FOX Sports North’s Phil Ervin takes a crack at predicting the first round of Thursday’s 2014 NBA Draft.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Andrew Wiggins, SG/SF, Kansas
With Embiid’s stock dropping due to a stress fracture in his foot, Jayhawks teammate Andrew Wiggins becomes the top prospect in the draft. The Cavs can grab him unless they opt to deal the draft’s first pick.
2. Milwaukee Bucks: Jabari Parker, SF/PF, Duke
The team that entered the lottery with the best chance of landing the No. 1 overall pick can afford to go with a best-available approach. Unless Wiggins is still on the board at No. 2, that’s Parker.
3. Philadelphia 76ers: Dante Exum, PG/SG, Australia
The Sixers already have their point guard of the future — and present — in 2013-14 rookie of the year Michael Carter-Williams. But that shouldn’t prohibit them from taking Exum; that’d give them the option of playing him behind or alongside Carter-Williams or dealing one of the two to build depth at another position.
4. Orlando Magic: Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma State
Many experts called Smart an NBA-ready prospect after his freshman season in Stillwater. But the 20-year-old stayed an extra year in college and now could work his way into the top five, especially if the Magic plan on trading or letting go of Jameer Nelson, who has an $8 million team option on his contract for next season.
The Jazz could use a small forward in order to put Gordon Hayward back at shooting guard, but there’s not a top-five one left on the board after Wiggins and Parker. Power forward is also a position of need, though, and Randle’s as electrifying of an addition as Utah can get in this spot.
6. Boston Celtics: Joel Embiid, PF, Kansas
Embiid’s injury woes are expected to push him down the ranks, but letting him fall past sixth would be foolish on the Celtics’ part. They need another post player to firm up the frontcourt — especially with Brandon Bass’ contract expiring after the 2014-15 season — and Embiid, if healthy, could turn into a phenom on a team hoping to rebuild quickly.
7. Los Angeles Lakers: Aaron Gordon, PF, Arizona
The Lakers have a total of four players under contract for next season. They’re not at all bound, then, by any particular position of need and instead can take the remaining player with the most talent.
Simply put, the Kings need a shooter. There may not be a better one in the draft than McDermott, who graduated as the NCAA’s No. 5 all-time leading scorer.
9. Charlotte Hornets (from Detroit): Nik Stauskas, SG, Michigan
The defensive-minded Hornets need a No. 3 scorer behind Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson. While the ideal fit may be more of a small forward, Stauskas and his shooting ability are too much for the purple-and-teal to pass up.
10. Philadelphia (from New Orleans): Jusuf Nurkic, C, Bosnia
With two top-10 picks, there’s a good chance the Sixers do some draft-night dealing. But if they don’t, Nurkic is an option that can add to their frontcourt.
11. Denver Nuggets: Tyler Ennis, PG, Syracuse
Ty Lawson has become one of the most formidable point guards in the NBA. But even he needs a rest every once in a while; Ennis, a well-rounded point guard, could provide it.
12. Orlando Magic (from New York via Denver): Noah Vonleh, PF/C, Indiana
Having addressed one of two main needs with Smart with the No. 4 pick, Orlando can turn its attention toward the post. Vonleh is a long, beefy big man that can score inside and out and has the size to be a rim protector at the other end of the floor.
13. Minnesota Timberwolves: Adreian Payne, PF, Michigan State
The Wolves could use a small forward. Or a point guard to back up Ricky Rubio. But with Kevin Love likely on his way out the door and Dante Cunningham hitting unrestricted free agency, Minnesota stands to face a gaping hole at power forward it can help address with Payne.
14. Phoenix Suns: Clint Capela, PF, Switzerland
The chance the Suns hang on to all three of their first-round picks is about as good as the Spurs winning the draft lottery next year. They don’t necessarily need a power forward, but for prediction’s sake, we’ll use Capela to represent them taking a lottery-level talent and trading him on or after draft night.
15. Atlanta Hawks: James Young, SG/SF, Kentucky
Young seems like a fit in Atlanta’s wing rotation alongside Kyle Korver, Lou Williams, John Jenkins and DeMarre Carroll. He’s also one of the best two-way players in the draft, with potent athleticism and the effort level to maximize it.
