offense, ball-handling, and as Bill Self has already expressed, his pension for floating. He may not be worthy of the nickname “Maple Jordan,” but all those that pass could regret it.
3. PHILADELPHIA 76ERS: JOEL EMBIID
I haven’t seen a report for from his doctor, and even if I did I wouldn’t know how to read it, so this is based on him missing next year, but not at risk of anything major down the road. If Sam Hinkie were willing to wait for Nerlens Noel, he’ll certainly be willing to wait a season for Embiid. He’s the best player in this draft – scouts are saying it, GMs are saying it, and my co-host Mike Dunleavy Sr. has been saying it for months. You don’t pass up on a guy who could be the most dominant center in the game, when having the best player at that position guarantees championships. (See: Russell, Wilt, Kareem, Walton, Moses, Hakeem, Shaq, Duncan.) Just imagine trying to score on a front-line of Embiid and Noel once the duo is healthy.
4. ORLANDO MAGIC: DANTE EXUM
Rob Hennigan is keeping his fingers crossed he doesn’t have to make a decision on Embiid. If Exum is around, he’s the guy. As a 6’6 point guard, he’s the perfect complement to Victor Oladipo. With Exum, the smaller Olidipo can guard the PG while playing at the two on the offensive end. From what I’ve heard out at the pre-draft camp and just hanging around smart basketball people who have seen him play (I haven’t), this could be the steal of the draft.
5. UTAH JAZZ: NOAH VONLEH
Utah is feverishly trying to trade up to No. 1 with Cleveland, and is said to be offering this pick and Derrick Favors so they can select Parker. If they can’t, I think Vonleh is the pick. Yes he’s a big, and Utah already has Favors and Enes Kanter, but unlike them, Vonleh can stretch the floor with outside touch.
6. BOSTON CELTICS: AARON GORDON
If doctor reports don’t indicate Embiid is set to be the next Bill Walton or Yao Ming, then this is as far as he drops. Unlike all the GMs ahead of him, Danny Ainge is a gambler, and maybe one of the most secure decision-makers in the game. He can afford to screw up. If Embiid is off the board, as I suspect, I think the pick is Gordon. Gordon is one of the most athletic players in the draft, and while his outside shot is far below par, it’s something his work ethic may help alleviate down the road.
7. LOS ANGELES LAKERS: JULIUS RANDLE
If you asked me at the beginning of the year where I thought Randle would land, I would have said top 3 or 4. Now, he falls back to seven, but I don’t think it’s any of his doing. I still think he ends up being one of the top three or four players in this draft. He’s a bull dog with a competitive edge, and has far more athleticism and ball-handling skills than his most-used comparison, Zach Randolph.
8. SACRAMENTO KINGS: MARCUS SMART
Like the Cavs, Jazz, Lakers and Celtics, the Kings are another team that has been rumored to be in the hunt to trade their pick. If they keep the pick, they go with the best player left on the board. To me, that’s clearly Smart. Perhaps the second overall pick this year, Smart gives the Kings an over-sized PG with some toughness.
9. CHARLOTTE HORNETS: DOUG MCDERMOTT
Charlotte needs shooting. They can find that with either McDermott or Nik Stauskas. I believe they’re fine with either one, but because he’s slightly bigger I think McDermott comes off the board first.
10. 76ERS: DARIO SARIC
Most mock drafts have him falling to the mid- to late first round because of his new three-year deal in Turkey, but ff Saric is really as good as they say (an athletic 6’10 forward who can put the ball on the floor and in the hoop), then I don’t see why the Sixers don’t keep rolling the dice. If Philadelphia is willing to wait on Embiid next season, and I think they are, then why not wait two more seasons for Saric to come over from Europe? If he keeps banking on the future, Hinkie may not be around to see it, but regardless, the future could be bright.
Of course I expect and hope for several trades on draft night, so the likelihood of me hitting on each one of these picks is the same as Mateen Cleaves returning to playing weight. Other guys who could easily crack the top 10: Stauskas, Jusuf Nurkic, Gary Harris, and the quickly rising Elfrid Payton.
Mike Dunleavy and myself will sit down with every pick on hand at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Thursday Night. It’s always one of my favorite nights of the year. Listen to coverage on SiriusXM NBA Radio.