Last year’s rookie class was rather underwhelming, with only four players averaging 10+ points in their first year (Michael Carter-Williams, Victor Oladipo, Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr.). Carter-Wiliams (6.2 rebounds per game) was the top rebounder among all rookies…despite being a 6’6″ point guard! Of the first six overall picks, one missed the entire year due to an injury (Nerlens Noel) while three others scored less than five points per contest (Anthony Bennett, Otto Porter Jr., Alex Len). CHD’s Jon Teitel reviewed the first round and has made his predictions regarding who will succeed and who will fail (and why). Feel free to share your thoughts at the bottom.
1. Cleveland: Andrew Wiggins (SF-Kansas): with free agent SF Luol Deng headed out of town, Wiggins should step right in as the Cavs’ go-to scorer and has to be a favorite for ROY…assuming that Kyrie Irving is willing to share the ball.
2. Milwaukee: Jabari Parker (SF/PF-Duke): the Bucks were the worst team in the league last year, so you can probably pencil in Parker as a starter, although I am unsure if he can coexist with a former Tar Heel like future frontcourt teammate John Henson.
3. Philadelphia: Joel Embiid (C-Kansas): the hot rumor this weekend is that Embiid is going to miss the upcoming season, which sucks if it is true, but if there is anyone in the league who can teach him how to cope with sitting out for a year as a lottery pick, it is his new teammate Nerlens Noel.
4. Orlando: Aaron Gordon (PF-Arizona): as a Wildcat alum I knew that Gordon would go in the top-10, but never dreamed that he would be the fourth overall pick. After the Magic traded leading scorer Arron Afflalo to Denver the morning of the draft, Gordon will get to take a lot of shots as a great addition to an exciting 23-years-old-or-younger nucleus of Victor Oladipo, Tobias Harris, Nikola Vucevic.
5. Utah: Dante Exum (PG/SG-Australia): I hate when teams use first round picks on the same position in consecutive years, so if they want Exum to play point guard while Trey Burke sits then shame on the Jazz, and if they want to play them side-by-side and continue to have Alec Burks providing instant offense off the bench or dangle him as a trade chip, then I hope they know what they are doing.
6. Boston: Marcus Smart (PG-Oklahoma State): Smart cannot play shooting guard at 6’3″, and Rajon Rondo is an All-Star caliber point guard when healthy, so unless the Celtics want to play very small ball, then it looks like the writing may be on the wall as far as Rondo’s future in Beantown.
7. LA Lakers: Julius Randle (PF-Kentucky): assuming that free agent Jordan Hill takes his talents elsewhere, and if Randle’s right foot heals up over the summer, then he has a good chance to be in LA’s starting lineup in the fall thanks to his NBA-ready body.
8. Sacramento: Nik Stauskas (SG-Michigan): the Kings used their 7th overall pick last year to pick Ben McLemore, but instead of finding some size to put next to DeMarcus Cousins down low, they took Stauskas and hope he can combine with the recently-opted-in Rudy Gay to outscore a slew of high-scoring teams in a deep Western Conference.
9. Charlotte: Noah Vonleh (PF-Indiana): the Hornets are not ready to give up on the Michael Kidd-Gilchrist experiment after one year, so they will put Vonleh next to Al Jefferson and hope they can all wreak some havoc in the paint.
10. Philadelphia: Elfrid Payton (PG-Louisiana Lafayette): the 76ers traded him to Orlando, where Magic point guard Jameer Nelson will turn 33 in February, so Payton will spend they year being groomed to take over the starting spot in 2015 as part of the team’s youth movement.
11. Denver: Doug McDermott (SF-Creighton): the Nuggets traded him to Chicago, which should be an excellent fit because the Bulls already have the #1 defense in the league and McDermott was the best scorer in college basketball last year.
12. Orlando: Dario Saric (SF/PF-Croatia): the Magic traded him to Philly, but he is expected to play in Turkey for the next couple of years, but when he and Noel and Embiid are all healthy and all playing in America in 2017, look out world!
13. Minnesota: Zach LaVine (PG/SG-UCLA): the Timberwolves spent most of the past decade drafting point guards, so the one thing we know for sure is that LaVine will be used primarily at the two-spot, and if surrounding Kevin Love with fellow UCLA Bruins is the key to keeping him around, then LaVine + Luc Mbah a Moute + Shabazz Muhammad = a good start.