16. Chicago Bulls (from Charlotte): Rodney Hood, SF, Duke
Chicago has a scoring point guard in Derrick Rose (when he’s healthy). It has perhaps the league’s best defender in Joakim Noah. But some more wing scoring would greatly behoove the Bulls’ long-term outlook; enter Hood, who can play either forward position and scored 16.1 points per game and made nearly half his shot attempts (42 percent of his 3s) last season as a sophomore.
17. Boston Celtics (from Brooklyn): Garry Harris, SG, Michigan State
Avery Bradley becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer and may be too expensive for the Celtics to retain. Harris might not replace him in the rotation right away, but he could eventually.
Again, anything could happen to the Suns’ slew of 2014 picks. But they are in need of a point guard behind the backcourt combination of Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe, assuming neither of them are traded — perhaps along with a draft pick Thursday — this offseason.
19. Chicago Bulls: Zach LaVine, SG, UCLA
There’s a fine chance LaVine goes higher than this, perhaps even in the middle of the lottery. But if he’s available at 19, the Bulls or any other non-lottery team would be wise to take him.
In a draft class riper at the center position, McGary could me more of a high second-round possibility. But because it’s not, and because Jonas Valanciunas can’t play 48 minutes per game, McGary makes sense at 20 for Toronto.
21. Oklahoma City Thunder (from Dallas via Houston and Lakers): Shabazz Napier, PG, Connecticut
Russell Westbrook doesn’t need much help. But he does need a little with Derek Fisher gone to coach the New York Knicks. A senior who just won a national championship and can score despite his small stature, Napier might fit the bill if he’s not taken sooner.
22. Memphis Grizzlies: T.J. Warren, SF/PF, North Carolina State
Dave Joerger’s gritty, defensive-minded bunch could use a shooter like Warren. He made 52.5 percent of his field goals last year and scored 24.9 points per game — third-best in NCAA Division I.
23. Utah Jazz (from Golden State): K.J. McDaniels, SF, Clemson
The Jazz probably would like to walk away with a higher-profile small forward than McDaniels, but he may be the best one left by the time they draft again. He can score (17.1 points per game last year), rebound (7.1 per game) and defend (2.8 blocks and 1.1 steals per game) but isn’t the most effective outside shooter (30.4 percent from 3).
At one point North Carolina’s leading scorer, Hairston joined the D-League after being arrested for drug possession and losing his NCAA eligibility following an ensuing investigation. Playing in Charlotte would give him a second chance in his home state but also could prove a distraction given his past.
25. Houston Rockets: Jerami Grant, SF, Syracuse
The Rockets could go a number of ways near the bottom of this draft. But one of their biggest needs lies in perimeter defense; of the remaining first-round wing players, Grant has the best defensive upside.
26. Miami Heat: Jarnell Stokes, PF, Tennessee
A team drafting 26th doesn’t always have the pseudo-luxury of bypassing positional need. But with as wild of an offseason as it stands to be in South Beach — it’s already begun with reports of LeBron James planning to opt out — the Heat can go ahead and select whomever they feel can help them the soonest.
If there’s a hole in the Suns’ current rotation, it’s at small forward. Anderson can help plug it, though most of his damage comes from inside the 3-point arc.
28. Los Angeles Clippers: Walter Tavares, C, Cape Verde
Tavares may be a reach at 28, but the Clippers aren’t very deep at center behind DeAndre Jordan. With Jordan soaking up most of the minutes, perhaps a guy like Tavares can develop into a formidable off-the-bench post player.
29. Oklahoma City Thunder: Jordan Adams, SG, UCLA
Aside from replacing Fisher, the Thunder may need a new shooting guard if they don’t sign free agent Thabo Sefolosha. Adams likely wouldn’t start in his place right away but might be able to grow into that role if he’s still available at 29.
30. San Antonio Spurs: Dario Saric, SF/PF, Croatia
Even though it was recently announced Saric is playing overseas for two more seasons, he’s exactly the kind of player San Antonio has turned into a star. By the time he’d sign with the Spurs, their core of veteran players will likely be split up due to retirement.