14. Phoenix: TJ Warren (SF-NC State): the Suns are in desperate need of some frontcourt scoring so Warren should be a perfect fit for them, and he arrives with an outside chance of being the team’s second-leading scorer next year.
15. Atlanta: Adreian Payne (PF-Michigan State): the Hawks are already set with big men like Al Horford/Paul Millsap, so while Payne’s skill set can be a nice complement to those two, I think it would have been better for them to draft the best available SG or SF to provide some scoring punch.
16. Chicago: Jusuf Nurkic (C-Bosnia & Herzegovina): the Bulls traded him to Denver, and unlike some other international players he is expected to join his new team immediately, so we can see how scoring 12 PPG in the Adriatic Leagued translates to the NBA.
17. Boston: James Young (SG-Kentucky): the Celtics have not had a lot of size in their backcourt for several years now, but the 6’7″ Young will help them out tremendously regardless of who is running the point.
18. Phoenix: Tyler Ennis (PG-Syracuse): if the Suns lose Eric Bledsoe to injury or free agency, then Ennis might get a chance to get his feet wet early; if not, then he will get to spend at least 30 minutes/game next year closely watching Bledsoe…from the bench.
19. Chicago: Gary Harris (SG-Michigan State): the Bulls traded him to Denver, which does not make a lot of sense after Denver acquired Afflalo to play the same position earlier that day, so I am not expecting Harris to get a lot of significant minutes as a rookie.
20. Toronto: Bruno Caboclo (SF/PF-Brazil): best case scenario is “the Brazilian Kevin Durant”; worst case scenario was the quote of the night from Fran Fraschilla: “he is 2 years from being 2 years away”!
21. Oklahoma City: Mitch McGary (C-Michigan): the Thunder might be only one player away from winning a title, but McGary is not that player, although after watching Nick Collison and Kendrick Perkins get eaten alive in the playoffs, he should get a chance to play a lot of minutes if he can stay healthy on the court and adopt some good habits off the court.
22. Memphis: Jordan Adams (SG-UCLA): the Grizzlies used a shooting guard platoon last year of Tony Allen (defense) and Courtney Lee (offense), but since Adams scored 15+ points and had 2+ steals per game during each of his two years in college, perhaps he can become a great contributor off the bench after getting tutorials from the 2 veterans ahead of him.
23. Utah: Rodney Hood (SF-Duke): Gordon Hayward was the best Jazz player last year, so if he leaves via free agency then Hood will try to replace him, but if Hayward stays in Utah then they will probably regret not taking a big man to help out Derrick Favors down low.
24. Charlotte: Shabazz Napier (PG-UConn): the Hornets traded him to Miami, which will make LeBron James happy if the King ends up staying on South Beach, and will make all Heat fans happy after watching Mario Chalmers score a whopping 6.4 PPG in this year’s playoffs.
25. Houston: Clint Capela (PF/C-Switzerland): the Rockets are not going to bring Capela to the states anytime soon, so if he ever surpasses Thabo Sefolosha as “best NBA player from Switzerland”, it will not be until much later this decade (if at all).
26. Miami: PJ Hairston (SG-Texas Legends): the Heat traded him to Charlotte, where he will hopefully avoid all the bad habits that he encountered 150 miles away in Chapel Hill while trying to take the job of former Duke SG Gerald Henderson.
27. Phoenix: Bogdan Bogdanovic (SG-Serbia): another Adriatic League star a la Nurkic, the Suns expect him to stay abroad for at least one more year before he decides which side of the Atlantic Ocean he prefers.
28. LA Clippers: CJ Wilcox (SG-Washington): Wilcox is very athletic and can make shots from behind the arc, but with 6th Man of the Year Jamal Crawford taking most of the backcourt minutes off the bench, I do not expect Wilcox to get a lot of playing time next season.
29. Oklahoma City: Josh Huestis (SF/PF-Stanford): see McGary entry above.
30. San Antonio: Kyle Anderson (SF-UCLA): the champs did not appear to have a lot of holes in their lineup after beating the Heat in five games, but there is no team that appreciates good passing more than the Spurs, and if he can feed Duncan in the post and Danny Green behind the arc then he will find a way to get onto the court.